Friday, April 16, 2010

Salvation Outside of Christ?

Q - We believe, as Catholics, that Jesus is the way to Salvation (Jn 14:6 , Jn 6:40, Jn 3:16), further in Scripture it is said that whoever rejects Jesus rejects The Father and cannot enjoy eternal life (Luke 10:16, Matt 10:40). As explained also by you (in other questions) we believe this in respect to other religions that though they may contain elements of the truth and GOD will judge them in his mercy, however having had the opportunity to confess Jesus if they deny him they cannot achieve salvation.

Now we come to JESUS's earthly mission where he comes first to bring the Good news to the Jews (Matthew 10 , Matthew 15:22-26) and when they reject him to then take it to all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).

Coming to today's scenario we are in a period of rapprochement and apology to the Jews for our misdeeds towards them over the centuries, which I absolutely agree with as GOD is love and we should be ashamed for the treatment meted out to the Jews by the Catholic community over the years. When our Lord JESUS forgave them on the cross, we need to reflect his teachings and so I read with Joy the visit of the Holy Father to the Synagogue in Rome (sometime back now) and reaching out to the Jews for our mistakes.

However reading part of the Holy Fathers message is where the dilemma sets in, The Concept of the Chosen People has Changed with the coming of JESUS, while the Jews would have earlier been GOD's Chosen people, JESUS came to fulfil the old testament and all those who believe in him are now 'his' chosen people.

So considering my argument above can there be salvation for the Jewish people? Will they be eligible for eternal life? Having rejected GOD who first came to them with the Good News, In fact even today when time and history have proven that JESUS is the messiah, they still reject him. So can they be saved?

I will deeply appreciate your views and IF the Church believes they can be saved (will be waiting for your argument), then isn't it unfair to condemn people of other religions who reject Jesus?

A - Thanks for your well thought out questions. I hope that I can do a decent job in giving an answer. I will try  to give the Catholic Church's teaching in this matter, not just an opinion on it, to the best of my ability.

All who are saved are saved because of Jesus Christ. Thus, no grace comes by any other means, because it is by His suffering, death, and resurrection that we are freed from sin and made able to go to heaven. Scripture is very clear on this and as Jesus said - "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." - John 14:6
The Catechism says:
620 Our salvation flows from God's initiative of love for us, because "he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins" (I Jn 4:10). "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor 5:19).
Thus, the Church teaches that there is no other way to heaven, except through Christ. Those who know this, then reject is, cannot be saved.

The question then arises, what about non-Christians who do not believe in Jesus or do not have the opportunity to hear the Gospel? Vatican II answers this question:
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. - LG, 16
But, if they do receive salvation, it comes through Christ. Since we cannot be assured of the salvation of non-Christians, the Catechism states:
CCC 851 - "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."
With this in mind, what is the relationship of the Church to the Jewish people, as you have asked? It is one of faith.
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.
So, can Jews be saved? Yes. But, not by the Old Covenant, but through the New Covenant and never apart from a relationship with Christ. Paul was knocked down when Christ came to him, as a Jew.

Some, throughout the history of the Church, have abused this understanding of the Jewish people. Some think Jews killed Christ and are to blame for His death. Wrong. WE are to blame for His death - all of us. Some have tried to force conversion (which is impossible), some have persecuted and killed Jews, etc. All of these acts are horrible and this is what the Pope has asked forgiveness for - the sins of the Church's members - not the teachings of the Church.

To sum up, I would put the Church's teaching on these matters like this:

--No person is ever saved apart from the grace of Christ.
--The fullness of this grace comes only through an explicit relationship with Christ and His Church.
--Salvation is offered to others, through the limited means they are connected with Christ and His Church. This includes the Jewish people.
--All are called into the Catholic Church.
--Catholics must evangelize and bring the Gospel to "all nations."

Christ came and preached the Good News to Israel. So did the apostles. We should do the same.

As for condemning others to hell, that is never our job. See this article about what the real role of judgment is.

I hope this helps.

Some other links that you might find useful:
**Outside the Church There Is No Salvation
**Faith Alone?
**Salvation and Catholics
**Am I Saved?

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