Home > Apologetics, Questions and Answers, Theology > How does God judge children and the mentally handicapped?

How does God judge children and the mentally handicapped?

Heaven or Hell?

Most Christians today believe that children are judged according to a different standard, and I agree. By the same token, so are mentally handicapped people, or even those that haven’t heard the word of God before. The keys to this conclusion center around understanding and accountability.

Throughout the Bible—even the big ol’ bad Old Testament—it’s made clear that we are held accountable for our decisions based on our level of understanding. Children, almost by definition, are not yet capable of making binding, informed, and willful decisions. And of course, the same applies for people with mental disabilities.

Therefore, it is widely believed with scriptural support that children who die go to heaven (up to a certain age, which is undetermined). They have not had a chance to fully grasp the message of the gospel or accept Christ under their own volition yet, so God in his grace allows them to freely enter heaven. The same, by logical extension, applies to those with mental disabilities that hinder them from rational thought and decision-making.

What about those who haven’t heard God’s word? They are judged according to what they know, and there’s really no way for me to know the scale. Even if they will not enter heaven, their punishment will not be as great as those who knew about God and willfully chose to reject Him. Again, I refer to this verse:

Luke 12:47-48: “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”

For a more in-depth look at these topics and scriptural support, check out the links below. There’s not much more I can add than that.


Practical Implications

So what does this mean to us anyway? Most of us are past the age of accountability and have probably heard of God, so this doesn’t directly apply to us. This is true, but I still think this issue affects us in our minds and hearts.

For example, when we see an infant succumb to fatal birth complications or a young child die in a horrible automobile accident, our natural inclination is to wonder, “Why would God allow this?” Well, part of knowing that God is the greatest possible good is also the realization that his goal is to give the human race as a whole the best chance at heaven without infringing upon free will. God’s ultimate goal is to bring us into a saving knowledge of him. This outweighs the far lesser good of happiness here on earth. The earth is not some terrarium for us to enjoy as his pets.

There are some eminent Christian scholars who espouse the doctrine of middle knowledge, and practically speaking, this might mean that God places us all in the best time period and geography for our personal inclinations.

Perhaps God knows ahead of time that what lies ahead for a certain baby is a horrible life, or that the baby would grow up to do significant damage to his kingdom. Maybe ensuring the eternal destiny of that child is the most merciful solution, and it’s even possible that some good will come out of it for others. Who the heck knows? Like chaos theory or a butterfly flapping its wings, causing a hurricane in another part of the world…it’s really WAY beyond our understanding. It’s a formula with countless variables, and the interplay of all people and factors is something we simply cannot speculate on.

I, for one, am thankful that God placed me in this time and place. Honestly, I don’t know if I could have believed in Jesus if I were a Jew who had lived 2,000 years ago. Maybe I’d look upon him as a simple commoner, and scoff at an uneducated lover of Gentiles trying to teach ME about truth. Maybe I’d be turned off by his appearance or style, who knows? Many people’s hearts were hard to him even when they saw him performing miraculous signs, so why should I assume I would have been different? This is like every guy who watches Saving Private Ryan yelling at the coward who sits there crying instead of saving his fellow soldier. We honestly don’t know what we would have done in that situation, we can only guess. (I, for one, am certain I would have courageously fought and saved my American brother. Just kidding.)

People who have heard about God but choose to be atheists today are probably the ones who wouldn’t have believed in any realistic circumstance. Those in foreign countries without Christian knowledge will be punished far less than they would have endured if they had been born in the USA and still rejected God. So maybe that was part of God’s mercy and goodness, as well, putting them on the path of less punishment in a logically lose-lose situation.

Of course, there’s no way to be 100% sure about any of this, but it’s certainly plausible if middle knowledge is true.

So why doesn’t God just kill everybody from birth whom he knows will reject him later? Wouldn’t that be more merciful? Well, not really. You can’t really call that free will if he precludes the possibility of people rejecting him. Plus, then you’d have even more people here on earth complaining and doubting God’s inability to save their children’s lives. There are just too many factors at play here to come up with a more balanced, feasible solution. I choose to believe that while it may not be pretty from our viewpoint, our current situation may be the best that was possible. In the end, it’s all going to be redeemed anyway.

  1. February 6, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Hey Roger, Just a word of eguocranement. You do some great work on this blog. I check in at least every week enjoy reading your articles. There’s probably stacks of people in the same boat as me- but many of us rarely, if ever, comment- so I thought I would commend you on the hours of reading, research etc you put into your site. Cheers

  2. Anonymous
    June 12, 2014 at 11:11 am

    ask me i’ll be happy to teach something defferent

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