VanDrunen on Catholic Inclusivity and Change

Oct 20th, 2011 | By | Category: Blog Posts

Has the Catholic Church changed her doctrine concerning “no salvation outside the Church?”  Dr. David VanDrunen recently penned a brief historical survey of what he sees as Catholicism’s “change” from soteriological exclusivisity to inclusivity.  VanDrunen is a Westminster Seminary California professor and minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC).  His article appeared in the OPC’s periodical New Horizons (October 2011), and is entitled “Inclusive Salvation in Contemporary Catholicism.”

Central to the issues debated between Rome and the Reformation, VanDrunen claims, “is the question of who may be saved.” In exploring the issue, he makes the following claim about the Catholic teaching:

For many years, the Roman Catholic Church taught that people could enjoy eternal life and escape everlasting damnation only by being received into its membership.  In recent generations, that teaching has changed.  Rome now embraces a very inclusive view that extends the hope of salvation to people of many different religions or even no religion at all, provided they sincerely follow the truth and goodness that they know in their own experience.


Dr. David VanDrunen

That is, in VanDrunen’s understanding, while the Catholic Church historically taught Church “membership” to be a sine qua non for receiving eternal life, she now “embraces” an inclusive soteriology that leaves open the door of Heaven for people of all religious or irreligious stripes, so long as they are sincere seekers of truth and goodness.  From the claim that Catholicism has changed from exclusivity to inclusivity, VanDrunen concludes that the Catholic Church’s alluring claim of never having changed its doctrine is false.  But as I will show below, VanDrunen’s argument misses whole swaths of purported “inclusivity” in the “older” Catholic teaching, and plays on an ambiguity in the word ‘change.’

What does VanDrunen think the Catholic Church has taught on the necessity of being within the Church in order to saved?  According to him, Catholicism traditionally taught that even prior to the fall grace was necessary in order for man to perform “works meritorious of eternal life.”  He explains that under the ‘older’ Catholic teaching, “all people are doomed to condemnation.”  But by growing in virtues and adhering to the Church’s sacramental system, a Catholic could hope to receive “final justification and attain eternal life.”

Having explained the “older” Catholic teaching of how one can be saved, VanDrunen next explores who can be saved under this system.  He tells his readers that this salvific sacramental system “was available only to those who actually participate in her sacramental rites, and this was consistent with [the Catholic] view of salvation as described above.”

VanDrunen then explores a doctrinal term common to Reformed and Catholic Christians: extra Ecclesiam nulla salus [“there is no salvation outside the Church”].1 Citing an “older” ecumenical council to teach about extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, VanDrunen quotes from this pericope of the Council of Florence:

It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.2

VanDrunen interprets this Council as holding that even martyrdom will fail to bring eternal life to any person not in unity with the Catholic Church.  He sees this teaching of the Council of Florence in the teaching of later Catholics as well, including Pope Pius IX, the censor of “latitudinarianism” and supposed rejector of hope of salvation for those outside the true Church of Christ. VanDrunen ends this section by citing Fr. Leonard Feeney, a Catholic priest known for insisting that “only members of the Roman Catholic Church could be saved.”

So is this an accurate articulation of the Catholic Church’s doctrine of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus? Before answering that question, a brief explanation may be in order about the authority of individual Catholic theologians to define Catholic teaching.  The Catholic Church does not maintain that the Holy Spirit preserves all Catholics from error whenever they opine about faith or morals.  Rather, the Catholic Church teaches that the Holy Spirit specially preserves from error the successors of St. Peter, the Bishop of Rome, when they speak ex cathedra, as well as General Councils when representing the whole episcopate.3 That is, there is a critical distinction between Church doctrine on the one hand, and common teaching or theological opinion on the other.  So to the extent that VanDrunen relies on Fr. Feeney or other individual Catholic theologians to determine what is the traditional Catholic doctrine regarding this question, his methodology is flawed.4

That said, VanDrunen has given a generally accurate articulation of the traditional Catholic doctrine of extra Ecclesiam, especially with his quotation from the Council of Florence given above.  That text is not only from an authoritative ecumenical council, but is also consistent with the testimony of much earlier texts from the Church Fathers.  In fact, it is itself largely a quotation of St. Fulgentius of Ruspe (c. AD 500).  The early Church Fathers, the teachings of the Magisterium over the centuries, and conciliar texts reflect the consistent Catholic teaching that extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.

Then VanDrunen turns to the claim that the Second Vatican Council was a “watershed” on the “inclusivity of salvation.”  However, he admits that there were “signs of revised doctrine” in the centuries leading up to this watershed.  VanDrunen invokes Pope Pius IX as a harbinger of change, the very same Pope whom he uses as a connecting dot to show the continuity of the ‘older’ Catholic position. VanDrunen says, “Even while he was condemning ‘latitudinarian’ claims in the 1860s, Pius IX also taught that people who are ‘invincibly ignorant’ (i.e., through no fault of their own) about Christianity and follow the natural law may attain eternal life.” That is, VanDrunen sees in the teachings of Blessed Pope Pius IX both the condemnation of those who dismiss ecclesial significance (i.e., latitudinarians) and the approval of the belief that the invincibly ignorant possibly attain salvation.  It is ironic that VanDrunen recognizes both of these teachings coming from Blessed Pope Pius IX, but does not see the possibility that the teachings are consistent with each other.  Instead, as his article shows, VanDrunen believes that the teachings are in disharmony, a ‘change’ from exclusivity to inclusivity.

The Second Vatican Council was not a “watershed” of inclusive salvation which was merely foreshadowed by earlier texts.  Rather, it was firmly in line with a steady development of doctrine on the possibility of salvation for those not materially united to the Catholic Church, that is, the universal Church governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.5

The key Vatican II text on extra Ecclesiam is the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, which states:

For they who without their own fault do not know of the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but yet seek God with sincere heart, and try, under the influence of grace, to carry out His will in practice, known to them through the dictate of conscience, can attain eternal salvation.6

This authoritative teaching is consistent with and a further refinement of what Blessed Pope Pius IX wrote a full century before Vatican II:

There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments.

Also well known is the Catholic teaching that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church.7

Here Blessed Pope Pius IX simply and skillfully articulates these two Catholic beliefs: God will not eternally punish those who are without deliberate sin, and God will also not save those outside the Catholic Church. VanDrunen thinks that these two beliefs are not compatible with each other.  Apparently he agrees with the controversial Fr. Schillebeeckx, whom he quotes as describing these two teachings as “diametrically opposed.” But the teachings are compatible with each other.  What VanDrunen dismisses is the possibility that the invincibly ignorant can in some circumstances, and only by God’s grace, be extraordinarily incorporated into the Catholic Church.

In Church history we find earlier examples than Pope Pius IX of Catholics believing in the salvation of those not materially united to the Church.  The doctrine of “baptism of blood” is ancient within the Catholic Church, going back perhaps to the Apostle James’s co-martyr.8  It appears also in the teachings of St. Augustine, from the early 5th century:

For whatever unbaptized persons die confessing Christ, this confession is of the same efficacy for the remission of sins as if they were washed in the sacred font of Baptism. For He who said, “Unless a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” [John 3:5] made also an exception in their favor, in that other sentence where he no less absolutely said, “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven;” (Matt. 10:43) and in another place, “Whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it” (Matt. 16:25).  And this explains the verse, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”9

As explained by St. Augustine and maintained through to the present by the Catholic Church, unbaptized martyrs who shed their blood for the sake of Christ are saved nonetheless, receiving the fruits of Baptism.  Baptism of blood is an extraordinary method of fulfilling the soteriological prerequisite of being ‘inside the Church’ when Baptism is impossible.10

There is another longstanding teaching within the Catholic Church that maintains the possibility of salvation for those not materially united with her.  The “baptism of desire,” like baptism of blood, extraordinarily brings about the fruits of Baptism for an unbaptized individual even though it itself is not a sacrament.11 “For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.”12

The Council of Trent (1547) declared this doctrine over 400 years before Vatican II:

This translation [from the state of birth to the state of Grace] however cannot, since promulgation of the Gospel, be effected except through the washing of regeneration or its desire, as it is written: Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [John 3:5.]13

We see from Trent and St. Augustine a clear belief that the washing of regeneration is necessary for salvation, and a belief that extraordinary non-sacramental means of obtaining the fruits of Baptism are possible.  To the teachings of Trent and St. Augustine, many more examples could be added.14 These teachings mean that very early on, Catholic doctrine qualified extra Ecclesiam in a way that left open the possibility of salvation for those not materially united to the Church.  This proves false VanDrunen’s claim that the Catholic Church has recently “changed” its “older” teaching that “people could enjoy eternal life and escape everlasting damnation only by being received into its membership.”

In fact, over the centuries the Church carefully has developed a nuanced doctrine of salvation for those not materially united to her.  This process has been so cautious because of the weighty concern of calling all sinners to the ordinary means of grace through formal union with the Church, on the one hand, and the similarly weighty concern of avoiding the appearance of delimiting God’s ability to extend grace and salvation through extraordinary means, on the other. It is this process which has led the Church to its reflection on salvation for those who are invincibly ignorant, the subject of VanDrunen’s article.  As the Catholic Catechism teaches, “Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.”15

Following his analysis of the “old” and “new” Catholic teachings on extra Ecclesiam, VanDrunen offers a critique of one of the Catholic apologist’s tools:

Catholic apologists in our own day appeal to the certainty and unchanging character of their own church’s teaching, and their arguments often seem compelling to Protestants who are weary of ecclesiastical divisions. But this area of theology provides one example (among others) of how Roman doctrine has indeed changed over the years. Rome used to have a very exclusive doctrine of salvation, but it has become quite inclusive in recent generations.

For VanDrunen, Catholic doctrine “has indeed changed,” and he believes this change refutes modern Catholic appeals to the “unchanging character” of the Catholic Church.  The fallacy of his logic is in his amphibolous use of the term ‘change.’  By using the term ‘change’ ambiguously, VanDrunen leads the reader to the false conclusion that the Catholic Church has contradicted herself.  However, by distinguishing between change as organic development and change as contradicting what was previously held, the conclusion that the Catholic Church has contradicted herself no longer follows.  In other words, if Catholic doctrine has changed by developing, this change does not lead to the conclusion that the Vatican II teaching (regarding the possibility of salvation for those not in full communion with the Church) contradicts what was previously held.

This notion that Christian doctrines have developed should be no surprise.  Major theological and religious doctrines have developed, such as the Trinity, the nature and canon of Sacred Scripture, or the two natures of Christ.  While Reformed believers implicitly accept the notion of doctrinal development in those instances, they reject modern developments out of hand.  But this acceptance of primitive developments while rejecting modern developments is ad hoc.  There is no principled reason to accept development of Trinitarian doctrine while simultaneously denying the possibility of development on extra Ecclesiam after centuries of careful study and reflection.

VanDrunen’s article leads the reader to reach a false conclusion about whether the Catholic Church has ever contradicted herself.  It does this by its amphibolous use of the term “change” and by its presumption that doctrinal development has not occurred in the instance of extra Ecclesiam and invincible ignorance.  The authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church are not contradictory on this matter, but carefully elucidate Sacred Scripture and our understanding of God’s mercy and justice.

  1. VanDrunen explains that the Westminster Confession of Faith has embraced the term in a way that seeks to clarify vagueness.  He cites WCF, ch. XXV, sec. 2, which states, “The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”  With the qualification that salvation is not ‘ordinarily’ possible outside the visible church, the WCF leaves a vagueness, at least inasmuch as the Catholic position leave a vagueness.  That is because in either position extraordinary possibilities of salvation for those ‘outside’ of visible unity with the Church are not excluded. []
  2. Ecumenical Council of Florence, sess. 11 (1442). []
  3. See Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Intro., sec. 8, available here. []
  4. See Fr. William Most, Tragic Errors of Leonard Feeney, available here. []
  5. Lumen Gentium, 8. []
  6. Ch. II, para. 16, available here. []
  7. Quanto conficiamur moerore, paras. 7-8 (Aug. 10, 1863), available here. []
  8.  See Taylor Marshall, Canterbury Tales, Baptism by Blood and the Apostle James, Jul. 27, 2011. []
  9. St. Augustine, City of God, bk. 13, ch. 7. []
  10. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, paras. 1257-1260. []
  11. Id., para. 1258. []
  12. Id., para. 1259. []
  13. Council of Trent, sess. 6, ch. 4. []
  14. See, for example, the list of quotations from the Church Fathers regarding the baptism of desire and baptism of blood, available here. []
  15. CCC, para. 1260. []
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  1. It never fails to amaze me that a protestant pastor will always be on hand to interpret the teachings of the Catholic Church for her and get it wrong every time. Do they NOT do any research on the subjects before they write about it?

