Do Babies Go to Hell?

Do Babies Go to Hell?  Examining the Dark Side of Christian Theology

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“They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

– The Gospel of Matthew, 13:42

            The issue of whether babies can go to hell has perplexed many Christians for centuries.  Even on our blog, Christians struggled to answer this question.  One such Christian was Paulus (also satirically known as “Cerbie” or “Cerberus).  After avoiding answering the question for several days, Paulus finally worked up the courage to provide an answer.  In short, the answer was “I don’t know” (no really, that was his answer).[1]  Other Christian commenters did not fare better.  Given the clear discomfort this issue raises among Christians, I thought it would be prudent to mention that the “I don’t know” answer is actually one of many posited by Christians throughout the history of Christendom (which shows that Christians themselves cannot even agree on an answer to such a simple question).  Thus, it becomes necessary to examine these variant theories on the eternal destiny of infants and children that die before becoming adults.  As we examine each theory, we will see that they are all fraught with theological and logical difficulties, though some may be stronger than others as far as the Bible is concerned.  We will also see that many Christians have simply assumed an answer (mostly out of a natural tendency to believe that babies will of course be in heaven), but which their scripture does not support.  It should be stated out-right that the only logically possible and honest answer to the question of “can babies go to hell according to Christian belief” is “yes”, and that is the dark and horrible side of Christianity that many people do not see (including Christians themselves).  It is a religion which not only believes that some babies can and will go to hell, but it also attempts to justify such a terrible and utterly evil doctrine.  So let us now examine the ten different answers that have given by Christians throughout history to the question “do babies go to hell?”

Babies and Hell – Ten Christian Theories

            According to the ex-Christian fundamentalist Yuriy Stasyuk, also known as the “Reluctant Skeptic”,[2] the ten different theories on the final destination of babies that die in infancy, as proposed by Christians throughout history, are the following:[3]

  1. Limbo Theory
  2. Age of Accountability Theory
  3. Mercy Theory
  4. Universal Election Theory
  5. Selective Election Theory
  6. Faith by Proxy Theory
  7. Foreknowledge Theory
  8. Postmortem Response Theory
  9. Universal Reconciliation Theory
  10. The Best Possible Theory, or simply “I don’t know”.

While it may be easy to assume that Cerbie/Paulus’ “I don’t know” answer corresponds to number 10, it is actually not so simple.  Cerbie has actually not denied that babies can go to hell.  In fact, he and the other Christian fanatic Coco/Joel have both attempted to justify the burning of babies in hell (albeit for different reasons).  Moreover, as Stasyuk explains, the “best possible theory” can be summed up as:

“…it is best to avoid giving answers and rest in the enigma of it all.”[4]

Of course, to suggest that the final destination of innocent babies is an “enigma” is in itself a weak and terrible answer, and does not make things any better.  It is most likely an attempt to avoid the inconvenient and horrible truth about Christian theology.    

            As for the other theories, some can be rejected outright due to the main flaw in them: they are not supported by the Christian scripture in any way, shape or form.  This would include the “limbo” theory, which is believed by many Catholics.  As Stasyuk correctly asks:

“[w]here in Christian theology is there a third permanent option to hell and heaven? Where does the Bible even speak about this third possible state of eternal being?”[5]

It is certainly true that the Bible does not mention a third option in the afterlife called “limbo”.  There is only heaven or hell.[6]  So clearly this theory has no merit at all and is more a case of wishful thinking in order to reconcile the staunch Christian belief in original sin with natural compassion for innocent babies.

            The same can be said of “faith by proxy” (#6), “postmortem response” (#8) and “universal reconciliation” (#9).  None of these theories has any support in the Bible.  “Faith by proxy” essentially states that a child of “believing parents” will be saved on account of the parents, but there is no evidence in the Bible that this would be allowed. 

            On the other hand, the “postmortem response” theory posits that babies, children and others (such as adults who are insane):

“…will have a postmortem chance to hear the preaching of the Gospel and repent.”[7]

In other words, an infant will have the chance to believe in Jesus at some point in the afterlife.  But again, there is no proof from the Bible that this will ever happen.[8] 

            Finally, the “universal reconciliation” theory, also known as “apokatastasis”),[9] postulates that all beings, even Satan, will eventually be saved.  It does not require much effort to refute this theory, as there is no evidence from the Bible for this at all.[10]

            So this now leaves only five of the original ten theories: age of accountability, mercy, universal election, selective election, and foreknowledge.  Let us discuss these individually.

Age of Accountability Theory –

            This theory was posited by early Christian leaders such as Pelagius (d. circa 418), who advocated the importance of human effort in attaining salvation.[11]  Pelagius is most famous for his rejection of original sin, for which he was viciously attacked by Augustine.  In fact, according to the late Catholic scholar Raymond Brown, it was mostly in response to Pelagius that Augustine developed the theology of original sin.[12]  Since he rejected original sin, Pelagius was of the view that “infants are born perfect and without the blemish of sin“, and that they will only be held accountable for their sins after having reached the “age of accountability”.[13]  This view certainly has support in the Bible, specifically the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible), which explains why many modern-day Christians subscribe to this view.    For example, Deuteronomy 1 states that the Israelites who had sinned and disobeyed God would not enter the holy land, but their children would.  The reason is that these children were innocent because they:

“…do not yet know good from bad.”[14]

Also, the prophecy of “Immanuel” in Isaiah 7 clearly stipulates an age in which the boy would learn to associate right from wrong (without clarifying the age):

