Thesis #16 of 95 - Infants do not experience spiritual death until in Paul's language "the law comes" being a clear sense of right and wrong; for where there is no law sin is not imputed and the conscience is not defiled
Thesis #17 of 95 - Adam and Eve's offspring do not inherit their parents' guilt but through procreation inherit an intellectual vessel that has been "shaped in iniquity" acting as a malign influence on the soul
Rom5:13 – Until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law
1Cor15:56 – The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law
Eccles12:7 Then the dust will return to the earth that it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it
I commented in thesis #12 on Augustine’s teaching that infants who died unbaptized must experience mild sensual pain through eternity. Thankfully this is one of his teachings the Catholic Church did not fully endorse, instead teaching the more palatable notion that such souls would be in a state of limbo – happy and at peace but not fit to experience heaven itself. But as the Church readily acknowledges such a concept had “no clear foundation in revelation”. Their 1992 catechism progressed to the position that “infants who die without baptism are entrusted by the Church to the mercy of God”. Still more recently, in 2007 the Church’s International Theological Commission concluded that in light of historical cultural and religious formation, we might “hope that infants who die without baptism may be saved and brought into eternal happiness even if there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in revelation.”
These two related theses demonstrate that the whole matter should never have been an issue in the first place, causing as it has, unnecessary distress for many of the faithful through the centuries, not to mention incredulity from many outside the Catholic Church. The problem largely arose from the Western Church’s interpretation of original sin which deemed that not only Adam’s corrupted nature but his personal guilt was imputed to his offspring, resulting in spiritual death and alienation from the light of Christ from birth. As explained in recent posts/theses, not only was Adam’s sin not imputed but the corrupted nature that has been passed on to his offspring pertains to the procreated intellectual vessel (fleshly body and brain) that the soul inhabits, not the spiritual essence itself, i.e., that part of us that returns to God at physical death (Eccles12:7). As the same verse affirms, that spiritual essence was given to us by God – it is innately pure. But it is also pliable, i.e. liable to corruption – from the morally degraded fleshly intellectual components with which it is temporarily associated. Hence the need for gospel salvation for those God elects to relate to Himself in Christ and become conformed to His image whilst in mortal flesh (Rom8:29; Jn6:44). But in terms of infant baptism, substantive corruption of the spirit cannot occur before a person attains the age of reason. For in Paul’s language, sin is not imputed when there is no law, in this case an infant’s sense of right and wrong. As Paul also wrote concerning the progression of his own life: “There was once a time when I was alive without the law, then the commandment came, sin came to life and so I died” (Rom7:9).
Once these principles are grasped, infants dying unbaptized cease to be an issue. And the fact that the temporary body/brain rather than the eternal soul/spirit is the source of mankind’s problem with sin (covered in the previous thesis) is a truth that has broader and yet more favourable implications for human destiny that we shall continue to unravel.