    Peace
    NHU

  2. Tom,

    Thank you for this excellent article. I think part of the reason that the Church’s detractors fail to see the consistency of the Catholic position stems from a failure to comprehend the rich Catholic understanding of the relation between ecclesiology and Christology. The notion that the mystical body of Christ can extend horizontally and geographically beyond the visible bounds of the temporal, hierarchical, Catholic Church (where its fullness is explicitly manifest), is almost self-evident to a Catholic who already understands that the mystical body of Christ extends vertically, or non-temporally, to include both the Church triumphant and the Church suffering. The visible society of the Catholic Church, in communion with Christ’s vicar on earth, is the explicit visible dimension of Christ’s kingdom on earth, established by Christ as a visible standard for all men across history and geography. But “Christ’s kingdom”, “the Church”, and “Christ’s mystical body”, all denote a larger reality than the temporal structure of the visible Catholic international communion. In a real sense, the Catholic Church “militant” is in service to the Church triumphant, since her earthly reason for being, is to gather men from every nation and unite them in an eternal communion in Christ beyond this worldly existence. Though horizontally she strives for visible unity; nevertheless, the trajectory of her temporal efforts is ultimately vertical.

    It is no surprise then that the Spirit of Christ poured out upon the earth, and most especially animating the Catholic Church, exerts a simultaneous two-way pull upon souls. Horizontally, the Spirit of God, in and through the visible Catholic Church, works as a center of gravity drawing earthly men of all nations and creeds towards that communion where the fullness of Christ’s gifts to men can be found so that they may more readily and securely attain to eternal life. This is the motivation for seeking that visible unity which is so dear to Christ. Yet, the march of the Church militant, slowed by the realities of space, time and circumstance, necessarily entails a progressive and plodding advance. Hence, the Spirit of Christ – the Spirit of the Church – simultaneously draws souls vertically, making every effort to unite the soul with Christ, through infused grace, in this life, according to the exigencies of time and circumstance in which each man finds himself. If the obstacles of space, time and circumstance prevent a man from arriving at the temporal center of Christ’s kingdom on earth; that will not prevent Christ, through the Spirit of the Church, from drawing that man toward his ultimate home in the Church triumphant. We in the Catholic Church are given the privilege of working in concert with the Spirit of the Church throughout the world. Inward and upward, as C.S. Lewis used to say; horizontal and vertical; that is the constant dynamic of Christ, His Spirit, and His Church until all things are consummated. Hence, while Christ’s institution of the Church and the work of Christ’s Spirit entail that we must labor to bring all men toward the visible unity of the Catholic Church militant so that they may most readily and securely enter the Church triumphant; we must also affirm that Christ’s Spirit can succeed in achieving this ultimate goal, even where we cannot.

    Anyhow, that for me, in some small way, touches the richness embedded in the Catholic understanding of the role of the visible Catholic communion as related to the larger notions of “the Church” or the “body of Christ”. Our Christology and ecclesiology are richly bound together. The difficulty that non-Catholics have in grasping the consistency of the Church’s nuanced position concerning the salvation of souls, both in and out of the visible Catholic Church, may well stem from a failure to appreciate the nuanced Catholic vision of the body of Christ in all dimensions.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  3. Thank you, Tom. I think this article really answers the question of “What about that tribesman in Africa who dies never hearing the gospel?”

  4. Regarding church councils, they are not inventing new doctrine. They are articulating what is already there because the Holy Spirit is inspiring them!

  5. Tom,

    Thanks for writing this article. This issue, and other similar apparent instances of contradiction between purportedly infallible counciliar proclamations, has more than any other kept me from converting. As you know from our personal correspondence, I have leaned heavily Romeward for some time, but this is a difficult hurdle. Your quote from the Council of Florence is so specific and clear, it seems hard to justify the claim that the more recent teachings as summarized in Vat. II can be understood as a true development. I asked Fred Nolte about this issue on a recent thread, and he linked several articles by Mike Liccione on the subject. From this reading, my understanding is that several arguments for doctrinal development can be put forward:

    1. The bishops at Florence couldn’t conceive of people groups that would have had no opportunity to hear about Christ and His church, therefore the concept of invincible ignorance was a later understanding.

    2. Those pagans, Jews, heretics, and schismatics who are saved are in fact unified with the Church, they just don’t know it.

    3. The Bible has just as many purported contradictions, but Protestants are willing to accept nuanced explanations for these. The same “hermeneutic of trust” should be extended to the RCC.

    #3 seems to be avoiding the question. #2 is such a stretch of the clear language of Florence as to severely dilute the concept of development, and #1 seems a bit weak (for reasons I can’t articulate at the end of a long day!)

    Am I missing something?

    Burton

  6. Dear Burton,

    It’s good of you to speak up about your concerns or disagreements. Thank you.

    Perhaps like you, I do not agree with the idea that the bishops at Florence could not conceive of someone living their life without an opportunity to hear about Christ and His Church. I think that paints the bishops into a corner of ignorance about the world in which they lived.

    The difficulty you are facing is in what you see as such “clear language” from the Council of Florence. I remember wrestling with a very similar issue myself. It is clear language to you from your interpretive paradigm. I think it was clear to Dr. VanDrunen as well, which at least in part explains why he did not explore some points I raised in this article. One thing I hoped to show by discussing baptism of blood and baptism of desire was that even at a time when such “clear language” was used by an ecumenical council, there was well-founded universal acceptance of a qualification to that message. So you have to reflect on whether the Council meant to reject that qualification, whether it was ignorant of that qualification, or whether it meant its words in light of the qualification.

    You might try to analyze the words Florence used and articulate back on this thread what the words mean. I would be curious if they hold a contradiction to the other Catholic teachings I have described, in your opinion after close examination. I’m not trying to rope you in, but rather would benefit from hearing your opinion on which words might contain the contradiction.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  7. Tom,

    Great piece. I think that for someone who can not work their salutary powers on Florence and Vatican II, they would have an equally difficult job on John 3:5 and Romans 2:13-15.

    I think the crux of both issues is resolved in Romans 2:16:

    “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”

    Christ and his Church have always affirmed both the strong, positive notion of you must ______ in order to be saved, while at the same time reserving all to the mercy of God and the mystery of his judgment in Christ Jesus. I think this can be a bit confusing at times because on the one hand we say unless you _______, you will not be saved. It’s like saying to my child, “unless you save your money you will not be able to buy _______”. That is the ordinary way. However, because final causality is grounded in the ineffable mystery of God (not completely unknowable because of the revelation of Christ Jesus–but not fully scrutable in lieu of our human limitations), we must reserve the final judgment to God and God alone–despite our best efforts to explain the necessary and real implications/consequences of our actions or inactions (end or final cause).

  8. Tom,

    Fair enough. The phrase “those not living within the Catholic Church ….. cannot become participants in eternal life”, and, “only to those remaining in [the Church] are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation”. The clear implication of this is that the only unity with the RCC that is efficacious for salvation in a visible unity that allows for participation in the sacraments, and that without this visibly unity salvation is not possible.

    I think I understand and agree with the current RCC position. By way of medical analogy, certain cancer types are cured only with specific chemo agents, hence this is the usual and efficacious means of treating them, but God in his mercy can and does cure people with these cancers outside of the usual means.

    Are you saying that Florence is really describing this sort of situation? Are you suggesting that Florence did not really mean physical/sacramental unity, or that Florence did mean this type of unity but also implied some sort of asterisk (*except those who didn’t know about the Church, etc)
    Does the current RCC teaching truly preserve the essential elements of Florence? How, specifically?

    Thanks for entertaining these questions. Perhaps Dr. VanDrunen doesn’t understand the nuanced differences between “change” and “development”, but I hope you can see how on the face of things the statements of Florence and Vat. II do appear to be in contradiction. Sometimes nuance is necessary for attainment of truth, but sometimes it seems to serve more as a means of avoiding clarity. This charge is applicable to the RefProt. effort to explain heresy versus schism, but in fairness it seems applicable to the RCC response to the question at hand. (suddenly the phrase “epistemologic despair” floods back into my mind!)

    Burton

  9. Re 2

    Going back to the evangelicalism whence I came, there was an anti-Catholic bias built into it. It played out in virtually every area conceivable.

    The Body and Blood of Christ? A symbol, not a reality.

    The forgiveness of sins? Me and God, not me approaching those given our Lord’s own faculty to do so.

    Sixty six or 73 books in scripture? We could not permit the Catholic bible or the books that would introduce Catholic ideas, such as prayers for the dead (Maccabees).

    A real, visible Church seen throughout history, built on the apostles and maintained by their successors? Hardly, rather a congregational model making decisions without regard for most of what had gone before and able to be entirely contemptuous of the sources that justified the Trinity, the divine humanity of Jesus, and other points of orthodoxy was the mode chosen. God would guide us even as He denied others holding the same method but displaying different results. I believe that the word hubris applies because God was subject to us. (It actually puts me in mind of Genesis where the serpent said to Eve, “Did God really say ….?”

    And back in the day, abortion. A prominent evangelical justified abortion in a written article (I believe in Christianity Today) by noting that Catholics were against it, therefore it must be alright.

    They bricked out the ability to “comprehend the rich Catholic understanding of the relation between ecclesiology and Christology,” and the facts springing from Scripture don’t seem to undo those considerations.

    Dr.VanDrunen was merely justifying the position he wrongly holds. Forty years down this road and, by my perception, nothing has changed on this particular front.

    dt

  10. […] Tom Brown wrote a great blog post defending the development of the doctrine “outside the Churc… VanDrunen invokes Pope Pius IX as a harbinger of change, the very same Pope whom he uses as a connecting dot to show the continuity of the ‘older’ Catholic position. VanDrunen says, “Even while he was condemning ‘latitudinarian’ claims in the 1860s, Pius IX also taught that people who are ‘invincibly ignorant’ (i.e., through no fault of their own) about Christianity and follow the natural law may attain eternal life.” That is, VanDrunen sees in the teachings of Blessed Pope Pius IX both the condemnation of those who dismiss ecclesial significance (i.e., latitudinarians) and the approval of the belief that the invincibly ignorant possibly attain salvation. […]

  11. There is no salvation outside of Christ. Which means outside of his body , the Church. Even those who are in invincible ignorance of the Church and are not physically united to her must be spiritually united to her in some way. “For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12. The Church has never changed her mind on this and indeed cannot as it is her mandate from Jesus Himself to bring salvation to the world. The Church has clarified her position over the years but the position remains the same as it always was.

    Peace
    NHU

  12. From where I sit as a non-Catholic, what this looks like is an example of a true change being euphemized as a development. When the early position is “No one can gain eternal life unless he is joined to the Catholic Church,” and the later position is, “Some people can gain eternal life even if not joined to the Catholic Church,” well, that sounds like a change rather than a development.

    To me, anyway….

  13. Dr. VanDrunen states :He explains “that under the ‘older’ Catholic teaching, “all people are doomed to condemnation.” But by growing in virtues and adhering to the Church’s sacramental system, a Catholic could hope to receive “final justification and attain eternal life.” What he fails to realize is that his idea of “church” is not the RCC idea of “Church”. He is right as far as he goes but he is not seeing that to be in the Church is to be in Christ. If we are in Christ and Christ is in us then we are saved. If we are outside of Christ ( the Church) then where is our salvation? It is not “membership” in a church. It is membership in the Body of the living Christ which is His bride the “Church” that is our salvation.

    Peace
    NHU

  14. JJS you said:
    and the later position is, “Some people can gain eternal life even if not joined to the Catholic Church”. The Catholic Church has NEVER taught that there can be salvation outside of the Church. That would be like saying that there can be salvation outside of Christ. She has clarified her position in that a person can be saved without necessarily being physically bound to the Church. Although they must be spiritually bound to Jesus at the very least and if they are then they are members of His body the Church. If anyone knowingly refuses to be bound to the Church after determining that they must join the Catholic Church they refuse the salvation of Christ. It has always been that way and it still is.
    Peace
    NHU

  15. Jason,

    Tom has provided an argument above that addresses that claim. There are many cases in any discipline where prima facie interpretations are not accurate. This is why in the pursuit of truth we ought not go merely by prima facie appearances. (I made a similar case in comment #69 of the Signs of Predestination thread.) Regarding prima facie interpretations, I’m always reminded of these ads:

    Here too we would be misled by first impressions or interpretations that are not informed by the Church’s history and practice. Your characterization of what you call the “early position” and the “later position” are inaccurate as stated, because they over-simplify. Tom’s argument in the body of the post explains how the Church’s teaching concerning EENS has always been implicitly qualified by her recognition of baptism of blood and baptism by desire. And the Church’s teaching regarding the possibility of salvation for those in invincible ignorance does not deny the necessity of union with the Church for salvation. It recognizes a spiritual union that can precede material union, as is the case in baptism of blood and baptism of desire.

