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Saint Moses and the Necessity of Dying In Christ

John Kelleher

This essay has to do with the involuntary yet inevitable "stain" of original sin, as distinct both from personal sin and from personally good moral acts. There is of course an extensive treatment of the Fall in Covenantal Theology, particularly in Chapters II and III. The present essay departs from that treatment, not in the sense of disagreeing with it, but of striking out in slightly new directions. There are several interlocking ideas that figure in.

A. Our solidarity in the first Adam

Our (wholly negative) solidarity with the first Adam is figuratively 'generative', but not literally so. On the other hand, 'generative' is much to be preferred to 'mythical'. But really, no elusive metaphor is required.

The effect of original sin, its "stain," is said to be 'generative', in order to to preserve the truth that the effect of original sin extends to the whole human race, but is yet involuntary in us. It is deadly to us, but it is not 'sin' as a voluntary choice. Indeed, we have no positive 'solidarity' with the first Adam except in Christ.

Our (negative) solidarity with the first Adam is also our (negative) solidarity with each other. In our fallen humanity, we belong to death and to necessity, no longer to Christ and to freedom. What we still 'share', with the first Adam and with each other, is a fallen lack in our human substance: our common fallen inability to worship in spirit and in truth.

The "stain" of original sin is thus instead a lack in our very substance; there is no "stain" in the sense that 'something' must therefore be actively transmitted across each generation of men. We simply lack what the first Adam and the first Eve refused: the capability of free, covenantal worship, worship in spirit and in truth.

Thus our continuing (negative) solidarity in the first Adam is obvious: what Adam and Eve freely chose, mattered. It is merely a theological assumption (or worse, a merely philosophical one) to suppose that Adam and Eve were not given the power to degrade the Good Creation on the order of substance.

B. The nature of the Fall

This is not to assume a temporal 'Before' the Fall, a temporal 'place' in which the first Adam and the first Eve frolicked prior to their little contretemps; as Covenantal Theology emphasizes, the Fall was 'primordial', occurring at the moment of Creation. Those who find the assumption of a temporal 'Before' the Fall to be naive and fraught with self-imposed difficulties and even contradictions are probably right; but the uncertainty of the idea of a temporal pre-Fallen bliss (or at least any that will ever be available to our questions) does not at all change our certainty in the essentials: the Fall was not 'natural', it was not at all a characteristic, or any even remote implication, of the Good Creation itself, nor is it 'mythical', a story told to account for the 'natural' defects of the Creation, but instead it was a single, personal, free, moral Act by the first Adam and the first Eve, which gravely wounded not only themselves but also the entire Creation that God had made good and very good.

The first Adam and the first Eve freely (and thus morally) performed a singular, personal, morally-culpable act that resulted in the wounding of the Good Creation not superficially, not in a way that could diminish over time, but on the order of substance. They could take a decision that could only be healed by the re-creation of the Good Creation in the personal death of the Lord Jesus.

It would be powerfully inaccurate, however, to imagine that the degradation of the substance of the Good Creation wrought by the Fall was merely a static condition or state. For as Covenantal Theology has taught us, 'substance' is historical, enfolded in the Event of the New Covenant; 'substance' is, not ever, a time-less, static condition or recipe or state or Thing.

Therefore, the degradation in the substance of the Good Creation wrought by the Fall was also a dynamism, of a negative kind: an aversio a Deo, by which the Prince of Darkness and the Father of Lies rules in the fallen world.

This terrible wound in the entire Good Creation, to repeat, is most drastic in mankind, and manifests itself in the very substance of men, not only as a flat inability to any longer fully worship in spirit and in truth, but also as an unwillingness to bear the responsibilities of that worship.

Put differently, the first Adam and the first Eve refused their graced, covenantal communion with God tout court, precisely because they were unwilling to bear the responsibilities of that worship. Out of envy of God, they freely refused the very principle of covenantal worship. And they got what they wanted.

C. Our moral inconsequence as a result of the Fall

Even the Mission of the Son from the Father, which is to send the Spirit, was altered by Adam and Eve's refusal of covenantal, nuptial existence; for the Son did not disdain the death that thus entered the world, its fallenness, its discontinuity, the fundamental lack of integrity in the world that we know, this wonderful world which in some ways is merely the detritus, the debris, all that is left by Adam and Eve's sin.

