Why evangelize?

From the Catechism:

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."338

 If those of other faiths can be saved without ever accepting Jesus, why bother evangelizing and seeking to convert others?  If ignorance negates culpability, could the Christian not save more people by leaving them in ignorance of the Gospel than by endowing them with knowledge of the Gospel that they might reject?  Why did so many saints and martyrs risk their lives seeking to spread the Gospel to others if these others could be saved anyway?  Where does one draw the line between respect for one's religion and the belief that all religions are equal, and how does one reconcile this belief with such teachings as *Unam Sanctum* and "Extra eclessiam nulla salus"?  

God bless,

Chris

I would say a couple things. Firstly, I would assume that there is a greater chance of obtaining salvation within the visible Church than without. There are no guarentees of salvation outside the Church. Second…Christ commanded us to evangelize, it is the central tenant of the Church’s mission.

It may be possible to be saved without the Church…but you miss out on the fulness of Truth. Christ desires that all men be united to His Church, as He wills us to be one. Only in the Catholic Church can we be completely fulfilled spiritually. Those who will be saved outside the Church proper, lack much of what Christ wills us to have…such as the sacraments. (With the exception of the Eastern Churches not in communion with Rome). It is only by His mercy that some will be saved outside the Church proper. It is not the ordinary means. It is our duty to ensure that as many as possible are saved by the ordinary means, as it is, as I said, more unlikely to be saved by the extraordinary means (as far as I understand it). Christ’s greatest desire is for us all to be one, as He prayed to His Father before His death. He wants us all to be united to Him through His body, so that we can work together, fulfilling His mission on earth as a single instrument of His will.

It is true that there is no salvation outside the Church. Unam Sanctum teaches that there is no salvation unless one is subject to the Roman Pontiff, but this is really the same teaching as the above, as to be in the Church, one must be in union with the Church of Rome, and thus subject to him. This teaching that there is a possibility of salvation outside the Church proper does not undo the constant teaching of the Church that there is no savlation outside Her boosom, for it is an extension of our understanding that some may be spiritually united to the Church, even unaware, because of their desire to seek and follow God. It is their desire for God that unites them to Christ’s Church.

I hope this helped a bit…I’m sure others will be able to explain it better than me. :slight_smile:

[quote=Thepeug]From the Catechism:

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."338

If those of other faiths can be saved without ever accepting Jesus, why bother evangelizing and seeking to convert others? If ignorance negates culpability, could the Christian not save more people by leaving them in ignorance of the Gospel than by endowing them with knowledge of the Gospel that they might reject? Why did so many saints and martyrs risk their lives seeking to spread the Gospel to others if these others could be saved anyway? Where does one draw the line between respect for one’s religion and the belief that all religions are equal, and how does one reconcile this belief with such teachings as Unam Sanctum and “Extra eclessiam nulla salus”?

God bless,

Chris
[/quote]

Peace of God be with you, Chris!

As for the need to evangelize, I think our Lord’s command to “Go, make disciples of all nations…” is quite clear on that.

As for those of other religions to be saved, I think St. Thomas said and Mother Church teaches somewhere that they should at least have lived a life of obedience to the the natural law to be saved.

As for ignorance negating culpability, have you heard of culpable ignorance (pun coincidental)? There’s a world of difference between “I don’t know” and “I don’t wanna know”, you agree?

As for the Christian saving others by leaving others ignorant of the Gospel, which part of “Go, make disciples of all nations…” is that found?

As for the many saints and martyrs who died for the cause of Christ, like I said most people “did not want to know” and so they persecuted these great men and women followed his command to “Go, make disciples of all nations…”

As for the belief that all religions are equal, ask yourself why our Lord would give a command like “Go, make disciples of all nations…”?

As for the doctrine “Outside the Church, there is no salvation”, maybe this article from Catholic Answers can help you:

catholic.com/thisrock/2004/0403sbs.asp

God love you.

