Skip to comments.Essays for Lent/Easter: Salvation Outside the Church?
Posted on 04/23/2012 6:04:14 PM PDT by Salvation
Salvation Outside the Church?
by Sebastian R. Fama
One of the Catholic Church's most controversial teachings is the doctrine of "No Salvation outside the Church." The controversy stems from a misunderstanding of what the Church really means by this. The doctrine has been stated a number of times throughout Church History. One such time was in 1302 when Pope Boniface VIII wrote the following in "Unum Sanctum:" "That there is one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church we are compelled by faith to believe and hold, and we firmly believe in her and sincerely confess her, outside of whom there is neither salvation nor remission of sins . In her there is 'one Lord, one faith, one baptism'" (Ephesians 4:5) (no. 1).
It appears that the Church is saying that only Catholics can go to heaven or that Catholics are better than everyone else. However, neither view would be correct. The Church is simply acknowledging the fact that Jesus formulated one plan of salvation. If that is true, then it follows that all other plans are false. The Church is merely declaring that she believes her teachings to be true. Certainly that should be expected of any religion. After all, if you didn't believe that your teachings were true, why would you believe them?
But if only the Catholic Church has the complete plan of salvation, how would it be possible for a non-Catholic to get to heaven? Vatican Council II addressed this point in its "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium)," "Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience those too may achieve eternal salvation" (no. 16). In short, those who are truly unaware of what God requires of them are not held responsible; rather they are judged by what they did with the truth they had.
Ironically, many Bible Christians have their own version of "No Salvation outside the Church". They believe that unless a person accepts Christ as personal Lord and Savior he or she is headed for hell. No allowances are made for people who don't know any better. The Catholic Church rightly portrays God as both just and merciful as opposed to legalistic.
Traditionalists view God in the same way that Bible Christians do. They believe that God makes no exceptions. Do it right or you are lost. In this case if you are not Catholic you have no chance for salvation. They reject Vatican II's qualification of the doctrine. They contend that Vatican II ignored earlier councils and introduced something new. Thus it is invalid and to be ignored. This of course is false. The Church's teachings before and after the council are the same.
Prior to Vatican II, children were taught the faith from the Baltimore Catechisms. In Catechism number 3, on page 106 question 185, and page 39 question 69, you will find the following: 185. Who is punished in hell? 69. What three things are necessary to make a sin mortal?
185. Who is punished in hell?
69. What three things are necessary to make a sin mortal?
So only a mortal sin can damn you to hell. And in order to be guilty of a mortal sin, you must know that you are committing one! Hence, if you don't know, you are not guilty. Jesus Himself teaches this very thing in John 9:40-41 where He says to the Pharisees: "Some of the Pharisees near Him heard this, and they said to Him, 'Are we also blind?' Jesus said to them, 'If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say 'we see,' your guilt remains.'" In other words because they knew better they were guilty of sin. Had they not known better, they would not have been guilty.
Prior to Vatican II Pope Pius IX, in his encyclical "On Promotion of False Doctrines (Quanto Conficiamur Moerore)," said the following:
We all know that those who suffer from invincible ignorance with regard to our holy religion, if they carefully keep the precepts of the natural law which have been written by God in the hearts of all men, if they are prepared to obey God, and if they lead a virtuous and dutiful life, can, by the power of divine light and grace, attain eternal life. For God, who knows completely the minds and souls, the thoughts and habits of all men, will not permit, in accord with His infinite goodness and mercy, anyone who is not guilty of a voluntary fault to suffer eternal punishment (no. 7).
He said essentially the same thing in "On the Church in Austria (Singulari Quidam);"
It must, of course, be held as a matter of faith that outside the apostolic Roman Church no one can be saved, that the Church is the only ark of salvation, and that whoever does not enter it will perish in the flood. On the other hand, it must likewise be held as certain that those who are affected by ignorance of the true religion, if it is invincible ignorance, are not subject to any guilt in this matter before the eyes of the Lord (no. 7).
The invincibly ignorant would not include those who think that all religions are the same. That would be indifference. Jesus said, "I am the way" (John 14:6), not a way. The person who is invincibly ignorant honestly believes, though erroneously, that he is going the right way.
