April 28, 2017

The Pathetic Pastoral Counsel of the Neo-Reformed

Christ Blessing the Little Children, William Blake

The Pathetic Pastoral Counsel of the Neo-Reformed

Do unborn babies and young children go to heaven?

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” –Matthew 19:14

This is one of the questions the Bible does not answer for us. The best biblical response is this: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” We can trust the God who died so that His enemies could be saved to do what is right in the case of infants who die.

Some appeal to David’s statement after his son died: “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” The argument is that David knew he was going to heaven, so the baby must be there. However, the point of David’s statement is that the baby is in the grave. David will visit the grave, but the baby will not come back to life no matter how much he agonizes in fasting and prayer.

Many agree with Millard Erickson that the universal atonement pays the penalty for all Adamic guilt and condemnation, so babies who do not commit personal sin will be in heaven by application of the atonement. Others argue that death in infancy is a sign of special election. Some believe that children spend eternity with their parents. But none of these theories have clear biblical warrant.

Grace and I enjoy five children. We would have enjoyed six but, like many couples, we suffered a miscarriage. Because we love children, it was very difficult for us, and I often tear up when I talk about that loss. Our children and friends have asked me what I think happened to the baby and whether or not I believe the baby is in heaven. My simple answer is that I do not have a clear biblical answer as much as I have God who is a loving and gracious Father whom I trust. The fact that John the Baptizer was known and named by God in the womb and filled with the Holy Spirit before his birth gives me much comfort.

Mark Driscoll

• • •

Having witnessed the baptismal service of a beautiful baby boy Sunday, this bit of theological nonsense rubbed me exactly the wrong way when I read it this week on Driscoll’s daily devotion site. I think he ends up coming to an acceptable conclusion, but the way he gets there betrays the out-of-touch, too God-centered, I-need-the-Bible-to-spell-things-out-for-me, Bible as an answer book mentality of the neo-reformed that not only drives me crazy, but makes them miserable counselors to real human beings in pain.

Who in their right mind needs “clear biblical warrant” to believe that God takes care of infants and young children who die?

Who with any sense whatsoever could trust God while entertaining even the slightest suspicion that this God just might possibly damn a little one to eternal hell fire because there’s not “a clear biblical answer” regarding his/her destiny?

Can a woman forget her nursing-child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.

• Isaiah 49:15

Now I’m going to give Pastor Mark a little credit here. Even though he doesn’t find it in the Bible, he seems to say that he finds comfort in a loving God. But…but. There’s a crack in the door, isn’t there? There’s an admission that he really can’t speak with certainty because the Bible doesn’t spell it out. I’m glad Pastor Mark takes some comfort in his reading of the character of God and the example of John the Baptist. But to not be sure? To reserve the possibility that God could torture his miscarried child forever — and be just in doing so?

Is this the kind of wimpy, waffling reassurance a pastor should give a grieving couple?

The whole soterian gospel, heaven and hell thing is bad enough, but when Driscoll starts opining about “original sin” and how an infant’s sin needs to be “atoned for,” I really start getting nauseous.

Even worse is an earlier blog article he links to: “My Baby Brother Died,” in which he outlines the following theological positions through which we might answer the question:

The eternal fate of unborn children and infants is a mystery that has always haunted the church. There are three choices available as answers:

  1. All babies are elect and thus immediately translated into heaven, awaiting Jesus’ return and the finishing of his work of cosmic redemption.
  2. God chooses some babies for heaven and the rest are left to spend eternity in hell.
  3. All babies are reprobate and thus immediately translated into hell upon death, awaiting the final eternal judgment for their sin nature inherited from Adam.

I’ve never encountered a Christian theologian who holds to answer #3, which leaves answer #1 (universal infant salvation) and answer #2 (infant salvation). These are the two options that have been debated throughout Christian history.

Seriously, those are the choices? Seriously, we talk about infants using the terms “elect” and “reprobate”? I know people have debated these things throughout Christian history. Need we be reminded how flawed and foolish the church has been for much of that time? Just because it’s written in a book doesn’t mean it carries meaningful weight.

Thankfully, in the article Driscoll does mention some Christian thinkers who understand that infants are incapable of being moral agents and therefore not subject to the judgment that scripture indicates will be based on “deeds done in the body.” In my opinion, could anything be more commonsensical than that? Why does it even need to be debated?

The older I get, the more I question the legitimacy of even having debates like this. Driscoll quotes Wayne Grudem, who opines, “Where Scripture is silent, it is unwise for us to make definitive pronouncements.” In the context, Grudem is saying he believes some infants are elect but he can’t be sure that all are.

Are you kidding me? Talk about having your head in a theological box!

Listen folks, the Bible is not an answer book. Repeat after me: the Bible is not answer book. I, for one, don’t need the Bible to spell it out for me that an infant who dies is safe in God’s care. The faith tells me I see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, the One who welcomes children without hesitation or reserve. I don’t need to have a theology of original sin and universal atonement, election, or any other doctrine to know what love is and to understand how horrific any thought of God condemning the helpless would be.

I get the idea that these people doubt whether or not they should use deodorant each day because the Bible doesn’t spell it out for them. Well, let me tell you, stink is self-evident and not recommended.

