Still here, still looking for answers.


#1

I’m still here, and I’m still asking questions.

They all revolve around God, my Mother, and my sister.

I don’t know how much faith she had, but my Mother died bravely and unselfishly, and I believe that if this life has any purpose, she must have learned her lessons well.

But that’s where the questions I have concerning my sister come in.

Is there a God, and does this life have any purpose?

My sister never lived outside the womb.

I don’t know why she was born dead, but she wasn’t aborted.

Unless the normal experience of a fetus includes pain, she left this world without ever knowing what it was.

She never had to struggle against sin, make any choices, or suffer any consequences.

If this life has any purpose, I feel compelled to believe that she will live a mortal life sometime, somehow, somewhere.

I’m inclined to believe that she’ll be raised to mortal life, grow to adulthood, and be judged as we are (perhaps after the millennium, at the great white throne judgement), but the Athanasian creed seems to exclude that possibility, and I’m continually told that it’s heresy to consider the possibility that she’ll be reincarnated (even if such a possibility is very limmited, and restrcted to still-born infants like her.)

As a result, I’m also asking myself if I can remain Anglican, where the Church is, what it is?

Does anyone have any thoughts?

Can you help me?

Am I a heretic?

Is there a Christian Church somewhere that would welcome me if I were able to attend?


#2

Michael,

Bless you Bro. Really. Praying that God leads you through this.

Mike: If this life has any purpose, I feel compelled to believe that she will live a mortal life sometime, somehow, somewhere.

Tom: I agree.

Mike: I’m inclined to believe that she’ll be raised to mortal life, grow to adulthood, and be judged as we are (perhaps after the millennium, at the great white throne judgement)…

Tom: Again, I have to agree.

Mike: …but the Athanasian creed seems to exclude that possibility…

Tom: How so? It states the dead are raised and judged according to what they did (good or evil). Your sister doesn’t even fit in this category. So how does what this Creed says preclude believing that your sister will be brought in the afterlife to a state in which she can qualify as being included in its purview?

Besides, why the Athanasian Creed in particlular? None of the ecumenical creeds mention it. Athanasius never even talks about it! It’s concern at the end is just to include all those who DID in fact live/choose (i.e., whose lives were extended into adulthood) as being giving an account for their actions. Even if your sister isn’t brought to responsible adulthood prior to glorification as part of her journey toward fulfillment, there’s nothing in the Athanasian Creed that hangs as a dark cloud over her.

Mike: Am I a heretic?

Tom: No my brother. You are not a heretic. Gregory of Nyssa (in his “On Infants’ Early Deaths”) confesses that this is an extremely difficult subject on which to speak with anything like final authority, about which we can only speculate, and on which there are competing opinions.

When we say this “earthly life” has a necessary purpose to it which is part of God’s intentions for our existence, we have to take into consideration the fact that many (like your sister) never come close to filling out their span into adulthood. So let’s expand our understanding of what “this world’s” short span of time is meant to be and how it functions (eschatologically) in the fulfillment of God’s purposes for us. That doesn’t really seem to be so monumental a notion. If living to adulthood on this earth this side of the eschaton is an absolute requirement to an individual’s destiny as purposed by God, then either reincarnation is true OR UR is false and many individuals (infants who die, deceased children and the mentally handicapped, etc.) will never secure the fulfillment of their existence. That God would make the ULTIMATE fulfillment of an individual’s destiny contingent upon any number of things that could take us out of this world as infants is beyond rediculous, given all else we believe about God’s competency. So it follows that whatever else God intends this world to be and function as (this side of the eschaton), being taken out of it prematurely cannot be an ultimate defeater for those purposes. Now, you and I may never know for certain exactly what the truth is about HOW God brings such individual’s to responsible adulthood, but (a) believing that God does so doesn’t make one a heretic, and (b) believing that God does so can be comfort enough for you in the meantime.

My friend Greg Boyd just posted an interesting comment related to this: gregboyd.org/blog/baby-universalism-and-reasonable-infanticide/. Just thought it was interesting. You can attend his church if you like!

Tom


#3

Very interesting.

Thank you.

What Church is that, and would universalists be welcome?

Many would argue that the Athanasian Creed is amil, and that it says that there will be only one mass resurrection (at the second coming, when all will be raised to immortality.)

I’m more inclined to see multiple resurrections, with true immortality being granted only to those who are Christ’s at His coming, and to the rest only after (not at) the great white throne Judgement (at the end, or consumation.)

