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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Hmmm, must be a voice from the dead by saying, “Yep,...already...has’ in relation to the comments on this thread.
Someone that thinks they are God? “but by me”
Roman Catholic Church teaches ‘free will’ & we creatures are not Gods. There is only one God in Heaven & God is revealed to us as The Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit.
Thank you for your reply.
This is for anyone commenting on the teachings of the Catholic Church. It is possible to find the >actual teachings of the Catholic Church on the Internet. The Vatican has a website.
According to the Catholic Church, people are “Born Again” at Baptism. There are >three ways to be Baptized into the ‘Body of Jesus Christ.’ = 1. By Water (Typical Baptism),
2. By Blood (A Martyr’s death for the sake of Jesus Christ. An example of martyrs dying for the sake of Jesus in the Bible is all the children killed by King Herod. The Catholic Church calls all these children ‘The Holy Innocents.’ Please notice that the children killed by King Herod had >No knowledge of Jesus Christ.)
3. The Baptism by Desire. A Catholic dictionary = ‘The equivalent of sacramental baptism of water which in God’s providence is sufficient to enable a person to obtain the state of grace and to save his or her soul. According to the Church’s teaching, “those who through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but neverthe less 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.’ If that quote sounds familiar, its because it’s also in the article that leads this thread.
The person posting the article with the Moniker: salvation, has an enormous number of links >already posted on freerepublic that explain Catholic teaching. Salvation has real good links here on freerepublic. +Salvation is backed-up by folks that can pray the most powerful prayer offered to God.
Thank you for taking the time to respond. Your use of the term "cop out" is curious, since I did not in any way condone the idea that we accept the Lord "then go on a killing spree with a clear conscience". My contention is that, per Holy Scripture, we are not saved by ANY works that we do - with which you said you concurred - and that must in turn mean we are not KEPT saved by works we do either. You see, to me, it is a cop out to say we are saved by God's grace and then turn around and say BUT you have to do this, that, and not do this, that in order to remain saved. That kind of reasoning comes from the false doctrine of infused grace rather than imparted grace.
The difference between these two really boils down to what must "we" do to be saved - since being saved is NOT a temporary condition. Either you have eternal life and are born again or you are condemned. There is no middle ground. We are born from above or we are still dead in our trespasses and sins. The real question, then, is what does Scripture say? Peter had that question asked of him, "What must I do to be saved?", when he was miraculously freed from prison. The jailer was so terrified but what he saw with his own eyes, that he wanted whatever Peter had. Did Peter answer him with, "Go to my church and do everything they tell you to do and if you did it all right, when you die you may be saved."? NO! He said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." All that other stuff about not sinning or not intentionally sinning is man-made distraction from the truth of the Good News - that God creates within us a NEW nature and we are changed from the inside. That doesn't happen because we are good enough first, but by God's grace that he pours upon us when we come to him in faith.
But Scripture DOES answer the question, in many places. Who was Abram? He was a man from Ur of the Chaldees (perhaps Iraq) who sought the TRUE God. His people worshipped multiple false gods, and he rejected that because God revealed the truth to him. He answered the call of Almighty God who tells us all:
"But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul." (Deuteronomy 4:29)
for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee. (I Chronicles 28:9)
The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts. (Psalm 10:4)
The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the LORD that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. (Psalm 22:26)
I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. (Proverbs 8:17)
Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: (Isaiah 55:6)
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. (Lamentations 3:25)
For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. (Ezekial 34:11)
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:7,8)
That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. (Acts 15:17)
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. That to me sure seems like God is letting it be known that no one has an excuse for not knowing the truth - because if he earnestly seeks it, God will get it to him. As for the aborted babies or those that die as children, they are covered under the merciful grace of God - how can they not be? There is ONLY one true God and he has made a way for mankind to be redeemed from his sins, no person will be judged because he didn't know - ALL people will know and those who refuse the light of truth will be condemned - justly. Shall not the God of all the earth do right?
So you dont believe that all of mankind inherits the sin of Adam thereby needing redemption? Where in scripture is it said that babies of those who have rejected God are saved?
So all the children killed by Herod died for Jesus? I think not. They died because of Jesus but not for Jesus. If thats a teaching of the CC its one of the many ways they have gone totally off track.
The stance of the Catholic Church is just that -- Nobody but God can know.
You don't know what that means, do you???
Ah, my apologies! I meant that I personally consider the concept of “accept the Lord once and that is all you need to do” a bit of a cop out.
Not because I reject the truth that ONLY through Christ may you be saved, but because I know myself well enough to know that, without the rituals and obligations of the Church, I would slowly slide away from the Lord again.
Thank you for the wonderfully thoughtful answer!
My original comment to you was in answer to your comment about how you created a contradiction about ‘born again’ where there is NO contradiction in Catholic teaching at all.
Praise God you have accepted the Catholic Church teaching about being born again in Baptism. + How a person can be Baptized by Water, Blood, or Desire. NO longer are you arguing about ‘born again.’
You have now seized on >MY use of language of whether the ‘Holy Innocents’ died “for Jesus” or as you prefer it to be said, ‘because of Jesus.’
It appears to me that you may be commenting on this thread just for the sake of >argument. The thread is about “Salvation” through Jesus Christ. To create ‘Arguments’ about Salvation is not a road to Heaven.
May God Bless you.
There was no sense in debating born again with you. A person is born again the minute He accepts Jesus as his only source of salvation. It has nothing to do with an action of man.
