Faith/Spirituality Forum: Good Works & Faith for salvation
Good Works & Faith for salvation QUESTION from Aaron Lim October 16, 2001 I have read and heard that knowing the truth of the Christian faith and doing good makes a perfect salvation. I am also aware of the fact that Faith without works is dead. I agree to that.
Here's the question;
Say a non-Christian is not aware of our Lord's faith, just goes around doing good AND also follows every precept of the Faith (ie: Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism) and the conscience of the heart and Law. Will that person still perish in the fires of Hell? What is the stand taken by the Catechism and the Bible on this?
Does the notion of Every stream still leads to the same main sea hold water?
I do remember the Pope mentioning this matter in respect of aknowledging the other great religions of the world and giving our own due respect to them. However, we can't sit still; knowing that their good works without our faith (whether they don't know it or don't accept it) means that all their good in the world are in vain.
How must a Catholic approach this since he/she is fully aware of our Lord's words as truth? Since this is OUR truth, does it mean the other supposed truths by other religions are lies...destined for good people of other faiths doomed to die according to our Christian perspective?
How can we as Catholics synchronise the presence of Christ's truth with the respect for other faiths? Still, we also have to consider that our truth cannot be forced upon others; but how can we help them and ourselves?
Thanks and God bless.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on October 18, 2001 Dear Mr. Lim:
The Catechism answers the issues of No Salvation outside of the Church:
Who belongs to the Catholic Church?
836 All men are called to this catholic unity of the People of God.... And to it, in different ways, belong or are ordered: the Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ, and finally all mankind, called by God's grace to salvation. 320
837 Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who - by the bonds constituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and communion - are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but 'in body' not 'in heart.' 321
838 The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter. 322 Those who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. 323 With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist. 324
The Church and non-Christians
839 Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways. 325
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, 326 the first to hear the Word of God. 327 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, 328 for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. 329 840 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. 330
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. . . 331 843 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. 332
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. 333 845 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. 334
Outside the Church there is no salvation
846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? 335 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. 336 847 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. 337 848 Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men. 338
Mission - a requirement of the Church's catholicity
849 The missionary mandate. Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be 'the universal sacrament of salvation,' the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder and because it is demanded by her own essential universality, strives to preach the Gospel to all men: 339 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and Lo, I am with you always, until the close of the age. 340
850 The origin and purpose of mission. The Lord's missionary mandate is ultimately grounded in the eternal love of the Most Holy Trinity: The Church on earth is by her nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, she has as her origin the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit. 341 The ultimate purpose of mission is none other than to make men share in the communion between the Father and the Son in their Spirit of love. 342
851 Missionary motivation. It is from God's love for all men that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism, for the love of Christ urges us on. 343 Indeed, God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth; 344 that is, God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth. Those who obey the prompting of the Spirit of truth are already on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God's universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary.
852 Missionary paths. The Holy Spirit is the protagonist, the principal agent of the whole of the Church's mission. 345 It is he who leads the Church on her missionary paths. This mission continues and, in the course of history, unfolds the mission of Christ, who was sent to evangelize the poor; so the Church, urged on by the Spirit of Christ, must walk the road Christ himself walked, a way of poverty and obedience, of service and self-sacrifice even to death, a death from which he emerged victorious by his resurrection. 346 So it is that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians. 347
853 On her pilgrimage, the Church has also experienced the discrepancy existing between the message she proclaims and the human weakness of those to whom the Gospel has been entrusted. 348 Only by taking the way of penance and renewal, the narrow way of the cross, can the People of God extend Christ's reign. 349 For just as Christ carried out the work of redemption in poverty and oppression, so the Church is called to follow the same path if she is to communicate the fruits of salvation to men. 350
854 By her very mission, the Church . . . travels the same journey as all humanity and shares the same earthly lot with the world: she is to be a leaven and, as it were, the soul of human society in its renewal by Christ and transformation into the family of God. 351 Missionary endeavor requires patience. It begins with the proclamation of the Gospel to peoples and groups who do not yet believe in Christ, 352 continues with the establishment of Christian communities that are a sign of God's presence in the world, 353 and leads to the foundation of local churches. 354 It must involve a process of inculturation if the Gospel is to take flesh in each people's culture. 355 There will be times of defeat. With regard to individuals, groups, and peoples it is only by degrees that [the Church] touches and penetrates them and so receives them into a fullness which is Catholic. 356
855 The Church's mission stimulates efforts towards Christian unity. 357 Indeed, divisions among Christians prevent the Church from realizing in practice the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her sons who, though joined to her by Baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her. Furthermore, the Church herself finds it more difficult to express in actual life her full catholicity in all its aspects. 358
856 The missionary task implies a respectful dialogue with those who do not yet accept the Gospel. 359 Believers can profit from this dialogue by learning to appreciate better those elements of truth and grace which are found among peoples, and which are, as it were, a secret presence of God. 360 They proclaim the Good News to those who do not know it, in order to consolidate, complete, and raise up the truth and the goodness that God has distributed among men and nations, and to purify them from error and evil for the glory of God, the confusion of the demon, and the happiness of man. 361
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