Thoughts on children, death, and eternity (I)...
(Tim) Recently, I've done some reading on the teaching of Scripture concerning children who die early in life, whether in the womb, at birth, or before the age at which they are able properly to discern the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ--to examine themselves as they come to His Table.
First, we have to admire the single-mindedness of the Roman Catholics. Although the doctrine of limbo is widely reported to be on life support at the Vatican right now (and I'm sure abortion has played a key role in bringing it into question), we can see they acted on principle in their manufacture of this dogma. (And yes, despite their efforts to deny it, this doctrine has been dogma until now.)
From conception, children are corrupted by Adam's sin; therefore children, too, need to be saved from that corruption if they are to enter Heaven; baptism washes off the corruption of original sin, saving a man; children who die in the womb are not baptized; therefore, children who die in the womb are not saved. Thus such statements as these...
by Ecumenicall Councils:
The Council of Florence: [The council opposed the practice of postponing the baptism of newborns for one to three months, stating:] ...the danger of death, which can often happen, for there is no other remedy available to these [infants] except the sacrament of baptism, which delivers them from the powers of the demon and makes them adopted sons of God. ...But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains.
The Second Council of Lyons: The souls of those who die in mortal sin or with original sin only, however, immediately descend to hell, to be punished however with disparate punishments.
"Disparate punishments; hence, limbo. It's the place the Roman Catholics invented for these infants to reside outside Heaven (the beatific vision), and yet not very deep in Hell.
If we recognize the guiding principle of Rome--that doctrine needed by the church for her own well-being may be created regardless of any support that doctrine may have in the Word of God--this particular doctrine of limbo is deeply compassionate. It calms the hearts of fathers and mothers in agony as they face the birth of a stillborn child.
While the best news for parents in grief would be to hear their stillborn child is in the presence of the Lord where there is fullness of joy forevermore, Rome finds itself in an awkward position in this regard. It can't sell off the goose that lay the golden egg. If unborn children are saved without baptism, then newborns and teenagers and adults and the elderly are saved without baptism, also, and the money stops flowing into the coffers.
The older I get, the more it's apparent that the love of money is the root of all evils (1Timothy 6:10). And the evil of sub-prime mortgages and gambling is child's play compared to the evil of shepherds selling indulgences, purpose driven lives, and efficacious baptisms and masses, rather than proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ--both repentance and faith.
When fathers and mothers choose a church with the explicit statement that they want one where the Sacraments "do something," it's clear they've turned their back on the word and the testimony, and are digging for themselves and their children cisterns which cannot hold water.
There is hope for mothers and fathers who grieve, but it's not to be found in efficacious sacraments sold by churches looking to their bottom line. And limbo?
It's no comfort at all, even if we are awed at the past rigor of Roman Catholics in refusing to allow unbaptized children into Heaven and creating limbo as the anteroom of Hell.
Sacramentalism is no hope at all for our children. Rather, God's people have hope for their stillborn and young children preceding them in death based on David's testimony concerning his own newborn covenant child who had just died at the hand of God:
But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me. (2 Samuel 12:23)
"I will go to him." We will go to them. This is our faith--our Biblical faith.