Friday, December 3, 2010

St. Francis Xavier and the necessity of baptism for salvation

December 3rd, The Feast of St. Francis Xavier
St. Francis Xavier, the great apostle of the Indies, is said to have baptized over one hundred thousand persons. By the clarity of his doctrine, the force of his many miracles, and the witness of his love, Francis Xavier won countless souls to Christ. And yet, we live in an age in which the missionary zeal of Francis Xavier is undermined by the presumptuous and suspect speculation of many theologians – unfortunately, it is certain members of his own Order, the Society of Jesus, who have most confused the Church’s tradition.
If baptism is not necessary for salvation, if people can be saved without faith in Christ and the Sacrament of Faith, if the predication of the Gospel does not really make a difference for the salvation of pagans, then St. Francis Xavier’s life was ill-spent. If, on the other hand, the missionary work of Francis Xavier really did (and does) matter, then it is clear that baptism is necessary for salvation.

Baptism is simply and absolutely necessary for salvation
When St. Thomas Aquinas asks whether all the sacraments are necessary for salvation, he specifies that a sacrament can be necessary in two ways – first, insofar as eternal life cannot be obtained without it; second, insofar as heaven cannot be so fittingly attained without the particular sacrament. Among all the sacraments, only three are necessary in the sense that without them salvation is impossible. First, there is baptism, which is “simply and absolutely” necessary to all people. Second, there is confession, which is necessary to any who have committed a mortal sin after baptism. And finally, holy order is necessary not to each individual but to the Church as a whole. However, “contempt of any of the sacraments is a hindrance to salvation.” (ST III, q.65, a.4)
We must be very clear on this point: No one who has died without having been baptized has any hope whatsoever of salvation. Without baptism, one cannot be saved. All those who are saved were baptized while on earth. However, we must understand that there are three ways in which one may be baptized. First, there is the “baptism of water”, which is sacramental baptism. Second, there is the “baptism of desire”, which is clearly at work when one who has desired to be baptized dies before receiving the sacrament – it is also possible that pagans of good will (who through no fault of their own have only an implicit desire for Christ without even knowing his name) may be saved by this “baptism of desire”. Finally, there is the “baptism of blood”, as when a non-baptized person who desires baptism is martyred for their faith in Christ – this is the most perfect form of baptism, even more perfect than the sacramental baptism of water. (cf. III, q. 66, a.11-12)
Is this a “hard teaching”?
The Church has always taught the simple and absolute necessity of baptism, because she received this teaching explicitly from Christ himself. He said, “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” (John 3:5) If Christ died for all, then all people need Christ for salvation – and we are incorporated into Christ through baptism.
However, some would imitate the crowds who rejected Christ at his Bread of Life discourse – they would say: “This saying is hard, and who can hear it?” (John 6:61) But there is nothing hard or difficult about Christ’s teaching! Without Christ salvation would be utterly and entirely impossible, without baptism none could have any hope of salvation – but the Church rejoices that Christ has opened to her the fount of salvation, the fount of baptism, by which sin is washed away and  grace is restored. What is difficult about this?
It is as though a man were to fall into a hole and another, coming upon him, would say, “My friend, you are stuck in a hole; here, take this ladder and climb out!” What if the fallen man replied, “This saying is hard! Why do you force me to use the ladder? You are too restrictive and harsh!” What should we say? The fallen man would be the greatest of fools.
So too, if any should think that the Church’s teaching of the necessity of baptism for salvation (baptism of water, or desire, or blood) is difficult or hard or harsh, they show themselves to be great fools and enemies of Christ. Baptism is the great means of regeneration, who are we to spurn it and search for our own path to eternal life? Why, we would imitate our first parents, spurning the grace of God and reaching instead for the apple.
The Church’s mission
“The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are ‘reborn of water and the Spirit.’” (CCC 1257)
If baptism is necessary for salvation, and if none can be saved without at least desiring to be united to Christ and incorporated into his body, then the mission and life of St. Francis Xavier comes into focus. The work of this holy priest really made a difference in the world. He truly did save souls and win people over to God. The preaching and ministry of St. Francis Xavier was a true cause which effected the salvation of hundreds of thousands of persons in the East.
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved. How then shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe him, of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear, without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they be sent, as it is written: How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, of them that bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:13-15)
How beautiful, indeed, the feet of St. Francis Xavier. How beautiful the hand that baptized so many thousands in the East!


Magister Christianus said...

Absolutely wonderful! I am adding this to my growing document that have dubbed "The Case for Catholicism." The John 3:5 verse is about as plan as it could get. Thank you for posting this.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous (1:20am), Your comment is unintelligible to me. You seem to blaspheme by mocking sacramental theology. As you were too great a coward to put a name or tag or pseudonym, I have deleted your comment.

@Magister Christianus,
Praise the Lord! I'm glad the article was helpful. Blessings to you.

Toma Blizanac said...

I'm afraid I don't understand this baptism by desire. Can it also be applied to a person who has been taught false teachings about Christ and his Church (let's say a Muslim) and therefore doesn't seek the sacramental baptism, but is otherwise a "good person"?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

"Baptism of desire" primarily refers to one who has explicitly desired baptism, but who died before receiving it.

There is good reason to hope that there could be an implicit desire for baptism -- e.g. a Muslim who truly seeks the truth, without knowing Jesus Christ in his proper person.

Nobody is saved by being a "good person", it is only faith in Christ which saves. This faith must be living, united to charity. Perhaps even some non-christians have this living faith without even knowing it...

We certainly have more reason to hope for the salvation of a virtuous pagan than for a non-baptized child -- this can be seen in the language of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which speaks very positively about virtuous pagans, but with great reserve about non-baptized children (even if their parents are Christians).

I hope this helps to clarify "baptism of desire".
It is very difficult to see how someone who explicitly rejects Christ and his Church could have a "baptism of desire" or a "living faith"...but we may have some slight hope for one who is simply unaware of Christ and his Church.

allandan500 said...

About thirty years ago, when I had my daughter baptized, I had an discussion with the Franciscan brother who was "teaching" the baptismal preparation class. He spoke about baptism as the rite of entrance into the church. He never mentioned Original Sin during his discourse. I was a bit perplexed by his omission, so I mentioned it to him, for the vicarious instruction of the other parents attending the class. He looked at me like I was from Mars. He then gave a shortened version of his previous discourse, again omitting Original Sin. I pressed him about it, and although he never explicitly verbalized that what I contended was untrue, he never asserted agreement with even a nod. The other parents began to look at me as a mentally askew trouble-maker.
Anyone who had not known the doctrine before entering that class certainly did not leave with that very important information.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Praise the Lord that you did not back down! In the day of judgment, those wolves in sheep's clothing will be stripped and put to shame.
In the meantime, we need to strive forward in the truth, never becoming discouraged, but always pressing on toward the glory which is waiting to be revealed.
Blessings to you!

James Zahler said...

I wonder if, in regards to the virtuous pagan, we might make use of St. Thomas Aquinas' thoughts about people who are in error or people who are heretics. The heretic obstinately refuses to believe the truth when it is presented to him; however, if the person recognizes his error when confronted with the teaching of the Church, it is clear that the person was only in error (Summa, II-II, Q5, A3). While he doesn’t say it explicitly here, I’m inferring that a person in err, because they err involuntarily, can still have faith. After all, in the same passage, Aquinas only explicitly says that the heretic has no faith in any article of faith. A Muslim, who has been unknowingly baptized by desire, could simply be in extreme error. When the Gospel is preached to him, he will readily assent to its truth because the Holy Spirit will interiorly confirm the truth.

Anonymous said...

