Athanasian Creed - No salvation outside the church!


#1

I was reading an article which mentioned that you must be of the Catholic Faith to be saved. It said that it is professed in the Athanasian Creed.

“…Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith…”

Can anyone explain this to me?


#2

There is no salvation outside Christ and his Church. See this section of the Catechism on the four marks of the Church, and especially paragraph 846:

vatican.va/archive/catechism/p123a9p3.htm


#3

[quote="1ke, post:2, topic:210832"]
There is no salvation outside Christ and his Church. See this section of the Catechism on the four marks of the Church, and especially paragraph 846:

vatican.va/archive/catechism/p123a9p3.htm

[/quote]

1ke, I have been trying to understand this topic once and for all and it remains very confusing.

The main issue is the definition of "Church" in this context. Are we specifically referring to the Catholic Church per se or are we saying Christianity? Of course some who profess to be Christians are far, far away from Catholicism but others are very close (even professing all Catholic beliefs but not formally in communion with us such as these folks).

Certainly the Catholic Church is the surest path to salvation, but what would we say to a devout Protestant who asks our opinion on their path? Would we say it may be possible in extraordinary circumstances or depend fully on the mercy of God (which seems like just another way of expressing "it is a long-shot")?

A secondary issue is non-Christians. CCC 1260 adds to the confusion (at least for me).

Similar questions (perhaps the same questions worded differently) are on who is a part of the Body of Christ and who is in the Church Militant?

Any help would be sincerely appreciated!


#4

…I have done some more research, still confusing but clearer.

On the one hand is catholicism.org/ad-rem-no-141.html#more-18108 which seems to take a salvation is for members of the Catholic Church position.

On the other there is ewtn.com/expert/answers/outside_the_church.htm which holds out the possibility of salvation for others without a lot of explanation.

The very best explanation I have seen is (right here, of course) catholic.com/thisrock/2005/0512fea3.asp. The answer, if I may briefly paraphrase it, is that the power of the Church to save extends to non-members as well. It would seem to also imply however that only Catholics are in the mystical body (or here on earth, comprise the Church Militant).

Any other input still appreciated!


#5

I always envisioned it something like this (and this is NOT a perfect analogy):

When we say that there is “no salvation outside the Catholic Church”, it does NOT mean that non-Catholics cannot be saved! It means that they might be saved in SPITE of a lack of knowledge. They will be doing the will of God, as passed down through the Bible and proclaimed most fully through the Catholic Church, without even realizing it. It’s akin to this. Imagine the Catholic Church as a 16 year old who goes out and buys a brand new car. They read the entire instruction manual, sign up and take driving lessons, and successfully make it to school. Now, imagine other groups are 16 year olds who go out and buy used cars. They have only partial instruction manuals, or perhaps no instruction manual at all. Some get driving lessons, but some do not. Now, they may eventually make it safely to school as well, but if school represents the Kingdom of Heaven, which route is the safer choice? If they DO make it to school, it will be by unintentionally following the rules that were in the book they never read and the lessons they never signed up for. (In other words, they were still saved THROUGH the Catholic Church). Further, they were also making the best effort they knew how to reach the “school” as their choice of destination.


#6

Non-Catholic Christians are essentially "informal Catholics" who are in a very deficient communion or relationship with the Church. If a "Christian" is baptised outside the Catholic Church they are essentially informal Catholics but do not know they are. Some of these who keep themselves out of grave post baptismal sin or who can form perfect contrition from same before they die can be saved. We can't speculate on numbers but it sounds very dangerous/risky to be outside of the formal membership of the Catholic Church in a gravely deficient faith community. They simply lack the sacraments necessary to keep oneself in a state of grace in this very secularized and progressively hedonistic society. That said there are also many formal Catholics in name only who are living in grave sin - these are also in grave danger. But at least for a Catholic who is marginal in his devotion and piousness has an opportunity for last rites and the many church helps to return to grace in many cases (barring a sudden accidental death etc.).

