With regularity this question pops up. Thankfully, for now, the question is merely hypothetical. However, the assumptions behind the question have been taken to their logical conclusion many times in the past, and the bloodshed and murdered babies–along with a goodly and commensurate amount of adults and all persons in between–have been decidedly NOT hypothetical.
The last time I looked at this question, many posts ago, it was posited by an atheist, and so the tact I took in pointing out its rational failures was quite different. Back then I was arguing that to murder based on the wholly abstract idea of “chance” was madness. And that if we were to act literally upon probability all the time, we shouldn’t bother leaving our houses. We might ALL as well drink from Bob Jones’s faucet, not just babies. Because the “chance” of anything which an atheist would find malicious and unpleasant happening to a dead person is zero, by definition. In short, I was saying that since “what could happen” could never actually be seen until it happens–since what “could happen” is literally NOTHING, because reality can only be truly defined by what DOES happen–it makes little sense that humanity should make decisions of life and death based on actuarial tables. Again, if that is the case, let’s just let the nukes fly and be done with it all.
There is no way to say what will happen. There is only assumption. And chance and assumption is not causal. It is cognitive. Chance washes nothing in the actual truth of the event. At the end of all the equivocating, all you’ve really done is kill a baby.
Of course, when an atheist poses a question like this on a Christian forum, it is really nothing more than a “gotcha” question designed to undermine the entire theist argument at its root. And…it actually does a pretty good job of it. Sure, you can destroy their own assumptions and argument by pointing out the falsity and contradictory ideas inherent in their “gods” (the mathematics of probability and the actuarial tables), but for Christians, the question should give us pause. Well…it should for non-Calvinists, anyway. For Calvinists, they can only have one answer, regardless of how much shit I will get for saying as much, and how much many of them are so comfortable hypocritically denying their own doctrine when it suits their own moral sensibilities (as IF somehow, on this issue THEY get to decide between right and wrong). But if they are consistent with their doctrine, they will assume–as good little sheep–John Piper’s belief that since salvation is based upon God’s arbitrary election alone, there is no reason why a baby, born as totally depraved as the next human pig, should have a get-out-of-jail free card with respect to eschatology. Baby or not, if you are not one of God’s elect, before the foundations of the world, then your ass is going to burn. Age hasn’t a thing to do with it. What makes babies so special? Because they are cute? But aren’t they, as my old SGM pastor used to say, just cute little vessels of depravity and sin? And God is no respecter of outward appearances, after all. Besides, a baby’s wailing, as those of us who have had them understand, will most certainly make hell that much more unpleasant. Which is the whole idea.
But for us non-Calvinists, it is a question that poses a dilemma. Looking past my argument concerning the nature of “chance” and “probability”, let’s look at the weakness in our assumptions this question identifies. For if babies all go to heaven, and if beyond that, hell is a very real possibility because of choice, isn’t it actually more merciful to kill babies, rather than take the chance that some of them will not believe on Jesus and spend eternity perfecting their teeth gnashing, begging for a finger dipped in cool water? Shoot, some people out there might even agree that, for the misery they have endured or are enduring in their own life, they might have even preferred infanticide. Maybe that is an act of mercy even in the eyes of some Christians. It’s not that far fetched. If you end up in hell, what might you think if someone asked you if you should have been killed as an infant?
Yeah…it’s actually a pretty good question. It’s sick, true. But it is effective. And most of the time, I have noticed, the answers are seriously wanting.
This question was posed by a Christian, attempting, I think, to argue in favor of the idea of “election”. That we let live because we don’t know who God will elect and who He won’t. And that? Is a pretty good answer ostensibly. And one my wife said she would give if she were a Calvinist. It is the most sensible…but then you run into the whole election debate, again, and the injustice of God sending someone to hell just because. And the obvious reply of “well, if salvation is by election, then what difference does it make when a person dies? As a baby or an adult?” To which she said “only a living person can spread the message of God”. To which I said, “There you go, being all NOT Calvinist again; to think that spreading the message somehow effects salvation. I thought you just told me that salvation is by election, not “the message”.”
