Some Aspects of Christian Salvation: Reflections on the Letter ‘Placuit Deo’

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José Luis Narvaja, SJ

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On February 22, 2018, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Luis Ladaria, published the letter Placuit Deo (PD) on some aspects of Christian salvation. It is addressed to the bishops of the Catholic Church.[1]

This letter was made all the more important by the subsequent publication on April 9, 2018, of the third apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis, titled Gaudete et Exsultate (GE), on the theme of “holiness in the world today.” In the second chapter of the exhortation, he treats two dangerous ideologies: Gnosticism and Pelagianism (Nos. 35-62).

The letter, which we will present here briefly, treats some contemporary conceptions of salvation that have some similarities with these two errors from antiquity.

A dialogue between God and humankind

Starting with Vatican II, the letter reminds the reader that the teaching on salvation must continually be deepened (cf. PD 1). Salvation is made possible thanks to an encounter between humanity and God and this encounter occurs each time we open ourselves to God and allow ourselves to be transformed by God. This is not only an event that took place 2,000 years ago, something that belongs exclusively to history; rather, this is a reality that occurs here and now, because the Word of God is “living and active” (Heb 4:12), reaching out to all men and women, to the ends of the earth and until the end of time.

In this context, we can note that the deepening of the understanding of the mystery of salvation is clearly presented in two ways in the letter. The first is the effort to describe humanity today in the concrete situation in which people live. The second is found in the use of Sacred Scripture, in constant references to the revealed Word.

This takes place because human life is constructed in dialogue with God and only in listening to this Word can we deepen our understanding of the mystery of the salvation that encompasses our entire lives.

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