“[h]e will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.”[15]

As to the actual age at which this occurs, there are different views.  The Christian commentator Albert Barnes opined that:

“[a] capability to determine, in some degree, between good and evil, or between right and wrong, is usually manifest when the child is two or three years of age.”[16]

Whatever this age actually is, it is clear that the Hebrew Bible does recognize that the ability to choose between right and wrong (or good and evil) does not start at infancy.  In this regard, Judaism is in agreement with Islam.  The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) explained that:

“[t]he pen has been lifted from three; for the sleeping person until he awakens, for the boy until he becomes a young man and for the mentally insane until he regains sanity.”[17]

In a way, the New Testament also agrees with this view.  In the synoptic Gospels, Jesus (peace be upon him) is reported to have said:

“[l]et the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”[18]

            Unfortunately, the doctrine of original sin shatters this general agreement.  According to Paul, all people are sinners, and thus not deserving of the “kingdom of God”:

“[t]his righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.”[19]

Paul also stated that only those who have faith will be “justified” by God.[20]  It is for this reason that the “age of accountability” theory collapses.  As Stasyuk observes, this theory fails because it:

“…sets a theological precedent that unequivocally states “faith” and “obedience” are definitely not required to be saved (even though Christian doctrine emphatically states they are). Can infants exercise faith in Jesus? No. Can infants show obedience to Jesus? No. If children are saved without faith or obedience, why does Christian theology explicitly mandate those are the only ways to salvation?”[21]

Clearly, the doctrine of original sin is the elephant in the room.  Whereas Jesus (peace be upon him) is shown to embrace children as already being part of the “kingdom of God” (and not the rich man, until he gave up his wealth),[22] Paul emphasized that original sin dooms all people.  If infants and children were not included in the doomed list, then certainly Paul would have said so.

            Christian attempts to explain this contradiction are unsatisfactory.  For example, in his commentary on Jesus and the children in the Gospel of Mark, James R. Edwards claims the following:

“[i]n his blessing and embracing children, Jesus was not acknowledging their innocence, purity, or spontaneity – for that would imply their acceptance was based on some virtue in themselves.  Rather, children are blessed for what they lack – size, power, and sophistication.  Having nothing to bring to Jesus, they have everything to receive from him by grace.”[23]

But would acknowledging the “innocence” or “purity” of children be somehow acknowledging some “virtue” in them?  If children are declared “innocent” by God, as demonstrated by the “age of accountability”, would that not be by the grace of God, instead of by the “virtue” of the children themselves?[24]  Why does Edwards attempt to deny the obvious?  Does it have something to do with a theological agenda revolving around original sin?  It would appear so.  The “age of accountability” doctrine itself implies that children will probably not be model citizens.  In fact, they will frequently be mischievous and playful, and often incapable of choosing between right and wrong.[25]

Mercy Theory –

            This theory posits that God will save infants by His grace and mercy alone, and not on the basis of the “innocence” or “purity” of infants.  Similar to the “age of accountability” theory, the “mercy” theory assumes that God will not punish an infant.  The only difference is that while the former is dependent on the perceived innocence of infants (since they have not reached the age of accountability), the latter is dependent on the assumption that God will be merciful and save infants solely by His “grace” (since punishing them would be unbecoming of a merciful God).  But just like the “age of accountability” theory, the “mercy” theory also collapses due to the original sin problem.  As shown above, Paul was unequivocal in his view that “all” have sinned.  If infants were not included in this group, surely Paul would have said so.  Thus, if infants are also “sinners”, then they also deserve “punishment”, and the only way to be saved is through faith and obedience.  As Stasyuk correctly asks:

“[h]ow can we mandate that faith is a necessary [component] for every single individual, and then make an exception for billions of souls?”[26]

Clearly, in the realm of Christian theology, there is no such thing as a “merciful” God.  The doctrines of original sin and vicarious atonement make such a belief impossible.

Universal Election Theory –

            This theory posits that all infants that die in infancy will go to heaven, and is based on the premise that mankind will only be:

“…judged on the basis of sins we committed ‘in the body’ rather than Adams [sic] sins.”[27]

One early proponent of this view was John Chrysostom, who believed that children were “innocent” and that “God receives them as such…” (similar to the “age of accountability” theory).[28]  But this belief is based on the rejection of the doctrine of “original sin”, which creates obvious problems for the majority of Christians who believe that this doctrine is based on scripture.  Indeed, part of John Chrysostom’s reason for having this belief was based on a book that many Christians do not even accept in their canon.  In his defense of the innocence of children, John Chrysostom quoted from the “Wisdom of Solomon” 3:1 (also known as “Sophia Sirach”,[29] which is placed with the “deuterocanonical” books of the Catholic canon, whereas Protestants place it among the “Apocrypha”.[30]  Even so, when we read the relevant passage, we do not even find anything about the innocence of children anyway, and ironically there is more to suggest that they are “wicked”.  Wisdom 3:1 states:

“[t]he souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.”[31]

Using this one verse, John Chrysostom concluded that:

“…so also are the souls of children, for they also are not wicked.”[32]

On the surface, this seems like a reasonable assumption, especially given the Tanakh’s emphasis on an “age of accountability”.  Unfortunately, no such conclusion can be made from Wisdom 3:1.  On the contrary, chapter 3 seems to actually link children with “wickedness”, especially the children of “adulterers” (which here may be used to refer to sinners in general).  For example, verse 12 states regarding the “wicked” people:

“[t]heir wives are foolish and their children wicked, accursed their brood.”[33]

Similarly, verse 13 links those who have children with defilement, while those who are “childless” are considered “undefiled”.  Finally, verse 18 says of the “children of adulterers” that if they were to:

“…die abruptly, they will have no hope nor comfort in the day of scrutiny…”[34]

So how did John Chrysostom conclude on the basis of this book that children will be in heaven?  It seems more likely that he was guilty of wishful thinking in the best-case scenario, or outright deception in the worse-case scenario.  So, we cannot rely on the opinions of John Chrysostom and it seems that “universal election” clearly fails.  There is nothing in the canonical books or even the deuterocanonical books that Christians can use to support this theory. 

