Salvation by What?

May 11, 2005 § 42 Comments

In a lengthy comment thread over at The Dawn Patrol I was asked this question:

How knowledgeable, really, is the Catholic flock?

The underlying assumption seems to be salvation by knowledge. But to understand the Catholic Faith you have to understand that it is not primarily about intellect, or even morals: it is about Christ received through the sacraments, because He commanded it, and because those who love Him will do as He commands because they love Him. And He commands as He does because He loves us. Understanding may follow practice, to a greater or lesser degree. But the Catholic faith is a loving response to our King and Redeemer, not an intellectual response to a text. A Downs Syndrome Catholic who can’t read the Bible is in no way lesser than a theological polymath.

The Catholic faith doesn’t get snagged on “what exactly is it that saves us” because the thing that saves us isn’t an “it”. The thing that saves us is a Who. Asking what you have to do to be saved is like asking what you have to do to make sure that your wife will still love you tomorrow (or in this context what do you have to do to make sure that you still love her tomorrow). There may be things you can do, but it isn’t a mechanical process. It isn’t something that you do today, making everything that you do tomorrow irrelevant. It is love.

The Catholic view is that if we love Christ we will follow his commands, submit to the Rock of authority He established (including text written by inspired human beings, traditions passed on by human beings, and a magisterium that remains quite fallen and human yet bears the protection of the Holy Spirit in doctrinal and sacramental matters), and wait in joyful hope.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t sincere elements of all of these things in Protestant faiths. But the answer to “what must I do to be saved” can’t be specified in a finite text, any more than “what must I do to make sure I still love my wife tomorrow”. There are no intellectual certainties, and yet the certainties transcend any intellectual certainties because they are rooted in love.

So the “ultimate answer” here is not salvation by faith, salvation by works, or sola anything. The answer is salvation by love.

UPDATE: I changed the analogy “make sure your wife loves you tomorrow” to “make sure you love your wife tomorrow”, since I think it fits better, and as Dawn Eden points out Christ’s love is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

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§ 42 Responses to Salvation by What?

  • Zippy writes:“But the answer to “what must I do to be saved” can’t be specified in a finite text, any more than “what must I do to make sure my wife still loves me tomorrow”. Hmmm…29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Acts 16:29-31

  • zippy says:

    Kevin,As you might expect I don’t think much of proof-texts taken in isolation from the Bride of Christ that is the Catholic Church. I am sure Paul and Silas’ advice to the Jailer was good, but it wouldn’t apply to a baptized orphan infant or the Downs kid I mentioned, both of whom would be left damned by the sort of construction you seem to be putting on the text.

  • Stuart Floyd says:

    “It wouldn’t apply to a baptized orphan infant or the Downs kid…”How is a baptized orphan or the Downs kid saved except through “Belief in the Lord Jesus”? The Downs syndrome child would need what everyone needs, faith in Jesus the Christ. The Bible simply spells this out inerrantly. The Downs syndrome person would not necessarily need to understand every intricacy of Scripture nor of tradition.. such as the Athanasian Creed: “Whosover be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith: which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish eternally..” This is <>sola fide<>, another teaching of the Catholic Church.

  • zippy says:

    <>This is sola fide, another teaching of the Catholic Church.<>Here is what the Council of Trent said:<>But, although it is necessary to believe that sins neither are remitted, nor ever were remitted save gratuitously by the mercy of God for Christ’s sake; yet is it not to be said, that sins are forgiven, or have been forgiven, to any one who boasts of his confidence and certainty of the remission of his sins, and rests on that alone; seeing that it may exist, yea does in our day exist, amongst heretics and schismatics; and with great vehemence is this vain confidence, and one alien from all godliness, preached up in opposition to the Catholic Church. But <>neither is this to be asserted<>,-that they who are truly justified must needs, without any doubting whatever, settle within themselves that they are justified, and that no one is absolved from sins and justified, but he that believes for certain that he is absolved and justified; <>and that absolution and justification are effected by this faith alone<>: as though whoso has not this belief, doubts of the promises of God, and of the efficacy of the death and resurrection of Christ. For even as no pious person ought to doubt of the mercy of God, of the merit of Christ, and of the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, even so each one, when he regards himself, and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension touching his own grace; seeing that no one can know with a certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.<>

  • zippy says:

    Or more succinctly:<>CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.<>

  • Stuart Floyd says:

    Hi Zippy,I couldn’t agree more.“it is necessary to believe that sins neither are remitted, nor ever were remitted save gratuitously by the mercy of God for Christ’s sake”Yes, Yes, Yes!“yet is it not to be said, that sins are forgiven, or have been forgiven, to any one who boasts of his confidence and certainty of the remission of his sins, and rests on that alone;”Strawman. Nobody believes their sins are forgiven by boasting.“But neither is this to be asserted,-that they who are truly justified must needs, without any doubting whatever, settle within themselves that they are justified, and that no one is absolved from sins and justified, but he that believes for certain that he is absolved and justified; and that absolution and justification are effected by this faith alone:”Strawman. Absolute belief at all times in one’s justification by faith is not necessary for the remission of sins to be valid. Doubting is ok, sometimes, but then we read Scripture and the traditions of the church and see that we can be justified in no other way.“or even as no pious person ought to doubt of the mercy of God, of the merit of Christ, and of the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments, even so each one, when he regards himself, and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension touching his own grace; seeing that no one can know with a certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.”Yes. See point #3. The object of faith is always “the mercy of God, of the merit of Christ, and of the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments”. As < HREF="http://www.bookofconcord.org/largecatechism/6_baptism.html" REL="nofollow">Martin Luther<> says, “Thus, we must regard Baptism and make it profitable to ourselves, that when our sins and conscience oppress us, we strengthen ourselves and take comfort and say: Nevertheless, I am baptized, but if I am baptized, it is promised to me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body.” Pax Christi

  • zippy says:

    Martin Luther:<>…but if I am baptized, it is promised to me that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body.<>Juxtaposed to Trent:<>… even so each one, when he regards himself, and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension touching his own grace; seeing that no one can know with a certainty of faith, which cannot be subject to error, that he has obtained the grace of God.<>

  • Stuart Floyd says:

    Hi Zippy,“CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.”Yep. Your going to have to help me understand that one. If “it is necessary to believe that sins neither are remitted, nor ever were remitted save gratuitously by the mercy of God for Christ’s sake”, then how does a “movement of my own will” affect the objective truth of the fact that the Blessed Savior died for my sins 2000 years ago? I wasn’t at Calvary. I am not the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.What does one do if two canon laws contradict each other?Pax Christi

  • Stuart Floyd says:

    Hi Zippy,You selectively edited out.. “that when our sins and conscience oppress us”. This is not unlike “even so each one, when he regards himself, and his own weakness and indisposition, may have fear and apprehension touching his own grace;” Luther simply points a doubting Christian to the application of grace, the efficacy, received in the Sacraments. i.e. “For even as no pious person ought to doubt of the mercy of God, of the merit of Christ, and of the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments”Do you not believe in the efficacy of Baptism?Pax Christi

  • zippy says:

    <>Do you not believe in the efficacy of Baptism?<>Absolutely. I also believe in mortal sin, and in the other six sacraments.Very precious child, by the way.

  • Stuart Floyd says:

    Hi Zippy,Hate to double comment, but Thomas Aquinas on the efficacy of Baptism says in his < HREF="http://www.newadvent.org/summa/406901.htm" REL="nofollow">Summa Theologica<>..“I answer that, As the Apostle says (Rm. 6:3), “all we, who are baptized in Christ Jesus, are baptized in His death.” And further on he concludes (Rm. 6:11): “So do you also reckon that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Hence it is clear that by Baptism man dies unto the oldness of sin, and begins to live unto the newness of grace. But every sin belongs to the primitive oldness. Consequently every sin is taken away by Baptism.”Pax Christi

  • Stuart Floyd says:

    Very precious child, by the way.Thanks! She is Isabella Marie, my third daughter out of 4 precious children.

  • Stuart Floyd says:

    On the “movement of the will” from the Council of Trent, Article IX:“No sin can be forgiven save by the power of Christ’s Passion: hence the Apostle says (Heb. 9:22) that “without shedding of blood there is no remission.” Consequently <>no movement of the human will<> suffices for the remission of sin, unless there be faith in Christ’s Passion, and the purpose of participating in it, either by receiving Baptism, or by submitting to the keys of the Church. Therefore when an adult approaches Baptism, he does indeed receive the forgiveness of all his sins through his purpose of being baptized, but more perfectly through the actual reception of Baptism.” < HREF="http://www.newadvent.org/summa/406901.htm" REL="nofollow">Thomas Aquinas<>I doubt Thomas Aquinas is anathema. Is there a way to understand this and still hold to Canon IX?

