"Free Pass" Theology

Something interesting that’s been coming up over and over again in conversation has been the idea that God gives certain people a free pass.

If a group of people live somewhere where the gospel’s never been preached, they automatically get into Heaven, is one heard a fair bit, but I honestly don’t give it much thought because it’s answered in Romans 1:19-20.

But there’s another idea that gives me pause:

If a child dies very young, before reaching an “age of accountability,” then he or she goes to Heaven.

I’ll admit, I really like the idea of this, but I want to know if it’s true.

So I’ve been doing some research. And aside from (so far) finding that the only place where a doctrine of an age of accountability is clearly defined is within Mormonism, I did find a couple of interesting points:

In Deut. 1:35-36, the Israelites who are about to enter the Promised Land are reminded of God’s judgement on the previous generation, that “Not one of these men of this evil generation shall see the good land that I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh. He shall see it, and to him and to his children I will give the land on which he has trodden, because he has wholly followed the Lord!”

The people disobeyed Moses and the Lord by believing the fearful testimony of ten of the twelve spies sent into the land to see what it had to offer. Only Joshua and Caleb returned with favorable reports, because they trusted that the Lord had given them the land.

In Deut. 1:39, God, via Moses, continues, “And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it” (emphasis mine).

This statement suggests that these were children who were too young to distinguish between right and wrong, or good and evil.

Another verse that seems to support the idea of infants (at the very least) going to Heaven is 2 Sam 12:23. After his child born by Uriah’s wife dies, and he is questioned on his lack of mourning, David says, “But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” There is an indication that there will be a personal reunion at some point with this child.

But I don’t know if this is enough to build a firm case on.

I’ll be honest, I’m only just starting to research this at length. With more study and prayer, I have no doubt that I’ll get a better understanding, although I don’t think this will ever be a topic about which I can say, “Got it!” Many men I greatly respect like John Piper, Albert Mohler and CH Spurgeon have studied this issue at length, and hold (or held) to this position. Piper, I believe, has said that his reasoning behind his belief is very complicated.

So, if nothing else, I’m not alone in that.

I’ll definitely be coming back to this topic at some point. In the meantime, please give me your thoughts. If you’ve studied this subject at length, what conclusions have you come to and why?

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.