I'm concerned that by putting so much emphasis on the outward and sacramental action of baptism we risk de-emphasizing the internal substance of baptism: inner conversion and regeneration. Only regenerated people go to heaven, and indeed it's the presence of divine life and grace in a person's soul that determines their destiny...not whether Father so-and-so baptisized them umteen years ago. My point is made clear by two examples: (1) A baptized Catholic who, later in life, decided to reject Christ in one way or another will NOT be going to purgatory/heaven; and (2) an unbaptized Protestant who was taught that baptism was not important, and was never baptized, but accepted the message of the cross and lived a life fully devoted to Christ and the gospel as they understood it, WILL be going to heaven. In neither case is the actual sacramental action of baptism of any consequence, but rather who that individual is within--their personal state of regeneration/conversion. I'd hate to see people who live their lives in disregard to the gospel THINK they are saved just because they happened to be baptized. Today's world doesn't need any extra encouragement in the exercise of self-delusion.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@James, I agree with the substance of your comment. I think you are correct, we can find some basis for the modern expression of hope for virtuous pagans in the Summa. However, we do need to emphasize that baptism is "simply and absolutely necessary" -- outside of baptism, we know of no other means of salvation. Hence, the Church has a grave obligation to spread the Gospel throughout the world...without the Church and her sacraments, none can be saved.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Joe, you have committed material said, "In neither case is the actual sacramental action of baptism of any consequence." But the sacraments work ex opere operato, they effect the grace they signify.
I am supposing that you are a protestant...certainly, your comment is directly contrary to Church teaching.
Personally, I am offended that, on a Catholic blog, you would speak of sacramental theology as "extra encouragement in the exercise of self-delusion."

If you desired a true conversation about the necessity of a faith alive with charity and the importance of the grace of final perseverance in addition to the initial baptismal graces, you should have been more respectful in your comment.

Rather than debating with you, I will only say:
Take your trash somewhere else!

Anonymous said...

@Reginaldus...Saved by "The church and her sacraments" or by "Jesus the Lord and Savior?" I realize that the two are probably not meant to be separated. BUT the reality is that they are separated everyday, both by Catholics who participate in the sacraments and still live like 'hell' AND by those who are not fully united to the visible Church and have NO participation in her sacraments, but yet live more devoted and close to Christ than 90% of Catholics. Sorry to put a wrench in this tidy theology, but I think it's healthy to think things through in the light of the great laboratory we call reality.

Anonymous said...

@Reginaldus...I have no desire to debate, but just have an honest look at the realities we face everyday in Christendom. What I meant by 'of no consequence' what 'of no eternal consequence.' The lapsed baptized Catholic still went to hell, while the unbaptized Protestant still went to heaven. So is baptism actually necessary then? I apologize if my directness has offended your sensibilities...that was not my intention.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

If you truly wanted to have an "honest look at the realities we face everyday in Christendom", you would not have called sacramental theology an "exorcise in self-delusion".
I see you for what you are, a snake...drink your own poison!

However, since you say you "apologize"...I will give short answer.
No one, excepting Christ himself, is saved without a participation in the sacraments of the Church. The Old Testament saints were saved by anticipating the sacraments. Virtuous pagans who are saved (if there be any at all) will be saved by an implicit desire for the sacraments.
Thus, baptism is necessary, without it none are saved. They must at least implicitly desire baptism. If Christ had not given the sacraments to the Church, we would have nothing to hope for and no means of salvation. Neither would the pagans have any hope, for they could not participate in the sacraments in even a hidden manner.

Thus, it is clear that the sacrament of baptism has tremendous eternal consequences -- for if we do not live according to our baptism, we shall be condemned. And, if the virtuous pagan does not (at least implicitly) desire baptism and life a life worthy of that desire, he will be condemned.

Baptism is "simply and absolutely" necessary for salvation.

Toma Blizanac said...

Dear father,
thank you for clarifying things, but I still have two questions:
1.) It seem to me that it is better then to leave such a person that you call a virtuous pagan in his ignorance for thus he can at least have some chance of salvation. But if he is directly confronted with the truth about Jesus and his Church and he denies it (which most often will be the case, if nothing else, then because of his upbringing) he will have no hope of salvation unless he does come to a point where he wishes for baptism.
I know this sounds absurd and really don't think this is the way we should behave, but perhaps this is an implication of widening the baptism of desire to those who have not explicitly wished for it.

2.) One of the main arguments of those who say that Church does change its core teachings is exactly the fate of those not baptised. Some quote what appear to be quite important documents (e.g. such as to be found in Denzinger-Schönmetzer) saying strongly that those who are not baptised cannot be saved, while the new Catechism seem to disagree?!

Thank you for your time.

Anonymous said...

@Reginaldus...I never called sacramental theology an exercise in self-delusion. I was calling the idea that one who lives like the devil is saved merely because they were baptized some years ago an exercise in self delusion.

I think if we place too much emphasis on baptism and not enough on conversion, we are only giving half the message (and the less important half). God is not contained in a tidy formula or rite, He's a person who, like any other, requires time and relational commitment if we are to know him and spend eternity with him.

I'm not sure if you are calling devoted Protestants 'virtous pagans,' but if so, I think the Popes of late would have issue with that characterization.

Many Priests have stated that God primarily desires to use his sacraments to convey grace, but is not limited by them either. Hence anyone, Catholic or otherwise, who genuinely comes to Jesus (who is both omnipotent and omnipresent) can and will receive his divine life.

I think it's noteworthy that many positive aspects of modern Catholicism, including the charismatic movement and modern rejection of Pelagianism have actually been renewed in the Catholic church via bridging from Protestant movements.

I'm not sure anyone can say they have a monopoly on God anymore, which is why we must admit that God is not limited by his sacraments, but is merciful and faithful to all who genuinely call on him.

Would you disagree?

Anonymous said...

@Reginaldus...I never called sacramental theology an exercise in self-delusion. I was calling the idea that one who lives like the devil is saved merely because they were baptized some years ago an exercise in self delusion.

I think if we place too much emphasis on baptism and not enough on conversion, we are only giving half the message (and the less important half). God is not wholly contained in a tidy formula or rite, He's a person who, like any other, requires time and relational commitment if we are to know him and spend eternity with him.

I'm not sure if you are calling devoted Protestants 'virtous pagans,' but if so, I think the Popes of late would have issue with that characterization. Many Priests have stated that God primarily desires to use his sacraments to convey grace, but is not limited by them either. Hence anyone, Catholic or otherwise, who genuinely comes to Jesus (who is both omnipotent and omnipresent) can and will receive his divine life.

It's noteworthy that many positive aspects of modern Catholicism, including the charismatic movement and modern rejection of Pelagianism have actually been renewed in the Catholic church via bridging from Protestant movements.

If for nothing else than ecumenism, I'm not sure any Christian institution can claim a monopoly on God anymore, which is why we must admit that God is not limited by his sacraments, but is merciful and faithful to all who genuinely call on him.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Joe, I do not see how your comments do not intend to call the Catholic Sacramental Theology I have been proposing an "exercise in self-delusion". However, if you say that was not your intention, I will accept that.

1) I do not call all Protestants "pagans"...only the non-baptized, whether protestant or atheist or whatever.

2) You state " Many Priests have stated that God primarily desires to use his sacraments to convey grace, but is not limited by them either." Frankly, I don't care what many priests are stating...the Church's teaching is what I am concerned with.

3) It is true, God is not limited by the sacraments, we are. As material beings, we need the material helps of the sacraments as means of grace. Whether visibly or invisibly, explicitly or implicitly, no one is saved without the sacraments of Christ's Church.

4) Of course there are many good things in the Protestant communities, these are participations in the True Church, which is one with the Catholic Church. Thus, at times, particular protestants can call particular catholics to be more catholic.

