An oldie and beyond goodie..another gem from Dave Reardon:
By David C. Reardon, Ph.D.
Editor’s Note: In previous issues of The Post-Abortion Review(Spring 1995 and Fall 1995) we examined the role of despair in driving women and men toward choosing abortion and then in holding them back from healing after an abortion. I have been reminded by readers that I had promised at that time to provide a third installment dealing with the issue of how we can have Scriptural confidence in the belief that aborted children are not deprived the joy of Heaven.
Aborted children have been deprived of baptism. They never had the opportunity to know or accept Christ as their Lord. How sure can we be that they are really in Heaven? Though seldom discussed, this is a theological question that is extremely important to the parents of aborted children and to pro-lifers in general. The answer to this question will shape how we view ourselves, others, and our priorities in the pro-life movement.
As previously discussed in this series of articles, a history of abortion can be a major stumbling block for women and men who turn back to God. At first, Satan will seek to deprive women and men the peace of God’s forgiveness by aggravating their fear that God cannot forgive them.. If this temptation to despair fails, Satan will attack the repentant parent’s peace of mind with the fear that even if God can forgive them, their aborted and unbaptized children have been deprived of Heaven.
This fear that unbaptized infants will be denied Heaven is also used by Satan to build a wall of separation and prejudice between pro-lifers and women and men with a history of abortion. Not a few Christians have coldly turned their backs on women and men who have had abortions, believing that by their sins they have forever deprived God of the souls of their unborn children. Such Christians do not wish these parents ill, but they cannot quite bring themselves to offer them comfort, either. Their hearts are simply so burdened with dismay over the “lost souls” of aborted children that they have no sympathy left over for their guilty parents. It is important for such believers to open their hearts to the possibility, or even the convincing evidence that God has saved the unborn victims of abortion.
A greater faith among believers in God’s salvation of aborted babies is important for two reasons. First, once all members of Christ’s Body accept that aborted babies “live in the arms of Christ,” the lingering sense of anger and resentment toward those who have aborted will finally be dissipated. Second, as the dead are entrusted to God’s providence, there will be a renewed concern for the living–for those women and men who suffer the guilt of abortion. It is then that our efforts to promote post-abortion healing will not only be easier, they will also be more compelling.
The Issue: The Necessity of Baptism
The question of salvation for the unborn arises from an interpretation of Christ’s solemn pronouncement to Nicodemus that “no one can enter into God’s kingdom without being begotten of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). The necessity of baptism is further supported by Christ’s statement, “The man who believes in it [the good news] and accepts baptism will be saved; the man who refuses to believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Note, however, that condemnation is pronounced for those who refuseto believe. Nothing is said regarding those who have not had the opportunity to believe. Indeed, we are also told that no one will be judged guilty simply because of his or her ignorance (John 9:41).
What are we to make of this, then? Baptism by water is clearly the way God has given the Church for bringing new members into His Body. When it can be done, it ought to be done. However, God’s mercy is not limited by human failings, nor are His means limited by the physical reality which defines human interaction. Indeed, it is clear in Scripture that God has at least one other way of bringing sanctifying grace to those who have died without having the opportunity to receive baptism by water.
The most obvious example of unbaptized persons who were saved is that of the Old Testament saints, including the patriarchs, the prophets, and untold others. For the sake of these departed, Christ went in death to preach to them “in prison” (1 Peter 3:19) so that they “might live in the spirit in the eyes of God” (1 Peter 4:6). Yet another example is shown in the good thief, who followed Jesus into Paradise (Luke 23:42-44) without the benefit of baptism by water.
In fact, early Christians generally recognized that martyrs who died for the faith before they have the opportunity to be baptized are reborn in a baptism by blood rather than water.(1) Baptism by either water or blood was recognized as having the same efficacy and the same source. This view was defended by the prominent Christian apologist Tertullian around 203 A.D., who wrote:
We have one and only one Baptism in accord with the Gospel (Eph. 4:4-6)…. [But there is] a second font, one with the former [water]: namely, that of blood, of which the Lord says: “I am to be baptized with a baptism” (Luke 12:50, Mark 10:38-39), when He had already been baptized [by water]. For He had come through water and blood, as John wrote (1 John 5:6), so that He might be baptized with water and glorified with blood. He sent out these two Baptisms from the wound in His pierced side (John 19:34), that we might in like manner be called by water and chosen by blood, and so that they who believed in His blood might be washed by the water. If they might be washed in the water, they must necessarily be so by blood. This is the Baptism which replaces that of the fountain, when it has not been received, and restores it when it has been lost.(2) [Italics added.]
Tertullian’s argument that baptism by blood can be a substitute for baptism by water is further supported by the fact that Christ offered the sons of Zebedee the baptism of suffering as one with the cup of salvation (Mark 10:38-39). Furthermore, Scripture tells us that before Christ’s death, John’s baptism by water was only a baptism of repentance (Acts 19:4, Luke 3:3). It was only after Christ’s baptism in blood that the baptism of water was raised up to become a baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5, John 16:7).
Clearly, then, the understanding that God has a means to save those who through no fault of their own have been denied the opportunity of baptism by water is not novel. Indeed, it is revealed by Scripture. Therefore, if we are to properly interpret Christ’s insistence on baptism by water, we must admit that it is a binding command on the living, while recognizing that this precept does not preclude God from offering some other spiritual means of rebirth for those who die without this opportunity. What this way is has not been fully revealed. On the other hand, since it is a spiritual baptism which is outside the responsibilities of believers on earth, it is not something about which we need to know the details. It is enough for us to know that it is possible. Once this truth is recognized, we can then confidently trust God’s mercy and justice.
God’s Special Love for Children
We know as part of our revealed faith that God desires the salvation of all (1 Tim. 2:4, Rom. 8:32) and that His mercy endures forever (Psalm 136). Though all are stained by original sin, all whom Christ claims for Himself will live in Him (1 Cor. 15:22-23). That Christ should not claim the unborn as His own is unimaginable, contrary to both reason and revelation. Furthermore, Paul teaches that God’s mercy and providence extend even to the unborn, who have done neither good nor evil (Rom. 9:11), and Christ himself repeatedly expressed His special love of infants and children.
And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them, and said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:15-16).
See how Jesus describes Heaven; it is filled with infants such as these! And are not His words a warning against those who would forbid these children entry into His heavenly kingdom? And look at yet another occasion:
[The disciples asked Jesus:] “Who is of greatest importance in the kingdom of God?” He called a little child over and stood him in their midst and said: “I assure you, unless you change and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of God…. See that you never despise one of these little ones. I assure you, their angels in Heaven constantly behold my heavenly Father’s face…. Just so, it is no part of your heavenly Father’s plan that a single one of these little ones shall ever come to grief” (Matt. 18:1-2, 10, 14).
Other renderings of this last line are that none of these little ones should ever “perish” or be “lost.” These passages suggest a promise of universal salvation for the innocents, for (1) they are numbered among those of greatest importance in God’s kingdom, (2) their angels pray for them before the Father, and (3) the Father wills that none of them should be lost. Notice also that the small child standing before Christ, to whom He pointed as an example, was unbaptized.
Reason, too, demands our acknowledgment of God’s saving grace for the unborn. Christ’s love is so great that He died to bring salvation to sinners who deserve nothing (Romans 5:6-9). Yet, if He would save sinners like us, would He not do at least as much, if not more, for the unborn who have not sinned?(3) Of course He would. Those who doubt it must defend the absurd notion that God’s judgments are less merciful than human judgments.