Credo in Unum Deum

I Believe in One God

Faith impossible without the Catholic Church?

Some folks argue that “saving”* faith is impossible if the Catholic Church is not true. Is that the case? Here seems to be the line of reasoning.
The object of faith is God. That is not a disputed proposition among those claiming to be Christian in any supposed orthodox sense (i.e. not liberals who deny revelation or inspiration yet still call themselves Christian). Yet to have faith in God, we need to believe what He teaches us about Himself, ourselves, etc. All He has revealed to us is to be believed. Our knowledge of God, and thus our relationship with God, is dependent to a great extent on the Special Revelation He has given us. I think it will be conceded that our relationship with God determines whether we are saved or damned.

There are a couple things to say now about this. I think that all of the above is pretty evident. But in case there is anybody who doubts the above, let us repsond as follows. Any of the people addressed in this article (that is the general Christian in any supposed orthodox sense), will believe that God has revealed Himself to us both naturally and specially. Natural Revelation is of course what we can derive from Reason alone, which is quite a bit, but not really enough to have a self-conscious, personal, one-on-one relationship because we would lack certain essential bits of knowledge about the character of God in Christ. Special Revelation is defined minimally as what was delivered once for all to the saints as contained in the Bible (at least 66 Books, and more truly in all 73 inspired Books of Holy Scripture). Now unless we our going to place ourselves in the category with the heathens who have never heard the revelation from God through Christ and therefore must rely on Natural Revelation alone, the above assertions do not seem to be controversial. Therefore, we must admit that those of us who are aware of, or should be aware of (that is, ought to be aware of, but are willfully ignorant) Special Revelation then fall under the rubric above—our relationship with God is dependent on our knowledge of God. Therefore, let us concede all that has been said and move forward.

Thus far we have stated that our knowledge of God is determinative of our relationship with God, and thus determinative of our salvation or damnation.† Now in order to perform an act of Faith, there must be something that we are believing. It may be said again that we are believing a person, Jesus the Christ. I again repsond as above that we cannot have faith in something that we have no knowledge of. Our believing requires that we are believing something about that Person which is the object of our act of Faith.

Here seems to be the heart of the assertion that faith is impossible without the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church proports to be Divinely protected. She claims to have delivered to us infallibly the canon of Scripture and certain other dogmas of the Faith, including the Trinity and Hypostatic Union, to name just two. But let us just assert the necessity of what Scripture tells us about this Jesus who we believe in. It would be impious at best to base ones faith on what is not Divinely given. In fact, such faith is not faith at all, in the sense of “saving” faith.* I think that is not disputed here among us. Now if our faith is to be based on what is Divinely given, we must have certainty‡ that it is Divinely given. But that certainty is impossible without an infallible and indeed indefectible Church. Since no Church claims this at all, save the Catholic Church, it follows that Faith is impossible if the Catholic Church is not the One, True Church. But if the Catholic Church is the One, True Church, then Faith is possible.

This is also important for the concept of covenant children, implicit faith and many other interesting issues, like EENS… but that is all for another post!!

*Of course, there is no such thing as saving faith as opposed to other kinds of faith in God. But, I make the distinction in order to avoid confusion, in addition to the fact that many Protestants have invented the term to delineate between those who appear to have faith but don’t “for real”— therefore they should know what I mean.

†Just to clarify some more… Since God saves or condemns on the basis of what we do with what we know, this should not be difficult to assent to. Our knowledge of God is determinative of our relationship. This means that we can accept or reject what we know about the Truth of God. Rejection means damnation, acceptance salvation (at least initially— we are not dealing with the problem of persevering in the Faith, only getting in!).

‡I refuse to go deep into the “What kind of certainty do you mean?” question. Let the reader be thoughtful enough to know that I don’t mean mathematical certainty or any other certainty restricted to what is known by reason alone. This is to me one of the most irritating questions. Having argued this question many times I have decided that it is more of a skeptical red-herring than a real concern over super-subtle definitions. It seems that the Holy Apostles did not worry about defining-to-exclude when they spoke about having certainty about the things they preached which was revealed to them by God. When the reader reads this term in the Bible, let him apply it to my usage in this article.


May 20, 2008 - Posted by | Catholicism, Controversial, Protestantism, Religion

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