In American Presbyterianism and Reformed theology more generally, one of the controversial issues has been the fate of children dying in infancy. The Westminster Confession of Faith reads:

Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ (10.3)

The Confession thus leaves open the possibility that some infants are not elect and therefore not saved, and historically this has incited significant debate. In 1903 the PCUSA adopted a declaratory statement affirming universal salvation of those dying in infancy, against the opposition of "old school" theologians like B. B. Warfield. But Warfield only opposed making the position a confessional standard; personally he actually agreed with it:

For myself, I believe with all my heart that all dying in infancy are saved, and I believe that I can prove it from Scripture. ("Does the Confession Need Revision?" II)

To me this view seems problematic because Reformed theology typically holds that adults who never hear the gospel are unsaved. So universal salvation of deceased infants would mean that some of the children of these adults go to heaven, despite neither the infants nor the adults ever having the opportunity to hear the gospel. Why do Reformed theologians think they would be treated differently?

Other questions here deal generally with the question of infant salvation, so I'll be very specific here:

  • According to Reformed theologians, what is the biblical basis for the idea that all those who die in infancy are saved?
    • Reformed theologians could include the Presbyterian opponents of Warfield, but I'm most interested in the arguments made by conservatives like Warfield.
    • I'm looking for biblical basis. Saying "it wouldn't be fair" isn't going to cut it, unless the Bible is used to make this argument by these Reformed theologians.
    • I'm not interested in the basis for some dying infants being saved – I want to know the basis for all dying infants being saved.
    • I'm not interested in the "how" – whether dying infants have faith or not is not relevant; only that they are saved.

Related questions (and why they aren't duplicates):

2 Answers 2


See John Piper's article: What happens to infants who die?

All infants are sinners (Romans 5:12-21)

"At least" Some infants are saved: John the Baptist (Luke 1:15), David (Psalm 22:9-10).

Those not capable of perceiving good and evil are not guilty of sinful acts (John 9:41, Romans 1:20).

God is good (Psalm 119:68). Trust that he will do what is just and merciful.

Quoting Piper:

It should also be emphasized that the salvation of all who die in infancy is not inconsistent with unconditional election (the view that God chooses whom to save of His own will, apart from anything in the individual). As Spurgeon pointed out, it is not that God chooses someone to salvation because they are going to die in infancy. Rather, He has ordained that only those who have been chosen for salvation will be allowed to die in infancy. God's justice in condemnation will be most clearly seen by allowing those who will not be saved to demonstrate their inherent sinfulness through willful, knowing transgression.

  • Actually this article seems to have been written by a guest contributor, not Piper, though the author does quote Piper dealing with my specific question. Oct 26, 2016 at 16:17
  • My bad. I was going from memory. There are other articles on the site by Piper on that topic. I shall have to dig one of them up. Oct 26, 2016 at 16:22
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    Paul, those points are highly contradictory. All (infants) are sinners- contradict "some (sinners) are saved", and third - infants are not guilty of sinful acts. Also, the question seems to ask exegesis or interpretation so try to focus on direct interpretations rather than big vague deductions like that. Your point "good is good" and we should trust his justice appeals to "mystery" it is not an answer.
    – Michael16
    Oct 26, 2016 at 17:23
  • @michael - I merely summarize the author's argument. Reconciling justice and mercy always appears contradictory. If the Bible is true and God does not contradict himself, then all these verses are true simultaneously. Arguments appealing to an age of accountability are always squishy. Oct 26, 2016 at 17:37
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    that is not an answer to appeal to mystery and make blanket summary for some passages. The conflict is with original sin to assume any single infant gets saved or dont get in hell after death. I am sure reformed theologians must have done some work explaining these things. BTW do study non-reformed (Molinist, pelagian perspective) which dont appeal to mystery reasonablefaith.org/… reasonablefaith.org/how-can-christ-be-the-only-way-to-god reasonablefaith.org/Is-Molinism-as-Depressing-as-Calvinism
    – Michael16
    Oct 26, 2016 at 17:59

In 2 Samuel 20:23, David and Bathsheba's first son together died, because of David's sin with Bathsheba and murder of her husband. David says

v.23 " ... I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me.” 2 Samuel 20

So David, a man after God's own heart, knew his infant child would be in heaven.


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