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God is not bound by his sacraments

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#1 Stephen Griffith

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Posted 03 June 2015 - 02:11 PM

The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church states that:


'The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. [Jn 3:5] He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. [Mt 28:19-20; cf. Council of Trent (1547) DS 1618; LG 14; AG 5.] Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. [Mk 16:16.] The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are "reborn of water and the Spirit." God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 1257 - emphasis added)


I have heard some contemporary Orthodox writers refer to the same idea that God can work salvation apart from the sacraments. Does anyone know of similar ideas in any of the Church Fathers?

#2 Kosta


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Posted 03 June 2015 - 05:07 PM

I think the statement is just trying to say that God can transcend all boundaries. That we dont know the final fate of those who never heard the gospel or were unable to get baptised. 


As far as examples there is the martyrdom of Perpetua written in 202 AD, where God sends Perpetua a vision of the dire conditions of her deceased brother in order to pray for him,  Perpetua prays for her unbaptised brother who died from a disease and was in a state of gloom and filth. She later receives a new vision and her brother was transported from his gloomy conditions to one of joy and bliss.  We know from early apocrypha and even from the writing of St Gregory of Nyssa treatise on infants early death that there was a diversity of opinion on what happens to unbaptised infants. 

And all the Fathers spoke on how God wishes all men to be saved etc.

Edited by Kosta, 03 June 2015 - 05:10 PM.

#3 Lakis Papas

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Posted 03 June 2015 - 06:41 PM

Members of the Church are in different spirittual state from non-members mainly because they have received the Spirit. Sacraments are perfected by the Spirit. At the same time the Spirit acts upon non-members too. We should not think that Church members were always members. There was a time that there were not members, for that the Holy Spirit was then working with them so that they might become aware of the Truth and might be attracted by Christ. Salvation starts before one joins the Church, it is the work of God.

#4 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 08 June 2015 - 03:19 PM

The "Good Thief" on the cross attained salvation without a "proper" baptism. God is not a prisoner of our rites but He chooses to act through these mysteries as a sign and confirmation. That He can choose at His discretion to act outside the mysteries should not be a surprise. It is also not something anyone should "count on".

#5 Christophoros


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Posted 10 June 2015 - 01:41 PM

I think the quote in question (God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments) is a good way to state the obvious. Our Lord is not bound by anything. However, we shouldn't let such statements make us question or deny the ecclesiological and soteriological foundations of our faith. That's precisely what has happened within the Roman Church, which now includes virtually everyone on the planet as a visible or invisible member of the Body of Christ in one way or another.

Edited by Christophoros, 10 June 2015 - 01:44 PM.

#6 Kosta


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Posted 11 June 2015 - 08:10 AM

While I dont think the repentant thief is a good example as he died before pentecost (like all those OT Saints who awaited Christ to destroy the gates of Hades) and blood baptism is a very real baptism. Just that God has a plan and a place and a state of being for everyone.

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