5) Finally, you are continually separating the Bride from the Bridegroom, Christ from his Church. You separate the Head from the Body, and the Soul (i.e. the Holy Spirit) from the Body (i.e. the Church). You do know what a person does when he separates the soul from the body, he kills!

I claim no monopoly on God, but I will insist that there is no Christ without his Church. And there is no God without Christ. And there is no salvation without God. Therefore, outside of the Church there is no salvation.

In a mysterious way, it is possible that God leads people to union with the Church without the external sacrament of baptism. But to say that baptism is secondary or not essential...this is a grave error, it is from the father of lies.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

1) I think your reasoning here is exactly what many people are wondering about and questioning -- Why does the Church have a mission at all?
The simple reason is this: Without explicit faith in Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism, one can scarcely be saved.
The point is that it is quite unlikely that there is any "virtuous pagan" who has a "baptism of desire". The risk of them denying the faith when it is proclaimed by missionaries is far less than the risk of them going to Hell as a pagan.
Without making absolute statements, we can and must say that it seems quite nearly impossible for any to be saved without at least an explicit desire for the sacrament of baptism.

2) Regarding the Catechism of the Catholic Church... In fact the CCC maintains what we have always believed, but simply tries to put it in a bit softer language. The CCC emphasizes the (very slight) hope we have for the salvation of "virtuous pagans" and (even less) for non-baptized babies. However, the essential doctrine remains the same: The Church knows of no other means of salvation than the sacraments. Therefore, we have no real ground to have a positive outlook on the salvation of even the "virtuous pagan".

Certainly, the earlier documents (esp. those in Denzinger) are more helpful to theologians, since the CCC is primarily a pastoral document and therefore does not use theological language with the same precision as we would sometimes desire.

Blessings to you!

Unknown said...

Re: John 3:5. Many Protestants claim that "born[again]of water" is referring to our natural child birth,
the water coming from the birth process. Born of "the Holy Ghost" means being born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the Protestant position. Most Bible versions,including the RSV-CE, do not include the word "again" after born.Only the Douay-Rheims does.
RSV:"Truly,truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God." The Catholic position of water and Spirit being Baptism makes more sense. This is most explicit in John 1:33 where the Spirit descends on Jesus after baptism,thus water and Spirit. said...

"Pagans" -- a rather harsh term in modern times. I have noted (as have many Protestant apologists) that Catholicism is becoming aggressive and more open to their long established doctrines -- which I applaud. But in times where anyone speaks ill of another faith, it is "anti-" something which too often is equated to hate speech. For example, if I were to state unequivocally that your premise on baptism is categorically heretical, it could be perceived as an attack when, in truth, it may be just a opening gambit in a debate.

The absolute put forth about baptism (though the latter two are a bit convoluted) is almost like a
gauntlet thrown down because the brilliance of Aquinas and the example of Xavier are not the final arbiters and are subject to revisionists historians aligning their conclusions by modifying the specifics to force the matrix or labyrinthine logic to have a form of reason.

Language like this blog (and so many others) I define as "Catholiceze" because the everyday Catholic cannot follow nor seems interested in the strange merging of mystical, tradition, and Scripture.

In the broadest sense, the everyday Catholic cannot fathom much of the bloggers Latin quotes, nor find all of the "truths" buried in a mountain of Sacred Tradition, protected by the Magisterium, and obscured by a lack of perspicuity.

allandan500 said...

Robert, I cannot understand how the use of the word "pagan" is harsh. You added "in modern times" as a qualifier as if the mere passing of time has changed the truth as revealed by God. Pagan means, in the sense used here, an unbaptized person. To suggest that the word ought not be used "in modern times" certainly implies that in past times the church had a mistaken understanding of salvation which has been corrected.

One either accepts the teachings of Christ through his Church, or one does not. Watering down the truth is hardly the way to help others achieve salvation.

Scott West said...

robert spring lagniappe makes a good point. While baptism is a good thing, every religion has different requirements "necessary" for salvation. In my opinion, what makes us Catholic's more special or more correct than everyone else in the world? Jesus was so radical in his time for accepting the outcasts of society (lepers, women, etc.), completely in contrast to how some people today perpetuate that people who are not baptized are "outcasts" of heaven. I know it's probably a bad idea for someone like myself to comment on this, however I wish for civil dialogue and hope that my comment will not be removed.

DO said...

But it does not seem to be at all a hard teaching if one accepts the validity of "baptism of desire," which I do. Do all orthodox Catholics accept this?

What about when Jesus explicitly stated that one must receive the Eucharist to attain salvation? "Unless one eats my flesh and drinks my blood, he has no life within him"

Just questions.

Anonymous said...


I appreciate your answers, as they are well thought out within the Catholic paradigm. You are correct in that I am a non-Catholic Christian. Regardless, I'm quite sympathetic to the Catholic Church, and particularly toward the ultimate unification between her and currently non-Catholic christians.

I honestly have no problem with most of sacramental theology and see many benefits in sacramentally received grace. I suppose my reservations rest more in the idea of sacraments being the exclusive channels of grace. This system is certainly not explicit in scripture, and seems more like a paradigm that evolved in the first few hundred years of Church history as a response to the anti-materialist Gnostics.

Because I'm not Catholic, I've often experienced grace from God without sacraments, as have many of my non-Catholic brothers and sisters. To claim that all this grace somehow 'implicitly and mysteriously' originated from the sacraments of the Catholic Church seems more like an elephant in the room than actual truth. It sounds more like digging at the bottom of a theological barrel to maintain a paradigm that only worked well when the entire Church was loyal to Rome.

One of the purposes of the cross and resurrection was to tear down necessary layers of complexity and mediation between God and man, and make God directly accessible to people, basically as he was to Adam before the fall (see Romans and Hebrews).

The Old Testament saints weren't saved by anticipating sacramental theology. They already had something like that in place. They were saved by fearing God, trusting in his mercy, and anticipating the Messiah, who would effectively free them from laws and regulations necessitating earthly things (see Colossians).

Because we are material, tangible sacraments are certainly helpful, but did Jesus not clearly send the Holy Spirit so that man could personally access God? After all God entrusted his children to nothing less than the third person of the Trinity, so that the distance between man and God would be only as far as a prayer (see John).

While Christ and his church are a composite unity, objectively Christ is not his church (non est). The church was meant to be a family first, and an institution second. If I need something from my earthly dad, I can go to him for it, and if possible he gives it to me. Sometimes it helps to get my siblings involved, and the family wouldn't be complete without them, but I can still go straight to my earthly father, and the same applies to my Heavenly Father, who gives good things to those who ask.

Maybe I'm way off base, but at this point in my walk, I can only concede that sacraments are needed and helpful, but not that they are exclusively needed by man or God in order to commune with Him.

Unknown said...

Every Catholic in India and other East Asian countries shall be always thanking God, Our Father for choosing St Francis Xavier as His instrument to evangelise and convert multitude of people of other faith. But for his missionary work, all we Catholics in Asia would have possibly remained without embracing the Universal Catholic Church. It is scintillating to read and experience the marvels of Our Lord he showered on St Francis Xavier during his life and much more after his death in preserving his body in incorrput state for more than 5 centuries which is one of the greatest miracles performed by Our Lord God.

DO said...

Joe- thank you for your honest and rational inquiry.

Just one piece of advice. It is actually an erroneous thought to ask "must grace, either mysteriously or obviously, flow from the sacraments of the Catholic Church; or may they also proceed directly from the Holy Trinity"

It is erroneous because to differentiate between the Eucharist and the Trinity is a false distinction. The Eucharist is Christ in His absolute fullness and glory; and within Christ is contained the entire Trinity.

Previously, The Holy Trinity's presence was most clearly demonstrated on Earth through The Law. Now, the Holy Trinity's presence on Earth is most clearly demonstrated in the Eucharist.

