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Infants sent to hell without Baptism? Surely not.


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#1 Brad D.

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 03:38 PM

This morning I was listening to a recording of Our Life In Christ, found here: http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/ourlife/the_sacrament_of_baptism_-_infant_baptism_part_3

The section in question here is about 2/3 of the way through, after the second break.

They are talking about infant Baptism, and answering objections to it. My wife was raised Pentecostal, and so because infant baptism is very foreign to her I have been trying to help her understand why I am going to baptize our baby. We are not Orthodox, but I am a Methodist Pastor and we thankfully still baptize infants in our Church. Anyway, we were listening to this teaching on infant baptism, when the speakers began speaking against the belief that infants are saved prior to baptism on the basis of the age of accountability. Can someone please tell me what the exact stance of the Orthodox Church is on this issue? The Church does not teach that infants go to hell if they are not baptized, does it? Surely not...

Many Thanks,
Brad

#2 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 04:10 PM

The discussion starts about 41:18.

Brad, I think you have misunderstood the speakers' real view. The speakers are not always clear when they are presenting the Orthodox view and when they are presenting views with which they are disagreeing. I found some of the discussion confusing.

Edited by Aidan Kimel, 30 January 2012 - 04:26 PM.


#3 Brad D.

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 04:33 PM

The discussion starts about 41:18.

Brad, I think you have misunderstood the speakers' real view. The speakers are not always clear when they are presenting the Orthodox view and when they are presenting views with which they are disagreeing. I found some of the discussion confusing.


I may have misunderstood them... We were listening to it on the way to work, and so I have not had time to listen to it again. Surely I misunderstood...

#4 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 05:04 PM

The reason the Orthodox baptize infants is so that they can benefit from partaking of the Holy Eucharist, plain and simple. Baptism is the "initiation" by which a person becomes a member of the Church and able to take Communion. Why should we deny this to our children? We see no reason to disobey our Lord's command to allow the children to come to Him.

I believe the Roman Church has a slightly different outlook since, I believe, they do NOT commune infants even though they baptize them, but that quickly goes beyond the purpose of this forum.

Having a godparent is key to the Orthodox position. The godparent "speaks" for the infant and is spiritually responsible for the child keeping this promise made on their behalf, particularly if the parents happened to be martyred in the ongoing persecutions when the practice was initiated.

#5 Brad D.

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 05:09 PM

The reason the Orthodox baptize infants is so that they can benefit from partaking of the Holy Eucharist, plain and simple. Baptism is the "initiation" by which a person becomes a member of the Church and able to take Communion. Why should we deny this to our children? We see no reason to disobey our Lord's command to allow the children to come to Him.

I believe the Roman Church has a slightly different outlook since, I believe, they do NOT commune infants even though they baptize them, but that quickly goes beyond the purpose of this forum.

Having a godparent is key to the Orthodox position. The godparent "speaks" for the infant and is spiritually responsible for the child keeping this promise made on their behalf, particularly if the parents happened to be martyred in the ongoing persecutions when the practice was initiated.


Thank you for these insights, but the issue (or question) is related to what the Orthodox Church teaches about the salvation of an infant which dies prior to Baptism.

#6 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 05:16 PM

Well, we don't really KNOW do we? It is not so much REVEALED to us. Generally speaking, the Orthodox Church leaves such a determination to a merciful God, but I have not heard too many Orthodox notables who say that unbaptized infants go straight to hell. Actually nobody goes straight to hell, since that final determination does not happen until the final judgement. But since we do not hold to an Anselmian understanding of the "guilt" of "original sin", we choose to believe that a loving God welcomes the innocents into His arms and does not abandon them, and woe be us if we get in the way ... (something about millstones and such?). If someone knows a recognized Orthodox authority that says different, I would be curious to know who and WHY they say that.

Herman the childlike Pooh

#7 Brad D.

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 05:18 PM

Well, we don't really KNOW do we? It is not so much REVEALED to us. Generally speaking, the Orthodox Church leaves such a determination to a merciful God, but I have not heard too many Orthodox notables who say that unbaptized infants go straight to hell. Actually nobody goes straight to hell, since that final determination does not happen until the final judgement. But since we do not hold to an Anselmian understanding of the "guilt" of "original sin", we choose to believe that a loving God welcomes the innocents into His arms and does not abandon them, and woe be us if we get in the way ... (something about millstones and such?). If someone knows a recognized Orthodox authority that says different, I would be curious to know who and WHY they say that.

Herman the childlike Pooh


I will have to listen to the above mentioned recording again and see if I misunderstood. I don't know if they are recognized authorities or not, but they have a series on Ancient Faith Radio...