The Fall was free, terrible, overwhelming, comprehensive; its effects continue to be honored, fully, by God Himself; the very Mission of the Son changed because of it; the separate sacrificial offerings by Jesus the High Priest of His Body and His Blood testify to this at every Mass.

Underestimating the extent and seriousness of the degradation wreaked by the Fall is to underestimate, nay trivialize, the crucial role that the death of the Lord plays in the life of the entire universe. In fact, from our vantage within Fallenness, we cannot ever know the real cost of the Fall. We can only guess at how serious the Fall really is, not by some naive if time-worn look at something in the fallen world, but by how immense a price our Redeemer paid to carry its consequences on His shoulders. In other words, "so great a Redeemer" is Himself our best clue as to just how bad the 'Happy Fault' actually has been to us and to the world.

Thus we have to do with an original sin that injured the Good Creation itself on the order of substance, which causes it to "groan," and not only has caused all men to be prone to the Devil's blandishments, quite reluctant to take up the responsibility of full, covenantal worship, but also has cast all men into inconsequence: whatever we might wish, we are flat unable to worship as we ought. The free act of the first Adam and the first Eve has left the rest of us in weakness, in concupiscence, often little willing even to resist enslavement by the Prince of this World, and has left us unable to participate in full covenantal worship of the Most High, whatever we do, whatever we wish.

God Himself forever honors Adam and Eve's terrible freedom. This is simply the nature of all truly free acts. Eve's refusal of covenantal, nuptial, existence, and Adam's acquiescence in her rebellion, which is simultaneously Adam's refusal of his Headship to Eve, and Eve's refusal to be his Glory, was a free act. It mattered.

The tradition is strong that the effect of the original sin is immediate and inevitable, yet involuntary -- hence the profession that its transmission is by 'generation'. More than strong is the truth that the Christ descended into Hell, at which time He rescued from death all the saints who had fallen asleep prior to His death.

Prior to the death of the Lord, all the acts of fallen men were fundamentally inconsequential, in the sense that no act of men could restore communion with God. In the end, even the greatest of the Old Testament saints could only wait for the death of the Lord Jesus -- for the New Covenant in His Blood -- "I have waited patiently for the Lord" [Ps 40] for that alone could make moral acts fully matter again, could restore men, and their acts, to full consequence, to their full freedom. And this is seen most vividly, not in the damnation of men, but in the privation of the Old Testament saints prior to the death of the Lord.

This should be said plainly: in the (almost) final analysis, it didn't matter what the saints of the Old Testament did, "...since one fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil...." [Eccl 9:2] The Harrowing of Hell by the Lord upon His death establishes the truth of Ecclesiastes's bitter testimony beyond cavil, and gives the lie to all our pretty theories about the inevitable 'natural' final consequentiality of the acts of men. Even the holiest moral acts of the holiest of the Old Testament saints were unavailing at the order of substance; when it finally mattered, it didn't matter. They too were dead: one fate came to them, as well.

Before the death of the Christ, all fallen men, even St. Joseph, the patron of the whole Church, belonged to death, to unfreedom, to futility: they were all stricken with a fundamental inability to freely choose to worship in spirit and in truth. The difference between saved and damned, was that the saints of the Old Testament wept in longing for that worship in spirit and in truth, and the damned were repulsed by that worship, felt no need of it, were glad of its lack.

Thus when on Holy Saturday, the Christ came to visit them all, His Judging was easy. For the damned all left Him of their own accord, in anger and contempt, spitting on His face, laughing at Him, wanting no part of His death or His victory, which repulsed them. They walked proudly away from Him forever, they judged themselves, they preferred anything else, to Him.

While the saints wept at His feet.

The death of the Lord, establishing the New Covenant in His Blood, therefore 'remitted' the involuntary sin afflicting all those who had fallen asleep prior to His death; but this remission of original sin did not save any man.

Far rather, the remission of original sin was a better re-creation, a better-than-restoration, of what the first Adam and the first Eve had freely abjured. That is, it was an even more perfect personal re-creation to the consequential freedom of the first Adam and the first Eve: to the ability to worship in spirit and in truth, and to the freedom to freely choose -- or to freely deny -- the responsibilities of that worship. And in that consequential freedom, a change in their very substance that was re-created in them at the Lord's Descent to them, the souls of all who had fallen asleep prior to the death of the Lord freely chose Him, or they freely denied Him, forever.

