Protected by the Word, Part 2: Children

In my last post, I referred to Jonathan Edwards, who cites Ezekiel 9:6 in support of infant damnation. Edwards observes that God slaughters little children and protects the righteous, so he concludes that the little children obviously must not be righteous. Rather, for Edwards, they are sinners and deserve divine wrath.

Within Christianity, various arguments have been made against infant damnation. In Deuteronomy 1:39, God does not punish the children of the sinning Israelite generation because they did not know good and evil. According to Paul, Esau and Jacob did not do good or bad when they were in the womb (Romans 9:11), and Paul says earlier that God judges people according to their deeds (Romans 2:6). Many opponents of infant damnation conclude that original sin by itself cannot damn a person, but conscious evil deeds are what lead to condemnation in the last judgment.

God’s slaughter of children is quite troubling, especially if they are technically innocent (though not righteous). An apologist could respond, “Well, what would happen to the children if they were spared?” That is a good question. Once God punishes every sinful parent, what would happen to all of the orphans if God chose to spare them? Would there be enough righteous people to take care of them? Is God’s slaughter of the little children an act of mercy? This is a tough issue, in my opinion.

There is a probability that some infants were spared: the children of righteous parents. How? In my last post, I pointed out that the righteous were protected through their obedience to God’s word. In the sixth century B.C.E., God told the Judeans to surrender to the Babylonians. In obedience to God’s message, the righteous willingly went into exile, and they saved their lives in so doing. The wicked, however, chose to stay and fight the Babylonians. Most likely, when the righteous went into exile, they took their children with them. The children who died had disobedient parents, who put themselves and their own children at risk because they refused to heed God’s message.

I wonder if there will be a similar scenario when Christ returns. Paul says in I Corinthians 7 that a believing wife can sanctify and save her unbelieving husband and children. There are various ways to interpret this passage, but I ask if some act of obedience on the part of a believing wife will protect her and her entire family in the end times (assuming a pre-millennial eschatology). Interestingly, in Revelation 7:3, God tells his angels to seal the servants of God before he executes his wrath, as he does in Ezekiel 9. I argued in my last post that Ezekiel 9 is metaphorical, since God actually did not directly slaughter the inhabitants of Jerusalem (as Ezekiel 9 depicts) but sent the Babylonians to do so. Does Revelation 7 describe God’s literal and direct destruction of the earth and sparing of his servants? Or does the seal represent some act of obedience through which God’s servants will protect themselves, and perhaps even their families?

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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