#8 Kosta

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 09:04 PM

St Gregory of Nyssa is the only Father that attempted to tackle this question. His argument was on the rewards and punishments of virtue and sin. It seemed they he was inconclusive as to what happens. If an infant has developed no virtues it cannot recieve a reward on the other hand since its sinless there is no punishment to condemn it for, no reason to be seperated from God.

Anyhow as Herman points out baptism is the initiatory mystery of the Church. Through baptism all the other mysteries and benefits are opened to the christian. A baptised person is not on the outside looking in but has a place on the table to recieve Communion.

Also the pentecostal understanding is flawed according to the scriptures. John the Baptist baptised for the remission sins, yet Christ who was without sin recieved this baptism. That children do not believe so must wait to be baptised is basically a heretical belief according to scripture. Children are natural believers, it were the children that were cxrying out, Hosanna to the Son of David'. The chief priests wanted Christ to tell the children to refrain, Christ said, "You have never read out of the mouths of babes and infants thou has perfected praise?" (Matt 21.15-16) In a warning to those that would offend small children Christ said, But whoever shall offend one of these little ones WHICH BELIEVE IN ME, it were better for him that a millstone be tied around his neck...(Matt18.6) This sounds like a warning to those who deny infant baptism, hindering them from the fullness of Christ.

#9 Brad D.

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 09:15 PM

St Gregory of Nyssa is the only Father that attempted to tackle this question. His argument was on the rewards and punishments of virtue and sin. It seemed they he was inconclusive as to what happens. If an infant has developed no virtues it cannot recieve a reward on the other hand since its sinless there is no punishment to condemn it for, no reason to be seperated from God.

Anyhow as Herman points out baptism is the initiatory mystery of the Church. Through baptism all the other mysteries and benefits are opened to the christian. A baptised person is not on the outside looking in but has a place on the table to recieve Communion.

Also the pentecostal understanding is flawed according to the scriptures. John the Baptist baptised for the remission sins, yet Christ who was without sin recieved this baptism. That children do not believe so must wait to be baptised is basically a heretical belief according to scripture. Children are natural believers, it were the children that were cxrying out, Hosanna to the Son of David'. The chief priests wanted Christ to tell the children to refrain, Christ said, "You have never read out of the mouths of babes and infants thou has perfected praise?" (Matt 21.15-16) In a warning to those that would offend small children Christ said, But whoever shall offend one of these little ones WHICH BELIEVE IN ME, it were better for him that a millstone be tied around his neck...(Matt18.6) This sounds like a warning to those who deny infant baptism, hindering them from the fullness of Christ.


Yes, I am saddened that most Protestant Churches do not practice such an important part of Christianity. As I was telling my wife the other day, in the Early Church, it was not debated IF they should Baptize infants - it was debated WHEN! Cyprian of Carthage said in a letter that we shouldn't even wait until the eighth day to do it! It is hard, though, for most Protestants to understand infant Baptism because their overall understanding of Baptism is flawed... I am thankful that I am a part of a Church that does Baptize infants. She will come around in her appreciation of it. As the wife of a Methodist Pastor, she will be a part of many infant Baptisms, and so she will begin to understand over time. We've covered all of the theology there is to cover, it is just going to take time because the tradition she has been raised in since birth is contrary to it. Remember, Peter was quite against the thought of consuming pork because since birth he had been taught otherwise...he came around. I pray she does too. She is not at all against me Baptizing our baby (to be born in July!), she just doesn't exactly agree with it.

Brad

#10 Alice

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 09:29 PM

Just signed on and I have to say that this is not the best worded title! eke....

#11 Brad D.

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 09:31 PM

Just signed on and I have to say that this is not the best worded title! eke....


What do you mean?

#12 Alice

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 09:33 PM

Dear Pastor Brad,

My priest gave a good explanation for infant baptism one day...he said that there are many things we do for the good of our babies because we love them...for instance, we innoculate them to protect them from disease, and in like manner, we baptise them to dedicate them to God and bring them as members into Christ's body.

P.S. When you take a quick look on the forum you see 'Infants sent to hell without'..'sent to hell' sounds so terribly harsh.

#13 Brad D.

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 09:55 PM

Dear Pastor Brad,

My priest gave a good explanation for infant baptism one day...he said that there are many things we do for the good of our babies because we love them...for instance, we innoculate them to protect them from disease, and in like manner, we baptise them to dedicate them to God and bring them as members into Christ's body.

P.S. When you take a quick look on the forum you see 'Infants sent to hell without'..'sent to hell' sounds so terribly harsh.


I agree! It IS a very harsh thought...and it is harsh at a glance.

Thanks for sharing your Priest's thoughts. That is a good way to look at it.

