Monday, April 23, 2007

Not In Limbo Anymore

While growing up as an RC kid, I was well aware of the RC teaching that babies who die un-baptized go to limbo - an unknown place, a question mark spot, neither heaven nor hell. Of course, there is no official teaching about this - not in the sense that there is a document signed by the Magisterium, but RC pius folks and priests followed this line of thought.

Now the RCC is stating through its Vatican International Theological Commission that babies that die un-baptized go to heaven, or atleast we should have a hopeful expectation that they are there. You can read about it here.

Modern evangelicals have always believed that babies that die go to heaven. For them it did not matter wheather or not these babies got baptized, besides, they do not baptize babies anyway. They go there because they are innocent by default - I remember John MacArthur teaching that babies that die are by default elect because they go to heaven straight away. This new position or a bit official position (I do not know what to call it) complies with the modern evangelical teaching.

So the RCC is lining up closer to the modern evangelical view. Though this official document by the RCC commission carries no official dogma, it is pre-cursor to future official teaching pronouncements by the Pope. Realizing that this weakens their doctrine of baptism, the paper was quick to assail such possible implications.

My evaluation is that their attempt fails. It does indeed weaken their doctrine of baptism. So could being aborted the best thing that can happen to a person since it brings them to heaven? I am being cynical as usual. Then there is another question - the same question that can be hurled at modern evangelians -- at what age when an un-baptized baby or child dies is it dis-qualified for heaven? When is a child no longer a child or a baby stop being a baby, at what age? If they changed their traditional mind on this, I am not surprized if they change their minds in other things too. Perhaps one day they can canonize Luther, that way one day the Lutherans may well burn their BoC.

Lutherans believe that baptism is necessary for salvation, though it is not absolutely necessary. However, there is no sure place we can stand on, and baptism is that place where sure hope is found, for there the promise of God is sealed. Hence, we dare not weaken the gift that God gives. Excuse my lack of pius speech - but there you can hold God's feet to the fire.


J. K. Jones said...

Good post. I don’t know what happens to babies when they die in infancy, outside that they are in the hands of God who is, among other things, perfectly loving and just.

You make me want to look into baptism more from your perspective. In practice, I have often looked back in my memory to the moment of my baptism as a reminder of God’s grace to me. I didn’t do anything, the pastor leaned me back and I was washed. I didn’t do anything to help God’s save me either.

L P Cruz said...


Same here. For those who are not baptized unborn we rely on the wisdow and mercy of God.

For those who are baptized, we rely on the promise of God which is much stronger compared to that of the RC statements of today. It is much safer it is in the hands of God rather than say they are in limbo, or make one statement in favor of heaven or hell. For this introduces more problems.

Yes, it is good to look again. I for one, coming from a Pentecostal background was baptistic.

In my studies though I could not conclude that baptistic folk can affirm the Nicene creed, and hence not 'catholic", small c. That is just one of the points.

But baptism is something that God does - it unites the sinner to the death/burial and resurrection of Christ. Something happened when you got baptized according to Romans 6:1-4. It is not something we do or something we commit, it is God committing to us.

One of the guys who used to read this blog was Steve who was SBC himself. He is found

Also may I recommend

JK, I know we are all in a faith journey ourselves and I do not expect you to agree with this aspect but if the Gospel is free and all of God, then all are from God even those that he demands from us since he himself supplies the answer to his demands- this I think is where the Lutheran is closer to Scripture. It is a ministry of Word and Sacrament.

Steve said...


Thanks for the ExtremeTheology plug.

As for infants who die, are they sinners and are they in need of a savior? If one answers yes, then on what basis does one say that these infants come to faith? If baptism is not part of the means of grace, then we have no assurance that the infant will spend eternity with Christ. Baptism in the only means by which that the promise of savlation is attached to the individual infant.

All we can say that if God is merciful, the infant who dies will spend eternity with Christ. We cannot say with any certainity that the infant is with Christ. Since the Bible is silent on this, we cannot speculate.

I wrote a blog on ExtremeTheology on baptism:

L P Cruz said...


I wanted to connect JK with you but I am glad you replied.

