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This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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In The News: “Limbo” is now in Limbo

inthenewsIn the May 11, 2007 edition of the Evening Bulletin (an independent newspaper from Philadelphia), writer Joe Murray reported on the recent results of the International Theological Commission, which is, “a pontifical commission of 30 international Catholic theologians that advises the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.” The question under consideration before the commission was, “whether salvation is attainable for babies who perished prior to baptism.”

The Catholic church has long maintained that babies who die without baptism spend eternity in a place called “limbo.” Limbo is “a concept that holds babies who perish prior to receiving the sacrament of baptism are not consigned to hell, but will remain in, for lack of a better term, limbo for eternity, absent communion with God.”

The reason for this position is the Catholic church’s stand on the subject of original sin, when conjoined with the church’s contention that baptism is necessary for salvation. It is unpalatable to most to believe that babies who die without the “sacrament” of baptism will go to hell, but the official doctrine of the church is that babies are born with the stain of Adam’s sin. Therefore, the concept of “limbo”, absolutely foreign to scripture, was concocted in the imaginations of men as a sort of compromise. “”Limbo was a concept that was created to balance two important principles held by the church – the need for salvation through God’s grace and the need for baptism, ” said Robert A. Pesarchick, dean of theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. He stated that the doctrine of limbo was never official Catholic doctrine, calling it “theological opinion.” It must be admitted, though, that millions of Catholics over many centuries have been taught the concept as truth.

Now that has all changed. The commission has concluded that , “the many factors we have considered … give serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope that unbaptized infants who die will be saved and enjoy the beatific vision.” In reality, the conclusion made is based upon the old rationalization that God will make an exception. Pesarchick interpreted the commission’s findings by saying, “The commission wanted limbo to be superseded by hope – that these infants would be commended to the mercy of God and not destined to spend eternity absent his presence.”

It is interesting that Catholic theologians have established their own (unscriptural) dogma of original sin, and as the centuries have passed have become increasingly unhappy with its ramifications. The most of esteemed of Catholic theologians, Augustine, wrote in the fourth century, “there is no middle place left, where you can put babies” He concluded that he “who is not with Christ must be with the devil.” Though Catholics persist in claiming the doctrine of original sin, they have in stages rejected the consequence of their teaching.

The truth is that God holds us accountable only for our own sins. We are told, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20). In fact, Jesus himself taught the innocence of babies and small children, saying, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16). He told his disciples that, “unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). As sin is what separates a man from God, to become as a little child is to become sinless. There comes a time in our lives when we become accountable for our actions. When that time comes, and we disobey God, we sin (cf. Romans 3:23). From that point on, “He that believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). No need for limbo or compromise. God’s will is, as always, superior to the reasoning of men.