God Bless you,

Anonymous said...


Wow! Now that's the best explanation for sacramental theology I've never heard. Awesome connection between between the real presence and the presence of grace on earth!

Thanks for not writing me off as an argumentative Protestant. The main reason I occasionally post on blogs like this is to stir thought on tough issues in hopes of generating rational answers for my toughest questions, not to be told to drink my own poison ;).

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

*EVER heard :)

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Edward, Allan, Dan and Jude: Thank you all for your comments.
What a gift we have in the witness of St. Francis Xavier!

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@ Robert:
1) You say, "the everyday Catholic cannot fathom much of the bloggers Latin quotes" -- I have not used any Latin quotes...have you even read other posts on this blog?
2) You say, "Language like this blog (and so many others) I define as 'Catholiceze'" -- Wow! Thanks for the great insight! Did you try submitting this to Websters?
3) You say that I write of "the 'truths' buried in a mountain of Sacred Tradition, protected by the Magisterium, and obscured by a lack of perspicuity" -- I say, you have rejected the sound doctrine of Christ and swallowed the wormwood of modernism.
4) Apparently, you are not a Christian...since you make your arguments not from Scripture or Tradition, but from the muddled musings of your own mind.

@Scott West:
1) You speak of "us Catholic's"...saying "In my opinion, what makes us Catholic's more special or more correct than everyone else in the world?" -- While I'm glad to see that your "opinion" is only a question, I cannot see what makes you "Catholic"...
If you do not believe that the Church is the Body of Christ and that, without Christ and his Church, there is no salvation; then you are rejecting some of the central doctrines of of the Faith. What exactly makes you "Catholic"?
2) You want "civil dialog" -- Stop reading blogs and get a Catechism.
3) Of course I will not delete your comment, you at least had the courtesy to put a name/id to it...

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I'm very glad that Dan has written in a way which was more clear and persuasive than I was capable of.

For the record, the only reason I wrote you off "as an argumentative Protestant" is because you said that this post encouraged people in an exorcise of self-delusion (although you later did say you didn't mean it).

I do not think you quite understand the nature of this is stated fairly clearly on the "about" page. We are a Catholic blog which is attempting to explain the faith on a theological level for an educated Catholic audience.
If you had approached the question of Sacramental Theology from the foundation of Scripture and Tradition, I would have responded accordingly. However, when you approach it from a Calvinist perspective (without stating that you are not Catholic), it leads me to think that you are trying to poison the comment box.

It is this Calvinist and modernist poison which I told you to drink...if you are a modernist protestant, you shouldn't be the least bit offended by that; this strange mix of Calvinism and modernism is your cup of tea! ;-)

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I have noticed that some of your comments have been blocked by Blogger... apparently they were flagged as "spam"...I have gotten them put back on. Sorry for any inconvenience or confusion!
If some comments have been duplicated, I will let you choose which to delete...or you can just leave them, as is.

Blessing to you on your journey, my separated brother! :-)

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your explanation. I do apologize for not being forward from the beginning on who I am. If my positions on sacraments are Calvinist, it's only by coincidence, since I tend to abhor Calvinist theology, and most particularly his strict TULIP predestinarianism.

I'm also not a modernist. Surely truth does not change, but since our cultures do, we must find ways to articulate the truth to various types of people if we ever hope to effect understanding.

I suppose I don't really make a good protestant or Catholic, and that's primarily because I was never discipled by either. I became a Christian due to personal seeking followed by a powerful and personal encounter with the Lord. This encounter woke me up and caused me to repudiate the arrogant religious organization in which I was raised--Jehovah's Witnesses. Since then I've been mostly associated with Charismatic Christians, including Catholics.

Thus, I'm sure you can understand why I tend to look with a jaundiced eye at religious institutions that make broad claims. I certainly don't see Jesus seeking the support of religious leaders in the pages of the gospels.

That being said, I do value and prayerfully consider the positions of those who also love and honor the Lord. So I'm on a journey, and wherever God takes me I'm certainly willing to go. I do appreciate the honest and genuine feedback I get from individuals like yourself. :)

Anonymous said...

@Reginaldus...yes definitely delete the two extra copies of that REALLY long recent post. Sorry on the length btw! said...

@ Robert:
1) You say, "the everyday Catholic cannot fathom much of the bloggers Latin quotes" -- I have not used any Latin quotes...have you even read other posts on this blog?
2) You say, "Language like this blog (and so many others) I define as 'Catholiceze'" -- Wow! Thanks for the great insight! Did you try submitting this to Websters?
3) You say that I write of "the 'truths' buried in a mountain of Sacred Tradition, protected by the Magisterium, and obscured by a lack of perspicuity" -- I say, you have rejected the sound doctrine of Christ and swallowed the wormwood of modernism.
4) Apparently, you are not a Christian...since you make your arguments not from Scripture or Tradition, but from the muddled musings of your own mind.

Briefly, mea culpa as I did not read your purpose to speak to educated Catholics. Next, the response you bring to my post is aligned with the aggressive nature that is gaining a following. Last, I left the Scripture out of my discussion in order to state my premise and that is in relation to scholasticism and historical missions as proof.

How would you define me under your baptism regeneration mandate: I was baptize as an infant, raised in Catholic Schools from K-12, served as an altar boy (Latin days), considered priesthood as a vocation, married in the Catholic Church, baptized our first child under the authority of the Church -- but in 1974, I, through no effort of my own, came to see the light of the Gospel of grace alone, etc. And yes, I am a Calvinist but not a modernist. I engage in these blogs not to perpetuate a centuries old dispute but to try and understand the real Catholic position on many things.

But the final position I seem to always return to is Trent -- Am I anathema? You do the math?

Anonymous said...


It seems the church has toned down a lot of this counter-reformation anathema language in order to be ecumenical, which I applaud.

Like you, in my experience with the Lord my eyes were opened to grace--that my salvation was not earned by me, either through religious involvement with JWs or through self-righteousness, but by Him alone.

He really is the only Savior, and we have to let ourselves be saved. When I finally said 'yes' to the liferaft, he pulled me out of the waters of spiritual death and made me a son.

What I did not get in that experience, however, was that God was throwing the liferaft (grace) at some and sovereignly choosing to just let others drown. I discovered that God is love, and His compassion is immense. He is no God of partiality, and so the reason many are NOT saved is because they have, up to now, said 'no' to the liferaft of grace.

While our fallen wills need grace in order to embrace the gospel (the gift of faith), they retain the ability to reject this 'prevenient' grace as well.
Grace is not irresistable, as the beloved Calvin would have us believe.

The consequences of irresistable grace make God into something like a micromanaging monster who selects to 'grace' some and 'damn' others through no fault of their own, as they were born fallen.

An example I've heard to depict Calvinism goes something like this: A wealthy man happens along a starving pack of dogs, arbitrarily chooses a few of the dogs to nurture, train, and bring into his house, but decides to burn the others alive. Now imagine that the dogs are people.

Grace is essential, but God still leaves part of the equation up to us. If we burn, it's because we didn't let Him take us in.

Ben of the Bayou said...

@Joe, After reading your posts I would like to propose to you one idea for understanding the visible, hierarchical nature of the Church and that, as I hope will be apparent, there is no need to draw the distinction of family first, institution second (will take two posts).

If I can take for granted that you see that Christ our Lord came to fulfill all the promises of God in the Old Testament (in Pauline language, Christ is the "Yes" of God to all His promises), then I think you can take the step with me to say that Christ formed a new Israel and a new Body, and constituted for Himself a new Bride, the Church.

