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If Augustine's position is correct, unbaptized children who died in the tornado went to hell as condemned sinners. Why, then, does the Bible nowhere command us to baptize children? While circumcision was required for infant boys in the Old Testament (Gen. 17:12), there is no similar requirement for the baptism of infants in the New. In a day when infant mortality rates were high, we would expect Scripture to mandate this act if it is essential to a child's salvation.

To the contrary, there is not a single clear example of a child being baptized in the New Testament (Lydia's "members of her household" and the Philippian jailer's "family" come closest, though their ages are not specified; Acts 16:15, 33). Nor do we find a single biblical command that we baptize infants.

Calvin: Non-elect infants are condemned

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin defined original sin as:

a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul, which first makes us liable to God's wrath, then also brings forth in us those works which Scripture calls "works of the flesh" (Gal. 5:19). And that is properly what Paul often calls sin.

Calvin argued strongly for Augustine's position. Citing Romans 8:20, he said, "the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected." He believed that all people inherit Adam's sin and punishment, "since, therefore, the curse, which goes about through all the regions of the world, flowed hither and yon from Adam's guilt, it is not unreasonable if it spread to all his offspring." As a result, Adam "entangled and immersed his offspring in the same miseries" that he experienced.

Calvin agreed with Augustine that "we bear inborn defect from our mother's womb." Referencing Psalm 51:5, he claimed, "From his very conception [David] carries the confession of his own perversity. Since it is clear that this was not peculiar to David, it follows that the common lot of mankind is exemplified in him."13 He concludes: "All of us, who have descended from impure seed, are born infected with the contagion of sin. In fact, before we saw the light of this life we were soiled and spotted in God's sight."

However, Calvin disagreed with Augustine regarding the method of this transmission: "Instead of saying . . . that each of us draws vice and corruption from his parents, it would be more correct to say that we are all alike corrupted in Adam alone, because immediately after his revolt God took away from human nature what He had bestowed upon it."

Advocates of the Augustine/Calvin position cite Ephesians 2:3, which calls humanity "objects of wrath." This description would mean that we are all condemned, whatever our age or status relative to saving faith. However, if "objects of wrath" is translated "wrathful people," the phrase has no bearing on our question.

Calvin clearly broke with Augustine, however, with regard to election for infants. In the Reformer's mind, election takes precedence over inherited guilt. If a baby was part of the elect, he or she would be in heaven. If not, "we may rest assured that God would never have suffered any infants to be slain except those who were already damned and predestined for eternal death," as "there are babies a span long in hell."

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Do All Children Go to Heaven?