I was chatting to a friend on facebook the other day, debating the idea of limbo, especially in regard to unbaptised infants. You know, as you do.
I’m against it for two reasons, the first being: Joseph Ratzinger thinks the same as I do and he is a far brighter, nicer and holier man than me and secondly I don’t believe a loving God would allow anyone blameless to be separated from him by a technicality. We are saved by Grace which God is free to give to anyone He wishes and I know that like most parents everywhere he loves his children.
There is a problem when people try to ruthlessly and utterly cut anthropomorphism from theology. The incarnation. It seems it was God’s biggest ever pet project to give the process a go, albeit in reverse.
So then this prompts a close examination of the idea of original sin and the necessity of baptism.
First original sin is an inescapable fact, many Christian appologists start with this because it can very quickly be made very evident. Something about human nature is as broken today and as it has been since the dawn of time.
I’m frequently staggered by the naivete of people who are unable to see this blindingly obvious truth. We are very weak when it comes to questions of morality, we do things that we know are bad for us and for others at the first whiff of temptation and we hate ourselves for it, but we still do it anyway.
A colleague at work was relating to me how she had watched a TV program called my big fat gypsy wedding, in which a gypsy family insisted that girls should not be unaccompanied outside the house and that they should be chaperoned even, shock horror, on dates with prospective young men. How fantastically 1900’s I said, she thought it was terrible because it puts no expectation on young men to behave themselves… I said, well young men won’t behave themselves, and at this the dog in the frying pan went mad.
(That’s a German phrase that from the book I’ve been reading, which it turns out wasn’t written by the Gerry Hughes who wrote God of surprises at all…)
The phrase ‘boys will be boys’ is a bit sad, because it can be used to mitigate bad behaviour, but that is a misuse of the phrase. The fact is, its true. (girls will be girls too in all fairness) Even given the most upright of moral upbringings and religious devotion, the first whiff of temptation and bam, suddenly sins which were unthinkable in the pew clamour at the conscience for just a bit of a moral slip…. The only truly effective way to resist temptation, is to run from it, and its hard to know which way to run in this day and age. (towards Jesus is the smart alec answer, but that isn’t as simple as cutting the Gordian knot)
So then we certainly have concupiscence and that suggests its cause, original sin. We therefore have a great need to battle the taint of origional sin, but how can we defeat something that not us but our first ancestors were responsible for? God gives us baptism, which is the only way the Church knows of which ‘assures entry into eternal beatitude’ (see page 285 of the little blue CCC)
To finally put the axe into the limbo argument I’d like to point to 1260 and 1261 of the Catechism, the two positions are interesting, baptism of desire can only be given to adults where all men are offered a way to salvation, there is no logic to there being no way to heaven for infants at the same time. We entrust them to the mercy of God, knowing that we believe in a merciful God.
To me it seems obvious if you listen to a baby cry that it yearns for the perfection of the beatific vision, and if you look into its eyes you can see why its obvious we are created to know and love God. It is our education in this world of sin that dims this view that Jesus explicitly said was to be cherished, the faith of Children.
Nevertheless this certainly shouldn’t be taken as an argument against infant baptism, far from it, if I ever become a father, which the odds against seem to lengthen by the day, I’ll be the one who phones my priest when my wife goes into labour telling him to be ready to confer the sacrament. Maybe even if everything goes smoothly. There is something about being raised every day of your life within the life of the Church, being raised in a perfect state of Grace from the day of your birth, that I would love to be able to secure it for my children.