  • I guess someone ought to explain to me why Scripture proofs/proof-texts are undesirable but snippets from Trent are somehow okay.This sort of game is just not fair play.

  • Stuart Floyd says:

    Kevin,It is not fair, you are right. I have been itching to quote 1 John all day.. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 Io 4:10

  • I have been thinking about what Zippy wrote:“…[T]o understand the Catholic Faith you have to understand that it is not primarily about intellect, or even morals: it is about Christ received through the sacraments, because He commanded it, and because those who love Him will do as He commands because they love Him. And He commands as He does because He loves us. Understanding may follow practice, to a greater or lesser degree. But the Catholic faith is a loving response to our King and Redeemer, not an intellectual response to a text. A Downs Syndrome Catholic who can’t read the Bible is in no way lesser than a theological polymath….”THE error in regards to Roman Catholicism is exactly written above–claiming for herself what is actually part and parcel of the entire Church and not just Rome. There shouldn’t be a Christian on the planet that disagrees with what is stated above (though there are perhaps better ways to get at the meaning behind what is being said) and for the Roman Catholic to claim that one must be a part of her communion to enjoy the adopted love of our common Heavenly Father is just as bad as others who might claim that salvation is obtained through intellectual knowledge.

  • AM says:

    Kevin, St Thomas says that the movement of the will is not sufficient for remission of sins; and the Fathers of Trent says that it is necessary. There is no contradiction at all.Movement of the will is not sufficient: there must also be Baptism into the Passion and Death. Movement of the will is necessary: for the grace of forgiveness does have no effect when the will is not willing.Stuart, if you are a Catholic, you are present at Calvary whenever you assist at Mass, for that is the sacrifice of Calvary, as Trent (also) teaches.

  • zippy says:

    <>…for the Roman Catholic to claim that one must be a part of her communion to enjoy the adopted love of our common Heavenly Father is just as bad as others who might claim that salvation is obtained through intellectual knowledge.<>Obedience has to mean <>something<> rather than <>nothing<>, so it naturally has a discriminatory/exclusive element attached to it based on the movement of the will. I don’t claim to have proven the rational necessity of the Catholic faith though. We’ve got to come to a conclusion about what <>obedience because we love Christ and are horrified by our own sins<> means, and I don’t think reason by itself can get us there (although a rational process of elimination might pave the way somewhat).

  • Stuart Floyd says:

    Hi am,“Stuart, if you are a Catholic, you are present at Calvary whenever you assist at Mass, for that is the sacrifice of Calvary, as Trent (also) teaches.”Good to meet you! Thanks for your response. What about those who do not assist at Mass, such as the Downs child or the infant? Surely salvation is available to them as well even though they do not assist with Mass; but rather, through faith in the objective reality of the cross which is grasped in the Sacraments, “even as no pious person ought to doubt of the mercy of God, of the merit of Christ, and of the virtue and efficacy of the sacraments”?

  • c matt says:

    Have to agree with am – many things can be necessary but not sufficient. To hold me liable for negligence, it is not sufficient to prove I acted negligently. You must also prove my actions caused your injury. Yet, even if not sufficient, it is still necessary to prove my actions were negligent.And didn’t that same St. Paul who gave the jailer advice also say to work out your salvation with fear and trembling?

  • c matt says:

    Why would the Downs or infant not assist at Mass? I see them there all the time? I think am meant assist as in attend, rather than help or serve. Participation in the Mass can be accomplished through presence, whether you fully understand what is happening or not (in fact, the twelve did not fully understand what was going on at the first one).

  • Stuart Floyd says:

    Hi cmatt,“And didn’t that same St. Paul who gave the jailer advice also say to work out your salvation with fear and trembling?”You forgot the next verse:“for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”Monergism, not synergism is the message of the Catholic Church.Pax Christi

  • MichaelBates says:

    Zippy, you write: <>those who love Him will do as He commands because they love Him<>How does one who loves Christ know what Christ commands, so that he may be able to do it?

  • Zippy says:

    <>How does one who loves Christ know what Christ commands, so that he may be able to do it?<>One comes to know through the practice of the Faith, with its epistemic foundation of Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium: through listening to the Gospel and acting upon what is heard; through participation in the Sacraments. One stands within the Church that Christ ordained upon his Rock. One stands with Peter and his successors, despite Peter’s denials and other failings.But then you probably knew I would say that 🙂As far as how one can be <>apodictically<> certain that one has made the right choice, well, I am not especially fond of the concept of apodictic certainty. But epistemology in general is a big topic, and I certainly won’t say the last word on it here. Alas I am going to be out of bounds for at least a few days now, perhaps as much as a week; I’ll try to check in if and as I can. I am — well, stunned might not be too strong a word — by the intelligence and integrity of those who have commented here and elsewhere; may God bless you all.

