Institutional salvation or individual salvation?


Every once in a while I come across something that very neatly expresses my own views. I figured I would share this with some Catholic apologists and see if anyone has any thoughts on the matter.

Is Catholicism’s claim as the sole authority of Gods word and their practice of an institutional driven means to salvation, contrary to Christs sacrifice on the Cross?

Was Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross supposed to provide a means for regular people to access God independently and achieve salvation apart from the authority figures of the day. Authority figures who had previously controlled their access to salvation.


Was Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross intended to solidify institutionalized based salvation, thus firmly entrenching salvation solely in the hands of the religious authorities? ( Catholic Church)

Read the following, from Marcus J. Borgs ’ The Heart of Christianity" and then I am interested to see any comments on what I perceive as a compelling argument.

'But in its first-century setting, the statement " Jesus is the sacrifice for sin" had a quite different meaning. The “home” of this language, the framework within which it makes sense, is the sacrificial system centered in the temple in Jerusalem. According to temple theology, certain kinds of sins and impurities could be dealt with only through sacrifice in the temple. Temple theology thus claimed an institutional monopoly on the forgiveness of sins; and because the forgiveness of sins was a prerequisite for entry into the presence of God, temple theology also claimed an institutional monopoly on access to God.

In this setting, to affirm " Jesus is the sacrifice for sin" was to deny the temple’s claim to have a monopoly on forgiveness and access to God. It meant: God in Jesus has already provided the sacrifice and has thus taken care of whatever you think separates you from God; you have access to God apart from the temple and its system of sacrifice. It is a metaphor of radical grace, of amazing grace.

…it’s therefore ironic to realize that the religion that formed around Jesus would within four hundred years begin to claim for itself and institutional monopoly on grace an access to God.’


Jesus said to pray to Our Father, not “My” Father. The Church is His Body, and we are all tied together


Hi Lib__,

Salvation is a personal thing, between God and man.The means of salvation, namely the sacraments, are the responsability of the Church.



Then why have the Catholic Church if the sacraments aren’t necessary for salvation?

I argue that salvation is not personal, but strictly institutional if an established authority claims ’ outside the Church there is no salvation.’ ( For Catholics).

How can you claim that salvation is personal, if one requires the institution for salvation?


More from Borg…

We all have access to the Holy, to that high and
mysterious Great Whatever before which we stand in humble wonder. We—you and I—have access to it, apart from any church or temple, however stridently that institution
may declare its exclusiveness.
Jesus’ death is “a metaphor of radical grace, of amazing grace.”


There seems to be an unnecessary semantic strain here on “institutional” and “personal.” There is one Body with many parts. Not either-or. The Catholic Church teaches that all persons, whether knowingly or not, who go to heaven, do so mystically via the Church (CCC#846-848). And the sacraments are necessary to the degree that the person is able to receive them.



We are only saved by being incorporated into Christ. The Church is the visible body of Christ extended through time and space with us as its members, the Holy Spirit as its soul and Christ as its head.

To say, “outside the Church there is no salvation” is the equivalent of saying, “outside of Christ there is no salvation.” One can only be saved by being incorporated through grace into Christ. Consequently, all who are saved are saved by being incorporated into Christ. And if they are incorporated into Christ, they are incorporated into the Church–even if not visibly.

When we receive the Eucharist, for example, it may be a “Jesus and me” moment. But it cannot be only a “Jesus and me moment,” because in receiving Christ, we are united not only with him, but with everyone else who has ever or will ever or is now receiving him. In being united with him, we are united with the entire Church. We are a ‘communion of saints.’


Nothing I’ve read in response has adequately countered Marcus Borg’s assertuib that the RCC is doing precisely what Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was intended to stop.


Remember that the Old Covenant was established by God. And that Jesus said he had come not to destroy the old covenant but to fulfill it. He was the fulfillment of the covenant, not the anarchist come to destroy the Temple.


Since the Catholic Church teaches that even those who, through no fault of their own, don’t know Christ or His Catholic Church can nevertheless be saved through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, your argument against the Catholic Church seems to be a strawman. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 847)


Please explain what you mean in this bolded part.I think God is the Sole authority of God’s word. :confused:

Catholicism does not have an “institutional driven means to salvation”. The Catholic church teaches that we are saved by grace, through faith, by the saving work of Jesus on the Cross. I am not sure what this phrase means. Nothing can save us but God’s grace. No institution can do what He has done by giving a perfect sacrifice for our sins.

