The Mailbag: Salvation and the Mentally Challenged

I have a question about people who have “simple minds”. Those who have a lack of comprehension or are slow thinkers. My son is trying to understand salvation but he is slower in thinking than others. He has learning disabilities that keep him a few years behind others his age. I’m learning to not fear and to trust Christ with his salvation but I’m wondering how I can know he is saved or what God’s word says of those with simple minds.

I think you’ve answered your own question with some very godly wisdom: don’t fear, and trust Christ with your son’s salvation. Don’t discount that wisdom God has given you, because, ultimately, that is your answer. Once we’ve shared the gospel, that’s really all any of us can do regarding the spiritual state of any friend or loved one regardless of mental capacity: Fear not. Trust Christ.

How can you know he’s saved with 100% certainty? You can’t. Just like none of us can know that another person is saved, because we can’t see that person’s heart. The only person I can know is saved, without a shadow of a doubt, is me.

If you’re married, have you and your husband discussed all of this thoroughly? If he is a Believer, he probably has some helpful insights and perspectives to offer. And, do remember, he is the spiritual leader of your home.

I would encourage you (and your husband, if you’re married) to set up an appointment with your pastor – with or without your son, depending on what your pastor suggests – to talk things out and get his wise counsel on the best ways to keep the gospel in front of your son’s eyes.

In the meantime, keep praying for – and with – your son (and that God will help you entrust your son to Him), keep teaching him the Bible, and keep taking him to church. Remember, you are only responsible for pouring the gospel into your son. It’s God’s responsibility to take what you’ve shared and do something with it in your son’s heart.

The Bible doesn’t, as far as I can recall, speak specifically to the cognitive capacity for faith of people who have “simple minds”. Some readers have probably already called to mind the childlike faith passages in the gospels, but Jesus was speaking to the quality of our faith in these passages, not to childlike cognition.

But do keep your mind on Scripture. When you’re tempted to worry, remember who God is. Remember His nature and character:

This is a God who doesn’t even take pleasure in the death of the wicked. A God who patiently bore with Israel’s sin and idolatry for centuries before executing judgment on them. A God who loved sinners so much that He sacrificed His only Son for us while we were still His enemies. A God who describes Himself as being rich in mercy. A God we see throughout Scripture caring for “the least of these” – Hagar, Mephibosheth, Bartimaeus, widows and orphans, the blind, the deaf, the crippled, the leper, the outcast.

Is this a God who would flippantly or casually damn your son to an eternity in Hell based solely on his cognitive disabilities? Does that seem to be in keeping with His nature and character?

Also remember God as Creator. God specially crafted your son the way he is in His image and for His glory just like everyone else He created. Your son’s disabilities are not a mistake or an oversight on God’s part. They are meant to bring glory to Him. Neither you nor he may fully understand how on this side of Heaven, but God does, and that’s all that matters.

And as the One who designed your son’s mind, there is no one who understands how it works, how it comprehends things, better than God does. The Holy Spirit knows how to take that gospel you’ve imparted to your son and explain it to his heart and mind in the absolute best way for your son. A way that’s specially designed uniquely for him by his Creator. Consider these passages as you think about that:

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:13-16

As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
Psalm 103:13-14

But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”
Exodus 4:10-12

Finally remember that God knows your son’s heart and as the just judge of all the universe – Whom we’ve already established is rich in mercy – the only decision God can make regarding your son’s salvation and eternity is the right decision, whatever that might be. God knows the capabilities of your son’s heart and mind better than anyone. He knows whether your son is believing on Christ in his heart or rebelliously rejecting Christ in his heart.

For the Lord sees not as man sees:
man looks on the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks on the heart.”

I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.
Jeremiah 17:10

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 139:23-24

As moms, we often desperately want to find a way to make the “decision” for our children to place their faith in Christ for salvation because we love them and we know that’s what’s best for them. But we can’t. I can’t do it for my child any more than you can do it for your child, disability or no disability. That is between your child and Christ only.

And that brings us full circle to the answer God has already given you:

Don’t fear. Trust Christ with your son’s salvation

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.