Like today for instance. Regular readers may remember that I wrote about one of the problems that I have with Christianity is that Christians are broken into many flavors (sects) that interpret the Bible differently and have somewhat different rules for salvation.
Well, Yahoo News is reporting on a new Catholic Doctrinal Document that came out of the Catholic Holy Office (now called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or CDF). Yahoo News says that according to this latest Doctrinal Document:
… other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation.
Which is sort of what this document says. From my reading of the “Responses to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine on the Church” it may still be possible for a non-Catholic to achieve salvation, but just not likely:
“It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church”
Still this is what I’ve said before, if you don’t belong to the correct “flavor” of Christianity, your soul is in peril. One of the people commenting in my “Flavors” post called me on this, saying in effect that there is no real disagreement in Christianity. I guess I can consider this my “I told you so” response.
Yes, other Christian groups do argue for inclusiveness. As the Yahoo News article points out, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (a large Protestant fellowship) has criticized the Pope for his exclusiveness. According to the WARC document:
We especially find problematic the statement that, “These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called ‘Churches’ in the proper sense.”
An exclusive claim that identifies the Roman Catholic Church as the one church of Jesus Christ, as we read in the statement released today, goes against the spirit of our Christian calling towards oneness in Christ. It makes us question the seriousness with which the Roman Catholic Church takes its dialogues with the Reformed family and other families of the church. It makes us question whether we are indeed praying together for Christian unity.
For now, we are thankful to God that our calling to be part of the church of Jesus Christ is not dependent on the interpretation of the Vatican.
Of course, it is the Pope’s fault – according to WARC – that Christianity is divisive instead of inclusive. But WARC has failed to ask the opinion of the Southern Baptist Convention, which takes the Catholics to task for their false teachings, (PDF link) and has specifically resolved to witness to Catholics because, according to SBC doctrine, Catholics have an incorrect view of salvation and require witnessing in order to achieve salvation.
Oh my, to me this seems like quite a dust-up. Southern Baptists advocating “sheep stealing” from the Catholics in order to bring them to salvation; Pope Benedict telling the world that if you’re not Catholic then you’re not part of the Christian Church and you’ll probably go to Hell; and the WARC acting like the Rodney King of the Christian world with their “Can’t we all just get along?” statement.
As I see it, the odds are against me – if I pick one Christian sect over another I have a poor chance of picking the “right” sect and winning salvation (if I actually believed in life after life.) And this doesn’t even count the non-Christian religions that have, in my opinion, just as much claim to “The Truth” as does Christianity.
You guys let me know when you figure out which Christian bus is really going to Heaven.