Salvation outside Christianity...?


#1

Hey everyone. I’ve seen discussions about salvation outside the Catholic Church (particular for those in Protestant churches), but I’ve seen less discussion of salvation for those outside Christianity altogether. Allow me to explain…

Just earlier today, one of my friends (one of those intellectual atheist types) told me I would probably have been a Muslim if I had been born in Iraq. I couldn’t deny that this was a possibility. He then asked me if I thought all of the Muslims were going to Hell. Well, I had to say no for the simple reason that I believe God is just, and He isn’t going to hold people accountable for something they’ve never heard. So, then he countered by asking if all these guys who set off car bombs and such are getting a free pass to Heaven. Well, obviously I didn’t believe that. I tried to explain the whole concept of people being required to respond to what God gives them. For some, they may simply have to determine from nature that God exists, that there is a difference between good and evil, and that good should be done instead of evil. For others, they may have to respond to the whole Gospel message. After all, “to those who are given much, much will be expected.”

Well, I actually did a worse job of explaining it to him than I did explaining it here. The problem is, whenever I would hesitate for a moment to think about my answer, he would keep asking questions. He is my friend, but he is very sarcastic, and his questions were more to fluster me than to actually gain information (or so I think).

So, in hopeful anticipation of further talks on matters of a religious nature, I was hoping some of you could help me answer his questions. Namely, what does happen to those who never hear the Gospel? It doesn’t seem right that they should be sent to Hell for their ignorance, but if their ignorance gives them a free pass to Heaven, then efforts at evangelism would be wrong. Of course, Jesus clearly tells us to “go into all the world and make disciples…” so we know we are supposed to evangelize. Obviously, our good works don’t “earn” us a place in Heaven, and even as a Protestant (for now…), I know Catholics don’t believe that. So, I guess the question is, on what basis are the unsaved, unreached people of the world judged? I believe with all my heart that God is just and merciful, so I know He must have some plan for the billions of people throughout history who have never heard the Gospel.

Despite the awkwardness of today’s conversation, I know more will come, so I am not discouraged. I just want to give a more clear, solid answer the next time around (which will hopefully be very soon). I thank you in advance for your answers! I also ask that you would pray for me and my friend (and all of my friends here). He good-naturedly makes fun of me for being a Christian all the time, so obviously he’s thinking about it. God has certainly been working in my life lately, and I would love to see Him work in the lives of others.

God Bless!


#2

This is a thorny issue and I don’t know why, but threads related to this topic (as “There is no salvation outside the (Catholic) Church”) are readily closed. I use to cite the Council of Florence. In my humble opinion “invincible ignorance” is no more an excuse. Do this Moslems live in another planet? How is it possible nowadays to say that Moslems (in fact any people) never heard about Christ or the Catholic Church or the Pope? They don’t have a TV set? It is true that I’m not an expert on world religions, but at least I know who Mahomet was, and what Islam meant and means nowadays. I know why I reject Protestantism. I know atheism is inconsistent with common sense. We know all of this. The others also know “us”. A short period of life, decides eternity. Amazing. Terrifying.


#3

It is known to us and to you that those who are in **invincible ignorance ** of our most holy religion, but who observe carefully the natural law, and the precepts graven by God upon the hearts of all men, and who being disposed to obey God lead an honest and upright life, may, aided by the light of divine grace, attain to eternal life; for God who sees clearly, searches and knows the heart, the disposition, the thoughts and intentions of each, in His supreme mercy and goodness by no means permits that anyone suffer eternal punishment, who has not of his own free will fallen into sin.

Pope Pius IX, Quanto conficiamur moerore, August 10, 1863


#4

barsapp:

This is a thorny issue and I don’t know why, but threads related to this topic (as “There is no salvation outside the (Catholic) Church”) are readily closed.

Hmmhh…well, I’m certainly not trying to be controversial or anything. Still, I’ll be careful. :slight_smile:

In my humble opinion “invincible ignorance” is no more an excuse. Do this Moslems live in another planet? How is it possible nowadays to say that Moslems (in fact any people) never heard about Christ or the Catholic Church or the Pope? They don’t have a TV set?

Well, I would suggest that simply hearing about something is one thing. Having a reason to believe it is true is another. Muslims are taught that Christians perverted the Scriptures and made up Christ’s divinity. Plus, missionary activity is very limited in Islamic countries. So, it seems unlikely that the bulk of the Islamic world has truly heard the truth about Christ. Now, as these countries modernize, the number of those who hear could grow. As it stands today, though, I think that Muslims have little chance of accepting Christianity based on the knowledge they have or think they have. I’m not saying it’s a hopeless case, by any means, and there are Christians here in Iraq and elsewhere in the Islamic world. It’s just that I think many Muslims could reasonably still claim “invincible ignorance” at this point.

