Sunday, June 20, 2004
In the past, I have often referred to the discussion boards in IIT-Bombay where topics of religion and politics are often discussed. One of these discussions involved the comparative tolerance of Hinduism (as represented by the Gita) and Christianity (as represented by the "No Salvation Outside the Church" dogma). My reply follows:
posted by Kensy |
Deleep R. Nair wrote on Fri, 18 Jun 2004 12:03:32 +0530
> The most important thing you have missed out while differentiating is
> inclusiveness and its importance in a multi-cultural soceity.
> Howsoever men may approach me, even so do I accept them;
> For, on all sides, whatever path they may choose is mine [Gita 4:11]
> Extra ecclesiam nulla salus
I. No Verse is an Island - The Importance of Context
Suppose, like the Aztecs of old, I were to try and please God with the human sacrifices of my enemies (and ensuing cannibalism).
Or suppose, like many cults today, I were to choose a path of lust to approach God.
Would either of these lend Him to "accept" me? Would either of these paths be his?
"One who is in knowledge of the Absolute Truth, O mighty-armed, does not engage himself in the senses and sense gratification" (Gita 3:28)
"It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material mode of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring sinful enemy of the world." (3:37)
"Therefore, O Arjuna, best of the Bharatas, in the very beginning curb this great symbol of sin [lust] by regulating the senses, and slay this destroyer of knowledge and self-realization." (3:41)
Verse 4:11 does not stand by itself - it has to be read in the full context of everything that went before it and comes after it in the Gita.
On the other hand:
"O sinless Arjuna, I have already explained that there are two classes of men who try to realize the self. Some are inclined to understand it by empirical, philosophical speculation, and others by devotional service." (3:3)
"Not by merely abstaining from work can one achieve freedom from reaction, nor by renunciation alone can one attain perfection." (3:4)
"The renunciation of work and work in devotion are both good for liberation. But, of the two, work in devotional service is better than renunciation of work." (5:2)
"Merely renouncing all activities yet not engaging in the devotional service of the Lord cannot make one happy. But a thoughtful person engaged in devotional service can achieve the Supreme without delay." (5:6)
These verses indicate that, while the path of saankhya-yoga and renunciation is treated as a "valid" path to God, karma-yoga / buddhi-yoga is the superior / faster path (of course, the two are not mutually exclusive).
"Men in this world desire success in fruitive activities, and therefore they worship the demigods [Indra et. al]. Quickly, of course, men get results from fruitive work in this world." (4:12)
"There is no work that affects Me; nor do I aspire for the fruits of action. One who understands this truth about Me also does not become entangled in the fruitive reactions of work." (4:14)
These verses further indicate that devotion the Supreme Lord is superior to devotion to the demigods, who are "in charge of the various [material] necessities of life" (3:12).
Of course, neither viewpoint is unambiguously what the Gita intends to say (and I would advise the reader to peruse the whole of the Gita to get its message).
My point being - "Extra ecclesiam nulla salus" (Outside the Church There is No Salvation aka EENS), devoid of context or explanation, is not a true representation of Church teachings on this subject.
II. Who belongs to the Catholic Church? - What the Catholic Church Says about "Ex Ecclesia Nulla Salus"
"What does "catholic" mean?
The word "catholic" means "universal," in the sense of "according to the totality" or "in keeping with the whole." " (CCC 830)
"Who belongs to the Catholic Church?
"All men are called to this catholic unity of the People of God.... And to it, in different ways, belong or are ordered: the Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ, and finally all mankind, called by God's grace to salvation."" (CCC 836)
"The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."" (CCC 843)
""Outside the Church there is no salvation"
How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.
This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
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." (CCC 846-847)
320 LG 13.
332 LG 16; cf. NA 2; EN 53.
335 Cf. Cyprian, Ep. 73.21: PL 3, 1169; De unit.: PL 4, 509-536.
336 LG 14; cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5.
337 LG 16; cf. DS 3866-3872
LG - Lumen Gentium
NA - Nostra Aetate
EN - Evangelii Nuntiandi
Cyprian, Ep. - Epistulae, St. Cyprian of Carthage
PL - Patrologia Latina, ed. J.P. Migne
DS - Enchiridion Symbolorum, Denzinger-Schonmetzer
III. In Other Words - A Summation of the Catholic Position
The term EENS refers to the Catholic position that all men who are saved on Earth are saved though divine grace that "flows" through the Church - whether these men are *visibly* a part of Her or not. Hence, men who are ignorant of the Gospel and its full message, can attain salvation.
However, it also reiterates the Church position that no man who *rejects* the Gospel, fully aware of its message and the implications, can attain salvation.
(Just thought I'd pen down a few more thoughts here.)
1. Many historical Church documents that deal with EENS were written *specifically* to deal with heretics / schismatics at various points of Church history. These were directed at people who *wilfully* left the Church in knowledge of the Gospel, *not* at those ignorant of it. The reader should keep this in mind while reading documents such as Pope Boniface VIII's "Unam Sanctam" or the documents of Pope Innocent III.
2. What the Church position boils down to is this - while other religions can lead humans to salvation, baptism in Christ is the only "perfect" means of attaining salvation. This is not dissimilar to the Gita's position on karma-yoga vis-a-vis saankhya-yoga, sacrifices to demigods, renunciation etc.
3. While reading about baptism and membership in the Church, one must also be aware that the Church recognises three forms of baptism - Baptism (by water - the regular, sacramental and perfect form), baptism of desire (i.e. a person who makes an act of perfect love or contrition and desires to be united with God but is unable to attain Baptism by water. Cf. Council of Trent, Session VI, Chapter 4), and baptism of bloody (i.e. martyrdom).
4. Finally, since my position reflects only the position of the Catholic Church (which is also the de facto, if not de jure, position of the Orthodox Churches in most cases), I might have used the terms "Catholic", "Church" and "Christian" interchangeably (except where it is otherwise clear). Some Protestant denominations do have more extreme interpretations and some do, as a matter of fact, believe that all non-Christians will go to hell. This is *not* the Church position.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)