Tuesday, February 11, 2014


I talked about a boy named Richard in our home and wanted to show you a few photos of him so that you could get to know him better, (and in his case, three pictures really are worth a thousand words!)

I also wanted to share an email from a man who I admire so much for his humility, love and understanding of God and His word, and his commitment to care for the vulnerable on his response as to whether or not Yahaya went to heaven. He is a theologian and professor at Phoenix Seminary and wrote the below email, oh yeah he also so happens to be my dad =-) It was something I had felt deeply in my heart based off of my own knowledge of God and who He is, but his email really put a lot of things into light. I hope it will encourage you as it did me!


We are so sad that this happened. I would love to have you call and talk about this if you would like to.

You and David do such difficult work. God is grieved over human suffering, even when we partially or entirely bring it on ourselves. Isaiah 63:9, in a context of Israelites suffering due to their sin, God says “in all their affliction he was afflicted.” God is so grieved when people hurt, regardless of the cause. (Matt 9:36, Jesus’ compassion for the multitudes is similar.)

You love so fiercely and that is such a beautiful trait. I want to give you some biblical passages that I think will encourage you regarding whether or not Yahaya is in heaven. I am totally convinced that all babies, young children, as well as older children or adults who have diminished mental capacity (I’ll respectfully called them “the diminished”) will go to heaven. I didn’t know Yahaya, but it is pretty clear to me, even from seeing his picture, that he did not have normal mental/emotional capacities. He had some dysmorphic facial features, suggesting some abnormalities and deficiencies from birth (genetic abnormalities, fetal alcohol syndrome, or other conditions which I’m no expert on). There are so many factors which severely impact a child’s mental development and cognitive functioning—the mother’s nutrition during pregnancy, the mother’s drug or alcohol use during pregnancy, nutrition during infancy, severe neglect during the first three years of life, etc. Then you throw in experiences of trauma with no ongoing safety or support as well as the mental damage caused by drug usage, and you have a child who simply does not have the mental and emotional capacity to fully understand or respond to the gospel or to offers of other kinds of love and care. The fact that Yahya ran away so quickly and simply refused offers of care, even toward the end when he had gangrene in his foot and TB is indicative that he did not have proper mental/emotional functioning. God understands this and does not condemn someone for what they cannot receive. More than that, I believe God considers that his children who will be with him for all eternity.

There are many different biblical passages and theological principles to affirm that children and the diminished go to heaven.
1.       The love of God and the work of Christ lead us to logically infer that infants and others with reduced mental capacity go to heaven.
Christ died for the whole world—every single person ever created, and wants them to have a relationship with him. This is the clear message of John 3:16 and many other passages. 2 Pet 3:9 says that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. It is only logical that since God loves all humans, Christ died for them, and God wants them to come to him, that based on the work of Christ, he saves those who by means of their diminished mental and or emotional capacity cannot trust in Christ.

2.       The diminished cannot fully understand their sin and their need for the gospel or turn to Christ. Since the basis for people not going to heaven is that they reject Christ and hate the light because they love their sin (John 3:16-20; cp. Rom 1:18-32). The diminished haven’t rejected Christ because they don’t have the full capacity to do this. Thus, they are not eternally judged. Furthermore, children in the Old Testament who were killed in pagan rituals to the Canaanite gods are declared “innocent” by God (Jer 19:4). God does not condemn the innocent and hates it when people do this (Prov 17:15).

3.       Jesus uniform attitude toward children is that they are innocent, blessed by God, and are spiritual examples for others to follow (Matt 18:2-4—children are called the greatest in the kingdom of heaven). Others—adults, are told they must become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18:3), implying that children are already in God’s kingdom. These things would not be true if some children were not going to heaven. For instance, Jesus blessed the children as a group, seemingly without exception (Matt 18:3-5). Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus pronounce a blessing on anyone who stands in judgment, who is not a child of God.

4.       King David’s response to his infant son who died (2 Sam 12:17-23) was to get up, quit fasting, and to find comfort in the fact that even though the child couldn’t come to him in this life, David would go to him (v. 23). This only makes sense if David was confident that that child was with God where he, David, would be someday also. Further strengthening this interpretation is David’s dramatically different response to the death of his rebellious adult son Absalom who revolted, raped David’s concubines, and launched a civil war (2 Sam 16). When Absalom died, David was so overcome with inconsolable grief that his general had to confront him (2 Sam 18:33-19:1-8). This is because David knew that this adult son’s rebellion and sin evidenced that fact that he was not a child of God and David would not see him in the afterlife.

5.       One of the most powerful evidences of the fact that God treats children categorically different from adults and that they are not judged for sin the way adults are is found in Deut 1:39. In the context of God’s judgment on the Israelites whose sin caused God to deny them entry to the promised land, forcing them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, God says he will allow their children to enter the promised land because they “have no knowledge of good or evil.” God does not hold children responsible for things they don’t have the mental capacity to understand and thus gives them blessing and not judgment. This same principle applies to the diminished—they do not truly have knowledge of good or evil and thus aren’t under judgment but will inherit heaven.

6.       God says that children whose parents fatally sacrificed them to the pagan gods are “my children” (Ezek 16:20-21). Clearly God is saying that physical children are his spiritual children. This same principle surely applies to the diminished who are not by age little children but developmentally are children.

Abby, I would finally note the applicability of Matthew 25 to your care for Yahaya. He was “one of the least of these” and you loved him, offered him food, drink, clothes, and shelter. You did exactly what Jesus describes in this passage. It is so sad that due to his traumatic life experiences and diminished capacity he couldn’t receive this, but that doesn’t change the fact that as much as you did this to Yahaya you did it to Jesus. And Jesus takes great delight when we care for the vulnerable and marginalized that he cares for. Your love for Yahaya and your grief over him delights the one who gave his life for Yahaya. And I am confident that you will see him again some day and he will thank you for offering him love and care in Jesus’ name, even though he couldn’t receive it at the time. And Jesus will thank you for caring for His precious child. This doesn’t take away the loss and grief now, but it puts it in an eternal context. We don’t live for this life; we count on God’s future grace and live and serve in light of eternity.

I pray that God will encourage you and give you a sense of his delight in you for your work.

I would love to talk whenever you have a chance to call.



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