Tonight I’m going to be sitting down with several couples who have suffered perinatal losses. It will be our first support group meeting together. They will tell their stories and I will listen, and I will probably cry with them. For the next six weeks, we’ll be together, and it will never get any easier. I’ll have trouble sleeping, imagining their inconceivable pain.

Just to think that some of them might go into a church and get a pastor like one of these neo-reformed biblicists, who cannot, with absolute confidence, assure them of the certain love of a God who welcomes, without exception, all the little ones, who lifts up the helpless, who carries the weak, and takes care of all who cannot care for themselves, makes me want to scream.

This way of approaching life and its challenges is biblicist idiocy.

The Bible was given to help us gain wisdom, not to turn us into fools and miserable counselors who cannot be sure what love looks like because it isn’t spelled out for us in every instance.

♥︎

For more, see The Font and the Tiny Casket

Comments

  1. Patrick Kyle says:

    It goes back to Abraham’s question, ‘Will not God do what is right?” The answer is ‘Yes’

    • Robert F says:

      There is no way to square the spoken “God will always do what’s right” with the unspoken “It’s possible that your dead baby is right now suffering the torments of eternal hell”. To borrow a famous one word response from Barth, Nein! Perhaps Driscoll is tough-skinned enough that he doesn’t need any more than that, or to hear anymore than that, but there will be others who go on to ask after hearing the spoken part, “My baby is with God in heaven right now, isn’t she, pastor?”, especially if the pastor has given any reason to believe by verbal or non-verbal clues that this issue is in question. When that moment comes, the pastor had better be ready to say, “Of course she is,” without hesitation, which means that she had better believe it herself. Anything less would be a pastoral atrocity, resulting from putting theological abstractions above humanity.

      • Robert F says:

        And please, no theological bickering about the idea that at death we don’t “go to heaven”, but rather we wait for the resurrection of our body and the new creation. That is not what this is about; that’s theological minutia to this pastorally profound moment. Parents need to be assured that a good God has not, and never will, put their baby in, or allowed their baby to go to, hell. It’s that simple. If you hold to a theology that entertains a different possibility, then you’d better change your theology, or get out of the pastoring business.

        • Yep. Arguing for resurrection instead of “going to heaven when you die” just temporarily moves the goal posts. Perhaps contextualizes things a bit differently. But it’s not a question of geography – being tortured here or there hardly matters. Doesn’t eliminate the real parental question of their child’s final “state-of-being”.

      • –> “…”especially if the pastor has given any reason to believe by verbal or non-verbal clues that this issue is in question. ”

        This.

        What we’re speaking of here is the deep down, spoken and unspoken, belief and condition of a pastor’s heart. What kind of gospel is he/she preaching in the words he/she chooses to say and in the body language and tonal inflection he/she uses? Is it the Good News of Jesus Christ, or is it something else?

        If you have to waffle around the idea of infant salvation, take your version of the “Good News” somewhere else.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      But with some of these guys, “doing what’s right” means PUNISH! PUNISH! PUNISH! PUNISH! PUNISH!

      As if God had no other reason for existence.

      “FOR GOD HATES SIN WITH SUCH A PERFECT HATRED…”
      — Booklet The Calvary Road which messed me up during my time in-country; all-caps from the original

  2. Iain Lovejoy says:

    “I’ve never encountered a Christian theologian who holds to answer #3”
    Theologian possibly not, but if you mean preacher or religious leader you are not trying hard enough:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/01/23/christian-pastor-says-aborted-fetuses-go-to-hell-and-wives-should-acquiesce-to-sex-even-if-they-dont-want-to/
    I post this link as the original website has been taken down, but yes, I have read the article concerned and “Dr” Kim really does say that, with no quibbles.

    • I used to argue it myself, in the darkest days of my sojourn in hard-line Calvinism. If God is holy hates sin, and sin nature is inherent and inherited, the logic is undeniable.

      Eventually, the then-alien concept of “mercy triumphing over judgment” won out. A bit too late to salvage my rep among my IVCF chapter, I’m afraid…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Is “Dr” Kim an Honorary Doctorate?
      Preachers in some denoms LOVE to award each other Honorary Doctorates.

      Reverend Larry awards Reverend Moe an Honorary Doctorate.
      Reverend Moe awards Reverend Curly an Honorary Doctorate.
      Reverend Curly awards Reverend Larry an Honorary Doctorate.
      Only nobody’s going “NYUK! NYUK! NYUK!”

      And according to a REAL PhD on a blog thread where the subject came up, when somebody is enamored by the “Dr” and insists on it (even to the point it becomes their name), the Doctorate’s a fake. No exceptions.