>> To create Arguments about Salvation is not a road to Heaven.<<
Clarifying what is needed for salvation is indeed important in the road to heaven. Those who were killed by Herod did not die for Jesus. They died because of Herods attempt to kill Jesus. Your intimation that they were saved because they died because Herod was attempting to kill Jesus is not correct. To die for Jesus is to imply that one died believing in Jesus. Those killed by Herod did not that we know of.
CynicalBear, I receive cryptic comments from you without a full revelation about your theology.
Please provide a link to your church documents as it would help in understanding >what you are creating ‘arguments’ about.
Clarification is important when discussing the proper road to Heaven. What is the Name of your church? & Where can I find your church documents on the Internet?
Read scripture and you will be reading what I believe. I belong to no earthly organized church. I belong to the church that all those who believe in Christ alone belong to the bride of Christ.
Abraham is an interesting case, but you are playing a bit fast and loose, IMHO, with the situation. Abram wasn't that far removed from the Deluge, and (if you believe the Genesis genealogies) was within living memory of the sons of Shem. He probably had some idea of who and what God is from those who were his people. The story of the Flood in the epic of Gilgamesh hint at that, as does the religion of the Magi (which wasn't as clear cut at that time, but there is some evidence for it back before the Jews were forced into Persia). So Abram might have had contact with early worshipers of God pre Covenant. Remember, Moses's father in law was a priest, and not a pagan one.
Now, Josephus does say that Abram worshiped the gods of the Chaldean's before turning away from them in search of God (or as the Roman's and Greek termed it, the GodHead). That may also be the case. Either way, God choose to reveal Himself directly to Abram. That wouldn't be the case for the village in Africa (or as my old pastor termed it, the germanic hordes on the plains of what is now Russia).
Now, for abortion, you need to really think your position through, and research what the Vatican has said about unbaptized babies who die. They have stated, rather explicitly, that Limbo as a concept is not doctrine. They have also said that while God is merciful, you can't say that all children who die unbaptized go to heaven. As I said earlier, that makes abortion a good thing, almost a saving sacrament for the child.
Sadly, I have heard more than a few people say just that. Aborted babies are better off since they go straight to heaven, and therefore it is a good thing. How one dies, and when, does not directly affect getting into heaven. Now, as a personal thing, I will never tell someone who has had an abortion and repented that their child is in hell. I can't. The horrifying thing to me is that while we can hope for God's mercy, we can't know where they went. For a still born child, I was taught that the love of God of the parents will work on that child even in the womb. But can we say that for a deliberate abortion? I don't know. No one on this side of the pale does I'm afraid.
And think of this. If all babies killed by abortion went straight to heaven, wouldn't the devil want to STOP abortion?
Your answer explains why you seem to seek arguments with other people about Catholic teaching & this article on this thread.
Jesus Christ did NOT walk the Holy Lands handing out ‘Bibles.’ Jesus Christ created a Church. & Out of that Church, God gave us our Bible.
God wants you to gather with other Christians & attend any church. Catholic teaching recognizes that Salvation through Jesus Christ is available to >everyone.
No one can be argued into Heaven. May God Bless you.
I simply point to error.
>> God wants you to gather with other Christians<<
Why would you assume I dont?
May God Bless you.
“Ah, my apologies! I meant that I personally consider the concept of accept the Lord once and that is all you need to do a bit of a cop out.
Not because I reject the truth that ONLY through Christ may you be saved, but because I know myself well enough to know that, without the rituals and obligations of the Church, I would slowly slide away from the Lord again.”
~ ~ ~
OSAS is more than a “cop out”, it’s a false teaching.
So is the “altar call” justifies you and the “prosperity
gospel”, the third lie.
You are so correct, we need the authority of the Church.
That’s how Our Lord set it up.
Sharing a NON-CATHOLIC Christian message from Heaven.
There is one end time, Jesus is preparing everyone to
accept the true faith.
~ ~ ~
April 1, 2012
Message to Kevin Barrett
Will You Let Me Take You Through the Fires of Purification?
...Oh hear Me, My people. Why do you listen to the hirelings and false teachers and prophets? Did I not say in My word that not all that say to me Lord Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, save those that do the will of the Father who is in heaven? Then why do you still go about doing your own will and tell yourselves that you are My bride? My people, you have been lied to by the enemy of your soul. Seek Me in these things. Surely I will reveal My truth to you. I love you, My dear children, and it is My desire that each of you share My throne with Me. But unfortunately only a remnant shall overcome. For too many have listened to the lies told by the false shepherds and prophets. THEY SPEAK OF HOW YOU EACH ARE ALREADY CLEANSED AND ADORNED IN RIGHTEOUSNESS SIMPLY BY YOUR BELIEF ON MY NAME. These are all lies, My people. For does not My word say that he who DOES righteousness is righteous? Yes, My people, you are made righteous by your faith in Me, but it is fulfilled by your obedience to My voice. IT IS NOT IMPUTED TO YOU BY A ONE-TIME CONFESSION OF MY NAME. Oh, My people, you have been lied to. Read My word for yourselves. Why listen to those that fatten themselves by fleecing My sheep? I have not sent many of the shepherds that are out there. They have sent themselves for their own glory and their own profit. Oh, My people, did I not say in My word to judge them by their fruit? Then where is the fruit, My people? Oh, but those that have itching ears care not about the fruit. THEY WANT TO BE TOLD ALL IS WELL AND THAT THEY SHALL PROSPER if they simply believe on My name and My promises. Lies, lies, lies, I tell you.