            To add insult to injury, Calvinists are especially left with a conundrum.  As Stasyuk notes, even though many modern-day Calvinists propose the “universal election” theory, Calvinist doctrine simply does not allow for such a proposal.  In Stasyuk’s words:

“…at its core Calvinist doctrine states that God’s election is not based on anything within the human being. The ‘U’ in the theological acronym TULIP, stands for unconditional, meaning there is no condition, or nothing that one can do to become elect. Yet the Universal Election of Infants clearly gives a condition: infancy. If every single infant who dies is part of the elect, it logically follows that being a dead infant is a condition to being one of the elect.”[35]

So according to Calvinist doctrine, there can be no condition through which a person becomes “elect”.  The decision is with God alone.  Indeed, “election” is defined as:

“[t]he gracious and free act of God by which He calls those who become part of His kingdom and special beneficiaries of His love and blessings.”[36]

Furthermore, “election to salvation”:

“…takes place ‘in Christ’ (Eph. 1:4; 2:10) as part of God’s purpose for the human race. […] Election is gracious; it is also unconditional and unmerited (1 Pet. 1:2).”[37]

Thus, dying in infancy cannot serve as a basis to become “elect”, although certain infants among those who have died could be among the “elect” (which is “selective election”).  However, the latter could not be saved on the basis of simply being an infant.  This leads to the next theory, that of “selective election”.   

Selective Election Theory –

            This theory is similar to “universal election”, with one major difference: only certain infants will be “elected” (i.e. saved).  This Calvinist doctrine declares that both adults and infants/children are “mysteriously” separated into two groups: the “elect” and the “reprobate” (those who are “not elected”).[38]  According to Christians, “election” is supposed to be:

“[t]he gracious and free act of God…”[39]

Thus, God can “graciously” and “freely” save some infants and not others.  This means that some infants that die before reaching adulthood, and despite never having the chance to even accept Jesus as their savior (and thus still being tainted by original sin), will nevertheless still be saved.  Conversely, of course, other infants will not be saved.  This concept is spelled out in the “Westminster Confession of Faith”, which states in chapter 10:

“III. Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who works when, and where, and how he pleases: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

IV. Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved…”[40]

Just like with adults, only certain infants can be “elected” by God.  Christian theologians argue that this concept is not “unjust” since “no one deserves to be saved” in the first place and because “election” is “unconditional and unmerited”.[41]  This is why “universal election” cannot be supported by Christian doctrine.  An infant can only be unconditionally “elected”, which is why being an infant cannot be a reason for being “elected”.

            Thus, with “selective election”, it would be possible for certain babies to be condemned to hell.  But given this horrific prospect, this theory has lost its popularity among many modern Christians, even those who identify themselves as “Calvinists”, and for obvious reasons.[42]  But given the statements on “election” in the New Testament, it seems difficult to argue against “selective election”.[43]  Nevertheless, Stasyuk criticizes this theory.  The main problem, according to Stasyuk, is that this Calvinist doctrine makes “essentials of faith and obedience irrelevant”.[44]  Put another way, since “elect” babies would account for a large portion of humanity (since historically, many babies have died in infancy), then:

“[w]hat is the point of the Bible constantly teaching that faith is the instrument of salvation if the majority of people in history are excluded from this?”

This is certainly a reasonable critique, since infant mortality has claimed the lives of possibly hundreds of millions (if not billions) of infants throughout human history.  In a 1995 publication in the journal “Population Today”, it was estimated that the infant mortality rate between 8,000 BCE and 1 CE could have been as high as 50%, and perhaps higher.[45]  In other words, at least half of all infants would have died during childbirth or shortly thereafter.  In addition, even in modern times, some African countries had “under-five” mortality rates as high as ~200 per 1000 births (approx. 20%).  This was true as recently as the beginning of the 21st century as shown in the map below:[46]

global_underfivemortality_2000

Thus, if so many infants have died, and at least some of them are among the “elect”, it would mean that millions (if not billions) of humans have been saved without faith and obedience to God, despite the Bible’s insistence that these are the only keys to salvation.[47]  Even so, while these facts present a serious challenge to the Bible, they do not necessarily refute the view of Calvinists that “selective election” is a Biblical concept.  It simply shows the contradictions and flaws in the Bible itself.