These images are important. [1] A new Israel (Paul: the "Israel of God") because He chose 12 Apostles as He had of old chosen 12 Patriarchs. Also, I hope that it is evident enough for the honest seeker that Mt. 16:16 is striking because Christ both mentions "His" Church (assembly, kahal), which is exactly what Israel was to God, and because it mentions the Keys, which to a Jew is an unmistakable reference to the position of Shebna in the Davidic Kingdom. Thus, Christ the new David (King/Priest/Prophet) and Peter the new Major Domo, whose carries the Keys and the authority they represent (from the Rabbis we also learn that Keys have to do with excommunication and teaching authority, but again, another time). But more than Shebna, and more like Eliakim (the "fixed Peg), Peter will be the Rock (Peter's name, I don't have space to go into undoing the old canard about Petra vs. Petros, simply to say that He would have said Lithos if he meant small rock; so I will count on your good will) upon which our Lord will make His "House" stable, such that the rains and wind may buffet it, but it will not fall.

Second, and much shorter, [2] the new Body. I don't think anyone here will dispute that the Church is the Body of Christ (clear Pauline teaching). Yet, Paul also gives us the clue as to why: as we all belonged to the body of Adam, the body of death (Original Sin) because of Adam's sin, so by Baptism we belong to the Body of Christ, of which He is the Head. For this reason, Christ not only forms a Body (which has many parts or "offices"/"ministries" in Pauline language), but He sends His Spirit upon her to vivify her, just as God did in Genesis to make Adam a living being. Yet, we also see in John's Gospel that Christ gives the Holy Spirit in a special and unique way to the Apostles (on Easter eve) specifically "for the remission of sins." Thus, the Apostles have the Office of giving life to the Body by the forgiveness of sins.

Finally, [3] a new Bride. Over and over again, God compares Israel to His bride in the OT. Unfortunately, she was mostly an unfaithful Bride. Yet, as Paul says in Ephesians, Christ "washed AND sanctified" His Bride, so that she will always (essentially) be faithful.

Continued in next post...

Ben of the Bayou said...

My point in all of this is that, if the arguments I have adduced for the strong connection between Israel:New Israel are true, then just as Israel was both a covenant family AND had very clear, visible hierarchy, then so also will the New Israel. In fact, we can see Paul saying this very thing when he speaks of the various gifts given by the one Spirit. Also, acts of the Apostles (ch. 1; see esp. the KJV, which calls what Judas gave up "his Bishopric"), and Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus all show a clear visible structure (Bishop/elder/deacon) to the Church. Moreover, the author to the Epistle to the Hebrews (Paul) says that "even the first covenant had regulations for worship" (9:1) as if to imply that so does the second (new/everlasting) covenant. This is clear when Paul says to the Corinthians, "I hand on what I have received, that on the night on which He was betrayed..." There is a structure handing on the doctrines (which Paul also mentions to Timothy and several Churches).

Finally (really), the real question to ask before the dichotomy between sacraments and living, internal conversion is, Did Christ our Lord will the sacraments as part of the essential nature of the Church? The Catholic Church answers an unequivocal "yes" to this question. If that is so, then there are consequences worth pondering to this.

May God continue to guide and enlighten you along the way. I am grateful that he led me to the Catholic Church after years of searching.


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

What I find most interesting about this multi-part discussion between Joe and Robert and Scott West and me and Dan and Ben and others is this:
Those defending the doctrine of the Catholic Church are the only ones who have quoted Scripture yet!

Joe and Robert argue exclusively from personal experience and personal reasoning -- there is no reference to Scripture (and certainly not to Tradition).

Ben, on the other hand, has argued from the Sacred Scriptures. I have done this as well, though not as explicitly.

The point is this: Salvation is not the type of thing that can be "reasoned out" by the mere powers of the human mind.
If Protestants truly did believe that "works" do not bring us salvation, but that we rely entirely upon God; then they would make there arguments not from their own experiences and personal reasonings, but from the authority of Sacred Scripture.

But, of course, the true "Bible Church" is the Catholic Church who gave us the Bible in the first place!

And what did Jesus say? "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God."
It is not the Spirit of Christ which leads so many modern protestants to think that faith and baptism are not necessary for salvation (and that Christ himself is not necessary for salvation) -- it is the spirit of the world, the spirit of modernism and pluralism.

Anonymous said...


I have appealed to scripture multiple times, most explicitly in my most lengthy post above, where I made comments such as '(see John)'.

I'm not sure I need to cite too many scriptures to argue that God is love, or that he does not show partiality, or that apart from his grace there is no the readers of this post would assert that as common knowledge.

The truth is that my past conversion experience only validated what I was already seeing from scripture--it didn't replace scripture, but it made it all real to me personally. And I think God is big enough to validate things to us on a personal level, as opposed to always taking someone else's word for it.

I also never asserted that works have NO role to play in salvation. I asserted that they are not the source of salvation, and that no amount of self-righteousness can merit us eternal life (see Titus 2, Council of Orange). Works play a role in showing our sincerety and love for God. If we really are his children, our actions should and will portray that (see James). The only way to faithfully respond to God's love is to, in some way, love him back. Love (agape) is charity in action. Works are essentially evidences of God's grace in our soul, and also instruments to steward our lives so that God can entrust us with even more grace (see parable of the talents).

I'm not sure any Christian would disagree with that...perhaps only one who wants to parse words instead of see the obvious point.

Anonymous said...

Ben of the Bayou,

Thank you for the great post. I'll definitely have to ponder over all of that. I'm discovering more and more how good the Catholic church's arguments are for her positions, and it only makes me want to know more. Thanks again!

Ben of the Bayou said...

@Joe, I'm not sure that I merely want to "parse words," but I disagree partially with what you have said. I think that words are important to get right because they have meaning and meaning makes difference because it has to do with reality. I think you would agree with that.

If that is true, then it is important to look closer at the arguments you just made concerning: 1. God's validation of things on a personal level and 2. the role of works.

First, I am sure that God does "confirm" or "validate" things to us by personal experience at times. However, I propose to you that this validation cannot be the reason because of which we believe. You write that this is "opposed to always taking somewhat else's word for it." However, I would say you have then vitiated the nature of faith. Faith is essentially taking the word of another, of entrusting ourselves to a reality that we cannot confirm, either empirically or experientially. Faith is an act of affirming the truth of what we cannot verify, though it is not contrary to reason. The only way then to make such an affirmation is to trust the word of another, and in this way God teaches us exactly what the community of faith is like and that it is not our own invention. When I became a Catholic, I had to entrust myself to the truth of Christ to which she was and is the constant witness. For this reason Paul calls the Church the "pillar and defensive fortification of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15). If I am going to believe in Christ, then I need another who witnesses to me His truth (even Christ had such; see John 1:7), and even better if that one is divinely established.

Second, you cite the Council of Orange about works. In order to keep things short, I will only say that it is important to note that the Council of Orange says that our meritorious deeds are not the cause of our justification, which is distinct in the history of Catholic theology from salvation. Justification is an absolutely unmerited and gratuitous gift of God (which the practice of infant baptism makes SO clear). However, as you write, this gift REQUIRES a correspondence in the will of man. Love that is not lived in deeds is no love at all. Thus, man must cooperate in his own salvation, and these acts done in sanctifying grace truly merit for man his own salvation. Without them, man has not living faith at all, and can such a dead faith SAVE one, asks James? Or, as Augustine said, "The God who created you without your cooperation will not save you without your cooperation."

However, I invite you to return to my previously posed and more foundational question concerning Christ's will in establishing the Church. I believe there is much light there.


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You emphasize the role of a personal adherence to Christ, a personal validation of the Scriptures; fair enough. I completely agree that God does move us with his Spirit every time we read the Bible. Certainly his work in the world did not end when Christ ascended, but continues to our own day.

Also, I should not have labeled you as a Calvinist...that was an error on my part. I see that you are not.