  • MichaelBates says:

    I guess Zippy won’t be able to respond for a few days, but I’ll try clarify my question: I love Christ and want to do what He commands. How can I know that Christ commands me to heed the successors of Peter and the Roman magisterium, rather than, say, rival claimants to apostolic authority in Salt Lake City or Constantinople? How do I know who truly speaks for Christ? Or perhaps the question should be, how would your hypothetical Down’s Syndrome believer know who will truly lead him in the way of Christ and who will lead him astray?

  • MichaelBates,One approach is to look at which is the Church that all the others split off from.Another is to ask which is the Church which actually claims to be infallible and the inheritor of the keys Christ gave to St Peter.A careful study of the historical origins of each Church sheds much light.God Bless

  • MichaelBates says:

    Chris, thanks for your reply. I think the Orthodox would claim that it is the Church from which all others split, and there’s a certain group of Baptists (Landmark Baptists) that believe that they have preserved the truth unblemished since the time of the apostles, and that all other churches have been corrupted. Any church can <>claim<> to be infallible or authoritative, so whose claim is to be believed? On what basis do I decide whom to trust to teach me rightly how to obey Jesus? Or on what basis should I choose to accept one church’s claim to be infallible over another church’s assertion that only the Bible is infallible? And on what basis should I care about these keys and to whom Jesus gave them?

  • John says:

    <>Or perhaps the question should be, how would your hypothetical Down’s Syndrome believer know who will truly lead him in the way of Christ and who will lead him astray?<>The answer, might also include something called “Tradition” by the Church. Jesus commanded the Apostles to go out into the whole world and teach the world what He had taught them. We have no evidence to show that Jesus ever wrote any of His teachings (in fact only once in scripture is Jesus shown to have written at all – and that in the sand!) So what Jesus taught the Apostles was through His words and His works. Simply put the Downes Syndrome child “knows” because the childs responsible parents will have taught him. If they have remained faithful to Tradition (supported by the historical evidence recorded by the Early Church Fathers), in addition to holding to Scripture then the child will have been as properly informed as possible by the parents words and works (their example). As the Apostles handed down the faith, so were all believers expected to do the same. That is how we eventually came to have the Bible; that is how the Catholic Church (founded by Jesus on His words “upon this rock I will build <>my<> church” (notice He didn’t say “your church” or “their church”) has survived – it has <>preserved<>, saved from alteration, the teachings of Jesus as handed down through the Apostles (known as Apostolic Tradition). I believe it is most difficult to support any position without lots of contortions if you omit any one or more of Tradition, Scripture, and Teaching authority.Having said all that I will also say that you don’t need to be a theologian or scholar to have faith. Faith is a gift, freely given to us as are all God’s graces. We are give the choice – accept the gifts or not. If we accept His gifts why wouldn’t we want to treasure them? If we treasure them wouldn’t that mean we would want to know more about the love that tendered them?In the joy of Christ’s merciful love,P.S. – What a beautiful child Stuart!

  • Stuart Floyd says:

    On being taken back to the cross at the Mass… I am finding little support for this. Do you have a reference?Likwise, on people participating in the Mass simply by being there without eating the Body of Christ and drinking His Blood, like our test case the Downs baby, and thereby receiving remission of sins by being transported back to Calvary, again I am having difficulty finding evidence. Does anybody have a reference?Pet the quote below, if it is unbloody, is it the cross?“And forasmuch as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner, who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross; the holy Synod teaches..For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different.” Trent, Sess. 22, Ch. 2

  • zippy says:

    My departure this morning has been delayed a few hours, so I have time to say this about the “How do we know” question (realizing that whatever we have, and whatever we know, and whatever we are that is good proceeds from the grace of God):On knowledge: we will either realize that Godel was right and Wittgenstein was wrong, or we will stay with Wiggy for our own reasons. We will either realize and accept that the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ established (you are Rock, and on this Rock I will establish my Church) or not. I don’t think that most people who reject the truth do so in bad faith, but plenty of people do reject the truth. Smart people, dumb people, those who really do seek the truth, those who are governed by other passions; all sorts of people reject or fail to see the truth for all sorts of reasons. I know this because in many cases I have (and no doubt still do) fail to see the truth or reject it myself.This isn’t a uniquely religious problem. It extends to all areas of knowledge, without exception. How people come to know and accept things is not a topic that can be addressed in an entire library, let alone a book, let alone a sentence.The Who (not “thing”) that justifies and saves the Down’s child is Christ, and the Down’s child’s acceptance of Christ’s love. We know the normative ways to receive and respond to Christ’s love: first and foremost through the valid Sacraments. If you want to be sure that you are doing both, then participate in the valid Sacraments. Christ is of course not limited by the Sacraments; but the valid Sacraments are the thing that <>you<> can do.You-all have fun now.

  • c matt says:

    Hi stuart:If I understand correctly, you are saying that we are to fear and tremble because God is willing and working in us? thus, the fear and trembling is not because we are not certain, but because God is in us. I can see that with respect to the fear and trembling part, but why would we still have to work out our salvation? It would be either there, or not there – what is left to work out? Didn’t Paul also state that he would have to continue to mortify his own flesh lest he lose his own salvation after preaching it to others? Why would he have to mortify his flesh if he had faith, and how could he lose his salvation if he kept the faith, but did not mortify his flesh? And what about James’ “faith without works is dead”? It seems faith is a necessary precondition, but that faithful works are also part of it (not b/c of “merit” earned, but because it is allowing Christ to work through us). I guess the only way I can think of it is faith is a free gift given by Christ for our slavation, like I would give my son a free gift of a flashlight (with batteries). But without works – that is, without turning the flashlight on – this gift does no good. By turning on the flashlight I am not somehow “meriting” the light it gives – that was a gift from God – I am merely making use of what was given (and God is making the light shine through using me). Others have described it as cooperating with the faith that saves you (the epitome of cooperation exemplified by Mary’s fiat).I think the difficulty with prooftexting is that it ignores the contextual whole of Scripture (as well as Tradition) which is necessary to properly understand. Much like taking this clause out of a 50 pg. contract, vs. that clause, etc. One of the tenets of contractual interpretation is to construe the contract as whole, and in harmony with its other provisions. To that, is added the backdrop of the common law (ie, Tradition) which aids in interpreting what was written.

  • Stuart Floyd says:

    Hi cmatt,I concur with your sentiment. It is tough to prooftext. It is the old saying, “can’t see the forest for the trees”.On the dangers of prooftexting, a professor once told me that the Bible states, “There is no god.” Of course, what Scripture really says is, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” Psalm 14 🙂So, the question becomes what is the message of the forest which all of the trees live in? What is the overlaying theme of Scripture? Is it salvation by faith and works? Is it salvation by works? Is it salvation by faith? I would say the latter. I would say that all of Scripture can only be interpreted in this light without becoming contradictory. We can prooftext if you like. If you have certain difficult sections of Scripture, we can talk about those. On refuting faith alone, you could begin with the summary of the whole Bible, Hebrews 11.<>“If I understand correctly, you are saying that we are to fear and tremble because God is willing and working in us?”<>That is what St. Paul says. 🙂“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”Pax Christi

  • Joel S. Gehrke says:

    Reference the Downs Syndrome child, it is important to recognize that this does not support the Protestant position that baptism does not save. What it does is support the biblical definition that the faith which justifies is not a function of human cognition, emotions, or will. The faith which saves is rooted in a relationship of passive dependence on the God of grace, who acts by his own initiative in the gospel to call, gather and enlighten the whole Christian church on earth by various streams of grace. After the age of reason, God uses the message of the gospel to announce the universal and objective reconcilation of God to all sinners, since Christ died for us “while we were yet sinners”. The publication of this word operates like a jubilee trumpet to announce freedom and justification to all who hear and receive this word. Before the age of reason, God applies the same benefits to infants and non reasoning people by the same effectual word. Then, as the Great Commission commands, they are confirmed in the faith by the church, which has the apostolic commission to teach all things whatsoever Christ has commanded. See Psalm 22: 9-10 and Mark 9:42 for biblical authority for the proposition that infants not only have saving faith, they typfy it.

  • zippy says:

    Mark 9:42 doesn’t mention faith. It does mention sin.