            The other critique, according to Stasyuk, is that “selective election” makes God appear “frightening and cruel”.  But does that automatically mean that “selective election” is not a Biblical doctrine simply because it makes the Biblical God appear cruel?  This critique seems to rely on the assumption that the Biblical concept of “God” must necessarily be “kind”, but we must remember that the “God” of the Bible is frequently shown to be “frightening and cruel”, even when dealing with infants and children.  We can find numerous such examples:

  1. God strikes down all the “firstborn” in Egypt –

“At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well.”[48]

  1. God orders the genocide of the Amalekites, down to the last infant and child –

“Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”[49]

  1. God orders the killing of the idolaters who had defiled the temple, including mothers and their children –

“Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion.  Slaughter the old men, the young men and women, the mothers and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary.”[50]

Such wanton acts of brutality and violence against the innocent does not bode well for the Biblical concept of a “kind God”.  He is a “frightening and cruel” tyrant.  Thus, this critique does not refute the concept of “selective election” and is based on a non-sequitur. 

Foreknowledge Theory –

            This theory posits that since God knows how infants would have acted as adults had they lived, He saves those infants that “would have merited salvation” while punishing the others.[51] 

            While offering some “ontological” and other reasons for why this theory fails, Stasyuk did not seem to realize the most obvious reason.  Since the “foreknowledge” theory speculates that God saves and damns based on how the infant would have acted as an adult, then it means that God saves some people on the merit of their actions, which contradicts one of the central Christian beliefs regarding salvation, that it is achieved not by one’s actions but by God’s “grace” alone.  Thus, on this scriptural basis alone, the “foreknowledge” theory collapses.[52]

            Nevertheless, Stasyuk also offers one powerful reason why the “foreknowledge” theory does not work, though it based on an emotional reason.  Since the infant that will be punished in hell for something he/she would have done, from his/her perspective, the purpose for existence “was to burn”.  As Stasyuk puts it:

“[f]rom the perspective of the soul, [its] first and only memory is an eternal fire, without any other knowledge, and it can only know the pain of fire, as though its only purpose from the beginning was to burn. To the soul, the information about potential sin is just irrelevant semantics.”[53]

It is difficult to argue against this, and it only further destroys this theory, albeit from a philosophical point of view, rather than a scriptural one.

Final Assessment and Conclusion

            Given our discussion above, what can we conclude about the answer to the question “do babies burn in the Christian hell?”  It is a difficult question to answer, which is probably why some Christians (like Cerbie/Paulus) hide under the “I don’t know” excuse.  On the one hand, they are understandably uncomfortable with the idea of their “God” burning babies in hell, but on the other hand, they have to reconcile their discomfort with their theology.  In a way, Christianity’s own theology is a self-inflicted wound.  Nevertheless, the “I don’t know” answer is a cop-out nor does it make things better.  Is it really that difficult to say “of course, babies will not burn in hell”?  To Christians, it is, because their theology makes it difficult.  This answer still leaves the possibility open that some babies will indeed burn in hell, but the Christian cannot be sure which ones will and which ones will not.     

            So, what is the best option then, if not “I don’t know”?  As we saw, the “age of accountability” theory makes sense from the point of view of Judaism, since the Tanakh clearly establishes such an age (without clarifying the exact age).  But, as with almost everything in Christianity, what was true in the Tanakh does not necessarily get absorbed into the New Testament.  So while “age of accountability” might work with Judaism and Islam, it cannot work with Christianity because of the problem of original sin (which is largely a Pauline/Augustinian development).[54]  It may have worked if Paul’s writings had never made it into the New Testament, but alas, they did and subsequently they corrupted a large portion of Christian theology.      

            The only theory that comes closest to working in Christianity is “selective election”, as we have seen (though it is not without problems).  What this means is that the Christian concept of “God” shows a being that arbitrarily “elects” some people, while arbitrarily leaving others as “reprobates”, including dead infants and children.  The ramifications of this are astounding as well as sickening: those “reprobate” babies and children will be tormented in hell!  The following image effectively illustrates this horrifying prospect:

babies-hell

So Christians must ask themselves: what kind of a “God” do they worship?  Certainly, Christianity has some admirable beliefs and qualities, such as forgiving one’s enemies and caring for one’s neighbors and friends, but all religions teach these things one way or another.  Hence, examining the theology of each religion in detail will be the only way to sort out which one is the truth (since they cannot all be true).  And when we strip away the surface of Christianity, where all the “nice” parts are found, we find a dark and horrifying center.  Christians may say things like “God loves you”, but there is nothing “loving” about a being that would torture a baby in hell.  Would the true God demand a child sacrifice?  Christians would say no, and hence, they would reject (and rightfully so) the false gods of pagan religions that demanded child sacrifice.  These “gods” are rejected as false and non-existent, a creation of the human imagination.  But how different is the Christian concept of “God” from these false, pagan gods?  The Christian “God” would torture babies!  Thus, this “God” cannot be the true God, and is non-existent as well.[55]  Therefore, Christianity cannot be true.  So perhaps Christians should consider another alternative: Islam.[56]              

And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!


[1] https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2018/08/19/horrible-christian-answers-will-babies-and-children-burn-in-hell-answer-i-dont-know/

[2] https://yuriystasyuk.com/about/

[3] https://yuriystasyuk.com/the-problem-of-dead-babies-what-happens-to-infants-who-die/

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Revelation 21:7-8 states that people will either be with God or in the “lake of fire”:

“[t]hose who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”

[7] https://yuriystasyuk.com/the-problem-of-dead-babies-what-happens-to-infants-who-die/

[8] However, Islam does affirm this view, but only for adults who either lived in an era when there were no prophets sent, or who never heard the message of Islam in his/her life and thus could not be held responsible for not accepting it.  Such a person will in fact be tested in the afterlife.  The nature of the test will involve either obeying or disobeying the command of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) to enter hell.  The one who obeys will find that he is actually saved (and will find “hell” to be a cool and comfortable place; in other words, they will in fact be in Paradise), but the one who disobeys will be dragged into hell and be condemned for eternity (https://islamqa.info/en/1244).  Of course, this does not include infants or children because they are not held accountable for their actions at all since they died before reaching that stage of life.

