Thursday, May 26, 2005

Extra ecclesiam

Among other things, I had said:
<< "It’s safer to be outside the church. The less you know the better. Ignorance is your best defense. By contrast, the most dangerous place in the world, spiritually speaking, is inside the Catholic church!">>

To which Jason said:
<< Please, don't misrepresent Catholic teaching. If you disagree with it, then disagree. But present it accurately.

"If 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."

--"Dominus Iesus", 2000 Declaration of the Holy See, #22

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000806_dominus-iesus_en.html >>

By way of comment:

1.What theological weight does Jason assign to “Dominus Iesus”? For example, the Declaration makes the following claim:

<< 20. Above all else, it must be firmly believed that “the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door”. 77 >>

Notice that it appeals to the long ending of Mark to prove that Jesus “explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism.” Yet is there any contemporary Catholic Bible scholar who would deny that the long ending of Mark is spurious? So the claim is demonstrably false.

2.Do you have to be a Christian to be saved? The Declaration says no:

<< 12. Furthermore, the salvific action of Jesus Christ, with and through his Spirit, extends beyond the visible boundaries of the Church to all humanity. Speaking of the paschal mystery, in which Christ even now associates the believer to himself in a living manner in the Spirit and gives him the hope of resurrection, the Council states: “All this holds true not only for Christians but also for all men of good will in whose hearts grace is active invisibly. For since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery”.37 >>

<< The Church is the “universal sacrament of salvation”,79 since, united always in a mysterious way to the Saviour Jesus Christ, her Head, and subordinated to him, she has, in God's plan, an indispensable relationship with the salvation of every human being.80 For those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, “salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit”;81 it has a relationship with the Church, which “according to the plan of the Father, has her origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit”.82

(82) Second Vatican Council, Decree Ad gentes, 2. The famous formula extra Ecclesiam nullus omnino salvatur is to be interpreted in this sense (cf. Fourth Lateran Council, Cap. 1. De fide catholica: DS 802). Cf. also the Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston: DS 3866-3872. >>

How can this be squared with the exclusive ecclesiocentrism of Florence and Lateran IV? I’m aware of two strategies:

i) There is the strategy, deployed here, according to which “the Church is the universal sacrament of salvation.” This is explicated to mean that “for those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, “salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation.”

So even though you’re not a “formal and visible” member of the church, yet it is still possible for you to be in the pipeline of grace by dint of a “mysterious relationship to the church.”

ii) The other strategy is to say that Florence and Lateran IV are not directed against “pagans and Jews” generally, but only those whose belief is culpable because they’ve been exposed to the Catholic faith, yet rejected it.

This is set off from a much larger class of pagans and Jews who may be invincibly ignorant, and thus, be blameless for their lack of faith in Christ since their unbelief is a historical accident, through no fault of their own.

According to this strategy, the pagan or Jew is in a state of diminished responsibility.

I’ll come back to this momentarily, but let’s consider the passage quoted by Jason:

<< 22. If 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. >>

i) What is the precise force of this statement? What is meant, for example, by the caveat that they are “objectively” in a gravely deficient situation? This is presumably in implicit contrast to their “subjective” situation.

So, “subjectively speaking,” are they still in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation?

ii) What is meant by “deficient”? Compare their situation with the following:

<< 17. “Therefore, these separated Churches and communities as such, though we believe they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”.66 >>

What is the difference between “defective” and “deficient”? Does this mean that Evangelicals are in the boat as pagans and Jews? Or does the difference turn on the presence or absence of the adjective “gravely?”

iii) If, at the end of the day, Jews and pagans can still be saved, then in what respect is their spiritual situation “gravely deficient”?

If they can be saved, the distinction is not qualitative. So is it merely quantitative? Is the point that fewer Jews and pagans are saved in proportion to Roman Catholics or other Christians who enjoy valid sacraments?

But if pagans can be saved by faith in natural revelation, then in what sense does that place them in a disadvantageous position? Ditto: the Jews, who have the benefit of special revelation.

Finally, there is the part of the paragraph which Jason did not quote:

<< 22. However, “all the children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be more severely judged”.93 >>

Pay close attention to the contrast. On the one hand you have Jews and pagans who are in a condition of diminished responsibility due to their invincible ignorance of the Catholic faith.

On the other hand, you have Catholics who are in a condition of heightened responsibility due to their “exalted condition” in relation to the church.

And this, in turn, leaves them liable to an aggravated state of guilt to which the invincibly ignorant pagan or Jew is immune.

Hence, a Catholic is at greater risk of damnation than a pagan—especially when you compare the ratio of lapsed Catholics to ignorant Hindus and Buddhists and Mohammedans—to name a few.

So have I misrepresented Catholic teaching? Or have I presented Catholic teaching all the more accurately by following it through to its logical conclusions?

6 comments:

  1. Yet is there any contemporary Catholic Bible scholar who would deny that the long ending of Mark is spurious? So the claim is demonstrably false.

    Huh? The Church receives it as canonical, evidenced by the citation. "Catholic Bible scholars" have nothing to do with anything. If evangelicals don't receive it as canonical, that's fine. But your views have nothing to do with the DI citation. Even conceding the possibility that it is not canonical, the citation itself indicates that DI is affirming what the passage communicates, regardless of its canonical status.

    What is meant, for example, by the caveat that they are “objectively” in a gravely deficient situation? This is presumably in implicit contrast to their “subjective” situation.

    An objective divorce from truth means you have fewer straws to grasp at. The further you are from the fullness of truth, the fewer straws you have. Subjective considerations cannot be measured, as they are bound up in God's grace and providence.

    Does this mean that Evangelicals are in the boat as pagans and Jews? Or does the difference turn on the presence or absence of the adjective “gravely?”

    No, particularly on an ontological level. Evangelicals have been reborn in Christ. Jews and pagans have not. Evangelicals also possess the bulk of Divine Revelation. Jews possess greater knowledge of divine revelation than pagans, but they are equal on an ontological level.

    "If, at the end of the day, Jews and pagans can still be saved, then in what respect is their spiritual situation “gravely deficient”?

    In the means at their disposal. Pagans who have never heard the Gospel have the moral law written on their hearts. While it is easily blinded by sin, it is there nonetheless. Christians have the moral law written on their hearts, but they also have it in the explict sources of divine revelation (Scripture and Tradition).

    Analogies abound for this concept. It's the difference between a man on a deserted island who has instructions and all the materials to build a boat, and a man who has the instructions but must gather materials from around the island. Both have the possibility of building a boat and getting off the island, but one has greater (and easier) means at his disposal. The first man is more likely to build the boat, while the second is in a deficient circumstance.

    And this, in turn, leaves them liable to an aggravated state of guilt to which the invincibly ignorant pagan or Jew is immune.

    "To whom much is given, much is expected."

    Hence, a Catholic is at greater risk of damnation than a pagan—especially when you compare the ratio of lapsed Catholics to ignorant Hindus and Buddhists and Mohammedans—to name a few.

    First of all, invincible ignorance is nothing something you can measure. It is a matter of conscience, which only God can judge. Furthemore, as I explained above, Catholics have explicit knowledge and full means for salvation. They know what is expected of them, and they have all the divine means to help fulfill their obligations. Non-Catholics, in varying degrees, may or may not know what is expected of them, and if they do, they lack all the means to help fulfill their obligations. Incidentally, hardness of heart also makes one culpable for sin, not just lack of knowledge. Ignorance can be a punishment for sin.

    So have I misrepresented Catholic teaching? Or have I presented Catholic teaching all the more accurately by following it through to its logical conclusions?

    You have misrepresented (or, perhaps, misunderstood it).

    I did not respond to your wider questions on Extra Ecclesia Nulla Salus, as my post was in response to one specific assertion you made, which was factually erroneous. The Church specifically denies what you proposed.

    God bless.

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  2. Jason, having God's law written on the heart is what convicts a pagan, not what saves him.

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  3. K7,

    Of course "God's law" doesn't save. "law" is a concept. Only a person can save. That person is Christ.

    Nevertheless, God does not hold ignorance of revelation against a man who has honestly cooperated with his grace. Like the pagans who did not know the law, but lived according to the law, God accepts a man who obeys his will as best he knows it, though ignorant of all God has revealed in Christ.

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  4. Walter Kasper was one of Europe's most prominent theologians before JP II named him bishop and then cardinal. In his book from '74 called Jesus The Christ, he denies that Jesus performed any "nature miracles." He specifically says he doesn't believe Jesus walked on water or raised the dead.

    Here is his address at Boston in which he made the statement that Jews don't need Jesus.

    http://www.bc.edu/research/cjl/meta-elements/texts/cjrelations/resources/articles/Kasper_6Nov02.htm

    "This does not mean that Jews in order to be saved have to become Christians; if they follow their own conscience and believe in God's promises as they understand them in their religious tradition they are in line with God's plan, which for us comes to its historical completion in Jesus Christ."

    Remember, this guy is the Vatican's chief spokesman for interreligious dialogue. It is ridiculous to say that JP didn't know what this guy was up to.

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  5. Jason, what man would this be? Prior to regeneration, which man cannot effect in himself, no man is capable of choosing God or doing any good.

    The question of how God deals with all His creation is not something the Roman Catholic church should be making dogmatic statements about. God deals with his creation - with individuals - from eternity. From above our perception of time. With God all is things are possible.

    We are to go on what He states in His Word, though. That is how it works in God's plan. Anything else is human vanity and pride and self-will lecturing to God.

    What you need to learn and accept (and your church theologians need to learn and accept) is you are a sinner and judged to death, as are those pagans and Jews and every other human being you mention. And you need to learn and accept that there is nothing YOU can do to change this. Accepting this is what assaults your prideful human mind and sense of what is "right" and makes you want to lecture to God how things will be rather than how God tells you things are.

    There's an implicit doctrine in the Bible - in God's plan - that goes something like: if you are there you are there. If you have heard the Gospel then you have heard it. Worrying about "others" and forming a man-centered doctrine based on your worry about "others" is the act of a vain, unregenerate fool. (And a vain, Satanically mislead church.)

    Note to all: all those words are Biblical, so please don't blow a gasket.

    Your only concern about others should be evangelization. And evangelization means giving people the straight, hardcore message of the Doctrines of Grace, hell, and election. God's elect will respond. Others? Romans 1:32.

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  6. Incidentally, here is an interesting critique of Dominus Iesus from a traditionalist perspective:

    http://www.sspxasia.com/Documents/SiSiNoNo/2002_July/Dominus_Jesus.htm

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