Finally, there is the most effective way to dismantle the Calvinist response concerning “who will get elected and who won’t” assumption, which has to do with the fact that Calvinists first and foremost assume that ONLY the destruction of the individual can bring him or her to a place of moral purity. So the only real difference is what this “death” will look like in the end. YOU can’t possibly be saved, according to Total Depravity. So salvation is only in spite of you…ever. And that being the case, the question proves itself yet again too formidable for most Christians. In the case of Calvinists, since the very doctrine demands that YOU die in service to the God’s “truth” by hook or by crook, there is little reason to argue against killing babies beyond “well…it just seems like a bad idea”. After all, better to be in hell has a non-cognizant child than a fully aware adult. Wouldn’t that be more “merciful”?
But getting back to the assumption in the question. What is it?
And this is really the crux of the issue. The crux of the issue isn’t the assumption the question makes about death, but what it assumes about life. The driving idea behind the question is this: That human life EQUALS evil. That moral corruption is a DIRECT function of human physical existence. Full stop. And that being said, all that is GOOD then–truth and salvation and prosperity and peace and heaven and God–is only to be ultimately found in the death of the human being, and never in the life of him or her.
This of course means that the primary point of human existence is not life, but death. For death IS GOOD. Death of the self is the pinnacle of human moral achievement. For only in death can human goodness be found; only in death can the human be reconciled with God.
This idea is the implicit assumption behind the question when posed by Christians, particularly non-Calvinists (for consistent Calvinists would never ask such a question because they understand there is no surety of heaven for anyone): Shouldn’t we just kill babies in order to ensure people go to heaven? Would not that be the most merciful solution to the problem of evil? Again…there it is, in all its wicked glory. Human existence IS the problem of evil.
And so what is really being asked is a prime example of a.) Calvinist doctrinal hypocrisy/inconsistency; which we have touched briefly, but which will be elaborated upon. And b.) The Christian presumption in general of death as the panacea for humanity’s inherent total moral failure, beginning at conception.
Now, with respect to the first:
A. Calvinist doctrinal hypocrisy/inconsistency in denying the what should be their own acknowledged implicit morality and “mercy” of infanticide.
The idea that there is a certain point in time after birth, where God will arbitrarily elect a human to either salvation or damnation flies in the face of Calvinistic assertions in the frankest of ways. This implies that God’s will, with respect to those He damns or those He justifies, is somehow dependent on the notion of a human being “coming of age”–that point in time where they can properly gauge the morality of their choices against God’s standard. That is, if the child does not “come of age”, then God has no choice but to save that child. And this, again, ultimately contradicts the sovereignty of God over salvation/damnation as taught by historical Calvinistic orthodoxy.
The idea that God is somehow obligated to save the infant means that salvation is rooted not in God’s will, but in humanity–or at the very least that humanity must play a role in deciding its fate. God’s “sovereign Will” becomes subservient to the human time table. And this notion denies every single point in TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints), and I am pretty sure that no Calvinist I have ever met would concede that humanity gets to ever, under any circumstance, be the final arbiter of eschatological decisions. In other words, if man is Totally Depraved, then there is no reason to supposed that God won’t or shouldn’t damn babies to Hell. By definition, their moral corruption is as complete as yours or mine. There is no such thing–no such addendum to absolute sovereignty–as “coming of age” in the Calvinist construct.
Calvinism, and I dare say pretty much all of any school of Protestant orthodoxy, presupposes that the only real way for humanity–being perpetually morally defunct and estranged from God by virtue of innate catastrophic failure–to be reconciled to God is for humanity to be destroyed. To cease to exist. To die. And this can only happen, within the Calvinist ideology, in one of two ways:
One: God kills and sends people to hell, where humanity’s eternal moral failure is condemned to eternal purging in the everlasting flames; and that this torment is rightly and logically and mandated to be preceded by violence and pain inflicted upon the unbeliever at the hands of God’s priests, proxy’s, and elected ones. Death is truth, period. Whether in physical life, or in the unquenchable burning pyres of perdition is irrelevant. They both mean the same thing: the moral failure of man, and his just torment for merely existing as one of God’s unforgiven. The un-elect (and really anyone…more later) must suffer in atonement, regardless of where or when, in any time and in any place (“the wicked will have no rest”) for their inherent dearth of any efficacious value.