Those non-Christians who are not baptised who never had an opportunity to know the true faith and who have lived a devout life free from grave sins we presume God grants special graces to become joined to the Church before they die through miracalous means (e.g. baptism by desire or baptism by blood etc.). God is not limited to the sacraments and can show mercy on who he will show mercy. But Christ was very specific that those who try to enter through some other gate or way would be denied entry.

BF


#7

Thank you Rolltide and bona_fides. These are good explanations and help give me a framework in which to understand this. Much appreciated!


#8

[quote="dominikus28, post:1, topic:210832"]
I was reading an article which mentioned that you must be of the Catholic Faith to be saved. It said that it is professed in the Athanasian Creed.

"...Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith..."

Can anyone explain this to me?

[/quote]

It's not true that one must be of the Catholic faith to be saved. See the Catechism para 846ff.


#9

[quote="Rolltide, post:5, topic:210832"]
I always envisioned it something like this (and this is NOT a perfect analogy):

When we say that there is "no salvation outside the Catholic Church", it does NOT mean that non-Catholics cannot be saved! It means that they might be saved in SPITE of a lack of knowledge. They will be doing the will of God, as passed down through the Bible and proclaimed most fully through the Catholic Church, without even realizing it. It's akin to this. Imagine the Catholic Church as a 16 year old who goes out and buys a brand new car. They read the entire instruction manual, sign up and take driving lessons, and successfully make it to school. Now, imagine other groups are 16 year olds who go out and buy used cars. They have only partial instruction manuals, or perhaps no instruction manual at all. Some get driving lessons, but some do not. Now, they may eventually make it safely to school as well, but if school represents the Kingdom of Heaven, which route is the safer choice? If they DO make it to school, it will be by unintentionally following the rules that were in the book they never read and the lessons they never signed up for. (In other words, they were still saved THROUGH the Catholic Church). Further, they were also making the best effort they knew how to reach the "school" as their choice of destination.

[/quote]

It certainly USED to mean this. Instead of the church technically changing the teaching of "no salvation outside the Church," they just changed what it means.


#10

[quote="bingbang, post:9, topic:210832"]
It certainly USED to mean this. Instead of the church technically changing the teaching of "no salvation outside the Church," they just changed what it means.

[/quote]

I think it is fair to say that this is how the laity and most of the priests USED To understood it at one time. We saw "formal" membership as a necessity and did not consider "informal" membership. The actual expression has always been textually correct.

It is just that we have come into a deeper revelation of what our own expression here means. That is not a change of teaching since the teaching is only given to Catholics -- not to non-Catholics. Those remaining Catholics are already in the Church and hearing exactly what they have always heard and are in the exact community they need to be in order to best assure their salvation. It is those who leave the Catholic Church or any who knowingly rejected Catholic teaching with an informed conscience that are on a very dangerous path to spiritual suicide.

The deeper insight we have now is that while "no one is saved outside of the Catholic church" God can certainly bring others into the Catholic Church supernaturally and invisibly in ways we can't always know. Nothing is impossible for God and certainly our prayers and offerings are efficacious. What the Church is also doing here is acknowledging that it has powers that reach beyond its physical walls. If we can spiritually reach with God's grace into purgatory and render assistance through indulgences we can certainly reach through prayer and Eucharistic grace into "Bubbba Bob's Bible Church" to render spiritual assistance to the poor widow sitting there suffering the preacher's loud anti-Catholic polemics.;)

The Church considers it highly irregular and dangerous for any baptised Christian to be outside of formal membership in the Catholic Church. This is no different than a baptised Catholic not attending weekly mass and not remaining in communion with his Christian brothers. There is a huge range of risk/uncertainty between the span of "possibly saved" and "actually saved". It may be that none at all are saved outside of formal membership in the Catholic Church. It may also be that many (thousands to 10's of thousands to millions etc.) are saved through the prayers and offerings of the Catholic Church, Only God knows. What we Catholics know for certain is that the NORMATIVE and most certain way of salvation is as Jesus intended it - through formal membership in the Church He established - the Catholic Church.