Good point. I think that the core doctrine of “No salvation outside the Church.”, hasn’t changed, it can’t it’s a dogma of the Faith. What I think has happened is that people have tried to stretch the ‘invincible ignorance’ idea to cover everyone or they have engaged in useless speculation about what-ifs, buts and maybes. This has led to a loss of evangelical zeal, and will invariable lead to religious indifference. We need to reject this ‘new thinking’ and start acting as did the Saints of old who believed that unless you died a Catholic, in the embrace of the sacraments, you went to hell. That would surely help to get us off our backsides and out contacting souls.

because the 8th commandment bids us to tell the truth, and evangelization is spreading the truth
because we are called by our baptism to share the good news of the gospel
because in the passage you cited we are commanded to evangelize
because the final blessing and exhortation at Mass commands us to evangelize
because even though God could bring everyone to Himself without our help, he sent his son to save us and establish a church as the mechanism through which he plans to accomplish this, so who are we to question his designs
how am I doing?

Ignorance saves no one. Having faith in what God has revealed and living according to this faith does save. The fact that not everyone have been blessed with the oppurtunity to hear the gospel does not mean that they have rejected Christ. They may have a real relationship with him through their obedience to the graces they have been offered. After all, Christ is more than a historical person. He is the divine logos, the second person of the blessed Trinity. “The true light that gives light to every man” (John 1 9), not just to those who have heard of the historical person, Jesus the Christ…

A person who has rejected what little grace he or she has been given is likely also to reject the greater grace of coming to faith in Christ. A person who has accepted it will also accept the greater grace. As john 3 says

  • 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, scripture says, and then it is plainly seen that what he has done in the past has been done through God. So it is possible to live by the truth prior to coming to the light (Jesus). It is also possible to please God prior to becoming a Christian.

Paul says in Romans 2

*14(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) *

Clearly then, the argument that we must not preach the gospel because people who might otherwise be saved, will be damned if they reject it, does not apply. If they have accepted the little light they have been given, they will accept more. But if they have made a habit of rejecting light, more light will surely not attract them.

*Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." *(Mark 4 25)

As a Christian I have the responsibility to preach the gospel. Not doing so when I have the oppurtunity could be very serious. God says in Ezekiel 3

  • 18 When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for] his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. 19 But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.
    20 “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and** I will hold you accountable for his blood**. 21 But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.”*

Finally, I do not presume to know the state of the soul of any man or woman I present the gospel to. But if the person is wicked, the grace of hearing the gospel might move the person to turn from his or her ways and become a Christian.

If the person is not wicked but have accepted the graces God have allready offered, God still wants the person to have all graces available. The fullness of these graces are distributed in the Catholic Church through the sacraments. My task is not to speculate on whether or not someone who is not a Catholic is in a state of grace, but to make every effort to help the person receive the fullness of the faith.

Vidar

What we have to be careful is not to walk ahead of the Spirit. God will put people in our path and only when the Spirit tells us do we attempt to evangelize. Yes ,we all have been called to spread the Good News but only by His Spirit. Sometimes we want to conquer the world for Jesus but the truth is not all are ready to recieve Him.We need to be senscative to what the Holy Spirit is saying. :thumbsup:

[quote=Thepeug]From the Catechism:

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."338

 If those of other faiths can be saved without ever accepting Jesus, why bother evangelizing and seeking to convert others?  If ignorance negates culpability, could the Christian not save more people by leaving them in ignorance of the Gospel than by endowing them with knowledge of the Gospel that they might reject?  Why did so many saints and martyrs risk their lives seeking to spread the Gospel to others if these others could be saved anyway?  Where does one draw the line between respect for one's religion and the belief that all religions are equal, and how does one reconcile this belief with such teachings as *Unam Sanctum* and "Extra eclessiam nulla salus"?

[/quote]

I guess that I do not see a contradiction here. The quote you cited simply says that God can lead someone to the Catholic faith without missionaries - not that God does and certainly not that God will do so.

We are obliged to evangelize because miracles are, by definition, out of the ordinary. We can be grateful to God when he appears to an ignorant heathen to show him the truth, but we have no right to expect God to do so; that is our job, and it would be gross presumption to expect God to do our job for us. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus is still the definitive teaching of the Catholic Church and we should act with that fact in mind.