    Every development is a kind of change. So, yes, the fuller recognition of the possibility of salvation for those in invincible ignorance is a change, but precisely the sort of change that is development. It would not be a development if it involved the rejection of something that the Church had previously taught. But the possibility of salvation for those in invincible ignorance is not a rejection of anything previously taught, but has been implicit in what the Church has always taught, as Tom has explained above.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  16. I would note, that in all those centuries when the Church stated clearly prima facie that all non-Christians and non-Catholics who were outside the Church can not be saved, She still somehow refrained from ever on any occasion declaring that any particular individual was definitively confined to Hell. Even in all of the Fathers of the Church there are very few places where anyone is willing to make definite statements that even Judas is certainly in hell.

    I know some will call this argument from silence, but I would suggest that it is closer to the “dog that didn’t bark” that Joe Hershayer has recently discussed over at Shameless Popery – The Dog that didn’t bark . If the Church had ever dogmatically believed that every single person who wasn’t visibly within the Catholic Church could not possible be saved under any conditions I would expect to commonly find reference to Judas, Nero and Pontious Pilot being certainly in hell as well as many other individuals. Instead we find open debate about wether Judas might have been saved and generally little speculation at all, much less declarative statement about individual confinement to hell. We know hell exists, but we don’t make any claim to know who is there, or how many souls are there.

  17. Burton #5,

    I also want to thank you for your honesty and openess on this issue. And I have to admit that while I am a recent convert (Feast of St. Mark 2009) and do not for a minute regret that decision, I have a lot of difficulty with most of the attempts which I have read that try to “explain” this EENS difficulty.

    For example many I’ve heard end up saying in essence that “all that Florence *really* wanted to say” was to issue a warning to those who might be tempted to stray from Catholic Unity, or to those who might be tempted to remain outside that Catholic Unity. In other words that EENS, as stated in the Council of Florence, only applies to those who with full knowledge that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ, nevertheless leave the unity of the Catholic Church for other religions or no religion at all, OR to those who will full knowledge that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ, nevertheless refuse to join themselves to the unity of the Catholic Church remaining in other religions or no religion at all.

    Of course, when I hear such interpretations, I’m tempted to say that such an attempted explanation only holds up for those who don’t actually read the words of the Council. On the surface, it seems to me that to attempt to so limit what the words of Florence in this extreme degree is simply to play fast and loose with a text and will always remain completely inadequate to resolve the issue for anyone who is serious about attending to the text promulgated by the Council.

    I think what perhaps is troubling to me more than anything else is how little interest there seems to be from most Catholics to really, seriously, dig into the issue and try to come to grips with it. As I say, most “explanations” I’ve heard are so inadequate that it beggars belief. Part of why this is so troubling to me is that I usually perceive, somewhere underneath the surface, the unacknowledged assumption that the real reason why this issue isn’t a “big deal” is that “as we all know” Vatican II has changed everything so we really shouldn’t expect there not to be contradictions with previous dogma, in fact, we really ought to expect to find this sort of contradiction popping up all over – whether in Liturgical practice, or in Moral teaching, or in Dogmatic theology.

    That said, I don’t believe that this (EENS) difficulty, in and of itself, is enough of a good reason to remain outside the Catholic Church when all other signs point to the fact that she is the Church founded by Christ upon the precious stones of Peter, the Rock, and the other Apostles. Whatever difficulties remain will eventually be “sorted out”, even if it takes a thousand years, and until that point in time, they remain, at least partly, so that we can exercise the virtue of Faith.

    I am encouraged in my faith by the fact that, however slowly, progress does continue to happen even on some of these seemingly intractable issues – for example, note the the recent progress which has been made on the issue of the supposed contradiction between current and past Magisterial teaching on Religious Liberty,which is itself a more academic statement of, and more detailed unfolding of, the concept broached by Pope Benedict in his Papal Christmas Address to the Roman Curia back in 2005.

    I also should add that I believe this C2C article on the EENS issue is a good step in the right direction. Although it does not, in and of itself, resolve the issue, it provides some good fodder for thought, and perhaps some important building blocks which may aid us in at least achieving a certain point of rest.

    If I were to venture to try to add anything, it might be to sketch out what I have seen presented – or at least what I have perceived from those who have tried to present a way of understanding the EENS issue in the light of both Florence, and more recent Papal and Magisteriail teaching.

    To do that, it seems to me, one has to always be extremely attentive to each detail and verbal nuance. So let’s look at the statement from Florence more closely.

    It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims

    that those not living within the Catholic Church…cannot become participants in eternal life…unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock;

    and

    that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward,

    and

    that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.

    Now, how do people try to interpret this in light of subsequent teaching? One way is to say that it is possible to be “added to the flock” and to “live within the Catholic Church” without ever knowing that there is such a flock or such a Church. This, of course, is a completely different case from the baptism of desire or the baptism of blood as it usually is defined, because both of those, as usually defined, depend upon the person’s intention to be a Christian disciple, be it only an incipient desire.

    However, there is the case of the Holy Innocents, which suffered their baptism by blood – their martyrdom *literally* in the place of Christ. And this feast has been celebrated liturgically at least since the 400s, which is quite a bit before Vatican II. As a result, it seems that the Church has always known, in some way, that it is possible for some who “never knew there was such a flock or such a Church” to nevertheless be added to that flock, and live within that Church be it only invisibly (to us).

    So that brings us to the last two statements of the Council of Florence which both hinge upon the words “Unity” and “remaining”. The fact that the words “unity” and “remaining are so important in the last half of the formulation of Florence would, perhaps after all, provide some justification for those who interpret this statement as indicting primarily those tempted to leave the unity of the Catholic Church. So perhaps this is how folks get to the point where they propose to limit the statements of Florence in the light of subsequent teaching. One problem is, what happens to the impetus to evangelism and missionary activity when the Church says that you really have a better chance of getting to heaven by NOT hearing the Word since by NOT hearing the Word you could remain in invincible ignorance? While I think we have to admit that we have seen a huge collapse in evangelism and missionary activity in and from the Catholic Church in the developed world, nevertheless, it is not clear how much of a factor this interpretation of EENS issue simpliciter plays in this phenomenon. It does seem to me however that it is reasonable to suppose that the current perspective on EENS does play at least *some* role in the current durth of missional and evangelical fervor in and from the Church in the developed world.

    Of course, there is also something else that we must keep in mind. And that is that, if we are listening to what Pope Benedict has been telling us, there is also, parallel to the concept of development of doctrine, a sense in which new teaching must always be interpreted in the light of previous teaching. This is what Pope Benedict has called the “hermeneutic of continuity”. It is indeed a foreign concept to Protestants, because it presumes that the Church *can* speak infallibly, and that when it does, those infallible statements must then become a “part of the record” as it were – they are, in some sense “canonical” – if that can be said – and cannot simply be ignored. And so when we see so many doing just that and ignoring all that came before Vatican II – which was not even a Dogmatic Council, and as a result promulgated no anathemas – we can be sure that they are not going to be sure guides to the truth, whatever that truth turns out to be. And what that means is that the book is still open on what Vatican II meant and means. And this becomes more and more evident in light of the recent Doctrinal Preamble promulgated by the CDF in it’s talks with the SSPX, where it became possible – for the first time, as far as I know – to question aspects of the documents of Vatican II
    and their interpretation and implementation in subsequent magisterial documents, and still be considered a good, faithful Catholic.

    This, too, gives me hope and encourages my faith that the Church, whatever it’s current difficulties, problems, and issues, is still the Church, and eventually, someday, all these burning issues will be resolved, even if we are “taking harp lessons” by then!

    Sorry for the rambling nature of this post. I hope that it is helpful in some respect. Any comments, criticisms, etc. would be much appreciated as well.

    Pax Christi,
    Jeff Holston

  18. JJS-

    I think Bryan’s follow up comments (not to mention the article’s explanation of what’s going on here) to your recent comment are sufficient to put your concern to rest. I just wanted to comment upon something else you stated that really stuck out to me. You closed your comment with the following: “to me, anyway…” That phrase leaped off from the screen for me b/c it stressed the identity of the opposing parties. On one side of the aisle we have the Church, whose articulation of these truths is understood, by catholics, to be representative of developmental change (rather than transformation or reinvention, etc.). And on the other side of the aisle we have you.

    When I recognized the sheer weight of this scenario, it made my adult conversion that much easier. Sure I was an active member of my Baptist Church. But at the end of the day my arguments against opposing viewpoints would have boiled down to something like “to me, anyway…”

    Now I sorta see my Catholic identity as an expression of the fact, not that I know, but that “I” don’t know. I am Catholic precisely b/c of the fact that it is not my place to judge the Church. Rather Christ, through the Church, judges me. So it’s out of humble recognition, not out of self-righteousness that i close the day, saying “to the Church, anyway…” thanks

  19. Jeff,

    I am deeply grateful for your openness on this issue. Like many others, the issue central to my journey is locus of authority, and I, like Herbert, have become increasingly uncomfortable with the Protestant answer to this question, but in my current epistemologic situation, I cannot rely on the purported authority of the very institution whose claims to authority I am attempting to evaluate. I disagree with many Catholic doctrines, but all of that is irrelevant if the Catholic Church is what it claims to be (vis-a-vis authority) – hence my hyper-scrutiny of those claims and the evidence for and against them.

    Here is the part I am having a hard time getting past:

    “those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels””

    Here the key phrase is “not living within”, and then the meaning of this phrase is further defined by giving examples of those who are not “living within”: pagans, Jews, schismatics and heretics. These examples would seem to rule out the possibility of Protestants as “separated brethren” who can attain salvation.

    I had not considered the idea that V2 is not considered to be a dogmatic council, and that the statements of Lumen Gentium are still open to interpretation in light of earlier councils. I could also see how Florence might be legitimately construed as being directed to those who had willfully separated from the church or defied the Church’s teaching during a time in history when the Church was broadly understood as primarily a visible body from which separation and dissent were obvious.

    Again, thanks for your transparency – I’m not sure whether or not this issue constitutes a reason not to convert, but I need to work through it with the same intellectual honesty that I have attempted to use in my scrutiny of certain Protestant presuppositions.

    Burton

  20. Jeff,

    You wrote, “Although [this article] does not, in and of itself, resolve the issue,…” Why do you think that this article does not resolve the issue? Your statement seems to imply that you think VanDrunen is right, that the teaching of Vatican II has not yet been shown to be compatible with the Council of Florence. But if Tom’s article does show how the two are compatible, then what remains to be “resolved”?

    You wrote:

    One problem is, what happens to the impetus to evangelism and missionary activity when the Church says that you really have a better chance of getting to heaven by NOT hearing the Word since by NOT hearing the Word you could remain in invincible ignorance?

    Of course the Church has never taught that. In fact, the Church teaches the exact opposite. It is far more difficult to be saved apart from full communion with the Church, than it is within her bosom. The notion that it is far easier to be saved by invincible ignorance than by the gospel is something the Church has never taught. And to imply that Vatican II taught that is to construct a straw man of Vatican II. I agree that there has been a loss of missionary effort, and undoubtedly this is due in part to this mistaken notion of EENS, but that mistaken notion of EENS was not taught by Vatican II.

    I agree, of course, with what you wrote about the hermeneutic of continuity. But there are two possible errors with regard to applying the hermeneutic of continuity. One error is to use an ahistorical interpretation of contemporary Church documents and read that interpretation back into her older documents, and thus claim continuity. The other error is to treat not only the limits of the ancient dogmas as authoritative but also the limits of the Church’s earlier understanding of those ancient dogmas and documents as themselves perpetually binding. The first error is the form used by the hermeneutic of discontinuity to justify itself and hide its novelty. The second error makes development of doctrine impossible, and thus mistakenly treats actual development as corruption.