Setting the authority that God has appointed in opposition to His saving plan for man is not necessary or helpful. Authority is not “apart” from His salvation.

Since I am confused by what “instituionalize based salvation” means I don’t think I can help you with this. Jesus has made us part of his Body, a living organzism, not a “institution”.

I guess my first question would be how does the Catholic Church, in the first 400 years, claim for itself an institutional monopoly on grace.

God’s grace has never been, and never will be restricted to any human institution.

God chooses certain human means by which to manifest His grace.


Employing a strawman is a strawman…it is the most over used expression on the internet.

Those within the RCC, must obey the employee’s of the RCC, which the RCC claims, those employee’s have special powers that the laity do not posses.

If a RC commits a mortal sin, that RC must confess to an ordained Catholic employee to receive forgiveness from God. If the Catholic does not confess to the RC employee, then Gods forgiveness is impossible, short of perfect contrition.

Now that is absolute institutional domination and an institutional monopoly on Gods forgiveness.


The forgiveness of sins via private confession evolved slowly over time. It was only the council of Trent that " claimed " that the early Church had been aware of it, only they didn’t practice it, history supports this fact absolutely.

How convenient for the council of Trent…no?


But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" --he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings. (Mat 9:6-8)

(Jesus) said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:21-23)

Does Marcus Borg acknowledge that the apostles had the authority to forgive sins?

If so, can he prove that this gift ended with the apostles?

If he can not prove it, why should we not believe the apostles’ successors still possess this gift?


By any chance are making a distinction between public confession and private confession?

Either way, oral confession was a practice from the start of the Church.

and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. (Mat 3:6)

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. (James 5:16)

Many of those who had become believers came forward and openly acknowledged their former practices. (Acts 19:18)

Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Tim 6:12)

If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. (1 John 1:9)

“In church confess your sins, and do not come to your prayer with a guilt conscience. Such is the Way of Life…On the Lord’s own day, assemble in common to break bread and offer thanks; but first confess your sins, so that your sacrifice may be pure." Didache, 4:14,14:1 (c. A.D. 90).

“Moreover, it is in accordance with reason that we should return to soberness[of conduct], and, while yet we have opportunity, exercise repentance towards God. It is well to reverence both God and the bishop.” Ignatius, Epistle to the Smyraeans, 9 (c. A.D. 110).

“The Pontifex Maximus–that is, the bishop of bishops–issues an edict: ‘I remit, to such as have discharged (the requirements of) repentance, the sins both of adultery and of fornication.’” Tertullian, Modesty, 1 (A.D. 220).

“In addition to these there is also a seventh, albeit hard and laborious: the remission of sins through penance…when he does not shrink from declaring his sin to a priest of the Lord.” Origen, Homilies on Leviticus, 2:4 (A.D. 248).


I think it’s individual. Consider how many people there are in the world, and have been throughout the ages. Catholicism is the most authentic and intelligent expression of Christianity. Still, God reaches out to all people through the Holy Spirit. :slight_smile:


Whether or not the expression is overused elsewhere, it’s still a straw man here.

I don’t think you are going to understand the Catholic position until you recognize that the Church in it’s essence is Christ. Politely disagree if you want. But the fanciful “institutional monopoly” language is not going to get much traction among persons of reason here.


You come across as an ex-Catholic who is hostile against the Church for a number of reasons. Why do you refer to priests as “employees”? Do you not recognize the gift of the priesthood?

Do you not believe that God gives gifts to some persons that He does not give to others?

If you believe this, then you have been wrongly taught about Catholicism.

Let us say, for the sake of discussion, that what you say here is true. Why would this bother you?

Were you denied forgiveness any time when you sought it?

Why do you see the sacrament as a burden, instead of a gift?


I find this attempt to fit the derisive term “institutional monopoly” onto the Catholic Church the equivalent of calling Jesus and His 12 apostles “The Gang of 13.”


I agree.

The pronouncements of the Council of Trent are irrelevant. The claim you posted was:

I am asking you to back this up with evidence. Where, within the first four centuries, did th Church claim a monopoly on grace and access to God?

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