  3. Christoph says:

    “I’ve never encountered a Christian theologian who holds to answer #3”

    It seems that Driscoll has not read the works of Augustine of Hippo (no big surprise there). In fact, Augustine did believe that unbaptized children go to hell, but with some qualification:

    “St. Augustine in the 4th century developed the idea that every human being upon birth was marked by the “original sin” of Adam and Eve. Augustine thought that unbaptized babies might suffer a milder form of hell, without intense punishment. Augustine’s concept of original sin became the teaching of the church, but his theory about its consequences to unbaptized babies was never adopted by the church as a whole.”

    http://bustedhalo.com/questionbox/someone-told-me-that-if-a-baby-dies-before-being-baptized-the-baby-goes-to-hell-is-this-true-2

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > go to hell, but with some qualification:

      No there’s compassion! ::)

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “It seems that Driscoll has not read the works of Augustine of Hippo”

      Or Dante Alighieri, for that matter. He has (going from memory) Limbo as the outermost circle of Hell, with no torments other than separation from God.

      • Which is a weird concept in and of itself…

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        And seriously: Mark Driscoll? Really? I can just barely understand the appeal of, even as I am repulsed by, his macho shtick. But who in his right mind in Scottsdale would, while looking around for a church to attend, think “Let’s try the guy whose previous church imploded after he resigned in disgrace”? And even in his Mars Hill days, did people look at his macho act and think “He seems like a deep theological thinker”?

        • When your standard is “‘Stands up to’ and makes fun of people who disagree with you”, Driscoll is a freaking Einstein.

        • –> “And even in his Mars Hill days, did people look at his macho act and think ‘He seems like a deep theological thinker’?”

          Given the numbers of people who called him “pastor” I’d say, Yep.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          But he’s a CELEBRITY, and that’s what’s TRULY Important.

          CELEBRITY draw, butt$ in $eat$, and TITHE TITHE TITHE.

          All about the Benjamins, Baby.

  4. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    > This way of approaching life and its challenges is biblicist idiocy.

    Yeah. In an effort to maintain intellectual diversity I have a couple reformed podcasts in my rotation.. Well intentioned, earnest, and bow howdy can they plot a winding course all the way around a point.

    They are great instructors on the danger of carefully crafted Ideology.

  5. Robert F says:

    Without the doctrine of Original Sin, this issue goes away. I’ll join my Eastern Orthodox coreligionists in repudiating that particular doctrine. All who die as babies “go to heaven”.

    • Babies in heaven, I will now grant. 😉

      Jettisoning original sin? Nope, sorry. There’s WAY too much evidence that humanity are rotten scoundrels to the core for me to do that.

      • I have come to make a distinction between “original” sin and “universal” sin. It is possible, and in my mind preferable, to affirm the second while not holding the first.

        • I can’t imagine the second without the first.

          • I argued for this back in Nov 2011, in a series called “Fall or Folly?”

            Here’s the first: http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/52382

            • I remember that. My observations back then still stand. 😉

            • When Jesus became a baby did he cry out for milk when he was hungry. Did he cry out when he needed changed, Did he need to be selfish for his own survival. I know the great book doesn’t say. I imagine it was a start for the divine to become human too. I imagine fully that at the cross he understood us. For me he stood under me and lifted me up as the Father understood him. It was that Psalm that began with why have you forsaken me and mostly it was the end of it that made it to me what means so much to me today.

              Conservative to me is what most are here. Only when it comes to religion. Liberal would be allowing the fact that physics and math aren’t are masters rather we are theirs. I think Jesus was trying to tell us such with fish and loaves and water and even death. Not alone of course but as we were meant to be. I think the collision course was set on the seventh day he rested. On earth as it is in Heaven is not a plea but a statement. We can never be filled by that which is not of God. It is good to debate or say what one is to be thinking at a moment not to say it couldn’t change. Here …….. the cleats on the shoes are very sharp and go deep. The question arises in me now often what does that matter as it really isn’t my department. Still, I was doing so good why do I type this?

        • +1

      • We don’t put aside the notion of a thing that works practically like ancestral sin, but it isn’t a crime you’re born judicially guilty of, it is a racial disease that gives you a propensity for evil and a matching spiritual disfigurement that has to be healed by Jesus’ salvatory acts performed for all mankind. Babies and small children ain’t using their free wil to actively fight the cure and seek Death when Life is available to all, and there’s no crime to magically erase to “satisfy God’s Holiness”. Hence our kids get communion as soon as they are baptized, but don’t even start practicing confession until they are 7ish.

        The difference can be seen at nitpicking, but the practical outworkings thereof are quite different.

        • I’d prefer the term “flaw” over disease, and I would still argue for a judicial/guilt component of some sort – otherwise we’re not that far apart.

          • Clay Crouch says:

            Yes. Francis Spufford calls it “the crack in everything”. For me, it’s a much better metaphor than “original sin”.

      • “Original sin.”

        I used to see it that way. Now I just call it “brokenness.” It’s a word that works with the believers and the none’s and the done’s. No one who’s lived through a tragedy can deny the brokenness of the world. “Sin”….they can.

        • “sin — a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing.”

          Chesterton from Orthodoxy

    • Doesn’t Original Sin basically ignore most of the Old Testament and concept of Israel and who is and isn’t in the Camp/Family? It seems to be a doctrine that starts at the beginning and then jumps ahead to the Cross.