    If by “And what that means is that the book is still open on what Vatican II meant and means” you mean that future Church teaching may continue to clarify and develop what was taught at Vatican II, then I agree. But if you mean that we cannot know what, for example, is meant by the statement in Lumen Gentium 16, “Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience” then I don’t agree, because that claim would entail that all the Church’s documents, whether new or old, are entirely unintelligible to us, since it would be utterly ad hoc to claim that we can know what older Church documents mean, but cannot know what Vatican II documents mean.

    As for “questioning aspects of the documents of Vatican II” that is permitted so long as one simultaneously adheres to what is taught in them with religious submission of will and intellect. See the Profession of Faith, according to which we are required to:

    adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.

    And that applies to the documents of Vatican II, including Lumen Gentium 16.

    And canon law requires the same. Canon 752 reads:

    Can. 752 Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it. (Code of Canon Law, 752)

    According to canon law, those Catholics who refuse to give religious submission of intellect and will to doctrines taught by the Magisterium on faith or morals, even when the Magisterium does not intend to proclaim those doctrines by a definitive act, and thus not infallibly, are liable to punishment:

    Canon 1371 – The following are to be punished with a just penalty:

    1° a person who, apart from the case mentioned in canon 1364 § 1, teaches a doctrine condemned by the Roman Pontiff, or by an Ecumenical Council, or obstinately rejects the teachings mentioned in canon 750 § 2 or in canon 752 and, when warned by the Apostolic See or by the Ordinary, does not retract;

    2° a person who in any other way does not obey the lawful command or prohibition of the Apostolic See or the Ordinary or Superior and, after being warned, persists in disobedience. (Ad Tuendam Fidem. See also Code of Canon Law, 1371)

    The non-definitive (and thus non-infallible) character of most of Vatican II’s teaching does not make it optional for Catholics to believe.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  21. Burton,

    In order rightly to understand the statement in the Council of Florence, it is essential to see clearly what it is not intending to do. It is not intending to deny the possibility of salvation for those who die as Catechumens, or those who die as martyrs for Christ prior to receiving baptism. To read the Council of Florence that way would be to make the Council itself a dissenting Council. So, that entails that the statement by the Council of Florence regarding who “cannot become participants in eternal life” is necessarily implicitly qualified. Those who don’t recognize that implicit qualification, and treat it as intending to exclude absolutely from heaven any who die not in full communion with the Church are misreading the document. They are trying to interpret it in a vacuum, rather than as informed by all that came before it in the teaching and practice of the Church. (See the ad in #14 for an illustration of what it looks like to [mis]interpret something without knowing the history behind it.)

    The Council of Florence is not teaching that anyone who dies not in full communion with the Church is damned. Rather, it is teaching that what has been revealed to the Church by Christ through the Apostles to be preached to all men is the necessity to enter and “live within” the Church for salvation, just as the Church teaches that what has been revealed by Christ through the Apostles is that baptism is necessary for all men for salvation. That revelation is neither identical to nor entails the claim that anyone who dies prior to receiving baptism is damned. Likewise, the necessity of entering into and remaining in full communion with the Church for salvation is neither identical to nor entails that all who die apart from full communion with the Church are damned. And this shows that the teaching by the Council of Florence is referring to persons who hear of this truth concerning Christ and baptism and His Church, and who reject it. It is not making any statement about the possibility of salvation for those who hear it and accept it, but die before receiving baptism and thus die before being received into full communion. And for that reason, it is likewise not making any statement about the possibility of salvation for those who die in invincible ignorance. But the possibility of salvation for Protestants (as separated brethren) only extends to those who remain in invincible ignorance concerning the identity of the Catholic Church as the Church Christ founded, and of the necessity of entering into and remaining in full communion with Christ’s Church for salvation. The statement in the Catechism “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” (CCC 846) is exactly the essence of what the Council of Florence taught. In 1567, the Church condemned the following error of Baius: “Purely negative infidelity in those among whom Christ has not been preached, is a sin.” (Denz. 1068)

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  22. To all,

    I know my opinion as an individual matters little to some, but I offer it unflinchingly anyway. The words “…live within…” (As Bryan notes above) are key words here.

    To assume that “…live within…” means full visible communion is the faulty assumption.

    As much as we would love the line of demarcation between full communion and no communion to be a sharp, dark, clear line, it is not. Frankly, life rarely comes to us that way. In very many things, there is the clearly “what is” and clearly “what is not” and in between the two a very murky middle.

    GOD is eternally Kind. We really should remember that, even though He is the Judge of the White Throne, He is also the One Willing To Die. To not just Die, but to trade Heaven’s Glory for a manger, to bring us in to Covenantal Partnership with HIM.

    Think about waht a huge investment for HIM to pay what HE paid for us. He judges hearts. If He can find a reason in the heart of a human to not lose His investment He will.

    All of the discussion/doctrine on invincible arguments are just fancy ways of saying this.

  23. Hello Jeremiah,

    Actually, “living within” is indeed referring to what we now refer to as ‘full communion,’ i.e. to not being in schism from the Church, or separated from her by heresy, but maintaining all three bonds of unity: holding one and the same faith of the Church, sharing in the Church’s sacraments, and submitting to the Church’s magisterial hierarchy whose authority derives from the Apostles through the succession of the bishops.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  24. Jeremiah,

    I would also add that the problem of schism (as distinct from heresy) is that is entails rejection of the last two bonds of unity which Bryan wrote about; (1) sharing in the Catholic Church’s sacraments and (2) submitting to the Catholic Church’s magisterial hierarchy. When that rejection stems from an ignorance of the truth of the claims of the Catholic Church regarding her sacraments or the authority of her Magisterium, then one may remain innocent, despite failing to be joined to these crucial dimensions of Christ’s redemptive work (namely His establishment of both the sacraments and Magisterium of the Catholic Church in order to more readily and effectively secure the salvation of souls).

    Yet, to affirm all (or in reality most all) that the Catholic Church teaches regarding faith and morals, so as to avoid the charge of heresy; while consciously choosing to remain separated from her sacraments or to submit to her Magisterium, is – in reality – strictly impossible. And the reason is obvious. To reject the Catholic Church’s teaching on the sacraments and the Magisterium (whether implicitly or explicitly), is precisely to reject two crucial points of orthodox doctrine. It is, in fact, to embrace a heretical position – even if one does not say so explicitly, but rather gives evidence of his position by actual refusal to be bound to the sacraments and the Magisterium – which amounts to schism. What I am getting at is that it is not ultimately possible to remain in schism without also becoming a heretic – at least materially; if not formally (which would require continued knowing, willful, separation).

    To defer to the teaching of the Catholic Church as the standard of Christian orthodoxy, while remaining separated from her in both sacraments and government – while still claiming to be an adherent of orthodox Christianity is not possible, unless one is willing to admit that the REAL standard for orthodox Christianity is not really the teaching of the Catholic Church per se; but rather a combination of the [teaching of the Catholic Church] + [one’s personal modifications to that teaching – such as the rejection of her sacramental and magisterial claims]. But then, that puts the person taking such a “modificationist” position in the ultimate driver’s seat regarding exactly where the teaching of the Catholic Church requires modification. And that, essentially, returns one to a position of doctrinal relativism, where one decides for himself exactly what constitutes “orthodox” doctrine – no matter how much one’s doctrinal program (by design or by accident) happens to coincide with many, or even most, of the other teachings of the Catholic Church.

    Pax Christi,

    Ray

  25. Hello all,

    Did the discovery of the New World affect the development of this doctrine?

    Seems to me it probably would have. That is, pre-Columbian EENS statements were mostly concerned with the issue of heretics, while post-Columbian statements were broadened to consider the issue of the invincibly ignorant, which came into focus after the discovery of tribes in the Americas.

    That’s just my uneducated guess. I’m wondering if there are scholarly observations on this matter.

    Thanks!

  26. Tom,

    After reading your article, I’m a little confused as to exactly what you are critiquing in VanDrunen’s statements. He is addressing what he sees as the modern RCC position that one can be saved outside of Christ. Do you believe that people can be saved outside of a profession of Christ? You quote Augustine who says that one who confesses Christ can be saved without being baptized and yes the quote from Trent does not undermine this. However, I think you are trying to defend the proposition, in line with Vatican II, that there can be salvation outside of not only formal membership in the RCC but also conscious knowledge of Christ. Have I got that right?

    I remember some time back having an interesting conversation with Mike Liccione about Cantate Domino, specifically the quote that Van Drunen brings to bear, and Mike’s statement, as I remember it, is that it would be tough to find any Catholic theologian much before the 19th century who would affirm the idea that one could be saved outside of formal membership in the RCC. However argued Mike, what the theologians believed was not at issue, but rather what was explicitly stated by the RCC Magisterium such as what was promulgated at Florence. And Florence’s pronouncements did not explicitly eliminate the possibility that one could be within the Catholic Church without being a formal member of the Catholic Church, and therefore the statements on Florence were not incompatible with those of Vatican II. If I have remembered Mike statements correctly (he can correct me if he happens to be around) would you agree with this sort of reasoning?

  27. Andrew # 25.

    He is addressing what he sees as the modern RCC position that one can be saved outside of Christ.

    Do you believe that people can be saved outside of a profession of Christ?

    Those are two very different questions.

    Nobody is saved outside (or apart from) Christ’s work on the cross.

    But, people can be saved without an explicit profession of Christ.

  28. [A number of responses here — pardon my absence over the past few days.]

    Dear Brent,

    Thank you for the comment, especially for pointing out the relevant passages, John 3:5 and Romans 2:13-16.

    Dear Burton,

    I hope you will work through Florence’s words a little more than by taking away “clear implications.” What a person sees implied in a given text may be inaccurate, especially if that person is coming from an entirely different frame than the text’s authors.

    You took this away from the text of Florence: “the only unity with the RCC that is efficacious for salvation in a visible unity that allows for participation in the sacraments, and that without this visibly unity salvation is not possible.” That is, you took away a statement about visible unity as a prerequisite for sacramental participation and salvation.

    But Florence does not say this, nor is it a necessary implication. What Florence says is that:

    those not living within the Catholic Church . . . cannot become participants in eternal life, . . . unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, . . . and that no one . . . even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.

    Let me briefly repeat that this must be read as containing the implicit qualification about baptism of desire and baptism of blood. To reach a conclusion about the meaning of this text, one would have to have an understanding of “before the end of life the same have been added to the flock,” and the extent to which “only to those remaining in it” and “unless he has remained” qualifies the entire passage (i.e., whether it qualifies the statement that those shedding blood for Christ cannot be saved). Because of these phrases and implied qualifications, I believe it is not accurate to say that Florence teaches that only those in visible, sacramental unity with the Catholic Church can be saved (simpliciter).

    I don’t think the question is whether the “current” teaching of the Catholic Church preserves essential elements of Florence, but whether it contradicts Florence. If there is no contradiction, then there is nothing happening here that should not happen in Catholic theological development.

    Dear Jason,

    You juxtaposed your characterization of what the Catholic Church has taught at different times this way: “‘No one can gain eternal life unless he is joined to the Catholic Church,'” and “‘Some people can gain eternal life even if not joined to the Catholic Church.'” I agree with Bryan that this is an over-simplification. Unless you are using “joined to the Catholic Church” in different ways in those two characterizations, then one or the other or both are false. Please explain what you mean by “joined to the Catholic Church” in your characterization.

    Dear Jeff,

    I’m concerned about some things you said, so want to piggy-back on other comments. First, regarding this comment:

    Part of why this is so troubling to me is that I usually perceive, somewhere underneath the surface, the unacknowledged assumption that the real reason why this issue isn’t a “big deal” is that “as we all know” Vatican II has changed everything so we really shouldn’t expect there not to be contradictions with previous dogma . . .

    We do not all “know” or even suspect that Vatican II changed everything, either through development-touching-upon-everything or through contradiction. You can only fairly charge contradiction based on the real teachings of Vatican II, as opposed to nebulous popular sentiments about the “spirit of Vatican II.” Also, for the Catholic Church to contradict herself on dogma would be for her to call into question everything she teaches and for which she stands. That is why your your statement to the effect that ‘contradiction notwithstanding, one should be Catholic because of other good reasons for being Catholic,’ is both troubling and unpersuasive.

    Dear Andrew,

    I do not agree with you about what VanDrunen is addressing in his article. He is not discussing the modern Catholic position of salvation “outside of Christ.” He is addressing his opinion that the Catholic Church is inclusive in its soteriology and his opinion that the Catholic Church has “changed.” I am not trying to defend the statements of Lumen Gentium, but rather to address VanDrunen’s articulations of Catholic teaching, as well as his charge of contradictory change. I accept Lumen Gentium as true.

