Volume 96, Issue 1, January 2019
Scholarship and Stewardship
Jennifer Hart Weed
Thomas Aquinas and the Baptism of Desire
Thomas Aquinas argues that baptism is necessary for salvation. However, he entertains a scenario described by Ambrose of Milan, such that Emperor Valentinian II converted to Christianity and was intending to be baptized but died before the sacrament could be performed. Aquinas argues that the Emperor could have achieved salvation without being baptized with water because he desired baptism and that desire was the result of his faith in God. In this paper, I offer a short treatment of Aquinas’s view of baptism, his handling of the Valentinian II case, and his arguments concerning the efficacy of the baptism of desire. I conclude with a brief discussion of Aquinas’s treatment of the case of Cornelius the centurion, which illustrates how Aquinas’s view of baptism of desire and implicit faith can apply to those individuals who have no access to or connection with the Church.