      • I don’t know – Israel’s stubborn resistance to God in the teeth of all His miracles and provision seems to be a pretty strong argument for original sin in my book…

        • Incidentally, I’m now starting to view a lot of that as just massive infighting between family/tribal gods. The El and Yahweh debates. Depending on who is writing, of course everyone is either wicked/righteous.

        • SottoVoce says:

          Assuming those miracles actually happened, of course.

          • People very often desperately want miracles to be true…and over time and retellings, they become true. What else is faith at times?

  6. I have been to a little one’s funeral where the “pastor” said the parents could take comfort in knowing that “your daughter is now hopefully with the Lord.”

    Hopefully.

    • That’s a case where the word “hopefully” becomes ominous and hinting of damnation.

      And I’ve heard that it’s not really a comfort (perhaps Chaplain Mike can verify) to tell parents that the child is in a better place with the Lord. The parents don’t want the child in the arms of Jesus, just yet; they want the child in their own arms. Assuring parents that the child’s death is better, but without providing a good reason why, isn’t really much comfort. It gives the impression that the pastor merely felt he had to say “something.”

      • Right Ted. Grief is primarily about the pain of separation the bereft feel, not about the condition of the departed. Put more emphasis on soothing their pain — which is not usually a matter of words and reasoning — rather than trying to convince them they shouldn’t feel what they’re feeling because their loved one is better off. The grieving are NOT better off at that moment.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          And when you’re hurting, Christians(TM) are always first with the Glib Advice and Pious Platitudes.

          Remember the lesson of Job’s Counselors: It’s always those who have NEVER been there who are first in line with the Perfect Advice for those who ARE.

  7. Original Sin is a vile and evil doctrine, a cancer in the western church thanks to the Bishop of Hippo whose name should not be mentioned without spitting three times. Listen to Eeyore saying that babies are innocent out of one side of his mouth while calling them rotten scoundrels to the core at birth out of the other. No wonder we spend most of our time here spinning in circles.

    I do not mean to say that people are not capable of vile and evil behavior. In this best of all possible worlds, the reason we are given such unlimited access to the highest realms of heaven is because we are at the same time given access to the lowest depths of depravity. If you want to poke around in where Reformed theology goes wrong, dig down until you get to the denial of free will as given to us by Brother Calvin. Poke a little farther and you might disturb Brother Luther. Free will is the bedrock of our human spiritual condition and opportunity on Planet Earth and slamming the door shut on that slams it shut on the fingers of our spirit.

    The main question we skirt around in most of our discussions is why do so many Protestants, Evangelicals in particular, many here, lift the Bible up as supreme authority over God Himself? This is blasphemous. It is understandable why the Reformers did this five hundred years ago as they rode the pendulum of the Great Reformation. It is much less understandable why intelligent, educated folks are still doing that today in the twenty-first century as the pendulum swings into the Great Emergence. Maybe people really are totally depraved.

    • Original sin may be an unpleasant concept, but it’s explanatory power when applied to human behavior is quite remarkable.

      • Let me get this straight, Eeyore. Are you claiming that you are totally depraved and me along with you? If so, I say get thee behind me.

        • Yep. I know myself far too well to pretend otherwise.

          • SottoVoce says:

            It’s one thing to believe horrible things about yourself, but it takes a special kind of arrogance to proclaim that everyone else is utterly despicable, too.

            • >> it takes a special kind of arrogance to proclaim that everyone else is utterly despicable

              You got that right, SV! People are a mixed bag, all of us, and in any case that which needs to be overcome is the sense of separation that comes with self-consciousness and dualistic thinking and service-to-self orientation. These are matters of the ego, and by far the great majority of people, including Christians, do not begin to understand that they are not their ego. I certainly have my own share of dysfunctional ego to overcome, but I expect to continue making progress with the loving help of my Father, God Most High, and all His helpers, including my guardian angels and my neighbors. If I thought that my Father looked at me as totally depraved, or anyone else for that matter, the despair would likely kill me on the spot. What a horrible, horrible accusation against a loving and most gracious God. And we know who the Accuser is.

            • I think that *anyone*, if put in circumstances that push the wrong buttons, is capable of doing horrible things. For me to say I believe anything else would be flattery. If that makes me a monster, I’ll just have to live with it.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        +1.

        Original Sin as a general doctrine doesn’t bother me; it is total Depravity that I find absurd.

        As to the Infant Death issue – I’d focus on the suffering of the parents. If someone is haunted by the notion of a child’s soul being damned – – – something is already very wrong in that community, IMO. Is a funeral a place to have a theological debate? Really? yuck! [And why I have made it clear no pastor is to speak at my funeral].

        • Depends on what spin you put on the “total” part. I prefer the “all parts of the mind and soul are flawed due to sin” perspective, overagainst the “we are all always as bad as possible” caricature.

    • +1

      And please don’t think people reject Original Sin because it’s “unpleasant”. That’s dismissive. At least acknowledge that many consider it unbiblical.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Original Sin is a vile and evil doctrine, a cancer in the western church thanks to the Bishop of Hippo whose name should not be mentioned without spitting three times.

      I consider Augustine a man with an analytical mind and a LOT of baggage from his past who was trying his best to fit what he had come to believe into a coherent system. Original Sin was his explanation for the Problem of Human Evil, i.e. how “sin nature” was propagated down from Adam & Eve.