Also note that many used to convert and remain Catholics because they misequated this statement as meaning "if I am Catholic I am saved". This of course is also nonsense - no one gets to heaven unless he is in a state of grace. The Protestants played on just this kind of mentality by developing a new thin theology that reduced the necessity for salvation from formal membership in the Catholic Church to the easier formula of "if you just beleive in Jesus then you are saved". This of course is also an irrational nonsence since it presupposes first a faith in this new reformer theology before it even gets to a faith in Christ. That essentially puts the Reformers over Christ and over His Church. This is a very dangerous neo-Christian innovation that is not worth the risk for anyone to take. Don't drink the purple Kool-Aid here... rather come to the Catholic Church for the real thing and drink from the chalice of the precious blood of Christ.

BF


#11

[quote="bingbang, post:9, topic:210832"]
It certainly USED to mean this. Instead of the church technically changing the teaching of "no salvation outside the Church," they just changed what it means.

[/quote]

Actually, as a professional historian, I can tell you that the current belief has been around MUCH longer than most people suspect. It certainly dates to at least the Council of Trent. Of particular note was the "problem" of the discovery of Native Americans during the time of Christopher Columbus. The main question was "why would a just God create two entire continents worth of people that had absolutely NO hope for salvation?" This issue was batted around theologically for quite some time, until a revolutionary Papal Bull called Sublimus Dei was released on June 2, 1537. In addition to being one of the very first documents ever to condemn slavery (specifically forbidding it against Native Americans), it ruled that Native Americans were indeed rational men with souls. While it did call for the evangelization of current and future Native Americans, it also ruled that there was the possibility for the salvation of previous generations of Native Americans through the natural law. This bull held such force that at one point, famed Bishop Bartolome de las Casas actually excommunicated an entire DIOCESE in the New World that failed to comply with the document! This document, and several others like it from the same time dealing with other regions of the world, demonstrate clearly that this is not just some innovation of Vatican II, but has been a theological development that's at LEAST 500 years old.


#12

[quote="Rolltide, post:11, topic:210832"]
Actually, as a professional historian, I can tell you that the current belief has been around MUCH longer than most people suspect. It certainly dates to at least the Council of Trent. Of particular note was the "problem" of the discovery of Native Americans during the time of Christopher Columbus. The main question was "why would a just God create two entire continents worth of people that had absolutely NO hope for salvation?" This issue was batted around theologically for quite some time, until a revolutionary Papal Bull called Sublimus Dei was released on June 2, 1537. In addition to being one of the very first documents ever to condemn slavery (specifically forbidding it against Native Americans), it ruled that Native Americans were indeed rational men with souls. While it did call for the evangelization of current and future Native Americans, it also ruled that there was the possibility for the salvation of previous generations of Native Americans through the natural law. This bull held such force that at one point, famed Bishop Bartolome de las Casas actually excommunicated an entire DIOCESE in the New World that failed to comply with the document! This document, and several others like it from the same time dealing with other regions of the world, demonstrate clearly that this is not just some innovation of Vatican II, but has been a theological development that's at LEAST 500 years old.

[/quote]

Can you show me where it says this? I can't find it:
papalencyclicals.net/Paul03/p3subli.htm

"To all faithful Christians to whom this writing may come, health in Christ our Lord and the apostolic benediction.

