Monday, May 09, 2011

Augustine:  What happens to infants when they die?

This will be the last post on this book.  I have now read in translation about 10% of the 5,000,000 words that Augustine wrote, which makes me an Augustine novice.  Still more to go.  The question above is one that I tend to avoid.  Without Christ, no one can be saved, but infants have no chance to accept Christ, therefore ...  Here is Augustine's response:

"As an objection against this way of thinking, ignorant people often bring up the death of children, and the physical pain that we often see children suffer. 'Why should someone even be born,' they ask, 'who leaves this life before doing anything to deserve punishment or reward?  How will he be treated in the future judgment?  He doesn't belong with the just, since he never acted rightly; but he doesn't belong with the wicked either, since he never sinned.'


The answer is this ...   If there can be a life that is intermediate between sin and right action, have no fear that our Judge can pronounce a sentence that is intermediate between punishment and reward." - On Free Choice of the Will, Book III

It is always good to have an authority who fudges the answer.

2 comments:

Delirious said...

We believe that little children who die before the age of accountability are covered under the atonement of Christ. They cannot sin because they do not yet understand what is right and what is wrong. Christ even taught that we should be like little children.

The prophets in the Book of Mormon spoke quite strongly about this issue:
11And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.

12But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism!

13Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell.

14Behold I say unto you, that he that supposeth that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell.

15For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism.
Moroni 8:11-15

Looney said...

Most protestant Christians lean that way in their thinking. Augustine had written elsewhere that he believed there was a benefit to infant baptism, but that somehow fit within this overall pattern.