Baby universalism


Having had a sister who died at birth (and thinking about this question since my mom died), I’d like your thoughts on this article. … fanticide/


Greg Boyd generally makes a lot of sense but I found this piece a bit disappointing and pastorally insensitive. In his concern to emphasise the importance of free will he decides to mock the brand of hopeful universalism which almost everyone instinctively subscribe to. I think this instinct is correct because, in the end, the loving mercy of God trumps everything. As for free will; it has its limits. No loving parent would hold back from physically stopping their child running in front of a train, least of all the most loving parent of all.


I think you missed the point of the article.

If the baby can just skip this world altogether, the patents could have done the same (and they needn’t be grieving the loss of a child at all.)


Sorry Michael I missed that part but it still seems like a daft philosophical argument.


The proposition that this world might be necessary seems daft to you?


I’m a pastor, not a philosopher. I know it is good to think things through, but we can’t place restrictions on how or when God will heal and save and perfect. But we can trust that he will do this, because this promise of God is clear in scripture. Can you see where I’m coming from or am I just talking nonsense?


I can understand where he’s coming from when he says:

While I think its extremely important for parents of deceased children to be assured that their children are under the loving care of Jesus, I do not believe this means that they by-pass the growing, refining processes we who live into adulthood go through, which is what baby universalism entails…the most common explanation as to why humans (and, I would add, angels) were given free will — and thus the potential to massively screw things up like we have — is because God’s primary objective in creation is love, and genuine love is not possible where there is no free will. I accept this line of argumentation (I defend it over several chapters in Satan and the Problem of Evil). In fact, I think it’s a foundational aspect of any theodicy that hopes to be viable. Yet, it seems to me that if baby universalism is true, the free will defense falls apart. If deceased babies are able to automatically enter into a fully complete loving fellowship with God without having to make any choice, then free will is obviously not necessary to enter into a fully complete loving relationship with God. Why then did God introduce free will in creation? It only introduces the unnecessary risk that humans (and angels) will choose poorly, screw up creation and bring misery and destruction on themselves and others."

Leaving the freewill argument aside, a less common explanation as to why this world exists has to do with creatures learning through contrast, and the supposeed need of a creature to experience evil in order to acheive it’s highest good.

But this argument also falls apart if infants just “by-pass the growing, refining processes we who live into adulthood go through.”

As someone who lost a sister at birth, and a mother who suffered in ICU for three months, I can also tell you that simple, pat answers don’t always comfort people.


Michael, The last thing I’d ever want to do is give a grieving person a simple pat answer. Nor would I want to negate the importance of struggling to make sense of these things. I apologise if you think I have been the guilty of either of these mistakes. I can see where you are coming from and I will think about it some more.


I agree that this seems absurd to me. People go through great lengths in order to support LFW or DET. Who says going through this life is critical to knowing God? Too many assumptions which includes that within DET one cannot have “love”. I don’t see that as true - not that it has to be - but certainly any justification of killing babies is simply sick.


So are you saying that this life is unecessary?


“necessary” is a vauge word here. When someone says LFW or this life is necessary, I’m not sure they’re right. Now if God said it was then I would take that at face value being he understands all the complexities to these issues. But certainly I would not say “it’s necessary”. It’s as if we’re saying God can only do things one way. I’m not sure he can’t.

As an example, (TGB’s heard an earful on these issues LOL) I believe if Determinism is true, God could also make those same subject truly love. I’m not sold that he can’t do that. I don’t find them to be contradictory. I might be wrong about all this but I certainly don’t think libertarians have sealed the case.

I’m going to re-read Boyd and see if I misunderstood him. Often I need to read something 5 to 4000 times before I really digest it.



No, it’s not as if we’re saying that God can only do things one way.

It’s simply saying that God is really doing something.

To say that He can just “determine” that a creature will love Him (and be perfectly good) is to say that He isn’t really doing anything here.


I disagree. God always states what will be and I hardly think it means it’s nothing. For example, he states to Isreal over and over and over. God determining (by his cause) that he will put his spirit in them and they WILL walk in his ways is hardly nothing.

If a Parent has the ability to control a child to either be good or evil, is it non-loving to CAUSE that child to be good. I hardly doubt it.
And I believe he’s determined what will be the outcome
a) every knee WILL bow - but I assume because he’s going to bring this about (that is it’s already determined to happen) it’s nothing.
b) every mouth will confess - but that too must be nothing since he’s the one who causes us to walk in his ways (Jer).

So LFW fails to me at least to show how DET cannot have love.


Sorry Michael, I’m not meaning to derail this into a LFW vs DET thread. So you don’t need to comment on my statements. I’ll give a read over again.



Like when He declared (through Jonah) that Nineveh would be destroyed in forty days?

No, but He would have been doing nothing (and accomplishing nothing(, in all their previous trials, tribulations, and judgements, if He could have simply made them Spirit-filled, loving, happy, and fully aware of the consequences of good and evil to begin with.

Working toward a pre-determined end outcome, implies there’s a process involved in acheiving it.

No, but if a parent had that ability, it would be unloving for him to CAUSE any of his children to be evil.

And if a parent could simply CAUSE a child to be “good” (loving, happy, unselfish, and grateful), the child wouldn’t have to make any choices of his own (LFW theory), or experiences good and evil (contrast theory) to learn to be “good” (so there could be no loving purpose in CAUSING any other child to be evil.)