[9] https://yuriystasyuk.com/the-problem-of-dead-babies-what-happens-to-infants-who-die/

Also spelled “apocatastasis”, it is defined as:

“…the doctrine which teaches that a time will come when all free creatures will share in the grace of salvation; in a special way, the devils and lost souls” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01599a.htm)

[10] In fact, Revelation 20:10 states that Satan, the “beast” and the false prophet would all be “tormented” in the “lake of fire” forever.  Moreover, Revelation 21:8 states that any person who committed murder, idolatry and sexual immorality (among others) would be “consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur”.  There is no indication that any of them will be released from hell and be reconciled with God. 

[11] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Pelagius-Christian-theologian

[12] Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (New York: Doubleday, 1997), p. 580.

[13] https://yuriystasyuk.com/the-problem-of-dead-babies-what-happens-to-infants-who-die/

[14] Deuteronomy 1:39.

[15] Isaiah 7:15-16.

[16] https://biblehub.com/commentaries/barnes/isaiah/7.htm

[17] Jami at-Tirmidhi, 3:15:1423.

[18] Mark 10:14; Matthew 19:14; Luke 18:16.

[19] Romans 3:22-25.

[20] Romans 3:26.

[21] https://yuriystasyuk.com/the-problem-of-dead-babies-what-happens-to-infants-who-die/

[22] Mark 10:17ff.

[23] James R. Edwards, “Mark,” in The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, ed. Gary M. Burge and Andrew E. Hill (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2012), p. 1035.

[24] The “mercy” theory is also dependent on God’s “grace”, as we will see.

[25] However, as noted in the article on original sin, even very young toddlers show an innate predisposition towards altruism (https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/born-a-sinner-a-critical-investigation-of-the-origin-of-original-sin/).  Thus, when Christians like Augustine attempted to vilify children as “sinners”, they would have been hard-pressed to explain why a “sinner” would be innately willing to be helpful to and concerned with the well-being of others, especially considering that they are supposedly “stained” with original sin and have a “sinful nature”.

[26] https://yuriystasyuk.com/the-problem-of-dead-babies-what-happens-to-infants-who-die/

[27] Ibid.

[28] Father Panayiotis Papageorgiou, “The Problem of ‘Original Sin’ in Re-Introducing Christianity: An Eastern Apologia for a Western Audience, ed. Amir Azarvan (Oregon: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2016) p. 102

[29] Ibid.

[30] http://web.archive.org/web/20090322063137/http://www.bibletexts.com/glossary/wis.htm

[31] http://www.usccb.org/bible/wisdom/3

[32] Papageorgiou, “The Problem of Original Sin”, op. cit., p. 102.

[33] http://www.usccb.org/bible/wisdom/3

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

For a Calvinist discussion of “TULIP”, see here: http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/pamphlet_41.html

[36] Ronald F. Youngblood, F.F. Bruce and R.K. Harrison, Compact Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004), p. 197.

[37] Ibid.

[38] https://yuriystasyuk.com/the-problem-of-dead-babies-what-happens-to-infants-who-die/

[39] Youngblood, Bruce and Harrison, op. cit., p. 196.

[40] https://reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/

[41] Youngblood, Bruce and Harrison, op. cit., p. 196.

However, Youngblood et al. maintain that it is “gracious of God to save those who find salvation through Jesus Christ” (Ibid.).  Unfortunately, they do not clarify how this would include an infant that never had the opportunity to “find salvation through Jesus Christ”.  It seems they were specifically referring to adults. 

[42] https://yuriystasyuk.com/the-problem-of-dead-babies-what-happens-to-infants-who-die/

[43] 1 Peter 1:2. 

Paul used the example of Jacob and Esau to also argue for the “election” doctrine:

“[n]ot only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”” (Romans 9:10-13).

[44] Ibid.

[45] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12288594

[46] http://gamapserver.who.int/mapLibrary/app/searchResults.aspx

Thankfully, a 2015 report found that infant mortality rates have decreased and there were no countries, even in Africa, that had “under-five” mortality of 200 per 1000 births, or higher.  However, there were still several countries where infant mortality was between 100-199 deaths per 1000 births, all in Africa:

global_underfivemortality_2015

[47] Jesus’ alleged claim that “[n]o one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6) would be contradicted if millions of infants from antiquity will go to heaven before Jesus (peace be upon him) was even born.  

But, this problem does not exist with Islam for a few reasons:

  1. All humans are born in a state of “fitrah”, which means they are born sinless. There is no such thing as “original sin” in Islam.
  2. “Fitrah” literally means “primordial nature”, which is “a harmony between man, creation, and God” (Cyril Glasse, The New Encyclopedia of Islam, 3rd Edition (USA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008), p. 158.). Thus, since an infant dies in this state, there is no logical or just reason for punishment.  Only if an age of accountability is reached, where one’s actions become one’s responsibility, does the “primordial nature” no longer protect one from punishment.     
  3. Ultimately, salvation only comes from Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He). This is demonstrated in a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):

“Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger () as saying: None amongst you can get into Paradise by virtue of his deeds alone. They said: Allah’s Messenger, not even you? Thereupon he said: Not even I, but that Allah should wrap me in His Grace and Mercy” (Sahih Muslim, 39:6764).

