Dr. Feser has written a reply to the first part of my rejoinder, and he says this will be his last. I think that the second part of my rejoinder addresses several of his concerns, but like him, I am happy to move on to other subjects. However, I want to make a few brief comments that should clarify how what I have said relates to some of his comments in his surrejoinder.
In studying the relation between faith and theology, we need to frame the question properly. It should not be: what is the minimum of truths a person must know and hold as true to be saved? Leave that question to Rome, and let Catholic theology decide whether to that end two or four articles are needed. Admittedly, Protestant theology, in the theory of “fundamental articles,” has given the impression of wanting to take that road. But it ended with the acknowledgement that it did not know the magnitude of God’s mercy and therefore could not measure the amount of knowledge that is necessarily inherent in a sincere faith. In addition, between the theory of “implicit faith” and that of the “fundamental articles” there is, for all their seeming similarity, an important difference… . [I]n the theology of the Reformation, it sprang from the fact that a number of different churches emerged side by side with confessions that diverged form each other on many points. For that theology, therefore, the focus was on the question concerning the essence of Christianity. Faith, on the part of Rome, is assent to an assortment of revealed truths, which can be counted, article by article, and which in the course of time increased in number. Faith on the side of the Reformation, however, is special (fides specialis) with a particular central object: the grace of God in Christ. Here an arithmetic addition of articles, the knowledge of which and the assent to which is necessary for salvation, was no longer an option. Faith is a personal relation to Christ; it is organic and has put aside quantitative addition. Rome, therefore, had to determine a minimum without which there could not be salvation. On the side of the Reformation, faith is trust in the grace of God and hence no longer calculable. (Reformed Dogmatics, 1:614)
Or, perhaps more memorably, as Richard Hooker wrote:
Howbeit, considering how many virtuous and just men, how many saints, how many martyrs, how many of the ancient fathers of the Church have had their sundry perilous opinions — and among sundry of their opinions this, that they hoped to make God some part of amends for their sins by the voluntary punishments which they laid upon themselves: because by a consequent it may follow hereupon that they were injurious unto Christ, shall we therefore make such deadly epitaphs and set them upon their graves: “They denied the foundation of faith directly, they are damned, there is no salvation for them”? St. Augustine hath said, “Errare possum, haereticus esse nolo.” [I may be mistaken, but I have not the will to be heretical.] And except we put a difference between them that err and them that obstinately persist in error, how is it possible that ever any man should hope to be saved?
Surely, in this case, I have no respect of any person alive or dead. Give me a man, of what estate or condition soever, yea, a cardinal or a pope, whom at the extreme point of his life affliction hath made to know himself, whose heart God hath touched with true sorrow for all his sins, and filled with love toward the Gospel of Christ, whose eyes are opened to see the truth, and his mouth to renounce all heresy and error any way opposite thereunto, this one opinion of merits excepted, which he thinketh God will require at his hands, and because he wanteth, therefore trembleth and is discouraged: “It may be I am forgetful or unskilful, not furnished with things new and old, as a wise and learned scribe should be,” nor able to allege that whereunto, if it were alleged, he doth bear a mind most willing to yield, and so to be recalled as well from this as from other errors — and shall I think, because of this only error, that such a man toucheth not so much as the hem of Christ’s garment? If he do, wherefore should not I have hope that virtue may proceed from Christ to save him? Because his error doth by consequent overthrow his faith shall I therefore cast him off as one who hath utterly cast off Christ, one who holdeth not so much as by a slender thread? No, I will not be afraid to say unto a cardinal or to a pope in this plight, “Be of good comfort, we have to do with a merciful God, ready to make the best of that little which we hold well, and not with a captious sophister who gathereth the worst out of everything wherein we err.”