Spiritual adoption as children of God for non-Christians

Sacred Scripture teaches that human persons become adopted children of God, not only by the formal Sacrament of Baptism, but by a Baptism of desire or of blood:

[1 John]
{2:10} Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause of offense in him.

{2:29} If you know that he is just, then know, too, that all who do what is just are born of him.

{3:14} We know that we have passed from death to life. For we love as brothers. Whoever does not love, abides in death.

{3:16} We know the love of God in this way: because he laid down his life for us. And so, we must lay down our lives for our brothers.
{3:17} Whoever possesses the goods of this world, and sees his brother to be in need, and yet closes his heart to him: in what way does the love of God abide in him?
{3:18} My little sons, let us not love in words only, but in works and in truth.

{4:7} Most beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God. And everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

{4:16} And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love. And he who abides in love, abides in God, and God in him.

[3 John]
{1:11} Most beloved, do not be willing to imitate what is evil; instead imitate what is good. Whoever does good is of God. Whoever does evil has not seen God.

Let’s review: if you love your brother, you abide in the light and there is no cause of offense in you. All who do what is just are born of God. Those who love as brothers have passed from death to life. Whoever loves in works and truth, by helping his brother in need, has the love of God abiding in him. All who love one another are born of God. For love is of God. Whoever abides in love, abides in God, and God in him.

All these verses describe entering the state of grace, and living in that state. Yet these expressions are not limited to baptized Christians: “everyone who loves is born of God” and “whoever does good is of God”.

Also, anyone who lays down his life for his brother has the love of God. That is one way of describing the baptism of blood.

These passages refer to the state of grace given, not only in the formal Sacrament of Baptism, but also in a baptism of desire or of blood. Everyone who is in the state of grace is a child of God by supernatural adoption, even if they entered that state by a baptism of desire. The Council of Trent infallibly taught this doctrine:

“By which words, a description of the Justification of the impious is indicated, — as being a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior. And this translation, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.”

The “laver of regeneration” is the washing of baptism. But this includes the “desire thereof”, which is called a baptism of desire. You must be born again by water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. But this rebirth (regeneration) can be effected by an implicit baptism of desire. For the desire is directed toward the Sacrament, which includes the water. Similarly, a baptism of blood is also directed toward baptism with water and the Spirit, since the person is washed in the blood of Christ. But from the side of Christ on the Cross, there came forth blood and water.

So the passages in Sacred Scripture requiring baptism with water are not violated by baptisms of desire or of blood, since all three types of baptism are closely interrelated, and the desire and blood types of baptism are essentially derived from baptism with water.

Can a person receive a baptism of desire, if he knows about the Church, and yet rejects Her? Pope Saint John Paul II says “Yes”.

“salvation is accessible in mysterious ways, inasmuch as divine grace is granted to them by virtue of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, without external membership in the Church, but nonetheless always in relation to her (cf. RM 10). It is a mysterious relationship. It is mysterious for those who receive the grace, because they do not know the Church and sometimes even outwardly reject her.” [All Salvation comes through Christ]

“The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all.” [Redemptoris Missio 10]

Many conservative Catholics have been claiming, on the internet and in print, that only baptized Christians are adopted children of God. This claim directly contradicts the infallible teaching of the Council of Trent, and is therefore heresy.

Some conservative Catholics have been working hard to narrow the scope of the baptisms of desire and of blood, so as to close the doors of heaven to as many persons as possible. Their works are contrary to the work of Jesus and His Church, who strive to save as many souls as possible (given freewill and sin). Their words are contrary to the teachings of Pope Saint John Paul II on salvation.

Consider the Beatitudes, they offer the kingdom of heaven, and therefore the state of grace, to everyone who lives even one of these Beatitudes, in full cooperation with grace. The Beatitudes include a baptism of desire, for example by desiring justice (implicit baptism of desire) or by being merciful. The Beatitudes also include a baptism of blood, not only for Christians who suffer for Christ (Mt 5:11), but also for anyone who suffers for the sake of true justice (Mt 5:10). Salvation by a baptism of desire, even implicit desire, or a baptism of blood, is taught by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in His own words.

And if anyone argues, claiming that a baptism of blood only includes Christian catechumenates who die as martyrs prior to formal baptism, the example of the Holy Innocents in Sacred Scripture contradicts them. For the Holy Innocents did not knowingly choose to die for Christ. Yet the Church teaches that they died in the state of grace and are in Heaven. Therefore, the baptism of blood also saves prenatals, infants, and young children, who die without formal baptism and at so young an age.

So what is happening today in the Church? Why are these truths under attack by certain conservative Catholics who claim to be faithful to the Magisterium? These are the ones who have decided that Catholicism is nothing other than what they, in their own hearts and minds, have decided to believe, along with whatever ideas prevail in the conservative Catholic subculture. They have already departed from the true faith, by a combination of arrogance, in that they set themselves as judges over the Magisterium and the Popes and the Councils, and ignorance, in that they have badly misunderstood the teachings of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. And they have no shame as they go around harming souls and contradicting magisterial teaching.

{23:13} So then: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you close the kingdom of heaven before men. For you yourselves do not enter, and those who are entering, you would not permit to enter.

May God rebuke them. May they be put to the test.
Anathema sint. [May they be cut off].

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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