Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Salvation by Habitual Faith

Now that I have addressed the possiblity of salvation by implicit faith, I would like to go a step further, and make the perhaps shocking claim that one can be saved without explicit or implicit faith. Faith is still necessary, but to be salvific, faith does not need to exist in act, but only in habit.

If one stops to think about this for a moment, this is not something strange or unusual. In fact, the Church has taught it quite consistently for the last 2000 years. When an infant is baptized, the habits of faith, hope, and Charity are infused within the soul of the child, even though the child itself is unable to have any actual acts of these. In virtue of these habits alone, the child can be saved. Here is an instructive selection from St. Thomas on this:

Whether children receive grace and virtue in Baptism?
OBJ 1: It seems that children do not receive grace and virtues in Baptism. For grace and virtues are not possessed without faith and charity. But faith, as Augustine says (Ep. xcviii), "depends on the will of the believer": and in like manner charity depends on the will of the lover. Now children have not the use of the will, and consequently they have neither faith nor charity. Therefore children do not receive grace and virtues in Baptism.

Reply OBJ 1: Faith and charity depend on man's will, yet so that the habits of these and other virtues require the power of the will which is in children; whereas acts of virtue require an act of the will, which is not in children. In this sense Augustine says in the book on Infant Baptism (Ep. xcviii): "The little child is made a believer, not as yet by that faith which depends on the will of the believer, but by the sacrament of faith itself," which causes the habit of faith. (ST. TP. Q.69 A.6 Rp. 2)

This exposes the fallacy of those who accumulate magisterial quotations on the necessity of faith in order to try and show that explicit faith is necessary for salvation. Nearly all of these kind of quotations are referring to the universal necessity of faith for salvation, and thus including both implicit faith (as many before Christ had), and habitual faith (as infants have).

Now, the most likely response to this of someone who believes that explicit faith is necessary would be to say, "Well, perhaps habitual faith can suffice for children, but for adults explicit faith is necessary." However, as we shall see in our next post, this is not true.

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