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The Advocacy Of Christ: Why Babies And The Mentally Retarded Are Automatically Saved

By Guy Arthur Thomas
Feb. 2, 2008

As a mystery for many, the eternal condition of the souls of infants and the mentally retarded has been and still is debated.  As seen in Scripture, men are implored to respond to the gospel with faith; that is as Acts 16:31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved”.  For one to be saved from judgment they must exercise faith or believe (faith and believing a synonymous terms) that the Lord, in the form of God the Son, Jesus, died on the cross and paid wholly and complete for their sins, personally.  But seemingly silent is the apparent mystery of those incapable of exercising such volition and those to whom I am referring are infants and the mentally retarded.  But not all things are as they seem (or as others would have you believe) and there is a place in Scripture that effectively answers this alleged dilemma, namely “The Advocacy of Christ” found in 1 John 2:1-2.
Before moving to the main body of consideration it is important to note several issues at hand.  First of all is the reality that in theology, particularly today but often in the past as well, spiritual children are at the helm producing ill-considered works useful for little more than bad milk.  They require, in their theology, that all doctrine come from explicit statements in Scripture.  In other words, they are unfamiliar with theological algebra never mind calculus.  They don’t understand the concept of doctrinal conclusions, recognizing what is both implied and understood as fact, nor that which can be deduced.  
Secondly, this addresses an area of doctrine with which those known as “Calvinist” are at odds and in fact border on theological fanaticism when attempting to tackle this topic.  Calvinism is increasing in its popularity among Evangelicals (this rise is accelerated by the growth of Reformed theology which holds to tenets of Calvinism).  Unfortunately the substance of the appeal for many believers isn’t really theological so much so as it is logical and intellectual.  But the cause for and against Calvinism as a whole I will save for another day.  
So with both of these issues in mind I offer to those seeking truth regarding the disposition of God toward humans that are incapable of responding volitionally to the gospel, enlightenment.
I have provided the Kings James translation and the New American Standard Bible translation, both very common readings.  The Kings James I have used for historical familiarity and  those with a fetish toward necessitating it as the “best” translation and the NASB for emphasis of this theological illumination.  So let’s look the two translations:
John 1:1-2 (King James Translation)
1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.  And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
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1 John 2:1-2 (New American Standard Bible)
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
2 and He Himself, is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
(Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation)
The most immediate and compelling truth to be viewed in this passage is the declaration that Jesus Christ the righteous has been assigned by the court of heaven and its Judge, God the Father, the position of Advocate (and as reflected by the NASB, Advocate is capitalized because it is being used as a proper noun, specially the name of the judicial office fulfilled by Christ).  Jesus is, for mankind, the only scripturally recognize spiritual Advocate who can and does act on behalf of mankind regarding man’s greatest need before God, namely being the propitiation for our sins.
For those that do not understand the word propitiation, it means satisfaction.  And in the contextual use here it means most specifically that Jesus satisfied the demands of the court of heaven regarding the payment of sin needed to redeem mankind.  It had to be a spotless human (sinless), and Jesus was the only person ever born in the human race to qualify as such, he being the God/man.  Hence, when Christ died on the cross, he paid the price for the sins, not only of believers (as John writes: “he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world”) but for the entire world.
Of course some will object, and that being Calvinists most often, with claiming that if Christ died for the entire world then why isn’t everyone automatically saved?  And the answer is obvious and clear.
No one is ever “automatically saved” and that alone ought to dismiss that dimension of the Calvinist complaint.  Even what Calvinist define as “the elect” (those chosen to be saved) are not automatically saved. While dying for the sins of the world, no person is saved until they believe the gospel.  The propitiation of Christ is not applied on their behalf until they believe.  Even the Calvinist understands that no one is saved until they believe the gospel as it says it Act 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved”.
So the question comes for Christians, not about their own salvation but what about those who are unable to respond to the gospel?  What about those who are incapable of a volitional response to the gospel because of mental incapacitation?  It is a fact that infants, toddlers and some very young children along with many categories of mental handicapping do not have the necessities to understand and respond to the gospel.  Hence, they are incapable of a volitional response.
Are we to understand and conclude that because the Word of God says “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” those who cannot respond to the gospel are automatically not saved because they don’t have the capacity to develop a frame of reference that they may understand the gospel?
Well, if the Bible was limited to just this declaration, such teachings might be justified.  But they are not and it is here that I submit the greatest and most illuminating response and challenge to such frets.
