IS THERE SALVATION OUTSIDE THE CHURCH?
by Fr. William Most
A recent study by Gustave Thils, "Pour une theologie de structure
planetaire," has pointed out some new possibilities for the solution of
the vexing and long-standing problem, the salvation of those who are or
seem to be outside the Church.
The question is difficult, because salvation requires not only a
supernatural faith in God who requites justly, and adherence to the moral
code, so far as the person knows it, but even membership in the Church.
Not a few Fathers of the Church, and even Popes and Councils, have
insisted on this requirement of membership.
From merely popular level mission magazines to more scholarly works, one
so often finds mere despair about this requirement of membership. For
example, a seminar on Christology at the 1984 convention of the Catholic
Theological Society of America shows not a few participants not only
thought the Church could be dispensed with, but even Christ Himself. Doubt
was even raised over the "non-contradictory notion of truth" with a
tendency to think that "truth is always perspectival."
At the other end of the spectrum, one finds the pessimistic notion of St.
Augustine that most persons are lost without really a chance and--though
Augustine did not seem to share this second facet--the fundamentalistic
understanding of the membership requirement, leading to heroic missionary
zeal on the part of not a few Saints, anxious to rescue pagans from
otherwise certain eternal ruin.
Yet, the Fathers of the first centuries, on closer study, reveal the start
of a way out of this impasse. They did not, it seems, reach the complete
solution, but they pointed in the right direction.
To understand their thought we need to notice that so many of them were
remarkably faithful to an essential facet of theological method. They knew
that in divine revelation it is not strange if one meets two conclusions
which, even on rechecking, turn out to be both true, so that we must hold
on in the dark, as it were, until somehow the day may dawn that will show
the way to reconciliation. A striking example of this appears in the way
the Fathers wrestled with two most difficult Scriptural texts: Lk 2:52,
which asserts that Jesus grew even in wisdom as well as in age, and Mk
13:32, in which Jesus Himself is quoted as saying He did not know the day
of the end.
The result was that in a very large number of major Fathers, we find two
groups of statements on the question of the human knowledge of Jesus. One
group seems to admit ignorance in Him, so He could literally grow in
wisdom, and have a lack of knowledge of the day of the end. The other
group of texts firmly asserts there was no ignorance in Him on either of
With remarkable fidelity, the Fathers went on for a long time in making
both kinds of assertions. On the one hand, they did not wish to flatly
contradict what Scripture seemed to say; on the other hand, they knew that
there could not be ignorance in His human intellect. This situation went
on until finally a way was found to reconcile the seeming contradiction.
St. Athanasius first discovered that we could distinguish between actual
growth in knowledge, and growth in the manifestation of what was always
there--showing it "before God and men." Much more time had to pass before
Eulogius and St. Gregory the Great found the solution to the knowledge of
the last day, in saying that He knew it in His humanity but not from His
A diligent search in the Fathers shows a similar situation in regard to
"no salvation outside the Church." We find again two sets of assertions,
very often by the same writers. One group of statements speaks very
strongly, and almost stringently, about the need of membership; the other
group softens this position by taking a remarkably broad view of what
membership consists in.
As we said, in the problems of the human knowledge of Jesus, the Fathers
eventually did find out how to reconcile the two kinds of assertions. On
our present question of membership in the Church, they seem to have found
only part of the answer. But, with their help, we will, at the end of this
appendix, propose a new Scripturally-based solution.
Before going ahead we need to notice one more principle of interpretation.
It is this: the only things guaranteed in statements of the Magisterium,
and protected in lesser ways in the works of the Fathers, are the things
explicitly set down on paper. We may indeed know historically that certain
thoughts, more extensive, were in the minds of the writers. Yet Divine
Providence has committed itself to protect only the explicitly written
texts, not what is merely in the mind and unexpressed.
We might say that God practices a sort of brinkmanship. He has made two
commitments that go in opposite directions. First, He has made humans
free; second, He has guaranteed this protection of teaching. Therefore He
often, as it were, draws a very tight line, protecting only what is
explicit on paper, not what is implicit, or only in the minds of the
writers. For example, some statements made near the time of St. Augustine
and even later were written by those who may have believed at least part
of his "massa damnata" theory. The fact that we know they had these things
in mind does not commit the Church to that theory. Again, the writers of
some teachings on the Eucharist had in mind an Aristotelian framework of
substance and accident. But these words can be understood in a
non-technical, everyday sense. So the Church did not guarantee
Aristotelianism. Further, Pius IX and Gregory XVI (and perhaps Leo XIII
also) may well have had more extensive ideas in mind on religious
liberty/indifferentism than what they set down in writing. But the Church
is committed only to what they actually wrote.
We need to keep this principle firmly in mind in reading conciliar
statements on our question.
For the sake of clarity, we will go through each of the two sets of
statements separately, beginning with the seemingly rigid texts.
RESTRICTIVE TEXTS OF THE FATHERS
Perhaps the earliest of these comes from the "Shepherd" of Hermas:
These apostles and the teachers who preached the name of the Son of God,
when they fell asleep in the power and faith of the Son of God, preached
also to those who had fallen asleep earlier, and they gave them the seal
of the preaching. They therefore went down into the water with them, and
came up again.
Hermas clearly takes the requirement of physical Baptism so rigidly that
it had to be given even after death, or there could be no salvation. Yet,
we shall meet Hermas again in our second series, with a very broad text.
About the same time as Hermas, we meet a statement from St. Justin the
Martyr, from the middle of the second century, "Then they (converts) are
led by us where there is water, and are regenerated. . . . For Christ
said: Unless you are born again, you will not enter into the kingdom of
heaven." In context, of course, Justin is speaking of converts. Yet the
insistence on Baptism is strong. On the other hand, as we shall see,
Justin has some of the most important texts of a broader type.
St. Irenaeus who also has many broad passages, has one which might be
considered restrictive: "God places in the Church apostles, prophets,
doctors . . . those who are not partakers of these, who do not run to the
Church, deprive themselves of life through evil opinions and wicked
working." Yet he seems to have in mind those who culpably reject the
Clement of Alexandria, who has many texts in our second series, quotes
verbatim the text we saw from Hermas, and seems to agree, in "Stromata"
2. 9. Clement also wrote: "He who does not enter through the door . . . is
a thief and a robber. Therefore it is necessary for them to learn the
truth through Christ and to be saved, even if they happen on
philosophy." Here however, we might wonder if Clement means that only
those are lost who by their own fault reject the faith.
Clement's great pupil, Origen, also gives us both kinds of statements.
Strongest is that from his Homily on Jesu Nave:
"If anyone of that people wishes to be saved, let him come to this house,
so that he can attain salvation, to this house in which the blood of
Christ is a sign of redemption. . . . Therefore let no one persuade
himself, let no one deceive himself: outside this house, that is, outside
the Church, no one is saved: for if anyone goes outside, he becomes guilty
of his own death."
Origen is allegorizing the house of Rahab in Jericho. But it seems that
those who went outside did so by their own fault.
Most stringent of all is St. Cyprian: "Whoever separates himself from the
Church . . . is separated from the promises of the Church. . . . He cannot
have God as his Father who does not have the Church as his mother. If
anyone was able to escape outside the ark of Noah, he too who is outside
the Church escapes." Even more sternly:
"The power of baptism cannot be greater or more powerful, can it, than
confession, than suffering, such that someone who confesses Christ before
men, is baptized with his own blood. And yet, neither does this baptism
profit a heretic, even though after confessing Christ, he is killed
outside the Church."
However, the testimony of St. Cyprian is quite marred because he himself
broke with the unity of the Church in contradicting Pope St. Stephen on
the validity of baptism given by heretics, the very point underlying these
statements. Really, if God had taken Cyprian at his word, Cyprian should
have been lost, even though a martyr.
Lactantius has a similar, though less sweeping text: "Whoever does not
enter there (the Church), or whoever goes out from there, is foreign to
the hope of life and salvation." It is just possible that this could
be taken to refer to those who are culpably outside.
