Answered by a Bible Believer
If you must accept Jesus as your personal saviour in order to be saved, and that's the essence of John 14:6 which says, "I am the way, the truth and the life, NO MAN cometh to the father BUT BY ME", what do you do about the billions of people who died in the womb, as babies and infants, the mentally retarded, and people who lived in the New World before Christian missionaries arrived?
You answer your own question below, but reject your own answer!
For them to accept Jesus is impossible, so they are condemned to Hell because of conditions over which they had no control. The Bible does not allow for a third option, so such people must go to Hell. One must not lose sight of the fact that the Bible says "NO MAN", not "some men" or a "few men", it says "NO MAN COMETH TO THE FATHER BUT BY ME". The Bible is very clear that no one can come to God except through Jesus Christ. John 3:36, John 3:18 and 1 John 5:12 all confirm the same thing: without Jesus a person goes to Hell. There are NO exceptions and that includes infants and the mentally retarded.
The next time your pastor tells you such individuals are "safe" or "not accountable" or "covered by the blood of Christ" ask him to show you the chapter and verse of scripture which even hints at such unbiblical concepts. He won't be able to. They don't exist.
The Bible is very clear about the sinful and Hell-bound nature of the human soul even BEFORE a person is born:
Psalms 51:5 "Behold, I was shapen in inequity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. "
Psalms 58:3 "The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. "
Rom.5:12 "Wherefore as by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; so that death passed upon all men for that ALL have sinned. "
In other words according to the Bible people are sinners from the very start. People go to Hell because of what they are, not because of what they do. The question is not one of accountability. The question is that Christian favourite: are they saved? Do they accept Jesus and his truth as their saviour or don't they? If not then the Bible could not be clearer. If you don't accept Jesus and have your sins washed away in his blood then there is only one place for you... Hell. As stated earlier the Bible simply does not allow for a third option. The idea of "Purgatory" is as unbiblical as "the age of accountability"!
Strawman argument – the concept of Purgatory is not biblical at all, but is a concept that the catholic church self-constructed during the middle ages. The ability to believe and choose by an individual obviously is something that is developed with age, and not active from conception. The term “age of accountability” is just a modern phrase describing “basic, learned knowledge” that is not present in a person until they are ABLE to understand. Even though a person SINS FROM BIRTH (Psalm 58:3), those sins are not held against that person until they know they have done wrong which only comes with age and understanding. THAT principle of accountability is foundational in all western legal systems because of the Bible’s influence. Let me give you an example: A child of 3 years of age is not tried as an adult even though they may have fired a gun and killed somebody. They COULDN’T have understood the wrongness of their actions. The Bible describes that act as WRONG and SINFUL, and anyone would agree that the act was wrong, but the wrong-doing of that child is not punishable until they are old enough, and mature enough to know that what they are doing is wrong. Yes, an infant is born a sinner (selfish, self-centred, etc), but is not held accountable as a sinner until they know right and wrong at a later age. Concerning Jesus being the only way to heaven, Jesus actually died for the sins of all people, of all time (Heb 10:9-14), and that sacrifice is applied FOR people who cannot choose (because too young, or mentally invalid, etc.), and applied to people who do choose.
When you think of the possibility of spending eternity in infinite, boundless agony, then people who really believe that infants and children are automatically saved would do well to tell their children to engage in highly dangerous activities so that they might die and forestall any risk to their eternal souls. After all you never know what temptations adulthood might bring. If that is your belief then you are in the ridiculous (and very dangerous) situation in which you believe that death at a very early age is preferable to life. Think about it; it would guarantee eternity in heaven. After all, why risk seventy or eighty years of earthly pleasure and the chance of not being saved when death before your first birthday ensures eternity in a heavenly paradise?
Foolish argument as usual. You will see this kind of approach to logic throughout this treatise. Murdering a life that was intended to live and make up their OWN mind, in order to protect that life is just plain stupid logic. Life is a gift from God intended to be lived, so to allow a person to know, love, and live for the God Jesus Christ who created and loves them. By murdering a child to enable them to go to heaven is not a valid concern for life, but a gross disregard for life!
If you really believe people are going to be saved who have NOT heard of Jesus, then Christian missionaries are doing a tremendous DISservice to the world by their proselytizing. Why? Because if you can claim ignorance as a pass into heaven then people's welfare is going to be jeopardized once they have heard of Jesus.
Stop right there. That is a false conclusion. No one is claiming that IGNORANCE is a pass into heaven. Brian here is showing HIS ignorance of the issues like a fool. A person is born a sinner, and is SAFE until they are able to understand right and wrong, and from that time are held personally responsible for their own actions when in disobedience to God. Even without a written Bible to tell them what is right and wrong, every human being has the concepts of right and wrong, evil and good, already written in their conscience (Romans 1), and are still are held responsible and are condemned by their own understanding. You don't have to have a perfect understanding of right and wrong, to know right and wrong, and be condemned by your own sinfulness.
They have gone from a state of innocence to one of moral culpability if they do not respond. If that's the case then the best thing Christians could do is to remain silent. The story of Jesus should be kept secret and passages such as the Great Commission (Matt.28:19,20) make mo sense at all.