What is an Advocate itself and what is an Advocate’s function as well as the scope of such an office? And more so, what is the role of an Advocate assigned by the court of heaven?  Such questions are not just pertinent but critical in a proper exploration of the topic of where do the mentally incapable go when they die and whether any, all or none are saved.
An Advocate is one that pleads the case of another, and in this context, Christ is a judicial Advocate.  How is it we know He is a judicial advocate?  Because of the use of the word “propitiation” in describing his satisfying work regarding the judgment of God the Father toward man and sin.  In other words, what is in view here is a very judicial setting, namely the court of heaven and God the Father as Judge and Christ the Advocate.
As noted, an Advocate’s function is to represent the case of another, their interests and make a plea on their behalf.  For believers, Christ is that Advocate. As the Advocate he comes to the Father with the personal application of his propitiation resulting in our being justified and made righteous. Our Advocate, Jesus,  presents his propitiation as satisfaction for the justice of God on our behalf, personally, when we believe.  Hence, while Christ is the propitiation for the whole world, until a person responds with positive volition toward the gospel, they have not believe on Christ as their Advocate and instead have chosen by default to be their own Advocate before God.  That person will have only their own righteousness to offer and not that of Christ’s which is offered by Christ for the believer to God the Father.  Of course the result of someone forgoing Christ as their Advocate and rejecting the propitiation of Christ but offering instead an offering of Cain, i.e., human righteousness, is being, with certainty, doomed to eternal condemnation.
So it is clear that for Christ to become the Advocate for someone, they must chose to make Christ their Advocate.  They must respond positively to the gospel and in doing so Christ becomes their defacto Advocate.  This is part of the ministry of Christ to mankind and part of the gospel promise.  The application of the propitiation of Christ is personally applied to all who believe the gospel; hence they have an Advocate, Christ Jesus.
However,  from time to time, there are those who are ushered in before the court who cannot, because of insufficient faculty, properly exercise their volition in making a choice as to whether or not speak on their own behalf (self-advocacy) or chose an accepted Advocate of the court.  The court is then charged with recognizing this inability and assigning a court appointed Advocate.
Because many mentally retarded people (retardation comes in many degrees and some legally classified as retarded are nevertheless volitionally capable so not every single person legally classified as mentally retarded should be assumed to be volitionally incapable) and infants to small children lack such volitional capacities.  So in response to this the court of heaven is charged with (as it has already been revealed the court of heaven recognizes judicial procedure and protocol) assigning an Advocate to those who did not during their lifetime come to a point of volitional capacity.
The court of heaven has no other person recognized as one who may or can advocate on behalf of another human regarding, aside from Jesus.  It is Christ and Christ alone that is recognized as the Advocate.
So when your infant, toddler, mentally handicapped child, brother, sister, or whatever relationship, dies their salvation, their eternal state need not be question.  It is because of the implications and understood protocol, scope and functions of the office of Advocate, particularly here in the context of the court of heaven, that we can know with certainty that they have automatically assigned to them Christ as their Advocate.
They could not exercise their volition.  They could not respond.  And in not being able to respond, the court of heaven, again by understood fact and in the least significantly implied by all measures, assigns to them the one and only Advocate recognized, Christ Jesus.
And when any person has Christ as their Advocate, Christ automatically pleads their case in the court of heaven before the Judge, God the Father, and offers in the role of Advocate, the propitiation of his work on the cross as their personal cause.  And like anyone, God the Father’s verdict is rendered positive for that person seeing that Christ has personally applied the propitiation of his work.  All those who die before ever coming to the point of being able to exercise human volition or never developed it because of some mental handicap, have automatically assigned to them the Advocate of heaven.  Hence that person is automatically saved.
But be clear, their salvation is not through their human innocence because no such teaching exists in Scripture.  Understand that indeed, even the infant and mentally retarded are born in sin, they are born sinners.  But when either one of these classes of humans die before reaching the capacity to exercise their human volition regarding the gospel, the Bible clearly states:
John 1:1-2 (King James Translation)
1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.  And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
Christ is the Advocate automatically assigned to those who die before developing capacity to exercise their human volition so that they could respond to the gospel.  Hence, as the Advocate of the court, Christ is automatically assigned to these people and they are, by the righteousness of Christ and his atoning work (propitiation) justified before God the Father and given eternal life that can never expire.

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About the author:   Guy Arthur Thomas was born an Air Force brat and raised mostly in South Carolina. He has traveled and lived in the Middle East and the Pacific Islands and now makes his home in Virginia. Guy has a Bachelor’s degree in Biblical studies and enjoys social, political and religious discussions.

Email: guyarthurthomas@yahoo.com


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