The sublime God so loved the human race that He created man in such wise that he might participate, not only in the good that other creatures enjoy, but endowed him with capacity to attain to the inaccessible and invisible Supreme Good and behold it face to face; and since man, according to the testimony of the sacred scriptures, has been created to enjoy eternal life and happiness, which none may obtain save through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, it is necessary that he should possess the nature and faculties enabling him to receive that faith; and that whoever is thus endowed should be capable of receiving that same faith. Nor is it credible that any one should possess so little understanding as to desire the faith and yet be destitute of the most necessary faculty to enable him to receive it. Hence Christ, who is the Truth itself, that has never failed and can never fail, said to the preachers of the faith whom He chose for that office 'Go ye and teach all nations.' He said all, without exception, for all are capable of receiving the doctrines of the faith.

The enemy of the human race, who opposes all good deeds in order to bring men to destruction, beholding and envying this, invented a means never before heard of, by which he might hinder the preaching of God's word of Salvation to the people: he inspired his satellites who, to please him, have not hesitated to publish abroad that the Indians of the West and the South, and other people of whom We have recent knowledge should be treated as dumb brutes created for our service, pretending that they are incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith.

We, who, though unworthy, exercise on earth the power of our Lord and seek with all our might to bring those sheep of His flock who are outside into the fold committed to our charge, consider, however, that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it. Desiring to provide ample remedy for these evils, We define and declare by these Our letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, to which the same credit shall be given as to the originals, that, notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; and that they may and should, freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property; nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and have no effect.

By virtue of Our apostolic authority We define and declare by these present letters, or by any translation thereof signed by any notary public and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical dignitary, which shall thus command the same obedience as the originals, that the said Indians and other peoples should be converted to the faith of Jesus Christ by preaching the word of God and by the example of good and holy living."

Also, you might be interested in the bi-location of Ven. Mary of Agreda.:)


#13

Ok, to understand the document, you have to understand the context of the times and the ruling that Indians were “truly men”. In order to be enslaved in the world of the 1500s, you had to essentially be someone who had knowledge of Christianity and rejected it, such as a Muslim or person from sub-Saharan coastal Africa. This was because these people were, in the eyes of contemporary Christians, damned already, and their souls had no hope of redemption unless they recanted, which was exceptionally unlikely. Indians, however, were “truly men”. This meant that they could STILL be saved, since they had no prior knowledge of Christianity. In other words, they were truly “invincibly ignorant”, as the term would be used today. You will note specifically the prohibition against their enslavement, which would only occur if salvation were still possible for them. While current generations of Indians would now have knowledge of Christianity and have to convert, previous generations were still covered under natural law through the fact that they were indeed “truly men”. This is also why it was utterly forbidden to enslave Ethiopians, because they were the only African nation to embrace Christianity on their own. They were also “truly men”.


#14

Rolltide,

You said above that the document ruled that salvation was possible for previous generations of Native Americans.

I know what the Holy Father meant when he reminded the faithful that the Indians were truly men. You cannot read into his reminder the idea that salvation was possible for previous generations without the promulgation of the Gospel. Ignorance does not save anyone. Ignorance can excuse a man, but it cannot save him. The document says nothing about previous generations being saved through ignorance… or even being saved at all. It says nothing about previous generations of Indians. The entire point of the Bull is that the Indians can, and ought to be taught the Faith… conversion! They were to be brought into the Church if they so desired and accepted the Gospel message:
"the said Indians and other peoples should be converted to the faith of Jesus Christ"
Is the point of the Papal Bull.

Ven. Mary of Agreda bi-located more than 500 times in her lifetime to convert and teach the Indians the Faith.


#15

[quote="AnneElliot, post:14, topic:210832"]
Rolltide,

You said above that the document ruled that salvation was possible for previous generations of Native Americans.

I know what the Holy Father meant when he reminded the faithful that the Indians were truly men. You cannot read into his reminder the idea that salvation was possible for previous generations without the promulgation of the Gospel.

[/quote]

It's not my opinion. I'm telling you how the Holy Father and many European nations historically interpreted the document, including the Spanish.

Ignorance does not save anyone. Ignorance can excuse a man, but it cannot save him.