St. Augustine's position is also consistent with Vatican II. "When we speak of within and without in relation to the Church, it is the position of the heart that we must consider, not that of the body . All who are within [the Church] in heart are saved in the unity of the ark (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 5:28  [A.D. 394]).
Clement of Rome, a contemporary of the Apostles, wrote, "Let us go through all generations and learn that in generation after generation the Master has given a place of repentance for those willing to turn to him. Those who repented for their sins, appeased God in praying, and received salvation, even though they were aliens to God" (Letter to the Corinthians, no. 7 [AD 95]).
Paul clearly teaches that we are judged by our intentions. "Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God" (1 Corinthians 4:5).
He expands on this in Romans 2:13-16, "For it is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the Law who will be justified. When Gentiles who have not the Law do by nature what the Law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the Law. They show that what the Law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus."
Their conflicting thoughts would accuse them if they suspected but ignored the fact that God required them to be members of His Church. As Vatican II put it in it's "Decree on the Church's Missionary Activity (Ad Gentes Divinitus)," "Hence, those cannot be saved, who knowing that the Catholic Church was founded through Jesus Christ, by God, as something necessary, still refuse to enter it or remain in it" (no. 7). Their conflicting thoughts would excuse them if they truly sought God but were unaware of this requirement.
Dissenting Catholics, Traditionalist or otherwise, would do well to read the letter of the Holy Office concerning Fr. Leonard Feeney, who dissented on this issue back in 1949. It states in part, "But this dogma [No Salvation outside the Church] is to be understood as the Church itself understands it. For our Savior did not leave it to private judgment to explain what is contained in the deposit of faith, but to the doctrinal authority of the Church."
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Catholicism isn’t politics.
You are still a Catholic and can come back at any time. Find a priest you can talk with and get your questions answered.
On the heaven, purgatory or hell question — no one knows. The priest was right.
But read some of the NDE threads — and you will be surprised at what these near death experinces revealed to people. Many have converted to Catholicim because of them.
I am so sorry. Did not and could not know. That is about the cruelest thing anyone can say, ever.
May your father be seated at the right hand of God, FRiend, and may your own path to Him be smooth.
Our Lord and Saviour judge with mercy and love.
“I’m saved because of what He did and He is the one that has my sins from the east to west remembered no more ... past, present and future.”
Your second birth was Aug. 15, 1981, at Eddie Klein’s kitchen table. Am I still saved? YES! The RCC didn’t give it to you and they can’t take it away, Amen.
You repent. Honest, heart and bone deep repentance. You accept the Lord into your life.
It ain’t like buying a lightning rod. One purchase does not make you safe for both life and the hereafter.
You still have to check it is grounded, that it is the tallest part of your property (soul) and still, lightning may strike some other part of the house.
Every last thing you do must be examined under the commands of the Lord. No evasions, no “good intentions” (we have been told where they lead!) just under the Word.
I bought a lightning rod when I accepted the Lord into my life. I failed to maintain it and got struck hard because I did not maintain it.
I blamed Him. The one who gave me the lightning rod, not the idiot who put it up and forgot that it requires maintainence.
Of course living a holy life in obedience to the Lord is what we are saved FOR, For we are Gods handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10) When you say it is something we "must" do because we are saved, then you get into the quandary Knarf is talking about. You just told him in the prior post:
So you are implying that because you were saved in 81, you would be forgiven if you murdered someone in cold blood tomorrow? You see, this is why I joined the Church. Our Lord saves. He also said an impossibility for us - Go forth and Sin no more.
Make up your mind. If we are saved by the grace of God THROUGH faith and that NOT of ourselves as Ephesians 2:8,9 says, then you cannot make salvation conditional upon how we live our lives after we receive Christ. Either he saves us by His shed blood for our sins and we are not condemned or we somehow must do things in order to stay saved, which is really no different than saying we must do good works to BE saved. And if we can do enough good works to merit eternal life, then Christ died for no reason, in vain.
