Thursday, May 5, 2011

What Happens After We Die: Inclusivism III

We continue our talk on what happens after we die by delving further into the subject of inclusivism, which posits that people who do not know Christ directly or perfectly will be included in the salvation he has wrought.

If there are any clear biblical grounds for inclusivism concerning children, the best would have to be found in 1 Corinthians 7:14 (and even that is iffy). A decent case can be made that the verse deals in context merely with the legitimacy (clean vs. unclean) of an existing marriage in the eyes of God when one party comes to faith but the other does not. If that union was considered spiritually unacceptable by God, the children would be the products of fornication and unclean. If the marriage is valid spiritually (clean) in the eyes of God, then the children produced by it are clean too.

The thought would have to be Jewish at it's root, developed ultimately from Malachi 2:11-16, as I see it. If legitimacy is the prime concern, then Paul would have to be saying that the principle of Malachi 2:11 cannot be applied to an existing marriage between one who remains an unbeliever and one who becomes a Christian. In these cases, the presence of the believer in the union sets apart the unbeliever so that the union is seen as acceptable by God, and the progeny resulting would be holy. Whereas I see the merit in such an interpretation, I don't think it quite captures the entirety of the thought--more than legitimacy or illegitimacy seems to be at stake to me.

The point of sanctified children is that they would be considered part of the covenant community, benefactors of the covenant blessings. If the marriage was acceptable, then the offspring produced as a result of it are considered part of the Israel. And here is where inclusivism both hits a rock and sets sail for me. If the inclusivist thought is true (i.e. all children are born innocent, and under the blood that was shed for everyone) then why reference the uncleanness or unacceptability of children at all? In what meaningful way could children from a mixed marriage be unsanctified?

Interpretations that refer the thought to being exposed to the gospel or in a better place to come to faith (extrapolated from the spousal argument Paul makes) are unsatisfying. They just don't explain the hullaballoo in the passage. If there is an inclusivist claim that can be made here, the only one that stands up, imo, would be one that says the children of believers are included in salvation until they decide they don't want to be. In fact, I do see the verse substantiating that very thought.

When it comes to children, or even the infirm in general, I cannot say with any certainty what happens after death to those who were born of unbelievers. Good arguments exist to see them as included in Christ: what doesn't exist is a bible verse or verses that say as much. There are, on the other hand, verses that call into question whether or not such is the case. What I can say with some confidence is that children born of believers will be included, and that, at least, is a comfort to me.