Since Allah’s “Grace and Mercy” will be the ultimate deciding factor for human salvation, it is certain that infants will be saved and there is no contradiction with the Islamic view on salvation, since Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) has forbidden oppression and injustice for Himself (even though He can if He wanted to).  Since Islam rejects the doctrine of “original sin”, Allah’s Mercy is all that is needed for infant salvation.  For more on the Islamic view on salvation, see stewjo004’s article “Do Muslims Believe They Can Earn Paradise?”: https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2018/06/23/do-muslims-believe-they-can-earn-paradise/

[48] Exodus 12:29.

[49] 1 Samuel 15:3.

[50] Ezekiel 9:5-6.

[51] https://yuriystasyuk.com/the-problem-of-dead-babies-what-happens-to-infants-who-die/

[52] On the Quran and Bible Blog, one variation of this theory was suggested by the Christian commenter Joel (whom I satirically refer to as “Coco”).  While claiming that God’s foreknowledge justifies punishing those who would have deserved punishment had they lived into adulthood, Joel/Coco also argued that these unfortunate infants would not be infants when their eternal punishment would start.  Rather, he suggested that they would supposedly be adults.  Unsurprisingly, when pressed to provide scriptural evidence for this view, he was unable to do so.  The reason is that no such possibility is suggested in the Bible (https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2018/08/11/horrible-christian-ideas-babies-and-children-in-hell/#comment-4340).

[53] https://yuriystasyuk.com/the-problem-of-dead-babies-what-happens-to-infants-who-die/

[54] As stated before, Augustine developed the doctrine of “original sin”, but Paul certainly laid the groundwork.  Consequently, even though Paul did not say anything about the fate of infants or children who were “unbaptized” or not otherwise “saved”, Augustine was rather blunt: they would go to hell.  But even the uncompromising Augustine had a soft spot for these innocent torture victims.  In his view, even though they would be in hell, the pain they would suffer would be “mild” compared to what others might suffer (Adrian Hastings, “Hell” in The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, ed. Adrian Hastings, Alistair Mason and Hugh Pyper (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 291). 

But as with any Christian effort to whitewash some of its most horrible ideas, Augustine’s efforts to whitewash the torture of babies by referring to it as “mild” fails for one simple reason: there is no evidence for this in the Bible.  The Bible is clear that the suffering in hell will be terrible (see Matthew 13:42).    

Nevertheless, Augustine’s compassion (if it can be called that) for babies reflects the same struggle that many well-meaning and faithful Christians face.  They are not comfortable with the idea of a “God” who burns babies in hell.  And so inevitably, since their human nature tends to sway towards the desire to spare babies any suffering in hell, they have to settle for non-Biblical assumptions (even the staunch “sola scriptura” Christians), such as “limbo”, “Purgatory”, “universal election” or a hell with “mild” pain rather than a hell with severe pain reserved for the adult sinners. 

Even those Christians who passionately argue for infant salvation have to cut corners.  For example, Christian apologist Kyle Butt, proclaims with confidence that:

“[t]he Bible nowhere teaches that babies go to hell if they die in infancy. Neither does it teach that babies inherit the sins of their parents. Although many skeptics have tried to portray God as an evil tyrant Who condemns innocent children to eternal destruction, their arguments are without merit or any semblance of biblical credence. In the words of Jesus Christ, “Let the little children come to me”” (http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=1201)

But we must ask the obvious question: which Bible is he talking about?  The Tanakh certainly can be used to defend the concept of infant salvation, but it is obvious that the New Testament cannot, at least when viewed as a whole.  Ironically, in Butt’s article above, we find numerous references to the Tanakh (Exodus, Ezekiel, and Psalms etc.), but very little from the New Testament.  In fact, he completely ignores the letters of Paul, which as we have seen already, is the elephant in the room and the major obstacle facing Christians like Butt and his brethren.  When faced with this obstacle, they are forced to rely more than ever before on the Tanakh (and inevitably ignore vast portions of the New Testament), which only shows the inconsistencies and contradictions that have destroyed Christianity from within. 

[55] Put in another perspective, compare the Christian “God” to a child murderer.  There have been many child murderers in human history (https://www.ranker.com/list/famous-serial-killers-of-children/ranker-crime).  These evil monsters tortured and killed their victims in the most brutal ways possible.  Obviously, Christians will have no trouble saying whether these people will be in hell or not.  “Of course they will be in hell”, the Christian will say (but it will be not necessarily for the type of sin they committed, because all sin is the same to the Christian “God”).  But since the Christian “God” is evidently justified (according to Christians like Cerbie/Paulus) to also burn children, it is conceivable that while he tortures the child murderers in hell, he will also torture the victims as well (assuming they never accepted Jesus as their savior, which is more than likely for most of these poor children)!  Not only this, but if a child murderer “came to Christ” before he died, he would be saved, but his victim would be in hell (because he/she died in his/her sins)!  So how does that make the Christian “God” look?  Pretty evil, yes?  From this perspective, the Christian concept of “God” paints a being that is probably the most evil figure ever imagined, infinitely more frightening and dark than any real child murderer could ever be.  This is not the true God of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

[56] Some Christians have indeed realized the bitter truth about the horrifying prospect of babies being tortured in hell, and have found a more compassionate and logical alternative in Islam.  For some of their stories, see Janet Testerman, Transforming from Christianity to Islam: Eight Women’s Journey (UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), pp. 8-9, 124.