However, I firmly believe that the Sacraments are necessary for salvation. This is not God playing favorites or showing partiality. The Sacraments are open to all -- either actually or by desire. I refuse to separate the internal faith from the external mandate of Christ "Go forth and make disciples of all nations, BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Salvation comes from Christ, and he has instituted the Sacraments and founded a Church to spread that salvation to the whole world.

I do hope that I have not been a stumbling block to you in your faith journey. However, I do believe that Catholics need to be very clear and faithful in their presentation of the Gospel.

Peace to you, and happy Advent!

Anonymous said...


I totally agree that faith requires a leap of assent to a message received from others. But faith is not totally blind either, and I think it would be unreasonable for an omnipotent and loving God to not supply some kind of personal verification that we 'should' take that leap. I don't need Jesus to appear to me and give me the entire deposit of faith one on one, but I do need him to give me enough grace or conviction to know it's right to take the leap that is before me.

Secondly, I have always understood the position of the Catholic church to be that justification plus sanctification equals ultimate salvation. Grace for sanctification is just as much grace as the grace for jusfication is grace, and grace by definition is unmerited.

Grace, however, can be stewarded, which is the point I was trying to make with the parables. So the actual level of grace that we walk in on a daily basis has everything to do with how we handled yesterday's grace. Did we properly steward what God gave us, or did we squander it?

The answer to that question determines how much grace (and thus sanctification) we get in this life, versus how much our little squandering rebellions leave for us to deal with in the next life/purgatory. Perhaps what you are calling 'merit' I am calling 'steward' but essentially I THINK we are saying the same thing.

Ben of the Bayou said...


You have certainly shown yourself to be very thoughtful and I am encouraged by that.

Just two thoughts for you. First, I want to be clear that the act of faith is and must be reasonable. If I did not state that clearly enough, I apologise. I would propose to you that the "verification" of which you speak should fundamentally be the reasonableness of the faith act, rather than an experiential movement of the passions/emotions (though God certainly does provide these as helps).

Second, as you say it is justification plus sanctification that leads to salvation. However, the distinction lies in seeing that salvation is not a static state, but a dynamic one. In a sense, it is a flowing river, if one does not paddle, he flows backward. This is a limping analogy, but the point is that justification must always be accompanied by works which sanctify. So, while grace given by sanctification is grace, it is fundamentally merited grace because the acts by which we do them are acts of cooperation (and I mean that literally: co operation) with the grace that moves us to act according to the truth and love of God.

On the point about stewarding, yes, we must certainly be good stewards, by that daily and constant cooperation, but this is fundamentally merit and since salvation comes from both justification and sanctification, we do merit our salvation, by which we only mean that our free and daily cooperation is necessary and is the reward of our actions. That is how Catholics understand 2 Timothy 4:6-8, by the way.

In Christ,

DO said...


This is turning into quite a deep theological discourse! That is a good thing. However if you don't mind; one more piece of advice.

When deciding whether or not to convert (I'm not sure if you're at that stage)- movement in the direction of Truth is usually not a result of delving as deeply as possible into the intricate details of the point of theology in question and mustering up a massive exertion of our intellectual reason to reach a conclusion.

On the contrary, this desired movement results from shedding whatever habits or practices that our conscience tells us may be less than perfect. This allows more light into our lives which then makes the right path much clearer and more easily followed. If an intellectual pursuit be needed at this point of the process, you are best off keeping it on the historical level: that Christ founded His Church on Peter, and Benedict XVI is Peter's successor.

Deep, intricate, fine-tuned theological exploration is usually only beneficial once we are already firmly and confidently living in the Truth.

May God Bless you,

Anonymous said...

@Reginaldus. I stumbled on this interesting blog from a link in New Advent. Very confusing how the most recent comment is dated December 5, 2010 ll:35 PM, whereas I am currently writing from the midwest at Dec. 5, 2010 5:16 PM! So you are apparently ahead of time. Anyway, you say, "The CCC emphasizes the (very slight) hope we have for the salvation of "virtuous pagans" and (even less) for non-baptized babies." I'm just thinking that if that is the case, grandparents who have children who were baptized Catholics but have no intention of baptizing their own children, should baptize their newborn grandchildren, in view of the grace and character conferred ex opere operato. But all Church authorities advise against this. What do you think?

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous (12:22am),
You have correctly noticed that the time stamps for the blog are a bit strange...that is because the blog was created in Rome and is still set on Roman time...
I too am now writing from the midwest, so I regularly struggle with the blog's time-change. :-)

In regard to the baptizing of infants. St. Thomas and the Church advise that we ought not to baptize children against the will of their parents. You can see this in Summa Theologiae III, q.68, a.10,

This simple answer: According to natural law, children who do not yet have the use of free will are under the care of their parents. Thus, to baptize them against their parents' will would be contrary to natural justice. Moreover, baptizing these children would risk that they might not be raised in the faith -- then their baptism would become a burden, since they would lapse into unbelief.

It seems that, even in danger of death, we would not baptize an infant against his parents' will. Though, I myself would probably try to do it...

Long and short: It would be a sin against natural law to violate the wish of the parents, for this reason we do not baptize those children -- for we cannot do evil, even if we are striving for good.

Remember, prayer is very powerful in winning the conversion of the parents!
I hope this helps. Peace to you in Christ!

Anonymous said...

@Reginaldus: I am generally for following natural law, but following the natural law in this case seems to remove the possibility supernatural salvation from one's grandchildren. Besides, a Christian is advised to go beyond the natural law, loving one's enemies, etc.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

It is true that we go beyond the natural law, but we cannot contradict the natural law. Remember "grace perfects nature."

God entrusts the salvation of infants to their parents. It is both from natural and from supernatural law. Just as we cannot force someone to convert against their will, neither can we force baptism upon an infant against the will of his parents.

Somehow, in all of this, God's will is being done. So, we must pray and pray and pray...prayer is omnipotent. Be not afraid! Trust in God, stand firm and wait for the Lord.
Blessings to you in the Lord!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Anonymous (3:31am),
I have deleted your comment because you did not put a NAME or ID to it. It is impossible to have serious intellectual discussion with a whole slew of "anonymouses"...

The gist of your comment is that water is necessary for baptism and that, therefore, no one can be "baptized" by desire or by blood.
Thus, you hold that all the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament were either 1) saved without baptism or 2) condemned to eternal damnation.
Neither of these options is at all plausible. Therefore, there must be some sort of true baptism beyond the sacramental baptism with water.

Moreover, I would add that the baptism of blood is even more perfect than sacramental baptism, hence the high place of martyrs in the Catholic Tradition.

If you want to make a comment and enter the discussion, please re-read the article, then read the comments, then make your own comment -- And this time have the common courtesy to put some sort of pseudonym within your comment so that we can respond properly

Toma Blizanac said...

Father, here is what Baltimore Catechism says:

Q. 643. Can we baptize a child against the wishes of its parents?

A. We cannot baptize a child against the wishes of its parents; and if the parents are not Catholics, they must not only consent to the baptism, but also agree to bring the child up in the Catholic religion. But if a child is surely dying, we may baptize it without either the consent or permission of its parents.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Thank you for the reference!
I knew I had read somewhere about baptizing the infant when in danger of death, but I couldn't find it. This seems to be a bit of a development from St. Thomas' teaching, while still maintaining the core doctrine.

Also, it should be noted that children of the age of reason may be baptized, even against their parents' will, if they (i.e. the children 7 and up) ask for it...

Blessings to you and thanks again for the reference and clarification!

Mick said...

