Church “fathers” on salvation issues

The following compilations below are from the work of Jason Engwer (who is not me, though I supplement his work at the end of this page, and by minute additions seen in [brackets]), and is offered here for non-commercial “fair use.” Any copying of his work should be attributed to him, and used for the glory of God.

Br. Engwer has moved on to blogging and his old web sites (www.ntrmin.org, http://members.aol.com/jasonte) are no longer operative (2011), and the conclusions of Engwer (provided as part of his compilation) are his, and I myself am not familiar with all counter arguments (church "father" sometimes may seem to contradict themselves, and can be open to some interpretation), but Engwer can be reached through his blogger page. He would be the one to reach as regards these statements on the fathers. Br. Engwer is sometimes active on blogs as Triablogue, and also see such resources as those of the Beggars All blog, William Webster's site, Reformation500 site, and James White's Vintage site. Some of Jason's former work can be found on the Internet Archive file here, and at this site (no formal affiliation). For the index of other compilations of material from Jason Engwer as i compete them (if i do) see here.

My home page is here. For a custom Google search engine of these and other selected sites, see here. Please note however that this work or offered links cannot mean I may affirm all that is on a site, with all its conclusions, but that they usually are considered some of the best evangelical sites at least on the subject and hand, and contend for “repentance towards God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Acts 20:21) by His grace through faith, and to His glory.

Engwer's compilations are from what are wrongly termed early “church fathers,” as in truth the church began and greatly grew before them, and its “fathers” are essentially only those who are found in Scripture, and which is the judge of all.

See page on church “fathers” and Scripture for more in regards to this.

Table of Contents. To return here, click on TOC

Justification

The Fall

Original Sin

Origin of the Soul

Guilt

Infant Salvation

Hell

Atonement

Eternal Security

Supplementary

Justification

Ambrose

Ambrose seems to have agreed with Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria regarding limitations on penance for some sins:

"Deservedly are they blamed who think that they often do penance, for they are wanton against Christ. For if they went through their penance in truth, they would not think that it could be repeated again; for as there is but one baptism, so there is but one course of penance, so far as the outward practice goes, for we must repent of our daily faults, but this latter has to do with lighter faults, the former with such as are graver." (On Repentance, 2:10:95)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:

"schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him" (2089)

And:

"'Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.' 'However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers" (817-818)

The Catechism refers to people being separated from the RCC, yet still being saved:

"The Eastern churches that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church celebrate the Eucharist with great love. 'These Churches, although separated from us, yet possess true sacraments...Ecclesial communities derived from the Reformation and separated from the Catholic Church, 'have not preserved the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Holy Orders.' It is for this reason that, for the Catholic Church, Eucharistic intercommunion with these communities is not possible. However these ecclesial communities, 'when they commemorate the Lord's death and resurrection in the Holy Supper . . . profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and await his coming in glory.'" (1399-1400)

The RCC has named as its own Saints men who separated from the bishop of Rome and denied that he had authority over them. However, Ambrose tells us that those involved in schism are guilty of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and that they must return to the church in order to be saved:

"The Lord then replies to the blasphemy of the Pharisees, and refuses to them the grace of His power, which consists in the remission of sins, because they asserted that His heavenly power rested on the help of the devil. And He affirms that they act with satanic spirit who divide the Church of God, so that He includes the heretics and schismatics of all times, to whom He denies forgiveness, for every other sin is concerned with single persons, this is a sin against all. For they alone wish to destroy the grace of Christ who rend asunder the members of the Church for which the Lord Jesus suffered, and the Holy Spirit was given us....Return, then, to the Church, those of you who have wickedly separated yourselves. For He promises forgiveness to all who are converted, since it is written: 'Whosoever shall call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved.' And lastly, the Jewish people who said of the Lord Jesus, 'He hath a devil,' and 'He casteth out devils through Beelzebub,' and who crucified the Lord Jesus, are, by the preaching of Peter, called to baptism, that they may put away the guilt of so great a wickedness." (Two Books Concerning Repentance, 2:4:24, 2:4:26) TOC

Arnobius

"Nor shall divine providence deny the assistance necessary for salvation to those who, without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good life." (Second Vatican Council, "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church", 16)

"'Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.' 'Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.'...Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 847-848, 1260)

"Unless, then, my opponent says, I shall be a Christian, I cannot hope for salvation. It is just as you yourself say. For, to bring salvation and impart to souls what should be bestowed and must be added, Christ alone has had given into His charge and entrusted to Him by God the Father, the remote and more secret causes being so disposed. For, as with you, certain gods have fixed offices, privileges, powers, and you do not ask from any of them what is not in his power and permitted to him, so it is the right of Christ alone to give salvation to souls, and assign them everlasting life. For if you believe that father Bacchus can give a good vintage, but cannot give relief from sickness; if you believe that Ceres can give good crops, Aesculapius health, Neptune one thing, Juno another, that Fortune, Mercury, Vulcan, are each the giver of a fixed and particular thing,-this, too, you must needs receive from us, that souls can receive from no one life and salvation, except from Him to whom the Supreme Ruler gave this charge and duty. The Almighty Master of the world has determined that this should be the way of salvation,-this the door, so to say, of life; by Him alone is there access to the light: nor may men either creep in or enter elsewhere, all other ways being shut up and secured by an impenetrable barrier. So, then, even if you are pure, and have been cleansed from every stain of vice, have won over and charmed those powers not to shut the ways against you and bar your passage when returning to heaven, by no efforts will you be able to reach the prize of immortality, unless by Christ's gift you have perceived what constitutes this very immortality, and have been allowed to enter on the true life." - Arnobius (Against the Heathen, 2:65-66) TOC

Augustine

Augustine disagreed with numerous aspects of the modern Roman Catholic view of salvation. The Roman Catholic priest Peter Stravinskas gives us some examples:

"Despite Augustine's tremendous influence, several of his opinions never gained acceptability in the Church. Among them, we can list the following theories: that God would condemn unbaptized infants to hell, simply because of the inheritance of original sin; that God would justly condemn adults who had never had the chance to be presented with the Gospel, again, due solely to original sin's hold on them; that some people would suffer eternal damnation for no other reason than God's lack of interest in saving them! As we reflect on these Augustinian positions, we must recall the fact that just because someone is a saint or even a doctor of the Church does not make his entire body of teaching acceptable; only the Church's Magisterium can decide what is and is not consonant with Her understanding of the truth of Christ."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

"'The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day.'...'Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.' 'Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.'" (841, 847-848)

But Augustine wrote:

"Before, however, all this had been accomplished, before the actual preaching of the gospel reaches the ends of all the earth-because there are some remote nations still (although it is said they are very few) to whom the preached gospel has not found its way,-what must human nature do, or what has it done-for it had either not heard that all this was to take place, or has not yet learnt that it was accomplished-but believe in God who made heaven and earth, by whom also it perceived by nature that it had been itself created, and lead a right life, and thus accomplish His will, uninstructed with any faith in the death and resurrection of Christ? Well, if this could have been done, or can still be done, then for my part I have to say what the apostle said in regard to the law: 'Then Christ died in vain.' For if he said this about the law, which only the nation of the Jews received, how much more justly may it be said of the law of nature, which the whole human race has received, 'If righteousness come by nature, then Christ died in vain.' If, however, Christ did not die in vain, then human nature cannot by any means be justified and redeemed from God's most righteous wrath-in a word, from punishment-except by faith and the sacrament of the blood of Christ....Whence they, who are not liberated through grace, either because they are not yet able to hear, or because they are unwilling to obey; or again because they did not receive, at the time when they were unable on account of youth to hear, that bath of regeneration, which they might have received and through which they might have been saved, are indeed justly condemned; because they are not without sin, either that which they have derived from their birth, or that which they have added from their own misconduct. 'For all have sinned'-whether in Adam or in themselves-'and come short of the glory of God.'" (On Nature and Grace, Against Pelagius, 2, 4)

"no one is delivered from the condemnation which was incurred through Adam except through the faith of Jesus Christ, and yet from this condemnation they shall not deliver themselves who shall be able to say that they have not heard the gospel of Christ" (On Rebuke and Grace, 11)

The Anglican historian J.N.D. Kelly notes that Augustine was also among those who believed that there could be only one penance in a lifetime for some sins (Early Christian Doctrines [San Francisco, California: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978], p. 438) TOC.

Clement of Alexandria

Clement of Alexandria believed that fallen angels and deceased unbelievers could be saved:

"Do not the Scriptures show that the Lord preached the Gospel to those that perished in the flood, or rather had been chained, and to those kept 'in ward and guard'? And it has been shown also, in the second book of the Stromata, that the apostles, following the Lord, preached the Gospel to those in Hades. For it was requisite, in my opinion, that as here, so also there, the best of the disciples should be imitators of the Master; so that He should bring to repentance those belonging to the Hebrews, and they the Gentiles; that is, those who had lived in righteousness according to the Law and Philosophy, who had ended life not perfectly, but sinfully. For it was suitable to the divine administration, that those possessed of greater worth in righteousness, and whose life had been pre-eminent, on repenting of their transgressions, though found in another place, yet being confessedly of the number of the people of God Almighty, should be saved, each one according to his individual knowledge. And, as I think, the Saviour also exerts His might because it is His work to save; which accordingly He also did by drawing to salvation those who became willing, by the preaching of the Gospel, to believe on Him, wherever they were. If, then, the Lord descended to Hades for no other end but to preach the Gospel, as He did descend; it was either to preach the Gospel to all or to the Hebrews only. If, accordingly, to all, then all who believe shall be saved, although they may be of the Gentiles, on making their profession there; since God's punishments are saving and disciplinary, leading to conversion, and choosing rather the repentance than the death of a sinner; and especially since souls, although darkened by passions, when released from their bodies, are able to perceive more clearly, because of their being no longer obstructed by the paltry flesh....So I think it is demonstrated that the God being good, and the Lord powerful, they save with a righteousness and equality which extend to all that turn to Him, whether here or elsewhere. For it is not here alone that the active power of God is beforehand, but it is everywhere and is always at work." (The Stromata, 6:6)

"'And not only for our sins,'-that is for those of the faithful,-is the Lord the propitiator, does he say, 'but also for the whole world.' He, indeed, saves all; but some He saves, converting them by punishments; others, however, who follow voluntarily He saves with dignity of honour; so 'that every knee should bow to Him, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth;' that is, angels, men, and souls that before His advent have departed from this temporal life." (Fragments, 1:3, c. 2, v. 2)

Clement of Alexandria believed that there was a limit to how many times a Christian could repent of some sins and still be forgiven:

"He, then, who has received the forgiveness of sins ought to sin no more. For, in addition to the first and only repentance from sins (this is from the previous sins in the first and heathen life-I mean that in ignorance), there is forthwith proposed to those who have been called, the repentance which cleanses the seat of the soul from transgressions, that faith may be established. And the Lord, knowing the heart, and foreknowing the future, foresaw both the fickleness of man and the craft and subtlety of the devil from the first, from the beginning; how that, envying man for the forgiveness of sins, he would present to the servants of God certain causes of sins; skilfully working mischief, that they might fall together with himself. Accordingly, being very merciful, He has vouch-safed, in the case of those who, though in faith, fall into any transgression, a second repentance; so that should any one be tempted after his calling, overcome by force and fraud, he may receive still a repentance not to be repented of. 'For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shah devour the adversaries.' But continual and successive repentings for sins differ nothing from the case of those who have not believed at all, except only in their consciousness that they do sin." (The Stromata, 2:13) TOC

Clement of Rome

Clement, a first century Roman bishop, wrote that we're saved through faith, apart from works. He excludes all works, even "works that we have done in holiness of heart" (First Clement, 32). Just after excluding works from the gospel, he goes on to encourage Christians to do those works he had just excluded. Thus, it can't be argued that he was only excluding bad works, graceless works, faithless works, etc. He was excluding all works, including good works:

"And we who through his will have been called in Christ Jesus are justified, not by ourselves, or through our wisdom or understanding or godliness, or the works that we have done in holiness of heart, but by faith, by which all men from the beginning have been justified by Almighty God, to whom be glory world without end. Amen. What, then, shall we do, brethren? Shall we cease from well-doing, and abandon charity? May the Master never allow that this should happen to us! but let us rather with diligence and zeal hasten to fulfil every good work. For the Maker and Lord of all things rejoiceth in his works. By his supreme power he founded the heavens, and by his incomprehensible understanding he ordered them. The earth he separated from the water that surrounded it, and fixed it on the firm foundation of his own will. The animals which inhabit therein he commanded to be by his ordinance. Having made beforehand the sea and the animals that are therein, he shut them in by his own power. Man, the most excellent of all animals, infinite in faculty, he moulded with his holy and faultless hands, in the impress of his likeness. For thus saith God: Let us make man in our own image, and after our own likeness. And God made man. Male and female made he them. When, therefore, he had finished all things, he praised and blessed them, and said, Be fruitful, and multiply. Let us see, therefore, how all the just have been adorned with good works. Yea, the Lord himself rejoiced when he had adorned himself with his works. Having, therefore, this example, let us come in without shrinking to his will; let us work with all our strength the work of righteousness." (32-33)

For a Roman bishop to advocate salvation through faith alone has devastating implications for Roman Catholicism. Thus, Roman Catholics have put forward various arguments in an attempt to prove that Clement didn't advocate the doctrine.

For example, it's sometimes argued that Clement was only excluding works we do in our own strength, not works God empowers us to do. But notice the closing words in the quote above. Clement encourages people to do works "with all our strength". In the previous chapter, he had excluded from the gospel works "done in holiness of heart", which can only be good works. Therefore, this popular argument used to reconcile Clement with Roman Catholicism fails.

Often, Catholics will ignore what Clement said in chapters 32-33 and quote what he said elsewhere. But that doesn't explain chapters 32-33. And what they quote from other parts of the letter doesn't necessarily contradict what Clement wrote in chapters 32-33. For example, Catholics often cite the following:

"justified by our deeds, and not by our words" (30)

That *sounds* like a rejection of sola fide, until you read the context. Here are the same words, but with the surrounding context included:

"Let us clothe ourselves with concord, being humble, temperate, keeping ourselves far from all whispering and evil speaking, justified by our deeds, and not by our words. For he saith, He who saith many things shall, in return, hear many things. Doth he that is eloquent think himself to be just? -- doth he that is born of woman and liveth but for a short time think himself to be blessed? Be not abundant in speech. Let our praise be in God, and not for ourselves, for God hateth the self-praisers. Let the testimony of right actions be given us from others, even as it was given to our fathers who were just. Audacity, self-will, and boldness belong to them who are accursed of God; but moderation, humility, and meekness, to them that are blessed of God." (30)

Clement is addressing justification in the sense of *vindication*, such as we see in Luke 7:35, not in the sense of attaining eternal life. He says, "Let the testimony of right actions be given us from others", which is a reference to vindication, not a reference to the attaining of eternal life. Roman Catholics often single out the phrase "justified by our deeds", but the context doesn't support the meaning they pour into that phrase.

Some Catholics cite the following:

"Through faith and hospitality Rahab the harlot was saved" (12)

But, again, we should read the context. Clement is addressing salvation in the sense of safety from the Israeli invasion, not the attaining of eternal life. Clement goes on to quote Rahab saying to the Israeli spies, "save me and the house of my father" (12). Clement then quotes the spies saying, "When, therefore, thou hast perceived that we are coming, thou shalt gather together all thy household under thy roof, and they shall be saved" (12). The salvation in question is physical, not spiritual. Rahab wasn't asking the spies to give her eternal life.