You stated that what turned you off about "Protestants" is those who "got saved" and then lived like hell and showed no evidence of being Christ's. I can certainly sympathize, I saw the same thing in Catholicism. Sure they teach you must be sorry for your sins, go to confession, do penance, try to do better, but many people used that as an excuse to live like hell because they knew all they had to do was go to confession and everything would be okay. Neither one is Biblically correct. A person who genuinely trusts in Jesus Christ to save him, and surrenders his life to the Lord in faith, is born again - which means he is reborn as a child of God and a new spirit nature resides with the old carnal one. The Holy Spirit is also given to us as an "earnest of our inheritance" or like a down payment as a guarantee of Heaven.
The new nature will contend with the old as we grow in our sanctification and we learn to heed the discipline and chastisement of our Heavenly Father. The more mature our faith, the better we become at being conformed to the image of Christ - what God is preparing us for. When we sin, and we will, our close relationship with the Lord is hindered and when we confess our sins to Him - come clean because we KNOW He knows - He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. BUT, while we may be in between the commission of sin and the confession of it, we have NOT lost our salvation - NO, because our salvation was not based upon our being good or deserving it in the first place, was it? Our sins are not paid for by anything we can do - if it were, we would spend eternity separated from God. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ, his precious blood is what paid our penalty for sin and that same grace KEEPS us saved all the way to Heaven.
That is the amazing grace of God! That by His mercy we are not condemned, and by His grace we are made righteous - as righteous as Christ - because we are found IN Him. The grace of God goes even further than that by adopting us into His family and as children of the Most High we are secure in His love. Jesus said, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37)
Danged, if I know. That’s up to God. Read Catholic teaching. God decides fault. God will decide whether you get into heaven or not.
If you are curious about suicide & Catholic teaching. It’s in the Catholic Catechism. 2280, 2281, 2282, 2283. The Vatican has a website & you can look in a Catholic Catechism for >free to you. (All of us Catholics donate to support the Church. >By prayers, fasting, alms giving (money).
It seems LG 16 speaks more to the unchurched than to the Protestants that the replies take up.
(Lumen Gentium),” “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience those too may achieve eternal salvation” (no. 16).
What about LG 14:
Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.
This does not seem to get the broad reading of “Catholic Church” Fama implies when it follows:
They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops.
As is normal on these pages, it is not invincible ignorance, nor the un-evangelized, but fellow Christians that get poked in the eye.
When reading Catholic teachings. The basics must be understood >first.
God decides >fault. God decides who gets into Heaven.
Sin is what keeps people out of Heaven. God gives All people free-will & sufficient Grace to get into Heaven.
Sin requires 1. Willfulness, 2. Full Knowledge & 3. Serious matter (for mortal sins).
On Judgment Day, we will not argue with Jesus Christ like lawyers. The question & answer for the final exam is in the Bible:
Q. ‘Do you love me?’
A. ‘Yes Lord, you know I do!’
It’s not possible to deceive God.
Yes gghd, we know the Judge, but not the judgement. But the delineation of mortal sin is an argument onto itself and not a part of my post. Yes, God will not be deceived.(?)
It is 6 AM here and I am falling asleep, but I’ll give it a shot.
You are quite correct that we cannot earn our way to salvation. It is a gift, freely given, that all we need do is accept.
That, to me, is a cop out. I can accept the Lord into my heart then go on a killing spree with a clear conscience.
To me, once you accept the gift of salvation, you have a duty to attempt to live up to it. We can not, as we are only human, but we both can and should try.
The subject is hotter than one about prophecy.
God’s the judge, won’t it be a surprise who made it to
Everyone is saved through or by the Catholic Church. The
Catholic Church is the source for Christ’s teachings, come down from the Apostles.
This is the New Covenant.
What a bunch of heretical malarkey.
Here is God's Word on the matter...
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Romans 1:18-21).
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. ( Romans 3:19)
All who come into this world under the federal headship of Adam, whether they've heard the Gospel or not, are condemned already. Only salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ can remedy this.
"This day shalt thou be WITH ME in Paradise"
Dang ... I .. and we all ... are no better, worse in fact, than a condemned man ON the gallows.
(death bed conversion?)
There goes all that "live for the Lord" stuff
Yep ... already has ...
