Jan 23, 2008

The Necessity of Baptism

I am greatly uneasy, even horrified, by Avery Cardinal Dulles' article on Who Can Be Saved? published in the February 2008 issue of FIRST THINGS. Dulles' words appear very different from those of Jesus, His apostles, the evangelists, and the early Church Fathers who spoke of the necessity of Baptism to be saved.
Who, then, can be saved? Catholics can be saved if they believe the Word of God as taught by the Church and if they obey the commandments. Other Christians can be saved if they submit their lives to Christ and join the community where they think he wills to be found. Jews can be saved if they look forward in hope to the Messiah and try to ascertain whether God’s promise has been fulfilled. Adherents of other religions can be saved if, with the help of grace, they sincerely seek God and strive to do his will. Even atheists can be saved if they worship God under some other name and place their lives at the service of truth and justice. God’s saving grace, channeled through Christ the one Mediator, leaves no one unassisted. But that same grace brings obligations to all who receive it. They must not receive the grace of God in vain. Much will be demanded of those to whom much is given.
Does anyone else see how the word "saved" is cheapened by Dulles, especially when it is disassociated from Christian Baptism that gives the soul sanctifying grace to make it pleasing to God? For comparison, read the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Baptism which holds Baptism to have definite matter and form, requirements for a valid sacrament.

The beliefs of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas are described earlier in Dulles' article. If you really want to answer the question of who will be saved to receive God's reward in heaven, learn from these two saints--not from Dulles. Most importantly consider well the clear words of the Gospel of John: "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that you are not taking Cardinal Dulles's comments out of context. What he is trying to do at the very end is sum up all of the theology including an encyclical from Pope Pius XI (or XII) regarding Baptism of Desire. I don't see how his final paragraph is anything but a reflection on the baptism of desire. Earlier, it is still clear in his comments that he believes that he who knows that the Catholic Church is the one true church has an obligation to be part of the one true church. I don't see a denial of baptism, but rather trying to explain how the theology of baptism of desire has come about.