Matt16_18:
Thanks for the quote. That explained things very well.

God Bless!


#5

Dear Iambic Pen,

The Catholic Church holds that there is no salvation outside of the Church. However, people who sincerely seek the truth in some sense may be connected with the Church, albiet unintentionally and unknowingly, and thereby attain salvation. I believe this to be a fairly accurate portrait of what the Church believes (but far simplified).

As for the suicide bombers, those are grave mortal sins. Among those, suicide and murder. It is the firm belief of the Church that natural law is knowable. Among what we know in natural law and from our conscience is that murder and suicide are wrong. (I believe Islam teaches this as well.) That is why I would suspect these suicide bombers don’t go to heaven. However, I can’t say that I know that because I don’t know 1. their particular circumstances 2. how their conscience was formed 3. about their “invincible ignorance” etc… no one can truly say they know that someone has gone to hell. We don’t have the complete knowledge to say that. We can merely say that X is a mortal sin, and when people die unrepentant of mortal sin, they go to hell. We can’t take into account mitigating factors. So no, they absolutely don’t get a free pass to heaven.


#6

I wonder if threads are readily closed because people are just too dogmatic about the fate of noncatholics? I don’t know, just a possibility. I only point out that the Church teaches that it is possible for noncatholics who die noncatholics to be saved. The Church, by no means, says that noncatholics will be saved. The Church is wisely agnostic about the fate of the unbaptized. The Church even refuses to say definitely that unbaptized infants who die go to heaven. We can hope that they go to heaven but we don’t know. That being said, I do think that in popular parish life, sermons, and theology, there is a tendency to give the impression that everyone but Hitler and Osama Bin Laden is going to heaven. In other words, only the most evil of evil go to hell. Yet, when I read Scripture, I see that everyone deserves to go to hell and being a “nice” person doesn’t get you off the hook. Most of Scripture seems to suggest that far more people will go to hell than heaven (though this is an impression I get, not something definitive). If heaven is the hard and narrow way that few take (according to Our Lord) and hell is the broad path that many take, how in the world can we be preaching that just about everyone goes to heaven except icky serial killers and terrorists? I know what I deserve. I deserve hell. If I don’t go to hell, it is only because of God’s grace.


#7

Dear The Iambic Pen,

Your atheist friend may see the point more clearly
than some of the “churched.”

Human reason, a gift of God, leads him to grasp that
the God he doesn’t believe in cannot* be* God, by definition,
if He would not “save” those who do His will, yet know Him not.

Where would be Justice and Mercy in that?

Just a thought,

reen12


#8

Biblically, there is no salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ. If God has another plan for those who have not heard the gospel, He has not revealed it to us.


#9

[quote=reen12]Dear The Iambic Pen,

Your atheist friend may see the point more clearly
than some of the “churched.”

Human reason, a gift of God, leads him to grasp that
the God he doesn’t believe in cannot* be* God, by definition,
if He would not “save” those who do His will, yet know Him not.

Where would be Justice and Mercy in that?

Just a thought,

reen12
[/quote]

The next question then is this, who does his will? By nature, none of us do. The Bible says that “none are righteous.” So if none of us do his will and we are saved only by grace, then we can only do his will if he chooses to give us the grace to do so. If God is not obligated to save anyone, then he is certainly not obligated to save everyone.


#10

[quote=Uranage]Biblically, there is no salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ. If God has another plan for those who have not heard the gospel, He has not revealed it to us.
[/quote]

Yep, I agree. And I interpret the Church’s teaching on this as saying, in effect, that if God offers grace to those outside explicit faith in Christ, then Amen, that’s God’s perogative. We won’t say its impossible. But we also do not know for a fact that He does offer it to anyone outside of explicit faith in Christ (though there are good reasons even biblically for thinking that he very well may).


#11

Dear amateurthomist,

quote: amateurthomist

Yep, I agree. And I interpret the Church’s teaching on this as saying, in effect, that if God offers grace to those outside explicit faith in Christ, then Amen, that’s God’s perogative. We won’t say its impossible. But we also do not know for a fact that He does offer it to anyone outside of explicit faith in Christ (though there are good reasons even biblically for thinking that he very well may).

Then you’re talking predestination?

If you were born in a remote place, which Christianity
would not reach for 700 years, tough luck?
To me, that’s a form of predestination, and speaks
of a God neither Just nor Merciful.