Two: God’s “election” of a chosen one is revealed (i.e. earned) by the effective, for all practical purposes and assumptions, death of the individual as he or she sacrifices him or herself–mind, body, and property–to the orthodox collective (religious, intellectual, political, etc.) which is the only place that absolution for a “living“ individual can be found (i.e. earned). Often times, the individual is conscripted by a person in some form of “authority” into the collective, who uses his divine mandated of FORCE to compel that individual, by any means necessary, into the subjugation of the Consciousness Prime, which is governed in part or totally by that authority. This other person could be a spouse, parent, church officer, teacher, guardian, overseer, slave master, prophet, civil leader, political officer, “accountability” partner, etc..
The authority of the collective’s elders, leaders, officers, etcetera…is generally rooted in a systematic philosophy organized into a formal “canon” of creeds, confessions, manifestos, constitutions, articles, or volumes of political/philosophical schools of thought. These ideas are generally considered to be “inerrant” and therefore not subject to any outside interpretation beyond that of those authorities who have been somehow granted the right of all interpretive conclusions. Namely, the very authorities which compel the masses by “divine” mandate (i.e specially dispensed, somehow, according usually to some subjective interpretation of the canons of “orthodoxy”).
So what we are talking about is more than simply a figurative or symbolic death of the individual. It is a functional and utterly practical and efficacious death of the SELF at the root, where an individual is no longer and by no means defined by the physical person which exists as the tangible SELF and occupies its location, but is now nothing more nor less than a purely abstract idea (and thus inexorably hypocritical…for an abstraction can have no actual power). The human being is not figuratively, but literally, sacrificed to the abstraction of “collective”. The collective may be the “church”, the “body”, the “masses”, the “workers”, the “government”, the “clan”, the “group”, the “nation”, the “party”. And the death of the SELF may not by physical, but it is no mere semantic exercise either. In fact, the death of self so real that identification with the collective utterly defines the person in literally every facet of their lives. At the very least, this is precisely the idea behind the doctrines of Calvinism and the Reformation in general. You only actually exist insofar as you are identified with the collective. Apart from it, you are dead as far as they are concerned, and thus, are no one to be concerned with, except in disciplinary measures (i.e. violent and/or abusive). Excommunication from the group doesn’t sound so bad in a free society where enough people who make the world go round still laugh at Calvin’s rational larceny, but in a society which is governed by a deified theocracy, almost always headed by a deified autocrat, the life of the unfortunate excommunicated soul is horrifically painful. Ask any Muslim convert to Christianity who remains in his/her community what it is like for them. It is hell on Earth.
And that is precisely the idea. Anyone not “in” with the group, goes to hell. And it doesn’t mean after the grave, either. It happens in an instant.
In short, humanity itself, which is the SELF, is in some way killed off when it is exchanged for the lie known as the “collective”. And so the Calvinist axiom remains firmly in place, whether one dies in infancy, or whether one lives to the age of Enoch: Death is that which and only brings reconciliation with God.
That being said, I will repeat. There is no reason whatsoever why the Calvinist should ever concede that there is some inherent moral crime in the murder of infants in the name of “mercy” and moral purity. For which is ultimately better: to live a life of misery only to face conscious torment in hell as God’s un-elected forever after all of that; or, as an elected “saint” to feel the pain which is the plumb line for “truth” in Calvinist doctrine as you daily nail yourself to the cross in service to the “group” which owns you? Or is it better to simply take your place as an infant, with only the scarcest of conscious realization, in the realm of your elected purpose: to burn in hell forever or to live in heaven with God, according to his arbitrary whim?
