Are Children Saved?

Question

You have to be born again if you are to become a Christian and be saved (John 3:3), right? Therefore, do you have to be of a certain age or spiritual maturity before you can be born again? Many people say they have become Christians at a very young age, say 8-15, and then they will say that they have become born again in the full spirit of God later on in life. Does the bible teach that you can become a Christian at any age? Secondly, If you are thinking of having a family, then according to the Calvinistic theory, there is no guarantee that your children will be part of the elect and be saved. This is an absolutely terrible thought! Although I do believe that it is only God's electing Grace that saves, the last thing on earth that any parent would want is the realization that his or her children could be doomed for hell. Is there any comforting way of looking at this?

Answer

Regarding your first question, as John 3:3,8 indicates, you have to be born again in order to be saved. Being "born again" means having your spirit regenerated or given new life. Because we are fallen people, we are born spiritually dead. Only when the Holy Spirit gives life to our spirits do we become spiritually alive. This process is called "regeneration" or being "born again." The Bible does not teach that there is any age limit on regeneration. In fact, it strongly suggests that people can be born again even before they are born. Specifically, it states that John the Baptist lept in his mother's womb for joy at the news of Mary's pregnancy (Luke 1:44). It is often argued that the baby's joy over the good news of Jesus' conception implies the baby's prior regeneration. In any case, the Bible nowhere indicates that God cannot or will not regenerate and save infants. Moreover, his love for believing parents inclines him to show favor on their children (e.g. Deut. 4:37; Rom. 11:28).

The Bible does not speak of "becoming a Christian," so it is hard for me to guess what people might mean when they distinguish between becoming a Christian and being born again. Perhaps by "becoming a Christian" they mean "joining or going to a church." In this case, it is certainly possible that one may participate in church yet not be saved. If instead they intend "becoming a Christian" to refer to salvation, and suggest that being born again may happen at a subsequent time, then they are in stark disagreement with the Bible. The Bible teaches that no one can be saved without being born again, even for a moment. Rather, being born again is part of a set of simultaneous events that only occur during the moment one is saved. Moreover, regeneration logically precedes such things as faith, forgiveness and the gift of eternal life (which begins the moment one is saved).

Regarding your second question, it is true that Calvinism denies that believers' children are guaranteed to be saved -- but Calvinism is not alone in this. No Evangelical Christian school of thought asserts that the children of believers necessarily will be saved. Given that many children of faithful believers grow up to deny Christ, it would be very difficult to argue otherwise. However, I do believe that Calvinism offers more hope to parents than do other Evangelical schools of thought. This is because Calvinism emphasizes God's covenant with the church. It teaches that even those church members who are not saved receive a measure of God's special favor beyond what we call "common grace." Common grace is that care and kindness that God shows to mankind at large, such as sending rain on the crops of evil people and withholding immediate judgment from gross sinners. But God is especially patient with the children of believers and church members. As stated above, he cares for them with greater mercy because of his love for their believing parents and because of his covenant (e.g. Hos. 11:7-8). This means that Calvinists can offer great hope that the children of believers will be saved, even if they cannot guarantee it. Other Evangelical schools of thought must simply leave the problem up to the free will of the children, placing the children in the same boat as the children of those unbelievers outside the church.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.