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Belief in the necessity of baptism for salvation is rooted in the New Testament and was forcefully affirmed by the Church Fathers, yet today this belief is treated with unease if not ignored altogether. Over the course of centuries, Catholic theology has wrestled with a doctrine—baptism of desire—that both preserves this fundamental principle and allows for salvation in hard cases, such as catechumens dying unexpectedly. Baptism of Desire and Christian Salvation traces this doctrine’s varied history, from its genesis in a fourth century funeral oration given by Ambrose of Milan to its uneasy position in the Anonymous Christianity of Karl Rahner.
More than a history, however, this book raises questions about the nature of religious ritual and the sacraments, the mission of the Church, and the essence of salvation. Arguing that theologians of the past two centuries have tended to downplay the role of the sacraments when discussing salvation, Lusvardi suggests that baptism should remain our theological starting point. Engaging with the theological tradition and at times challenging the conventional wisdom, Baptism of Desire and Christian Salvation shows how such a sacramental approach can offer credible—and sometimes surprising—responses to questions related to the salvation of non-Christians, the fate of unbaptized infants, and the relevance of the Church’s mission today.
Anthony R. Lusvardi, SJ, is assistant theology instructor at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome.
"Offers a very accurate historical analysis of the doctrine of baptism of desire, starting with St. Ambrose and St. Augustine up to Vatican II. Lusvardi does not only give information about the different Fathers and theologians but delineates a clear leading thread that allows us to follow the development of the idea. The analyses are precise, the bibliography is abundant and well chosen, the documentation is excellent, the theological approach very sound."~José Granados, author of Introduction to Sacramental Theology: Signs of Christ in the Flesh