For, just as, in the Adam, all die, so, also, in the Christ, shall all be made alive. But, each, in his own rank: - A firstfruit, Christ, after that, they who are the Christ’s, in his presence, Afterwards, the end - whensoever he delivereth up the kingdom unto his God and Father, whensoever he shall bring to nought all rule and all authority and power; For he must needs reign, until he shall put all his enemies under his feet: As a last enemy, death, is to be destroyed (1 Cor. 15:22-26.)

Unless infants like my sister are reincarnated (which almost every Christian I talk to says is impossible) that would seem the only view that leaves room for my sister to have “the growing, refining processes we who live into adulthood go through”. gregboyd.org/blog/baby-unive … fanticide/


#4

Greg pastors Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Tom


#5

Michael, I’ve little clear insight on this. I see the New Testament clearly rejecting the Hindu/Buddhist teaching about karma going from one life to another reincarnated life. I suppose Boyd has good ideas in his article, but I’m unsure if we would consider reincarnation of baby’s in this world as part of his answer.

I recall many years ago, friends had a still birth and they heard of a vision of angels caring for still born infants in heaven while they infants would somehow develop. I typically assumed that the vision was accurate, but I don’t know for sure.

One way or another, you can rest assured that your sister is in good hands.

I would recommend not getting overwhelmed with trying to figure this out while trusting that God has a good plan for your sister. All of the details are speculative.


#6

Hi Michael:
I hope this doesn’t sound too trite or simple, but the very first thought that crossed my mind was the sentiment (and truth I believe) expressed on a gravestone (I mentioned it back in April I think…) in a cemetery up in Savannah GA.

GOD COULD NOT HAVE MADE EARTHLY TIES
SO STRONG TO BREAK THEM IN ETERNITY

That pain you feel is REAL; so too must be the possible resolution of that pain.
Sort of along the lines of CS Lewis when he says that just as the reality of hunger points to the existence/reality of food, or the reality of sexual desire points to the reality of fulfillment in intercourse… He uses this line to point to the reality of God yes, but I think it works also for things like UR and your situation here…

TotalVictory
Bobx3


#7

Gregory of Nyssa wrote “On Infants’ Early Deaths,” which surprised me a few years ago. I was interested in seeing how the Fathers believed foreknowledge was of providential advantage to God. I’ll make a comment on that in a bit, but first, here’s just a snippet from Orthodoxwiki on GN’s tract:

orthodoxwiki.org/Original_sin

“Alone among the Greek Fathers, Gregory of Nyssa wrote a work specifically on the destiny of infants who die, De infantibus praemature abreptis libellum. The anguish of the Church appears in the questions he puts to himself: the destiny of these infants is a mystery, ‘something much greater than the human mind can grasp’. He expresses his opinion in relation to virtue and its reward; in his view, there is no reason for God to grant what is hoped for as a reward. Virtue is not worth anything if those who depart this life prematurely without having practiced virtue are immediately welcomed into blessedness. Continuing along this line, Gregory asks: ‘What will happen to the one who finishes his life at a tender age, who has done nothing, bad or good? Is he worthy of a reward?’ He answers: ‘The hoped-for blessedness belongs to human beings by nature, and it is called a reward only in a certain sense’. Enjoyment of true life (zoe and not bios) corresponds to human nature, and is possessed in the degree that virtue is practiced. Since the innocent infant does not need purification from personal sins, he shares in this life corresponding to his nature in a sort of regular progress, according to his capacity. Gregory of Nyssa distinguishes between the destiny of infants and that of adults who lived a virtuous life. ‘The premature death of newborn infants does not provide a basis for the presupposition that they will suffer torments or that they will be in the same state as those who have been purified in this life by all the virtues’. Finally, he offers this perspective for the reflection of the Church: ‘Apostolic contemplation fortifies our inquiry, for the One who has done everything well, with wisdom (Psalm 104: 24), is able to bring good out of evil’….The profound teaching of the Greek Fathers can be summarized in the opinion of Anastasius of Sinai: ‘It would not be fitting to probe God’s judgments with one’s hands’.”


Tom here… So you can see, Mike, that Gregory takes deification to be the ‘natural’ end or telos of human being. And so far as that goes, I agree. We are ‘naturally’ built or hard-wired for God, you might say. But I think Gregory makes a mistake to assume that since union with God is a ‘natural’ matter for human beings, there aren’t some equally ‘natural’ requirements for getting us to the fulfillment of our natures. This is where Boyd and others step in and say, “What a second. We’re missing something. If God can get human beings into a fulfillment of their natural destiny without their ever having lived in the world or made choices to develop, they why wouldn’t God go that route with all human beings and prevent the possibility of evil altogether?” A totally legit question. Some explanation of this world’s ‘necessary’ role in human perfection is required, but whatever that explanation is it has to be capable of being carried on into a ‘preglorification postmortem’ context to account for deceased babies and such, and that means there’s a point of fundamental continuity between pre- and post-mortem contexts that doesn’t usually get noticed or talked about.

