Necessary knowledge for salvation?
Is there knowledge that is necessary for salvation, (i. e., the incarnation)?

(03-22-2017, 01:09 PM)EliRotello Wrote: Is there knowledge that is necessary for salvation, (i. e., the incarnation)?

The Credo
(03-22-2017, 01:09 PM)EliRotello Wrote: Is there knowledge that is necessary for salvation, (i. e., the incarnation)?

Of course.

"Without Faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6)

**Will just any "faith" suffice? No. The Council of Trent (Session V) identifies the Faith of this verse from Hebrews with the Catholic Faith--"That our Catholic faith, without which it is impossible to please God." 

"Some theologians," says St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "hold that the belief of the two other articles - the Incarnation of the Son of God, and the Trinity of Persons - is strictly commanded but not necessary, as a means without which salvation is impossible; so that a person inculpably ignorant of them may be saved. But according to the more common and truer opinion, the explicit belief of these articles is necessary as a means without which no adult can be saved." (First Command. No. 8.) According to St. Augustine (De Praedest. Sanctorum C. 15.)

Salvific Divine Faith must have a supernatural object according to Vatican 1, which put an end to the speculation that reason alone knowledge of God would be sufficient. 

"The Catholic Church", says the Vatican Council, III, iv, "has always held that there is a twofold order of knowledge, and that these two orders are distinguished from one another not only in their principle but in their object; in one we know by natural reason, in the other by Divine faith; the object of the one is truth attainable by natural reason, the object of the other is mysteries hidden in God, but which we have to believe and which can only be known to us by Divine revelation

Athanasian Creed (circa A.D. 420): "Whoever wishes to be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith, which unless each one preserves whole and inviolate, without doubt he will perish everlastingly. [..explanation of the Trinity...]  This is the Catholic faith, which unless each one believes faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved."

St. Thomas Aquinas states that in the New Dispensation all who will be saved must believe at a minimum the Holy Trinity and Incarnation

-As the mystery of the Incarnation was believed from the beginning, so, also, was it necessary to believe the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity; for the mystery of the Incarnation cannot be explicitly believed without faith in the Most Holy Trinity, because the mystery of the Incarnation teaches that the Son of God took to himself a human body and soul by the power of the Holy Ghost. Hence, as the mystery of the Incarnation was explicitly believed by the teachers of religion, and implicitly by the rest of the people, so, also, was the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity explicitly believed by the teachers of religion and implicitly by the rest of the people. But in the New Law it must be explicitly believed by all." (De Fide, Q ii., art. vii. et viii.)

Saint Thomas Aquinas O.P., Doctor, (died A.D. 1274): "If, however, unbelief be taken just negatively, as in those who have heard nothing about the faith, it bears the character, not of fault, but of penalty, because their ignorance of divine things is the result of the sin of our first parents.  Those who are unbelievers in this sense are condemned on account of other sins, which cannot be forgiven without faith; they are not condemned for the sin of unbelief." (Summa Theologica II, II, 10, 1.)

The mysteries of Faith are not just a matter of necessity of precept.

Pope Clement XI (A.D. 1700-1721).  Response of the Holy Office: (D. 1349a): "the mysteries of faith which are necessary by a necessity of means ... are especially the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation."

Pope Saint Pius X, A.D. 1903-1914: "Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: "We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect."" (Acerbo Nimis)


It's all subject to one's abilities. The severely mentally retarded, for ex., may be inculpably ignorant about the Creed and still be saved.

And as to the Creed, we can know by reason that God exists, for ex., but we can't know purely from reason that Jesus is His Son. That sort of knowledge is infused by God or is derived from other premises (e.g., the Catholic Church teaches the Truth, the Church teaches that Jesus is the Son of God, ergo, Jesus is the Son of God).

See the Moral Thinking: A Primer on Catholic Moral Theology page for info on ignorance and the theological virtues.

I think an argument can be made based on the Hebrews passage that one must only believe that God exists and is a rewarder of those that seek him, without explicit knowledge of other things, but that doesn't seem to be what the Church teaches (unless we consider that one who seeks will be rewarded with that knowledge).

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

The only source I know of that even hints at that knowledge not being necessary is a line from JPII's Redemptoris Missio (even then, from a strict grammatical sense, it does not say that).  However, he himself clarified that very line in a subsequent audience. After quoting it, he goes on to say:

St. John Paul II Wrote:2. What I have said above, however, does not justify the relativistic position of those who maintain that a way of salvation can be found in any religion, even independently of faith in Christ the Redeemer, and that interreligious dialogue must be based on this ambiguous idea. That solution to the problem of the salvation of those who do not profess the Christian creed is not in conformity with the Gospel. Rather, we must maintain that the way of salvation always passes through Christ, and therefore the Church and her missionaries have the task of making him known and loved in every time, place and culture. Apart from Christ "there is no salvation".

As Peter proclaimed before the Sanhedrin at the very start of the apostolic preaching: "There is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved" (Acts 4:12).

For those too who through no fault of their own do not know Christ and are not recognized as Christians, the divine plan has provided a way of salvation. As we read in the Council's Decree on Missionary Activity Ad gentes, we believe that "in ways known to himself, God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel" to the faith necessary for salvation (Ad gentes, n. 7).

The last part is the key when considering the ignorant, but otherwise properly disposed soul.  Faith in Christ the Redeemer is necessary, but someone can be led to that faith apart from the usual means.  Those extraordinary means can be anything, from the teleportation of a an Apostle or other saint, to the visitation by an angel, to an interior inspiration. It can also come at any time up until death.

Some Protestants argued, for example, that God did not provide the means for the salvation of all because there were many people in the world who had never had the Gospel effectively preached to them (or preached to them at all). St. Robert Bellarmine answered them this way:

St. Robert,De Gratis et Libero Arbitrio, book 2, chapter 8 Wrote:This argument only proves that not all people receive the help they need to believe and be converted immediately. It does not, however, prove that some people are deprived, absolutely speaking, of sufficient help for salvation. For the pagans to whom the Gospel has not yet been preached, can know from His creatures that God exists; then they can be stimulated by God, through His preventing grace, to believe in God, that He exists and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him: and from such faith, they can be inspired, under the guidance and help of God, to pray and give alms and in this way obtain from God a still greater light of faith, which God will communicate to them, either by Himself or through angels or through men.

This same idea was echoed in Pope Francis' first encyclical:

Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei 35 Wrote:Because faith is a way, it also has to do with the lives of those men and women who, though not believers, nonetheless desire to believe and continue to seek. To the extent that they are sincerely open to love and set out with whatever light they can find, they are already, even without knowing it, on the path leading to faith.

Ultimately, the question of the minimum necessary knowledge is academic.  Our Lord did not command us to teach the minimum, but everything.  Likewise, those who seek and are otherwise properly disposed, will receive the necessary means some way or another, no matter what those absolutely necessary means are.

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