But that’s what happens when doctrine overtakes
reason. The doctrines build a “box” which
makes it impossible to make a humane statement
about whether God chooses to save those who had
no opportunity to even hear about Him.

Judaism has no such problem.
There is a place in the World to Come for the
righteous of all nations.
No hesitancy there. Mercy, Justice and common
sense are satisfied.

Just my view,
reen12


#12

[quote=Uranage]Biblically, there is no salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ. If God has another plan for those who have not heard the gospel, He has not revealed it to us.
[/quote]

I recommend you read Matthew 25:14-30. For the servant who had only limited knowledge or ability, the master required only a tiny response for the servant to enjoy his master’s full joy.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church answers thusly:

[font=Franklin Gothic Medium]"Outside the Church there is no salvation"
846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.

847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

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.

848 “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”

[/font]


#13

[quote=amateurthomist] … And I interpret the Church’s teaching on this as saying, in effect, that if God offers grace to those outside explicit faith in Christ, then Amen, that’s God’s perogative. We won’t say its impossible.
[/quote]

The Church isn’t as wishy-washy as what you are making her out to be. Please read the quote from Pope Pius IX. There is no doubt about it, God offers saving grace to those who are living in invincible ignorance – “[God] in His supreme mercy and goodness by no means permits that anyone suffer eternal punishment, who has not of his own free will fallen into sin.”God gives all innocent unbelievers (infideles negativa) sufficient grace to achieve salvation. (Sent. certa.)

Dr. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma

But we also do not know for a fact that He does offer it to anyone outside of explicit faith in Christ (though there are good reasons even biblically for thinking that he very well may).

On the contrary, we know for a fact that God has saved men that never possessed an explicit knowledge of Jesus Christ while they were living on earth. Moses and all the rest of the OT Saints never had explicit faith in Jesus while they were alive on earth. All the righteous OT saints came to an explicit knowledge of Jesus after they died. It is Feeneyite heresy to assert that the Church teaches that this does not happen to the righteous men who die in invincible ignorance in the era of the New Covenant.


#14

Catholic doctrine is NEVER in conflict with the truth.


#15

Here’s a decent read on the subject. It was written by our pope back when he was prefect for the CDF:

vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000806_dominus-iesus_en.html


#16

Hi, Genesis315,

quote: Genesis315

Catholic doctrine is NEVER in conflict with the truth

I don’t say it is in conflict with the truth, it simply
fails to state a truth that even unaided human
reason arrives at. [see post #7]

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Too bad the idea of “a place for the righteous of
all nations” was lost on Saul.

In order for his theology to cohere, out the
window went the “righteous of all nations”.:frowning:

The result? Endless discussions of the fate of
unbaptized babies, those deprived of the knowledge
of Christ…look at some of the thread titles for the last
several months.

The minute Original Sin comes in the window,
via Saul, the theological “boxes” start being built.

Introduce Original Sin, the need for a mediator
between God and man, and things start to
complicate, and become even more complex
as the centuries roll by.

Until some actually start asking: What happens
to unbaptized babies? Some poor, good little person,
up in the hills of time, who never even heard of
the One God, much less of Christianity?

Yup, things get mighty complex, pace Dr. Ott.

I’m sure Moses was glad to hear that, since he
was a righteous man, God accepted him, because
he understood things after he died.

The trouble is, an unbaptized baby doesn’t get a
chance to live a righteous life. Where is the statement
that they go to paradise?

Oh, my sainted aunt.

reen12


#17

[contd.]

And, if the Church has been so clear in it’s teachings
on the fate of the unbaptized, why all the threads
wondering aloud about the fate of these souls?

How about those who have heard the gospel and are
unmoved, retaining their own faiths and serving God
in their own cultures?

Is this obdurancy? Or is faith a gift?
It can’t be a “gift of grace” versus “obdurancy” at
the same time, can it?

Additionally, what about “shaking the dust from
your sandals”? If a gift, how does that concept
hold?

Which is it? A gift, or no? If not a gift, why then urge
people to pray for “the gift of faith”? If they’re
choking on sandal dust, they may have to pause
a moment, to clear their throats enough to pray.

reen12


#18

Hi, Genesis315,

It was actually Matt16_18 who wrote:

Catholic doctrine is NEVER in conflict with the truth.