    Are you asking about the bearing of an era’s popular theological consensus on a discussion of doctrinal development? If so, it sounds like I agree with Mike — dogma is not formed by popular theological consensus, although popular theological consensus can be probative of the Church’s teaching.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  29. Tom, you said:

    I do not agree with you about what VanDrunen is addressing in his article. He is not discussing the modern Catholic position of salvation “outside of Christ.”

    But the first quote from VanDrunen that you quote is: ….Rome now embraces a very inclusive view that extends the hope of salvation to people of many different religions or even no religion at all, provided they sincerely follow the truth and goodness that they know in their own experience.

    And what VanDrunen says concerning the modern Catholic position here is just the matter that Evangelicals have issues with. That is, the possibility of salvation outside of conscious knowledge of Christ. It is here where we see a change – what was believed in the Early/Medieval Churches (and beyond) concerning the possibility of salvation 1) outside of conscious knowledge of Christ, and furthermore 2) outside of formal membership in the RCC. I don’t think your quotes from Augustine or Trent address this.

    It is here where I perceive that the theologians like Mike Liccione step in with a resolution so that the pronouncements of the RCC like those at Florence are not understood to contradict those of Vatican II. I understand that this kind of casuistry is important to the theologians of Rome but as I’m sure is no surprise to you, from our perspective the most obvious resolution is to say that the beliefs of the Medieval theologians like those promulgating Cantate Domino were wrong. And yes, I know that by holding the Church could teach error I’m going to be charged with “ecclesial deism,” but I’ve answered that charge elsewhere and don’t want to go through it again. I guess I just want to point out that what VanDrnnen says, at least in your first quote from him, is not unreasonable even if a formal theological contradiction is not absolutely necessitated.

    Cheers for now….

  30. Andrew,

    In defense of your comments, given the RCC’s claim to infallibility (conciliar and ex cathedra pronouncements), they must reconcile any apparent contradiction in these pronouncements throughout history or risk eroding that claim. I think that Protestants, myself included, tend to view the RCC’s sometimes subtle explanations of these prima facie contradictions with considerable suspicion.

    I wonder about some of the commentors’ allusions to the Reformed (or evangelical) Protestant approach to prima facie contradictions in the Bible. I am currently, for the first time in long time, rereading the books of Joshua and Judges. I am at times scandalized by the direct commands of God to the Israelites to utterly destroy entire Canaanite cities, including the killing of women and children. I am no Bible scholar, but this seems, prima facie, to be in direct contradiction to God’s New Testament command to love one’s enemies and seek peace. I am sure that there is a scholarly explanation for this and other apparent contradiction in Scripture, but do we as Protestants give a different sort of inherent trust in the existence of reasonable explanations in this circumstance, because some of our foundational presuppositions might also risk erosion if these contradictions were to stand?

    I’m not saying this lets the RCC off the hook, just thinking out loud in an effort to view both circumstances with either the same degree of suspicion, or the same degree of trust.

    Burton

  31. Dear Andrew,

    VanDrunen is speaking about the Catholic view of the possibility of salvation outside the Church, and then speaking about whether that view has changed. That is distinct from speaking about salvation “outside of Christ.”

    You said: “I guess I just want to point out that what VanDrnnen says, at least in your first quote from him, is not unreasonable even if a formal theological contradiction is not absolutely necessitated.”

    But about that quote I did not accuse VanDrunen of unreasonableness per se. Rather, I said that “VanDrunen’s argument misses whole swaths of purported ‘inclusivity’ in the ‘older’ Catholic teaching, and plays on an ambiguity in the word ‘change.’” Do you disagree with me there? If so, in what way exactly do you disagree? My quotes from St. Augustine, the Council of Trent, et al. were meant to address VanDrunen’s article, not the substance of extra Ecclesiam in a general way so as to cover all the ways in which the topic is of interest to Reformed Protestants.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  32. Dear Burton,

    As I recently said to “Lojahow” in the thread to my Canon Question article, I think we should exercise the greatest prudence and caution when discussing the implications of ‘apparent contradictions’ in Sacred Scripture. That’s not a censure, and that’s not to say that the question you ask is not relevant. I just ask that if you continue down that path, you give an extra dose of effort to prudence and caution, lest our mutual detractors make hay of what we say.

    You said: “given the RCC’s claim to infallibility (conciliar and ex cathedra pronouncements), they must reconcile any apparent contradiction in these pronouncements throughout history or risk eroding that claim.?”

    Not that you’re suggesting as much, but this certainly wouldn’t be the place to try to reconcile any and all apparent contradictions in the teachings of the Catholic Church throughout history. If you’re simply stating as a general matter that, in your opinion, the onus probandi is on the Catholic Church to quell Protestants’ concerns about what are (to those same Protestants) apparent contradictions, I disagree. This type of thinking is inherently Protestant in its outlook. That is because this thinking posits that one should submit to the Catholic Church only if one concludes that the Catholic Church’s doctrines are the best articulations of theology. The basis for the Catholic Church’s claim to infallibility is not its belief that its systematic theology is superior to Protestant systematic theologies. The basis for its claim is Divine Revelation, Sacred Tradition, and the Church’s reflection and teaching thereupon. In short, you must first address the greater question of whether the Catholic Church is the Church she claims to be and so has the authority she claims to have. If she is what she claims to be and so has the authority she claims to have, one will view apparent contradictions from a very different frame. If she is not what she claims to be and so has not what she claims to have, then she’s not even worth puzzling over when it comes to apparent contradictions.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  33. I wonder about some of the commentors’ allusions to the Reformed (or evangelical) Protestant approach to prima facie contradictions in the Bible….

    Burton,

    A very interesting thought in relation to the question at hand. Yes, we who are convinced that the Scriptures are the very words of God are compelled to demonstrate to the skeptics that the Scriptures do not err because God cannot contradict Himself. And in similar fashion our Catholic friends are compelled to demonstrate that the teaching of the Church (at least concerning matters that are pronounced with a de fide level of certainty) cannot contradict itself. But why, we Protestants ask, is an admission of ecclesiastical contradiction of such importance? And that’s just the question that exposes the differences in the way Protestants and Catholics look at the the authority of the Church. And as all the discussions here concerning “ecclesial deism” show, the Catholics are convinced that the Church contradicting herself would in effect undermine the promises of God to lead the Church, and be the pillar and ground of the truth, and so on. But for us Protestants the promises of God to the Church are not brought into question when the Church does not follow God’s leading perfectly. Our question to the Catholics is this – If the Church were to fall into error at one point in time and then correct herself at a later point in time, how does this of necessity undermine the the promises of God to the Church? I’m confident I have a clear and concise answer to this question, and one grounded in the Apostolic witness, but as I think your point demonstrates, it would be a mistake to brush aside f the Catholic concerns on these matters.

    Tom,

    I agree with you that the concept of “change” is different between Catholics and Protestant in these discussions.

    Cheers….

  34. Here is a post from today touches somewhat on these issues, although not directly: Can We Hope that all Men be Saved”

  35. Tom,

    I understand your exhortation to exercise caution when examining apparent contradictions in Scripture. My point was not so much whether or not those claims to contradiction are valid (I don’t believe they are), but rather my own exhortation to myself and fellow Protestants to be careful to view both situations with the same lens of openness and objectivity.

    I don’t suggest that the burden of proof lies with the RCC to defend every prima facie contradiction to inquiring Protestants. I would submit that the “greater question of whether the Catholic Church is the Church she claims to be and so has the authority she claims to have” entails consistency (or lack of contradiction) in her infallible pronouncements throughout history, and the careful examination of the latter is necessary when addressing the former.

    I think what you may be getting at with the idea of the “greater question” is a pulling back of the lens and asking, in general, is an authoritative visible Church/magisterium necessary for the definition and preservation of Truth, and is there any actor on the stage who fits the bill. So much of how one approaches this “greater question” and the more specific issue that VanDrunen addresses depends upon one’s starting point. Michael Horton’s “Reply” on the Sola/Solo debate exemplifies this.

    Burton

  36. Tom Brown writes: … to the extent that VanDrunen relies on Fr. Feeney or other individual Catholic theologians to determine what is the traditional Catholic doctrine regarding this question, his methodology is flawed.

    That is exactly right, and it would be a huge mistake to listen to the erroneous opinions of Fr. Feeney to understand what the Magisterium of the Catholic Church teaches about the doctrine “there is no salvation outside the Church” (extra Ecclesiam nulla salus or EENS for short).

    In 1949, Fr. Feeney was formally censored for his mistaken opinions about the Church’s doctrine concerning EENS. See the Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston: Denzinger 3869-72. This document can be read here:

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFFEENY.htm

    What error did Fr. Feeney teach in regards to EENS doctrine? Fr. Feeney taught that unless one received formal membership in the Catholic Church through the reception of the Sacrament of Baptism, that there was no possibility that one could be saved. All aborted infants; all infants that died through miscarriage; every toddler that died without receiving the Sacrament of Baptism – no possibility of heaven for them. Those who died that had never heard the Gospel preached to them through no fault of their own – all condemned to eternity in Hell according to Fr. Feeney. This harsh teaching by Fr. Feeney caused, as one can well imagine, a lot of controversy at the time that Fr. Feeey was promulgating these opinions through the periodical From the Housetops.

    The controversy caused by Fr. Feeney was serious enough that Pope Pius XII approved the The Letter From the Holy Office that rebuked Fr. Feeney’s misunderstanding of EENS doctrine. I believe that if one wants a clear understanding of what the Magisterium of the Catholic Church actually teaches about EENS, that one should read this letter, since it is dedicated to correcting some common misconceptions that Catholics of that era had about the doctrine of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.

    I think that it is fair to say that there is a development in the EENS doctrine coming to a fruition in the Letter from the Holy Office. That development of doctrine had to do with the deeper understanding of the baptism of desire – that is, that there is both the baptism of explicit desire and the baptism of implicit desire.

    From the earliest times, the church taught clearly about the baptism of explicit desire, that is, salvation was possible for catechumens that explicitly desired to receive the Sacrament of Baptism, but who died before reception of that Sacrament. Tom Brown’s quote by St. Augustine is one example. Other examples can be found here:

    THE BAPTISM OF DESIRE, Some Examples From Church Teaching, Scripture, the Saints and the Magisterium

    http://www.catholicapologetics.info/modernproblems/currenterrors/bpdsir.htm

    In regards to the baptism of implicit desire, the Letter from the Holy Office specifically takes up that issue with these words:

    … In His infinite mercy God has willed that the effects, necessary for one to be saved, of those helps to salvation which are directed toward man’s final end, not by intrinsic necessity, but only by divine institution, can also be obtained in certain circumstances when those helps are used only in desire and longing. This we see clearly stated in the Sacred Council of Trent, both in reference to the sacrament of regeneration and in reference to the sacrament of penance (Denzinger, nn. 797, 807).

    The same in its own degree must be asserted of the Church, in as far as she is the general help to salvation. Therefore, that one may obtain eternal salvation, it is not always required that he be incorporated into the Church actually as a member, but it is necessary that at least he be united to her by desire and longing.

    However, this desire need not always be explicit, as it is in catechumens; but when a person is involved in invincible ignorance God accepts also an implicit desire, so called because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed to the will of God.

    Ref. http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFFEENY.htm

    The Letter from the Holy Office references Pope Pius IX’s encyclical letter, Quanto conficiamur moerore, which Tom Brown quotes in the body of his article. Pope Pius IX is the pope of Vatican I – he can hardly be accused of having “modernist” leanings!

    From Tom Brown’s article: What VanDrunen dismisses is the possibility that the invincibly ignorant can in some circumstances, and only by God’s grace, be extraordinarily incorporated into the Catholic Church.

    When VanDrunen dismisses this possibility, he is making the same mistake as Father Feeney. The Catholic Church teaches what the scriptures teach, namely that God desires that all men be saved. The ordinary means of salvation for men are the means that Christ established and made known to men. Christ has revealed to men that through the church that He founded that men can receive saving grace by partaking worthily of the Sacraments of His church.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

    It is because God is not bound by his own sacraments that the Catholic Church teaches that saving grace can be offered to the invincibly ignorant in an extraordinary manner. How, exactly, God does that is of no real concern to faithful Catholics – we only need to fulfill the mission on earth that God has given to us – the mission to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth and to make available the ordinary means of salvation to all men.

    Bryan Cross writes: The statement in the Catechism “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” (CCC 846) is exactly the essence of what the Council of Florence taught.