Your pastor may tell you that the answer to the problem of those who could never have heard is found in Romans 1, which basically says no one can use ignorance as an excuse because God's existence is clearly evident through general conditions in the world. But what has that got to do with anything? You are not saved by believing in "God", you are saved by believing in Jesus and creation and nature tell you nothing of Jesus; a tree, mountain or a star lit sky won't tell you the requirements for salvation!
Hold it! Nobody is saved by believing in “God” anymore than believing in a tree, or a mountain, etc. Do you see how Brian continues to construct his false arguments that are not part of the debate at all? When a person who does not have access to a Bible begins to realise he is condemned by his own conscience, and seeks to know the truth about himself, and creation, God steps in and sends a person (a missionary) into their life with the missing information that will help him or her get born again. If a person does not want to know the truth, He is not obligated to give them the truth (see where Jesus is not wanted around after healing a demon-possessed man in Luke 7:30-37, and so He leaves).
Don't be fooled by that subtle shift in focus. According to John 14:6, John 3:36,1 John 5: 12 and many, many other verses, you are saved by believing in Jesus, not in God alone. Otherwise all theists including Jews and Muslims are going to Heaven also and there is no real point to Christianity at all!
Again, what a waste of ink! Nobody is saying you only need an awareness of God to get forgiveness of sins, and the gift of eternal life. Brian is way out here, and needs to get back on the issue – but by now you are starting to see that he doesn’t even know what the real issue is!
Don't accept the "scripture is silent on this issue" line either. The Bible is definitely NOT silent on this issue, it’s just that scriptures relevant to the issue don't say what Christians want to hear, they're uncomfortable with the fact that their God sends babies to the fires of Hell.
God doesn’t send any baby to the fires of hell, or else king David was going to hell (see 2Sam 12:23).
But the bottom line is this: according to the Bible all people who die as babies, infants, as mentally retarded persons or in any other unfortunate situation in which they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time are going to bum in Hell for eternity because of conditions over which they had NO control. People who have never heard MUST go to Hell because of the many verses contending that Jesus is the only way. As stated earlier, ask anyone who tells you any different to cite chapter and verse to support his or her position.
This is the worst kind of logical conclusion you can make because all of the previous premises are empty and void of truth. It is true that all people are going to hell because of their sinful nature, but that God does not impose judgment on anybody who is not able to decide right and wrong (the Garden of Eden is the basis for understanding God requirement for a wilful decision for or against obedience by a person. God did not create Adam and Eve as infants and condemn them for sin, but as adults, gave them all the information, and then let them make up their own minds and held them responsible for their own decisions. THAT is how all future humans have to be judged). As far as chapter and verse about the safety of a child, mentally retarded person, aborted infant, etc., here are SIX Scriptures that prove that all infants from their conception are NOT SAVED from hell’s judgment, but ARE SAFE from hell’s judgment until they make their own choice according to knowledge:
David’s son (2Sam 12:23) did not go to hell, and neither did David (2Sam 23:5) yet both were to be together! 2 Sam 12:20-23 “Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
People are “alive” and not under the condemnation of God before their awareness of right and wrong (Rom 7:9) – after that, they are DEAD in their sins (Eph 2:1)
Adam and Eve were INNOCENT like children, before God told them what not to do and what would happen if they disobeyed – they were alive before they died spiritually (Gen 2:17).
The children of the Israelites who came out of Egypt were safe from God’s judgment against the parents - Dt 1:39 “Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.”
The city of Nineveh was filled with 120,000 people that were too young, or too immature to know the difference between their right hand and their left hand, and shouldn’t have to be destroyed by God - Jonah 4:11 “And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?”
Notice the stages of a child’s life given us in the prophecy about the virgin birth of Jesus Christ - Isa 7:14-16 “14* Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.”
The Age of Accountability
A person is saved based upon 1) their personal understanding of their sinful condition and the Gospel being offered them, 2) repentance from sins, and 3) belief in the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in their place. All three of these are definitive mental acts. All three are dependent on each other. For a person to have belief, there must be some understanding of what is to be believed. Jesus said that people had to repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:14,15). To repent, a person must have an understanding of what to repent from, and what the gospel (good news) of the Kingdom is. Notice Acts 16:31-33 and Acts 8:27-38. In both scriptures the people spoken of understood the circumstances surrounding Jesus and what he preached. Therefore, they were able to make their decisions based on the facts presented.
A person cannot have the kind of understanding, repentance and belief necessary for conversion unless he or she is old enough to have developed the mental ability to make intelligent decisions based on the information presented. Infants and young children have not developed the life experience and emotional stability to make and stand behind decisions of the magnitude that must be made for conversion. All of the scriptural examples show only adults being baptized. There are no examples of infants or young children ever being converted or baptized.
Now, concerning the definitive age when a child can be held morally accountable for their sins, it is an impossibility because of the differences in the speed with which each individual grows into mental and emotional maturity. The ability to make decisions concerning conversion depends entirely on a person's maturity level, understanding of the gospel, and desire to follow God's way of life. (See Luke 3:8)
True common sense dictates that the unborn, the infant, and young children have not had the time or the life experience necessary to understand the requirements needed to be born again. They are in a state of safety until they understand their own sinfulness, and can make valid choices.