Catholic view of Salvation

Hey, can someone explain to me the Catholic view of how we are saved? Any Biblical support for it? As in the relation between works and faith. And how does “extra ecclesiam nulli salus” fit into this? As in, how does, “no one ever trusted in Jesus and was rejected” relate to that. Thank you.

Start with John 3:16

These should help

Assurance of Salvation?
What “No Salvation Outside the Church” Means


16 And behold, one came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?”
17 And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments."
18 He said to him, “Which?” And Jesus said, "You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,
19 H
onor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."*
20 The young man said to him, “All these I have observed; what do I still lack?”
21 Jesus said to him, “**If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

The Catholic Church teaches that we are saved by the Grace of Christian Baptism, and by nothing else CCC 1263], (Our Baptismal Grace is restpred, if necessary, by Sacramental Confession CCC 1446]).

If we die in a state of Grace (meaning our Baptismal Grace has been preserved or restored) we are saved. We are not saved by our knowledge, or beliefs, our faith, our works, our reception of any other Sacrament (including Eucharist), rosaries, private prayer, study of the Bible or the Catechism, or by anything else. All of these things help us remain in a State of Grace, but none are necessary for salvation, and none of these things can restore our Baptismal Grace if it is lost through mortal sin.

Being a faithful Catholic is simple. We are expected to obey the five simple precepts (rules) of the Church CCC 2041-3], and nothing else.

The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor CCC 2041]

The precepts of the Church are:
*]You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.
*]You shall confess your sins at least once a year.
*]You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.
*]You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.
*]You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.
Nothing else is expected of a faithful Catholic. We are expected to obey these rules because the Church expects it of us, and Christ gave the Church the authority to impose (or lift) such rules Matthew 16:19]. We can exceed these rules (and most do), but it is never required either by the Church or by God as a condition of salvation.

There is a little bit of complexity introduced to the precepts in way of common-sense exceptions to these rules, such as:
*]Fasting generally applies to those ages 18-59 for whom fasting would not be a medically harmful.
*]We can lawfully miss a Mass in the performance of an act of mercy which necessarily conflicts.
But nothing is necessary for salvation apart from the Grace of Christian Baptism, intact at the time of our death.

Isn’t faith and full consent to teachings of the Church necessary to maintain Baptismal grace. I mean, a heretic or an apostate can’t be in the state of Grace.


Indeed. As the Catechism states:

CCC 161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. “Since “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘But he who endures to the end.’”

In DavidFilmer’s post from the Catechism, it states (and my emphases)

CCC 2041 The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in** love of God** and neighbor.

You cannot pray without faith, and if you love a false notion of God, then that would not be truly loving God, is it?

I want to answer by providing some biblical evidence of the general Catholic view of the overall picture of justification by grace through faith and works and a the true nature of saving faith.

  1. The individual cooperates with God; though all good we do comes from his grace: “And each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:8-9).

  2. We are not saved my merely human works. But once in a relationship with God, works are of a different sort: He provides the grace to make such works fruitful and meritorious with regards to one’s salvation: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God-- not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

  3. Once in the state of justification, we have received the Spirit and become adopted children of God. It is this difference of relationship with God that allows our works to be different: They now proceed from God’s spirit. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:15-17).

  4. Truly partaking in the divine nature (see 2 Peter 1:3-4) and given the Spirit, we can do good works, the kind of works that are “excellent and profitable to men” (Titus 3:8). It is through our actions that we show God what we truly want-- whether we love Him or not–and ultimately produce the fruit of eternal life: “Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows, because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit. Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:7-9). And as Romans 6:22 makes clear, such sanctification leads to eternal life: “But what profit did you get then from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life" (Romans 6:21-22).

Jesus plainly tells that an individual must bear fruit to enter Heaven. If a “tree that does not bear good fruit” will be “thrown into the fire,” then bearing good fruit—good works—are necessary for salvation. Simply acknowledging Christ as Lord is not enough: we must do the will of God: “By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:16-21)

  1. Of course, the judgment scenes scream works as the basis of where one will spend his or her eternal destination: “…God, who will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works, but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness.” (Romans 2:5-8)