    I agree with Bryan, and note that CCC 846 is a direct quote from the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium (See LG 14). The last sentence of Lumen Gentium 14 is:

    … Catechumens who, moved by the Holy Spirit, seek with explicit intention to be incorporated into the Church are by that very intention joined with her. With love and solicitude Mother Church already embraces them as her own.

    Ref. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

    Not only does the body of Lumen Gentium 14 affirm the pericope from the Council of Florence quoted by VanDrunen, Lumen Gentium 14 also affirms the Catholic Church’s understanding concerning the doctrine of the baptism of explicit desire in the case of catechumens.

    The doctrine of the baptism of implicit desire was not addressed at the Council of Florence, but it was addressed at Vatican II. The doctrine of the baptism of implicit desire is affirmed in Lumen Gentium a couple of paragraphs after LG 14 in LG 16:

    … Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life.

    … to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”, the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.

    SUPPLEMENTARY NOTES (*)

    19) Cfr. Epist. S.S.C.S. Officii ad Archiep. Boston: Denz. 3869-72.

    Ref: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

    I think it is important to note that the Fathers of Vatican II included as a supplementary note to LG 16, footnote (19*), which is a reference to “Cfr. Epist. S.S.C.S. Officii ad Archiep. Boston .: Denz. 3869-72” or the “Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston: Denzinger 3869-72.” This the Letter from the Holy Office that I quoted above that corrected Fr. Leonard Feeney and his mistaken opinions concerning EENS doctrine.

    The Fathers of Vatican II were well aware of the controversy between Fr. Feeney and Pope Pius XII surrounding the correct understanding of EENS.

    Can the doctrine of the baptism of implicit desire be considered to be a development of doctrine of the baptism of desire? I think so. It is a legitimate development of doctrine because in does not contradict what the Catholic Church has always taught about the baptism of explicit desire.

    … dogma must be understood in that sense in which the Church herself understands it. For, it was not to private judgments that Our Savior gave for explanation those things that are contained in the deposit of faith, but to the teaching authority of the Church.

    “Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston: Denzinger 3869-72.

  37. Dear Burton,

    You said: “I would submit that the ‘greater question of whether the Catholic Church is the Church she claims to be and so has the authority she claims to have’ entails consistency (or lack of contradiction) in her infallible pronouncements throughout history, and the careful examination of the latter is necessary when addressing the former.” But before that you said that you do not suggest that the burden of proof rests with the Catholic Church to defend against apparent contradictions. I’d like to understand better the distinction between that burden of proof and your “careful examination.” I don’t deny that an apparent contradiction can be a real sticking point for one contemplating the claims of the Catholic Church. And in that case, one should seek dialogue with a Catholic theologian. But if one is on to the real possibility that the Catholic Church is the Church she claims to be, one is in a very serious moral situation, and must persist with complete diligence.

    You said: “I think what you may be getting at with the idea of the ‘greater question’ is a pulling back of the lens and asking, in general, is an authoritative visible Church/magisterium necessary for the definition and preservation of Truth, and is there any actor on the stage who fits the bill. [&c.]

    I wasn’t getting at that at all. I was getting at the idea that if the Catholic Church is who she claims to be, then those who accept her as such will view apparent contradictions in her teaching from a very different frame. Considering whether a visible Church or Magisterium is *necessary* for the preservation of Truth is an unnecessary intellectual undertaking if one accepts that Christ revealed He was vesting teaching authority with the leaders of a visible Church.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  38. Here is an example of a bishop teaching EENS: “[N]o one can ever be fully “with” Jesus if she or he rejects the Catholic Church, the Church Jesus founded precisely to act in his name and fulfill his promise, so that he would remain with us until the end of time.” — Archbishop Chaput (“Don’t Just Know Christ: Love Him” , Oct. 27, 2011)

  39. Tom,

    I think we may actually agree on most if not all of what you stated in your last post. The distinction between “burden of proof” and “careful examination” is simply the fact that the responsibility for seeking the truth with full diligence rests with me, the one who is investigating the claims of the RCC, and specifically as I try to decide whether or not any historical evidence exists that clearly falsifies the RCC claim to infallibility in certain circumstances.

    As to the “serious moral situation”, that bowling ball has been sitting on my chest for some time now – pray for me, brother!

    Whether or not a visible church/magisterium is necessary for preservation of Truth is, from the perspective of an inquiring Protestant, an absolutely necessary intellectual exercise. This is what I meant by saying that so much depends upon one’s starting point.

    By the way, I wholeheartedly agree that we should submit ourselves in obedience to God-ordained authority not because we agree with a list of doctrines, but because God has placed that authority over us. I do think most Protestants get that one backwards. The “intellectual exercise” is, for me, a matter of sincerely seeking to understand whether or not a visible ecclesial authority is necessary, whether or not the Catholic Church is that authority, and then trying to muster up the courage to act accordingly.

    Burton

  40. Dear Burton,

    Thank you for that explanation. I remember looking for “falsifying” information in my own discernment effort. You are being prudent, I think. I would only encourage you to bear in mind that without coming from a Catholic frame, it is more difficult to analyze some of the Catholic Church’s pronouncements. I do not mean to imply that you have to be part of the secret club to “get” what’s going on. I do mean to imply that there’s something of a cultural barrier to easy, full understanding. If I could draw an analogy, I worked in Afghanistan for a while with Afghan lawyers, but our frames of reference were so far apart it was extremely difficult to understand their meanings — this after my own extensive study of the Shari’a and my ability to speak lawyer-ese with them.

    I will pray for you about the bowling ball (!), and hope you do not take my words as scare-tactic. If you take this obligation of discernment as a personal one, and if you seek Truth with all your heart, you have every reason to believe God will protect and guide your path.

    I just read a Catholic say he is Catholic because of a particular Catholic teaching. This is the same error you were mentioning. He should be Catholic because he believes it is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, the one founded by Christ.

    As for the necessity of ecclesial authority, I hope you will be able to find time to read some of the other fellows’ writings. Consider their writing on ecclesial deism and on how sola scriptura collapses into solo scriptura.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  41. Burton RE #39
    As someone who has just gone through the experience you are currently in, and found that the Catholic Church is in fact the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church that Christ founded, I’d like to share some thoughts.

    You said:

    Whether or not a visible church/magisterium is necessary for preservation of Truth is, from the perspective of an inquiring Protestant, an absolutely necessary intellectual exercise.

    and

    The “intellectual exercise” is, for me, a matter of sincerely seeking to understand whether or not a visible ecclesial authority is necessary,…

    Basically the answer to this one was easy for me. The reason is because outside of a “visible ecclesial authority” there was no way I could be sure that I actually had an infallible list of infallible books that I could refer to as the Bible. Since the Bible itself does not list which books are in the Bible, then as a Protestant, any theological or historical argument I made from what I considered to be Scripture could very well be wrong since I couldn’t be sure that the Scripture I was referring to actually was infallible (or God-breathed). This made Sola Scriptura untenable for me. And that brings up your next point…

    …whether or not the Catholic Church is that authority,…

    And researching “whether or not any historical evidence exists that clearly falsifies the RCC claim to infallibility in certain circumstances” is but one part of this process. Even if you answer in the negative (ie-there is no such evidence) that would not in and of itself prove the RCC position. But it would be one of many “motives of credibility” that would certainly point in that direction. Some other big ones I would suggest looking into would be Apostolic Succession, as well as the truly universal makeup of the RCC. And finally,

    trying to muster up the courage to act accordingly.

    And courage you will need! My wife and I are currently in the process of telling all the people we have relationships with in our current PCA church that we are leaving to convert to Catholicism. There have been a wide range of reactions so far, and overall the sentiment seems to be hurt feelings and total disappointment. I say that to say this: the road is long but the destination is worth it. My desire to partake of the Eucharist has been growing as of late and I almost literally can’t wait until Easter to be able to truly “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood” so that there is “life in [me]” (John 6:53)

    Be assured of my prayers as you go through this process.

    Shalom,

    Aaron G.

  42. I want to mention that this topic was addressed by Pope John Paul II in the catechesis at the public audience of May 31, 1995:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/alpha/data/aud19950531en.html

  43. […] piece at catholicism.org is based on a post on the same topic at Called to Communion: Reformation Meets Rome.  That original, written by Tom Brown, takes to task an “orthodox Presbyterian” […]

  44. “This notion that Christian doctrines have developed should be no surprise. Major theological and religious doctrines have developed, such as the Trinity, the nature and canon of Sacred Scripture, or the two natures of Christ. While Reformed believers implicitly accept the notion of doctrinal development in those instances, they reject modern developments out of hand. But this acceptance of primitive developments while rejecting modern developments is ad hoc. There is no principled reason to accept development of Trinitarian doctrine while simultaneously denying the possibility of development on extra Ecclesiam after centuries of careful study and reflection”

    Tom,thanks for this article, I have noticed this too.

  45. Dear Alicia,

    Good to hear from you; keep the faith.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  46. Hi Tom,

    I haven’t read through all the comments, so forgive me if this question has already been addressed.

    Is it safe to say that those who have been supernaturally incorporated into Christ (without being an external member of the Church) would, by the same grace, recognise the Catholic Church as their true home if they were to encounter her?

    Jonathan

  47. Dear Jonathan,

    I think you are referring to those people referred to in the Lumen Gentium quotation I used:

    For they who without their own fault do not know of the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but yet seek God with sincere heart, and try, under the influence of grace, to carry out His will in practice, known to them through the dictate of conscience, can attain eternal salvation.

    And I think you are asking that if such a person were to encounter the Church, would he or she (by God’s grace – and as a rule) recognize the Catholic Church for what she is. I believe a person referred to in that Lumen Gentium text might “encounter” the Church without recognizing her if by “encounter” we mean something like “walk past a parish on the street” or “have a conversation with a Catholic co-worker” or the like. If by “encounter” we basically mean “recognize for what she is,” then that’s circular but of course we would say the person would recognize the Catholic Church for what she is. Then I think the real issue is at what point in between those two extremes of “encounter” do we anticipate the action of grace you had in mind. That, I believe, is only for God to know.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  48. Thanks Tom.

    It’s hard to imagine that such a person already participating in the divine life of Christ would not be able recognise him in the Church, even when the human elements of the Church obscure her divine identity as Christ’s body. But I guess there are extremes, such as cases of abuse, torture, etc. when recognising the One in whom you have eternal life is almost impossible.

    What troubles me is that it seems as though the Church has treated such extreme cases as though not knowing Jesus through no fault of one’s own removes sin and condemnation as much as knowing him through his Church does. That’s at least how it is presented.

    Thankfully Dominus Iesus clarified that “[i]f it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation.”

    The fact that only God knows “at what point in between those two extremes of ‘encounter'” grace is active should be more of a call for Catholics to evangelise people of other faiths. The ‘grave’ position of non-Catholics is nevertheless still lost on many Catholics.

    Jono

  49. Dear Jonathan,

    My understanding is that it would be pure speculation to say which persons might be within the ambit of that text from Lumen Gentium. One might imagine that there have been precious few within the course of human history, or that there are very many on the Earth at present — in either case I believe it is speculation. What I do know from the Church’s teaching on this matter is that there is hope, that God is just, and that God can work through extraordinary means as well as through the ordinary ones He established. The hope is tempered by texts like what you quoted from Dominus Iesus so that the concern of calling sinners to repentance (through the ordinary means) is given its proper place. (Or, as I said in this post, the Church is faced with “the weighty concern of calling all sinners to the ordinary means of grace through formal union with the Church, on the one hand, and the similarly weighty concern of avoiding the appearance of delimiting God’s ability to extend grace and salvation through extraordinary means, on the other.”)

    I do not see that you should be troubled. The Church does not treat the ‘no fault for not knowing Jesus’ as removing sins per se, and it does not treat knowing Him through His Church as removing sins per se. Christ’s blood and our washing in the waters of baptism achieves that, but that washing can be achieved extraordinarily as well (as in baptism of desire and fire).

    With you, my impression is that a “wake-up call” within the Catholic Church (at least in the U.S.) to evangelize would do much good. And I see signs that that is going on, as it has gone on very often in the past. As a Church of sinners, though, I suspect that a common apathy or lukewarmness will be with us for some time! May we not be lukewarm!

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  50. Bryan et al., I saw this quote and am curious about it:

    Can. 752 Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it. (Code of Canon Law, 752)

    What is the difference between “religious submission of the intellect and will” and “an assent of faith”? Clearly this canon states that the former is not the latter. Is this religious submission the submission to what the church teaches even though one might have doubts about it, i.e., not being against the church’s teachings in spite of one’s doubts?