That would mean that God isn’t really working toward any pre-determined end outcome, and He really isn’t doing anything here.

Thank you.


I guess it seems to me that it does not follow just to claim that God determining someones end results has to have some LFW motion involved. If God determines the ends, then the means don’t really matter (as far as I can tell); the means will end up choosing just as he determined. So if God determines that Isreal will love them, then is there really a choice in the end that they will not? So pointing to the means and saying they have some LFW not to love him makes no sense to me, because THEY WILL LOVE HIM and if God causes us either through direct intervention/intercession or indirect intervention/indirect intercession - I’m def. good with it.

So we def. see things different. I see no love in a parent who has the ability to give a shot of a antidote to his child in order to bring him back to his rational self but chooses not to.

Did God have to subject (by allowance) his son over to some drug pushing father (Satan) in order to let his son choose whom he prefers? I find this to be a totally misguided. Yet it seems to me that most (NO! TGB not you) people see this as critical to us loving God. We had to be children of the devil in order to see if we wanted to become children of God. I just don’t see that in the text anywhere. I do see that in order for us to receive mercy we had to be bound over to disobedience - and that I don’t find unloving so long as he plans at undoing all the evil that was done.


But you’re arguing that God determines everything (DET), right?

So you’re arguing that God determined that Satan, Judas, Hiler, Stalin, and Pol Pot would be infected with insanity, and and that He withheld the antidote.

(In the case of Satan, He’s withheld it until now; and in the case of Judas, Hitler, Stalin, and Pol pot, He withheld it at least until the end of their earthly lives.)

Moreover, in maintaining that God determines everything, you’re also arguing that Satan could have been CAUSED to be a holy, righteous, obedient angel.

Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot (and all their victems) could have died at birth and gone straight to heaven.

And if we all died at birth and went straight to heaven (or were just created perfect, as I presume you believe Satan could have been), there’d be no need for Gethsemane, or Calvary, and hence no need for Judas (who could have also died at birth and gone straight to heaven.)

So without LFW (or at least the creaturely need for an experiential knowledge of good and evil, as some absolute determinists put it), what need is there for an imperfect world?

I know you believe that God will give all His erring children “a shot of antidote” to bring them back to their senses when He’s ready, but you have Him withholding it (and actively CAUSING their condition) now.

If He could just CAUSE all His children to be good (without making any cjoices of their own, and without any experiential knowledge of good and evil), what possible reason could there be for this?


But I don’t see much of an alternative. If God is not withholding it (even causing it) then what am I to think that God is not withholding it and simply cant find a way to get it to the lost? Sure God grants life as he pleases (which I agree is to all) but I hardly think that it comes at our time when we determine it should happen.

I’m more of a soft determinist (if I understand that term right). I believe God’s determining to cause something does not leave anyone at liberty to do whatever they wish. There are restrictions so free will to me is true but not in a Libertarian sense . To me it’s too obvious that if God says Michael will love him and it will come to pass (as he declares) then I can bet with 100 certainty that michael is going to choose him at some point (no risk involved). If I was to say, Michael might not choose him then I would be betting against God (and my money’s on God’s declaration).

Again, LFW to me (as best as I understand it) does not do a good job at establishing itself as the necessary means of relationship. And I def. see it as weak in trying to establish the need for risk in order for love to exist. If Pratt is right about the trinity and love I hardly think risk is involved. Often I say…“I don’t care if God is causing my daughter or son to love me, I just love it that they do”. If God is determining things as a potter does clay, and that potter has it for all the clay to be molded into objects of mercy, far be it for me to complain that he is molding at all. I do believe God is the potter of us all and I do believe he hardens clay (us) as he needs - but only for his good purpose to have mercy on us.

This Libertarian notion that good fathers have to give their children over to drug pushing fathers in order to see who they choose is to me such a mess of an argument. Yet that’s what I understand from the position. And until I can relate to that as a father of two, I’ll remain in the determinist camp. I simply don’t believe Adam was a guinea pig.

To answer your statiment regarding Satan, Judas, Hitler Stalin and Pol pot: yes I believe God has bound ALL men (and even angelic though that’s not in the text) over to disobedience in order that they might receive mercy. I tend to see this as a statement that 1 act of disobedience brought condemnation to all. Or that the creation was subjected against it’s will to decay by the one who subjected it. So yea, I figure God has the right to harden whom he wants. I assume Libertarians do not believe he reserves the right to harden whom he wants. So I obviously agree with Calvinists regarding this point.


Then you believe in limited freewill (LFW), and I don’t understand what we’re arguing about here.

The point is that the potter has to start with clay, and mold it into an object.

If He could just start with the object, the molding of the clay would be a wast of time.

Unless He just enjoys working with clay, and let’s not go there.

When you’re talking about rational creatures, who suffer, do evil, and cause untold suffering (like Satan, Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot), the implications of saying that God starts with clay only because He enjoys the feel of it in His hands are horrifying.

And that brings us back to Greg Boyd’s article on "“Baby Universalism.” … fanticide/


by LFW, I’m referring to Libertarian - as if anyone can choose either A or B at any given time. I believe more in dependent or limited free will.

I don’t think that’s the point. I think the point is that clay has no say in the matter of how the potter molds it.

I think you mean, he could have the finished product from the get go but then making the finished product would be a waste of time. I guess, I just don’t think any of this really matters to God. It’s like saying, if evolution is true then what a waste of time for God to make man in a day. I don’t think it follows.