This post is intended to end the confusions among Protestants who were insisting that the church believes in Sola Ecclesia.
This article is given to me by a member of a certain protestant church during the time we had a dialogue with regards to the Catholic Faith and its doctrine. Unexpectedly, this article shows a certain argument based on the idea on Salvation through the church. So, here as a Catholic would like to refute this article in order to let him understand that what he thought to be true is not true..
Let me open to you this guys that the Catholic Church believes in the idea of salvation, that Salvation (total liberation of sins)= faith (received by grace) + good works (maintains the grace received)
But in the article, he suggested to open up that the Catechism of the Catholic Church believes in Sola Ecclesia (Church-Alone) in salvation.
“ For it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help towards salvation, that the fullness of means of salvation can be obtained.” (p.215, #816)
My reply: let me tell you that this part of Catechism never suggested that the Catholic Church-alone is the only way to salvation or leads to salvation, but rather it gives us the idea that the Catholic Church alone, can give the fullness of means of salvation, or in other words, the church made by Christ is the only one who could give us the ultimate knowledge on the salvation that faithful individuals wanted to know and follow. But it doesn’t mean that since you are a member of the Catholic Church, you are considered as saved while our separated brethren are not. The Bible is clear and the church also agrees that salvation is for all. So it is important to know that the Church is considering those whom we call as separated has also their idea on how to make their people be saved, but it would be much important to accept that Christ established ONLY a Church, and not churches.
In the Bible also, it tells us that the church is “the fullness of him [Christ] who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23). Now, as Jesus accomplished His objective redemption, the “plan of mystery hidden for ages in God” is “that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:9–10). It is clear that the statement of the Cathecism is connected on its Biblical realities.
Many theologians agree that since then, the Catholic Church is the basis on all early Christian events and practices not until the schism, heresies, and reformation made by our separated brethren. There were numerous articles in the library and internet that shows the fact that the Catholic Church never believes in Sola Ecclesia= salvation.
He quoted again on the 1994 Catechism where it says:
“…all salvation comes from Christ the head through the church which is His body; basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches the church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation.”
Reply: in this part of Cathecism, I firmly believe that this pertains to Christ and not to the church. It explains that the church is given all of the revelations of God that the people must believe..in practices, doctrines and belief, that’s why it is necessary for our salvation, but it’s not the only way . And It is through the church that let us know that the salvation really comes from Christ..so the church in here is demonstrating her role in letting us believe to Christ, since we all know that Christ is our salvation. As what was explained to this cathecism that “…ALL SALVATION COMES FROM CHRIST…” not “…ALL SALVATION COMES FROM THE CHURCH.”. This is a common misunderstanding of a person who tries to concoct to us that the Catholic Church teaches sola ecclesia is the only way to salvation.
He pointed out also that Pope John Paul II said:
“You cannot be a Christian if you reject the church founded on Jesus Christ.”
Reply: it is true that we can’t really be Christians if we will reject the church (if we initially believe that she is the true church made by Christ) founded by Him since the Bible itself is clear on Mark 3;24 that His church must be one, not divided into different sects/ churches and there’s no other biblical accounts that suggest there would be thousands of churches with different doctrine that will be built, and if we take a closer look on the accounts in the Bible, it also conveys the idea that His church will not be prevailed by any evil. But this man is suggesting that it would be awkward to reason out that the church made by Christ is only the Catholic Church, is he suggesting that the church made by Christ is divided already? I could not see any verses in the Bible that says the church will be like that, and you admitted already during our discussion that:
“(Nauna ang Catholic Church sa pagkahimo…) The Catholic Church is the 1st one to be established”
I also did not get his point that if we will carefully complete all of the statements that the late pope said:
In order to properly understand the Church’s teaching about its role in Christ’s scheme of salvation, two truths must be held together: “the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all humanity” and “the necessity of the Church for salvation” (Redemptoris Missio 18). John Paul taught us that the Church is “the seed, sign, and instrument” of God’s kingdom and referred several times to Vatican II’s designation of the Catholic Church as the “universal sacrament of salvation”:
• “The Church is the sacrament of salvation for all humankind, and her activity is not limited only to those who accept her message” (RM 20).
• “Christ won the Church for himself at the price of his own blood and made the Church his co-worker in the salvation of the world. . . . He carries out his mission through her” (RM 9).
• In an address to the plenary assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (January 28, 2000), John Paul stated, “The Lord Jesus . . . established his Church as a saving reality: as his body, through which he himself accomplishes salvation in history.” He then quoted Vatican II’s teaching that the Church is necessary for salvation.
[note: the quote he pointed out never mentioned on sola ecclesia, but a testimony of the late pope regarding the importance to be in a true church, since he is expressing the unity of the faithful as being part of a true church than making it easy to reject the church and be to another church in proclaiming Jesus according on how they interpreted the scripture, the Bible already warned us on personal interpretation.]
