This past Friday a friend of mine engaged me in a conversation. This of course is not the stuff of which “late breaking news” is made. As a matter of fact this is a conversation, or at least the topic, is one that has troubled me for years. The first part of half of the conversation did not bother me since I can go to the Scriptures, particularly the New Testament and refute the commonly held notion that human beings, namely children, have “guardian angels.” Guardian angels are not substantiated by Scripture. The notion is an idea of Roman Catholic dogma.
It is the second half of the conversation that has plagued me for years. A part of my “argument” against guardian angels is the simple fact that if they do exist, for the most part they are doing a terrible job. After all children are tortured, molested, abused, injured, and killed regularly. One would have to be made of stone not to be affected, no devastated by the horrible abuse that children face. In addition, it is heart breaking, no heart wrenching to see the cameras pan the starving, diseased, and dying children in what we call ”third world” countries. One can only wonder if in fact guardian angels are assigned to children what happened. Where were they when a parent deliberately burned their children with cigarettes because the child would not stop crying? Where were they when “Uncle Buck” repeatedly raped and molested them?
Sorry, back to the second part of the conversation: what happens to babies when they die? My friend made the point that since babies don’t sin how can they be held culpable for sin? Of course her argument was that babies, especially babies in the womb don’t or can’t sin they must go straight to heaven. She is convinced, with no Scriptural foundation that babies haven’t had any opportunity to sin.
Come June 18th my wife and wife will have been married for forty (40) years. No, that is not a typo or bad math. During this forty (40) years God has allowed us to produce four (4) healthy, intelligent, and beautiful girls. From these four (4) girls, three have given to us four (4) healthy, intelligent and beautiful grandchildren. Oops, sorry Gregory and Diontre, two (2) beautiful granddaughters and two (2) handsome grandsons.
We have been richly blessed beyond measure. We have never had a child die, or suffered a miscarriage, or even a severe illness. The most we have had to endure was one broken arm and the requisite number of “stiches” in all four (4) girls. Other than common sense, general life experience, empathy, and etc., I don’t know what it is like to suffer the loss of a child.
My involvement in this question is twofold. First of all it is theological. As a theologian I want to fully understand the Scriptures. I want to work hard at study in order to show myself an able and accurate student of God’s Word. I am dedicated to rightly dividing the Word of God. Biblical Theology must trump emotional, rational and/or logical opinions. Biblical doctrine is essential.
Secondly, my involvement is pastoral. It is difficult to stand beside a family who has lost a baby or child and answer their questions. Their grief compels them to cry out why? Then at some point the question turns to “where?” They want assurance that their baby is safe in Christ and that they will one day see their child again.
As a pastor I don’t have a convenient place to go in the Scriptures and say, “Thus sayeth the Lord.” The scripture is silent on this topic. There are no definitive passages that specifically deal with this topic.
I have “danced” around this question for a number of years. I have not been able to give a definitive answer that both comforted grieving parents and complemented biblical theology. I have been unable to “buy in” completely to the stock answer or explanation involving King David’s experience with his and Bathsheba’s baby. Although there is some merit, I do not believe that this experience gives hard and fast evidence that all babies who die go to heaven or serves to explain why babies die.
If I haven’t offended you or put you off, stay with me. Over the next two or three posts (excluding Tuesday) I hope to look at this question “thrown” at me by my friend. I hope to be honest with the text and from Scripture provide some guidance and thought on this, the toughest of questions.