In view of his pessimistic belief in his "massa damnata" theory, we might
expect St. Augustine to give us many stringent statements. Actually, he
does the opposite, as we shall see presently. His restrictive texts are
fewer and less clear. In "De natura et gratia" he wrote: "If Christ did
not die for no purpose, therefore all human nature can in no way be
justified and redeemed from the most just anger of God . . . except by
faith and the sacrament of the blood of Christ." Yet even this
statement is softened by his words a few lines earlier: "God is not
unjust, so as to deprive the just of the reward of justice, if the
sacrament of the divinity and humanity of Christ was not announced to
them." He thought only a few places by his day had not heard the
preaching--not dreaming of a whole added hemisphere, and of so many other
places in his own hemisphere.
Again, in his "Contra Julianum," Augustine comments on Romans 2:14-16,
which seems to speak of the salvation of pagans without the law. He takes
the gentiles mentioned to be converted gentiles, and adds: "Nor can you
prove by them that which you want, that even infidels can have true
virtues." Similarly, in commenting in Epistle 164. 4. 10 on the
mysterious words of 1 Peter 3: 18-20, he thinks that Christ preached to
perhaps all the dead, and so gave them a chance for salvation.
St. Cyril of Alexandria, says J. N. D. Kelly, "was voicing universally
held assumptions when he wrote (in Ps 30:22) that 'mercy is not obtainable
outside the holy city'."
St. Fulgentius of Ruspe clearly follows in the train of St. Cyprian:
"Not only all pagans, but also all Jews and all heretics and schismatics,
who finish their lives outside the Catholic Church, will go into eternal
fire. . . . No one, howsoever much he may have given alms, even if he
sheds his blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remains in
the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church."
Fulgentius also is at least close to the error of Cyprian on invalidity of
baptism given by heretics: "Baptism can exist . . . even among heretics .
. . but it cannot be beneficial (prodesse)
outside the Catholic Church." He likewise believes, with Augustine, in
the damnation of unbaptized infants.
RESTRICTIVE MAGISTERIUM TEXTS
There are several Magisterium texts that seem quite stringent. The
Profession of Faith prescribed by Pope Innocent III in 1208 A.D. for the
Waldensians says: "We believe in our heart and confess in our mouth that
there is one Church, not of heretics, but the holy Roman Catholic
apostolic Church, outside of which we believe no one is saved."
Similarly, the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 A.D. defined, against the
Albigensians and Cathari: "There is one universal Church of the faithful,
outside of which no one at all is saved."
Pope Boniface VIII in his famous "Unam sanctam" of Nov. 18, 1302 spoke
strongly: "Outside of which (the Church) there is neither salvation nor
remission of sins. . . . But we declare, state and define that to be
subject to the Roman Pontiff is altogether necessary for salvation."
The texts of Innocent III and IV Lateran do not go farther than the
patristic texts we have seen. But the second sentence from Boniface VIII
does raise a further question. However, the difficulty is easily handled;
for the critical line is quoted from St. Thomas, "Contra Errores
Graecorum": "Ostenditur etiam quod subesse Romano Pontifici sit de
necessitate salutis" ("It is also shown that to be subject to the
Roman Pontiff is necessary for salvation.") But in the context, shown by
the two quotes St. Thomas gives at this point, it means merely that there
is no salvation outside the Church. In that sense one must come under the
jurisdiction of the Pope.
An Epistle of Clement VI, of Sept. 29, 1351, makes just a simple
statement: "No man . . . outside the faith of the Church and obedience to
the Roman Pontiff can finally be saved." The sense is as above.
Finally, the Decree for the Jacobites from the Council of Florence in 1442
seems specially vehement:
It firmly believes, professes and preaches, that none who are outside the
Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and
schismatics, can partake of eternal life, but they will go into eternal
fire . . . unless before the end of life they will have been joined to it
(the Church); and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body has such force
that only for those who remain in it are the sacraments of the Church
profitable for salvation, and fastings, alms and other works of piety and
exercises of the Christian soldiery bring forth eternal rewards (only)
for them. "No one, howsoever much almsgiving he has done, even if he sheds
his blood for Christ, can be saved, unless he remains in the bosom and
unity of the Catholic Church."
The internal quote at the end is one we saw above from Fulgentius. Does
the Council endorse all the implications of Fulgentius? Hardly. As we saw,
Fulgentius also teaches the damnation of unbaptized infants, and seems to
contradict the teaching of Pope St. Stephen on baptism given by heretics.
But, more importantly, we can see from the vehemence of Patristic attacks
on heretics, e.g., St. Cyprian "Ad Demetrianum," that the Fathers have in
mind those who are in bad faith, who culpably reject the Church. They do
not seem to think of those who in- culpably fail to find the Church.
So from this point on, it becomes largely a question not of doctrine but
of objective fact: how many are culpable? Further, this statement was made
in 1442, before the 1492 discovery that there was a whole other world. The
writers thought that the Gospel had actually reached every creature--it
had not--and supposed, as we said, bad faith on the part of those who
So we need to think again of the remarks on brinkmanship in the
introduction to this appendix.
BROAD TEXTS OF THE MAGISTERIUM
That our interpretation of the Councils is not forced is guaranteed for us
by the fact that the same Magisterium, equally guided by the same Holy
Spirit, who does not contradict Himself, also made statements which
require this interpretation. As we shall see, these Magisterium texts, by
their repetition even on the Ordinary Magisterium level, can be considered
infallible, in line with the general teaching of theologians about such
Thus Pius IX, in "Quanto conficiamur moerore" of August 10, 1863, taught:
"God . . . in His supreme goodness and clemency, by no means allows anyone
to be punished with eternal punishments who does not have the guilt of
voluntary fault. But it is also a Catholic dogma, that no one outside the
Catholic Church can be saved, and that those who are contumacious against
the authority of the same Church (and) definitions and who are obstinately
(pertinaciter) separated from the unity of this Church and from the Roman
Pontiff, successor of Peter, to whom the custody of the vineyard was
entrusted by the Savior, cannot obtain eternal salvation."
This is a most significant text. For in it Pius IX stressed both the broad
view, and the need of membership. Further, Pius IX is noted for his
insistent condemnation of indifferentism, as we see in this passage just
quoted, and in his strong-sounding "Quanta cura." So Pius IX does not deny
the obligation to formally enter the Church if one knows the truth--that
would be indifferentism-- but he still could give a very broad statement
which means that if one keeps the moral law as he knows it, somehow the
other requirements will be met--though the Pope does not explain how. (At
the end of this appendix we will try to explain how.) Yet he does help us
by the words "contumacious . . . obstinate" which clearly show he has in
mind those who culpably reject the Church.
On August 9, 1949, the Holy Office, by order of Pope Pius XII, and basing
itself on the teaching of Pius XII in his Mystical Body Encyclical (we
shall cite the text presently), condemned the error of Leonard Feeney who
held that those who failed to enter the Church formally, even with no
fault of their own, could not reach salvation. The decree says:
"It is not always required that one be actually incorporated as a member
of the Church, but this at least is required: that one adhere to it in
wish and desire. It is not always necessary that this be explicit . . .
but when a man labors under invincible ignorance, God accepts even an
implicit will, called by that name because it is contained in the good
disposition of soul in which a man wills to conform his will to the will
Pius XII had said that a man can be "ordered to the Church by a certain
desire and wish of which he is not aware (inscio quodam desiderio ac
voto)," that is, the one contained in the good dispositions mentioned by
the Holy Office.
Vatican II taught the same in "Lumen gentium:"
"For they who without their own fault do not know of the Gospel of Christ
and His Church, but yet seek God with sincere heart, and try, under the
influence of grace, to carry out His will in practice, known to them
through the dictate of conscience, can attain eternal salvation."
We note that Vatican II said they need to act under the impulse of actual
grace. This grace is always provided for those who do what they can.
Further, we notice that Vatican II says they can attain eternal
salvation--it does not say they would reach just a sort of limbo of
adults, which some who wish to follow Feeney propose, though the Church
knows nothing of such an intermediate state for adults.
BROAD TEXTS OF THE FATHERS
Many of the broad texts of the Fathers were given in response to a charge
by the pagans: If the Church and Christ are necessary, why did He come so
late, and neglect countless millions born before His time? The first
attested instance of this claim comes from the pagan Celsus, in his "True
Discourse," probably to be dated 178 A.D. Origen quotes Celsus: "Did God
then after so great an age think of making the life of man just, but
before He did not care?"
We cannot help thinking of St. Paul himself, who in Rom 3:29-30 asks: "Is
He the God of the Jews alone? Is He not also (the God) of the gentiles?
