This is a question I’ve asked myself over the years. John Piper, a pastor I greatly respect and admire had something very interesting to say on the subject which I think is worthy of considering. The link is below.
In it, Pastor John brings up a good point. Babies and those with severe mental handicaps would not be able to make a conscience decision to reject God or accept him. So why would they be punished eternally?
Although I feel that this argument makes sense logically, it does stand at odds with verses like Psalm 51:5 which states:
“Behold, I (David) was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
As well as Psalm 58:3:
“The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.”
I was having trouble reconciling the two with what Pastor John talked about in Romans and I wanted closure. So I set out to see if there were other OT examples of babies being declared “innocent” before God. My thinking was that if I could find that, then I could better make a final decision on what Psalm 51:5 and 58:3 were really saying. I could also make a better decision on whether or not a just and loving God would throw a child into Hell. Here’s what I found:
In 2 Kings 21:6 It speaks of a wicked king who reigned in Judah called Manasseh. During his reign he sacrificed his own son. Then in 2 Kings 24:4 it speaks of Manasseh shedding “innocent blood.” The only death that Manasseh is credited with being responsible for is that of his own child whom he sacrificed to the Canaanite gods. I believe that God here was saying that Manasseh’s child was actually innocent. Not in the sense that he was without sin but that he was free from condemnation. This interpretation would reconcile both the verses in Psalms and what Pastor John spoke in regards to Romans.
There are two other verses that reveal the same thing:
“Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind.”
“They poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood.”
Notice the word “innocent” is always linked with the sacrifice of a baby. For me this gives me great comfort in knowing that although there is much sin inside man and that God would totally be justified by throwing every single human being into hell, whether baby or grown up, He does not. I believe this to be consistent with His character. He is a loving God.