Obviously, Baptism was not required for salvation before the promulgation of the Gospel, that is, until after Pentecost. Since then, by the expressed command of Christ, Baptism of WATER is necessary for the salvation of every person. Baptism of blood was considered a "second baptism" and coveted because it supplied for the remission of any sins committed after WATER Baptism. Baptism of desire is a speculation which no one could ever know of in this world as, it would necessarily be bestowed by God at the death of the recipient, and only those two would know of it occurring. Mick.

Mick said...

Reginaldus: Could you please restore my Anon 3:31 post under the name of Mick? Thanks. Mick

me-don said...

@Scott West: What makes us Catholics more special or more correct than anyone else in the world is that the One, Holy, Apostolic Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Himself upon St. Peter, and guaranteed by Jesus to be free from any error for all time. No other religious entity, church, temple, meeting hall, or toilet pit has any authority to teach in Christ's Holy Name.
@Joe: We do what we are told by Our Lord and Savior. He said to baptise, and so we do. Period!
Finally, examples of abptism by blood: the Holy Innocents; baptism by desire: St. Dismas, the "Good Thief" (look it up).

Anonymous said...


Indeed, and I totally agree that we should baptize and be baptized because the Lord commanded it. I feel extra blessed myself to have been baptized by immersion!

BUT when I consider whether I'm a child of God or not, the fact that I'm baptized does not resound in my heart as the main qualifier.

I think it's reasonable to recognize that there are some obvious priorities in the criteria of determining whether one is saved, and 'being baptized' certainly falls below 'repentance' and 'trusting in the work of the cross' on the list. Frankly, the 'baptism of desire' demonstrates this well, in that it's a person's desire for obedience that trumps the actual baptismal action.

In a way, this whole topic is mute since a true Christian would indeed be baptized unless they died beforehand or were taught some odd doctrine by their authority about baptism not being important.

In either case I don't think God would hold up their salvation if they had the more essential interior elements correct (repentance/desire for obedience and trust in the work of the cross). Unlike my grandmother, God is not a nitpicking shrew ;).

Baptism is an outward sign of an inward conversion. So if the inward converstion of an baptized adult is later lost, they can glory all day in their baptism 'once upon a time' and still NOT enter the pearly white gates (hence the need for a sacrament of reconciliation)...and if an infant was baptized, but doesn't follow up that sacrament with the appropriate interior "second conversion" as an adult, heaven won't await them either.

So YES let's obey God and be baptized, but once we are, let's emphasize the heart of the matter, because in the end, it's what's in the heart, that really matters. If you need convincing of that, just read 1 Corinthians 13. ;)


Anonymous said...

@Reginaldus - Thank you, sir! No you haven't been a stumbling block to me at all, and I totally agree that we should never neglect the externals of the faith just because we think we have the internals. Actually if we truly have the internals right, we will do (obey) the externals. Still, though, the priority is on the internals...or else we're just empty people 'going through the motions' of a religion that has no meaning. And I think we all know people like that :-/

@Dan - Thanks for the advice. While I obviously think it's important to understand the details of doctrines of a faith or position you are considering, I agree that the higher priority is definitely on allowing God's discerning light in your heart...which doesn't enter in very easily when we are full of sin.

@Ben - Thanks for the dialog! :)

me-don said...

@ Joe: Jesus did not say "Go forth and convict people to repentance," nor "Teach all to trust in the work of the cross." He said "Go forth and BAPTIZE." I think your cuddly, touchy, feel-good religion has you duped. You need to logically discover the One, True Church established by Jesus upon His apostles and handed down through all these past centuries, and obey and learn from her. Your feelings will decieve you every time. Who is your authority for your opinions? From whom do you take your instruction? To which master do you submit?

Anonymous said...


The apostles continually preached repentance, trust/believe in the cross, AND baptism, and with adults, baptism followed the other two! Jesus himself said that the 'work of God' was to 'believe on on Him who the Father sent.' Read the bible much?

Faith and love do not depend on feelings, but genuine relationships do include them...unless of course your name is 'Data'.

I thank God every day that my communion with God is neither purely mechanical or purely logical, but full of joy and peace.

According to St. Paul, the Kingdom of God is not summed up in eating and drinking (or any other mechanical regulation for that matter) but righteousness, joy, and peace (See Romans and Colossians).

If your definition of relationship between two parties is mechanics and logic, I'd hate to be your wife!


Mick said...

me-don 2:51 AM, The Holy Innocents are not examples of so-called baptism of blood because they died before the institution of the Sacrament of Baptism. Similarly, St. Dismas died before the time that reception of WATER Baptism became the indispensable requirement for entry into Heaven and, so, could not have been saved by "baptism of desire".(Whatever that is.)

me-don said...

Mick: If the Holy Innocents died before the "institution" of the sacrement of baptism, then am I to suppose that they are NOT saved? After all, it was Jesus Who said that unless you are born of WATER and the Spirit you connot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Which brings us to the second half of your post; i.e. that St. Dismas died before water baptism became the "indispensable requirement" for entry into heaven. Pretty neat trick, that the Crucifixion somehow comes before Jesus tells Nicodemus that he had to be born of WATER...(see above). Water is and always was an integral part of baptism. John baptised with water, and the eunich said to Phillip, "here is WATER, what's to keep me from being baptised?" Water always has been the "Integral part" of baptism because we are saved through water as Noah and his family was (see 1Peter:3, 20-21)Baptism also invokes the rememberance of the salvation of the Jewish people from Pharoh through the power of God over the water. And yet, Jesus Himself tells St. Dismas that he would be with Him in paradise. (Baptism by desire). Seems like your argument just won't hold water.

Mick said...

me-don, Please read Reginaldus' comment 3:46 AM and Mick 10:39 PM

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Unfortunately, I cannot keep up with the debate and discussion in this comment box.

But I would like to just make a couple little comments:

@Mick, you should know that you are very far outside the Catholic Tradition on this matter. If you are Catholic, you really should read the Catechism and St. Thomas.

In any case, I do find it very funny that you argue that the mode of salvation has become MORE LIMITED since Christ died... You argue that before his death, baptism was not necessary (in any sense) for salvation, but that AFTER HIS DEATH salvation is now limited to baptism (and specifically baptism by water).

If you are correct, that would mean that, during the Old Testament, salvation less limited than in the New Testament...That is quite contrary to the Biblical notion of the Promise.

I have maintained, on the other hand, that Baptism has always been necessary for salvation: Baptism of Desire or Blood was available to the people of the Old Testament. Baptism of Water is now also available in the New Testament -- but the Desire and Blood Baptisms also remain a possibility.
Moreover, "Baptism of Blood" is the most perfect form of Baptism, even more perfect than Baptism of Water.

I don't know which tradition you belong to, but your theology is not rooted in the Christian Tradition given by Christ and handed down from the Apostles to the Fathers and Doctors of the Church and affirmed in our own day by the Pope and the bishops in union with him.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I am sorry, but I cannot figure out how to put your first comment (under Anonymous) back into the comment box. I think that the basic point of your original comment is pretty well contained and expressed in your other comments and my responses.

Though I will be a bit slow in responding to future discussion, be assured that I am reading your comments and will try to respond as I am able.

Blessings to you!

Unknown said...

Toma your statement below is extremely logical and arrives at a logical conclusion:
"Thank you for clarifying things, but I still have two questions:
1.) It seem to me that it is better then to leave such a person that you call a virtuous pagan in his ignorance for thus he can at least have some chance of salvation. But if he is directly confronted with the truth about Jesus and his Church and he denies it (which most often will be the case, if nothing else, then because of his upbringing) he will have no hope of salvation unless he does come to a point where he wishes for baptism.
I know this sounds absurd and really don't think this is the way we should behave, but perhaps this is an implication of widening the baptism of desire to those who have not explicitly wished for it.

