I care for mentally challenged adults whose intellectual age is probably that of a 1-year-old. How can I assure their parents that their children are sheltered under God's salvation?—Robin Fose, New York

This is a question conceived not in a curious mind but in a caring heart, so I feel a special burden to answer it in a way that is both biblically true and personally comforting. I need to say at the start, however, that I can find no Bible text telling us forthrightly that mentally disabled people who cannot confess Jesus Christ as Savior are "under God's salvation." As I read the New Testament, I find only one path to salvation—the path of an informed faith in Jesus Christ.

John, Peter, and Paul, for instance, implied that the saving response to the gospel involves a rational choice. When John the Baptist told people how to be saved, he said they needed to believe in Jesus (John 3:36). When people at Pentecost asked Peter how they could be saved, he said they should repent and be baptized (Acts 2:37-38). And when Paul set out the human conditions for salvation, he summed them up as believing and confessing Christ (Rom. 10:9).

True, the apostles did not expressly say that people will be saved only if they repent, believe, and confess. But most evangelicals assume—with good reason—that this is what the apostles implied.

Does the Bible, then, have no comfort for parents of children who, through no doing of their own, are not able and may never be able to understand the gospel well enough to repent, believe, and confess the Lord Jesus?

Christian traditions bring a variety of perspectives to the matter. Baptists speak of an "age of accountability" to describe the point at which a child is old enough to make a responsible decision ...

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