Salvation of Unbaptized Infants (Limbo Part II)

We continue to examine The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized by the International Theological Commission (henceforth HOSFI). In section 4, the document expresses that the Church’s doctrine regarding the destination of unbaptized infants must account for both the biblical concept of God’s desire that all men be saved and also the sacramental efficacy of holy baptism.

However, with regard to the salvation of those who die without baptism, the word of God says little or nothing. It is therefore necessary to interpret the reticence of Scripture on this issue in the light of texts concerning the universal plan of salvation and the ways of salvation. In short, the problem both for theology and for pastoral care is how to safeguard and reconcile two sets of biblical affirmations: those concerning God’s universal salvific will (cf. 1 Tm 2:4) and those regarding the necessity of baptism as the way of being freed from sin and conformed to Christ (cf. Mk 16:16; Mt 28:18-19).

These are the two doctrines on which HOSFI centers the debate. The conclusion of the documents will follow from these premises. Primarily, HOSFI seeks to amplify 1 Tm 2:4 – that God desires that all men be saved. This is the major premise of their argument. If it is the case that God desires all men to be saved, then He also desires that all babies be saved. Babies cannot ask for baptism or refuse it. So HOSFI looks for another way in which salvation might be applied to infants – a way not necessitating the waters of baptism.

Sections 5 and 6 describe the liturgical practice of praying for the salvation of deceased unbaptized babies. This is the classic lex orandi, lex credendi argument – what we pray reveals what we believe. Also, section 6 cites the Gospel of Mark where it describes “an occasion when the faith of some was effective for the salvation of another” (cf. Mk 2:5).

Will examine various accounts for non-baptismal salvation of infants in “Limbo Part III”.

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