In the com-box of the previous post, Peregrinus says:
I am bothered also by this statement of yours: “Does it not rather suggest (as in fact is the case) that all mankind can only be saved a) through knowing Jesus as the Saviour of all mankind and b) by coming into the Church?”.
This is not, with respect, the teaching of the Catholic church. Baptism and faith in Christ is the only way to Salvation that we know of. That is, we cannot offer any other way of salvation. At the same time, “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” (Lumen Gentium 18). It is simply not the case the church teaches that Jews – or other non-Christians – can be saved only by developing a Christian faith and being baptised.
As I noted in my repost of the blog, I was writing in haste at the end of the night, and did not have the chance to revise what I had written. I have done so now, and the passage Peregrinus objects to has been revised to read:
Does it not rather suggest (as in fact is the case) that salvation comes to humanity as a whole (“the fullness of mankind”) when humanity as a whole a) “know[s] Jesus Christ as the Saviour of all mankind” and b) “enters into [God’s] Church”.
I am, of course, quite aware of the Lumen Gentium passage and all other relevant passages, as I am aware of the recent interpretations put on this by the trio of CDF documents. I would simply like to suggest that there is, in the new prayer, an authoritative statement of the Church’s teaching (lex orandi lex credendi).
The Titus 2:4 passage quoted in the new collect (“who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”) does equate (through parallism) “coming to the knowledge of the truth” and “to be saved”. The recent CDF document “Doctrinal Note on some aspects of Evangelisation” notes that:
Although non-Christians can be saved through the grace which God bestows in “ways known to him”, the Church cannot fail to recognize that such persons are lacking a tremendous benefit in this world: to know the true face of God and the friendship of Jesus Christ, God-with-us. (Note p. 7)
It also quotes John 17:3 “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Note p. 4).
So eternal life–or what we mean by “salvation”–is nothing other than coming to know the true face of God through the one whom he sent as his revelation, Jesus Christ. This knowledge, of course, is far more than simple intellectual knowledge–it is full communion with the Divinity, a full sharing in the life of the Holy Trinity. It is what the Orthodox call “theosis”. This knowledge is not simply the path to salvation, it IS salvation. To be saved means to know Jesus Christ, to see the face of God in him. And Christ is present in his Church, which is his body, which is therefore truly the sacrament of salvation, etc.
So yes, if Jews, or Buddhists, or Muslims, or Atheists, or indeed anyone in all humankind is to be saved, it can only be by “knowing” Jesus Christ who is the Saviour. Whether, in this life while still on the path to salvation, that knowledge becomes explicit through baptism and faith in Christ, or whether it remains implicit “in a way known only to God” and through a special grace that flows from Christ, is beside the point. The means of salvation cannot be separated from the telos (the goal) of salvation: it is knowing “the only true God and Jesus Christ whom [he has] sent.