Yes, also of the gentiles. For it is one (and the same) God who makes
righteous the circumcision (Jews) on the basis of faith, and
uncircumcision (non-Jews) through faith." In other words: If God had not
provided for those who did not come to know His old revelation, He would
seem not to act as their God. The same, of course, applies to the period
after Christ, for St. Paul insists with repeated vehemence in Rom 5:15-19
that the redemption is much more abundant than the fall. If God had made
provision before Christ, and then left men worse off after Christ, the
redemption would be, for such men, not superabundant, but a harsh
Long before Celsus and before any known literary pagan attacks on Christ,
Pope St. Clement had written to Corinth c. 94. A.D.
Let us go through all generations, and learn that in generation and
generation the Master has given a place of repentance to those willing to
turn to Him. Noah preached repentance, and those who heard him were saved.
Jonah preached repentance to the Ninivites; those who repented for their
sins appeased God in praying, and received salvation, even though they
were aliens (allotrioi) of God.
That is, they did not formally belong to His People of God.
The most suggestive texts come from St. Justin the Martyr, who also wrote
before Celsus, but anticipated the objection of Celsus. In his "First
Apology" he says he will answer in advance the claim that those who lived
before Christ were not answerable: "Christ is the Logos (Divine Word) of
whom the whole race of men partake. Those who lived according to Logos are
Christians, even if they were considered atheists, such as, among the
Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus." Light on what Justin means by this
comes in his "Second Apology" 10:8: "Christ . . . was and is the Logos who
is in everyone, and foretold through the prophets the things that were to
come, and taught these things in person after becoming like to us in
feeling." Similarly in "Second Apology" 13.3, after speaking of Plato, the
Stoics and others: "For each of them, through part of the Divine Logos,
seeing what was cognate to it (syngenes) to it, spoke well."
Danielou gives a helpful interpretation. He holds that Justin borrows
Stoic terminology, so as to say that in each man there is a "seed of the
Logos" (sperma tou logou), resulting from the action of the Logos which
gives the seed (spermatikos logos). For the Stoics, the Logos is the
immanent principle of all reason, of which the rational faculty in each
man is a manifestation: "It is the action of this Logos which gives to
each man the capacity to form certain moral and religious concep- tions. .
. . That which Socrates and Heraclitus knew is in fact
the Word." They knew it partially and obscurely. But yet, Justin does
not mean a difference in the content of the truth they saw and the truth
that came through revelation. Danielou adds: "The difference is solely one
of fullness, certainty, clarity."
We can certainly agree with Danielou that Justin the philosopher utilized
the language and even to some extent the framework of ideas borrowed from
Stoicism. But we believe, as we shall say later on, that there is still
greater depth to Justin's thought. He had seen many philosophies, and now
wants to use them in the service of Christ, but without being a merely
natural philosopher. The real basis of Justin's thought is probably Romans
2:14-16, in which Paul tells us that God, or the Spirit of God, or of
Christ, writes the law on hearts, even the hearts of pagans, i.e., makes
known to each one what he should do. (Anthropology today agrees: pagans
do know the moral law surprisingly well.) Those who follow the law written
on hearts by the Spirit, do follow the Logos, and so can be saved, as Rom
2:16 says. Hence Hacker is not right in saying: "Justin is silent on the
possibility for pious gentiles to reach final consummation in
eternity." If Justin says Socrates was Christian, and lived by the
Logos, how can such a Christian fail to reach the goal? Again, Rom 2:16
speaks of this final consummation at the judgment.
We saw above that Hermas gives us the odd view of baptism after death. Yet
in "Vision" 2.4.1 he shows a much broader view. The angel asks Hermas who
he thinks the old woman is from whom he received the little book. Hermas
opines it is the Sibyl. The angel corrects him: "You are wrong. . . . It
is the Church. I said to him: Why then an old woman? He said: Because she
was created first of all; for this reason she is an old woman, and because
of her the world was established." So the Church has always existed.
Creation itself was carried out, it seems, in anticipation of her coming
The so-called Second Epistle of Clement--regardless of its authorship (it
seems to have been written about 150 A.D.)-- agrees: "The books of the
prophets and the apostles (say) that the Church is not (only) now, but
from the beginning. She was spiritual, like also our Jesus. She was
manifested in the last days to save us."
St. Irenaeus, as we saw, has one passage which might be considered
restrictive. But in many other places he takes a very broad view: "There
is one and the same God the Father and His Logos, always assisting the
human race, with varied arrangements, to be sure, and doing many things,
and saving from the beginning those who are saved, for they are those who
love God, and, according to their age (genean) follow His Logos."
We note Irenaeus speaks of the human race, of the various time periods, of
various arrangements, not just of the Hebrews and the arrangement God made
with them. Further, although Irenaeus was not fond of speculation, yet he
wrote that those who follow the Logos are saved. This of course sounds
like Justin's "First Apology,"46 cited above. Grillmeier observes: "In his
view, the incarnation is merely the conclusion in an immense series of
manifestations of the Logos, which had their beginning in the creation of
In the same vein, we also read in Irenaeus: "For the Son, administering
all things for the Father, completes (His work) from the beginning to the
end. . . . For the Son, assisting to His own creation from the beginning,
reveals the Father to all to whom He wills." And similarly, as if
"Christ came not only for those who believed from the time of Tiberius
Caesar, nor did the Father provide only for those who are now, but for
absolutely all men from the beginning, who according to their ability,
feared and loved God and lived justly. . . and desired to see Christ
and to hear His voice."
Clement of Alexandria has many statements of a broad nature: "From what
has been said, I think it is clear that there is one true Church, which is
really ancient, into which those who are just according to design are
enrolled." Similarly: "Before the coming of the Lord, philosophy was
necessary for justification to the Greeks; now it is useful for piety . .
. for it brought the Greeks to Christ as the law did the Hebrews."
Danielou makes incisive comments. First he observes that while Justin
spoke of a common action of the Logos before Christ, Clement distinguishes
two patterns: "Clement presents philosophy as representing for the Greeks
a counterpart to the Law." So that some Greeks received only a common
knowledge derived from reason, while others received the action of the
Logos proper. So Danielou cites "Stromata" 7.2: "To the one he gave the
commandments, to the others, philosophy . . . with the result that
everyone who did not believe was without excuse."
Hacker, however, says: "To attain final salvation it is indispensable that
the souls of the righteous gentiles in Hades should do penance and accept
faith in Christ. " To be consistent, he should have added a
requirement of baptism, thinking of "Stromata" 2.9, where Clement quotes
at length the passage we saw above from Hermas. But it seems that Hacker
here has made a methodological slip, in trying to force disparate
statements in Clement into a synthesis. As we have been seeing, two kinds
of texts are found in many writers, Clement included. Clement, like the
others, did not really make a synthesis of the two series; he just stated
Clement, however, does seem to mean final salvation for gentiles, for he
also says in "Stromata" 1.20.99:
"Philosophy of itself made the Greeks just, though not to total justice
(ouk eis ten katholou de dikaiosynen); it is found to be a helper to this
(perfect justice), like the first and second steps for one ascending to
the upper part of the house, and like the elementary teacher for the
We notice two things here: (1) Philosophy once did make the Greeks just;
(2) it was not total justice. What this means is made clear by the
comparison of the steps for one ascending to the upper part of the house.
Philosophy really did make just, but it did not lead the Greeks to the
highest levels, that to which Clement's "gnostics" (perfect Christians)
Hacker later helps our interpretation by saying that Clement is
bringing out the implications of what St. John means in the opening of his
Gospel, "when speaking of the light of the Logos that illuminates every
man." We think again of Romans 2:15. Escribano-Alberca adds that for
Clement, "Eternal life is reached through an obedience according to the
Origen, Clement's great pupil, goes farther in the same direction. J. N.