D. Our ability to worship with consequence re-created in the death of the Lord

The Fall dooms us to the death of "free will" -- to the incapacity to worship in spirit and in truth -- thus to irresponsibility, to enslavement into Necessity, thus to inconsequence, truly, and severely degrades even our willingness to bear the responsibilities of covenantal worship, for that is what Adam and Eve freely chose, and being their truly free choice, it is consequential on the order of substance, it mattered, which God Himself honors -- oh, how it matters; even as the death of the Lord Jesus frees us, even from death.

Adam, Abel, Abraham, Melchizedek, Moses, David, the Maccabean martyrs; for that matter, St. John the Baptist and St. Joseph, lived and died prior to the death of the Lord, prior to the Eucharistic Event given at Calvary and the Last Supper, and are raised to the altar of the One Sacrifice, unbaptized; and to say that the Church is 'untroubled' by this is such a monumental and bone-headed understatement, that, to quote Wolfgang Pauli, it is "not even wrong."

The Lord Jesus descended into Hell and enfolded in His death the lives and the acts of all there. The Light of the World shone His Light into their darkness so that they could, without the possibility of prevarication, freely and decisively choose Him, or not. He made them even more free than the freedom granted to the first Adam and the first Eve. And then -- then -- He judged them in that moment, as they judged themselves.

So we know that Adam wept, just as David did; and that it mattered, as their tears fell at His feet, and they were enfolded in His death.

But none of the Old Testament saints named by the Church ever once acknowledged Christ, none were baptized, and Melchizedek (whose very name states that the Canaanite god Zedek is his king) was certainly not even a Jew. Plainly, the Just Judge does not judge according to some Eternal Rulebook In The Sky, nor is sacramental baptism the only way to be saved. That much is ruled out by the plain example of these holy people, who we know have been raised to the altar of the One Sacrifice. Saint David, Saint Moses -- Saint John the Baptist and Saint Joseph -- by their very existence as saints of the Catholic Church, simply bar any attempt to make sacramental baptism the only way that the Lord Jesus raises His own to His altar.

E. Our longing for God remains

Despite the Fall, our creation remains in the grace of Christ, and His grace still unbreakably energizes the trahi a Deo in each of us, the "drawing [of us] towards God." The trahi is that longing to worship God in spirit and in truth despite the bonds of the Fall, despite the unyielding chains of necessity. The notion of the trahi a Deo, or at least something like it, is essential to the economy of salvation; for without at least some inchoate longing in us to worship God in spirit and in truth, unless that worship were still at least partially attractive to us despite the Fall, none of us would ever undertake it; we flat would never, ever want to.

This longing, this 'desire', remains universal, still available to all men in all times and places. The first Adam could not break that, because the grace of Christ is unbreakable; but what he could break is our ability to respond covenantally, in freedom, thus, fully -- that is, consequentially -- to that still-universal longing.

F. The theological conceit of the "baptism of desire"

Thus the theological conceit of the "baptism of desire" is a laudable effort to preserve the absolute necessity of baptism for all men; yet it is a laudable effort, but not a worthy one. First, of course, a 'desire' for baptism causes absolutely nothing, is completely ineffective, is sheer Pelagianism, unless Jesus the Lord enfolds you, personally, in His death. Second, as has just been seen, The Eternal Rulebook In The Sky is taken to underlie the "baptism of desire," but the criteria in that supposed book by which Jesus the Just Judge selects who, specifically, has the proper 'desire' for Him, seem just a tiny bit Procrustean.

In short, a "baptism of desire" has exactly the same substantial reality as "spiritual communion"; that is, none. We know exactly what baptism looks like: water poured, with the words and intention, "I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." There is no way, whether on earth or in heaven, that a "baptism of desire" looks like that.

Similarly, we know exactly what receiving Holy Communion looks like: "...chew, munch, devour: eating in a sense common to beasts as well as to men." [CT, Vol. III, endnote 89] There is no way, whether on earth or in heaven, that "spiritual communion" looks like that. (Of course, this is not to gainsay reverence, but simply to point out what the Lord Jesus actually said, and perhaps to protest that even reverence exists in time, quite physically and historically, or it is nothing at all).

Both "spiritual communion" and "baptism of desire" are just nice ideas invented by well-meaning theologians to help us be less anxious about some things otherwise troubling.

Thus also, the "baptism of blood" is provided for. Unbaptized saints, such as the Holy Innocents, plainly die in the death of the Lord. What happened to them was not the sacrament of baptism. They were not baptized, plainly, but plainly also, they died in the death of the Lord, which is the substantial reality that the sacrament of baptism infallibly signs.

For that matter, Our Lord did not tell the Good Thief, "This day, I baptize you into Paradise." Instead, from the Cross, He shared His death with the Good Thief. Nor did the Good Thief ask for baptism. He asked to be remembered by the crucified Lord. There is simply no need to torture the word "baptism" to account for this. Our Lord referred to His baptism, by which, He meant His death. Our baptism is a baptism into the death of the Lord.

We have provided for the existence of the saints of the Old Testament, and of unbaptized Christian martyrs, and of the Good Thief, in the following way: the death of the Lord is metaphysically prior to the sacrament of baptism: blood and water flowing from His side. Our baptism is into His death, the only death that remains. His death is victorious over death itself, and transforms even death itself; it no longer possesses its "sting." Because all Creation is in the grace of Christ, the germ of our desire to worship the loving God remains unbreakable in each one of us, though even the baptized still find ourselves at times most sorely reluctant to bear the responsibilities of that worship.

Thus, to categorically reserve salvation to the baptized is simply specious, and in point of fact, the Church has never done this, from her earliest days. Nobody ever baptized Moses in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, yet Moses is a saint raised to the altar of the Lord Jesus. Not baptism, but only the metaphysically prior death of the Lord Jesus, and Moses's free, personal participation in that death, provides for this.

Thus we have no need to provide for Moses's baptism, in order to provide for Moses's salvation. The two things necessary remain the unbreakable and universally distributed grace of the Lord Jesus present since "the beginning," by which all men of all times and places still possess some measure of active longing and personal moral ability to extend their withered hand towards God and to worship in spirit and in truth; and the death of the Lord Jesus, by which we live, which redeems and thus overturns the fatal consequences of the Fall, first in sacramento and really for the baptized, but also for unbaptized men who die in the death of the Lord.

For by His death, death has lost its "sting." We further note that in both instances, this new reality of our very being, this sloughing off of the "sting" of death, remains 'veiled'; no one can 'see' it. It is historical, existing and actual in fallen time, but not empirical. And the sacramental removal of death's "sting" simply restores us to Adam, to Eve; we are not thereby saved: Oh, no. We merely and at last possess their terrible freedom.

G. Our personal death as the moment in which we judge ourselves before Him

Unbaptized men, due to the Fall, find themselves mired in fundamental irresponsibility, fundamental inconsequence: at first glance, one fate comes to them all, their fate is simply death, whatever they do or will. Yet they remain called by the trahi a Deo towards both a Eucharistic worship and a full Eucharistic moral responsibility that they are utterly unable to complete on their own.

By baptism, baptism into the death of the Lord, protected by the blood of the Lamb, the faithful pass through the indeliberate obex, the barrier, imposed by the Fall, that bars them from the Eucharistic worship of the Church; the cherubim stay the flaming sword, and the baptized are, in signo, able to enter the New Eden, the even better Eden, with the new Eve. They belong to Christ now.

This final removal of our involuntary degradation is a change, though still in signo, at the level of our substance; it is the baptismal character, which is why baptism is not and cannot be repeated. We are thus free, as Adam and Eve once were, and even more than they were, to undertake the free and full responsibility of worship in spirit and in truth:

The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful -- for he cannot deny himself. [2 Tim 2:11-13]

In the context of this present essay, it is well to notice especially "if we deny him, he also will deny us" -- at our personal judgment, even though we be baptized, we will get exactly what we want: He will not prevent it.

Sacramental baptism is our immersion into the death of the Lord in this life. We are ex opere operato re-created in the death of the Lord, we are able to worship in spirit and in truth while we live, we are ever after able to join in the Eucharistic One Sacrifice that covenantally unites the Bride to her Bridegroom. And all manner of graces previously unavailable to us, now are.