  • Joel S. Gehrke says:

    Zippy:Just to clarify: Mark 9:42 says, “whosoever shall be a snare to one of the little ones who believe [in me]…”That word “believe” is a translation of the same Greek word which is translated “faith”. I am trying to establish that the practice of infant baptism is in no way inconsistent with a confession that the God gives salvation by grace through faith. Holy baptism is the sacrament of faith, and it is only to those who are converted to become as a little children that the Kingdom of heaven comes. Matthew 18:1-4. Since little children are the New Testament paradigm of saving faith, they also typify the faith which apprehends grace in baptism.JSG

  • Stuart Floyd says:

    Hi Joel,“.. the Protestant position that baptism does not save”Not all Protestants believe this. Those of us who read the Bible understand that 1) children are born sinful and in need of salvation (Psalm 51:5), 2) can believe (Mark 9:42), and 3) Baptism is the primary means of salvation for children (Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:38-39). Some of us would even say it is < HREF="http://www.bookofconcord.org/augsburgconfession.html#article9" REL="nofollow">necessary<>.Pax Christi

  • Joel S. Gehrke says:

    The best explanation of infant baptism as a sacrament of effectual saving grace is at the American Greek Orthodox church’s web page. The article is accessible at http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article7067.aspI highly recommend this piece. JSG

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Hey, Zippy,I’m coming in on this discussion 3 1/2 years late! But if you happen to see this, here’s what seems to me an interesting theological question:Catholics have the distinction between ordinary means of grace and extraordinary means of grace, I believe. Baptism is considered an ordinary means of grace. I don’t know what the present Catholic positions is about unbaptized infants, including children killed in abortion, but *as far as I know* it’s more or less that they are lacking the ordinary means of grace but that we must trust that God does what is best for them–something to that effect. In other words, we don’t know, but we trust a loving God. Now, please, correct me if I’m wrong on that, because I realize I might be wrong.But supposing that to be correct, why couldn’t the “believe and thou shalt be saved” Protestant take a similar line about severely handicapped people and infants who die before they have a chance to “accept Jesus as their personal savior”? In fact, my experience is that Protestants of that stripe _do_ take _exactly_ that line. (Down’s Syndrome children aren’t really a good example here, because on the view with which I was raised even a very young child–a normal five or six year old child, for example–can “accept Jesus,” and many Down’s Syndrome people would therefore have the capacity to do so as well.) But in any event, it seems to me that if you have _anything_ that is a normal means of salvation that a person can lack through no fault of his own–whether belief, baptism, or anything else–then you are going to have a “trust in God” category for the people who are unable to receive that normal means of salvation. So the Protestants are no worse off on this score than anyone else who isn’t a universalist about salvation.

  • zippy says:

    Lydia,That comment is so 2005. 🙂It is an interesting move to map “saved by faith alone” onto “the assent of faith is the ordinary means of grace”. I expect that how well they match up in truth as synonyms depends on what the particular Protestant group means by <>sola fide<>, and there still seems to be an awkwardness in the <>sola<>. IOW, it would be a bit bizarre from a Catholic perspective to assert <>sola sacraments<>, precisely because we don’t believe it. (Well, we believe that everyone is saved through the sacraments confected by the Church, but in a “the world was saved by James Bond” sense not in a “nobody who has not shaken James Bond’s hand is saved” sense.)

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    My own impression is that the strident assertion of sola fide is meant _principally_, rhetorically, as an insistence that faith is a sufficient condition for salvation, while leaving open the possibility that it is not necessary in a narrow band of cases. Mind you, it’s supposed to be necessary for all the adult Buddhists and such. I know some dear missionary friends to Thailand who told about the terribly unsafe work conditions there and about how a woman working for the city was electrocuted below their high-rise in a work accident. When they heard the “zap,” they all fell to their knees, because, they said, they “All knew she was going straight to hell if she died that moment.” She survived, and they visited her in the hospital. But there is this whole theory of the “age of accountability,” and some Baptists actually teach quite definitely that children who die below the age of accountability go to heaven. They base this, rather weakly, IMO, on the verse where David says of his and Bathsheba’s infant who died, “He shall not come to me, but I will go to him.” I gather this isn’t supposed to be opposed to “sola fide” just in the sense that the exception proves the rule. Something like, “For everybody who can have faith, faith is necessary and sufficient, but not otherwise.”

  • […] purpose here to argue against sola scriptura. In my experience that is rather pointless: either you get it that positivism is fundamentally irrational and therefore necessarily false, or you […]

  • […] damned) because we have adopted the right (or wrong) sets of propositions.  We are saved because God has adopted us – if we choose to cooperate with His love and grace.  And the ordinary means that He uses to […]

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You are currently reading Salvation by What? at Zippy Catholic.

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