Baptism saves, so where does faith come in?

Obviously faith and works are necessary to continue in and grow in salvation, but it really could be argued that neither personal faith nor personal works are necessary, just baptism (like when a child is baptised and dies). A child in this case would be benefiting from the faith of his/her parents.

Obviously lack of faith as someone gets older would result in putting them in a state of sin, but then we are not saying faith saves but rather faith prevents damnation?
Would it be correct then to say: the grace of Baptism saves and faith and good works maintain that salvation? With faith and works not actually playing any part in the “saving” process

Yes, this is the plain teaching of the Catholic Church:

By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam’s sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God. [CCC 1263, emphasis mine]

We are saved by the Grace of Christian Baptism and by nothing else. We are not saved by faith OR works (much less by both).

Obviously lack of faith as someone gets older would result in putting them in a state of sin

Only mortal sin can separate us from our Baptismal grace. Lack of faith alone is not inherently sinful. Mortal sin also requires full knowledge and consent in order to be mortal in nature. A person may loose faith without full knowledge of the implications or deliberate consent, in which case there is no mortal sin and salvation is not forfeit.

Would it be correct then to say: the grace of Baptism saves and faith and good works maintain that salvation? With faith and works not actually playing any part in the “saving” process

Almost. Faith and works lead us to be favorably disposed to maintaining our Baptismal Grace, but are not necessary. If we loose our Baptismal Grace through mortal sin, faith or works will not help us in any way. That’s where Sacramental Confession comes in.

I see that you are new here. I must congratulate you for being able to discern, by instinct, a doctrine of the Church that many longtime Catholics are confused about (ie, that faith and works are necessary for salvation - that’s actually a heresy).

I agree , this person(if not Catholic yet) is on the right track. Asking the right questions to better understand Catholic doctrine is the way to cut down on the confusion which at times causes even Catholics to lose faith in the Churches actual teachings.
Grace is important because it involves so many things, covers so many aspects of Jesus’ teachings to attain salvation. Of course faith and good works are important, but they all fall under grace, Our sacraments are the gifts Jesus left us so we can attain this grace that’s so necessary for our souls to one day to be worthy to be in the presence of God in heaven.

To help me better understand, are you saying we are saved when we are physically baptized as an infant (or whenever we get baptized). Then we spend the rest of our lives maintaining that salvation, so we don’t lose it?

Salvation is a process for Catholics. As such, it makes me uneasy to say, “at this moment, salvation happened.” Because we have so many exceptions–what of those catechumens who die before baptism? They are saved by the “baptism of desire.”

But, in a real sense, we can say that, yes, baptism is the moment when we received that saving grace. But we also need to respond to grace–Jesus speaks of those “who hear the word of God and keep it.” (see Luke 8:21) It is not so much maintaining salvation, but perhaps maintaining openness to God and the Holy Spirit, maintaining your membership in the Church, the Body of Christ, so that God’s grace can continue to work in you for salvation. It is only by that continuing connection to God that we grow in grace and docile obedience to God.

An important link on this:

I would NOT adhere to everything be posted here thus far. The idea that faith doesn’t save is obviously NOT true from the Catholic perspective. Baptism saves without faith because infants are incapable of having faith…Faith and works are tied very closely together, like love and marriage. They are so closely linked, in fact, that faith and works are the same thing (if we use Protestant terminology of what “faith” is). Please read the link I posted above for a very detailed and official answer you can trust.

Additionally, read this article by Jimmy Akin, which is smaller than the first link and explains justification very nicely and clearly from the Catholic perspective.

Baptism of desire (and it’s subset, Baptism of Blood) are not different Baptisms. Rather, the Grace of water Baptism is imparted without the water. It is the same Grace. There is one Baptism {Eph 4:5]. The exact moment that this Grace is imparted here is at the moment of death.

It is not so much maintaining salvation

Yeah, I’m uncomfortable with the word “maintaining.” When you maintain a car, you do stuff (change the oil, etc). It sounds works-based.

Rather, we must avoid loosing salvation through mortal sin. Faith and works lead us to be less susceptible to temptation. It’s passive (whereas I think of maintaining as active).


Then we spend the rest of our lives maintaining that salvation, so we don’t lose it?

I addressed this in the reply just above this one. I don’t like the word “maintaining” because it sounds works-based - we have to do stuff to retain our salvation (just like you have to do stuff maintain a car).

We don’t have to do ANYTHING to retain our salvation. We “simply” must avoid mortal sin. It’s not what we DO (faith/works), it’s what we DON’T DO (mortal sin).

Works won’t earn or protect our salvation, but (evil) works can forfeit it. We cannot be saved by works, but we sure can be condemned by them.

But, if we do what we ought not do, we have recourse to Confession, which restores our Baptismal Grace as if we had never lost it.

(Note that I am not saying, in any way whatsoever, that faith and works are not meritorious - that would be a crazy thing to say. I’m just saying they play no role in the Catholic economy of salvation.)

Jesus redeemed us (opened Heaven), we have to play our part to be saved. As St Paul teaches: “But I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.” (1Cor 9:27). And again: “Wherefore he who thinks that he stands, let him take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor 10:12). Yet again, “And we exhort you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” (2 Cor 6:1).

“It is not those who say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Mt 7:21).
When asked “What must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Keep the commandments.” (Mt 19:16-17).