Nonetheless, as stated previously, our baptism into His death merely restores us, more than restores us, even beyond the freedom of Adam and Eve; but we are not thereby saved. We are still saved or no, only at our personal judgment before the Just Judge at the moment of our personal death.

We have observed that prior to the death of the Lord, one death came to all, the just man and the sinner; there was no multiplicity in the 'kind' of death. Now, too, after the death of the Lord, there is still no multiplicity in the 'kind' of death. Yet death itself has been transformed; by taking our death on His shoulders, He changed the substance of fallen death into His death.

From now on, no one dies, but in the death of the Lord, the only death that remains. One death still comes to all; but now the one death is His death, and at the moment of our personal death, this fact becomes either our salvation or our willing damnation.

This is no more and no less than what happened at Our Lord's Descent to Hell. The death of all who fell asleep prior to His death was suddenly transformed into His death. Each man was personally re-created to the freedom of Eden, the freedom of Adam and Eve.

It is well here to remember that Eden turned out to be a place of terrible Judgment. Each man who had fallen asleep prior to the death of the Lord became at that moment no longer the fallen prisoner of inconsequence, of necessity, of an inhuman and involuntary 'fate'. Instead, he was re-created into the substance of the first Adam and the first Eve, and presented with a free and decisive choice. Each man was given the personal freedom either to choose Him consequentially, or to spit on Him and walk away forever; and the Just Judge granted what each man wished.

It is but the tiniest theological development to propose that the same now happens to all men, at the time of every man's personal death.

The sole full encounter of all unbaptized men with the death of the Lord is at the moment of their own personal death; here the death of Christ, the grace of Christ, prevails over all death, over the Fall, for even death has been transformed in the death of the Lord.

At that moment, for one moment enfolded in the death of the Lord who will never die, the flaming sword that forever bars even a taste of Eden is stayed even for the unbaptized, the "sting" of death, the fatal consequences of the Fall, are totally sloughed off, and unbaptized men are granted the grace to be exactly as free as Adam and Eve had been, finally free to face the full terror of freedom, of acts that really matter, of decisive acts, which have a meaning that time will never corrode.

At the moment of their personal death, they become, not "as gods," but as Adam, as Eve. And just as God will forever honor Adam and Eve's choice, He will forever honor theirs. Whatever they want just then, they will get it good and hard; this is obscene and biting, but not strictly untrue.

The death of the Lord Jesus does and will redeem us to the new Eden, to even beyond the personal freedom of Adam and Eve, whether now, in sacramento, or at the moment of our personal death, but we are not thereby saved. As we know Him, so we have Him:

In that utterance, we know ourselves even as we are known. A life has prepared for this moment, whether the life be long or short, but the preparation is not the utterance, for only in death is one substantially accountable for oneself beyond all possibility of error, with a total clarity of decision which is decisive utterly. This decision is the moment of mystery: Only Christianity has dared assert so enormous a human freedom and dignity before the majesty of God. The decision is either a total unconditioned love of God in Christ, or a total aversion; no hesitation or compromise is possible. If our decision is worship, then our vision of the Christ seated at the right hand of the Father is our purgatory and our beatitude-, if, as with Milton's fallen angel, we refuse that worship, we stand condemned before the Son of man, whose judgment of us is precisely the truth we have uttered of ourselves: as we know him, so we have him. [Keefe, Donald J, SJ. "Death as Worship," Theology Digest, Winter, 1973, 334-341; reprinted in Studies in Formative Spirituality (May, 1981) 167-177, and in S. Taylor, Ed., Sacraments, Alba House, 1981.]

H. The fate of unbaptized infants

We argue here that the death of the Lord is absolutely necessary for salvation, and that the death of the Lord is, of course, metaphysically prior to sacramental baptism. We also argue that only by means of the extremest contortions of the words 'baptism' and 'desire' can the Church simultaneously profess the salvation of Saint Moses, and the absolute necessity of sacramental baptism for salvation.

We have further, implicitly, argued that the tradition has assumed, rather than definitively taught, that there is no salvation without baptism, based on assumptions that are theological merely, for instance:

And so on.

After providing for Saint Moses's salvation without the need for baptism, we have no need for a putative "baptism of desire." We have further pointed out that any sort of time-less, fixed, dehistoricized 'desire' seems a very slippery criterion, so slippery as to seem, even be, ineffable.