The Bible is clear that we have absolutely no claim on God. It is His initiative–His mercy. We do not do anything of ourselves to “get right” with God; but by His grace, in the initial process of conversion, we do believe, repent, and be baptized, as He said to do. The consequence of this is that we are His children. We have his very presence in us–His Spirit in our spirit. Our nature has been uplifted by the virtue of Charity (without this, Paul would be “nothing,” remember?). God’s grace reigns in our souls. Now, being in the Family of God, as adoptive children, God inspires us more and more to grow in grace. From that moment of conversion, we are justified so long as we don’t turn our backs on Him. Good works make us mature Christians: They increase Charity and Grace in our souls–making us more God-like, so-to-speak. Good works justify us (as James 2 says, and I didn’t even mention that yet!), precisely because of this progressive nature of growing in grace. Saying good works justify does not mean that there is some set number of works one must do to be saved; rather, it means that in one’s already state of justification, he/she increasingly becomes–by God’s grace–holy. So ultimately, eternal life is definitely based on a promise coming from God , and this promise is renewed everytime someone chooses God’s will inspired by God’s grace.

Thank you. Ya’ll helped a lot. I got a better understanding for when explaining things to people of other faiths.

Pope Saint John Paul II
Crossing the Threshold of Hope…
Addressing the question “Why is the history of salvation so complicated?”-a question which resonates for many today-let us analyze the words of Christ in the Gospel of John in order to understand where we find ourselves at odds with this forma mentis. Actually, it is very simple! We can easily demonstrate its profound simplicity and wonderful internal logic by starting with the words Jesus addressed to Nicodemus. The first affirmation is: “God so loved the world.” According to the Enlightenment mentality, the world does not need God’s love. The world is self-sufficient. And God, in turn, is not, above all, Love. If anything, He is Intellect, an intellect that eternally knows. No one needs His intervention in the world that exists, that is self-sufficient, that is transparent to human knowledge, that is ever more free of mysteries thanks to scientific research, that is ever more an inexhaustible mine of raw materials for man-the demigod of modern technology. This is the world that must make man happy.
Christ instead says to Nicodemus: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish” (cf. Jn 3:16). In this way Jesus makes us understand that the world is not the source of man’s ultimate happiness. Rather, it can become the source of his ruin. This world which appears to be a great workshop in which knowledge is developed by man, which appears as progress and civilization, as a modern system of communications, as a structure of democratic freedoms without any limitations, this world is not capable of making man happy. When Christ speaks of the love that the Father has for the world, He merely echoes the first affirmation in the Book of Genesis which accompanies the description of creation: “God saw how good it was…He found it very good” (Gn 1:12-31). But this affirmation in no way constitutes the absolute assurance of salvation. The world is not capable of making man happy. It is not capable of saving him from evil, in all of its types and forms-illness, epidemics, cataclysms, catastrophes, and the like. This world, with its riches and its wants, needs to be saved, to be redeemed.
The world is not able to free man from suffering; specifically it is not able to free him from death. The entire world is subject to “precariousness,” as Saint Paul says in the Letter to the Romans; it is subject to corruption and mortality. Insofar as his body is concerned, so is man. Immortality is not a part of this world. It can come to man exclusively from God. This is why Christ speaks of God’s love that expresses itself in the offering of His only Son, so that man “might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). Eternal life can be given to man only by God; it can be only His gift. It cannot be given to man by the created world. Creation-and man together with it-is subject to “futility” (cf. Rom 8:20).
“God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (cf. Jn 3:17). The world that the Son of man found when He became man deserved condemnation, because of the sin that had dominated all of history, beginning with the fall of our first parents. This is another point that is absolutely unacceptable to post-Enlightenment thought. It refuses to accept the reality of sin and, in particular, it refuses to accept original sin.
… Nevertheless, convincing the world of the existence of sin is not the same as condemning it for sinning. “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” Convincing the world of sin means creating the conditions for its salvation. Awareness of our own sinfulness, including that which is inherited, is the first condition for salvation; the next is the confession of this sin before God, who desires only to receive this confession so that He can save man. To save means to embrace and lift up with redemptive love, with love that is always greater than any sin. In this regard the parable of the prodigal son is an unsurpassable paradigm.
The history of salvation is very simple. And it is a history that unfolds within the earthly history of humanity, beginning with the first Adam, through the revelation of the second Adam, Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Cor 15:45), and ending with the ultimate fulfillment of the history of the world in God, when He will be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28). At the same time, this history embraces the life of every man. In a certain sense it is entirely contained in the parable of the prodigal son, or in the words of Christ when He addresses the adulteress: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin anymore” (Jn 8:11).
… The history of salvation continues to offer new inspiration for interpreting the history of humanity. Because of this, numerous contemporary thinkers and historians are also interested in the history of salvation. It is, in fact, the most stimulating of themes. All of the questions raised by the Second Vatican Council are reducible, finally, to this theme.
The history of salvation not only addresses the question of human history but also confronts the problem of the meaning of man’s existence. As a result, it is both history and metaphysics. It could be said that it is the most integral form of theology, the theology of all the encounters between God and the world. The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, is nothing other than a contemporary presentation of this great theme.

Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23)

It is possible to believe and say that you are a follower of Christ and be wrong.

That’s not necessarily true. There are those who are obstinate in their disbelief, and then there are those who experience what is called a “crisis of faith.” Many Saints and even Doctors of the Church have experienced a crisis of faith. It can happen to anyone, of any religion.

A crisis of faith is when a person of good-will finds himself unable to believe some or all of the Church’s teaching. Belief is not an act of the will - I could never make myself believe in unicorns or dragons, no matter how much I may want to believe in them (and I doubt you could either). My will (desire) cannot compel my belief.

A person of good will might experience even the most extreme form of a crisis of faith - a disbelief even in God (which means disbelief in every single teaching of the Church) and yet not commit even a venial sin, provided the disbelief is involuntary (not obstinate). All sin (venial or mortal) requires some measure of voluntary consent. If our disbelief is something to which we give no freewill assent, it is not sinful in any way whatsoever.

A person of good will who experiences a crisis of faith commits no sin and remains in a State of Grace, provided he meets three conditions:
*]He must recognize that his disbelief is a personal flaw that must be corrected. He must not believe his he is right and the Church is wrong.
*]He must make a sincere, diligent, and ongoing good-faith effort to reconcile himself with the teaching of the Church (he might start by coming here!)
*]He must not teach (by word or action) his disbelief as an valid alternative to Catholic doctrine.[/LIST]

Such a person, even if he privately believes heresy or apostasy, commits no sin whatsoever, and remains a faithful Catholic in good standing (and in a state of Grace), provided he commits no other mortal sin and observes the five basic Precepts of the Church.

I am actually going through a crisis right now. I’m sort of “going back to the drawing board” in my beliefs regarding doctrine.

Read Luke. Then Acts.

Ask questions in the forum along the way.


I’ve been there myself. In fact, it was my faith in the Church, not in God, that brought me back from the abyss (more than once).

As St. Augistine famiously said,

I would not believe in the Gospel myself if the authority of the Catholic Church did not compel me to do so. Against the letter of Mani, 5,6, 397 A.D.]

I actually feel I have more faith in the Church than I have in God. After all, I can see and feel and smell and hear and touch the Church (and even taste Eucharist). It involves all of my physical senses. I can’t directly do any of that with God. But that’s kinda OK, because the Church is really all about God. But, had I not converted to the Catholic Faith years ago, I would certainly (without any doubt) be an atheist today.

I am honestly confused because does this not directly contradict the teachings of Vatican II that salvation is possible for those outside the Catholic/Christian faiths and that salvation is also available to hindu’s Buddhist, and Muslims who lead good and moral lives? I just read this from the Ask and apologist section and the Father who responded stated unequivocally that Catholic doctrine does not prevent those who are not of the Catholic or even Christian faith from obtaining salvation.

I don’t see a contradiction. Can you point it out. You can certainly not be a Catholic and still be saved.

One verse that comes to mind, “To whom much is given, is much expected.”

It is one thing it seems to be a Catholic and decide you don’t believe in God anymore.

It’s another thing to be a Hindu who has never heard the Gospel effectively preached to him. I believe at the end of his life, Christ will come to that soul and show himself in a way that he has the opportunity to make a choice. This is somewhere at the threshold or whatever you want to call it between the end of this life and eternal life.

CCC 161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. "Since “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘But he who endures to the end.’

Well the CCC states pretty definitively that faith in Christ is necessary for obtaining salvation. So without faith in Christ how is salvation possible according to the CCC? AS it say “without faith it is impossible to please God.” So would that mean that rather than being sent to hell a good buddhist has to simply go to purgatory?

One has to discern fairly carefully what is meant by “Faith”. It is well established that non-Catholics and even non-Christians can obtain salvation. (It would take time for me personally to come up with the citations but I can do it if necessary.)

The good buddhist will make an act of Faith (thought it is a bit of a mystery) in Christ when he passes from death in this world to eternal life in the next. Christ is an intimation at this point sufficient for the good Buddhist to move towards him or move away from him. This is how I view the situation, in any case.

God Bless.

Thank you. Is this sort of like Rahner’s idea of the “anonymous Christian”?

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