Sorry about that! :o

reen12


#19

One thing you might tell your friend is that even being a Christian doesn’t guarantee you place in Heaven. God will judge each of us according to the response to the grace he has given us. Scripture tells us that those who have been given more…more is expected. As Catholics, we know that our faith is the path that Christ gave to humanity to be with Him, not only in eternity, but even today in the Eucharist and other sacraments of the faith. Recognizing that truth, it is incumbant upon us to spread the good news to those who have not heard it. Despite our best efforts, we will likely not reach everyone. The little bushman in Africa is God’s child, but it’s unrealistic to believe that he is damned to hell because he never becomes Catholic. In some ways, his simplicity of life, love of family, respect for his environment, giving of himself for the good of the tribe actually brings him closer to living a Christ-like life than those of us who live with all the distractions of modern living. Does that mean I can stop being Catholic and go live as a bushman and expect salvation? No, because the truth has been revealed to me so to turn away from it would be to reject God’s gift to me. Having lived with Christ in the sacarments, it’s hard for me to imagine wanting to live any other way.

As to the terrorist who believes he is doing God’s will by killing others; it’s important to remember the terrorist also believes in his own reward in Heaven. His motivations are selfish, which is the exact opposite of what Christ tells us to do. While we cannot assume this person’s judgement before God since only God can judge, I would not want to be a terrorist standing before our Lord and explaining why I killed His children and the best excuse I could find was the promise of 70 plus virgins as a reward.

Finally, there have been some mondernist Catholics who preach that it doesn’t matter if you are Catholic or not. This is a rejection of the very truth of our Lord. This treats Catholicism as simply a formula for salvation. Our faith is infinitely so much more. It is a way of life prescribed and demontrated by Christ. We wish our Protestant brothers and sisters to join us in the joy of being in full communion with Christ. We don’t judge them, but we do pray for their conversion as they have already accepted that Christ is the savior. It’s hard to describe the beauty awaiting those who choose to open their hearts to the full truth.


#20

Dear amateurthomist,

quote: amateurthomist

The next question then is this, who does his will? By nature, none of us do. The Bible says that “none are righteous.”

Yes, the Bible does say that. The Christian Scriptures,
that is.
In the OT, Israel sinned. No doubt about that:
“If I can find 10 just men…”

But the concept that we are born into unrighteousness,
flawed, in some critical way, that we need to be saved
from, is a wholly Christian idea.
That’s* why* the fate of some is worried about.

That’s my point about a theological “box”.

Once posit that human beings are wounded in
their nature, due to the sin of Adam, and all
sorts of speculation is called for, about the fate
of the unbaptized, not to mention those who
*have *heard the gospel and are unmoved by same.

Roadmaps are unfurled. What “route” can these
individuals take to see God? Be accepted by God?

Well, there is a straight, unencumbered path, with
no roadmaps needed.
“There is a place in the World to Come for the
righteous of all nations.” [including unbaptized babies,
no speculation needed.]

It is an “elegant” solution, in the realm of both thought
and theological reality.
It has the additional gift of being reflective of Mercy and
Justice…that is, the nature of God.

No theological hoops to jump through, no boxes, no roadmaps.

I assume someone will quote: “I am the Way…”

But, you see, there already was a way.

One established by God and ratified with the everlasting
Covenant with Israel. No original sin. No woundedness
to be saved from. No deprivation of sanctfying grace, as
a result of this woundedness.

[There’s even a prayer in the OT, beseeching God to hear
the prayers of those from other nations, who stand and
pray at the Temple walls.]

God is called “our Redeemer” in the *Old *Testament.

If we continue to see the NT as the fulfillment of the OT,
it is taken for “granted”, that all men, at all time, now
and in past millenia, were born in sin, thereby deprived
of sanctifying grace, and statements such as:

The Bible says that “none are righteous.”

become settled conclusion on the nature of theological reality.

If we want to say: The Christian Scriptures [NT] say that…
that is an accurate statement.

If we hold, with the OT, that there is a place in the World
to Come for the righteous of all nations, then we can
forgo the “hoops” of “baptism of desire”, and make a
clear statement that unbaptized babies go straight to God,
thinking outside the “box” of theological doctrine.

Boxes can be lovely, decorated things. They can
also shut out the self-evident Mercy of God, unwittingly.

Try telling an 12 year old kid that the fate of unbaptized
babies is left to the mercy of God. The kid may well
think: Well, they seem pretty darn sure of so many
things, why hedge on this one? A baby is innocent.
Even I know that, and I’m a kid.
But, then, this 12 year old hasn’t budgeted for doctrine.

The God of Israel is loving, just and compassionate.
To me, the “problem” of the loss of santifying grace
due to Original Sin, never existed.

aish.com/spirituality/gr…_Fathers_17.asp

Best,
reen12


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