Problem of evil

In responding to an objection concerning the possibility of salvation for righteous non-Christians, Thomas responds:

If, however, some were saved without receiving any revelation, they were not saved without faith in a Mediator, for, though they did not believe in Him explicitly, they did, nevertheless, have implicit faith through believing in Divine providence, since they believed that God would deliver mankind in whatever way was pleasing to Him.

Summa Theologiae 2-2.2.7 ad. 3

Thomas is giving a sort of minimum necessary belief in the mystery of Christ, namely that fallen men who don’t know of Christ do not believe in him in any way till they believe that God will deliver from evil. If so, beneath this threshold of belief the fallen cannot be saved at all even by extraordinary means.

Christianity is fundamentally the faith that God delivers from evil. Part of this deliverance involves binding the perpetually unrepentant, but while this is a divine perfection mercy is more characteristic of God as he could not relate to the creature at all without first raising it out of non-existence. The details of how divine justice and mercy will work out in concrete cases is impossible to know without looking back on the whole of human history, which is not a perspective viatores can have. For all we experience of the end of history (i.e. nothing) it’s just as reasonable that God will conquer as evil will. One either trusts that God will set things right or believes that evil will never be set right, and if evil is never set right it acquires a sort of divine property since, without deliverance, the injustice and wrong it affects lives on in sæcula sæculorum. Our faith options are either in divine goodness or the quasi-divinity of evil that no power can justify or deliver from.

So it seems both faiths are right so far as they concern the destiny of the one who believes, with faith in God’s deliverance being of itself ordered to perpetual deliverance from evil and faith in the quasi-divinity of evil of itself placing the believer under its perpetual dominion.

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