      Unfortunately, some of his analysis was buggy. And on the strength of the valid parts , the church accepted the whole as-is, without trying to debug the package. Apparently his reputation was so great that like Galen to medicine or Aristotle to science, the bugs in his system were accepted and propagated.

  8. By the way, Mike, this is the most reasonable and least arrogant thing I have ever read or heard from Driscoll. I didn’t know he had it in him.

  9. Christoph says:

    I have no love lost for Mark Driscoll, but I am wondering if Chaplain Mike has not been “too harsh” on him in the post. As a catholic I can understand the basic ambivalence towards proclaiming babies to be in heaven and still maintaining the doctrine of original sin. The following article in Christianity Today has been helpful to me:

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/november/do-babies-go-to-heaven.html

    The gist of it is that there is a deeper purpose to the lack of clarity in the bible on the issue. This should not stop us in reassuring grieving parents that their child is with Jesus. However, we should be mindful that this belief is based on trust in the god’s mercy rather than some specific act of revelation.

    I am not sure if I managed to provide an accurate summary, I recommend to go back to the original article for a more detailed exposition.

    • I said I think Driscoll comes out in a good place here. But he represents a tradition that can’t be persuaded against thinking I should go to the Bible for specific “answers” as though it is a repository of answers to life’s questions and mysteries. The full blog post that I pointed you to and quoted is representative of the endless theologizing that they think necessary in order to come to terms with life.

  10. One more reason why the Nones are such a fast growing demographic.

    • And leaving God and Jesus scratching their heads.

      “Why do our followers represent us so…so…POORLY!?!”

  11. You might want to check this discussion: http://articulifidei.blogspot.com.au/2017/02/infant-salvation-what-is-ultimate.html

    I suggest infants are born without “actual sin”. I believe that humans are born with an inclination to sin & then become sinners later on, maybe some fairly early. However they don’t carry the guilt of Adam. I think the Orthodox see it this way.

    I guess my view of regeneration is that it has 2 sides like a coin. It includes baptism & faith. Not baptism alone (especially as it reflects the fullness of the covenant of circumcision Rom 4:11). Baptism washes away past sins and it breaks a person’s slavery to sin as they are baptised into Christ’s death. So God’s grace breaks the automatic inclination to sin in baptism. After baptism the inclination to sin is there, but it is no longer automatic. However faith needs to enable the fruits of baptism, because “without faith its impossible to please God”. Faith is not automatic due to baptism. Faith is of the Spirit. Which completes the “born of water & of the Spirit” circle.

    Thus myriads of people are baptised but so few follow through in faith & are lost.

    For infants baptism has the 1 function as they are too young to have sinned.
    As to regeneration recurring it only happens once, confession & forgiveness follow in the life of faith, which pretty much describes what penance is about.

    Baptism isnt superfluous because where it can’t be mediated by the church
    acting on behalf of Christ, it is mediated by Christ himself in that He took on our full humanity & underwent baptism. Surely not for His own sins ?

    What I’ve described isn’t a typical Protestant view. I’ve come to this through reflection on scripture, some Patristic writings, Eastern Orthodoxy, Development of Doctrine & the writings of TF Torrance.

    I encourage you to have a look at Torrance when you get a chance. There is a lot of intersection points with early Catholicism.

    http://martinmdavis.blogspot.com.au/2011/05/tf-torrance-vicarious-humanity-of-jesus.html

    Cheers
    Dennis

  12. The Bible is pretty clear. We are all God’s love and creation, pretty much doomed to always be separated from Him, and Jesus won the victory on the cross and out of the tomb.

    I’m not too worried about infants, and more recently I’m not too sure I’m too worried about others that I used to worry about.

  13. –> “All babies are elect.”

    That tells me all I need to know about a person’s theology. Next.

    • So logically they believe you can lose your salvation then.

      Or wait, maybe they weren’t elect to begin with.

      Better send a platoon I mean a missionary family to bring them the gospel.

      • “Yes, teacher…at what age do babies lose their salvation?”

        • Exactly. If all babies are elect, at what age do they transition out of the elect? (Maybe Mark Driscoll has developed an App to determine the transition week/month/year.)

          This leads to one of my main arguments with Calvinism. What earthly parent would intentionally birth two children knowing he’d consider one of them “elect” and the other he’d throw into the fire? No one does that (well, maybe an INSANE parent might).

          And doesn’t the Bible suggest that God is a much better father than our earthly fathers? (Matthew 7:11 – “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”)

          If no EARTHLY father would birth two children with the idea he’d eventually toss one into the fire, why would we think a Good God would?

          • Something something JUST

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > What earthly parent would intentionally birth two children knowing…

            Because OBVIOUSLY thier children will be elect, if not announced. I wish I meant that as a joke; but I’ve been involved in youth ministry. The youth were fun and interesting. Evangelical parents are a freak show.

            • And all adopted babies are elect as well. But if those adopted babies had brothers or sisters still back in their home country…well…tough luck.

              …Untold millions are still untold…

            • Because OBVIOUSLY thier children will be elect, if not announced.

              And then that child comes out. And the parents are devastated, because God hates all homosexuality, no gay can be a Christian, therefore their son or daughter is now an Enemy of Christ, and they are torn between loving their (formerly elect saved for all eternity we’ll be together in heaven) child, and obeying their GOD and authorities and community.

              I don’t mean to say this to stir the pot. But do you see how this thinking occurs?

              And how easily…how easily…this could all be avoided and healed and be filled with grace instead?

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            If alll babies are elect – why be anti abortion? Premature death, or eternal torture…..?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Exactly. If all babies are elect, at what age do they transition out of the elect? (Maybe Mark Driscoll has developed an App to determine the transition week/month/year.)

            And if so, wouldn’t it make more theological/spiritual sense to kill them before they age out of the Elect? This is a hypothetical I’ve seen in connection with abortion butting up against the Age of Accountability doctrine — by letting the child live and grow, you are jeopardizing their Salvation.

            As I age, the Jewish idea of Resurrection into a debugged Cosmos 2.0 (Olam-ha-ba) and don’t sweat the details makes more and more sense. And attempts to sweat out the details just end up going off on weird and often dark tangents.

  14. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    I think he ends up coming to an acceptable conclusion, but the way he gets there betrays the out-of-touch, too God-centered, I-need-the-Bible-to-spell-things-out-for-me, Bible as an answer book mentality of the neo-reformed that not only drives me crazy, but makes them miserable counselors to real human beings in pain.

    Well, when all you have is a Calvin’s Institutes hammer…

    Really, wouldn’t these guys be more comfortable in Islam? Especially the Taliban and ISIS versions? Predestination, Sovereignty, Omnipotence without benevolence, all straight on the rocks instead of watered down. A Holy Book dictated word-for-word by God (take that, King Jimmy!) and Shari’a where EVERYTHING is spelled out in micromanaging detail — “IT IS WRITTEN! IT IS WRITTEN! IT IS WRITTEN!”

  15. The problem isn’t just biblicism or the particularly nasty neo-reformed hermeneutic that’s at work here. Face it, the helplessness that’s displayed in working through these sorts of things under the umbrella of “faith” isn’t unique to biblicists or the neo-reformed.

    Rather, the problem stems from the particular ways of thinking that necessitate such things as baby atonement and/or an “age of accountability” in the first place. Things like the “age of accountability” & the fate of the mentally disabled aren’t the problem – they’re a symptom. That they necessarily emerge merely exposes the problem.

  16. seneca griggs says:

    “The Pathetic Pastoral Counsel of the Neo-Reformed”

    The issue is one of considerable interest – BUT I thought the title of the piece was unduly perjorative.
    This really is not a” neo-reformed” issue [ stated in a perjorative sense ] but an issue for all who hold to Scripture as God’s Word to mankind.

    From a human viewpoint, it is difficult to believe that all children might not be of the elect. BUT the Bible doesn’t really spell it out all that specifically [ in my opinion ] so we’re left with David’s statement that he would once again see his son. And let’s face it; we are not God; we do not know what He knows, we do not see what He see’s, we are not creators, we are creatures of the Creator. As I used to tell my Sunday School class – “There IS a God. I am NOT He.”

    You are a counselor C.M., when faced with dilemmas [ such as when our wife asked; “does this dress make me look fat?”] we may shade our feelings and belief and feelings. That seems, at least to me, to be the kindly thing to do – shade the truth. BUT since we can’t be absolutely sure how God deals with children or incompetent people, we certainly should not speak with absolute confidence that we know EXACTLY what God does in these situations.

    Also, iff Mark Driscoll wasn’t a whipping boy for the discernment blogs, the post might never have been written. And yet, I’m not sure Mark actually said anything that isn’t true.

    Finally, if the Bible is God’s very Word, it DOES answer all important questions of life; just not in a manner that we, the created, think we’d prefer.

    • Seneca, there are many things I have doubts about, but this, for any believing person, should be a no-brainer. How can we imagine anything regarding a good and loving God that, if we were to apply it to another human being, would make that person a monster? I don’t need the Bible or a theological textbook to spell that out for me. If Jesus is God’s face to the world, the answer is self-evident and is not something any should agonize over.

      • Ben Carmack says:

        “…this, for any believing person, should be a no-brainer.”

        A no brainer? Sounds awfully judgmental of you. Don’t you know that Scripture contains many different genres? Surely you don’t think you have a corner on the truth, do you? It doesn’t sound like you want to have a conversation, but only make your own dogmatic assertions.

        “I don’t need the Bible or a theological textbook to spell that out for me.”

        The Bible contains many different genres and literary voices. It is not a textbook. You are displaying your ignorance and dogmatic insensitivity to minority points of view.

        If you don’t need the Bible to spell out for you your dogmatic beliefs, then where do you derive this wretched urgency and certainty? And why is it binding on me or Mark Driscoll? Inquiring minds want to know.

        “If Jesus is God’s face to the world, the answer is self-evident and is not something any should agonize over.”

        Self evident answers? My, how insensitive. Who’s this “we” white man?

        Jesus is God’s face to the world? Who says? Which Jesus? Where? If you’re not getting this from the Bible, then where are you getting this notion?

        Leaving sarcasm aside, when you strike down certainty and biblical authority, you don’t get to resurrect it on an ad hoc basis to prop up your own cherished beliefs. It’s hypocritical and silly.

        • Ben, good effort. I appreciate the pushback.

          I am not “striking down…biblical authority.” Of course not. I am trying to strike down the idea of the Bible as an “answer book” and to commend the idea that the Bible is designed instead to give us wisdom to grow up and think for ourselves and draw conclusions without thinking we have to have a specific chapter and verse statement for every question in life.

          You are absolutely correct, I would not have known the God in whom I trust were it not for the influence of the Bible. On the other hand, the God in whom I trust is One who I’m pretty sure doesn’t give a rat’s behind about applying agonized theological argumentation and terms like “elect” and “reprobate” to matters like the death of infants and the profound grief of bereft parents.

          And the Bible itself teaches us to reason by looking at the best in humanity and to realize that God is always at least as good as that. Read the quote from Isaiah in the post again. If a mother wouldn’t forget her little child, how could anyone possibly think God would?

    • Again, we come to that inevitable point where we read the Bible differently. I will never try to convert you to my view, Seneca, but I will continue to make my view known at IM. So please just know, your insistence on simply asserting counterclaims will not go far here. I lived in that world for too many years. Nourishing discussion requires being willing to consider other viewpoints. Otherwise we are just beating our heads against the wall.

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        Honest, I hope you don’t succeed in running Senny off like you did the Hispanic LMS church music guy and other conservatives over the years. There are times when I like to hear ‘Mule, youre just too far in Satan’s camp to even hear God’s truth’, even if I don’t believe it. I like the astringent, masculine timber of it after all the endless dithering.

        And you know, eventually I may need that voice.

        • +1

        • I appreciate them as well. Tho I don’t know if we run them off so much as they discover we don’t just roll over and accept what they say, they have to debate and discuss and argue like we all do.

        • I hope the same, Mule. I don’t think we’ve run Miguel off — he’s got a lot going on right now. I love having conservatives here, I just want conversation not mere assertions. Seneca and his tribe are always welcome.

        • Robert F says:

          It’s hard to imagine Miguel being “run off” from anything. Methinks you grossly underestimate his fighting spirit.

          • That Other Jean says:

            I hope you’re right, Robert. He and the other Conservatives here spark some interesting conversations, however often we disagree.

        • That’s not fair, Mule. Miguel left because he was lurching right at an increasingly breakneck speed.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            He was heading for the cliff like Thelma & Louise?

            • How do you know the cliff isn’t where he needed to be headed in his travels here like your certainty of swimming a river. Not that I put judgement on you just hoping you find what you are looking for. Miguel ……such beauty in the thoughts from him so much missed by me.

        • I’ve been missing Miguel. I must have been away during all of this.

  17. Burro [Mule] says:

    I just finished Richard Rohr’s interview in Peter Enns’ podcast, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. One thing he said that I am still mulling over was “You need to keep the Bible out of the hands of people who are still living in a dualistic, ‘smite my enemies’ stage of consciousness. They will invariably weaponize it, and use it in their project of universal domination.”

    It was even more fun when you understand that he was talking to two Protestants, so he was basically saying ‘We Catholics had it right. The hierarchy has to do the heavy lifting to keep the Blodgetts from hurting themselves.’

    Still, I can’t but shudder when I see how DIFFICULT it is for well-meaning people to agree on how to extract ethical guidance from the Bible. These are days when very fierce and man-hating ideologies are once again gaining the ascendancy, so maybe we aren’t as well-meaning as we think we are.

    • Mulo, glad you’re checking out Richard Rohr. I don’t agree with all he says but I consider him amongst the most important current teachers in the world you can count on one hand. On this particular point, I must disagree, because if someone else is being denied access to the Bible, so am I, and this was one of the main points of the Reformation. As painful as some of the consequences of the Reformation may be for some, likely not as painful as on the rack of the Inquisition, which is where I would be today if we were still under that Monopoly, if not already burned at the stake. Let freedom ring, thank Martin, warts and all!

    • Robert F says:

      Come on, Mule, you know as well as I that long before the Reformation the Bible had fallen into the hands of many agensts of ancient church authority who were totally immersed in a “dualistic, ‘smite my enemies’ stage of consciousness” and practiced at weaponizing it to use in their own “project of universal domination.” Get real. That use of the Bible preexisted the Reformation by a long shot, and with the church’s approval.

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        Yeah, of course, but the limited number of children who can play with dangerous toys sorta limits the damage, don’ it?

        What I appreciated was the way in which he expressed an unpopular opinion and gave it some ballast, even if there isn’t any way I’d agree with him if I thought he was serious about it. Don’t you EVER get tired of hearing boring, egalitarian, bureaucratic boilerplate stuff from all the usual sources, and want to listen to some outright witchy crap?

        Sorry, my neurology experiences lack of novelty as physical pain. Strange that I’d be the one to end up Orthodox.