Absolutely correct. Implicit in the document (and explicit in the many, MANY debates that led to the promulgation of the document) was the idea that a merciful God would not condemn ALL the Native Americans that appeared before the conquest to hell. There was at least the remote chance that a few could be saved by following Natural Law to the best of their ability. They would be saved by the grace of God through essentially a baptism of desire.

The document says nothing about previous generations being saved through ignorance... or even being saved at all. It says nothing about previous generations of Indians.

Quite correct. However, the debates and climate that led to the document specifically implied that this was the case and how the document should be interpreted.

The entire point of the Bull is that the Indians can, and ought to be taught the Faith... conversion! They were to be brought into the Church if they so desired and accepted the Gospel message:
"the said Indians and other peoples should be converted to the faith of Jesus Christ"
Is the point of the Papal Bull.

Well, that's a PART of the document. Another major part is the abolition of Indian slavery, which makes it one of the first abolition documents ever issued.

Ven. Mary of Agreda bi-located more than 500 times in her lifetime to convert and teach the Indians the Faith.

While Mary of Agreda was a very holy woman, she lived in the 1600s, rather than before the discovery of the Americas. You could just have easily mentioned Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego, who worked almost 100 years earlier, or St. Martin de Porres, who also bilocated throughout South America.

It will take some time to find, but the debates surrounding Sublimus Dei exist, and I'll see if I can post them. Among the more famous debates was the one between Bartolome de las Casas and Juan de Sepulveda. It was Sepulveda that argued that the Native Americans were NOT truly men, and because their race had been created from day one with no hope for salvation, that they could legitimately be enslaved. His position was eventually condemned by the church, in part through the argument of "invincible ignorance" the way we understand it today. The full document is incredibly lengthy, so I'll have to hunt for it. One of my dissertation directors is the leading authority on Las Casas in the world, so I'll see if he can refer me to the appropriate parts.

I should mention that Sublimus Dei was so important, that a number of subsequent documents (both religious and secular) were issued to clarify some of its more important points.


#16

Here's one of the relevant quotes surrounding the controversy:

Fr. Francisco de Vitoria, O.P., a famous 16th century Dominican theologian, summed up
the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church on this topic very well. Here is how he
put it:

“When we postulate invincible ignorance on the subject of baptism or of the
Christian faith, it does not follow that a person can be saved without baptism
or the Christian faith. For the aborigines to whom no preaching of the faith or
Christian religion has come will be damned for mortal sins or for idolatry, but
not for the sin of unbelief.
As St. Thomas says, however, if they do what in them
lies [in their power], accompanied by a good life according to the law of nature, it
is consistent with God’s providence that he will illuminate them regarding the
name of Christ.”


#17

[quote="Rolltide, post:15, topic:210832"]
I should mention that Sublimus Dei was so important,

[/quote]

Yet it's not in the Denzinger?

“When we postulate invincible ignorance on the subject of baptism or of the
Christian faith, it does not follow that a person can be saved without baptism
or the Christian faith. For the aborigines to whom no preaching of the faith or
Christian religion has come will be damned for mortal sins or for idolatry, but
not for the sin of unbelief. As St. Thomas says, however, if they do what in them
lies [in their power], accompanied by a good life according to the law of nature, it
is consistent with God’s providence that he will illuminate them regarding the
name of Christ.”

I agree with this.


#18

[quote="Rolltide, post:16, topic:210832"]
Here's one of the relevant quotes surrounding the controversy:

Fr. Francisco de Vitoria, O.P., a famous 16th century Dominican theologian, summed up
the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church on this topic very well. Here is how he
put it:

“When we postulate invincible ignorance on the subject of baptism or of the
Christian faith, it does not follow that a person can be saved without baptism
or the Christian faith. For the aborigines to whom no preaching of the faith or
Christian religion has come will be damned for mortal sins or for idolatry, but
not for the sin of unbelief.
As St. Thomas says, however, if they do what in them
lies [in their power], accompanied by a good life according to the law of nature, it
is consistent with God’s providence that he will illuminate them regarding the
name of Christ.”

