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Friday, March 24, 2017

Isn't it enough to just be a Christian vs Only Catholics go to heaven!

                  “Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, 

         and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Continuing in the theme of previous posts regarding "Outside the Church there is no Salvation", or Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Sallus (EENS)...I (coincidentally?) happened to come across an article on EENS from Catholic apologist Mark Shea today.

Below is an excerpt (bold emphasis mine).  The article in its entirety can be found here: Mark P. Shea: Just Exactly Where is the Church?

But suffice it to say that the answer to the thread title's questions are:  No, and no.  *:) happy

It's not "enough" to just be a Christian.  And one can be in heaven without being Catholic.

(Regarding the word "enough"--here's what Mark Shea says:  "Depends on what you mean by 'enough'. If you mean 'enough to be saved' then I submit this is Minimum Daily Adult Requirement thinking. No lover asks 'What's the absolute bare minimum amount of contact with my Beloved I can get away with?' "

That is, asking your spouse, "Isn't it enough that I said I love you and I see you once a week?" is the exact WRONG question to ask.  #sleepingonthecouchthatnight)

More on that now:

Just Exactly Where is the Church?
--Mark Shea

Unam Sanctam is the sort of document that gives our Protestant brothers and sisters a real jolt, primarily because it looks at first blush as though it teaches that Catholics cannot have Protestant brothers and sisters. Written by Pope Boniface VIII in 1302, this papal bull concludes with this shocking dogmatic definition:
"We declare, say, define and pronounce, that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff."
The average modern reader concludes these words mean: "We know exactly where the Church both is and is not. It's in the visible Catholic communion and only members of the visible Catholic Church go to Heaven." After this basic assumption has been made, most people go on to assume it is simply a matter of deciding what you think about that proposition. Generally, people fall into one of the following groups:
1. Those nice people who say hopefully, "That statement was not dogma, but just Boniface's opinion."

2. Those Progressive Dissenting Catholics who say, "That statement used to be narrow-minded Catholic dogma but Vatican II thankfully contradicts all that. How the Church has grown!"

3. Those anti-Catholics say derisively, "That statement used to be unbiblical Catholic dogma but Vatican II reversed all that. How the supposedly infallible Church has flatly contradicted the Bible and itself!"

4. Those Reactionary Dissenting Catholics who say, "That statement used to be glorious Catholic dogma but Vatican II betrayed all that. How the Second Vatican Council has corrupted the One True Faith!"

5. Those orthodox Catholics who say, "Unam Sanctam's definition is still dogma and the teaching of the Second Vatican Council does not contradict it or the Bible. Rather, the Council develops the Faith of the Church infallibly taught since the apostles, a faith which has never demanded we believe that "The Church is found solely in the visible Catholic communion, nor that only members of the visible Catholic Church can go to Heaven."

Or,...if one is a Christian at all, one is, as Lumen Gentium says, in some kind of union with the Church, the Body of Christ. This is why the Church teaches and has always taught that "outside the Church, there is no salvation". For the Church is the company of the saved.

 To talk about salvation "outside the Church" is like talking about swimming outside the water. It is the logical consequence of Jesus' statement, "He who is not with me is against me" (Matthew 12:30).

It therefore follows that to be subject to the gospel to any degree is to be in union, to that degree, with the office of Peter since the office of Peter was created by Christ for one purpose only, to help bring people into subjection to Christ. It is therefore impossible to accept Christ without accepting the authority of Peter's office to some degree or other. 

Naturally, it will be noted that such union with the Roman Pontiff is, for Protestants and Orthodox, imperfect. 

So is this partial and imperfect unity enough? Depends on what you mean by "enough". If you mean "enough to be saved" then I submit this is Minimum Daily Adult Requirement thinking. No lover asks "What's the absolute bare minimum amount of contact with my Beloved I can get away with?" Similarly, if, as the Church claims, the fullness of revelation subsists in the Catholic communion, then "How little contact with the fullness of revelation can I get away with?" is the exact wrong question for somebody who is serious about discipleship to Christ. Our goal, according to Scripture, is not to achieve bare minimums of love, fellowship and discipleship with Christ and His Bride, but to "attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;… we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love" (Ephesians 4:13-16). When people tell us "I'll be there in spirit!" we know they mean "I won't be there." Similarly, a merely partial spiritual unity, while a good start, is a bad finish. That is why we must all continue to work toward full unity in Christ, neither denying our commonalities nor papering over our differences...

"So does all this boil down to saying the Church thinks Catholics are going to Heaven and non-Catholics aren't? Or does it really mean the Church is now saying that everybody is saved?

Again, both of these are the wrong questions: which is to say they are nonsense questions. The Church makes no comments on infernal population statistics. Rather, the Church teaches that because validly baptized non-Catholics are real members of the Body of Christ, they share in the life of the Blessed Trinity and therefore share with Catholics the Hope of salvation.

That said, mark that it is Hope, not certainty, they share with Catholics. For it is important to remember that Catholics don't even assume that even Catholics are automatically going to Heaven. The whole point, as Paul says, is that Hope means we have not yet, in this life, attained what we hope for.
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:24-25)
Catholics don't believe in "once saved, always saved" any more than in salvation by demographics. So the mere fact that somebody says they are a Christian, whether non-Catholic or Catholic, doesn't mean we assume they are going to Heaven. Till we die, we retain the radical freedom to reject the grace of God and end up among the damned. So Catholics leave God to judge all that.

