I have delayed blogging for a while now because I did not know how to approach ST II-II.2.7-8. These articles pose a question (“Is explicit faith in the Trinity and the Incarnation necessary for salvation?”) with an obvious answer (“Yes, but there are odd situations to account for) and then get into distinctions (man before the fall, man after the fall, heathen in the remote isles, etc., etc.).
My difficult has been that I disagree with St. Thomas’s position on people before the Incarnation. He follows St. Augustine in saying that the maiores in Old Testament times had explicit knowledge about the Incarnation and the Trinity. He reasons that you can’t understand the Incarnation without understanding the Trinity, and the Old Testament saints must have known about the Incarnation or else they wouldn’t have prefigured Christ’s passion by certain sacrifices. Now that last statement is just false: the spiritual meaning of things in the Old Testament does not depend on any human being intending it; this is in fact how the spiritual meaning of Scripture differs from the literal sense according to St. Thomas’s own account.
Of course, there are other interesting reasons why someone might say that Moses or David had explicit knowledge of the Incarnation or the Trinity, and I have complex reasons for denying it, but it’s a kind of tar baby: once I begin writing on that, I don’t know when I’ll stop. So after turning it over, I decided not to begin.