Here are some of Gregory’s thoughts (from “On Infants’ Early Deaths”) on the matter. Very interesting.

I think his use of foreknowledge is:

(a) Philosophically unsound (foreknowledge cannot be used the way he supposes, for foreknown evil (traditionally understood) is by definition already the result of whatever has been done by God to prevent it; it cannot also be the basis for actions taken by God to act providentially), and
(b) Pastorally disastrous (Can you imagine telling Mike that his sister was ‘taken out’ before completing adulthood because God foresaw all the evil she would commit? I suppose Gregory thinks this is comforting because Mike can know that she is in heaven instead. In addition, Gregory anticipates the question, “But what about evil people whom God DOES allow to live? Why weren’t they cut off prematurely?” Gregory’s answer? The ‘evil’ of such people is necessary to some other ‘good’ that God determines the world cannot be without. What are we supposed to conclude then about infants who die in comparison to say, Hitler or Stalin, who are permitted by God to live? That Hitler’s evil was required by some good? Mike’s sister would have brought upon the world an overall evil greater than Hitler or Stalin?)


From On Infants’ Early Deaths (my underlining and italics)

It is a sign of the perfection of God’s providence, that He not only heals maladies that have come into existence, but also provides that some should be never mixed up at all in the things which He has forbidden; it is reasonable to expect that He Who knows the future equally with the past should check the advance of an infant to complete maturity, in order that the evil may not be developed which His foreknowledge has detected in his future life, and in order that a lifetime granted to one whose evil dispositions will be lifelong may not become the actual material for his vice. We shall better explain what we are thinking of by an illustration….

…Therefore, to prevent one who has indulged in the carousals to an improper extent from lingering over so profusely furnished a table, he is early taken from the number of the banqueters, and thereby secures an escape out of those evils which unmeasured indulgence procures for gluttons. This is that achievement of a perfect Providence which I spoke of; namely, not only to heal evils that have been committed, but also to forestall them before they have been committed; and this, we suspect, is the cause of the deaths of new-born infants. He who does all things upon a Plan withdraws the materials for evil in His love to the individual, and, to a character whose marks His Foreknowledge has read, grants no time to display by a pre-eminence in actual vice what it is when its propensity to evil gets free play….

…In fine, you will ask, wherefore does God in His Providence withdraw one from life before his character can be perfected in evil, and leave another to grow to be such a monster that it had been better for him if he had never been born? In answer to this we will give, to those who are inclined to receive it favorably, a reason such as follows: viz. that oftentimes the existence of those whose life has been a good one operates to the advantage of their offspring; and there are hundreds of passages testifying to this in the inspired Writings, which clearly teach us that the tender care shown by God to those who have deserved it is shared in by their successors, and that even to have been an obstruction, in the path to wickedness, to anyone who is sure to live wickedly, is a good result….

But seeing that our Reason in this matter has to grope in the dark, clearly no one can complain if its conjecturing leads our mind to a variety of conclusions. Well, then, not only one might pronounce that God, in kindness to the Founders of some Family, withdraws a member of it who is going to live a bad life from that bad life, but, even if there is no antecedent such as this in the case of some early deaths, it is not unreasonable to conjecture that they would have plunged into a vicious life with a more desperate vehemence than any of those who have actually become notorious for their wickedness. That nothing happens without God we know from many sources; and, reversely, that God’s dispensations have no element of chance and confusion in them every one will allow, who realizes that God is Reason, and Wisdom, and Perfect Goodness, and Truth, and could not admit of that which is not good and not consistent with His Truth. Whether, then, the early deaths of infants are to be attributed to the aforesaid causes, or whether there is some further cause of them beyond these, it befits us to acknowledge that these things happen for the best….

…But someone will say, “It is not all who thus reap in this life the fruits of their wickedness, any more than all those whose lives have been virtuous profit while living by their virtuous endeavours; what then, I ask, is the advantage of their existence in the case of these who live to the end unpunished?” I will bring forward to meet this question of yours a reason which transcends all human arguments. Somewhere in his utterances the great David declares that some portion of the blessedness of the virtuous will consist in this; in contemplating side by side with their own felicity the perdition of the reprobate. He says, “The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance; he shall wash his hands in the blood of the ungodly”; not indeed as rejoicing over the torments of those sufferers, but as then most completely realizing the extent of the well-earned rewards of virtue. He signifies by those words that it will be an addition to the felicity of the virtuous and an intensification of it, to have its contrary set against it.