And the "baptism of blood" is the opposite: resolutely historical, absolutely physical -- yet also, not baptism.

We now approach the issue of the fate of unbaptized infants, and of infants who die in the womb. In the ordinary world in which men must live, we must rightly restrict words like 'reason' and 'intention'; we must separate them from the fact, the act, the deed, in order to more clearly assign and weigh personal moral responsibility in a particular case.

But in certain circumstances, we would do well to do this more cautiously. For example, we assign the 'age of reason', or determine an ability to tell right from wrong, not only by varying combinations of practical experience and wisdom, but also by the actor's ability to tell us, in words, what he thought, and why he did what he did.

We have seen that the 'desire' spoken of by the tradition is given as the product of the Good Creation in the grace of Christ, the trahi a Deo, which thus remains universally distributed to all men in all times and places.

But 'all' means 'all'. There is no sudden appearance of the trahi just when we are seven or twelve or twenty-one. The trahi a Deo, the 'desire' for God, is universally distributed to all men in all times and places; which thus includes infants, and infants in the womb.

Yes, by our commonplace parlance, it is impossible for infants and infants in the womb to 'desire' baptism; yet it was equally impossible, if for other reasons, for Saint David to desire baptism. Only by stretching both 'baptism' and 'desire' beyond their breaking points, is it possible to provide for David's 'desire' for 'baptism'.

And, as we have shown, there is no need to 'provide' for such a thing; the death of the Lord Jesus, coupled with the universal gift of creation in the grace of Christ, which caused David's 'desire' for a worship he could but dimly and feebly reach towards, and a personal, substantially accountable affirmation from David of that desire at the moment of his personal judgment, suffice to save David.

In the commonplace world in which we must dwell, 'accountability' is something we can see, and something we assign. However, David's life scarcely gave unimpeachable evidence of his single-hearted accountability to and desire for the death of the Lord Jesus. We conclude with certainty that David wept at the moment the Lord Jesus Judged him, but we conclude this because the Lord did in fact raise David to His altar. The Lord alone saw David weep then; we did not.

And 'all' does mean 'all'. An infant in the womb is fully human. Our unalterable creation is in the grace of Christ, from which Eve and Adam Fell, but also from which the trahi a Deo -- that desire -- is still unbreakably and universally distributed to all men in all times and places: despite the Fall, despite everything: "He remains faithful -- for he cannot deny Himself."

Does an infant in the womb 'desire' life? Yes; and that suffices to prove the argument here beyond a doubt. For we already understand that an infant in the womb does desire Christ; that is its birthright, given in its creation in the grace of Christ: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you" [Jer 1:5]; "For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother's womb" [Ps 139:13]; and: "Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.' And he laid his hands on them and went away." [Mt 19:13-5].

Thus, regarding the capability to 'desire' to be united with the death of the Lord, 'intention' has been far too facilely conflated with conscious choice, and thus put -- emphasis on the word, 'put' -- beyond the capacity of infants (whom curiously, we still validly baptize) and the yet unborn, both of whom, we have shown, obviously desire Christ, though not in a way that we can prove from verbal testimony from them.

Which brings us squarely to the fate of unbaptized infants. I can do no other than quote Fr. Keefe on the subject:

It may be argued that the language of DS 925-6, esp. 'Illorum autem animas, qui in mortali peccato vel cum solo originali decedunt, mox in infernum descendere, poenis tamen ac locis disparibus puniendas', [Moreover, the souls of those who depart in actual mortal sin or in original sin only, descend immediately into hell, but to undergo punishments of different kinds] should be read as teaching the inevitable damnation of unbaptized infants. However, it is also possible to read this passage as assuming rather than as teaching their damnation, which is to read it as leaving that question open. This article so reads it, subject to a better judgment. [Keefe, "Basarr-Nepees: Sarx-Pneuma; Body-Soul: Death-Resurrection: An Essay in the Pauline/Johannine Anthropology," in Robert Brungs, Ed., Christianity and the Human Body; ser. I.T.E.S.T. Proceedings, October, 2000 (ITEST Faith/Science Press, 2001), 105-52, endnote 51]

If, however, the damnation of unbaptized infants is not merely "assumed" in passages such as DS 925-6, but is, to the contrary, definitively taught, then of course the entire development herein rightly falls into the dust from whence it came. Catholic theology, vastly unlike any other 'theology' on the face of the earth, is an experimental science; you do not get to 'adjust' the answers that Reality gives you; far rather, Reality's answers to your (inevitably) poor questions are your mother's milk, without which, you die.