The writer of this article uses Romans 10:13,
Reply: the verse is clear that in order to be saved, each and one of us must call upon the Name of the Lord. But this did not mention if even there are thousands of churches and of different interpretations, as long as they call the name of the Lord, they will be automatically considered as saved because since Catholics consider protestants as Christ-believers (since technically, they believe in Jesus Christ as their saviour), they may have different style knowing who really Christ is, because others may believe on the Trinity, while others didn’t.
If we will never consider this, then the idea that they believe will contradict on the promises that Christ wanted to His church. So, If we only reason out on the points that we don’t need the church (since many only believes to the definition of the church as invinsible) to learn and nourish the salvation that God wanted us to do, then it would disagree with the fact that Christ established His church (if we say established, it must have foundation and a visible unity amongst believers, and His church is the “way”( Acts 9:2; 22:4; 24:14,22 ) in letting us be guided from the heresies that will try to eliminate the orthodoxy of the Christian faith.
The article said: When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the full price for the sins of all mankind. According to God’s word, anyone can go directly to Him for salvation. Jesus Himself announced that John 3:36;
“He hath believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and He hath believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on Him.”
No one from the Catholic Church disagrees to this point that we must believe in the Son whom will redeem us from the slavery of sins. But in this verse, it never mentions anything that it’s normal that His church will be divided into different interpretations, since it is clear that at the start He build a church which is one in doctrine, one in faith and one in baptism, it is very obvious that those churches outside the church never have that kind of unity, the fact is that all of them are not in connivance with regards on what is to be correctly understood with regards to the teachings written in the Bible, it is because of their personal interpretations.
Now, as to connect this idea to his accusation against the stand on the church with regards to the “no salvation outside the church”, the Vatican II under Pope Pius IX,
in his encyclical “On Promotion of False Doctrines (Quanto Conficiamur Moerore),” said the following:
We all know that those who suffer from invincible ignorance with regard to our holy religion, if they carefully keep the precepts of the natural law which have been written by God in the hearts of all men, if they are prepared to obey God, and if they lead a virtuous and dutiful life, can, by the power of divine light and grace, attain eternal life. For God, who knows completely the minds and souls, the thoughts and habits of all men, will not permit, in accord with His infinite goodness and mercy, anyone who is not guilty of a voluntary fault to suffer eternal punishment (no. 7).
So, in this letter-alone, it is connected to John 3:36 in which the Catholic Church never teaches on sola ecclesia=salvation, and is false in the idea that protestants would like to concoct to the innocent Catholics.
He further said that
He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
My reply: this is again not a contrary to the Catholic stand on the church-alone that gives the fullness of the means of salvation because this verse is generally a tipping idea that since man will have everlasting life if we believe in Him, we are also entitled to believe all of the things he shared unto us, especially when the Bible is clear that we must have one sanctuary. In 2 Sam. 7:16; Psalm 89:3-4; 1 Chron.17:12,14, God promises to establish the Davidic kingdom forever on earth and it was fulfilled in Matt. 1:1 where St. Matthew clearly establishes this tie of David to Jesus. Jesus is the new King of the new House of David, and the King will assign a chief steward to rule over the house while the King is in heaven. Remember, he pointed out to the house of david, a house which is not divided and indestructible by many intruders who will assume that they are also a house of David, look what happened to the protestant churches, they may be correct in the saying that they believe in Jesus Christ, but the question will always be like this, why are they not united to faith? Does this mean, they are not the house of david? Well, you better reflect on it.
The article further stated that:
“Jesus repeats this message in John 3:16, 3:18 and 6:40. If the Catholic Church really is necessary for salvation, then Jesus Christ is a liar.
My reply: The writer is confused and is trying to say that a church is not needed in learning the salvation that a believer must attain. Remember, if we believe in Jesus Christ as our personal saviour, and if we are truly sincere in our faith to Him, then all of His command and promises must be followed, especially as He is the one who built the church, He is the one who organized it, and He is the one who revealed to us the importance of being a member of His assembly and He is the one who promised that His church will not be divided and be prevailed by any evil.
Then why the church is also a great help in letting us cherish the moments when we receive Christ as our saviour? Because as the Bible says: The Church is “the fullness of him [Christ] who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:23). So it is in His visible assembly that fills all our imperfections. Nothing from other churches who were only been formed during the schism and reformation and heresy attacks does fill them in Christ because they rejected the Catholic Church in her teachings when they started to split up. Where you admitted it to be true, don’t deny it.
The Apostle Paul gives step by step instructions on how to be saved
“That if thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
My reply: notice how the writer is suggesting that there’s no need for the church and it’s the personal option of man to believe Christ in order to be saved. And take a careful study on the verse, does this mean anything of a divided belief? Or a united action that St. Paul wanted us to do? The verse is speaking on the people are capable to attain salvation, even if you are a greek or a jew (v. 12), all of the people who believes in Him will be saved (v. 13). What this verse suggests is that the salvation is really open for all, and is for free as long as you believe in Him, but in no ways it opens the idea that even if you have Jesus but you interpreted Him according to how you standardize it using the Bible, it’s ok and the church is just only a haven for believers and has nothing to deal with the salvation of mankind. That is a rude notion because the church has a big role in giving us the complete knowledge about salvation, if it is not true, then the Bible is false.