Clement does say some things that suggest that he may have held to something closer to the Methodist view of salvation than the Calvinist view. For example:

"For as God liveth, and as the Lord Jesus Christ liveth, and the Holy Spirit, the confidence and hope of the elect, he who observeth in humility with earnest obedience, and repining not, the ordinances and commands given by God, he shall be reckoned and counted in the number of them that are saved by Jesus Christ" (58)

Clement could be referring to the possibility of loss of salvation. Or he could be referring to the fact that saving faith produces a life of good works, which is a concept that the Protestant reformers taught. Even if we assume that Clement rejected eternal security, his view of salvation was still contradictory to that of Roman Catholicism. He said nothing of baptismal regeneration, but instead referred to us being saved the same way people were saved prior to the institution of baptism. Clement believed that peeople are saved today the way they always have been, through faith and apart from works, including good works. Thus, the earliest church father, who was a Roman bishop, agreed with the Reformation doctrine of salvation through faith alone. TOC

Cyprian

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

"The Church obliges the faithful to take part in the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and feast days and, prepared by the sacrament of Reconciliation, to receive the Eucharist at least once a year, if possible during the Easter season. But the Church strongly encourages the faithful to receive the holy Eucharist on Sundays and feast days, or more often still, even daily." (1389)

While Roman Catholicism "encourages" daily participation, but denies its necessity, Cyprian argues that it is necessary:

"For Christ is the bread of life; and this bread does not belong to all men, but it is ours. And according as we say, 'Our Father,' because He is the Father of those who understand and believe; so also we call it 'our bread,' because Christ is the bread of those who are in union with His body. And we ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ, and daily receive the Eucharist for the food of salvation, may not, by the interposition of some heinous sin, by being prevented, as withheld and not communicating, from partaking of the heavenly bread, be separated from Christ's body, as He Himself predicts, and warns, 'I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. If any man eat of my bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.' When, therefore, He says, that whoever shall eat of His bread shall live for ever; as it is manifest that those who partake of His body and receive the Eucharist by the right of communion are living, so, on the other hand, we must fear and pray lest any one who, being withheld from communion, is separate from Christ's body should remain at a distance from salvation; as He Himself threatens, and says, 'Unless ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye shall have no life in you.' And therefore we ask that our bread-that is, Christ-may be given to us daily, that we who abide and live in Christ may not depart from His sanctification and body." (On the Lord's Prayer, 18)

"Nor shall divine providence deny the assistance necessary for salvation to those who, without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good life." (Second Vatican Council, "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church", 16)

"'The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day.'...'Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.' 'Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.'...Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 841, 847-848, 1260)

"But what a thing it is, to assert and contend that they who are not born in the Church can be the sons of God! For the blessed apostle sets forth and proves that baptism is that wherein the old man dies and the new man is born, saying, 'He saved us by the washing of regeneration.' But if regeneration is in the washing, that is, in baptism, how can heresy, which is not the spouse of Christ, generate sons to God by Christ? For it is the Church alone which, conjoined and united with Christ, spiritually bears sons; as the same apostle again says, 'Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify it, cleansing it with the washing of water.' If, then, she is the beloved and spouse who alone is sanctified by Christ, and alone is cleansed by His washing, it is manifest that heresy, which is not the spouse of Christ, nor can be cleansed nor sanctified by His washing, cannot bear sons to God....But as the birth of Christians is in baptism, while the generation and sanctification of baptism are with the spouse of Christ alone, who is able spiritually to conceive and to bear sons to God, where and of whom and to whom is he born, who is not a son of the Church, so as that he should have God as his Father, before he has had the Church for his Mother? But as no heresy at all, and equally no schism, being without, can have the sanctification of saving baptism, why has the bitter obstinacy of our brother Stephen broken forth to such an extent, as to contend that sons are born to God from the baptism of Marcion; moreover, of Valentinus and Apelles, and of others who blaspheme against God the Father; and to say that remission of sins is granted in the name of Jesus Christ where blasphemy is uttered against the Father and against Christ the Lord God?...For it has been delivered to us, that there is one God, and one Christ, and one hope, and one faith, and one Church, and one baptism ordained only in the one Church, from which unity whosoever will depart must needs be found with heretics" - Cyprian (Letter 73:6-7, 73:11) TOC

Gregory of Nyssa

Gregory of Nyssa tells us that Satan will be saved:

"A certain deception was indeed practised upon the Evil one, by concealing the Divine nature within the human; but for the latter, as himself a deceiver, it was only a just recompense that he should be deceived himself: the great adversary must himself at last find that what has been done is just and salutary, when he also shall experience the benefit of the Incarnation. He, as well as humanity, will be purged." (The Great Catechism, 26) TOC

Hermas

Sometimes the traditions of the early Roman churches contradict the traditions of Roman Catholicism. For example, regarding the forgiveness of post-conversion sins:

"Hermas reveals a great deal about attitudes in the church of Rome at the beginning of the second century...Hermas's idea, however - that God has allowed his people, the church, just one historical opportunity for repentance - does not seem to have been representative of the normal view." (Williston Walker, Richard A. Norris, David W. Lotz, and Robert T. Handy, A History of the Christian Church [New York, New York: Scribner, 1985], pp. 111-112)

In fact, Roman bishops living several decades later would take a different view than that of Hermas, and they were criticized for it by those, like Hippolytus (also a Roman), who still held a view similar to that of Hermas. Regarding limitations on the repentance of believers, Hermas writes:

"For the Lord has sworn by His glory, in regard to His elect, that if any one of them sin after a certain day which has been fixed, he shall not be saved. For the repentance of the righteous has limits. Filled up are the days of repentance to all the saints; but to the heathen, repentance will be possible even to the last day." (The Shepherd, 1:2:2)

Thus, we see that Roman Catholicism isn't even consistent with the traditions of the *Roman* churches of the past. TOC

Hermas

"'The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day.'...'Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.' 'Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 841, 847-848)

"If, then, you cannot enter into the city except through its gate, so, in like manner, a man cannot otherwise enter into the kingdom of God than by the name of His beloved Son....Whosoever does not receive His name, shall not enter into the kingdom of God." - Hermas (The Shepherd of Hermas, 3:9:12) TOC

Ignatius

"'Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.' 'However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 817-818)

"Keep yourselves from those evil plants which Jesus Christ does not tend, because they are not the planting of the Father. Not that I have found any division among you, but exceeding purity. For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God." - Ignatius (Epistle to the Philadelphians, 3)

"Let no man deceive himself. Both the things which are in heaven, and the glorious angels, and rulers, both visible and invisible, if they believe not in the blood of Christ, shall, in consequence, incur condemnation." - Ignatius (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 6)

"Do not err, my brethren. Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If, then, those who do this as respects the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with any one who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such an one becoming defiled in this way, shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall every one that hearkens unto him." - Ignatius (Epistle to the Ephesians, 16)

"'The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day.'...'Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.' 'Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.'" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 841, 847-848) TOC

John Chrysostom

Roman Catholic apologists often cite church fathers advocating some form of salvation through works, even when the form the church father advocated contradicts Roman Catholic teaching. Though many of the church fathers did refer to *some* type of salvation through works, they were sometimes inconsistent on the issue. They would refer to salvation through works in one place, but refer to salvation being through faith alone, even using the words "faith alone", elsewhere.

John Chrysostom is an example. He wrote that "by faith alone He saved us" (Homilies on Ephesians, 5, vv. 13-15), and he repeatedly affirmed salvation through faith alone elsewhere. For example:

"But after saying that 'it was excluded,' he shows also, how. How then does he say it was excluded? 'By what law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith.' See he calls the faith also a law delighting to keep to the names, and so allay the seeming novelty. But what is the 'law of faith?' It is, being saved by grace. Here he shows God's power, in that He has not only saved, but has even justified, and led them to boasting, and this too without needing works, but looking for faith only." (Homilies on Romans, 7, v. 27)

"Attend to this, ye who come to baptism at the close of life, for we indeed pray that after baptism ye may have also this deportment, but thou art seeking and doing thy utmost to depart without it. For, what though thou be justified: yet is it of faith only. But we pray that thou shouldest have as well the confidence that cometh of good works" (Homilies on Second Corinthians, 2:8, vv. 10-11)

"They said that he who kept not the Law was cursed, but he proves that he who kept it was cursed, and he who kept it not, blessed. Again, they said that he who adhered to Faith alone was cursed, but he shows that he who adhered to Faith alone is blessed." (Commentary on Galatians, 3, v. 8)

Chrysostom was inconsistent, however, referring to the "water" of John 3:5 as baptism, for example (Homilies on the Gospel of John, 25:2). Though Roman Catholic apologists often criticize Martin Luther for using the words "faith alone" in his translation of Romans 3:28, church fathers who lived hundreds of years earlier also used that terminology when discussing numerous passages of scripture on the subject of justification. Roman Catholic translations of the Bible predating Luther's used such terminology. Not all of the church fathers were consistent on this issue, but they did at least understand the concept of salvation through faith alone and sometimes advocated it.