D. Kelly observes that at Alexandria interest tended to focus on the
invisible Church of the perfect Christian, whom Clement would call the
true gnostic, and to identify this spiritual Church with Christ's mystical
body. Kelly adds that in Origen: "In this mystical sense, Christ's body
comprises the whole of humanity, indeed the whole of creation." Origen
even becomes so bold as to assert that the heavenly Church existed since
and even before creation: "Do not think I speak of the spouse or the
Church (only) from the coming of the Savior in the flesh, but from the
beginning of the human race, in fact, to seek out the origin of this
mystery more deeply with Paul as leader, even before the foundation of the
world." Origen has in mind Ephesians 1:4, in which he interprets
the Greek "katabole" as meaning a fall from a better state. He thinks we
were all in a world of spirits before this life. According to diverse
merits, some became men, angels, devils, or stars in the sky. Origen feels
he needs to suppose a sin on our part even before this life to account for
It is Origen who gives us the objection of Celsus: "Did God then after so
great an age think of making just the life of man, but before He did not
care?" To which Origen replies:
"To this we will say that there never was a time when God did not will to
make just the life of men. But He always cared, and gave occasions of
virtue to make the reasonable one right. For generation by generation this
wisdom of God came to souls it found holy and made them friends of God and
Similarly, in his commentary on Romans 2:14-16 Origen said that the law
written on hearts was not the law about sabbaths and new moons, but:
"that they must not commit murder or adultery, not steal, not speak false
testimony, that they honor father and mother, and similar things . . . and
it is shown that each one is to be judged not according to a privilege of
nature, but by his own thoughts he is accused or excused, by the testimony
of his conscience."
The remark about the "privilege of nature" means that it does not matter
whether they be Jews or not. There is no respecting of persons with God.
Origen also has a remarkable line on pagan sacrifices: "Since God wants
grace to abound, He sees fit to be present. . . . He is present not to the
(pagan) sacrifices, but to the one who comes to meet Him, and there He
gives His word." We have only the Latin text of Origen here; the Greek
presumably would have read "Logos," a thought reminiscent of his teacher
Clement, and, more remotely, of Justin.
The objection voiced by Celsus is faced most explicitly in the so-called
"Acts of Archelaus with Manes," which Quasten thinks really did not
take place, but were composed by Hegemonius of Chalcedon, of whom we know
nothing further. The date is the first half of the 4th century, probably
after the Council of Nicea. Archelaus argued with Manes about the fate of
those who lived in ancient times. As to these Archelaus asserts:
"From the creation of the world He has always been with just men. . . .
Were they not made just from the fact that they kept the law, `Each one of
them showing the work of the law on their hearts. . . ?' For when someone
who does not have the law does by nature the things of the law, this one,
not having the law, is a law for himself. . . . For if we judge that a man
is made just without the works of the law . . . how much more will they
attain justice who fulfilled the law containing those things which are
expedient for men?"
As we shall see later, it is especially significant that Hegemonius ties
his belief to Romans 2:15, "They show the work of the law written on their
hearts"--written, really, even though the pagans did not know it, by the
Logos, of whom Justin spoke.
The same objection about God's care in former times is answered also by
"But, they say: If Christ was sent by God for this purpose, to deliver
unhappy souls from the destruction of ruin--what did former ages deserve,
which before His coming were consumed in the condition of mortality? . . .
Put aside these cares, and leave the questions you do not understand; for
royal mercy was imparted to them, and the divine benefits ran equally
through all. They were conserved, they were liberated, and they put aside
the sort and condition of mortality."
The first Church historian, Eusebius of Caesarea, takes a similar stand:
"But even if we (Christians) are certainly new, and this really new name
of Christians is just recently known among the nations, yet our life and
mode of conduct, in accord with the precepts of religion, has not been
recently invented by us; but from the first creation of man, so to speak,
it is upheld by natural inborn concepts of the ancient men who loved God,
as we will here show. . . . But if someone would describe as Christians
those who are testified to as having been righteous (going back) from
Abraham to the first man, he would not hit wide of the truth.
Christian concepts, then, according to Eusebius, are as it were inborn,
and so one could even say there were Christians from the beginning. This
is possible, we may infer, since these early people, without recognizing
the fact, were following the Logos-- we think again of Justin's First
"Apology" 46. The large, even cosmic role Eusebius assigns to the Logos,
as shown by Munoz Palacios seems presupposed.
In his oration at the funeral of his father, a convert who became a
bishop, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, said:
"He was ours even before he was of our fold. His way of living made him
such. For just as many of ours are not with us, whose life makes them
other from our body (the Church), so many of those outside belong to us,
who by their way of life anticipate the faith, and need (only) the name,
having the reality (ergon).
In a similar vein, in his oration in praise of his sister Gorgonia, he
said: "Her whole life was a purification for her, and a perfecting. She
had indeed the regeneration of the Spirit, and the assurance of this from
her previous life. And, to speak boldly, the mystery (baptism) was for her
practically only the seal, not the grace."
St. John Chrysostom, in commenting on Romans 2:14-16, explains that the
words "by nature" mean "according to natural reasoning":
"For this reason they are wonderful, he says, because they did not need
the law, and they show all the works of the law. . . . Do you not see how
again he makes present that day and brings it near . . . and showing that
they should rather be honored who without the law hastened to carry out
the things of the law?. . . . Conscience and reasoning suffice in place of
the law. Through these things he showed again that God made man self-
sufficient (autarke) in regard to the choice of virtue and fleeing evil. .
. . He shows that even in these early times and
before the giving of the law, men enjoyed complete providence (pronoia).
For "what is knowable of God" was clear to them, and what was good and
what was evil they knew."
In his Homilies on John, Chrysostom takes up the recurring objection of
Celsus: "When, then, the gentiles accuse us saying: What was Christ doing
in former times, not taking care. . . ? We will reply: Even before He was
in the world, He took thought for His works, and was known to all who were
worthy." Here Chrysostom does better than in the previous passage,
where he seemed to say men knew moral requirements through reason. For now
he seems to mean that as Logos He made Himself known interiorly. Really,
the knowledge pagans have of the moral code can be called a knowledge of
the natural law, but they do not really reach it by explicit reasoning,
but by a mysterious inner knowledge, which is the effect of the work of
the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Christ. Further, that natural law
does coincide with the will of God.
In his comment on Romans 2:29 Chrysostom adds: "He means clearly not an
idolatrous Greek, but a God-fearing one." He seems to think all idolators
are culpable; a factual, not a doctrinal conclusion. He is perhaps
influenced by the words of Rom 1:20-22.
The thought of St. Ambrose is less sharply focused: "Our price is the
blood of Christ. . . . Therefore He brought the means of health to all so
that whoever perishes, must ascribe the cause of his death to himself, for
he was unwilling to be cured when he had a remedy. . . . For the mercy of
Christ is clearly proclaimed on all." Ambrose hardly means that in
general God has set up as it were a reservoir of salvation: if someone
without personal fault should not reach it, he would be lost. That was
the view of some Thomists many centuries later. Instead, Ambrose says that
the one lost "must ascribe the cause of his death to himself, for he was
St. Augustine shows remarkable fidelity to the point of method we
stressed at the start of this study, in that he has clear examples of
texts of both kinds, as we shall see presently. But it is helpful to
notice what he does similarly, on a closely related question, that of
predestination. His "massa damnata" theory is well known, in connection
with which he writes that most humans are lost: "In it (punishment) there
are many more than in (grace) so that in this way it may be shown what was
due to all." Further, he insists that which side a person will be on
does not at all depend on prevision of merits. Yet at other times, he
teaches that the negative decision, reprobation, depends first of all on
personal demerits, not just on original sin. (He nowhere, however, makes
the positive decision, predestination, depend on merits.) Thus in "De
diversis quaestionibus" he says that those who came to the Gospel dinner
could not have come without being called, but yet, "those who were
unwilling to come should attribute it to no one but themselves"
--therefore, not to God's prior desertion. Again, in his debate with Felix
the Manichean, Felix asked why the lost sinners were not cleansed.
Augustine replied: "Because they did not will it." Felix, surprised, asks:
"'Because they did not will it'--did you say this?" Augustine replied: "I
said this: Because they did not will it." In the "massa damnata"
context the basic reason would have been desertion by God, followed by
their deserting Him. So in "De correptione et gratia" he speaks of sinners
who do not persevere: "They desert (God) and are deserted." In "massa
damnata," he would have said: God deserted them, then they deserted Him.
Thus Augustine implies a theory quite different from "massa damnata," one
in which pre- destination is without merits, but reprobation depends on
In his "De civitate Dei," Augustine also shows two different images of
that city, which, as J. N. D. Kelly points out, he never reconciled.