Indeed Steve, it is much better to be silent and trust in God rather than teach one way or another. This is where the Lutheran fathers were wise, they stop where Scripture stops, they have been liberated from Scholasticism which wants to answer each question that can be asked.

As a former RC kid, I was really intrigued in this new statements that the RCC are making. They have become closer to modern evangelicals, and hence further from the Lutheran Reformation. But the moderns have been converging in theology with the RCC anyway. BTW, I doubt if RCs look at their baptism as a final decisive act of God, they don't, they look at other sacraments for baptism is just initiatory only - but isn't this the same in non-denom evangelicalism?

Steve said...

While I don't have first hand knowledge to RCC, I have noticed that both "Evanglicals" and RC place their trust in things outside of Christ. Many "Evanglicals" place their faith in their action of convertion while it appaears that many RC place their faith in their good works. In both cases, they are placing what they do over what Christ as done for them. Since many "Evanglicals" don't place any faith in what the Bible clearly teaches about baptism, they reduce baptism as something they do since they don't place their faith in words of those who acts through baptism.

Also, many "Evanglicals" place the assurance of their salvation in "their changed lives" as proof on their convertion. This is a false place to place one's hope since if one doesn't see the "progress" in a changed life, they may doubt their salvation. The assurance of our salvation isn't found in what we do or don't do, but what God as promised through Christ.

L P Cruz said...


I fell into such situation, because "evangelicals" of today speak of subjective experience - it is being born again.

Amazingly my history is that I knew about being saved, but I learned about being born again (and thus conversion) when I started worshipping in a Pentecostal church.

It is really challenging to read C F W Whalter's Law and Gospel that we are not to look at our conversion but at the promise, hence in evangelicalism, I for one have made my conversion an idol. I still fight the tendency every day.

Steve said...

When I now read John 3, I don't see it as Jesus telling Nicodemus that he must be born again as something that Nicodemus (and ourselves) but as something that happens to us. Nicodemus, who is just like us, want's to know how he can do this.

Jesus is teaching Nicodemus of what God is doing for our salvation. Nowhere does Jesus make Nicodemus a participant in salvation. We are all Pharisee just like Nicodemus because we want to take part in our salvation.

The great news is that Nicodemus came with Joseph to take Jesus' body from the cross to the tomb. I believe that Nicodemus will be with us in heaven.

L P Cruz said...

Perhaps we can both write a post discussing born-again-ness.

This is a revivalistic view of Christianity. Believe me Steve, I followed George Whitfield in preaching "You must be born again", as if the hearer can do something about it. How he was wrong and I am doubly wrong because I followed in his trail.

So sorry for the false teaching I propagated.

J. K. Jones said...


Thanks for your note.

I read up some more on baptism.

I just don't argue about it. In a world where so few understand the gospel clearly, I feel I have "bigger fish to fry." Maybe this is wrong of me.

L P Cruz said...

Dear JK,

I also do not wish to argue, I more like a dialogue or discuss.

Like Paul, in Romans, he discusses baptism in Romans 6 only after justification in chapters 3,4 and 5.

It is a Word and Sacrament faith, but to some denoms, they do not have real sacraments, just Word. God gave us the sacraments for our comfort as well. Baptism is Gospel not Law, at least this is our view.

God bless you as you walk in faith in Christ.


D. Engebretson said...

Thank you for reading my blog article on the same topic and for your comment there: ( Yes, I do believe we have the same views here. Lutherans hold to the necessesity of Baptism and look to that for our assurance. It is Extra Nos, as your blog is titled - outside of us, and thus truly comforting, for it does not depend on us. For those with whom we do not have this assurance we simply leave all to the mercy of God. We can say no more. We want to know more, but many things in the counsel of God remain hidden. So we trust in what is revealed and use those means He has given us and encourage our people to not delay Baptism when a child is born (which is a reoccuring problem in the Lutheran church).
Thanks again for your comments. I'm glad I have now found your blog and will drop in to visit again!

L P Cruz said...

Thanks Pr. Don.

I like to know if I am in the same wave length as other's in the faith