John Chrysostom comments on Romans 10:18-19:

"'Yes, verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.' What do you say? he means. They have not heard? Why the whole world, and the ends of the earth, have heard. And have you, amongst whom the heralds abode such a long time, and of whose land they were, not heard? Now can this ever be? Sure if the ends of the world heard, much more must you. Then again another objection. Ver. 19. 'But I say, Did not Israel know?' For what if they heard, he means, but did not know what was said, nor understand that these were the persons sent? Are they not to be forgiven for their ignorance? By no means." (Homilies on Romans, 18, vv. 18-19) TOC

Lactantius

"Nor shall divine providence deny the assistance necessary for salvation to those who, without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good life." (Second Vatican Council, "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church", 16)

"'Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.' 'Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.'...Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 847-848, 1260)

"But some one will say that this supreme Being, who made all things, and those also who conferred on men particular benefits, are entitled to their respective worship. First of all, it has never happened that the worshipper of these has also been a worshipper of God. Nor can this possibly happen. For if the honour paid to Him is shared by others, He altogether ceases to be worshipped, since His religion requires us to believe that He is the one and only God....For He [Jesus] gained life for us by overcoming death. No hope, therefore, of gaining immortality is given to man, unless he shall believe on Him, and shall take up that cross to be borne and endured....Truly religion is the cultivation of the truth, but superstition of that which is false. And it makes the entire difference what you worship, not how you worship, or what prayer you offer. But because the worshippers of the gods imagine themselves to be religious, though they are superstitious, they are neither able to distinguish religion from superstition...The first head of this law is, to know God Himself, to obey Him alone, to worship Him alone. For he cannot maintain the character of a man who is ignorant of God, the parent of his soul: which is the greatest impiety. For this ignorance causes him to serve other gods, and no greater crime than this can be committed. Hence there is now so easy a step to wickedness through ignorance of the truth and of the chief good; since God, from the knowledge of whom he shrinks, is Himself the fountain of goodness. Or if he shall wish to follow the justice of God, yet, being ignorant of the divine law, he embraces the laws of his own country as true justice, though they were clearly devised not by justice, but by utility....Civil law is one thing, which varies everywhere according to customs; but justice is another thing, which God has set forth to all as uniform and simple: and he who is ignorant of God must also be ignorant of justice. But let us suppose it possible that any one, by natural and innate goodness, should gain true virtues, such a man as we have heard that Cimon was at Athens, who both gave alms to the needy, and entertained the poor, and clothed the naked; yet, when that one thing which is of the greatest importance is wanting-the acknowledgment of God-then all those good things are superfluous and empty, so that in pursuing them he has laboured in vain. For all his justice will resemble a human body which has no head, in which, although all the limbs are in their proper position, and figure, and proportion, yet, since that is wanting which is the chief thing of all, it is destitute both of life and of all sensation. Therefore those limbs have only the shape of limbs, but admit of no use, as much so as a head without a body; and he resembles this who is not without the knowledge of God, but yet lives unjustly. For he has that only which is of the greatest importance; but he has it to no purpose, since he is destitute of the virtues, as it were, of limbs.Therefore, that the body may be alive, and capable of sensation, both the knowledge of God is necessary, as it were the head, and all the virtues, as it were the body. Thus there will exist a perfect and living man; but, however, the whole substance is in the head; and although this cannot exist in the absence of all, it may exist in the absence of some. And it will be an imperfect and faulty animal, but yet it will be alive, as he who knows God and yet sins in some respect. For God pardons sins. And thus it is possible to live without some of the limbs, but it is by no means possible to live without a head. This is the reason why the philosophers, though they may be naturally good, yet have no knowledge and no intelligence. All their learning and virtue is without a head, because they are ignorant of God, who is the Head of virtue and knowledge; and he who is ignorant of Him, though he may see, is blind; though he may hear, is deaf; though he may speak, is dumb. But when he shall know the Creator and Parent of all things, then he will both see, and hear, and speak. For he begins to have a head, in which all the senses are placed, that is, the eyes, and ears, and tongue. For assuredly he sees who has beheld with the eyes of his mind the truth in which God is, or God in whom the truth is; he hears, who imprints on his heart the divine words and life-giving precepts; he speaks, who, in discussing heavenly things, relates the virtue and majesty of the surpassing God. Therefore he is undoubtedly impious who does not acknowledge God; and all his virtues, which he thinks that he has or possesses, are found in that deadly road which belongs altogether to darkness." - Lactantius (The Divine Institutes, 1:19, 4:19, 4:28, 6:9)

"The glorious Messiah's coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by 'all Israel', for 'a hardening has come upon part of Israel' in their 'unbelief' toward Jesus. St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: 'Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.' St. Paul echoes him: 'For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?' The 'full inclusion' of the Jews in the Messiah's salvation, in the wake of 'the full number of the Gentiles', will enable the People of God to achieve 'the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ', in which 'God may be all in all'." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 674)

"Therefore, as we spoke in the fourth book concerning His first advent, so in this book we will relate His second advent, which the Jews also both confess and hope for; but in vain, since He must return to the confusion of those for whose call He had before come. For they who impiously treated Him with violence in His humiliation, will experience Him in His power as a conqueror; and, God requiting them, they will suffer all those things which they read and do not understand; inasmuch as, being polluted with all sins, and moreover sprinkled with the blood of the Holy One, they were devoted to eternal punishment by that very One on whom they laid wicked hands." - Lactantius (The Divine Institutes, 7:1)

Mathetes

Mathetes wrote the following about the substitutionary nature of Christ's righteousness. Notice the reference to Christ's righteousness *covering* our sins, which is like the dunghill analogy Roman Catholics often criticize Martin Luther for:

"As long then as the former time endured, He permitted us to be borne along by unruly impulses, being drawn away by the desire of pleasure and various lusts. This was not that He at all delighted in our sins, but that He simply endured them; nor that He approved the time of working iniquity which then was, but that He sought to form a mind conscious of righteousness, so that being convinced in that time of our unworthiness of attaining life through our own works, it should now, through the kindness of God, be vouchsafed to us; and having made it manifest that in ourselves we were unable to enter into the kingdom of God, we might through the power of God be made able. But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!" (The Epistle to Diognetus, 9) TOC

Minucius Felix

Roman Catholicism teaches that people can be sincere and be seeking God, yet still be ignorant of God's identity and not knowingly believe in Christ:

"Nor shall divine providence deny the assistance necessary for salvation to those who, without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good life." (Second Vatican Council, "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church", 16)

"'Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.' 'Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.'...Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 847-848, 1260)

In contrast:

"By these fictions [of non-Christian religions], and such as these, and by lies of a more attractive kind, the minds of boys are corrupted; and with the same fables clinging to them, they grow up even to the strength of mature age; and, poor wretches, they grow old in the same beliefs, although the truth is plain, if they will only seek after it....But that they who know not God are deservedly tormented as impious, as unrighteous persons, no one except a profane man hesitates to believe, since it is not less wicked to be ignorant of, than to offend the Parent of all, and the Lord of all....ignorance of God is sufficient for punishment, even as knowledge of Him is of avail for pardon" - Minucius Felix and Octavius (The Octavius of Minucius Felix, 22, 35) TOC

Origen

Origen suggests universal salvation:

"If, then, that subjection be held to be good and salutary by which the Son is said to be subject to the Father, it is an extremely rational and logical inference to deduce that the subjection also of enemies, which is said to be made to the Son of God, should be understood as being also salutary and useful; as if, when the Son is said to be subject to the Father, the perfect restoration of the whole of creation is signified, so also, when enemies are said to be subjected to the Son of God, the salvation of the conquered and the restoration of the lost is in that understood to consist." (De Principiis, 3:5:7) TOC

Polycarp

Polycarp seems to have held a Protestant view of salvation, combining the freeness of eternal life with the necessity of a resulting life of good works. Notice his exclusion of works, without any qualification, his reference to those who "only believe" (faith alone), and his references to the substitutionary nature of Christ's life and death:

"'by grace ye are saved, not of works,' but by the will of God through Jesus Christ....If we please Him in this present world, we shall receive also the future world, according as He has promised to us that He will raise us again from the dead, and that if we live worthily of Him, 'we shall also reign together with Him,' provided only we believe....Let us then continually persevere in our hope, and the earnest of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ, 'who bore our sins in His own body on the tree,' 'who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth,' but endured all things for us, that we might live in Him." (Epistle to the Philippians, 1, 5, 8) TOC

Socrates Scholasticus

Socrates Scholasticus criticizes John Chrysostom for saying that there can be more than one penance after baptism:

"For whereas by the Synod of bishops repentance was accepted but once from those who had sinned after baptism; he did not scruple to say, 'Approach, although you may have repented a thousand times.' For this doctrine, many even of his friends censured him, but especially Sisinnius bishop of the Novatian; who wrote a book condemnatory of the above quoted expression of Chrysostom's, and severely rebuked him for it." (Ecclesiastical History, 6:21) TOC

Tertullian

Roman Catholic apologists, such as Robert Sungenis, often cite James 2:21-24 as evidence that Abraham was saved through works. The church father Tertullian believed that baptismal regeneration came into effect after the resurrection of Christ, but he acknowledged that justification was through faith alone prior to that time:

"And so they say, 'Baptism is not necessary for them to whom faith is sufficient; for withal, Abraham pleased God by a sacrament of no water, but of faith.' But in all cases it is the later things which have a conclusive force, and the subsequent which prevail over the antecedent. Grant that, in days gone by, there was salvation by means of bare faith, before the passion and resurrection of the Lord. But now that faith has been enlarged, and is become a faith which believes in His nativity, passion, and resurrection, there has been an amplification added...For the law of baptizing has been imposed" (On Baptism, 13)

Tertullian acknowledges that Abraham was saved through faith alone, but he dismisses Abraham as an exception to the rule. The apostle Paul, however, says that Abraham *is* the rule (Romans 4:13-16). Paul also denies that Christians are under a "law of baptizing" or *any* law of works (Romans 3:27, Galatians 3:21-25). As we might expect, Tertullian goes on, later in his treatise, to add other works to the gospel. He says that people preparing for baptism should "pray with repeated prayers, fasts, and bendings of the knee, and vigils all the night through, and with the confession of all by gone sins" (20). Do Roman Catholics do these works before being baptized? Do they agree with Tertullian that people were justified through faith alone prior to the resurrection of Christ?

According to Tertullian, you can lose your salvation without any possibility of regaining it, which is another contradiction of Roman Catholic doctrine:

"So long, Lord Christ, may the blessing of learning or hearing concerning the discipline of repentance be granted to Thy servants, as is likewise behoves them, while learners, not to sin; in other words, may they thereafter know nothing of repentance, and require nothing of it. It is irksome to append mention of a second - nay, in that case, the last - hope...this second and only remaining repentance" (On Repentance, 7, 9) TOC

The Fall

Origen

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

"Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called 'original sin'." (417)

But Origen allegorized the early chapters of Genesis, arguing that Adam is a reference to all pre-existing human souls sinning before this life. He says that God clothing Adam and Eve after their sin is a reference to the pre-existing souls taking on human bodies:

"For as those whose business it is to defend the doctrine of providence do so by means of arguments which are not to be despised, so also the subjects of Adam and his son will be philosophically dealt with by those who are aware that in the Hebrew language Adam signifies man; and that in those parts of the narrative which appear to refer to Adam as an individual, Moses is discoursing upon the nature of man in general. For 'in Adam' (as the Scripture says) 'all die,' and were condemned in the likeness of Adam's transgression, the word of God asserting this not so much of one particular individual as of the whole human race. For in the connected series of statements which appears to apply as to one particular individual, the curse pronounced upon Adam is regarded as common to all (the members of the race), and what was spoken with reference to the woman is spoken of every woman without exception. And the expulsion of the man and woman from paradise, and their being clothed with tunics of skins (which God, because of the transgression of men, made for those who had sinned), contain a certain secret and mystical doctrine (far transcending that of Plato) of the souls losing its wings, and being borne downwards to earth, until it can lay hold of some stable resting-place." (Against Celsus, 4:40) TOC

Original Sin

Ambrose

Ambrose taught that while personal sins are remitted through baptism, original sin is remitted through foot washing:

"Peter was clean, but he must wash his feet, for he had sin by succession from the first man, when the serpent overthrew him and persuaded him to sin. His feet were therefore washed, that hereditary sins might be done away, for our own sins are remitted through baptism." (On the Mysteries, 6:32) TOC

Clement of Alexandria

The church father Clement of Alexandria doesn't seem to have believed in original sin. The Anglican historian J.N.D. Kelly cites the following passage as an example:

"The righteous Job says: 'Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there;' not naked of possessions, for that were a trivial and common thing; but, as a just man, he departs naked of evil and sin, and of the unsightly shape which follows those who have led bad lives. For this was what was said, 'Unless ye be converted, and become as children,' pure in flesh, holy in soul by abstinence from evil deeds; showing that He would have us to be such as also He generated us from our mother" (The Stromata, 4:25) TOC

Origin of the Soul

Origen

Origen advocated the preexistence of the soul. He refers to the condition of a person's life at birth being determined by his behavior prior to this life:

"When He in the beginning created those beings which He desired to create, i.e., rational natures, He had no other reason for creating them than on account of Himself, i.e., His own goodness. As He Himself, then, was the cause of the existence of those things which were to be created, in whom there was neither any variation nor change, nor want of power, He created all whom He made equal and alike, because there was in Himself no reason for producing variety and diversity. But since those rational creatures themselves, as we have frequently shown, and will yet show in the proper place, were endowed with the power of free-will, this freedom of will incited each one either to progress by imitation of God, or reduced him to failure through negligence. And this, as we have already stated, is the cause of the diversity among rational creatures, deriving its origin not from the will or judgment of the Creator, but from the freedom of the individual will. Now God, who deemed it just to arrange His creatures according to their merit, brought down these different understandings into the harmony of one world, that He might adorn, as it were, one dwelling, in which there ought to be not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay (and some indeed to honour, and others to dishonour), with those different vessels, or souls, or understandings. And these are the causes, in my opinion, why that world presents the aspect of diversity, while Divine Providence continues to regulate each individual according to the variety of his movements, or of his feelings and purpose. On which account the Creator will neither appear to be unjust in distributing (for the causes already mentioned) to every one according to his merits; nor will the happiness or unhappiness of each one's birth, or whatever be the condition that falls to his lot, be deemed accidental...It seems worth while, then, to inquire what is meant by this new term [the word 'foundation' in Ephesians 1:4]; and I am, indeed, of opinion that, as the end and consummation of the saints will be in those ages which are not seen, and are eternal, we must conclude (as frequently pointed out in the preceding pages), from a contemplation of that very end, that rational creatures had also a similar beginning. And if they had a beginning such as the end for which they hope, they existed undoubtedly from the very beginning in those ages which are not seen, and are eternal. And if this is so, then there has been a descent from a higher to a lower condition, on the part not only of those souls who have deserved the change by the variety of their movements, but also on that of those who, in order to serve the whole world, were brought down from those higher and invisible spheres to these lower and visible ones, although against their will-'Because the creature was subjected to vanity, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected the same in hope;' so that both sun, and moon, and stars, and angels might discharge their duty to the world, and to those souls which, on account of their excessive mental defects, stood in need of bodies of a grosser and more solid nature; and for the sake of those for whom this arrangement was necessary, this visible world was also called into being." (De Principiis, 2:9:6, 3:5:4) TOC

Guilt

Augustine

"And it is said, with much appearance of probability, that infants are involved in the guilt of the sins not only of the first pair, but of their own immediate parents. For that divine judgment, 'I shall visit the iniquities of the fathers upon the children,' certainly applies to them before they come under the new covenant by regeneration. And it was this new covenant that was prophesied of, when it was said by Ezekiel, that the sons should not bear the iniquity of the fathers, and that it should no longer be a proverb in Israel, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' Here lies the necessity that each man should be born again, that he might be freed from the sin in which he was born. For the sins committed afterwards can be cured by penitence, as we see is the case after baptism. And therefore the new birth would not have been appointed only that the first birth was sinful, so sinful that even one who was legitimately born in wedlock says: 'I was shapen in iniquities, and in sins did my mother conceive me.' He did not say in iniquity, or in sin, though he might have said so correctly; but he preferred to say 'iniquities' and 'sins,' because in that one sin which passed upon all men, and which was so great that human nature was by it made subject to inevitable death, many sins, as I showed above, may be discriminated; and further, because there are other sins of the immediate parents, whichthough they have not the same effect in producing a change of nature, yet subject the children to guilt unless the divine grace and mercy interpose to rescue them." - Augustine (The Enchiridion, 46) TOC

Infant Salvation

Aristides

In the past, Roman Catholic leaders have taught that unbaptized infants who die go to Hell. More recently, however:

"The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth....All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism....With respect to children who have died without Baptism, the liturgy of the Church invites us to trust in God's mercy and to pray for their salvation." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1250, 1261, 1283)

In other words, the RCC accuses people who delay baptism of children of depriving them of "priceless grace", neglecting an "urgent" situation, and risking the possibility that the child won't be saved if he dies. According to the RCC, the salvation of unbaptized children is questionable, and can be altered after death through prayer.

But Aristides considered all infants who die to be saved, and not on the basis of baptism. He contrasts deceased infants with deceased sinners who didn't repent:

"And when a child has been born to one of them [Christians], they give thanks to God; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. And further if they see that any one of them dies in his ungodliness or in his sins, for him they grieve bitterly, and sorrow as for one who goes to meet his doom." (Apology, 15) TOC

Augustine

"If any one saith, that the communion of the Eucharist is necessary for little children, before they have arrived at years of discretion; let him be anathema." - Council of Trent (session 21, "On Communion Under Both Species, and on the Communion of Infants", canon 4)

"Will, however, any man be so bold as to say that this statement has no relation to infants, and that they can have life in them without partaking of His body and blood--on the ground that He does not say, Except one eat, but 'Except ye eat;' as if He were addressing those who were able to hear and to understand, which of course infants cannot do? But he who says this is inattentive...From all this it follows, that even for the life of infants was His flesh given, which He gave for the life of the world; and that even they will not have life if they eat not the flesh of the Son of man." - Augustine (On the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants, 1:27)

Augustine contradicted Roman Catholicism on a lot of issues. I've given many examples in this series, I could cite many more, and I will be citing more as the series progresses. An article by Peter Stravinskas in the September/October 1998 issue of Envoy, a conservative Roman Catholic magazine, comments:

"The great St. Augustine too held this position: No salvation for Christian heretics or schismatics, no salvation for Jews or pagans living since the beginning of the Christian era and no salvation for any unbelievers, even those who never heard the Gospel preached....Despite Augustine's tremendous influence, several of his opinions never gained acceptability in the Church. Among them, we can list the following theories: that God would condemn unbaptized infants to hell, simply because of the inheritance of original sin; that God would justly condemn adults who had never had the chance to be presented with the Gospel, again, due solely to original sin's hold on them; that some people would suffer eternal damnation for no other reason than God's lack of interest in saving them! As we reflect on these Augustinian positions, we must recall the fact that just because someone is a saint or even a doctor of the Church does not make his entire body of teaching acceptable; only the Church's Magisterium can decide what is and is not consonant with Her understanding of the truth of Christ."

Stravinskas mentions the damnation of unbaptized infants. Here are some examples of what Augustine wrote on the subject, in contrast to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1283) telling us to pray for the salvation of unbaptized infants:

"Now in which of these classes must we place infants--amongst those who believe on the Son, or amongst those who believe not the Son? In neither, say some, because, as they are not yet able to believe, so must they not be deemed unbelievers. This, however, the rule of the Church does not indicate, for it joins baptized infants to the number of the faithful. Now if they who are baptized are, by virtue of the excellence and administration of so great a sacrament, nevertheless reckoned in the number of the faithful, although by their own heart and mouth they do not literally perform what appertains to the action of faith and confession; surely they who have lacked the sacrament must be classed amongst those who do not believe on the Son, and therefore, if they shall depart this life without this grace, they will have to encounter what is written concerning such--they shall not have life, but the wrath of God abideth on them....So that infants, unless they pass into the number of believers through the sacrament which was divinely instituted for this purpose, will undoubtedly remain in this darkness [of sin]." (On the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants, 1:28)

"And neither the first death, which takes place when the soul is compelled to leave the body, nor the second death, which takes place when the soul is not permitted to leave the suffering body, would have been inflicted on man had no one sinned. And, of course, the mildest punishment of all will fall upon those who have added no actual sin [infants], to the original sin they brought with them; and as for the rest who have added such actual sins, the punishment of each will be the more tolerable in the next world, according as his iniquity has been less in this world. Thus, when reprobate angels and men are left to endure everlasting punishment, the saints shall know more fully the benefits they have received by grace." (The Enchiridion, 93-94) TOC

Gregory Nazianzen

The status of infant baptism in the patristic age was in some ways similar to its status today. It was practiced by the majority of professing Christians, but it wasn't practiced universally. And there were disagreements over the purpose and mode of it. The Protestant historian Philip Schaff, though he argues for the apostolicity of the practice, nevertheless acknowledges:

"Constantine sat among the fathers at the great Council of Nicaea, and gave legal effect to its decrees, and yet put off his baptism to his deathbed. The cases of Gregory of Nazianzum, St. Chrysostom, and St. Augustin, who had mothers of exemplary piety, and yet were not baptized before early manhood, show sufficiently that considerable freedom prevailed in this respect even in the Nicene and post-Nicene ages." (section 73)

Compare this freedom to what the RCC teaches on this subject:

"The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth....All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism....With respect to children who have died without Baptism, the liturgy of the Church invites us to trust in God's mercy and to pray for their salvation." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1250, 1261, 1283)

In other words, the RCC accuses people who delay baptism of children of depriving them of "priceless grace", neglecting an "urgent" situation, and risking the possibility that the child won't be saved if he dies. According to the RCC, the salvation of unbaptized children is questionable, and can be altered after death through prayer.

Compare the RCC's claims on this subject to what the church father Gregory Nazianzen taught:

"Be it so, some will say, in the case of those who ask for Baptism; what have you to say about those who are still children, and conscious neither of the loss nor of the grace? Are we to baptize them too? Certainly, if any danger presses. For it is better that they should be unconsciously sanctified than that they should depart unsealed and uninitiated. A proof of this is found in the Circumcision on the eighth day, which was a sort of typical seal, and was conferred on children before they had the use of reason. And so is the anointing of the doorposts, which preserved the firstborn, though applied to things which had no consciousness. But in respect of others I give my advice to wait till the end of the third year, or a little more or less, when they may be able to listen and to answer something about the Sacrament; that, even though they do not perfectly understand it, yet at any rate they may know the outlines; and then to sanctify them in soul and body with the great sacrament of our consecration. For this is how the matter stands; at that time they begin to be responsible for their lives, when reason is matured, and they learn the mystery of life (for of sins of ignorance owing to their tender years they have no account to give), and it is far more profitable on all accounts to be fortified by the Font, because of the sudden assaults of danger that befall us, stronger than our helpers." (Orations, 40:28) TOC

Irenaeus

In the past, Roman Catholic leaders have taught that unbaptized infants who die go to Hell. More recently, however:

"The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth....All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism....With respect to children who have died without Baptism, the liturgy of the Church invites us to trust in God's mercy and to pray for their salvation." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1250, 1261, 1283)

In other words, the RCC accuses people who delay baptism of children of depriving them of "priceless grace", neglecting an "urgent" situation, and risking the possibility that the child won't be saved if he dies. According to the RCC, the salvation of unbaptized children is questionable, and can be altered after death through prayer.

Irenaeus disagreed. He considered all infants who die to be saved, and not on the basis of baptism:

"And again, who are they that have been saved and received the inheritance? Those, doubtless, who do believe God, and who have continued in His love; as did Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, and innocent children, who have had no sense of evil." (Against Heresies, 4:28:3) TOC

John Chrysostom

In the past, Roman Catholic leaders have taught that unbaptized infants who die go to Hell. More recently, however:

"The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth....All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism....With respect to children who have died without Baptism, the liturgy of the Church invites us to trust in God's mercy and to pray for their salvation." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1250, 1261, 1283)

In other words, the RCC accuses people who delay baptism of children of depriving them of "priceless grace", neglecting an "urgent" situation, and risking the possibility that the child won't be saved if he dies. According to the RCC, the salvation of unbaptized children is questionable, and can be altered after death through prayer.

