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What is the Biblical basis for Prevenient Grace?

I am specifically referring to the belief that if a child is born and dies before reaching the age of responsibility, and so did not have the oppurtunity to accept Christ, that child will still go to heaven.

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I wonder if this should be re-titled and re-tagged. Prevenient grace, as it is generally defined in Arminian theology, refers to the grace God gives us that enables us to make a choice to follow him. This grace is the first step to salvation, because we can't take that step on our own. –  Bruce Alderman Aug 24 '11 at 5:50
    
Related to this question –  Richard Aug 29 '11 at 20:46
    
Related: christianity.stackexchange.com/q/8557/1548 –  Jas 3.1 Dec 17 '13 at 6:06

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Romans 7:7 states,

What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet."

Therefore, as Wesley defined

Sin is a willful transgression of a known law of God.

Without known laws of God, without knowing what God wants us to/not to do, we cannot do anything "in opposition" to His commandments. Sin isn't accidental. Your conscience tells you when you're doing something wrong, and once you understand that concept, then you are responsible for your actions, but prior to the understanding of God's commands you cannot "sin".

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From a Lutheran perspective:

We do not believe in us having to do anything. Even accepting Christ.

Ephesians 1:4

4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

He chose us. Not the other way around.

If we don't accept Christ, how do we know that we're saved?

Baptism.

1 Peter 3:21

21 Baptism now saves you

Only God can really know whether someone goes to heaven or hell, but if the child were baptised, I would say that 1 Peter 3:21 provides a good basis for the belief that they could still go to heaven.

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For the Baptism point of view, I know many people believe that if a 1 year old child dies (and they don't believe in infant baptism) then they believe prevenient grace will allow that child to go to heaven. Is there any Biblical evidence for that belief? –  Patrick Aug 23 '11 at 20:07
    
@Patrick I'm sorry, I don't know. I'm not qualified to answer on behalf of any other denomination. Although I do know that the Bible says God is just and that all have sinned (all including 1y/olds), so I do not see any biblical evidence for that belief. –  John Aug 23 '11 at 23:30

As Nathan said, before you are able to distinguish not just right from wrong (a four year old can do that if you tell him to do this but not do that) but actually comprehend why doing something is either good or bad. You are incapable of sin and so can't therefore go to hell. As an aside to some of your comments where in the bible does it say that babies should be baptized? And can anyone give an example from the New or Old Testament saying that a baby was baptized so that it could be saved? The first documented cases of infant baptism that I am aware of happen well after the death of Christ and the apostles.

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Ryan you are correct. Baptism of babies and young children didn't come until much later. The reason for this is that a baptism is a dedication of yourself to God. How can you do that if you have no understanding of God or what he requires of us?

As this relates to children, even if God gave infants that grace how could they make the decision? How could they tell us they are ready?

Besides all this reasoning there is scripture to show that the child is protected through the parents. 1 Corinthians 7:14:

"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified in relation to his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified in relation to the brother; otherwise, your children would be unclean, but now they are holy."

This is true even if only one parent is a believer. The child will be saved through their faith. God prepared for these circumstances ahead of time. He draws those to him, those having the heart condition and qualities God favors. Ephesians 2:8-10

"By this undeserved kindness you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; rather, it is God’s gift. 9 No, it is not a result of works, so that no one should have grounds for boasting. 10 We are God’s handiwork and were created in union with Christ Jesus for good works, which God determined in advance for us to walk in them.

As for the scriptures surrounding Prevenient Grace. I posted on a similar question with plenty of verse to support it. Prevenient Grace - Where/How is it Supported/Rejected in the Bible?

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