…The premature deaths of infants have nothing in them to suggest the thought that one who so terminates his life is subject to some grievous misfortune, any more than they are to be put on a level with the deaths of those who have purified themselves in this life by every kind of virtue; the more far-seeing Providence of God curtails the immensity of sins in the case of those whose lives are going to be so evil. That some of the wicked have lived on does not upset this reason which we have rendered; for the evil was in their case hindered in kindness to their parents; whereas, in the case of those whose parents have never imparted to them any power of calling upon God, such a form of the Divine kindness, which accompanies such a power, is not transmitted to their own children; otherwise the infant now prevented by death from growing up wicked would have exhibited a far more desperate wickedness than the most notorious sinners, seeing that it would have been unhindered. Even granting that some have climbed to the topmost pinnacle of crime, the Apostolic view supplies a comforting answer to the question; for He Who does everything with Wisdom knows how to affect by means of evil some good. Still further, if some occupy a pre-eminence in crime, and yet for all that have never been a metal, to use our former illustration, that God’s skill has used for any good, this is a case which constitutes an addition to the happiness of the good, as the Prophet’s words suggest; it may be reckoned as not a slight element in that happiness, nor, on the other hand, as one unworthy of God’s providing.


#8

Micheal,

I saw this quote of yours in a related thread: “That would leave the question of why this mortal existence is necessary for any of us?”

I focus on deep theological and philosophical thought, but I still don’t have an answer about the necessity of life in this world. I feel that I’ve a growing grasp on the purpose of life in this world, and I focus most of my philosophy, theology, and ministry on the purpose of life. I also have a little but growing grasp on the necessity of God allowing free will choices that result in great temporary evil.

In other words, I don’t know why God created some of his children as angels with[out] mortal body and others as humans. And I feel comfortable with that.

I suppose I might (or might not) have some answers for you if I knew your concerns. If you’re fearful for a horrible destiny for your sister, then I suppose I’ve some answers. If you need to know details of how God will fulfill your sisters great divine destiny, then I might not have an answer while I feel with great assurance that one day you’ll find out after [your mortal life ends]. And you’ll be more than happy.


#9

Thank you Tom

I agree, and I can see no way of escaping that logic.

Could you offer some personal speculation on the preglorification/postmortem fate of deceased infants?


#10

Unless there something about the history of fallen angels that I don’t understand, then God went that route with them and some angels still fell into evil. So that option wouldn’t “prevent the possibility of evil altogether.”


#11

Not really.

If angels were created perfect, and never had to make choices to develop, none of them would have fallen into evil.


#12

No created being ever had and never will have God’s perfect power and knowledge. I don’t see the relevance of your comment.


#13

The relevance of my comment is that there’s no reason to assume that angels don’t have LFW, or that they don’t have to make choices to develop.

If some angels fell into evil, the others resisted temptation, grew, and developed.

To say that infants just automatically become angelic beings without ever having to make choices, grow, or develop would make angelic history as meaningless as it would make our own.


#14

I agree with your first two sentences above. I suppose that we both agree that angels always had LFW; they always make choices, and they develop.

I also suppose that at least the first angels began their existence as angels, unlike me, you, and your sister. And some of them rebelled.

I additionally suppose that stillborn babies begin a path of development similar to the path God made for the angels, except for the future Resurrection. Since this path includes LFW, then there is a possibility of rebellion. However, I also assume the restoration of all fallen angels. God will never give up on anybody with LFW, and I strongly doubt that anybody will continuously reject God literally forever.

One of the neat things about forever is that no matter how long we exist, we always still have forever.


#15

Thank you James.

I’ve always wondered why unclean spirits seem obsessed with possesing physical bodies (even those of animals, as seen when they asked to be cast into a heard of swine), and Paul seems to imply that the angels in heaven have bodies suited to their environment.

All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. (1 Cor. 15:39-40.)

He goes on to compare different degrees of glory to the sun, moon, and stars, but the bodies he’s talking about seem to be those of sentient beings (in heaven, and on earth.)