Jesus told his followers, “I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16). After his Resurrection, Jesus gave the threefold command to Peter: “Feed my lambs. . . . Tend my sheep. . . . Feed my sheep” (John 21:15–17). The word translated as “tend” (poimaine) means “to direct” or “to superintend”—in other words, “to govern.” So although there are sheep that are not of Christ’s fold, it is through the Church that they are able to receive his salvation.
Notice, no church is required. So if Catholicism is right, then the Apostle Paul is also a liar: And since he wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is a liar as well.
My reply: the verse did not say no church is required. This is another tactic of misrepresenting the scripture, if we are careful enough in reading the epistles made by St. Paul, all of them are for the churches, and on how they faithfully nourished the unity among the believers despite the distance that make them far from each other. And because of his epistles, every church was surrounded with unity, prosperity and hope because of their deep faith to God. All of them have unified faith, the same as their perceptions. That’s why the church has a great role in giving the nourishment in filling all that Jesus also has. Because Jesus wants unity, and this unity is impossible on those protestant churches since they are fully divided with each other.
It is funny when he admitted that evangelicals follow the teachings of Luther but differ in some of their principles or forms of worship, others like a live band-style of worship, while some would prefer a solemn-like form of worship…he even explain that he doesn’t prefer Baptists as evangelicals because he told me that they have the OSAS doctrine, but hey! This is the thing that they differ, they have divided doctrines, worship, and perceptions with regards to knowing who Christ is and that’s make them false churches. But because the Catholic Church is very considerate since they are still Christ-believers, the Cathecism also stressed out that:
“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” (no. 16). “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium)
So where is the claim that the Catholics are exclusivists? I see none from any of the documents.
The writer must reflect through answering this question: if believing Christ without the need of a church in knowing what salvation means is true, then, st. Paul is a liar when he made those epistles in order to make the churches be united in faith after believing in Christ?
Acts 10:43…”To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”
My reply: look how he twisted the idea in this verse, it is true that by believing in Christ, we will receive remission of sins, but in this verse, it never even mentioned a single point that the church is not necessary for salvation. The verse is clear for those who disbelieved Him will receive remission of sins if they will have faith in Him, but where can we find that true faith? Can it be found to those who only sprung during/ after time of reformation due to the personal interpretations of Luther?
The key is belief in Christ, not a church
My reply: otherwise, his claim is false, because in Matthew 16:19, Jesus gives St. Peter the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom of heaven Jesus is speaking of actually refers to the Church on earth. In using the term “keys,” Jesus was referencing Isaiah 22 (which is the only place in the Bible where keys are used in the context of a kingdom). While Romans 1:16 is referring to the faith of man that they must hear and believe Jesus as the one who can attain them the salvation that they are hoping, where if we are going to reconcile this verse to Matthew, They both agree that there must be a true faith that must dwell in order to determine the right Jesus, but at where can we find the true faith? Is it for divided churches? Or to a church that existed for about 2000 years whom had felt the ministry made by Jesus through His apostles in propagating Christianity to hardcore pagan places?
Acts 10:43. Romans 1: 16, 2 Timothy 3:15, Acts 16:31, Luke 23:42-43, Romans 6:23, 1 John 4:9, Romans 5:9, Acts 4:10 and 12.
You know what readers, these verses did not pertain to anything in disagreement to the church as the only one who gives us the fullness of the salvation that God wanted us to achieve, because these only gives us the idea that Jesus is our salvation and we must not really forget that Christ built His only church, a church that is not diversified in doctrines, not diversified in faith and not diversified on how they interpreted the practices written in the scriptures.
The reason why anti-Catholics put more attention in attacking the Catholic Church its because some of them were misinformed by Leonard Feeney, S.J., who began teaching in the 1940s that the Catholic Church can only be saved, which is not true because the Catechism never says it so. Many people where misrepresented to this dogma because they followed the interpretation of his, and same as anti-Catholics as well who devoted their lives attacking the Catholic Church not knowing that what they interpreted is based in the misrepresentation of Fr. Fenney, and because of his malicious interpretation, he was excommunicated and later on reconciled to the Church as he accepted his mistake with regards to interpreting the teaching.
In John 16:13, Jesus promises that the Spirit will “guide” the Church into all truth. Our knowledge of the truth develops as the Spirit guides the Church, and this happens over time where in Eph. 3:20, God’s glory is manifested in the Church by the power of the Spirit that works within the Church’s leaders. As a Father, God exalts His children to roles of leadership within the body of Christ. But the Bible never mentions on division of churches in doctrines because as what the Bible says, in John 10:16, Jesus says there must only be one flock and one shepherd. This cannot mean many denominations and many pastors, all teaching different doctrines. Those outside the fold must be brought into the Church and in Rom. 16:17, St. Paul warns us to avoid those who create dissensions and difficulties. This includes those who break away from the Church and create one denomination after another. We need to avoid their teaching, and bring them back into the one fold of Christ.