[quote=Jim ov Cov]Good point. I think that the core doctrine of “No salvation outside the Church.”, hasn’t changed, it can’t it’s a dogma of the Faith. What I think has happened is that people have tried to stretch the ‘invincible ignorance’ idea to cover everyone or they have engaged in useless speculation about what-ifs, buts and maybes. This has led to a loss of evangelical zeal, and will invariable lead to religious indifference. We need to reject this ‘new thinking’ and start acting as did the Saints of old who believed that unless you died a Catholic, in the embrace of the sacraments, you went to hell. That would surely help to get us off our backsides and out contacting souls.
[/quote]

I don’t disagree with you on the need to evangelize. But I don’t see that “stretching” the “No salvation outside the Church” to cover many people necessarily has to put a damper on desire and efforts to evangelize.

Evangelization can be motivated in two ways:

  1. One is a kind of negative (not bad) motivation where you have to get out and evangelize othewise all kinds of folks will burn forever.
  2. Another is more positive in that you want others to experience the saving love of God…you want them to know the joy you possess and the freedom from enslavement to the world, etc.

The latter motivation is superior. I think we as Catholics have to realize that it is very difficult to be happy until one is in right-relationship with truth…the way things are, the way God intended things to be. And this is the reason to evangelize: to make other’s lives happier now and forever.

Thank you for your thoughtful responses, all of which make sense. I posted the initial question because, in a recent discussion with my parish priest, he told me that we should not try to convert others to the Catholic faith, but respect the religious tradition in which they try to connect with God. I thought that this was a bit contradictory to earlier efforts of the Church to evangelize, but he added another statement that makes sense in the context of what many of you have said: that we should try to show others the beauty of the faith by the way that we love others and seek to serve God, in the hopes that they will also want to partake in the ‘fullness of truth’. Any thoughts?

God bless,

Chris

P.S.

So I don’t sound dishonest, I’m not a confirmed Catholic. I’ve been attending Mass for about a year, however, and considering the influence, I tend to often speak as if I were Catholic. :slight_smile:

[quote=Thepeug]I posted the initial question because, in a recent discussion with my parish priest, he told me that we should not try to convert others to the Catholic faith, but respect the religious tradition in which they try to connect with God.
[/quote]

One should definitely respect the pastors which God has given to him, but that said, this is one piece of advice that should be politely ignored. John Paul II has written quite a lot on the need to bring the Catholic faith to the world (and the world to the Catholic faith). In other words, we have it on good authority that we should try to convert others to the Catholic faith (although it is an open question as to what methods will prove most effective with a given individual).

[quote=GrzeszDeL]One should definitely respect the pastors which God has given to him, but that said, this is one piece of advice that should be politely ignored. John Paul II has written quite a lot on the need to bring the Catholic faith to the world (and the world to the Catholic faith). In other words, we have it on good authority that we should try to convert others to the Catholic faith (although it is an open question as to what methods will prove most effective with a given individual).
[/quote]

I agree completely, especially with the idea that different methods of evangelization are suited to different types of people and situations. I’ll show the priest your statement and see what he thinks.

God bless,

Chris

[quote=Thepeug]From the Catechism:

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."338

If those of other faiths can be saved without ever accepting Jesus, why bother evangelizing and seeking to convert others?

[/quote]

Chris,

“Can”, doesn’t mean “will”. Jesus is still the one who would save them*** if*** they are saved. It’s still a big if. And no one could be saved if they rejected Jesus.

Ignorance doesn’t necessarily negate culpability. Here’s another way to look at it.

If you knew the flu kills, and you had the vaccine for the flu, but didn’t want to inform people of the vaccine, who then becomes culpable?

People can always refuse the vaccine you have. And they would be responsable for not acting on it. But what about the one who has the vaccine to give, and refuses to inform the public of the vaccine?

Because they didn’t assume or presume, people who are ignorant of the Gospel are automatically saved.

True the Church teaches us to respect other religions. But she doesn’t mean by that, that they are equal.

**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."

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.