#16

Having read through the posts now, it seems we three agree that:

a) Angels were free in the libertarian sense (this accounts for their falling into evil),
b) God’s purposes for sentient created being per se (angelic and human being) requires this freedom to be minimally and responsibly exercised by the agents themselves in a manner sufficient to fulfil their ‘telos’.
c) We can’t know what ‘minimal’ is, but we typically equate with a level of intentional self-ownership and moral responsibility known and weighed by God.
d) This exercise of LFW is metaphysically required by the particular ‘telos’ of sentient created being. (That this is true is the assumption that motivates my and Mike’s objection to the traditional belief that deceased babies go straight to heaven, thereby passing by the process of responsible libertarian development.)

What’s needed is a good argument in support of (d). Boyd deals with it a good bit and his work is a reworking of Hartshorne’s process view and I agree with a good deal of it myself. The reason why sentient created being CANNOT (of metaphysical necessity) simply be produced already mature and—poof—finished is because sentient being is at its heart the apprehension of aesthetic value; that is, fulfilled sentient being is an ‘evaluation’ of worth, of the good, and for this evaluation to be personally distinct from God, it’s got to be determine responsibly BY the agent, not by God. It’s personal identity is formed IN this movement of evaluation and choice in which we shape ourselves relative to the good, relative to some experience of beauty/value. Sentient created being is fundamentally ‘aesthetic’, and the reason I think this is so is because God, as the personal ground of all being, is also fundamentally the experience of beauty and goodness par excellence. This is part of what led Hartshorne to conclude that theological determinism is essentially pantheism, for to the extent that A determines B, B is just A over again. So creation is personally differentiated from God by means of the determination of wills, divine on the one hand, created on the other. Determinism collapses this distinction and gives you a functional pantheism.

Tom: Wow. I have no idea what it would look like. I can see how not knowing this encourages belief in reincarnation. If one MUST freely self-determine and develop to enter upon the eschatological fulfilment of one’s being, and if THIS world is the only appropriate context in which said development can occur, then it follows that you don’t exit until you’re done. I don’t find this idea demonic or evil in itself. I just don’t find it biblical or necessary. And I have to admit that I don’t like adopting views that are SO unorthodox (my open theism notwithstanding!).

Tom: Exactly. Why would God empower sentient beings (angelic and human) with so risky a gift, a risk that includes all the evil our world has known? If God could have gotten created being into the fulfilment of the SAME ‘telos’, then surely a perfectly good God would have done so. God hasn’t done so. So it’s safe to assume I think that LFW is the metaphysical price-tag God has to pay (so to speak) to get the creation God desires. God risked. He didn’t risk himself. I don’t think God can risk his own existence or the definitive quality of his existence (realized triunely). But he did risk quite a bit on our account…which is why UR is so powerful a thought to me right now. God risked temporary, finite suffering because he knew that regardless of the intervening evil, eventually all things would come back to him AND, as Paul says, none of these present evils can compare to the glory that shall be revealed in us. God knows the risk is totally WORTH it. That would be the only reason why a perfectly good God who create a free world at all.

Tom: This is VERY interesting. What we should perhaps say is that angels are not immaterial after all, at least not immaterial in the sense we common. They are not omnipresent beings, and they’re movements are such that they are located. As created, it seems angels have far more in common with us as material beings than with God as immaterial spirit. We can see or nail angels down under a microscope, but why should that mean they are not an integral part of the material world? Perhaps there’s more to the cosmos that meets the “eye,” literally!

My feeling for some time has been that ‘spirit’ and ‘meterial’ are more intimately connected than we think–thus, a one-story universe instead of the old two-story universe of dualism. My hunch is that ‘matter’ is a particular form of ‘spirit’ and that it (matter) emerges in various forms along a continuum that includes both angelic and human embodied existence.

Tom


#17

Concerning our resurrected bodies. We are planted natural bodies, and raised up supernatural bodies. The body which is sown is not the body that is raised. I tend to believe it would be a body not of natural composition, but supernatural composition which like Christ (as He is so are we) defies natural physics, yet can interact with it. It is a body which does not have it’s origin from earth, but from heaven. Breaking out of the box of what we were taught in Sunday School is hard to do. If we are no longer bound by physics in the resurrection, then time and locality has no bearing on a resurrected man.


#18

Michael,

I’m unsure if my ideas explain why demons seem obsessed with staying out of both arid regions and the Abyss. Could you explain to me what you think about this because I don’t understand what you’re implying.


#19

It seems they crave physical sensation, and find being disembodied uncomfortable.


#20

That could be a consideration, but there’s no clear biblical teaching that the demons are disembodied. For example, in the case of angels, I see no reason why a fallen angel would have to be a disembodied angel.