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Salvation Outside the Church: Tracing the History of the Catholic Response Paperback – September 3, 2002
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This book is not a polemic nor an apologia of the Catholic view. It is simply a work of historical theology, wherein the scholar interprets the theology of an issue in its various contexts from the beginning to the present (in this case, from the early church to Pope John Paul II). However, I do think that, if interepreted in view of Cardinal Newman's (and the Catholic Church's) view on doctrinal development and proper interpretation, the book vindicates the Catholic dogma of no salvation outside the Church as understood by Vatican II. The main issue for those acquiring this book will be how Vatican II's document, Lumen Gentium, can be consistent with the statement at the Council of Florence (15th century) that Jews, Muslims, pagans, and heretics were damned (thus reaffirming Pope Boniface VIII's papal bull, Unam Sanctam, in 1302 that non-Catholics were damned). This restrictive view of salvation to only Catholics was not largely held by the fathers of the early Church. When the early Church fathers spoke of no salvation outside the church, they were only refering to heretics and schismatics -- those who had explicitly rejected the Catholic Church. Those ignorant of the orthodox, catholic faith could still be saved (and through Christ but without explicit knowledge of Christ as the instrumental means of their salvation). So why is the medieval view so restrictive?Read more ›
This book by Francis Sullivan does an excellent job of addressing these questions. Sullivan understands the rules by which theologians determine which teachings by popes and councils are infallible, and which are not. (His book "Creative Fidelity" is the best introductory text on the question of infallibility.)
For example, the statement by the Council of Florence about salvation is not infallible. Why not? Because one of the conditions for infallibility is that the teaching be addressed to the universal church. This document was merely a statement that the Coptic delegate to Florence was required to sign; it wasn't addressed to the universal church.
"Salvation Outside the Church" gives a good history of the Catholic Church's views regarding salvation of non-Catholics since the 15th century. However, Sullivan does not explore the diversity of views on this matter among the early Church Fathers. William Most wrote a good article on this subject (search the web for the phrase "salvation of those who are or seem to be outside the church").
For the history of this doctrine during the past several centuries, Sullivan is excellent. For those who think that the Catholic teaching changed at Vatican II, this book will be very useful.Read more ›
He does a wonderful job of tracing the thought of several Fathers, mainly St. Augustine, and then camps out with St. Thomas Aquinas for a while. His basic thrust is that with the discovery of the New World (North America) that had not been evangelized, many theologians had to rethink the universal salvific will of God and what was required for salvation among those whom the Gospel had not reached.
He does an excellent job of tracing Jesuitical theology, starting with Trent and up to Vatican 2 on the subject, showing how the views progressed.
You may not agree with his take on it, but if you want to understand the thought behind the modern Church's attitude towards non-Christian religions, then this book is a good choice.
Personally, I wish he would have spent more time making seemingly contradictory teachings fit with eachother. That would be hard with his line of "new geographic knowledge" which is condemned in Vatican 1, where the view that Church dogmas must sometimes be given meaning according to the progress of science, different from what has always been taught, is denounced.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This should be mandated throughout the Church for reading and also for every non-Catholic like myself for the last 40 years who would all be so enlightened by the Church's actual... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Kyle Marx
Painstakingly researched and organized. Clearly written and very readable. The author is not neutral; he is transparent about his personal beliefs, but they are presented in the... Read morePublished on June 29, 2014 by Stacey L
Covers the history pretty well, but the book ends with a push of Rahner/Von Balthazaar 'universalism'. A better book to read would be 'Will many be saved' by Ralph Martin.Published on May 7, 2014 by Barry