Unfortunately you have been handed a false premise. If baptism of desire were to be defined as the Modernists present it to us, then you would avoid preaching the Gospel to them, better to be "saved" in ignorance.
Christ gave us water Baptism. Man in his attempt to create God in his own limited image has given us two other "baptisms". The Nicene Creed says that there is only one Baptism.
Some claim that the necessity of Baptism is a "hard saying". With all the loopholes created, how can it possibly be considered an obstacle when anyone, even one who isn't aware of Christ's existence, can be saved and spend an eternity with Him?
So important is the necessity of water that Christ put it before the Holy Ghost.

Unknown said...

@Reginaldus I am a little confused about your differences with Mick. When did the Church ever formally pronounce on the other baptisms? And never have I heard that baptism of blood is more perfect than Baptism of Water. Christ specifically gave us Baptism of Water, but some theologians, in attempting to make up for the fickle finger of fate (Water Baptism was beyond the possibility of God getting it to a worthy soul) gave us baptism of blood and desire to apply the actual effects of Water Baptism on the soul.
When does baptism of desire take effect? Can you give Holy Communion to a non-Water Baptized person? Why not? If such a person can spend an eternity in front of the Beatific Vision, why can't he receive the other Sacraments on earth? After all, according to you, such a person is in the State of Grace.

And if such a person acquires such desirable baptism, what happens if he should fall into sin afterward? Does he get confession of desire or the last rites of desire?
See what happen when we play with the Truth, you get confusion and ambiguity - great weapons of Satan for undermining the Faith.

Anonymous said...

@micmtert - It seems to me that by introducting this 'baptism of desire' concept, the church is essentially saying that, while the objective and material way to become a Christian is baptism, God is not limited to this method in determining who ends up in heaven or hell.

The Holy Spirit can confer to individuals the effect of baptism, which is regeneration, with or without their actual physical participation in the sacrament, as long as they had the intention and desire to obey God.

In other words these individuals have the right things going on in their souls and have said 'yes' to God as much as they know how, but because of ignorance did not or could not engage in mainstream practices and/or sacraments.

It's good to keep in mind that God is a loving Father, who justly weighs the hearts of men when making eternal judgments of heaven and hell. WE are the ones who need neat and tidy signs of objectivity in order to have assurance and confidence, but not God.

Papa Puttss said...

You are all so Catholic that none of you, even the author, bothered to mention the commandment of Jesus in the 6th chapter of John's Gospel, "If you do not eat my flesh and drink my blood you will not have eternal life." Isn't that necessary enough for salvation?
You did not make enough distinctions and counter distincyions to be a good Thomist. This article is bad.

Mick said...

The just of the O.T., from Abel to Zachery including St.Dismas, were not "saved" until Christ led them into Heaven, which He reopened on Ascension Thursday. "The limbo of the Just" is that place referred to in the Apostles Creed as "Hell". It became the "Paradise" Christ told Dismas about when He, Christ, entered it. The problem w/ attributing to the Holy Innocents and St. Dismas BoB & BoD is that they were saved under the Old Law & ITS requirements. Everyone alive after the Promulgation of the Gospel, Pentecost, is required to receive Sacramental Baptism for salvation, as this is the NEW Law. Peter said to the Jews, "Do penance, and be baptized every one of you...". Acts chaps 8,9,&10 show God's awareness of & care for those desirous of friendship with Him and, as Aquinas says, "supplies what is necessary" to them in the form of WATER and someone to administer it. God knows the desires of every heart and sees every man. Jer 23:24. Jesus KNEW what He was saying in Jn 3:5 & Mk16:16. Do not rebel! "One Lord, One faith, One Baptism. To inquire further would be sinful." Pio Nono.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Paul Dion, STL
You are entirely focused on your own little vision and oblivious to the rest (hence an "idiot")...
Don't talk to me about being a "good Thomist"; have you even read the articles on Baptism and (since you bring it up) the Eucharist? St. Thomas states very clearly that the necessity of the Eucharist for salvation is such that a desire for communion is sufficient in those who have not the opportunity to make a communion.

I am sorry that I didn't "make enough distinctions and counter distincyions" for you...I am still trying to figure out what a "counter distincyion" soon as I discover what this interesting reality is, I will be sure to make a few!
On the other hand, I am quite sure that I have made enough counter distinctions.

Also, it should be noted that some of the people making comments are not in fact Catholic...thus it is quite inappropriate for you to state "you are all so Catholic".
Hence, I am left wondering: Did you even read the comments? Or the article?
BTW, your STL doesn't mean anything to me, Paulie boy...

Papa Puttss said...

Ah, Reginaldus:
Looks like both of us are not afraid of straight talk. I like that.
Because you are wondering, I must say that I read every word, article and comments.
I forgive your moment of pique as evidenced by the last sentence of your comment. I still think that the article is bad for many reasons, but I have moved on.
Also please note that I respect what you and your colleagues offer here to the point that I have signed up to follow the posts.
My STL is what it is, just as yours is. So we have the liberty to disagree with one another as equals without disparaging labels.
Lastly,your presentation about St. John of Damascus and the question about icons is good. Thank you.

Mick said...

Paul & Reginaldus; You two remind me of what my mother-in-law says to me, "the problem is, we don't misunderstand each other." haha. But, seriously folks. Paul, must not Sacramental Baptism precede the worthy reception of the Sacrament of the Eucharist? (And all other Sacraments.)

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

@Paul (6:49am)
Fair enough.
I should not have assumed you didn't read the article and comments.
I still don't understand what you don't like about the article on Baptism, but it's probably best for me to drop it.

@Mick: I like your mother-in-law's saying! :-)

Papa Puttss said...

What I didn't like is too complex to unwrap here. If you live in Southern California, maybe we could duke it out over a stein of micro-brew. Good idea to move on for both of us.
Yes, Baptism must come first. Reginaldus is right, your mother-in-law has a point.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I want to respond to your citation of Pius IX (at 11:35am on Dec 10), "One Lord, One faith, One Baptism. To inquire further would be sinful."

[Below I am copying a comment I made on the post from Dec 16th]

Have you no respect for the Holy Father Ven. Pius IX? How can you possibly quote his "Singulari Quadam" without accurately giving his position?

The venerable Pontiff of happy memory states most clearly, "on the other hand, it is necessary to hold for certain that they who labor in ignorance of the true religion, if this ignorance is invincible, are not stained by any guilt in this matter in the eyes of God."
The whole point of this "invincible ignorance" of those who are virtuous yet are likewise pagan unbelievers is this -- there is a baptism of desire by which one can be saved and freed from all guilt.
Or would you have it that Pio Nono is claiming that a pagan can be saved without any sort of baptism at all, not even baptism of desire?

Either you have not read "Singulari Quadam" (which I suspect is most likely), or you have deliberately misrepresented the Venerable Pontiff's claim in your previous comments.

In any case, I will repeat your own words applying them to yourself: "Do not rebel!" Submit to the sound doctrine which Christ has given to his Church! Turn away from pride, while there is still time. Filial submission to the Catholic Church is what is necessary here.

Logal said...

Catholics believe baptism is necessary for salvation.
VATICAN II declared this in #7 of it’s decree Ad Gentes:
“Therefore, all must be converted to Him, made known by the Church's preaching, and all must be incorporated into Him by baptism and into the Church which is His body. For Christ Himself "by stressing in express language the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5), at the same time confirmed the necessity of the Church, into which men enter by baptism, as by a door. Therefore those men cannot be saved, who though aware that God, through Jesus Christ founded the Church as something necessary, still do not wish to enter into it, or to persevere in it." (Dogmatic constitution by Vatican II: Lumen Gentium 14) Therefore though God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6), yet a necessity lies upon the Church (1 Cor. 9:16), and at the same time a sacred duty, to preach the Gospel. And hence missionary activity today as always retains its power and necessity.”

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