« Prev Art. 7: Whether Explicit Belief in the Mystery of… Next »

Article Seven

Whether Explicit Belief in the Mystery of the Incarnation of Christ is Necessary for the Salvation of Everybody

We proceed to the seventh article thus:

1. It seems that explicit belief in the mystery of the incarnation of Christ is not necessary for the salvation of everybody. A man is not required to have explicit belief in matters of which angels are ignorant, since the faith is made explicit by divine revelation, which reaches men through the medium of angels, as was said in the preceding article. Now even angels have been ignorant of the mystery of the incarnation of Christ, since they asked: “Who is this king of glory?” (Ps. 24:8), and “Who is this that cometh from Edom?” as Dionysius observes (Coel. Hier. 7). Hence men are not required to believe explicitly in the mystery of the incarnation of Christ.

2. Again, it is obvious that the blessed John the Baptist was one of the wise, and that he was very near to Christ. For the Lord said of him: “Among them that are born of women there hath not arisen a greater.” But even John the Baptist does not seem to have known the mystery of the incarnation of Christ explicitly, since he inquired of Christ: “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3). Thus even the wise are not required to have explicit faith concerning Christ.

3. Again, according to Dionysius (Coel. Hier. 9, 4), many of the Gentiles obtained salvation through the ministry of angels. Now it appears that the Gentiles had neither explicit nor implicit faith concerning Christ, since no revelation of the faith was given unto them. Thus it seems that explicit faith in the mystery of the incarnation of Christ has not been necessary for the salvation of everybody.

On the other hand: Augustine says (De Corrept. et Grat. 7, 252Epist. 190): “That faith is sound by which we believe that no man, whether old or young, is set free from the contagion of death or from the debt of sin, except by the one mediator of God and men, Jesus Christ.”

I answer: that through which we attain to blessedness, as we said in Art. 5, and in Q. 1, Art. 8, properly and in itself belongs to the object of faith. Now our way to blessedness is the mystery of the incarnation and passion of Christ. For it is said in Acts 4:12: “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Hence some kind of belief in the mystery of the incarnation of Christ has been necessary for all men at all times, although the manner of belief required has been different for different persons at different times.

Before he was in the state of sin, man had explicit faith in the mystery of the incarnation of Christ as the means of his con-sumation in glory, but not as the means of liberation from sin through the passion and resurrection, since he was not aware of sin to come. It appears that he had foreknowledge of Christ’s incarnation, since according to Gen. 2:24 he said: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife,” on which passage the apostle says: “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church” (Eph. 5:32). We cannot then believe that the first man was ignorant of this mystery.

After sin, men believed explicitly in the mystery of the incarnation of Christ, including not only his incarnation, but also his passion and resurrection, through which the human race is set free from sin and death. For they would not otherwise have foreshown the passion of Christ in certain sacrifices, both before the Law and under the Law. The wiser among them knew the meaning of these sacrifices explicitly. The simpler minded believed that under the veil of such sacrifices were contained divine preparations for the coming of Christ, of which they were dimly aware. Further, as we said in Q. 1, Art. 7, ad 1 and 4, the nearer men have been to Christ, the more distinctly have they known the things which pertain to the mysteries of Christ.

But now that grace has been revealed, wise and simple alike are required to have explicit faith in the mysteries of Christ, especially in such things as are universally solemnized in the Church, and publicly proposed, such as the articles on the incarnation, of which we spoke in Q. 1, Art. 8. With regard to subtle points connected with the articles on the incarnation, 253however, some are required to believe them more or less explicitly, according to the status and office of each.

On the first point: the mystery of the kingdom of God was not altogether hidden from the angels, as Augustine says (5 Gen. ad Litt. 19), although their knowledge of it was in some respects more perfect after it had been revealed by Christ.

On the second point: John the Baptist did not inquire about the coming of Christ in the flesh as one who did not know of it, since he had openly confessed it, saying: “And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). Thus he did not say: “Art thou he that has come?” but “Art thou he that should come?” His question related to the future, not to the past. Nor are we to believe that he was ignorant of Christ’s coming passion, since he said: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” thus foretelling his approaching sacrifice. There have also been other prophets who were not ignorant of it, as is clear from Isa. ch. 53. We may therefore say with Gregory (Hom. in Evang. 6) that he asked this question because he did not know whether Christ would descend into hell in his own person. For he knew that the power of his passion would reach to those who were detained in hell, according to Zech. 9:11: “As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.”5353Migne: “thou hast sent forth.” But he was not required to believe explicitly, before it was fulfilled, that Christ would descend into hell himself. Or we may say with Ambrose (on Luke 7) that he asked this question out of piety, not out of doubt or ignorance. Or we may say with Chrysostom (Hom. in Matt. 37) that he asked this question not because he did not know, but in order that his disciples might be convinced by Christ himself, and that Christ directed his reply to John’s disciples, pointing to his works as signs.

On the third point: it is evident from their predictions that many of the Gentiles received a revelation concerning Christ. Thus it is said in Job 19:25: “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” The sibyl also predicted certain things of Christ, as Augustine says (13 Contra Faustum 15). Histories of the Romans also tell us that a tomb was discovered in the days of Con-stantine Augustus and his mother Irene, in which there lay a man on whose breast was a plate of gold, inscribed with the words “Christ will be born of a virgin, and I believe in him. O Sun, thou shalt see me again, in the time of Irene and 254Constantine.” (Vid. Baron. ad annum Christi 780). If, on the other hand, there have been some who have been saved without a revelation, these were not saved without faith in a Mediator. For although they did not have explicit faith, they believed that God was the deliverer of mankind in whatsoever ways might please him, accordingly as the Spirit should reveal the truth to such as should have knowledge of it. This was in accordance with Job. 35:11: “Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth . . . ?”

« Prev Art. 7: Whether Explicit Belief in the Mystery of… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection