The longer I think about Beza’s position expressed at the Colloquy of Montbéliard, the more puzzling it becomes. Beza “affirmed that many thousands of baptized children are never regenerated, but perish eternally.” But … how would he know?
These aren’t people who were baptized as children and then grew up and apostatized. Andreae would have granted that apostates perish and wouldn’t have been at all shocked that Beza affirmed that they did. No, Beza must be speaking of children who die in infancy or at least in early youth, so that we cannot say of these children “They were clearly unbelievers.” They were baptized; they did not apostatize (at least, that we know of!); and yet Beza is sure that thousands of them perish.
I’ve wracked my brain trying to think of reasons why Beza would assert such a thing, but I haven’t been able to come up with anything really plausible. Did Beza perhaps think that any child who is baptized but who has ungodly parents is bound to perish in spite of his baptism? Would Beza include in that number any child baptized in a Roman Catholic church, which Beza would likely regard as a false and apostate church. Is that the reasoning behind Beza’s strong — and, to Andreae, shocking — affirmation? If so, isn’t this close to Donatism, where the efficacy of the sacrament is thought to depend on the godliness of the one administering it? I find it hard to believe that Beza would hold such a view.
Or is Beza reasoning backwards from the fact that many thousands who are baptized do end up apostate and perish to the idea that there must be many thousands of children who are baptized but who also perish? Or …?
I really have no idea what could have prompted his claim. Anyone out there have a suggestion?