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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Phil 2:12 - work out your salvation in fear and trembling
Matthew25: 31-46, The Judgment of Nations lets people know who will get into Heaven.
Love God above all things & your neighbor as yourself is the commandment.
A belief in Jesus Christ has to be more than talk in the ordinary route to salvation.
The good thief on The Cross praised Jesus, believed in Jesus and had his sins forgiven. (The good-thief suffering death on the cross offered his prayer directly to Jesus Christ.) (The bad thief cursed God and died.)
There are plenty of other of Biblical passages explaining that God is looking doers of the word & just not talkers of the word.
Prior to death, perfect contrition will bring forgiveness of sins.
There is a ‘final exam’ on Judgment Day. The question & the answer is in the Bible.
Q. ‘Do you love me?’
A. ‘Yes Lord, you know I do!’
It’s not possible to deceive God. It’s always pointed-out in regards to the passage cited (Acts15: 31) that there is >more to that passage than simple belief. As beelzebub & his minions believe in Jesus Christ. They couldn’t pass the final exam so they are out of luck.
Did I get saved? (salvation)
Am I still saved?
"...this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God...For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Hebrews 10:12, 14.
As a result...
"...if by one man's offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17.
"...he hath said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you. Hebrews 13:5.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the New Testament, declares that if you have received Jesus Christ, you have the (unearned) gift of righteousness, your sins past, present, and future have been forgiven, and washed by his blood. You are now the righteousness of God by grace.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of Gods one and only Son. (John 3:18)
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)
“if sin after receiving truth, judgment remains” What version is this? Your Douay-Rheims Bible says: For if we sin wilfully after having the knowledge of the truth, there is now left no sacrifice for sins. The NIV says: If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.
The key word is “willfully” or “deliberately” keep on sinning! Now is that something a Christian would do?
Consider the following scenario:
CynicalBear is born not some time in the 1900's in the United States (I assume) with access to bibles and preachers and internet forums and what have you.
Rather, he is born CynicalRhinoTusk in a small jungle village in Africa in say, 1077 AD. Will you ever hear the word of God or be contacted by a clergyman of any type? Doubtful. So you will you ever be a Christian? Not likely.
So what happens to CynicalRhinoTusk? After all, he has never known Jesus, at least not in the conventional sense.
Where will I go?
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive Gods abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:17-19)
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
but did you READ Romans chapter 1, starting at verse 18?
After you do, then you can answer your own question about the unknowing.
Work "out" NOT "for".
Do you still walk in the way of the Lord?
Pray and give thanks? Confess your daily trespasses? Reverence the most High? Live your belief rather than just talking about it?
If yes, I figure you are still saved. If no, you might want to fix that.
I used to be a Protestant (not a good one, but I accepted Christ into my life as my savior.) It sort of lapsed after a while, when what C.S Lewis called the honeymoon period was over.
Let me give you a very poor analogy. You shower every day because you get dirty. Our saviour is not a magic shower that cleans you from sin for good - you still need to bathe in His Grace daily, because you will sin each and every day.
I rejected Protestantism for that reason. People saying “Oh, I am saved,” then carrying on as normal. The Church doesn’t let you do that. You must examine your sins and atone for them.
I hope and indeed expect you personally do so and I fully expect to meet you in the fullness of time under His banner. Different battalions maybe, but under the same General.
I said “out”
What are you talking about?
And how does "The Church" accomplish this?
If there is anything men do to get saved or stay saved, Jesus is not needed.
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.
I know you said "out" because that is what the verse says. What I said is St. Paul said to "Work out your own salvation..." not "Work FOR your own salvation...". Can you understand the difference? Some people quote that verse as if it is saying everyone has to work for their own salvation, but it is not what he said. Working your salvation OUT does not mean you work FOR it. You cannot work out or exercise something you don't already have.
Well, we have confession, for a start. And believe me, confession is rough. Most Priests know all the evasions and half truths and drill right down to the reasons and underlying thoughts.
It is a tool to focus on your daily sins. Not saying it is something you need, but it is something I need. Men are not involved - when you confess you are talking to the Lord. You just get a response you cannot ignore.
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.”
He knew that. Remember “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?”
I have heard and seen people say that and it steams me.
Salvation is purely through our Jesus. You can no more gain salvation by good works and “following the laws” than you can get to Mars by standing in a field and wishing hard.
We are commanded to walk with the Lord. That means good works, charity, witnessing and living (and sometimes dying) for our faith.
It is not working FOR our salvation. It is something we must do BECAUSE we are saved.
Easy to get flipped over.
He was more than likely in Purgatory and would get out .... eventually ... but no one knows when)
So ... a 33.33% chance my father was in Heaven and a 66.66% chance he wasn't.
Sounded like, "Good luck kid, I hope you make it"
Catholicism ceased to be a valid politic at that point.
Couple of thoughts from one who is neither Catholic nor Protestant: too many forget that little command about repenting. I’ve known some Protestants who think that since they’ve made a profession that Christ is Lord, that they now have a free ticket to sin. I’ve also known some Catholics who think that if they go and confess a sin and say a few hail Mary’s, they can continue in their sin (another “free ticket”)
My thoughts would be, as another previously mentioned, we work our our salvation, but part of that is by repenting from those sins we fall prey to, realizing that no one has a free ticket to sin, that we fight daily to live as God would desire, and have comfort in knowing that when we do mess up, we confess, and know that he is righteous and just in his forgiveness. No amount of good work does it. No membership in a particular church or denomination. Only the blood of Christ.
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