"No man cometh unto the father but by me"
Not the church (ecclesia)
Look for the fruit. If one is repentant, it is an ongoing battle to overcome those fleshly desires.
Our earthly fathers, while not perfect, are a picture of our heavenly father. I messed up several times growing up, but I was never tossed out of the family.
Better example. My pastor has adopted a child. That child is now a permanent member of the family. When I confessed that I was a sinner and needed Christ as my savior, I was adopted. One of the fruits of that is that I daily fight against my sinful desires. I will fail from time to time, but I am not going to be tossed out, I cannot lose my salvation, as I see it for the gift it is, and desire to please Him who saved me. His sacrifice was not a “get out of hell free” card that allows my to continue sinning.
One who has me desire to repent was most likely not really adopted into Gods family. If there is no true desire to be member of Gods family, god does not force you.
Exactly, dear friend.
We will sin, because we are flesh and blood as well as spirit.
In some ways I envy your faith and strength - I personally need the structure of the Church to face my sins fully.
While I know the Lord is good and forgives and sustains, I can’t forgive myself for falling short on my own. start to feel unworthy, which makes me less likely to confront failings, which makes me feel even more unworthy.
Let me get this straight. You think that those who have never heard of Jesus but lived good lives went to heaven right?
Now, they were in a small village in Africa and they all lived good lives and were going to heaven. But you do gooders read that Jesus said go into all the world and preach the gospel so you pass the collection plate, put the money together with other do gooders and send a missionary down to do Gods work. The villagers dont much cotton to this new fangled idea and send the missionary packing and reject any talk of some foreigner who is supposed to save them. Now we know that anyone who rejects Jesus is going to hell right? So what you and the rest of the do gooders just did was condemn a bunch of people that would have gone to heaven to hell? Is that what your telling me?
That part of the doctrine was developed because there were some in the pre Christian world like Cicero, Plato, and such that were greatly admired by the early Church. Many of the Early Church Fathers could not see how one who had such a strong moral code that they taught and lived out, but had no knowledge of Christ, would be damned.
It is like saying all the children killed by abortion went to heaven. Simply put, we can't say that. We are not allowed to with the information revealed to us to say that. We can hope for a merciful God to look on those little ones, but if you say all aborted children went to heaven you make abortion a good thing. Because if a mother is going to kill her child, the likelihood of her raising that child to know and follow God was not very good. That child had a decent chance of going to hell, and him or her being killed pre birth saved them.
Same with the “Village in Africa” mind game. We can hope for God's mercy, but with the information given to us the likelihood is that those villagers were not going to make it to heaven.
Thats correct. Many like to revert to human emotionalism which is unscriptural. Catholics cant have it both ways. Here is what Tertullian said which is basically the RCC view of original sin.
"Every soul, then, by reason of its birth, has its nature in Adam until it is born again in Christ; moreover, it is unclean all the while that it remains without this regeneration; and because unclean, it is actively sinful, and suffuses even the flesh (by reason of their conjunction) with its own shame." Tertullian, On the Soul, 40 (A.D. 208).
Catholics cant believe that man must be born again in Christ to be saved and that those who are not born again can also be saved.
The point is that while a villager in Africa may truly seek to know God, but not have all the information. God MAY choose to save that person because of their heart. However, we CAN'T know that, or even expect that, to happen. We also can't say that God wouldn't save that person because of no fault of their own. All we can say is that since we don't know God, we don't have enough information. God is merciful, but he is also just. Everyone likes to forget that.
The only path to God is through Jesus. We pretty much all agree on that. We agree that those villagers in Africa should have the Gospel preached to them, and that has a much higher possibility of getting them to heaven than a possibility not directly mentioned in the Bible developed to answer a “what if?” question.
Now for Catholics, that field is narrowed to those who are full members of the Roman Catholic church (even non Roman rites are suspect to some theologians). There are and were good reasons for that doctrine to develop. Much like most Christians in the US would put Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses outside the pale of the “Church”.
The danger is that you have to start asking yourself, what saves a man? The church as an earthly body? (Which the Catholics don't really teach) Just Jesus (what about the Mormans or muslims who have a very different picture of what and who Jesus is)? That is the question we must all answer, and work out in fear and trembling.