On the one hand, in the final book 22, especially in chapter 30, he speaks
of heaven as the final end of the City of God. Yet in 16.2 he identifies
the Church and the City of God, though he knows that not all in the Church
will be saved (18.28;20, 5, 9). Further, in 18.47 he insists:
"Nor do I think the Jews would dare to argue that no one pertained to God
except the Israelites, from the time that Israel came to be. . . . they
cannot deny that there were certain men even in other nations who
pertained to the true Israelites, the citizens of the fatherland above,
not by earthly but by heavenly association."
He cites the case of Job, and earlier, in 18.23, the Sibyl of Cumae.
In "Retractations" Augustine explains this, following the tradition begun
in First Clement: "This very thing which is now called the Christian
religion existed among the ancients, nor was it lacking from the beginning
of the human race, until Christ Himself came in the flesh, when the true
religion, that already existed, began to be called Christian."
Earlier, in his Epistle 102, Augustine takes up the objection of Celsus,
repeated by Porphyry:
"Wherefore since we call Christ the Word (Logos) of God, through whom all
things were made . . . under whose rule (was/is) every creature, spiritual
and corporal . . . so those from the beginning of the human race, who
believed in Him and understood Him somewhat (utcumque) and lived according
to His precepts devoutly and justly, whenever and wherever they were,
beyond doubt they were saved through Him."
And further on in Epistle 102.15: "And yet from the beginning of the human
race there were not lacking persons who believed in Him, from Adam up to
Moses, both in the very people of Israel . . . and in other nations before
He came in the flesh."
We notice how Augustine, in line with so many earlier writers, ties his
answer to the Logos who administered all things even before the
incarnation, so that those who followed Him, the Logos, were saved--we
think again of the words of St. Justin on Socrates and Heraclitus, whom he
even called Christians.
As Jurgens says, the "De vocatione omnium gentium" is now widely
admitted to be by St. Prosper, secretary to Pope Leo I, and an ardent
disciple of St. Augustine. It is debated whether and to what extent
Prosper modified Augustine's ideas on predestination. De Letter thinks
Prosper did not clearly break: "St. Prosper . . . is struggling to break
away from the influence of the Augustinian predestination. . . . (O)wing
to his inability to free himself fully from it, his idea of the general
grace, universally given to all, fails to solve the problem." De
Letter adds that if Prosper had said that the sole reason why the special
graces were not given to some would be because they refused them, Prosper
would have made a great step forward.
Jurgens on the other hand holds Prosper did break with Augustine: "For
Prosper, election is the result of God's foreknowledge of the elect, and
is the only answer to the mysterious question of why God chooses, elects
or predestines. . . ."
Let us see the texts of St. Prosper himself: ". . . according to it
(Scripture) . . . we believe and devoutly confess that never was the care
of divine providence lacking to the totality of men." And also: "To
these however (who have not yet heard of Christ) that general measure of
help, which is always given from above to all men, is not denied." We
confess these texts are not fully clear, for De Letter can claim that
Prosper means merely that general grace is offered to all, but that
without cause, the added help needed for salvation is denied to some.
But Prosper does become clear elsewhere: "For this reason they were not
predestined (namely) because they were foreseen as going to be such as a
result of voluntary transgression. . . . For they were not deserted by
God so as to desert God; but they deserted and were deserted." Within
Augustine's classic "massa damnata" theory the first step is God's
desertion of a man--then man's desertion of God comes second. But
Prosper inverts that order. Really, as we saw above, Augustine has two
theories --the one, the "massa damnata," which is often stated
explicity; the other, never stated explicitly, but only implied, in
several texts, ranging in date from 388 to 426, and at many points in
between. St. Prosper is really breaking with the "massa damnata," but is
being entirely faithful to the implicit theory of Augustine, who also
wrote, in "De correptione et gratia" 13.42: "Either they lie under the sin
which they contracted originally by generation . . . or they receive the
grace of God, but are temporary, and do not persevere. They desert and are
deserted." Prosper too said, as we saw: "They desert and are deserted."
Again, Augustine wrote, in LXXXIII.68.5: "Nor should they who were
unwilling to come (to the banquet in the Gospel) attribute it to anyone
but themselves." But in "massa damnata," the ultimate reason would be
God's decision to desert. Similarly, Augustine wrote, in "De peccatorum
meritis et remissione" 2.17.26: "It is from the grace of God which helps
the wills of men that what was hidden becomes known, and that which did
not please becomes sweet. The reason why they were not helped is likewise
in themselves, not in God."
Hence it is proper to take the first text we saw of St. Prosper (at note
82) as opening salvation in some way to all, so that, by implication, the
requirement of membership in the Church will be provided for.
We do not know whether St. Nilus was a former officer of the court of
Theodosius who later withdrew to a monastery on Sinai, or whether he was
superior of a monastery at Ancyra and a disciple of St. John Chrysostom.
However, the following passage from St. Nilus is at least partly in accord
with the thought of St. John Chrysostom which we saw above:
"In every nation, the one who fears God and does justice is acceptable to
Him. For it is clear that such a one is acceptable to God and is not to be
cast aside, who at his own right time flees to the worship of the blessed
knowledge of God. God will not allow him to die in ignorance, but will
lead him to the truth, and will enlighten him with the light of knowledge,
St. Nilus does, it seems, think salvation in each case is to be
accomplished by being brought to the visible Church.
St. Cyril of Alexandria has a very significant passage:
"For if there is one over all, and there is no other besides Him, He would
be master of all, because He was Maker of all. For He is also the God of
the gentiles, and has fully satisfied by laws implanted in their hearts,
which the Maker has engraved in the hearts of all. For when the gentiles,
(Paul) says, not having the law, do by nature the things of the law, they
show the work of the law written on their hearts. But since He is not only
the Maker and God of the Jews, but also of the gentiles . . . He sees fit
by His providence to care not only for those who are of the blood of
Israel, but also for all those upon the earth."
St. Cyril bases his thought on Romans 3:29, where Paul argues that God,
since He is God of the gentiles too, must have made provision for them.
Cyril suggests that it seems that He did this by way of engraving the law
on their hearts (Rom 2:15).
Theodoret of Cyrus, in commenting on Rom 2:14-16, makes clear that he
holds, with St. Paul, that some gentiles, even though not members visibly
of the People of God, are saved:
"For they who, before the Mosaic law, adorned their life with devout
reasonings and good actions, testify that the divine law called for
action, and they became lawgivers for themselves.
. . . . He (St. Paul) shows that the law of nature was written on
hearts. . . . According to this image, let us describe the future judgment
and the conscience of those accepting the charge and proclaiming the
justice of the decision."
Theodoret also takes up the classic objection of Celsus. In his "Remedy
for Greek Diseases," he writes:
"But if you say: Why then did not the Maker of all fulfill this long ago?
You are blaming even the physicians, since they keep the stronger
medicines for last; having used the milder things first, they bring out
the stronger things last. The all-wise Healer of our souls did this too.
After employing various medicines . . . finally He brought forth this
all-powerful and saving medicine."
While he holds that God did not give such great helps before Christ,
Theodoret yet holds God did take care of humans, by way of "different
Pope St. Leo the Great is a bit less clear than some, yet, when we
consider his words in the context of the tradition we have seen
developing, they seem to mean that there always was a Church:
"So God did not take care of human affairs by a new plan, or by late
mercy, but from the foundation of the world He established one and the
same cause of salvation for all. For the grace of God by which the
totality of the saints always has been justified was increased when Christ
was born, but did not begin (then)."
Pope St. Gregory the Great, a strong admirer of St. Augustine, also
speaks of Christ preaching to the dead: "When He descended to the
underworld, the Lord delivered from the prison only those who while they
lived in the flesh He had kept through His grace in faith and good
works." But Gregory does not mention a baptism in the underworld, nor
does Augustine. Yet his conviction is clear that God somehow made
provision for those who did not formally enter the People of God.
But Pope Gregory also follows the tradition we saw in Augustine and
earlier, of making the Church exist from the beginning:
"The passion of the Church began already with Abel, and there is one
Church of the elect, of those who precede, and of those who follow. . . .
They were, then, outside, but yet not divided from the holy Church,
because in mind, in work, in preaching, they already held the sacraments
of faith, and saw that loftiness of Holy Church. . . ."