As stated by Paul, what is lackingfor our salvation is what only we can do, for the sake of His Body which is the Church. Christ was acting for the whole human race, not instead of, not as a substitute. “He bore our sins in His own Body on the Cross.” (1Pet. 2:29). What did Paul say must happen because Christ is the one mediator? “Supplication, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men” (1Tim 2:1-5). Thus we are all called to be co-redeemers. [See *Christ In Eclipse, Frank Sheed, Sheed & Ward, 1978, p 105-108).

You ask if baptism saves where faith comes in? The Church teaches a distinction between the grace of baptism and the character. The character is conferred whenever baptism is validly administered. Catholics believe “once baptized, always baptized.” The grace of baptism, on the other hand, is not always receieved with the sacrament and, if received, can be lost afterwards. If someone approaches the sacrament without faith, their sin and insincerity prevents the grace of baptism from taking root in them, even if they receive the character of baptism. It is only when they truly repent later that the grace of baptism (sanctifying grace) takes root.

You might also consider the Church’s teaching on baptism of desire. Through faith, the believer receives grace and pardon of his sins before the reception of the sacrament (and, thus, the character, though grace is perfected with the actual reception of the sacrament.

I don’t think it’s accurate at all to say that faith and works have no role to play in the process of salvation. I think the point you are trying to make is against the “Semi-Pelagian” error that man makes the first step towards God, and then God does the rest. That’s not so.

Baptism and faith go hand in hand. Baptism is the sacrament of faith. If Baptism is lacking through no fault of a person, that person can still be saved by their faith. Pope Innocent III summed it up this way about a person who had faith, but had no one who would baptize him:

“If, however, such a one had died immediately, he would have rushed to his heavenly home without delay because of the faith of the sacrament, although not because of the sacrament of faith.” (Pope Innocent III, letter, “Debitum pastoralis officii”).

This is a very important point to make with modern evangelicals. Except, I think it can be phrased that we are saved by grace - even an unbaptized person, though baptism is the normative means.

That being said, grace is never “alone” as those contaminated with various heresies (especially Calvanism) are taught.

I am not sure that one can go this far. Jesus said:

John 6:29
This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."

So lack of faith is itself a separation from the the grace that saves - the grace that produces the work of God in us, and again,

John 3:17-18
Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

I think Jesus is referring here to original sin - that every human soul is already condemned by it, and without faith in Him, will pay the consequences of that condition. But it is clear that He has commanded us to repent, and to believe in the Gospel.

I am not sure I am following this. If an infant is bapitzed it is necessary (just as for an adult discple) for them to grow in their faith so as not to fall from it, as Jesus makes clear in the parable of the seeds:

Luke 8:15
15 And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.

Such a statement seems contrary to the instruction given in the NT.

Luke 13:24-25
"Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.

2 Peter 1:4-9
5 For this very reason **make every effort **to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

Baptism cleanses all sins and makes the soul immediately ready to enter heaven. Those souls that do not go immediately to their heavenly reward can easily become soiled by living in this fallen world.

It depends upon how one conceptualizes the relationships. Grace is the foundation/basis of salvation, but it is not separated from faith and works. Faith is the faculty through which we access saving grace, and works are produced by saving grace, through that same faith. (Saving faith is faith that works.)


For an adult - it is faith and repentance and then they are baptized. Faith and Baptism.

For an infant -the faith is infused first at baptism.

It is Jesus Christ who saves us. And such involves grace and faith and baptism the Sacrament of Faith.

More from the Catechism:
Faith and Baptism**

1253 Baptism is the sacrament of faith.54 But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. The catechumen or the godparent is asked: “What do you ask of God’s Church?” The response is: “Faith!”

1254 For all the baptized, children or adults, faith must grow after Baptism. For this reason the Church celebrates each year at the Easter Vigil the renewal of baptismal promises. Preparation for Baptism leads only to the threshold of new life. Baptism is the source of that new life in Christ from which the entire Christian life springs forth.

1255 For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents’ help is important. So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized - child or adult on the road of Christian life.55 Their task is a truly ecclesial function (officium).56 The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism.

Regarding Faith and Works in St. Paul

Pope Benedict XVI

(Two audiences from the Year of St. Paul) (begins a bit down)

and one from a few years earlier:

And Pope Benedict XVI on St. Paul and Baptism:

And Baptism:

Also his homilies - for Easter Vigil each year.

It should be noted that while actual Baptism is not absolutely necessary for salvation, faith is necessary. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (see Heb. 11:6). Also, from the Catechism, summing up Scripture and the teaching of the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council:

[quote=Catechism]161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.42 "Since “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘But he who endures to the end.’"43

The famous Holy Office (now CDF) intervention in the “Boston Heresy” case also notes this (this document was cited by the Second Vatican Council when re-affirming that those not explicitly Catholic may still be saved):

[quote=Holy Office/CDF]Nor can an implicit desire produce its effect, unless a person has supernatural faith: “For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrew 11:6). The Council of Trent declares (Session VI, chap 8): Faith is the beginning of a man’s salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and attain to the fellowship of His children" (Denzinger, n. 80l).

Of course, we shouldn’t despair of someone who does not yet have faith or to whom the Gospel does not reach. The Church also teaches that "in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him (CCC 848).

Exactly right. The idea that a person is NOT saved by faith is in direct opposition to Catholic teaching.

This is a good article that addresses the topic.

There are aspects of salvation that are completed, such as baptism, aspects that are still in process, and aspects that will not be completed in this life.

Luke 7:50
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Matt 9:2
and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”

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