Here it is…
From the Canons of Dort
Since we are to judge of the will of God from His Word, which testifies that the children of believers are holy, not by nature, but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they together with the parents are comprehended, godly parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom it pleases God to call out of this life in their infancy (Gen. 17:7; Acts 2:39; 1 Cor. 7:14).
This does say that the children of the elect are elect, that is, the children who die in infancy. Does any 5 pointer really believe this? I’m sure they do, but it is simply a theological extrapolation. Most people who believe infants go to heaven believe so because of an idea of innocence (the child hasn’t sinned). Of course, if salvation is received through faith, then a child can’t believe.
Frankly, this is simply theological extrapolation. My wife and I lost our first baby and I can’t honestly say that I KNOW I’ll see him/her in heaven, but I sure hope to.
The greater problem is that it is OBVIOUS that ALL CHILDREN of the elect must also be elect (hence will be saved); otherwise, why the would argument about the death of children make any sense? If it is only for those who die in infancy, then God has to volitionally protect the non-elect children from death until they are old enough to die in their own unbelief (huh?).
Yet, to create a categorical declaration that all children of the elect are elect shows the problem with obsessive logical systems. The framers of Dort left the Word of God on this one. Well…they appeal to 1 Cor 7, but that refers to a believer (elect) and a non-believer (non-elect). Technically, then, it must mean that if you had one elect parent you are elect too.
Honestly, this is scripturally silly and embarrassing, and for only one reason–they are stating the unknowable.
If you are a 5 Pointer and agree with this, then please help me understand why this is a legitimate point.
In the meantime, this is an example of why I consider myself a moderate Calvinist (if the definition of Calvinism is Dort). If the definition of Calvinism is something other than Dort, then it goes to my point that there is NO SUCH THING as a 5 Point Calvinist.
Of course, Calvin died 55 years before the Synod of Dordrecht.
4 thoughts on “5 Point Calvinists Believe All the Children of the Elect are also Elect? You’ve got to be kidding.”
Regarding the salvation of infants dying in infancy, 5 point Calvinists are sort of all over the map, but in my experience the overwhelming majority will say they are saved, as do most evangelicals of all stripes.
Those who say all are saved typically appeal to 2 Sam 12:23 as well as the paedobaptists appealing to their interpretation of 1 Cor. 7, etc. Others will state something similar to what you have, that ultimately the question is unknowable. A few others will say that believing parents should not doubt the election of children who die in infancy, but that unbelieving parents don’t necessarily have the same assurance.
The so called “Age of Accountability” comes into play here too (moreso where Baptists are concerned) although I think that view may have been more widespread previously than it is now. It’s also something that those on the more Arminian end of the scale would probably tend to hold to as opposed to those who are more Calvinistic.
With regard to the wider issue of whether all children of the elect are elect (and not just those dying in infancy) the logic of Reformed paedobaptists can be perplexing at times, although it is often internally consistent if you accept their presuppositions.
As a former Presbyterian, I’m much more familiar with the Westminster Standards and am not that familiar with The Three Forms of Unity of the Continental Reformed (which include the Canons of Dort, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession.)
Many Reformed paedobaptist statements regarding the status of “covenant children” (children of church members) are basically double talk. Taken as a whole, the confessions clearly do not teach that all children of believers (the elect) are elect. The confessional Reformed attempt to avoid the error of baptismal regeneration while at the same time wanting to affirm that there is something different about the children of believers compared with the children of unbelievers. As might be expected, this kind of tightrope act will appear to be strange to those who are unfamiliar with their logic.
Presumptive regeneration of the children of believers is rare today among mainstream Reformed paedobaptists, who often view infant baptism as being little more than a wet baby dedication. Of course Baptist five pointers would reject out of hand the idea that children of believers ought to be considered church members or partaking in the covenant of grace (even outwardly, as the Presbyterians would claim for those who prove to be non-elect.)
P.S. I hope to finish Back to Faith before the end of the year.
Nice summary / thoughts!
Another angle is that the atonement (viewed as removing a barrier over all creation, not just mankind) itself allows God to work / deal with infants justly apart from their personal faith.
Really, I’m just aiming at inviting us all to see what great variation there is among ‘Calvinists’ —as you rightly observe!
Endure with Back to Faith, you’ll be loaded for bear!
I’m pretty much concluding that Dort’s mistake is that they address post-justification issues as though the believer were still ‘dead in sin’…a true category mistake. I don’t blame them, really…look at what al they were trying to escape back then!
Hello Dr. Lybrand,
Although I’m not very familiar with the teaching of family election I imagined some scenarios that might challenge the thinking of 5 point Calvinists on this subject.
Picture a 5 point Calvinist married couple who believe themselves to be elect and who believe that their children will therefore also be elect. They have one child, a son, who upon reaching the age of, say, 25 falls into extreme wickedness and debauchery and denies the existence of God. He dies in that state and, consistent with their belief in perseverance, they believe he proved himself to be non elect. In their thinking, would his non election also prove their own non election? After all, if they believe that elect parents always beget elect children wouldn’t they have to question their own salvation if, in their belief system, their child “proved” to be non elect.
To complicate matters, what if the couple had other children, some of whom appeared to be elect and some who didn’t. How could they consistently hold to their belief in both perseverance and family election? Would their system require them to think that one of the parents is saved and one is not; and then wonder, “which parent”?
What if both parents are unsaved and have children who get saved? Would this indicate to 5 point Calvinists that the parents will eventually get saved, too? Or, would they just think that a new generation of elect families are getting started? Or, might they argue that the parents really are saved but just haven’t come to faith in Christ yet, but eventually will because they are elect (Christ having paid the penalty and applied the payment for their current unbelief)?