23 thoughts on “Do Babies Go to Hell?

  1. stewjo004

    @ Qb

    So I have a question after reading the article:

    Doesn’t the Bible have a pace called like Sheol or something? Would that be an alternative to Heaven and Hell? (Of course, this would refute all men are born in sin or that one can only be saved by Jesus’s(as) blood but it’s better than babies being tortured)

    2. Can you do an article of the other major issue in Christian theology regarding what happened to other nations before Jesus(as) outside of Israel? (Of course if babies get chalked we know these people are screwed but still)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Sheol is mentioned in the Tanakh and it seems to be the only destination in the afterlife. But then the book of Daniel states that in the end times, people would be resurrected to face judgement, with the faithful being rewarded and the wicked being punished. So, it’s not clear what the Bible really has to say about the afterlife. It’s very contradictory and confusing.

      I will look into the subject of other people outside of Israel, but yeah as you said, if babies are not safe then what hope do others have, Lol…

      Like

      1. To clarify, in some books of the Tanakh, Sheol is mentioned as the destination of all people. Later books then introduced the idea of different destinations for the righteous and the wicked (like heaven and hell). Some scholars have even said that the Tanakh completely denies the existence of an afterlife. The book of Job has been cited often in support of this.

        Like

      1. Salaam, your thoughts on this :

        He thinks that it was impossible for the original text of Matthew 19:19 to have really included the line “and love your neighbor as yourself” — because 1) Jesus concedes that the young man has followed this commandment; 2) Paul in Romans 13 suggests that anyone who really loves others has “fulfilled the Law”; yet 3) it was impossible for anyone other than Jesus to have fulfilled the Law. Therefore Origen thought that Matthew 19:19 would either be a genuine contradiction, or else a scribe has later added this.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t think it is impossible that Jesus (pbuh) actually said this at some point. Being kind to one’s neighbor is also taught in Islam, so Jesus (pbuh) also may have taught that. Yet Origen’s point seems valid. It’s just another example of how self-contradictory the Bible is.

        Like

  2. stewjo004

    @ tony

    Hmmph interesting here’s the entire passage with my personal commentary:

    16Just then, a man came up to Jesus and inquired, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to obtain eternal life?”

    (So before this two other incidents occurred. According to the 5 Gospels, this is usually the start of forgeries. The reason is remember, there’s about a 30-year oral tradition before any of these are written and people have to remember this.Like seriously who sat here and memorized all of this?

    https://biblehub.com/bsb/matthew/19.htm

    So what’s happening is the sayings themselves can be genuine but the anonymous authors would make up stories of their interpretation and take Isa’s(as) words and group them together for theological points. With of course their own personal touch-ups)

    17“Why do you ask Me about what is good?” Jesus replied, “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

    (Refutation of Christianity basically. And if they say anything else there saying Isa(as) purposely misguided a man who came to him asking for guidance)

    18“Which ones?” the man asked.

    Jesus answered, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, 19honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.’d ”

    20“All these I have kept,” said the young man. “What do I still lack?”

    21Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”

    (So yeah Isa(as) has conceded that he’s followed this and is telling him how to “level up”. Also from the “gems” of Paul:

    For the ENTIRE law is FULFILLED in keeping this ONE command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)

    The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9)

    However, they could maybe make an argument from this:

    29Jesus replied, “This is the most important: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One Lord, 30and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’e 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’f No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:2931)

    They could maybe say the man loved wealth more than Allah and therefore he has committed shirk in his love for the dunya)

    22When the young man heard this, he went away in sorrow, because he had great wealth.

    (I don’t understand why Isa(as) couldn’t tell him how to put love for Allah in his heart or steps he could take but hey let’s continue with the narrative)

    23Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

    25When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

    26Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

    27“Look,” Peter replied, “we have left everything to follow You. What then will there be for us?”

    (I don’t understand the relevance of either response to the question here. They didn’t ask “how can we save ourselves?” which would make more sense for Isa’s(as) answer.Alos Isa(as) literally just said it’s impossible for man to save himself and Peter then talks anout his deeds and what is left for him and the Disciples in jannah which again doesn’t make sense in context so I have a feeling this is another evidence this story is a piece together of different sayings and not an entirely real incident.)

    28Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, in the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for the sake of My name will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

    (Clearly a Christian add-in. Christians were being persecuted so each community added little touches to make the gospels relevant for their situations. It also doesn’t really follow Isa’s(as) speech pattern. He speaks short easy to remember sayings of contrast or vivid imagery. For example: “The last will be first and the first last.” or “I have come to set fire to the world and I will see it blaze.”)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. notice that in comparison to the rich man, the disciples have to do even more and that is “drink the cup”
      notice how the “loyalty test” keeps on getting difficult ?

      peter says “we have given up everything”
      but the text is indirectly taking a stab at peter, it is saying “no you haven’t….if you were truly loyal you would be drinking the cup too”

      Like

      1. akhi, here is a list of responses from bart ehrman :

        Liam Foley July 12, 2018

        I have heard some Christians believe that Jesus was teaching his Jewish followers the Old Covenant (a works based salvation) because he hadn’t died and resurrected and established the New Covenant yet.
        To me that makes no sense whatsoever. Why spend your time teaching a method of salvation that will be obsolete in a very short while? To me the more logical explanation is that two different methods of salvation are in the New Testament.