    Thanks,

    Jeremy

  51. Dear Jeremy,

    I’m sorry for the long delay in posting your comment. It got caught up in regretable clutter. Consider this writing from Fr. Most, and see if it isn’t helpful in articulating the difference between assent of faith and religious submission of the will:

    Canon 752 of the New Code of Canon Law: “Not indeed an assent of faith, but yet a religious submission of mind and will must be given to the teaching which either the Supreme Pontiff, or the College of Bishops [of course, with the Pope] pronounce on faith or on morals when they exercise the authentic Magisterium even if they do not intend to proclaim it by a definitive act.” If they do not mean to make it definitive, then it does not come under the virtue of faith, or the promise of Christ,”He who hears you hears me”. Rather, it is a matter of what the Canon and LG 25 call “religious submission of mind and of will.” What does this require? Definitely, it forbids public contradiction of the teaching. But it also requires something in the mind, as the wording indicates. This cannot be the absolute assent which faith calls for – for since this teaching is, by definition, not definitive, we gather that it is not absolutely finally certain. (http://www.ewtn.com/library/scriptur/4levels.txt)

    The “assent of faith” is due by the believer only to what is contained in divine revelation. The religious submission of the intellect (mind) and will is merely given when a teaching is non-infallible yet otherwise meets the prerequisites for this category of faith. I think what you have stated is accurate — a faithful Catholic would respect this form of teaching and not adopt teachings that are contrary to it, even if that person had doubts as to the teaching.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  52. Someone sent me the following question by email:

    I’m wondering if you can help me out. I’ve been studying the Council of Trent’s famous Decree Concerning Justification, and I ran into a confusing line in Chapter XVI (emphasis mine):

    After this Catholic doctrine on justification, which whosoever does not faithfully and firmly accept cannot be justified, it seemed good to the holy council to add to these canons, that all may know not only what they must hold and follow, but also what to avoid and shun.

    How do we Catholics reconcile that definitive statement with Lumen Gentium 16, which says:

    Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.

    I thought the Church taught the possibility, though not necessarily the likelihood, of salvation for even those beyond formal Church membership, especially our Protestant brothers and sisters. Yet how does that, or the above section from Lumen Gentium, fit with the statement from Trent? No Protestant I know would “faithfully and firmly” accept the Catholic doctrine on justification, so how could they possibly be saved under the Trentine rubric?

    The statement in Trent is limited to those who know the divine authority of the Church, and know what is her teaching regarding justification, but refuse to believe it or accept it. It is not making a claim about those who are invincibly ignorant either of the Church’s identity and divine authority and/or her teaching concerning justification. This is why the statement is not claiming either that baptized infants believe something about justification or that they are lost until they come to believe Trent’s doctrine of justification. Lumen Gentium, on the other hand, in the quotation you cite, is referring precisely to those persons in a condition of invincible ignorance. So the statement from Trent is referring to persons not in invincible ignorance, while the statement from Lumen Gentium is referring to persons in invincible ignorance. Hence the two statements are not contradictory, because each is referring to what is true of persons in an epistemic condition different from the other.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  53. Someone sent me a follow-up question to the question raised in comment #52 above:

    Where in Trent does it state its limited applicability to only those who know the divine authority of the Church and/or her teaching on justification?

    This “where in Trent does it state its limited applicability” question is a ‘Protestantish’ kind of question, because it presupposes that all Church documents are intended to be self-interpreting [i.e. give internally the sufficient explanation of their meaning to all persons, regardless of their epistemic/theological formation], much as Protestants treat Scripture as perspicuous (i.e. self-interpreting). But Church documents are written by Catholics for Catholics, and so they do not provide internally all that a person of any background, tradition, formation, etc. needs to know to interpret them rightly. They are written with the understanding that they are to be interpreted according to the Tradition by those formed and trained within the Tradition, just as Scripture is rightly interpreted according to Tradition and within the community preserving that Tradition. (See “The Tradition and the Lexicon.”) This difference (between the way Catholics and Protestants approach both Scripture and the documents of the Church) not only causes Protestants in some cases to draw different interpretive conclusions from Scripture than does the Catholic Church, but it also causes some persons to claim that there are contradictions between Church documents, where in actuality there are no contradictions. This has been an issue, for example, in the question of the destiny of unbaptized infants. I responded to this in comment #69 of the “Signs of Predestination” thread. Notice there the video of then-Archbishop Burke, and his answer to the question regarding how to reconcile the teaching of Pope Eugenius IV on circumcision with the later teaching of Pope Benedict XIV regarding circumcision. It is another example of “implicit qualification” such as that belonging to the statement in Trent cited above. In short, Trent does not have to say “this injunction is restricted to persons not in invincible ignorance” in order for it to mean and be understood by the Church to be referring only to persons not in invincible ignorance.

    Would it be correct to say then that the Council of Trent, including its associated canons and anathemas, were written by Catholics for Catholics and are thus not applicable to modern Protestants? That among Protestants, they only applied to the original reformers who, at least at one time, were within the Catholic Church?

    Yes, that is correct. Now, of course this is not to be understood as a doctrinal relativism. The *doctrines* condemned in the canons are perpetually condemned. So if a Protestant holds to a doctrine anathemetized by one or more of the canons, he is holding a false doctrine. But that does not entail that *he* is condemned, or that the canon anathemetizes *him.* See Jimmy Akin’s post, and his older article on this subject. I’ve also discussed it briefly in comment #39 of the “Branches or Schisms?” post.

    There is a fundamental difference between that for which a person is culpable before God, and that by which we (humans) may judge another human. Paragraph 846 of the Catechism is speaking about the former, not the latter. Catholics approach Protestants with the principle of charity, not presuming that there is some intellectual dishonesty in their heart at the level of the will regarding the Catholic question, and not presuming that they are violating their conscience, but instead approach them by way of the principle of charity, i.e. with the assumption that they are following their conscience as best as they can, and desire to know the truth, and will in fact sacrifice all to find and follow the truth no matter what it is. All that is fully compatible with the truth of CCC 846.

    The obligation to follow the truth, including the truth about baptism and the truth about Christ’s Church, does not require of Catholics that we presume of those who have not fully embraced these truths (or who have embraced some of them, but not others) that they are intellectually dishonest, or in a state of mortal sin, etc. Our obligation before God to receive baptism, and not to form a schism or remain in a schism, are obligations before God. He alone ultimately is our judge. Each man will have to give an account to Him on the last Day. Just as a man who knowingly (and thus culpably) spurns the gift of baptism is committing a grave sin, and thus places himself in a state of mortal sin, so the man who knowingly (and thus culpably) spurns the Church and places himself in a state of schism from the Church, is committing a grave sin, and thus places himself in a state of mortal sin. If he remains unrepentant, and dies in that condition, he cannot enter heaven. But it is not for me (or any other Catholic) to judge the hearts of our fellow man and determine that this one or that one has placed himself in a state of mortal sin by such a choice. We cannot read hearts; only God can. Nor would it be charitable for us to presume the worst of someone. The principle of charity calls us to believe the best about someone, all other things being equal, and to pray for those we see in error, rather than judge them.

    The Church’s having divine authority to define the articles of faith that we must believe does not entail that those do not accept that authority are in a state of mortal sin, or are culpably rejecting divinely established authority. Material heresy is not necessarily formal heresy. Nor do we assume that the person who claims to be fully informed regarding the Catholic question is infallible regarding this judgment about him or herself. It is easy to make the mistake of thinking that one is fully informed, and yet discover later that one has only scratched the surface.

    Regarding the anathemas of Trent and the First Vatican Council, as I explained above and in #52, those do not ipso facto entail that anyone who holds one of the anthematized positions is culpable for doing so, or has thereby committed a mortal sin. The anathemas ipso facto condemn positions; they do not ipso facto condemn persons. They condemn persons only when other factors are satisfied, including the person does so with full knowledge and deliberate consent.

    So if a Protestant asks “Am I truly a separated brother given that I am knowledgably rejecting the RCC?” the Catholic answer is yes, for the reason explained above. The Protestant is baptized, and (presumably) has not renounced his baptism. Therefore he is a Christian. Therefore, as a Christian who is not in full communion with the Catholic Church, he is a separated brother, whether or not he is presently in a state of grace.

    Does that mean that Protestants do not need to become Catholic to be saved? Again, this claim has to be disambiguated. The necessity of entering the Church is the same as the necessity of receiving baptism. Is there such a thing as baptism by desire? Yes. Does the doctrine of “baptism by desire” mean that unbaptized persons “don’t need to [be baptized] in order to be saved”? Absolutely not. Those who with full knowledge and deliberate consent reject baptism, cannot be saved. Only those who have at least baptism by desire can be saved. Likewise, in the very same way, is there such a thing as being in imperfect communion with the Church Christ founded? Yes. Does the doctrine of imperfect communion mean that those not in full communion ‘don’t need to come into full communion in order to be saved”? Again, absolutely not. As the excerpt I posted from the CCC at the beginning of this thread explains, those who with full knowledge and deliberate consent reject full communion with the Church Christ founded and enter into or remain in schism from His Church, cannot be saved. Only those who are at least in imperfect communion with Christ’s Church, and are not with full knowledge and deliberate consent rejecting full communion with the Church Christ founded, can be saved. Just as we (humans) cannot know that a person who rejects baptism has done so with full knowledge and deliberate consent, so we cannot know that a person who rejects full communion with Christ’s Church has done so with full knowledge and deliberate consent. In such cases, God alone knows each man’s heart.

  54. Bryan,

    With regard to this issue of culpability, it seems as though Vatican II has allowed for a free getaway from the necessity of joining the Church for salvation. For instance, what protestant do you know remains a protestant when they “know” with “certainty” that God made the “Roman Catholic Church necessary” for “savlation”? Since almost all protestants, if not all entirely, remain protestant because they are not convinced of the truth of the Catholic Church, this fact alone, by the very authority of Vatican II, pardons them all from the culpable responsibility of failing to join the Catholic Church. If it were just some young kids talking to each other about the rules of a game, it would be kind of like saying “If you are convinced you need to be on team A then you must join team A, but if not you can choose whatever team you want”. It is a total release from the culpability of protestants from being judged for not joining the Catholic Church.

    This also includes Catholics today who leave the Catholic Church to become Protestant. There are millions of Catholics becoming Protestant to whom the modern Church will never issue condemnation to because of the small hole possibility of their “conscience” not being “convinced” of the truth of the Catholic Church.

    Sadly, it seems the same applies to modern Jews/Muslims who actively interact with Catholics, and who know the Catholic Church. I am thinking of a recent interaction between Cardinal Dolan and a Muslim convention of some sort, where he told them “You love God, we love God”. These are Muslims who actively refute Christian theology. Many believe that Jesus will come back to destroy Christianity. Moreover, the Jews are respected for their ancestory in the covenants, and it is almost a given that they are not lost because they are not “convinced” of the truth of the Catholic Church.

    Conclusively, the Catholic Church requires all who are “convinced” to be Catholic to be “guilty” of not remaining in the Church or not entering the Church. Well, if one just thinks mathematically, how many people who are “convinced” they need to be Catholic in order to go to heaven are not actually catholic? Probably a very few. The condemnation therefore issued to those who refuse to remain or enter the Church is extremely unrealistic. As long as outsiders remain “unconvinced” of needing to become Catholic, then salvation is open to them through other visible and material means (though underneath it is really the grace of Christ) no matter how much revelation of Christ they receive.

    If what I have described above matches the Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Church, then I simply do not know how to read when I read the history of the Church.

  55. Dear Erick,

    Thank you for the interesting comment.

    I invite you to read the article above, as it explains what Vatican II did say about this issue, as well as what earlier authorities said. Without knowing which text of Vatican II you have in mind, it’s hard to give a response to the claim that it “seems as though Vatican II has allowed for a free gateway from the necessity of joining the Church for salvation.” Given that Lumen Gentium was speaking only of those with invincible ignorance, I do not see how there is any free gateway, because I believe anyone pondering taking such a free gateway by remaining Protestant would no longer be “invincibly ignorant” (i.e., I understand that they would move to a state of culpable ignorance if they figured the Catholic Church wouldn’t mind if they remained Protestant).

    I also do not know what you have in mind when you say that the “modern Church” would “never issue condemnation” to Catholics who break communion with the Church to become Protestant. The Church quite clearly teaches about the gravity of doing that. (And the modern Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, so fully tied to its historical roots, not just to believers who are walking the planet today.) As for your reference to conscience, yes, of course the Church holds conscience at a premium — so one who does not believe what the Church teaches is taught not to continue living as if he or she did believe what the Church teaches.

