The Doctrine of Infant Salvation -- By: Alan H. Hamilton

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 102:405 (Jan 1945)
Article: The Doctrine of Infant Salvation
Author: Alan H. Hamilton


The Doctrine of Infant Salvation

Alan H. Hamilton

(Concluded from the October-December Number, 1944)

The View of Rationalism

Speaking in very broad terms, all theological thinking may be divided into two classes: the supernatural and the natural or rationalistic. And yet the history of doctrine shows that every age has had elements in which these two factors commingled. As Shedd points out, when justifying his lengthy consideration of philosophy in a historical treatise covering doctrine: “The human mind is already in a certain philosophical condition before it receives Christianity, and even before Christianity is offered to it by the Divine Mind… Men are sinners before they are made saints; and they are philosophers before they become theologians.”1 The difficulty enters into the field of Christian doctrine when men, who are still in a natural state, or who still allow themselves to come to conclusions on a purely natural level, come up against a problem which cannot and should not be dealt with on other than the supernatural plane.

Out of thought which has been purely rational or which has tended toward rationalism, there have come two major encroachments upon the true doctrine of infant salvation. The first of these is concerned with the doctrine of original sin. The error in thought appeared first among the Greek fathers, of whose theology Berkhof writes: “There is no original sin in the strict sense of the word… Sin always originates in the free choice of man, and is the result of weakness and ignorance. Consequently infants cannot be regarded as guilty, for they have inherited only a physical corruption.”2

This ancient error paved the way for Pelagius and the system which bears his name to the present day. He pictured man as born into the world free from any taint of sin—really in the same condition as that of Adam at his creation, free to choose what he would. Standing as it does in evident contrast to the Scriptures, Pelagianism has had nevertheless its advocates in every period of history. The Socinians and the liberal theologians of this day are two examples. As for the mediating view of Semi-Pelagianism, it has not denied the passing of original sin from one generation to another, but has eliminated any thought of guilt as resulting therefrom. It has been upon this ground, indeed, that the Arminians at the Synod of Dort and in the present day would assert their belief in the salvation of all dying in infancy.

The second encroachment of rationalism upon the accurate doctrine of infant salvation has been the synergistic conception...

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