        Bart July 14, 2018

        Moreover, why bother to die if salvation was available otherwise?

        quote :
        Think about it. The more airtight Paul makes his argument (by citing the Old Testament) that it has been Godʼs plan all along to show no partiality (2:11; 3:21-31) to Jews, the more Jewish followers of Jesus might want to ask, “So, was all that back then about keeping the covenant just a big smokescreen? And what about all those Jews over the centuries who lived their lives according to Torah, some of whom were martyred—does that mean nothing?”

        Bart July 17, 2018

        THe laws aren’t particularly hard. You shouldn’t murder or sleep with your neighbor’s wife; if your ox gores your neighbor you have to make reparation; take a break one day of the week; don’t worship other gods, etc.. The Jewish laws aren’t any where NEAR as stringent as AMerican laws, and we have no real trouble keeping most of ours!

        Bart July 12, 2018

        One way is to say that Jesus was speaking before Easter and Paul after. The problem is that if Jesus were *right* (that one could be right with God by keeping the law), why would he have to die?

        Bart July 15, 2018

        I’m not saying that that’s my belief. I’m saying that if Jesus/Matthew were right that obedience to the law could bring salvation, then it’s hard to see what the point of Jesus’ death is.

        Bart July 12, 2018

        That’s right. But he certainly did not think that “keeping the Ten Commandments” was the key to eternal life. It it were, there would have been no reason for Christ to die.

        /////

        you wrote :
        literally just said it’s impossible for man to save himself and Peter then talks anout his deeds and what is left for him and the Disciples in jannah which again doesn’t make sense in context so I have a feeling this is another evidence this story is a piece together of different sayings and not an entirely real incident.)

        ////

        yes, it does seem to be a stitch up job.

        Like

  3. “Therefore Origen thought that Matthew 19:19 would either be a genuine contradiction, or else a scribe has later added this.”

    what IS MORE probable :

    1. origen knew mark 12:13 and thought that the rich man must have loved Allah with all his heart because if loving neighbour is done, then “automatically” loving ALLAH is done.

    2. origen did not see loving Allah more important than loving neighbour.

    Like

  4. stewjo004

    @ tony

    Hmmm idk Allah hu alim. I could see it going either way
    There are two commands “love your neighbor” and “love Allah”. Within Mark’s context, one could say the man only had half of iman. Isa(as) could’ve told him to sell his possessions to prove his love for Allah. However, you’re making a good point if the man followed loving the neighbor because it’s a command from Allah he by extension loves Allah.

    But what everyone is forgetting is Christians have only two rules correct? Then how can Isa(as) add the rule about adultery and divorce? Either the law is abrogated or not.

    Like

  5. stewjo004

    @ tony

    Salamualakum oh, I agree with you if you noticed I said:

    “Refutation of Christianity basically. And if they say anything else there saying Isa(as) purposely misguided a man who came to him asking for guidance”

    I’m just not 100% convinced it’s a contradiction but I can persuade.

    Also, I don’t think the Torah’s laws are difficult either so in my opinion, if these were actual statements from Isa(as) the Injeel was basically a modified Torah as he(as) says in the Qur’an:

    “I have come verifying what is in between my two hands of the Torah and to make allowed for you some of what used to be forbidden to you. I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. So, fear God and obey me. God is no doubt my Lord and your Lord, so serve Him alone that is the undeviated path.”‘ (3:50-51)

    Finally, I read the section again where does it talk about “passing the cup?”

    Like

  6. salaam bro

    “Finally, I read the section again where does it talk about “passing the cup?””

    mark 10-24-28 says that they gave up “everything”
    mark 10-29-31 talks about suffering “with persecutions”

    mark 10-33-34 violence and suffering

    mark 10-35-37
    james and john
    did not expect suffering to be a condition to gain exalted position in kingdom of heaven

    mark 10-38-40
    “it is at this point jesus clarifies that their request will necessitate a GREATER LOYALTY test that will involve MORE REQUIREMENTS , even violent ones , COMPARED TO WHAT jesus ASKED of the rich man.”

    MARK 10-38-40
    jesus talks about “the cup”

    “thecup” linked to violent death
    mark 14-22-25

    mark 10 :42-45

    Like

    1. that “we have given up everything” was clearly not enough for the author of mark. notice how peter is depicted and how he is the one to deny and forsake jesus.

      i am wondering if it is an INDIRECT refutation of peter ?

      Like

  7. stewjo004

    @ tony

    Hmph, you’re right he(as) keeps piling more and more requirements on people:

    18“Why do you call Me good?” Jesus replied. “No one is good except God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, and honor your father and mother.’d ”

    20“Teacher,” he replied, “I have kept all these from my youth.”

    21Jesus looked at him, loved him, and said to him, “There is one thing you lack: Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me…”

    28Peter began to say to Him, “Look, we have left everything and followed You.”

    29“Truly I tell you,” said Jesus, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for My sake and for the gospel 30will fail to receive a hundredfold in the present age—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, along with persecutions—and to receive eternal life in the age to come. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

    So maybe the “Law is impossible to follow”. Not because the rules are hard, the goal post keeps moving lol. But seriously 29-31 is forged. As I said with Matt. Christian communities added to the story to make it relevant for their current persecutions so any of these weird parts are basically Christian fanfiction.

    Like

  8. Pingback: Do Babies Go to Hell? – Blogging Theology

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