Expert Answer Forum
other paths to God QUESTION from Kathy April 21, 2000 My husband and I are very concerned about this issue. We were told at our parish the other night by our RCIA team leaders that there are other paths to God, and that persons of other religions can attain heaven, even if they don't believe in Jesus, just as long as they are good people and are faithful believers of their religion. They also said that we cannot limit God or put him in a box by saying that Jesus is the only way.
We were under the impression that the Catholic Church taught that the ONLY way to God is through Jesus Christ-- that we are to respect other people, and not persecute other religions, and evangelize with dignity and respect, but the only way to secure salvation is by accepting God's gift of salvation in Jesus.
We are very confused. Our team leaders directed us to a document from Vatican II---something about freedom of religion...we have been looking at it, and I also looked at the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I see nothing that says that other religions can attain heaven....I see that we should not be rude or persecute others, and that governments should not hinder religious freedom...I see nothing about all paths lead to God or Christianity is ONLY ONE way to Christ. I have not been able to finish the whole thing, but it seems to me that if they came to this conclusion, they have really read into it what they wanted it to say.
If people believe that there is more than one way to Christ/God, then why be a Christian at all?! We should all just be doing our own thing and what works for you is ok, but I choose to believe this. This line of post-modernistic thought is wishy-washy and WRONG! Why evangelize then, if other religions will help them attain heaven? I think that we should love and respect all people, but I will never say that other religions will lead people to Christ/God. It is one thing to say that we should love and try to live in harmony with others, but to say that there are other ways to salvation besides Christ is wrong! Jesus said No one comes to the Father except through me!
Only God is able to judge us. The fate of each soul is ultimately up to Him. But, scripture is very clear and direct....it says over and over that the ONLY way to be saved is to accept God's gift through Jesus Christ. I see nothing in scripture about well, if you are a nice person, you might make it... or if you are a good Buddist or Muslim, you might make it... What we were told by our team leaders is so PC and riding the fence.
My husband and I are very worried---did our team leaders appropriately inform us of the Church's position, or were they out of line? Please let us know the Church's stance on this.... we are anxiously waiting for your response!
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on April 30, 2000 Dear Mrs. Kathy:
The is only ONE path to God -- through Jesus Christ, through His Church, the Catholic Church.....but......
God in His mercy may save whom He chooses and those who through no fault of their own do not know the Catholic Church as the means of salvation, or of Jesus Christ, are not held accountable for that, but are looked upon by God for what they do know and are judged accordingly.
Let me quote the Catechism directly so there is no misunderstanding on this important issue.
The Church and non-Christians
839 Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways.
The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, the first to hear the Word of God. The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
840 And when one considers the future, God's People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.
841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day.
842 The Church's bond with non-Christian religions is in the first place the common origin and end of the human race:
All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city. . . 843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.
844 In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them:
Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair. 845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is the world reconciled. She is that bark which in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world. According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves from the flood.
Outside the Church there is no salvation
846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it. 847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation. 848 Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.
There is only one path to God and we need to be careful about blending our beliefs into a new age universalism. That sounds like what your RCIA leaders are in danger of doing.
They need to stop using the phrase, There are many paths to God because it implies a heresy and it will lead people into thinking that Jesus and the Church are not needed, but are only one of many ways to God.
They are probably not doing this intentionally, but the phraseology they are using implies a heresy.
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