Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Question Concerning Salvation

Let us imagine a man, perhaps a man on a deserted island, brought there by parents after shipwreck while still a baby, raised until ago eight or so, and then orphaned.

Never heard the gospel.

Never got baptized.

Let us imagine the man grows up as a good man, following his own lights as best he can, convinced as he looks up at the sky at night that Someone must have been responsible for the order and beauty he perceives in creation.

Here is my question:

Given exactly the information we have above, and no more, and given exactly the testimony of Scripture, Tradition, and the *defined dogmas* of the Catholic Church concerning salvation (and no more).........

Is this man saved?

I propose an answer below, and sincerely encourage contrary proposals.

My answer is that this man is not saved, absent some supernatural intervention by God, concerning which we could never have any evidence at all, ever, this side of eternity.

I support this conclusion by reference to Scripture, Tradition, and dogmatic definition.

First, Scripture: 

"Jesus answered: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Jn 3:5

Second, Tradition:

"I have heard, sir," said I, "from some teachers, that there is no other repentance except that which took place when we went down into the water and obtained the remission of our former sins." He said to me, "You have heard rightly, for so it is. They had need [the Shepherd said] to come up through the water, so that they might be made alive; for they could not otherwise enter into the kingdom of God, except by putting away the mortality of their former life. These also, then, who had fallen asleep, received the seal of the Son of God, and entered into the kingdom of God. For, [he said,] before a man bears the name of the Son of God, he is dead. But when he receives the seal, he puts mortality aside and again receives life. The seal, therefore, is the water. They go down into the water dead [in sin], and come out of it alive."------The Shepherd of Hermas, c. 140 AD 4:3:1-2

Third, dogmatic definition:

"......the Justification of the impious is indicated, as being a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour. And this translation, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God."-- Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter IV

It has been objected that new teaching in the Catechism, based on the Council, provides exceptions to this.

I answer this cannot possibly be true, since the Church is protected by heaven itself against contradicting any defined dogma of the Faith in Her teaching.

It has been objected that the man on the island would be saved in ways unknown to us, by God.

I answer that it is legitimate to hope for this, since God is certainly capable of acting in some way, unknown to us, to save such and so a person under such and so circumstance.

But since such a thing can never be known to us, it necessarily follows that we will never have knowledge of any such case actually occurring, and hence we will have no knowledge of any specific person saved in such a way.

Since we will never have any such knowledge, it follows that the certain, infallible, Scriptural and Apostolic teaching of the Church concerning the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation has been drastically undermined by means of substituting a permitted theological speculation- that God might save in ways unknown to us- for a thrice-defined dogma of the Faith:

1. “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)
2. “We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)
3. “The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.)

I suggest further that the collapse in the post-conciliar missionary outreach of the Church is related in an important way to this practical substitution of speculation for dogma.


  1. Replies
    1. I am glad to hear it Lionel, and please know that I am very grateful to you for having made this argument, so that I could understand it.

      All the best to you and to Brother Andre Marie.

  2. I guess it depends on whether or not the guy on the island is jewish as to whether or not he can be saved without the scripture says all Israel will be saved.

    [joke Rick......joke]


    Nice to see you back in full swing with the blog Rick. Havn't checked in for a while but love your fine work as usual.

    I'm not catholic so obviously the dogmatic texts don't really factor into my decision but....I think all Christians must agree that you need to declare Jesus your Lord and Saviour (and know what that really means) in order to be born again and saved. No exceptions.

    Not even for our khaza...erm....I mean....jewish cousins. online spellcheck is giving me grief for not giving jewish a capital J. Sigh.

    No plan b. Jesus or the fire.