Well, you can answer that whatever way you like. It matters not. The point is that since the doctrine election stands, and absolutely no moral accusation can be brought to bear against anyone acting in the “stead of God” in service to his absolute and wholly exclusive-to-man TRUTH in his position of divine authority, then the murder of children in the name of God is neither doctrinally forbidden nor should it be considered morally repugnant if you are a Calvinist. The only real moral repugnance is the life of a human being, not the death of one.
B. The failure of even non-Calvinist Christians to effectively answer in the negative the question “Should infants die as a means of securing their salvation?” based on the exact same assumptions as Calvinism.
Their is a ubiquitous assumption in practically all of Christianity, and it is the Reformed one. It is the idea that death equals moral purity, period. The immediate and literal death of any human being is the most logical, most efficacious, most efficient answer to the problem of evil in Christian doctrine today. The axiom is DEATH is GOOD rules the theological day. Not that I am saying that everyone believes this consciously, I am merely pointing where the theology goes when you stop equivocating and put the pieces together in a way that does not make you a raging hypocrite to your own “absolute” truth upon which you have claimed monopoly ownership by nothing more than your irrational and subjective opinions on the matter.
DEATH is GOOD shall be your mantra from this day forth, Christian, when moral value is outside the human being. You believe, by your very own creeds and declarations and statements of faith that human life is the direct source of evil; of moral failure. That the reason we have sin and evil and thus hell and torment and judgement is a direct function of life itself. And thus the single greatest, most effective way to thus destroy evil, to confront the moral affront, is to remove life. To kill human beings in service to the only real GOOD: whatever Consciousness Prime we happen to be considering at the moment (God, in this case). Death then leads to inevitable GOOD, just as assuredly as life leads to evil, which must and will be destroyed. Life always leads to evil, inexorably.
And so then what about the murder of infants?
Well, according to the assumptions It is quite simply the quickest and easiest, most painless way for man to fulfill God’s righteous requirement: the destruction of evil. If life is always evil, then the sooner man can be put to death the better. It is the Final Solution…the end of all doctrine. The utter destruction of humanity as God’s moral purging.
Now, a cursory look in the Bible with our neo-reformed blinders off will show us that this is not the objective of God, but the objective of Satan.
So, the only way to concede that all infants go to heaven is to place an objective and inherent moral value upon human life. Individual life becomes THE plumb line for morality…it is the only objective moral good man can recognize. For the SELF IS GOOD. The SELF is the source of moral purity. LIFE is GOOD by virtue of its simple existence in a simple child. This is why murdering infants is wrong…because it violates the singularity of moral truth: LIFE. The destruction of life is EVIL. And this is why murder of any kind in service to a moral standard outside of human life cannot ever be equivocated by any appeal to morality…because outside of human life there IS NO MORALITY; and thus, there is NO MERCY to be found. Mercy is ONLY found in the perpetuation of human life, never in its death.
The destruction of humanity denies the very truth which declares God to be God. For God is not God without the SELF of mankind by which God recognizes Himself to be God, and by which man recognizes himself to be man, and thus a moral equivalency and objective GOOD can be established between man and God because both are life. God is known as God by humanity…destroy it, and you destroy God in a manner of speaking. There is no claim by which God can declare Himself God. Destroy any recognition of God, and you destroy God. This is the devil’s rationale, I submit. This declaration will shock and appall some of you. So be it. If you cannot declare that your own life has as much inherent moral value as any other, including God’s, then you must deny humanity at the root. If this offends you I submit you have an incorrect assumption of who and what God is. He is the Father…and the children of the Father are co-equals in inherent existential worth as the Father. They do not replace the Father, but they are not LESS THAN the father on the level of objective value; and they have no less inherent right to self-affirmation and self perpetuation. Our worth is realized in the fullness of our self, not in our subjugation to some external self; and yet we can only affirm our own self when we affirm that of others, starting with God. This is hardly contra-biblical thinking.
So, if you concede that infants to do heaven, you concede that humanity is inherently morally good, NOT depraved. And that evil and sin then is a choice man makes. The choice to either affirm life or deny it.
That choice starts with children.