Whether Confession of Faith is Necessary for Salvation
We proceed to the second article thus:
1. It seems that confession of faith is not necessary for salvation. For that whereby a man attains the end of a virtue would seem to be sufficient for salvation. Now the proper end of faith is that a man's mind should become one with the divine truth. But this can be attained without confession. Hence confession is not necessary for salvation.
2. Again, by outward confession a man declares his faith to another. But this is necessary only for those whose duty it is to instruct others. Hence it appears that the simple minded are not required to confess their faith.
3. Again, nothing is necessary for salvation if it is liable to be an offence to others, or liable to create a disturbance. For the apostle says in I Cor.10:32: |Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God.| Now a confession of faith sometimes raises a disturbance among unbelievers. It follows that confession of faith is not necessary for salvation.
On the other hand: the apostle says in Rom.10:10: |For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.|
I answer: such things as are necessary for salvation are enjoined by the precepts of the divine law. But since confession of faith is something positive, it can be enjoined only by an affirmative precept. It is therefore necessary for salvation only to the extent to which it is enjoined by an affirmative precept of the divine law. Now we have already said that affirmative precepts are not binding for all times, although they are always binding (12ae, Q.71, Art.5, ad 3; Q.88, Art.1, ad 2). They are binding only for particular times and places, in accordance with other circumstances to which a man's action must have due regard, if it is to be a virtuous action. Hence it is not necessary for salvation to confess one's faith at all times and places, but only at particular times and places -- when God would be deprived of honour, or when the good of one's neighbour would be imperilled, if one did not confess it. One is bound to confess one's faith, for example, if one's silence when asked about it would give the impression either that one had no faith, or that one did not believe the faith to be true; or if it would turn others away from the faith. In such circumstances, confession of faith is necessary for salvation.
On the first point: the end of faith, and of the other virtues also, ought to be referred to the end of charity, which is to love God and one's neighbour. A man ought not therefore to be content to be one with divine truth through faith, but ought to confess his faith outwardly whenever the honour of God or the good of his neighbour demands it.
On the second point: everyone ought to confess their faith openly whenever some danger to the faith makes it necessary, whether it be to instruct other believers, or to strengthen them in the faith, or to set at naught the taunts of unbelievers. But it is not the duty of all to instruct others in the faith at other times.
On the third point: if an open confession of faith would cause a disturbance among unbelievers, without any good ensuing to the faith or to the faithful, public confession of faith is not to be commended. Thus our Lord says in Matt.7:6: |Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.| But if any good is to be hoped for, or if there is any need, a man ought to ignore any such disturbance and openly confess his faith. Thus it is said in Matt.15:12-14: |Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered . . . Let them alone [that is, do not disturb them]: they be blind leaders of the blind.|