[/quote]

This brings forward an important observation I have made & want to share. It seems that some Catholics are afraid to tell their co-workers and non-Catholic friends about the universal truths held by the Catholic Church for fear of increasing their culpability by exposing them to too much knowledge and information. They are afraid that this information would remove an excuse of moral conscience and make them more culpable to spiritual penalty should they fail to make their case and be rejected.

The problem with this line of reasoning is two fold: 1) We are explicitly commanded to preach the good news to all peoples and nations and 2) the natural moral conscience convicts each person with an appetite for knowledge and truth. Invincible Ignorance does not relieve any soul of the necessity to follow its conscience - no matter how poorly formed. There is with all rational and non-defective minds an incumbent gravity compelled by the soul to strive towards reasonable diligence in seeking divine truth. God gives each soul the moral principals and no one is ever relived from obedience from these - not ever.

Clearly Jesus would never have even given the Great Commission to evangelize the world if that action could result in sending people to hell. No - its impossible for God to do anything that would be intrinsically evil. The default condition of man is clearly a condition of grave depravity that requires being remedied by teaching and by example and access to sacramental grace. Those for lack of mental facilities (reasoning power) or who are inaccessible to knowledge remain in their condition of depravity and if not listening to their natural moral conscience are in an elevated risk. The risk of being condemned to hell is NOT principally for rejecting the good news of the Catholic Church (although it is grave in how it sets one up for failure) but rather for succumbing to the legion of temptations and other sinful things they already commit and will continue to commit against natural moral conscience (e.g. murder, stealing, rape, self-degrading behaviors etc.). God is giving humanity the gift of His Church - if somone rejects the gift of the Catholic Church then they are on electing to take on all the risks themselves and lacking the support of the Catholic Community and sacraments will generally fall into grave sin over time. All it takes is a single unforgiven grave sin to land in hell. In this modern secular-hedonistic world - few individuals escape the many temptations that are in their face daily (various, lusts,impurities, disgracing the dignity of partners through illicit sex etc).

The truth is, the default condition of life is that we MUST FIGHT AND STRUGGLE against sinful inclinations. Satan wants every single soul he can get his hands on from the moment of birth. It's NOT easy to get to heaven on a lone-ranger do-it-yourself "spiritual but not religious" strategy. Christ only made it possible at all for anyone to overcome their defective human nature - but His powers are applied through His Church one way or another. Being brought into the true Catholic faith and given the sacramental powers and grace one gains a juggernaut of spiritual helps. A Catholic has a much much easier opportunity to attain salvation since every time he walks into church and participates in the sacraments or draws on his own inner sanctification (the HS) through prayer he is gaining grace (in accord to his own disposition). But there are not even any guarantees for Catholics if they don't stay in grace - and that takes daily diligence and devotion to the Catholic Disciplines and habitual exercise of the sacraments.

Non-Catholics, esp. Protestants, who reject Catholicism and who are truly "invincibly ignorant" (personally I think very few fall into this category) are relieved of the necessity of being formal Catholics. But this is just a mitigation of the sin of disobedience. It does not mitigate the many other sins these are likely to fall into. These remain at HIGH RISK of sinning gravely in some other way (e.g. fornication, murder, slander, teaching false doctrines and causing others to fall away, aiding/abetting abortion, divorce/remarriage, etc.). And without the sacraments they have very little opportunity and chance to be forgiven of post-baptismal sins (perfect contrition/repentance is very hard to form and requires saintly graces). Protestants in particular are taking on a huge risk since they know the moral law (in general) and are held to a higher standard than just an average non-Christian.

BF


#19

I mentioned this before, but it seems no one has referred to it. What do you think the Catechism mean in para 846ff.? Doesn't this apply to this thread?


#20

A person who knowingly and deliberatley rejects the claims of the Catholic Church cannot be saved.


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