    I think I have an idea what your reference to Cardinal Dolan is about, but I’m not positive I have you right here. Please consider my text from the post above:

    [The Church’s] process has been so cautious because of the weighty concern of calling all sinners to the ordinary means of grace through formal union with the Church, on the one hand, and the similarly weighty concern of avoiding the appearance of delimiting God’s ability to extend grace and salvation through extraordinary means, on the other.

    Depending on one’s inclination, it is easy to criticize someone whom we think should be chastening more people who are outside the Catholic Church, or to criticize someone whom one thinks is teaching an overly exclusive understanding of grace. If I could step from here to your mathematical point, the teaching in question (from Lumen Gentium) escapes mathematical formulation. It would be pure conjecture to say how wide or narrow (how many or how few) is the qualification made for those who are invincibly ignorant and who also meet the other conditions given in that text. To guess at the number, or to categorize whole swaths of humans who live outside the Church as “saved,” misses the point of Lumen Gentium entirely. This is because we do not know, and it is not for us to know, what condition of the interior human heart meets the threshold of invincible ignorance and also is “seek[ing] God with sincere heart, and try[ing], under the influence of grace, to carry out His will in practice.” A mere feeling of being “unconvinced,” as you put it, would not ipso facto meet the threshold of invincible ignorance and the condition about seeking with a pure heart and living thereby. Choosing to remain in the “unconvinced” state is not a cheap ticket to paradise.

    As for it being “almost a given” that Jews are saved, this claim is unpersuasive without support. It is not an accurate statement based on Catholic teaching. Lumen Gentium applies with equal force, and without special qualification for the Jewish faithful.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  56. Tom Brown,

    Thank you for responding. I am glad I have someone to converse with here. I should give some background info. I am a former protestant. My wife and family are currently attending a local Catholic parish. I have been moving towards Catholicism for a year now, have consulted with many fine Catholics in person and via online here and other places, and have read countless books on issues related to Catholic apologetics and the faulty logic of Protestantism. We are just about to head into the process of getting our marriage sacramentally blessed. However, I have recently run into this problem with the Catholic Church’s view of “Outside the Church there is no salvation”. It has caused me great grief, much tears, and even despair of finding where God wants me to be. I have find myself in an existential crisis. For originally, I have been told reading the Church Fathers and the Early Church Tradition of the first 1600 years would lead me, properly, into the Roman Catholic Church. I recognize, without a doubt, that the early Christians did believe in infant baptismal regeneration, the real flesh and blood of Christ in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, the power of Christ’s forgiveness in sacramentally ordained men, the belief in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church that would continue to exist on earth as a promise from Christ, etc,etc,etc… And this no doubt has given me great confidence in my move towards Roman Catholicism. However, reading the very same things, namely, the Church Fathers and the Traditions, has now created a inner repelling of entering the Catholic Church. I still desire greatly to do so, but I wish to be honest in believing all that is taught. Particularly, the issue of there being salvation for man and woman who practice all the false religions of the world. I personally have no problem with them being saved by God. My issue is that I am afraid that Vatican 2 deeply misunderstood the Tradition of the Church and former infallible statements of councils and popes. So this issue is a sensitive one. It is one of 2 things: 1) I am either confused on what Vatican 2 teaches, or what I expect the Lord to want me to believe, or 2) Vatican 2 made an error with respect to what the Church has always believed.

    I cannot escape the conclusion from Unam Sanctum that Pope Boniface VIII was excluding the contemporary Greek Orthodox Churches and all other people who either refuse or have not subjected themselves to the successors of St. Peter. Now the claim itself to me doesn’t resound with what our Lord taught in the gospels (thief on the cross, roman centurion, the late coming vineyard workers, etc,etc). However, it is what an authoratative Pope has taught and we have to view it as a infallible statement. I understand that there was a widely held assumption that would not have needed to have been said regarding those who are saved via baptism of desire or martyrdom. But it is a whole lot easier to think of Boniface assuming that his understanding of subjection to St. Peter’s successors include Catechumen’s who are aware of this truth and embrace it before their baptism.

    That martyrs can be eternally damned by virtue of not being in communion with the successors of St. Peter is a very explicit denial that anyone protestant or non-christian person can be saved without at least becoming desirous of entering the Church explicitly. For how many degrees of implicit desire are there before you realize there is no definition for it.

    When I said that Vatican 2 seems to be allowing everyone off the hook even within knowledge of the Church is stated in Chapter 2 of the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church “People of God”:

    “Basing itself on scripture and tradition, it teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is 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.”

    Where the council states “knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ”, it is explicitly not referring to people who happily disagree with the claim itself. Therefore, those who have the revelation of Christ’s Catholic Church but are happily unconvinced of it’s truth, are not liable to judgement on their rejection of the Church. This about comprises just about all non-Catholics who know of the Church. They simply don’t agree with what is taught and practiced. This, in my mind, makes them not culpable. Of course, no one can know what God knows about each individual, but it is very clear that the Council was now teaching that we cannot just say person A is committing crime B. Now, we have to respect the conscience, the level of light given, and our own humility in not knowing. Whereas the Tradition of the Church always had an answer for these questions.

  57. Catholic Joe Heschmeyer wrote a helpful related post yesterday explaining the Catholic position on extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, titled, “Can Non-Catholics be Saved?.”

  58. Thanks Bryan for pointing me to this thread.

    Ok, posts 5 and 17 are the most important. #26 even points out how Mike L. admits it’s hard to find Catholic theologians before the 19th century admit Protestants could be saved. Exactly what I’ve been trying to find! Amazing how some of the same questions pop up with folks that look into this :)

    Basically the Catholic author of this article doesn’t quote how even Augustine believed unbaptized infants would be damned (just without fires of pain). And Fulgentius was extremely harsh on non-Catholics, basically saying exactly what that Florence quote says in Cantate Domino.

    Yeah there was Baptism by desire and blood but this was never a satisfactory answer to the question. These are for those who desired to be Catholic. Augustine, Fulgentius and Florence never thought an Arian who was a catechumen and got martyred would have the effects of the martyrdom. In fact Augustine clearly says just the opposite. And Florence echos this thought process that stemmed from Augustine and Fulgentius.

    So when modern Catholics say the RCC “didn’t really mean it like that”, well then show me the Catholic theologians that unpack it all and say it’s possible for Greek Orthodox and Protestants to go to heaven. You never see this because, well, yeah they “really did mean it like that”.

    Just show me one pre-1800s quote and I’ll cede the point.

    Peace,
    David

    PS: Burton and Jeff, are you guys still around?

  59. Dear Erick,

    Just a quick note up front: I would like to keep this thread about the specific claim of Van Drunnen’s that the Catholic Church has changed her teaching on the issue of soteriologic inclusivity. I think your comment was fine, but just note that I would like to avoid a free-for-all debate about all the angles of EENS (which is sometimes hotly debated).

    You finished with this:

    Now, we have to respect the conscience, the level of light given, and our own humility in not knowing. Whereas the Tradition of the Church always had an answer for these questions.

    I don’t see the contradiction that has you distressed. It might help if you could provide the texts of Church teachings that you believe are contradictory. I read the quotation you included from People of God, and do not see that it is inconsistent with the texts I dealt with in the post above.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom B.

  60. David,

    You said in #58:

    Basically the Catholic author of this article doesn’t quote how even Augustine believed unbaptized infants would be damned (just without fires of pain). And Fulgentius was extremely harsh on non-Catholics, basically saying exactly what that Florence quote says in Cantate Domino.

    What does the status of unbaptized infants have to do with the status of Protestants (the issue that drew you to this thread)?

    You are aware that St. Augustine considered the Donatists to be brethren, right? He seems like a poor choice for defending your notion that calling Protestants separated brethren connotes a doctrinal shift. :-)

    Yeah there was Baptism by desire and blood but this was never a satisfactory answer to the question.

    To what question?

    So when modern Catholics say the RCC “didn’t really mean it like that”, well then show me the Catholic theologians that unpack it all and say it’s possible for Greek Orthodox and Protestants to go to heaven. You never see this because, well, yeah they “really did mean it like that”.

    Just show me one pre–1800s quote and I’ll cede the point.

    I already did: St. Peter Canisius (16th century), as documented by historian Henri Daniel-Rops. :-)

    What is so special about the 19th century that you won’t accept evidence from then (which I also provided)?

    Fred

  61. Good morning Fred,

    I pointed out St. Augustine believed unbaptized infants were damned to show the consistent restrictionist view of EENS/No salvation outside the Church that developed early on and was maintained up until the 19th century.

    St. Augustine also stated baptism has no effect for those out of communion, until they rejoin. Chapter 9: http://carm.org/augustine-baptism-donatists-book6 This is very important in understanding that the “baptism by blood and desire” argument does not work for those who do not seek communion with RCC.

    For Augstine, Fulgentius up through Florence and after, it certainly appears the continual teaching was that baptism by blood and desire would have no effect for those in “heretical” or “schismatical” churches. The quote in Cantate Domino Dr. VanDrunen quotes is consistent with this thought process and surely would have been written differently if it was not.

    To prove the Church is not resorting to “hermeneutical acrobats”, as the eloquent (and honest) Catholic theologian Dr. VanDrunen quotes, put it, it must be shown the train of thought was there during this medieval period that allowed for those not in communion with Rome could get to heaven. Just show me one.

    What’s so important about the 19th century? It was when Piux IX starting preaching “invincible ignorance” may allow non-Catholics to get to heaven. To me, it just sounds like the RCC was adapting to the times. Unless you can show me this train of thought existed before.

    Even one of his successors, Pius X stated (1903-1914) “With truly lamentable results, our age, casting aside all restraint in its search for the ultimate causes of things, frequently pursues novelties so ardently that it rejects the legacy of the human race.”

    This is the time Pius IX was living in…19th century modernism was bursting with energy everywhere that it of course affected the Catholic Church’s thought process too.

    That is why I would like to see a quote from before the 1800’s. Because right now I (and many non-Catholics adept at history who are not unfree to criticise the RCC when needed) basically see the Catholic Church as “changing with the times” to stay in power. Like it or not, this is how it looks from the outside, and perhaps even to those in the RCC who, like Erasmus, are not afraid to talk about honest problems.

    You did point out St. Peter Canisius, but provided no quote from him. I’ve already shown with St. Augustine how a simple reference to “separated brethren” does not mean he still thought they could be saved worshiping Christ outside of communion with Rome.

    Please show me an actual quote from Canisius or anyone else that unpacks this prior to 1800’s and I’ll cede the point.

    David

  62. David #61:

    What’s so important about the 19th century? It was when Piux IX starting preaching “invincible ignorance” may allow non-Catholics to get to heaven. To me, it just sounds like the RCC was adapting to the times. Unless you can show me this train of thought existed before.

    Augustine:

    “God is not unjust, so as to deprive the just of the reward of justice, if the
    sacrament of the divinity and humanity of Christ was not announced to
    them.””Contra Iulianum,” 4. 3. 25. PL 44. 750.

    St. Gregory of Nazianzus, said:

    “He was ours even before he was of our fold. His way of living made him
    such. For just as many of ours are not with us, whose life makes them
    other from our body (the Church), so many of those outside belong to us,
    who by their way of life anticipate the faith, and need (only) the name,
    having the reality (ergon).”Oration 18.” 6. PG 35. 992; and “Oration 8.”
    20. PG 35. 812. Cf. Luneau, “art. cit.,” 831-32.

    Origen, Hegemonius, St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril of Alexandria, Theodoret, and Primasius wrote about that the Logos was present since creation who wrote the law on hearts and even pagans who respond to Logos, even though they were neither a member of the Catholic Church nor aware that this interior Logos was God, or the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Christ, nevertheless, they can be saved. Justin said that all who follow the Logos (Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ) were (before Christ’s incarnation) and are Christians.

    Cornelius the God-fearer did not know Christ yet God was pleased with his almsgiving. Before he was baptized and became incorporated into the Catholic Church, if he had died, do you think God would not have saved him? People damn themselves. It would be unjust for God to damn Cornelius even though he never knew Christ or joined the Church or was baptized. Such situations are referred to in the Catholic Church as the baptism of desire and the person would be saved. Another example of this is the thief on the cross. And the Holy Innocents, those babies two and under who were killed by Herod, are martyrs. This would be an example of baptism of blood.

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