What faith is necessary for salvation? The two opinions which I have come across have been:
Explicit faith in God who rewards those who seek him, The Trinity, and the Incarnation
Explicit faith in God who rewards those who seek him, and implicit faith in the others.
In the 18th century, there was a Holy Office (I think) decision which called faith in the Trinity and the Incarnation of Christ necessary by a necessity of means… but then the letter to the Archbishop of Boston in 1949 seemed to state otherwise.
If any one could shed some light on this, in other words, is there any official Church teaching on the matter? Is faith in Christ/Trinity absolutely necessary for salvation or just ordinarily necessary? Can Catholics have a free opinion on the matter between choices 1 and 2 (according to a Moral Theology manual from the 60s, this is the case)?
On the other hand we are to approach God with the heart of a small child. Example 1 is far too cerebral and would seem to exclude folks simply because they don’t have the intellectual capacity to even understand the Trinity.
I think what matters is to love God with all our heart, and to express that love through love for others. Love covers a multitude of sins. And as KenChute says nobody has a monopoly on salvation. Or rather, only God does and God will do as God pleases. I’m pretty sure though that there’s plenty of evidence (Biblican and in Tradition) that God looks at the heart rather than our ability to grasp abstract concepts.
The simple short answer is that faith is based on the vericity of God. We sin against the truthfullness and wisdom of the divinity when we doubt God. So Faith is necessary.
When we hesitate to believe in the Trinity or the real presence then we deny his authority and bring His credibility into question. This applies to the complete body of truths revealed to us.
For sure denial of any teaching of the Catholic Church is a grave sin and dangers our salvation, but does the Church teach that the Trinity and the Incarnation must be explicitly believed by all peoplefor salvation? (in other words, are they necessary by an absolute necessity by means like St. Thomas thought or may they be believed implicitly as more recent theologians seem to think?)
IMHO the person is responsible for what he knows from his heart to be from God.
A person however is responsible to search for the truth if there is a question about an important issue he does not understand. Ignorance is not an excuse if he is aware that he is ignorant. But as it happens so often, because of our culture and upbringing, the person is innocently ignorant of the questions to ask, and takes for granted he has the truth. This presupposes he is not careless or indifferent.
No, of course if a Catholic were to deny the Trinity he would be an apostate. I’m talking about invincible ignorance. Is Faith in the Trinity absolutely necessary by a necessity of means for all men or not? I know that supernatural faith is necessary for salvation, but how much must be explicitly believed, for example, can an invincibly ignorant Jew be saved by baptism of desire?
Article 7 & 8 from the link below is my question, was St. Thomas correct (is this Church teaching) or was this just his opinion?
Debating invincible ignorance can lead to heated discussions because it is not exactly clear.
Basically if a person through no fault of their own does not know Christ, his Gospel or his Church but in that ignorance still lives a life according to God’s teachings they may (not will) still be saved.
My personal opinion (not Church teaching) is that there cannot be very many people who might come under invincible ignorance. Again my opinion is that anyone who knows about Christ and the Catholic Church but refuses to explore further or does explore further and denies him would not be invincibly ignorant. For me Jews, Muslims Protestants etc know about Christ and his Church but reject one or the other.
Anyone who consciously and deliberately rejects Christ or his Church (the Catholic Church) and dies unrepentant will not be saved.
Others may have and are entitled to a different view.
CCC 1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.
This is Baptism of Desire - Implicit:
CCC 1260 “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.” Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.
I think it’s much simpler they we first realize. Hebrews 11:6 states:
**“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” **
And the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches this: 397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of.278 All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.
By letting trust die in his heart, man lost faith in God. Think about it, if we can’t or don’t trust God, then we no longer have a god. And this was precisely mans first sin, that he would have no God above himself, that he would be the determiner of right and wrong-for himself. And this is why the first commandment was to have no other Gods before Him. And in order to do this one must first, simply, believe in God again- because man is born without this faith. So to put it another way, lack of faith in God constitutes a great injustice-the universe is thrown out of order-this is not the way it was meant to be.
But faith, alone, isn’t enough, it’s not the goal; it doesn’t, by itself, constitute man’s full justice. When faith and hope are combined, then man is truly trusting in God. And when faith and hope are completely fulfilled in their final goal, then man loves God as well. This is why St Paul said in 1 Cor 13:
“…if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”
and: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
And this is also why the greatest commandments sum up the rest by telling us we’re to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. This is what man’s justice consists of.
I think it’s much simpler they we first realize. Hebrews 11:6 states:
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
This is the quote which I wonder about, what faith is necessary to please God in terms of the innocently ignorant?
We can’t know very well. Every individual case is unique. Would someone be ignorant of the true goodness of the gospel, even if they knew some of the basics of its teachings, if in his area of the world Christians persecuted or simply warred with his people, contributing to the religious prejudice we see all over the world in such cases?
We’re all ignorant to some degree-many fail to seek out deeper understanding of the faith they profess; many Christians couldn’t express important Church doctrines accurately if asked. Also, we’re limited no matter what we do-theologians even disagree on certain relevant matters. **“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” ** 1 Cor 13
And if someone professes to believe in the Trinity, how well do we even understand such a teaching, let alone the distinction between finer points regarding the nature of Christ, such as between monphysitism vs monothelitism, both rejected by most of the Church? St Teresa wrote that she was given a direct intuitive experience of the Trinity-but she was ultimately unable to convey the understanding to us-it’s beyond our ken. How honest are we when we say we believe this or that?- sometimes we’re assenting to the authority of the Church and her teachings because we’ve grown to trust her in other matters.
I think the Good Samaritan could be an example of someone with implicit faith. Also related to this is Romans 2:13-14.
In any case what we do know is that God is infinitely kind, merciful, fair and just. We’ll be judged based on what we know-on what we did with what we’re given. Luke 12:48 comes to mind. And also St John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church: “At the evening of life we shall be judged on our love.” Now this simple statement is nonetheless a profound one, and without the Church I wouldn’t have this knowledge explicitly. But with that knowledge, which I hold to be true, I’m expected to live and act accordingly. All the circumstances will be weighed and we’ll be judged by what we did with what we were given, with the time and opportunity allowed us, love being the standard of Gods’ justice.
I’m curious to know why you ask, though, are you concerned about your own faith? If so, ask and seek, God will answer a prayer for faith. **"Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” ** Mark 9:24
My own greatest obstacle, by the way, was pride-related to fear of what others thought-even though I didn’t know it. I sort of preferred not to believe, it seems, and this coincides more or less with the Catechism’s teaching, that man prefers himself to God.
Thankyou for your replies!
The reason I have been wondering is because I found this decision of the Holy Office:
"Whether a minister is bound, before baptism is conferred on an adult, to explain to him all the mysteries of our faith, especially if he is at the point of death, because this might disturb his mind. Or, whether it is sufficient, if the one at the point of death will promise that when he recovers from the illness, he will take care to be instructed, so that he may put into practice what has been commanded him.
Resp. A promise is not sufficient, but a missionary is bound to explain to an adult, even a dying one who is not entirely incapacitated, the mysteries of faith which are necessary by a necessity of means, as are especially the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation. "
After reading this I was curious because
Most modern theology writings I read state that implicit faith suffices for these articles of faith, so basically I was unsure as to if these modern theological writings are incorrect, I was reading the Holy Office’s decision wrong, or that the decision was not primarily on the necessity of faith for salvation but about the faith for baptism.