        Rohr’s interview was wonderfully coherent, thought-provoking, and MUCH less radical than I thought it would be. There was more to think about in his interview than in Brueggemann’s or “Science Mike”‘s, which is saying a LOT. Both of those were top-notch as well.

        It was good enough to make me willing to go through with RHE’s and Rob Bel’sl as well, although I hope that some day Enns gathers up the courage to interview a conservative like Keith Mathison, Ravi Zacharias, or Alistair Begg.

    • I just completed that podcast as well. It gave me quite a bit to mull.

  18. I am the keeper of the old family photos, records, and family tree for our extended family. I have found this to be rewarding, but also taxing and emotionally draining as one comes in contact with all the ways people lived and died in the last few hundred years. I find I can only absorb so much at a time.

    This week I visited the graves of great-great-great grandparents, who lived in the mid-1800s. These particular ancestors had 12 children, only six of whom survived into their 20s. I can’t even imagine what that was like… it was so common to lose many children in infancy, during childhood, and in young adulthood. So much sorrow, throughout human history. Only in maybe the 1940s or so, through medical advances, antibiotics and vaccines, did the pattern begin to change. And in many parts of the world today, things are still as they always were.

    It gives one pause. Chaplain Mike, this is good work that you will do tonight to offer a place for those who grieve. May God richly bless this ministry.

  19. Robert F says:

    I love the Blake painting at the top of the page. That old heretic used to scare me even though I admired him, but now I would count myself lucky to be his fellow traveler on the road that leads to the New Jerusalem. Pray for me, Brother William.

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      Agreed.

      Anybody that far off the main shipping lines of intellectual commerce HAS to have found something the rest of us have overlooked. The challenge is finding out what it is.

      • The late John Tavener’s choral masterworks based on Blake’s “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” certainly made an impression on me back in the day.

  20. Oh well, this Driscoll chap starts another conversation. Some of the same names or even most of the same names I have seen and mostly the same views. Okay with me. Age of accountability to me was the time I knew I was doing wrong and did it anyhow. I don’t know when that actually happened but I know it did. Selfishness here happens almost if not immediately because how would we survive if we didn’t cry out when we needed something. Think about that for a second that the second we see light here we need and if we were not selfish by this world how would we ever survive. Born again happens in my opinion the time we die and see a new light that we caught the glimpses of here when we first saw and heard Christ……….

    My first grandson who died in my hands because he was premature and his lungs couldn’t support him and my daughter was in danger of dying because of infection within her where the baby boy was. He made it maybe 30 minutes as I was the last to hold him and he moved one last time and I knew he was gone. The howl I made must of shook the whole floor I was on. It hurt so bad going beyond anything that had ever touched my soul. I went as quickly as possible to the mountain where I feed the cats and pray.

    I cried so hard I could not see the ground but I kept going up till I reached the top. I knelt and prayed and said I don’t know where to go from here. Please help me. I stood and within me I heard I want you to sing to him your grandson. I broke out into you are so beautiful to me as I started back down. Everything I hoped for and everything I need you are so beautiful to me. I cried and I sang with all my heart and I started to heal inside some. I heard inside me these words. There are places where the angels sing non stop over such things. That was it but I thought this must be healing for them too. I have no further testimony on such and this one hurt bad enough because I never said it to anyone before.

    Yesterday’s post I wanted to answer but I was doing so good as to not. I won’t change anyone’s mind here and really I never wanted too. I got caught up as it happens a lot to me. What if 1 fish plus 1 fish equaled feeding 1000’s. What if a couple of loaves of bread could feed the same and end up with 12 baskets left over. How does that math work. What if a man could walk on water and an another take steps before his unbelief caused him to sink. Why did Jesus say why didn’t you believe. He wasn’t putting this precious man down whom he loved. What are the mathematical odds that life here could exist here in the diversity it does and is it actually something that could be figured out. I have pages of material I could write of things I have seen. Does it matter if you or anyone believes me. Hell I know how it is to look at such things as I myself have asked did that just happen. I understood then how it was possible to look at things and maybe not see them. Since my best friend and sis left because of cancer I have not moved in the spirit. I die a little each day in my soul and I even wonder anymore if I will see heaven. I hurt all the time.

  21. Ah the Pelagianism heresy strikes from the past again. It was rejected in its own time, but basically everyone believes it now (at least for infants).

    • Thanks for your response and how it lifts us to a new beginning. Such a personal testimony that goes right down to my core. Oh now I remember

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      English Translation:
      “Theological Jargon Jargon Jargon Jargon Jargon Jargon Jargon…”

  22. CM, why are you reading Mark Driscoll’s devotional website? You know better…

  23. Dana Ames says:

    Christ is risen!
    Hi folks, I’ve been out of town and have had limited internet access. Anyone still reading, I beg you to go here:

    https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2017/03/04/church-fathers-christus-victor-and-the-atonement-gustav-aulen-got-it-wrong/

    and read the scribed article – by B. Myers, a Methodist 🙂

    Love to all – back soon.

    Dana

    • This was very interesting Dana and it was in some way helpful although I can’t put it into words why. Anyways thank you. It was hard to read and I had to magnify it and very in depth. Wow a lot to take in.