Salvation in the Body of Christ

January 12, 2009

In my previous post, we were discussing extra ecclesia nulla salum, or “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” which I understand to mean that outside the mystical body of Christ, there is no salvation. We also discussed the phrase “Muslims, who together with us adore the one true God” and my understanding that this doesn’t comment on the salvation of Muslims, just that they worship the God of Abraham.

Rhology last said:

I’m not at all sure that there is alot of room in RC dogma to make a distinction between invisible and visible church, so I’d suggest you take some looking before you leap over there.

So, one can worship the one true God but not be saved? How does that work?

Further, there are plenty of anathemas flung Protestants’ way, and then CCC calls us “separated brethren”. I don’t quite get it.

Here is my reply:

In “Discovering Saint Patrick“, by Thomas O’Loughlin, a theological historian, he notes that early Christians thought that extra ecclesia nulla salus referred to the mystical church and was interchangable with “body of Christ”. They even thought it stemmed from “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Biblically, we have “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor 12:27) to support the mystical church as the body of Christ.

Also from the Catechism, as you may have been reading at Beggars All, it explains the exception of those who are outside of knowledge of Christ or are mistaken in their understanding of how to follow God’s will may possibly be saved as a part of the body of Christ, despite that lack of knowledge. That includes Protestants and people on a remote isle in the South Pacific alike.

Here’s quotes from the Catechism to support this:

The mystical body of Christ includes: “‘At all times and in every race, anyone who fears God and does what is right has been acceptable to him.'” and “All men are called to this catholic unity of the People of God. . . . And to it, in different ways, belong or are ordered: the Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ, and finally all mankind, called by God’s grace to salvation.” and “Those ‘who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.'”

The Catechism excludes from the body of Christ even insincere Catholics: “Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but ‘in body’ not ‘in heart.'”

It also reminds Christians that “Christ ‘is the head of the body, the Church.'”

This is all similar to the Protestant notions of the mystical body of Christ extending to all those Christ has saved through a living faith.

For your second point, ask yourself this: Can someone worship the true God, such as the person in church next to you on Sunday, but not worship Him sincerely, not turn his heart to God, and not repent and be saved? If my understanding of your views is right, then you already agree with the Catholic doctrine on this point, but don’t recognize the language.

Lastly, in the Catholic Encyclopedia it says “Anathema remains a major excommunication… implying exclusion from the society of the faithful.” Wouldn’t you say that you are not in communion with the Catholic Church when you agree with one of the anathema statements? Do you want to be, or why does this upset you?

Even the most extreme anathema measure “anathema maranatha” means to leave the person up to the judgement of God. It does not pronounce judgement on his soul, as we humans should not. Here’s an excerpt: “Maranatha has become a very solemn formula as anathema, by which the criminal is excommunicated, abandoned to the judgment of God, and rejected from the bosom of the Church until the coming of the Lord.”

Interestingly, I found this in the Catholic encyclopedia’s entry on anathema: “More than that, it is with this purpose in view that she[the Church] takes such rigorous measures[pronounces anathema] against him[a sinner], in order that by the mortification of his body his soul may be saved on the last day.” It’s somewhat remeniscent on your explanation of withholding forgiveness, isn’t it? By understanding the severity of our sin, we begin the walk toward repentance and salvation.

Being Catholic may not be the only way to salvation, as the catechism and historians alike confirm, but they believe it is the best way. Knowing the truth and walking in truth is a much better way to get where you’re going than to blunder through life like a blind man. Although those who earnestly seek God will find Him, it’s better to have a map.