John Chrysostom, however, refers to children going to Heaven because of innocence. He explains that children murdered by sorcerers, children who probably wouldn't have been baptized, go to Heaven. He refers to what "many tell us" about these children being murdered, so he apparently had no knowledge of these children being baptized, since the knowledge of their being murdered was itself secondhand:

"'But what then wilt thou say,' one may ask, 'when many of the sorcerers take children and slay them, in order to have the soul afterwards to assist them?' Why, whence is this evident? for of their slaying them, indeed, many tell us, but as to the souls of the slain being with them, whence knowest thou it, I pray thee? 'The possessed themselves,' it is replied, 'cry out, I am the soul of such a one.' But this too is a kind of stage-play, and devilish deceit. For it is not the spirit of the dead that cries out, but the evil spirit that feigns these things in order to deceive the hearers. For if it were possible for a soul to enter into the substance of an evil spirit, much more into its own body....Nor indeed is it possible for a soul, torn away from the body, to wander here any more. For 'the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God;' and if of the righteous, then those children's souls also; for neither are they wicked: and the souls too of sinners are straightway led away hence." (Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, 28:3) TOC

Tertullian

"The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth....All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism....With respect to children who have died without Baptism, the liturgy of the Church invites us to trust in God's mercy and to pray for their salvation." - Catechism of the Catholic Church (1250, 1261, 1283)

"And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. For why is it necessary-if baptism itself is not so necessary -that the sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? Who both themselves, by reason of mortality, may fail to fulfil their promises, and may be disappointed by the development of an evil disposition, in those for whom they stood? The Lord does indeed say, 'Forbid them not to come unto me.' Let them 'come,' then, while they are growing up; let them 'come' while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come; let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ." - Tertullian (On Baptism, 18)

Unlike the RCC, Tertullian was convinced that deceased infants go to Heaven, regardless of whether they were baptized:

"if you mean the good why should you judge to be unworthy of such a resting-place [the heavenly region of Hades] the souls of infants and of virgins, and those which, by reason of their condition in life were pure and innocent?" (A Treatise on the Soul, 58) TOC

Hell

Arnobius

Arnobius seems to have believed in annihilationism:

"For although the gentle and kindly disposed man thought it inhuman cruelty to condemn souls to death, he yet not unreasonably supposed that they are cast into rivers blazing with masses of flame, and loathsome from their foul abysses. For they are cast in, and being annihilated, pass away vainly in everlasting destruction. For theirs is an intermediate state, as has been learned from Christ's teaching; and they are such that they may on the one hand perish if they have not known God, and on the other be delivered from death if they have given heed to His threats and proffered favours. And to make manifest what is unknown, this is man's real death, this which leaves nothing behind. For that which is seen by the eyes is only a separation of soul from body, not the last end--annihilation: this, I say, is man's real death" (Against the Heathen, 2:14) TOC

Clement of Alexandria

Clement of Alexandria believed that fallen angels and deceased unbelievers could be saved:

"Do not the Scriptures show that the Lord preached the Gospel to those that perished in the flood, or rather had been chained, and to those kept 'in ward and guard'? And it has been shown also, in the second book of the Stromata, that the apostles, following the Lord, preached the Gospel to those in Hades. For it was requisite, in my opinion, that as here, so also there, the best of the disciples should be imitators of the Master; so that He should bring to repentance those belonging to the Hebrews, and they the Gentiles; that is, those who had lived in righteousness according to the Law and Philosophy, who had ended life not perfectly, but sinfully. For it was suitable to the divine administration, that those possessed of greater worth in righteousness, and whose life had been pre-eminent, on repenting of their transgressions, though found in another place, yet being confessedly of the number of the people of God Almighty, should be saved, each one according to his individual knowledge. And, as I think, the Saviour also exerts His might because it is His work to save; which accordingly He also did by drawing to salvation those who became willing, by the preaching of the Gospel, to believe on Him, wherever they were. If, then, the Lord descended to Hades for no other end but to preach the Gospel, as He did descend; it was either to preach the Gospel to all or to the Hebrews only. If, accordingly, to all, then all who believe shall be saved, although they may be of the Gentiles, on making their profession there; since God's punishments are saving and disciplinary, leading to conversion, and choosing rather the repentance than the death of a sinner; and especially since souls, although darkened by passions, when released from their bodies, are able to perceive more clearly, because of their being no longer obstructed by the paltry flesh....So I think it is demonstrated that the God being good, and the Lord powerful, they save with a righteousness and equality which extend to all that turn to Him, whether here or elsewhere. For it is not here alone that the active power of God is beforehand, but it is everywhere and is always at work." (The Stromata, 6:6)

"'And not only for our sins,'-that is for those of the faithful,-is the Lord the propitiator, does he say, 'but also for the whole world.' He, indeed, saves all; but some He saves, converting them by punishments; others, however, who follow voluntarily He saves with dignity of honour; so 'that every knee should bow to Him, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth;' that is, angels, men, and souls that before His advent have departed from this temporal life." (Fragments, 1:3, c. 2, v. 2) TOC

Gregory of Nyssa

Gregory of Nyssa tells us that Satan will be saved:

"A certain deception was indeed practised upon the Evil one, by concealing the Divine nature within the human; but for the latter, as himself a deceiver, it was only a just recompense that he should be deceived himself: the great adversary must himself at last find that what has been done is just and salutary, when he also shall experience the benefit of the Incarnation. He, as well as humanity, will be purged." (The Great Catechism, 26) TOC

Origen

Origen suggests universal salvation:

"If, then, that subjection be held to be good and salutary by which the Son is said to be subject to the Father, it is an extremely rational and logical inference to deduce that the subjection also of enemies, which is said to be made to the Son of God, should be understood as being also salutary and useful; as if, when the Son is said to be subject to the Father, the perfect restoration of the whole of creation is signified, so also, when enemies are said to be subjected to the Son of God, the salvation of the conquered and the restoration of the lost is in that understood to consist." (De Principiis, 3:5:7) TOC

Tatian

"The soul is not in itself immortal, O Greeks, but mortal. Yet it is possible for it not to die. If, indeed, it knows not the truth, it dies, and is dissolved with the body, but rises again at last at the end of the world with the body, receiving death by punishment in immortality. But, again, if it acquires the knowledge of God, it dies not, although for a time it be dissolved." - Tatian (Address to the Greeks, 13) TOC

Atonement

Ambrose

The church fathers held a variety of views of the atonement. One view saw the ransom aspect of the atonement (Matthew 20:28) as being paid to Satan. That view and others that involved some sort of transaction with Satan were advocated by numerous church fathers and Roman bishops. The Protestant historian Philip Schaff explains:

"This strange theory is variously held by Irenaeus, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzen, Ambrose, Augustin, Leo the Great and Gregory the Great." (note 1093 ).

The Leo and Gregory he refers to were Roman bishops. Ambrose wrote:

"And let no one be startled at the word 'creditor.' We were before under a hard creditor, who was not to be satisfied and paid to the full but by the death of the debtor. The Lord Jesus came, He saw us bound by a heavy debt. No one could pay his debt with the patrimony of his innocence. I could have nothing of my own wherewith to free myself. He gave to me a new kind of acquittance, changing my creditor because I had nothing wherewith to pay my debt. But it was sin, not nature, which had made us debtors, for we had contracted heavy debts by our sins, that we who had been free should be bound, for he is a debtor who received any of his creditor's money. Now sin is of the devil; that wicked one has, as it were, these riches in his possession. For as the riches of Christ are virtues, so crimes are the wealth of the devil. He had reduced the human race to perpetual captivity by the heavy debt of inherited liability, which our debt-laden ancestor had transmitted to his posterity by inheritance. The Lord Jesus came, He offered His death for the death of all, He poured out His Blood for the blood of all. So, then, we have changed our creditor, not escaped wholly, or rather we have escaped, for the debt remains but the interest is cancelled" (Letter 41:7-8) TOC

Augustine

Augustine, in addition to advocating other views, advocated a variation of the ransom to Satan view of the atonement:

"For men were held captive under the devil, and served devils; but they were redeemed from captivity. They could sell, but they could not redeem themselves. The Redeemer came, and gave a price; He poured forth His Blood, and bought the whole world." (Expositions on the Psalms, 96:5)

"What, then, is the righteousness by which the devil was conquered? What, except the righteousness of Jesus Christ? And how was he conquered? Because, when he found in Him nothing worthy of death, yet he slew Him. And certainly it is just, that we whom he [Satan] held as debtors, should be dismissed free by believing in Him whom he slew without any debt. In this way it is that we are said to be justified in the blood of Christ....And hence He proceeds to His passion, that He might pay for us debtors that which He Himself did not owe....For then that blood, since it was His who had no sin at all, was poured out for the remission of our sins; that, because the devil deservedly held those whom, as guilty of sin, he bound by the condition of death, he might deservedly loose them through Him, whom, as guilty of no sin, the punishment of death undeservedly affected. The strong man [Satan] was conquered by this righteousness, and bound with this chain, that his vessels might be spoiled, which with himself and his angels had been vessels of wrath while with him, and might be turned into vessels of mercy....And hence the same apostle also, exhorting believers to the giving of thanks to God the Father, says: 'Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: in whom we have redemption, even the forgiveness of sins.' In this redemption, the blood of Christ was given, as it were, as a price for us, by accepting which the devil was not enriched, but bound" (On the Trinity, 13:14:18, 13:15:19) TOC

Irenaeus

Irenaeus refers to Jesus living to be over 40 years old, and he bases a false view of the atonement on that error:

"They, however, that they may establish their false opinion regarding that which is written, 'to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,' maintain that He preached for one year only, and then suffered in the twelfth month. In speaking thus, they are forgetful to their own disadvantage, destroying His whole work, and robbing Him of that age which is both more necessary and more honourable than any other; that more advanced age, I mean, during which also as a teacher He excelled all others. For how could He have had disciples, if He did not teach? And how could He have taught, unless He had reached the age of a Master? For when He came to be baptized, He had not yet completed His thirtieth year, but was beginning to be about thirty years of age (for thus Luke, who has mentioned His years, has expressed it: 'Now Jesus was, as it were, beginning to be thirty years old,' when He came to receive baptism); and, according to these men, He preached only one year reckoning from His baptism. On completing His thirtieth year He suffered, being in fact still a young man, and who had by no means attained to advanced age. Now, that the first stage of early life embraces thirty years, and that this extends onwards to the fortieth year, every one will admit; but from the fortieth and fiftieth year a man begins to decline towards old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher, even as the Gospel and all the elders testify; those who were conversant in Asia with John, the disciple of the Lord, affirming that John conveyed to them that information. And he remained among them up to the times of Trajan. Some of them, moreover, saw not only John, but the other apostles also, and heard the very same account from them, and bear testimony as to the validity of the statement....But, besides this, those very Jews who then disputed with the Lord Jesus Christ have most clearly indicated the same thing. For when the Lord said to them, 'Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad,' they answered Him, 'Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?' Now, such language is fittingly applied to one who has already passed the age of forty, without having as yet reached his fiftieth year, yet is not far from this latter period. But to one who is only thirty years old it would unquestionably be said, 'Thou art not yet forty years old.' For those who wished to convict Him of falsehood would certainly not extend the number of His years far beyond the age which they saw He had attained; but they mentioned a period near His real age, whether they had truly ascertained this out of the entry in the public register, or simply made a conjecture from what they observed that He was above forty years old, and that He certainly was not one of only thirty years of age. For it is altogether unreasonable to suppose that they were mistaken by twenty years, when they wished to prove Him younger than the times of Abraham. For what they saw, that they also expressed; and He whom they beheld was not a mere phantasm, but an actual being of flesh and blood. He did not then wont much of being fifty years old; and, in accordance with that fact, they said to Him, 'Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?' He did not therefore preach only for one year, nor did He suffer in the twelfth month of the year. For the period included between the thirtieth and the fiftieth year can never be regarded as one year" (Against Heresies, 2:22:5-6)

Above, I documented Irenaeus advocating a false recapitulation view of the atonement. It seems that he also held a false ransom to Satan view. He refers to sinners being held captive to Satan, and he suggests that Jesus purchased sinners back from Satan. Notice his references to the justice of God in working with Satan (as opposed to the injustice of Satan's actions), which suggests that he's referring to a *legal right* of Satan, not just some influence that Satan had:

"the mighty Word, and very man, who, redeeming us by His own blood in a manner consonant to reason, gave Himself as a redemption for those who had been led into captivity. And since the apostasy [Satan] tyrannized over us unjustly, and, though we were by nature the property of the omnipotent God, alienated us contrary to nature, rendering us its own disciples, the Word of God, powerful in all things, and not defective with regard to His own justice, did righteously turn against that apostasy, and redeem from it His own property, not by violent means, as the apostasy had obtained dominion over us at the beginning, when it insatiably snatched away what was not its own, but by means of persuasion, as became a God of counsel, who does not use violent means to obtain what He desires; so that neither should justice be infringed upon, nor the ancient handiwork of God go to destruction." (Against Heresies, 5:1:1) TOC

Eternal Security

Ambrosiaster

"Like Hilary and Ambrose, Ambrosiaster distinguishes three categories: the saints and the righteous, who will go directly to heaven at the time of the resurrection; the ungodly, apostates, infidels, and atheists, who will go directly into the fiery torments of Hell; and the ordinary Christians, who, though sinners, will first pay their debt and for a time be purified by fire but then go to Paradise because they had the faith. Commenting on Paul, Ambrosiaster writes: 'He [Paul] said: 'yet so as by fire,' because this salvation exists not without pain; for he did not say, 'he shall be saved by fire,' but when he says, 'yet so as by fire,' he wants to show that this salvation is to come, but that he must suffer the pains of fire; so that, purged by fire, he may be saved and not, like the infidels [perfidi], tormented forever by eternal fire; if for a portion of his works he has some value, it is because he believed in Christ.'" (Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory [Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1986], p. 61)

"we find Ambrosiaster teaching that, while the really wicked, 'will be tormented with everlasting punishment', the chastisement of Christian sinners will be of a temporary duration." (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines [San Francisco, California: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978], p. 484) TOC



Supplementary

This page also offers many links to CFs on salvation by faith.
My own brief comment here is that we are come to God as damned fro our sins and destitute of any means whereby we may escape our just and eternal punishment in Hell Fire, and deserve Heaven, but faith out in the Lord Jesus, the Son sent by the Father so save us on His expense and righteous, then one is justified freely by grace through faith not by the merit of any works. (Rm. 3:9-5:1; Eph. 2:8,9; Titus 3:5)
But which faith is out of a poor and contrite heart , (Ps. 34:18; Is. 66:2) such as will effect obedience towards its Object, baptism normally being the first formal expression of that. (Acts 2:38,40)
And as faith, like love, is known by its works, and as God rewards faith, (Mt. 15:28) and works done by faith (Mt. 25:31-40; in His grace, though they deserve Hell), thus God judges believers by their works, which manifests they have faith. Thus it can be said that a believer is justified by His works, that he has true faith in the Lord Jesus, a “confessional” type faith which is manifest as salvific.
"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:9-10)
one need not understand much to be born again, as the issue is the heart, and "the Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. " (Psalms 34:18) And the preaching of the gospel which preceded baptism in Acts was not about fostering faith in the church and and one's own works for salvation, which is what Rome effectually much conveys, so that the Ted Kennedy's of the world are treated and die as members who will eventually gain glory because they were baptized as infants (usually) by Rome and died in her arms, but Scriptural preaching was that which convicted souls of “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment,” (Jn. 16:9) of their damned and utterly destitute condition, unable to escape Hell or gain Heaven and in desperate need of their own “day of salvation,” so that they cast all their faith in the mercy of God in Christ to save them, on His blood expense and righteousness, out of a poor and contrite heart. (Acts 2:14-38) And who thus show evidence of repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, (Acts 20:21) in contrast to its institutionalized counterpart, of which Rome and much of Protestantism now is (yet evangelicals testify to more fruits of regeneration in many ways than their Roman Catholic counterparts). And we all (and I) need various degrees of revival. TOC