Primasius, Bishop of Hadrumetum, writing about 560 A.D., in his commentary
on Romans, does not explicitly mention the Church, yet he makes clear,
with Paul, that some who were not visibly members of the first people of
God were just, and will be saved at the judgment:
"By nature they do the things of the law. . . ." He (Paul) speaks either
of those who keep the law of nature, who do not do to others what they do
not want to be done to themselves; or, that even the gentiles naturally
praise the good and condemn the wicked, which is the work of the law; or,
of those who even now, when they do anything good, profess that they have
received from God the means of pleasing God. . . . "And their thoughts in
turn accusing or even defending, on the day when God will judge the hidden
things of men." He speaks of altercations of thought . . . and according
to this we are to be judged on the day of the Lord.
St. John Damascene, often considered the last of the Fathers, gives us a
possibly helpful text:
"The creed teaches us to believe also in one holy Catholic and Apostolic
church of God. The Catholic Church cannot be only apostolic, for the
all-powerful might of her Head, which is Christ, is able through the
Apostles to save the whole world. So there is a Holy Catholic Church of
God, the assembly of the Holy Fathers who are from the ages, of the
patriarchs, of prophets, apostles, evangelists, martyrs, to which are
added all the gentiles who believe the same way (homothymadon)"
We note St. John says that the power of Christ can save the whole world,
and that it extends even to "the Holy Fathers who are from the ages"
before Christ. He may mean the power of Christ even before the incarnation
worked inasmuch as the Logos was present to all.
Without pretending to give at all a complete survey, yet it may be
worthwhile to give two samples from the post-patristic age.
Haymo, Bishop of Halberstadt (died 853), in his commentary on Romans
2:14-16, says that the words of Paul that the gentiles show the work of
the law written on hearts can be understood in two ways. First:
"They show surely that they have the natural law written on their hearts,
and they are the law for themselves: because they do the things that the
law teaches, even though it was not given to them. For example, the
Saracens who have neither the law of Moses nor of the Gospel, while by
nature they keep the law, do not commit murder, or commit adultery, or
other things, which the law written within them contains; they are a law
to themselves. . . . In the second way: When the gentiles . . . naturally
do the things . . . because they have the same law of Moses written on
their hearts by the inspiration of Almighty God . . . "their conscience
bearing witness to them, and their thoughts in turn accusing or even
defending." And when will this be? "On the day when the Lord will judge
the hidden things of men" according to my Gospel."
So, Haymo thinks even some Saracens of his day are being saved!
Similarly, Oecumenius, commenting on the same passage of Ro- mans, around
990 A.D., gave the same explanation:
"They do the things of the law" using the reasonings of nature for just
actions. These are wonderful, not needing a teacher, being their own
lawgivers and fulfillers of the legislation. . . . "Their conscience
bearing witness to them," for it is enough in place of the law to have
their own conscience testifying for them. . . . At that judgment we do not
need ex- ternal accusers or witnesses . . . but each one's own reasonings
and conscience either accuses or defends.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
We found restrictive texts in Hermas, St. Justin, St. Irenaeus, Clement
of Alexandria, Origen, St. Cyprian, Lactantius, St. Augustine, St. Cyril
of Alexandria, and St. Fulgentius. There are also five Magisterium texts
that seem restrictive.
We found broad texts much more widely. Only three of the above ten Fathers
who have restrictive texts lack broad texts: St. Cyprian, Lactantius, and
St. Fulgentius. All others, plus many more, do have them.
Broad texts are found in: First Clement, St. Justin, Hermas, Second
Clement, St. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Hegemonius,
Arnobius, Eusebius of Caesarea, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. John
Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Prosper, St. Nilus, St. Cyril
of Alexandria, Theodoret, St. Leo the Great, St. Gregory the Great,
Primasius, and St. John Damascene. We added two samples of later writers
with broad texts: Haymo and Oecumenius.
We find many of the Fathers specifically answering the charge of Celsus
(why did Christ come so late)--St. Justin, St. Irenaeus, Origen,
Hegemonius, Arnobius, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine (though not all
explicitly mention Celsus).
Very many speak of the Church as always existing: Hermas, Second Clement,
Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, St. Augustine, St. Leo, St.
Gregory, St. John Damascene.
The idea that theophanies in the Old Testament times were really by the
Logos is very common among the Fathers. So it is not strange that we find
many of the Fathers speak of the Logos as present to men to save them: St.
Justin, St. Irenaeus, St. John Chrysostom, St. Augustine.
Closely related is the idea that pagans can be saved if they follow the
law written on hearts by the Spirit of Christ, or the Logos, as in Romans
2:15: Origen, Hegemonius, St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril of
Alexandria, Theodoret, Primasius.
What is the common denominator? Though not all mention Cel- sus
specifically, it seems that underlying all broad texts is the conviction
that somehow in the past, God did provide for all men- -this is something
sometimes explicitly tied to Romans 3:29-30 (He is not the God only of the
Jews). This is the fact of which all seem convinced. But just how that
provision is worked out is less clear, and often the writers do not
attempt to explain.
Yet we can build on these data to reconcile the two kinds of texts, so as
to solve the problem of "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus." St. Justin gives
the best starting point. He says that those who followed the Logos, who is
in each person, were Christians, even though they were considered
atheists, such as Socrates and Heraclitus. As we said above, Justin was
using the language of Stoicism--part of the usual tactics of apologists,
who were eager to show the similarity of Christian thought to that of the
best philosophers. But does Justin really mean to give us just Stoicism or
to play on the vagueness of the word Logos (Word/reason)? Of course not.
So if we ask in precisely what way the Logos was present to Socrates and
others, we could utilize the insights of many other Fathers: The Logos was
there to write the law on hearts (cf. Rom 2:15). Modern experimental
anthropology concurs; pagans do know the moral law surprisingly well. How
do they know it? It seems to become known in some interior way, though not
by mere reasoning. That interior way, even though the pagans did not
recognize what it was, is God, or the Spirit of God, or the Spirit of
Christ, or the Logos--all mean the same. St. Paul clearly has this
thought, for in Rom 2:15 he obviously echoes Jeremiah 31:33 (prophecy of
new covenant): "I will write my law on their hearts."
So God did and does indeed write His law on the hearts of men.
Objectively, this is done by the Spirit of God, the divine Logos, as we
said. As Justin says, those who follow the Logos were and are Christians.
Now if we add still other words of St. Paul in Romans we can go further.
In Rom 8:9: "Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ, does not
belong to Him." So, those who do have the Spirit of Christ, and follow the
Logos as He writes the law on their hearts, do indeed belong to Christ.
But still further, according to the same Paul, to belong to Christ means
to be a member of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 12:27). Again further, to be a member
of Christ, is also to be a member of His Church for the Church is the Body
So we seem to have found the much needed solution: Those who follow the
Spirit of Christ, the Logos who writes the law on their hearts, are
Christians, are members of Christ, are members of His Church. They may
lack indeed external adherence; they may never have heard of the Church.
But yet, in the substantial sense, without formal adherence, they do
belong to Christ, to His Church.
They can also be called sons of God, for Romans 8:14 adds: "All who are
led by the Spirit are sons of God." As sons, of course, they are coheirs
with Christ (Rom 8:17), and so will inherit the kingdom with Him.
We can even add that objectively--though probably those who drafted the
text or voted for it did not realize it--Vatican II taught the same thing:
"For all who belong to Christ, having His Spirit, coalesce into one
In saying this, we are not contradicting the teaching of Pius XII
(Mystical Body Encyclical). He spoke of some as being ordered to the
Church by a certain desire which they did not recognize. We admit that. To
add to truth is not to deny truth.
Three possible objections remain. First: is our solution indifferentist?
Not at all. For we insist that even these people who belong without formal
adherence have the objective obligation to formally enter the Church. It
is only their ignorance that excuses them. As we saw, Pius IX, so strong
against indifferentism, concurs in our conclusion that somehow these
people can be saved.
Second: are we proposing mere naturalism, i.e., if one is naturally good,
that is enough? Not at all. First the natural law is God's law too;
second, these people objectively follow the Spirit of God, and so are on
the supernatural plane; finally, they also have available actual graces,
and use them, as the Vatican II's broad text said. God always offers
actual graces to those who do what they can.
