WCF Chapter 10, Paragraph 3 states:
Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who work-eth when, and where, and how He pleaseth. So also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.
Identical language is used in the 1689 LBCF.
One of the things I appreciate about this paragraph is the care that appears to have been taken in determining what not to say, as the framers were clearly intent on not going beyond what Scripture makes plain.
This paragraph clearly upholds the necessity of the new birth (John 3:3), and that there is no way for any member of Adam’s race to be saved apart from Christ. At the same time, it appears to uphold that there are those who are incapable of responding to the outward call, which I take to understand as meaning those who are incapable of hearing the gospel and responding in active, conscious faith. In this category, they appear to place infants (in or perhaps out of the womb), and those who are so mentally infirm that they cannot exercise basic human faculties of thought.
Notably, while affirming the necessity of regeneration, being saved by Christ, and this being through the Spirit, they appear to have deliberately left out the activity of faith from this sentence (in contrast to the surrounding paragraphs). This would seem to signal, I think, that the framers believed that while regeneration is necessary unto salvation for these specific person in view the conscious exercise of faith is not. The reason being for this is that these individuals do not have the basic human faculties necessary for the exercise of that faith.
My first question then is this: Do you believe that elect infants destined to die in the womb will exercise conscious faith so as to be saved?
A second question I have pertains to the reformed understanding of the imputation of Adam’s sin. This is a larger can of worms, I grant, but it is necessarily connected here.
When we speak of the imputed sin of Adam, we refer largely to Romans 5:12, “in Adam all sinned.” When Adam, as the federal head of our race, sinned and fell, the entire race fell with him. The consequence of sin, namely death, passed to all his race. All of his offspring after him are subject to death because of his sin. It’s not as though each new human being born has his own shot at the covenant of works. No, Adam blew it for all of us. This is why death reigned from Adam to Moses, “even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam” (Romans 5:14).
Moreover, we all have original sin from conception. Definitionally, all human beings – even the ones in the womb – are sinners. Our nature is corrupt from the beginning. We don’t become corrupt after a time.
What gets dicey to me when we start talking about to what extent the imputed sin of Adam is applied to every human being. While I understand that the entire race to be subject to the consequence of death for Adam’s sin, it seems clear to me throughout the Bible that at the final judgment, men are condemned to the lake of fire for their own actual sin. In other words, I understand the imputed sin of Adam as resulting in physical death and original sin for all his offspring, but final condemnation is on the basis of actual sin committed by individuals.
Ezekiel 18:20 - “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself."
Revelation 20:12-13 - “And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.”
Matthew 16:27 - “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.”
Job 34:11 - “For according to the work of a man he will repay him, and according to his ways he will make it befall him.”
Jeremiah 32:19 - “One great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are on all the ways of the sons of men, to reward each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds.”
So my second question is: Given the full counsel of Scripture, do you believe that God would consign a human being to hell on the basis of Adam’s sin, alone, in the absence of any personally committed sin (e.g. the zygote in the mother’s womb)?
I am not disputing that the zygote in the womb is conceived in Adam. I am not disputing original sin. I am not trying to imagine a category of redemption that somehow comes apart from regeneration and the work of Christ. I want to make sure I understand what is meant by the historical reformed view on the imputed sin of Adam as relates to the final judgment.