Will babies and those with impaired mental abilities go to Heaven?

Question from a reader:

Will babies and those with impaired mental abilities be saved and go to Heaven even though they aren’t able to understand asking Jesus to be their personal savior?

Answer from Julia Stager, EPM research assistant:

Christians who believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God must also believe Jesus is the only way to a reconciled relationship with God (and therefore eternal life). There are many Bible verses that teach this (John 8:24; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5 and more), the most well-known being John 14:6, "Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’"

When it comes to those who lack the mental capacity to accept Jesus, different evangelical Christians believe different things. Some believe that death in infancy or having a mental illness is a sign of special election by God, assuring his or her salvation. Others believe Jesus' death on the cross covered the guilt of original sin, so only people who knowingly rebel against God (which is only possible if you are also able to knowingly accept him) are responsible for their personal sins and therefore without then reconciling to God through Jesus will not be saved. Still others believe families can be seen as a spiritual unit. They believe that if a child is born to Christian parents and then dies, that child will be saved through his or her parents' salvation.

The bottom line is that the Bible doesn't give us a straight-forward answer to this very important and highly emotional question, but it does tell us that we can trust God who is abounding in mercy, compassion and love to do what is right and good, for he did not even spare himself from suffering and death on the cross to bring salvation to his creation.

Julia (Stager) Mayo holds a Master of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies from Western Seminary, where she works as an administrative assistant. She was previously part of the Eternal Perspective Ministries staff, and still does occasional research work for Randy Alcorn.