Tuesday 20 July 2021

The church was, in effect, necessary for salvation in its early centuries - but this is no longer true

The claim that the church is necessary to salvation was always factually false - as is clear from the Fourth Gospel (of 'John'). 

And to some extent, the claim that Man alone could not be saved was a claim of expedience, based on what worked best from the point of view of the growth and power of the church institution. 

Yet, we must take seriously the possibility that this was in fact necessary for the survival of Christianity in a world where such claims were probably inevitable, given the way that Men's minds worked and the conditions of the time.  

In a practical sense, it was correct that there was no salvation outside of the church in the medieval period; in that anybody outside the medieval church would not have been a Christian at all. 

Not because it was 'impossible' to be a non-church Christian in a 'theoretical' sense; but that Men were not at that time fully independent agents, and were always part of some community from-which they (more passively and unconsciously than now) absorbed their faith. 

For a medieval man to leave the community of faith (church) was therefore to leave the faith; and not to be in a community of faith was not to believe.

In other words, there has been an evolutionary development of human consciousness in the direction of greater autonomy and agency; and the nature of Christian life has been transformed by this. 

We now must Now consciously choose to do (and think) much that was once unconsciously and passively done and thought. 

Conversely, the kind of communal life that was once necessary and inevitable has become impossible and undesirable. 


jas said...

Do you think the word 'church' does not even exist in the Bible? ie the word 'ecclesia' should be stated as 'gathering' instead. And also in light if the fact that Christ explicitly said there was no rank amongst followers of God?

Bruce Charlton said...

@jas - What I mean is in the link.

Ingemar said...

As a Catholic, I of course do not agree with the thesis of this post. Even as I agree that most of what appears to be "Catholicism" has been subsumed into The System, a remnant remains that resists similar such absorption.

Man was made Good from the beginning, fell/falls because of his own motions away from the Good, and can be made Perfect by subsisting in the True Vine who is Jesus Christ. Since that last part is in the Gospel of John, I think you'd appreciate that.

The Church will only no longer be necessary at the consummation of the age but until then, even though it seems that the Ark of Salvation is being battered an taking in water, to jump out is certain death.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ingemar -It hinges on the assumption that Man is the same now as always and everywhere - and acknowledging that this IS an assumption. One thing that makes this time different is that we must consciously choose what we assume - whether we admit it or not.

Trying Not to acknowledge assumptions, trying to keep them unconscious hence spontaneous - has been eroded and eroded across the generations.

This has happened - Men have changed; the question is why. I assume that profound, international, sustained changes in Men's minds are divinely-driven - could not happen unless God willed it.

wrt Fourth Gospel - extremely few Christians are prepared to acknowledge that the shape and nature of Christianity hinges upon what status is given the Fourth Gospel (assuming, as I do, that it is valid). At some unknown point it was decided and adopted that the Fourth Gospel was to be subordinated to the Synoptics (and the Epistles).

This ought to be an obvious fact; but it is not just denied that the Fourth is subordinated; but it is denied even that there are any assumptions that are, and must be, made about how to read the Bible - whether as a whole and equally, or on what hierarchical basis.

This business of denying the assumptions we are, as a matter of fact, making - has rendered Christianity helpless against the modernist consciousness (and leftism).

Modern Roman Catholics think as moderns, but deny the fact - hence they have (mostly) lost their faith; or it is so feeble as to accept church closure and withdrawal of the sacraments for months - or forever if the global establishment/ Magisterium says so.