But by the same token, Catholics also don't assume that anybody (even a non-Christian and indeed even an atheist) is going to Hell. The Church has always believed that those who do not know Christ by name may yet respond to the promptings of His Spirit and so ultimately be saved by Him. She believes this because it was taught by Jesus Christ in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, which describes the judgment of people who had no idea they were serving (or rejecting) Jesus as they answered (or refused) the demands of conscience with respect to "the least of these". That is why both the saved and the damned in the parable reply with astonishment to the King, "Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?" (Matthew 25:37-39). Some of the saved, says our Lord, are going to be astonished at their salvation. They just thought they were doing the right thing and had no idea they were, in fact, answering the prompting of the Holy Spirit to obey the will of Christ. As Paul says, "When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus" (Romans 2:14-16). In short, what matters incomparably more than calling Jesus "Lord, Lord" is obeying Him. Or as St. John of the Cross put it more sweetly, "At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love."

But,again, that doesn't mean, "It doesn't matter if you are Catholic or not." We live in a fallen world and are fallen creatures who need every bit of help we can get from the grace of God to become the glorious love-filled creatures God calls us to be. And even with that help, history demonstrates our genius for being schleps and sinners. We are like patients in a hospital requiring intensive care, but with the hope and promise that the full panoply of modern medicine could give us back our life if we cooperate with the Divine Physician and let Him use all the treatments He has tucked away in His little black bag. That little black bag is called "the fullness of Christ's revelation in the Catholic communion". It includes the common life, common worship, and common teaching of the Church, including the seven sacraments, the accumulated wisdom of the Tradition both in Scripture and in the life of the Church, the Magisterium (including the Papacy), and the "riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints" (Ephesians 1:18). Other Churches and ecclesial bodies like to use various items out of that black bag (say, the Bible, or Baptism, or the doctrine of the Trinity, or some particular moral teaching like the indissolubility of marriage, or predestination, or free will) in various combinations and to varying degrees and believers do well to avail themselves of as much of God's treasury in the Church's Tradition as they can lay hold of.

But if you are mortally ill (and the whole human race is mortally ill with sin), it's kind of crazy to say "I find that I'm most comfortable when the Doctor prescribes aspirin, and I do like his penicillin now and then, but I don't want his other prescriptions and treatments and I won't allow him to send other hospital staff to treat me." If we were mortally ill, we'd want whatever the Doctor has available to heal us.

Likewise, though the Catholic Church rejoices that real elements of the saving gospel are present and working in other churches and ecclesial bodies, though she even rejoices that the semina verbi or "seeds of the Word" can even be found in the various non-Christian religious and philosophical traditions of the world,she nonetheless points out that the best thing of all is to lay hold of the fullness of His gifts. So the Church, of course, encourages anyone who can do so to become Catholic. It doesn't presume to judge those who do not, for we mortals cannot know the reasons why others make the choices they do. People may refuse the Church out of ignorance, or woundedness, or some other cause that renders them inculpable for rejecting her. However, it is only sensible to point out that, everything else being equal, if we say we want God, but refuse the fullness of His gifts, then it is worth asking ourselves if we really want God after all or are, in fact, seeking something else.

As an Evangelical who discovered how much truth was in the Catholic faith and how much I agreed with it, I came to the realization that it was not enough for me to say "I share the same goals as Peter, so I am 'spiritually subject' to him already and do not need to be sacramentally and ecclesially subject as well." I realized that the very essence of what Peter proclaims is that the Word became Flesh. Moreover, I came to realize that there was, in fact, nothing in the Church's deposit of Faith that was either opposed to reason, nor anti-biblical. So I eventually concluded that it was therefore my duty, in obedience to Christ's prayer for unity in John 17, to enflesh my faith by becoming really, tangibly, physically, sacramentally joined to the visible Church our Lord commended to Peter's care and feeding. For myself, I could no longer say "I'll be with you in spirit" to the Pope if I was not also willing to really be with him in body as well.

Catholics do not say, and never have said, that they are the sole possessors of revelation. Indeed, the Church does not "possess" revelation at all. Revelation possesses her and that revelation, who is Christ, has (she teaches) committed Himself fully to her. "God," said the great Protestant writer George MacDonald, "is easy to please, but hard to satisfy." On the one hand, God is delighted when the most miserable sinner takes the smallest serious step toward the love of God and neighbor. On the other hand, He will not be completely happy until every last person He came to save is completely perfected in the image of Christ and overflowing with perfect love for God and neighbor. This same pattern is supremely evident in the Catholic Church's understanding of her relationship with her members, whether in full or very imperfect communion. For the Church is happy to recognize even the smallest commonalities she may share, not only with other Christians, but even with non-Christian religious traditions and the great philosophical traditions of paganism. The Church can even find things to affirm in virtuous atheists. But at the same time, the Church is acutely aware that there is a real difference between imperfect and perfect unity and so she too--easy to please, but hard to satisfy--labors toward that Day when all the members of the Body of Christ will be perfected in faith, hope and love.

Till That Day, we know where the Church is; we do not know where it is not.

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