#14 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 10:05 PM

I haven't heard the online discussion at AFR. But very often, when it comes to the Fathers, their basic point is misunderstood through our focusing on what for them were side issues amidst a more important point. Thus when it comes to baptism, the Fathers rarely if ever focused primarily on the issue of what occurs to children who have not been baptized. Rather what they focused on was how baptism establishes the life of the Church. Baptism is our entry into the life of the Church since by it we adopt the life of Christ. In other words baptism opens up to us that sacramental reality of the Church wherein we share in Christ's life as members of His Body. Since it is through baptism that we attain unto the life of Christ, then it is through baptism that salvation is attained.

It is only from within this more fundamental perspective that any other issues are dealt with by the Fathers, such as chidlren being baptised. Here their point or focus is rarely if ever primarily negative. Rather it is positive and in this case the focus is on the absolute saving power of baptism. Anything else could be implied from this point. But it's very important if we do not want to end up mis representing the Fathers in major ways, to always keep our eye on what their basic focus is and of how this always relates in a positive way to what the life of the Church is.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#15 Brad D.

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 10:22 PM

... very often, when it comes to the Fathers, their basic point is misunderstood through our focusing on what for them were side issues amidst a more important point. ...


Yes this is definitely true. Often times the answers I see myself seeking from the Ante-Nicene Fathers are not given in direct terms. They say a great deal of things "in passing", and so it is hard to draw too much out of their statements on some things.

#16 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 11:29 PM

The style of expression found in the writings of the Fathers can be quite confusing for us. They don't follow the manner of exposition found in modern English writings of building up step by step to a main point. Rather the style of witing found in the Fathers is what some call 'elliptical'; ie it moves around and around a basic point, following different trains of thought one after the other. This can be very confusing to our modern mind, since we then take these trains of thought as fundamental, and lose track of the main point of the text.

It's helpful as a technique and exercise in learning to spot the fundamental point being made (usually this is coveyed through the larger section of the written work) and to write this down. Then whenever we feel like we've gotten lost in that writing, or don't grasp what a particular point is, we can just turn back to the overall point we previously noted. This often clarifies a lot. The basic point can often be conveyed in one sentence.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#17 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 05:11 AM

Of interest here is the Catholic document: "The Hope of Salvation for Infants." See especially the historical discussion of Scripture and the Greek and Latin Fathers. Due in large part to the Pelagian controversy, the Latin Fathers did devote a fair amount of reflection on the question of the salvation of unbaptized infants and reached conclusions that are probably unacceptable to most on this forum, including myself. The Greek Fathers, on the other hand, do not appear to have devoted much reflection to the question. As already noted, St Gregory Nyssen does appear to address this question in his tract "Concerning Infants Who Have Died Prematurely"; but where baptism fits into his analysis is not clear to me. I would welcome exegesis of his tract. Gregory's reasonings would seem to apply equally to baptized and unbaptized infants.

For me personally, I found the Ancient Faith radio presentation on this subject to be disappointing and unsatisfactory.

#18 IoanC

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 12:26 PM

I'd like to mention something that is related to this topic, but indirectly. When we talk about infants who die (either before birth, or after), we actually talk about the souls of these infants. That is these souls have to reach spiritual maturity in a way that is different from the rest of us. I think we often forget that infants or children who die cannot be thought of a children forever. They, together with us will have to realize that, and it is a mystery how God will accomplish that process of spiritual growth for them.

#19 Brad D.

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 12:29 PM

For me personally, I found the Ancient Faith radio presentation on this subject to be disappointing and unsatisfactory.


I certainly agree. I listened to it again last night. They ultimately did say they did believe in an age of accountability, which would require an age of "unaccountability" for children, up to a certain point. However, their thinking and teaching was very unclear in the beginning, and it definitely does sound as if they were saying they did not believe infants are saved by Christ if unbaptized. I will look forward to reading both of the documents you linked to. Thank you very much.

#20 Brad D.

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 01:04 PM

In The Great Book of Needs, there is a service for baptism of an infant who is about to die. If the baby is unable to be immersed, does the Orthodox Church allow baptism by aspersion? Is affusion accepted, according to the Didcache? Or is the only form of baptism accepted, even in the case of imminent death, that of immersion?

Also, there are prayers for a woman who has miscarried in The Great Book of Needs, but no prayers that I can see for the infants. (Although I only have volume one at present, so perhaps there are in the other books...although the first section seems to be where they would be located) What is the practice of the Orthodox Church in the case of infants who have died without baptism, whether by abortion or death after birth? Is there a specific service for that cause? Are there specific prayers that would shed light on this issue?

Thanks,
Brad




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