Is There Any Hope of Salvation for a Child Who Has Been Killed Through Abortion?
John F. Brug
Scripture does not answer this question directly. The same is true of the closely related question, “Can an unbaptized baby be saved?” Our answer must be limited to pondering four points that Scripture does make.
All children are by nature sinful and in need of salvation. “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). We cannot assume that unborn children are innocent and, therefore, automatically saved.
We are told of no way that God works saving faith in people other than through the means of grace, the gospel in Word and sacraments. We should never deprive children of baptism, “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
We are told again and again that God is a compassionate God, whose judgments are fair. “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love…He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him” (Psalm 103:8-11).
Putting it all together, we see that we can in no way minimize the seriousness of depriving an unborn child of its opportunity to be baptized. The only hope we can hold out is the mercy of God and the hope that, although God has limited us to baptism as a means of working faith in children, he has not limited himself.
Luther wrote, “God can, to be sure, save without baptism, as we believe that the little children who at times because of an oversight of the parents or some other chance did not receive baptism are not damned on that account. However, in the church, we are to teach and judge according to the ordained order of God, namely that without the rite of baptism no one can be saved.”
Often, in the comfort which he gives in connection with the death of an unbaptized child, Luther points to the prayers of the faithful parents who have entrusted their child to God as one basis of hope for the child. In cases of abortion very often there will have been no such prayers. To those who are contemplating abortion and to society in general we must speak the strongest possible warnings of God’s law against the horrible sin of placing an obstacle between a child and the Savior (Matthew 18:5-6). Those contemplating abortion should realize that they are not only depriving the child of life on this earth but are also depriving it of its opportunity to be baptized and to hear the gospel. This multiplies the horribleness of this sin.
To those who grieve because of the death of such children, such as perhaps its grandparents, we can offer the hope of the grace and mercy of God, as did Luther.
To those who grieve because they have committed the sin of abortion, we can offer the gospel assurance that this sin too was paid for by Christ and will be forgiven to the repentant. This in no way minimizes the seriousness of the sin. It emphasizes the greatness of Christ’s merit and his mercy.
Finally, when we have said everything which we can on the basis of Scripture to offer both warning and hope, we must become silent and confess as Paul does in Romans 11:33-36, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?… For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
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