On the other hand, the manner of argumentation in the development herein is meant to be an example of the proper manner of argumentation of all Catholic theology; that is, it does not try to 'adjust' Reality from some principle, idea, concept, algorithm, recipe, or power from the 'outside' that is taken to be prior to Truth Himself speaking truly, but rather it tries to proceed in a manner that helps to make the questions of Catholic theology even more Catholic than they presently are.

Which is to say, this development is trying to show that the former questions, in retrospect, addressed Reality more poorly than they needed to do, and in that sense alone, those former questions built a theology less 'Catholic' than we might be able to achieve now.

In this paper, we have made fun of "baptism of desire," calling it a theological contraption. But what if baptism, rather than the metaphysically prior death of the Lord Jesus, really is the only way to salvation? And what if 'desire' must involve our intellects in a manner that we find cannot pertain to infants? Then, if not "baptism of desire," then at least something like it, is needed to provide for Saint David, etc., and unbaptized infants are in fact damned, if to a 'lighter' hell than other sinners.

But in response, this argument does not deploy things from 'outside' our Faith, principles and concepts like "that's not 'fair'", "that's 'unreasonable'", and the like. (Though the temptation to do so is acute: for example, 30% to 40%, even as many as 50% by some estimates, of all the babies on this earth die and are spontaneously aborted within the first weeks of pregnancy, often before the mother even knows she was pregnant).

Far rather, the present discussion has simply noted that the death of the Lord Jesus is in fact metaphysically prior to baptism, pointed out how difficult it seems to be to work any set notion of 'baptism' and 'desire' into sentences that cover David, Melchizedek, and John the Baptist simultaneously, showed that the Lord's salvific descent into Hell can be termed 'baptism' only by the extremest effort of the imagination, and observed that the trahi a Deo, our universal 'desire' for God, cannot be merely a theological speculation, but refers to its cause in our unbreakable loved universal creation in the grace of Christ: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you" [Jer 1:5]. Despite the Fall, we still "groan" to worship in spirit and in truth.

Only then, did this development ask, is it really the case that the Church knows no other way to salvation but baptism, or is it simply more accurate -- simply more Catholic -- to say that there is no other way to salvation than the "baptism" that Jesus the Lord undertook, referring to His death? Is not in fact the death of the Lord metaphysically prior to baptism itself, and does this fact not better account for Saint David, etc., than "baptism of desire"?

And perhaps we have too facilely deployed altogether necessary but merely humanly-useful conceptions of words like 'intention' and 'desire' and 'accountability,' hence used them in ways that cannot fully correspond to the worship of the Catholic Church.

For we know that Christ died for all men. We know that His death is not in vain, but instead, it re-created the whole world in the New Covenant, the Eucharistic Event. And we know that despite the deadly involuntary wound of the Fall, all men still possess a 'desire' to participate in the death of the Lord, a 'desire' to worship in spirit and in truth (though we may each personally refuse that worship).

Despite the Fall, our creation in the grace of Christ is unbreakable: He cannot be unfaithful. Otherwise, the whole world would still forever be sunk in total corruption; no man could ever be saved, because our salvation is never involuntary: it always requires at least some personal movement towards Him, as well. Thus, all men are created capable of desiring to be saved by the blood of the Lamb. And 'all' means 'all'. And finally: we know that every human infant is fully human from the moment of conception.

Certainly, men may freely reject the responsibilities of worship in spirit and truth, and at their death, the Just Judge will give them exactly what they desire.

But it cannot be the case that all men are created in the grace of Christ, and that Christ died to save all men, but some men cannot be saved, whatever they personally do or desire.

And if this be so, then it may not be necessary to predicate the damnation of unbaptized infants... and so on. This development never asked the Church to change what she knows, because of some putatively superior truth prior to Truth Himself. Instead, it asks whether some theological 'scaffolding', some merely provisional wisdom, has been (long, but merely temporarily) interfering with her (intellectual) apprehension of what she has kept in her heart, all along.

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