Thirdly and finally: some would say that the Fathers and the Magisterium
speak only of people before Christ--after He came, formal entrance into
the Church is necessary. We reply: First, the Magisterium texts speak in
the present tense, not the past. Thus, Pius IX: "God by no means allows
anyone to be punished with eternal punishments. . . ." And the Holy Office
said: "It is not always required. . . ." Vatican II similarly: "They who
without their own fault . . . can attain eternal salvation." Second, the
statements of the Fathers show a basic conviction that God must have made
provision for men before Christ: the same thinking applies to those after
Christ. Further, St. Paul in Romans 5:15-19 insists strongly and over and
over again that the redemption is more abundant than the fall. But if the
coming of Christ caused countless millions to lose in practice all chance
of salvation, then the redemption would not be superabundant--it would be
a tragedy, a harsh tragedy for these persons. And God would not act as if
He were their God--as St. Paul asserts in Romans 3:29-30.
This file is an appendix of the book OUR FATHER'S PLAN by Fr. William Most. Published by Christendom Press, 2101 Shenandoah Shores Road, Front Royal 22630, 703-636-2900.
1. Gustave Thils, "Pour une Theologie de Structure Planetaire," in
"Cahiers De la Revue Theologique de Louvain," 6, 1983. The literature on
the general problem of the salvation of pagans is immense. Especially
significant also are: P. Damboriena, "La Salvacion en la Religiones No
Cristianas," Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, Madrid (hereinafter BAC),
1973, esp. pp. 19-54; Paul Hacker, "The Religions of the Gentiles as
viewed by the Fathers of the Church" in "Zeitschrift fur
Missionswissenschaft und Religionswissenschaft" 54 (1970) pp. 253-78;
idem, "The Religions of the Nations in the Light of Holy Scripture," ibid.
54 (1970) pp. 161-85; A. Luneau, "Les Peres et les Religions non-
chretiennes," in "Nouvelle Revue Theologique" 89 (1967) pp. 821- 41;
914-39; J. N. D. Kelly, "Early Christian Doctrines," Adam & Charles Black,
London, 1968; L. Caperan, "Le probleme du salut des infideles," 2d ed. 2
vols, Paris, 1934; R. Lombardi, "The Salvation of the Unbeliever," tr. D.
M. White, Newman, Westminster, 1956; K. Rahner, "Christianity and the
Non-Christian Religions," in "Theological Investigations" 5, pp. 115-34,
Helicon, Baltimore, 1966; J. Patout Burns, "The Economy of Salvation: Two
Patristic Traditions," in "Theological Studies" 37 (1976) pp. 598-619. On
Patristic exegesis of Romans 2:14-16, especially important are: Max
Lachmann, "Vom Geheimnis der Schopfung," Evangelisches Verlagswerk GMBH,
Stuttgart, 1952, esp. pp. 95-135; 285-305; Karl Hermann Schelkle,
"Paulus, Lehrer der Vater," Die altkirchliche Auslegung von Romer 1-11 2d
ed. 1959, Patmos-Verlag, Dusseldorf.
2. Cf. E. A. Johnson, "Seminar on Christology" in "Proceedings of the
Catholic Theological Society of America," 39 (1984) pp. 153- 55. Cf. also
J. Peter Schneller, in a review of J. P. Theisen, "The Ultimate Church and
the Promise of Salvation" in "Theological Studies" 38 (1977) p. 777.
3. Cf. W. G. Most, "The Consciousness of Christ," Christendom College
Press, Front Royal, 1980, pp. 93-133.
4. Hermas, "Shepherd, Similitudes" 9.16. From Greek text in D. Ruiz
Bueno, "Padres Apostolicos," BAC, 2d ed. 1967. pp. 1071-72.
5. Justin, "First Apology" 46. From Greek text in D. Ruiz Bueno, "Padres
Apologistas Griegos" BAC, 1964. pp. 250.
6. Irenaeus, "Against Heresies" 3.24.1. SC 1952 ed. (no number given) p.
400. Cf. also ibid. 3.19.1.
7. Cf. note 4 above.
8. Clement of Alexandria, "Stromata" 5. 12. PG 9. 128.
9. Origen, Homily on Jesu Nave 3. 5. PG 12. 841. Cf. also "idem" in Rom 2.
10. Cyprian, Epist. to Iubianus (#73) 21, in J. Campos, "Obras de San
Cipriano," BAC, 1964, pp. 688-89.
11. Lactantius, "Institutiones" 4. 30. 11. PL 6. 542. Cf. also Damboriena,
op. cit. p. 30.
12. Augustine, "De natura et gratia" 2. 2. PL 44. 248-49.
13. Cf. Burns, "art. cit.", pp. 608-14.
14. Augustine, "Contra Iulianum," 4. 3. 25. PL 44. 750.
15. Kelly, "op. cit.," p. 403.
16. Fulgentius, "De fide ad Petrum" 38. 81. CC 91A, p. 757.
17. Ibid. 36. 79. CC 91A, p. 756.
18. Ibid. 27. 68.
19. DS 792.
20. DS 802.
21. DS 870.
22. Thomas Aquinas, "Contra errores Graecorum" 36. #1125.
23. The text on the two swords seems stronger than it is. It was explained
by Boniface VIII himself (DS 870): "For 40 years now we have been a legal
expert, and we know that there are two powers ordained by God. . . . We
say that in nothing have we wanted to usurp the jurisdiction of the king.
. . ."
24. DS 1051.
25. DS 1351.
26. Cf. Augustine, "De natura et gratia," cited above at notes 13 and 14.
27. DS 2866. Cf. also W. Most, "Religious Liberty: What the Texts Demand"
in "Faith & Reason" 9 (1983) pp. 196-209. Further clarification of the
fact that Vatican II does not clash with Pius IX (cf. p. 206) is this:
Vatican II, in # 7 did make provision for more than just public order when
it said that the state must exercise "due custody for public morality,"
and in #4 it said that the churches must abstain from any action that
would involve "improper persuasion aimed at the less intelligent or the
poor." Pius IX had said (cf. p. 201) that the state must do more than
merely defend public order in regard to excesses in religious liberty.
28. DS 3870 and 3821. Some followers of Feeney insist that the fact that
he was finally reconciled to the Church without retracting indicates the
Church admitted Feeney had been right all along. This is not true: (1) The
broad Magisterium texts (with repetition, so that we can claim
infallibility for them) are incompatible with Feeney; (2) He was
reconciled when quite old. The fact that he was not pushed to do more is
an example of the widespread permissiveness that has done so much harm to
the Church in our times.
29. Vatican II, "Lumen gentium" #16. Cf. "Unitatis redintegratio" #3.
30. Origen, "Against Celsus" 4. 7. PG 11. 1037. For a general view of
Celsus, remarkably sympathetic, cf. W. den Boer, "La Polemique
anti-chretienne du II Siecle: 'La Doctrine de Verite' de Celse" in
"Athenaeum" NS 54 (1976) pp. 309-18. Cf. also P. de Labriolle, "La
Reaction Paienne," L'Artisan du Livre, Paris, 1942.
31. First Clement 7. 5-7. Greek text in Ruiz Bueno, "op. cit." BAC, pp.
32. Justin, "First Apology" 46. Ruiz Bueno ed. BAC pp. 232-33. Cf. J.
Danielou, Gospel Message and Hellenistic Culture, tr. J. A. Baker,
Philadelphia, Westminster, 1973, p. 41. On p. 44 Danielou says he thinks
Socrates and others knew the Person of the Logos.
33. Cf. also N. Pycke, "Connaisance rationelle et connaissance de grace
chez Saint Justin" in Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 37 (1961) pp.
52-85. See also Justin 2. 10. 1-3.
34. Danielou, "op. cit." p. 42.
35. Luneau, "art. cit.," p. 837 cites "First Apology" 22. 2 where Justin
goes so far in using pagan resources as to compare the Logos to Hermes.
36. Hacker, "art. cit.," p. 258.
37. Cf. Patrick V. Dias, "Kirche in der Schrift und im 2". "Jahrhndert,"
in "Handbuch der Dogmengieschichte," Herder, Freiburg, 1974, III. 3a, pp.
118-19; and Kelly, "op. cit.", p. 191.
38. Second Clement 14. 2. Ruiz Bueno ed. BAC, pp. 366-67.
39. Irenaeus, "Against Heresies" 4. 28. 2. SC 100, p. 759. Cf. also
Ignacio Escribano-Alberca, "Die Heilsokonomische Enthaltung des Glaubens
bei Irenaeus und Tertullian" in "Das Dasein im Glauben, Handbuch der
Dogmengeschichte," Herder, Freiburg, 1974, I, 2a, pp. 32-38, esp. p. 33.
40. Aloys Grillmeier, "Christ in Christian Tradition" (tr. J. Bowden)
John Knox, Atlanta, 2d ed. 1975. I. p. 103. Cf. Luneau, "art. cit." p.
832: "Faut-il rapeller comment, pour Irenee, la connaissance de Dieu
demeure inscrite au fond du coeur humain et prepare sa venue." ("We should
recall how, for Irenaeus, the knowledge of God remains inscribed in the
depth of the human heart and prepares for His coming.") Strangely, A.
Orbe, in an otherwise excellent study, "Antropologia de San Ireneo," BAC,
1969, although he devotes pp. 502-15 to answering the objection of Celsus,
does not seem to notice this point. Cf. also Danielou, "op. cit." pp.
361-64; and P. V. Dias, "op. cit." p. 161.
41. "Against Heresies" 4. 6. 7. SC 100, p. 453. Cf. also "ibid". 5. 18.
42. "Ibid." 4. 22. 2. SC 100, p. 689.
43. Clement of Alexandria, "Stromata" 7. 17. PG 9. 552.
44. "Stromata" 1. 5. SC 1965 ed. (no number given) p. 65. Cf. "Stromata"
45. Danielou, "op. cit." p. 52.
46. Hacker, "art. cit." p. 261.
47. "Ibid." p. 264.
48. Escribano-Alberca, "op. cit." p. 50. "Cf. ibid." p. 5l: "Gott wird
durch keinerlei apodiktisch-beweisende Wissenschaft sonder nur durch die
Gnade seines offenbarenden Logos erkannt." ("God becomes known not by any
kind of apodictically proved knowledge, but only through the grace of His
revealing Logos.") Cf. also A. Brontese, "La Soteria in Clemente
Alessandrino," Universita Gregoriana, Roma, 1972, p. 283; cf. also p. 278.
49. Kelly, "op. cit." p. 201.
50. "Ibid." p. 202.
51. Origen, "In Cant." 2. 11-12. PG 13. 134.
52. This accords with the belief of Origen that eventually all will be
saved--for which membership in the Church is required.
53. Cf. Hermann Josef Vogt, "Das Kirchenverstandnis des Origenes," in
"Bonner Beitrage zur Kirchengeschichte" 4, Bohlau Verlag, Koln, Wien,
1974, pp. 205-10, and Damboriena, "op. cit.," pp. 33- 37. Cf. also Origen,
51. 870. PG 13. 1679.
54. Origen, "Against Celsus" 4. 7. PG 11. 1037.
55. Origen, "On Romans II." 9-10. PG 14. 892-93.
56. Origen, "Homily on Numbers" 16. 1. PG 12. 691. Cf. Luneau, "art.
cit.," p. 835.
57. J. Quasten, "Patrology," Spectrum, Utrecht/Antwerp, 1966. III. pp.
58. Arnobius, "Against the Nations" 2. 63. PL 5. 909-10. Cf. Damboriena,
"op. cit." p. 29.
59. Eusebius, "Church History" 1. 1. 4. PG 20. 77. Cf. Orbe, "op. cit."
60. R. Muñoz Palacios, "La Mediación del Logos preexistente a la
encarnacion en Eusebio de Cesárea" in "Estudios Eclesiásticos" 43 (1968)
61. Gregory of Nazianzus, "Oration 18." 6. PG 35. 992; and "Oration 8."
20. PG 35. 812. Cf. Luneau, "art. cit.," 831-32.
62. John Chrysostom, "On Romans II." 5. PG 60. 428-29. Cf. Damboriena,
"op. cit.," pp. 52-53.
63. "Idem, Homilies on John" 8. 1. PG 59. 67.
64. Ambrose, "On Cain and Abel" 2. 3. 11. PL 14. 364-65.
65. Cf. Kelly, "op. cit.," pp. 411-12, 416; Damboriena, "op. cit.," pp.
41- 48; Patout Burns, "art. cit." pp. 608-10.
66. Augustine, "De civitate Dei" 21. 12, ed. B. Dombart, Lipsiae, Teubner,
1877, II. p. 514.
67. Augustine, "De praedestinatione sanctorum" 17. 34. PL 44. 985-86.
68. "Idem, De diversis quaestionibus" LXXXIII 68. 5. PL 40. 73.
69. "Idem, De actis cum Felice Manichaeo" 2. 8. PL 42. 540.
70. "Idem. De correptione et gratia" 13. 42. PL 44. 942.
71. For analysis of all texts of Augustine, cf. W. G. Most, "op. cit.,"
72. Cf. Kelly, "op. cit.," p. 416; R. F. Evans, "One and Holy. The Church
in Latin Patristic Thought," S. P. C. K. London, 1972, pp. 100-01; and J.
O. Meara, "Charter of Christendom. The Significance of the City of God,"
Macmillan, N. Y. 1961, pp. 52- 53.
73. Augustine, "De civitate Dei" 18. 47. Dombart II pp. 330-31.
74. "Idem, Retractations" 1. 13. 3. CC 57. p. 37.
75. Cf. Hacker, "art. cit.," p. 272.
76. Augustine, "Epist." 102. 11-12. PL 33. 374. Cf #15; De Labriolle, p.
77. Augustine, "Enarrationes" Ps 57. 1, CC 39. 708-09; "De peccatorum
meritis et remissione" 1. 10-11; "Enarr. in Ps." 118. 25. 4. CC 40. 1750.
78. W. A. Jurgens, "The Faith of the Early Fathers," Liturgical Press,
Collegeville, 1979, III, pp. 194-95.
79. St. Prosper of Aquitaine, "The Call of All Nations," translated &
annotated by P. De Letter, Newman, Westminister, 1952, p. 17.
80. Jurgens, "op. cit.," III. p. 195.
81. Prosper, "op. cit.," 2. 5. PL 51. 652; and "ibid." 2. 17. PL 51. 704.
82. Prosper, "Responsiones ad capitula obiectionum Gallorum" 3. PL 51.
158-59. Cf. Hacker, "art. cit.,' pp. 277-78.
83. More texts and analysis in W. G. Most, "op. cit." pp. 242-43.
84. On the two theories of Augustine, cf. again Most "op. cit.," pp.
85. Nilus, "Epist." 1. 154, to Maximian. PG 79. 145.
86. Cyril of Alexandria, "Against Julian" 3. 107. PG 76. 665. Cf. Kelly,
"op. cit.," p. 403.
87. Theodoret of Cyrus, 'Interpretatio Epist. Ad Rom." 2. 14-16. PG 82.
88. "Idem, Remedy for Greek Diseases" 6. 85-86. SC 57, pp. 284- 85. Cf.
Hacker, "art. cit.," pp. 268-70.
89. Leo the Great, "Sermon" 23. 4. PL 54. 202. Cf. also "Sermon" 31. 7 and
76. 3. Cf. also Damboriena, "op. cit.," pp. 48-49.
90. Gregory the Great, "Epist." VII. 15. To George and Theodore CC 140, p.
465. Cf. Damboriena, "op. cit.," 49-50.
91. "Idem, Homilies on Ezechiel" 2. 3. 16. CC 142. p. 248.
92. Primasius, "On Romans" 2. 14-16. PL 68. 423-24.
93. John Damascene, "Against Iconoclasts" 11. PG 96. 1357.
94. Cf. Damboriena, "op. cit.," p. 85.
96. Haymo, "Exposition on Romans" 2. 14-16. PL 117. 381.
97. Oecumenius, "On Romans" 2. 14-16. PG 118. 356-60.
98. On the general problems of the exegesis of Romans 2. 14-16 cf. W.
Most, "Focusing in St. Paul. A Resolution of Difficulties," in "Faith &
Reason" II. 1976, pp. 47-70, esp. pp. 57-61.
99. Vatican II, "Lumen gentium" #49. Cf. "Unitatis redintegratio" #3.