Sunday, December 27, 2015


When discussing salvation, the Catholic Church sometimes uses the term “extra ecclesiam nulla salus.”  This is a Latin phrase meaning “outside the Church there is no salvation.”  In Scripture, the word “church” means “called out ones,” and it refers to believers / saints (Acts 2:47), i.e., all those who are saved, throughout the world (Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:17-18), and sometimes it refers to the local assembly of believers (1 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:2; Revelation chapters 1 and 2).

If the biblical definition of “the church” is what is meant in this Latin slogan, then it is somewhat redundant.  It is like saying that there are no Christians outside Christianity.  But that is self-evident.  But what does the Catholic Church mean by “the Church” in this context?  Are they referring to all true believers, no matter what denomination or group you belong to?  No, when they say “the Church” here, they mean only the Catholic Church, the organization / institution headed by the Vatican in Rome, the supposed “One True Church.”  They are claiming that no one outside the Catholic Church can be saved.  If there is any doubt about this definition, here are just a few official Catholic sources to prove the point:

  • In the Lateran Council (A.D. 1215), Pope Innocent III wrote about the Catholic Church:  “One indeed is the universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved…” (Emphasis added)

  • On November 18, 1302, Pope Boniface VIII wrote in a papal encyclical / bull called “Unam Sanctam”:  “Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff [the pope].” (Emphasis added)

  • In 1441, at the Council of Florence, Pope Eugene IV, in the papal bull, “Cantate Domino,” wrote:  “It [the Catholic Church] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart ‘into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matt. 25:41), unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock… ” 

  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church, teaches the same concept, but in a softer, less abrasive, more ecumenical language, “reformulated positively.” CCC #846, quoting the dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium (LG 14), says:  “Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council [Vatican II] teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation…” (Emphasis added)

In the past, the Catholic Church has hurled many anathemas (declarations of condemnation) toward Protestants and other non-Catholics.  But it seems that today it is not as blunt as it used to be, but is more concerned now about using ecumenical, “separated brethren” language that is not as offensive.  However, the point remains.  They are clearly telling us that one needs to be a member of the Catholic Church to make it into Heaven.  They’re not saying that all Catholics are saved, but that only faithful Catholics are.

However, in all fairness, the Catholic Church does also teach that a non-Catholic can still possibly be saved, if he is “invincibly ignorant” about the Church, “through no fault of his own” (CCC #847).  We can agree with the concept that a person who has never heard of Jesus Christ (and perhaps never will) can still be saved if he reaches out for God (Acts 17:26-27; Romans 1:18-20).  But these people are the exceptions to the rule.  We don’t have a problem with these exceptions.  But we do have a problem with the Catholic Church claiming that the norm is that no one is saved apart from the Catholic Church.  That’s an extraordinary claim, and as we’ve said many times before, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.  But biblical proof of this teaching is not to be found.

Catholicism’s concept of “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” exists because of their belief that they are the “One True Church,” as mentioned earlier.  And why do they say this?  Mainly because they believe:

  • The Catholic Church has all the right sacraments. 

  • The Catholic Church has “Sacred Tradition.” 

  • The Catholic Church has a leader in the pope who unifies its people, backed by apostolic succession.

  • The Catholic Church has the “four marks of the true church,” and therefore, the fullness of the truth.

But we would respond in this way:

  1) Concerning the sacraments, it is (supposedly) through these that one can obtain and maintain eternal life, especially baptism, the Eucharist, and confession to a priest.  For the Catholic, the sacraments are inseparably tied into salvation (CCC #1129).  But there are some major problems with this system of salvation by works.  See here: 

  2) Concerning “Sacred Tradition,” not only does this teaching have some special problems, it has an identity crisis, as well.  See here:

  3) Concerning the concept of a pope, there is nothing in Scripture that teaches there is such a person or such a position in the church.  Furthermore, the Catholic Church’s concept of “apostolic succession” is not scriptural either, and it is morally and historically unsustainable.  See here:

  4)  Concerning the “four marks of the true church,” the Catholic Church cannot claim either the fullness of the truth, nor can it claim all four marks.  Actually, they cannot even claim one of the marks in the way they define them.  See here for a four-part series of articles addressing this topic:

In conclusion, this idea that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church is a trap; it is just as much a trap as Eve’s temptation in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-6).  The temptations may not be the same, but the end result is:  spiritual death (Genesis 2:16-17).

When a person joins the Catholic Church, he is hoping to obtain eternal life, but if he is faithful to the Church’s teachings, he will only have a system which attempts to gain salvation through faith plus works - a network of bondage that enslaves its members from cradle to grave.  It is a method in which there is no power to save.  It is precisely the type of system that the Apostle Paul warned us about in Galatians 1:8-9, one which condemns the individual because it attempts to add our pitiful, imperfect works to the perfect, complete, and absolutely sufficient work that Jesus did on the cross (Romans 5:9; Hebrews 9:11-14; 10:16-20).

The bottom line is that “No Salvation outside the Catholic Church” is an arrogant and unscriptural concept that has burdened and entangled millions of souls.  So, dear friend, what will you do?  Will you give in to the many unproven claims of the Catholic Church… or will you submit to the simple gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16)?


  1. Hi Russell,

    How do you reconcile your belief in Sola Fide with Scriptural passages such as Romans 2:13? Also, notice that 2 Corinthians 5:10 clearly states that we WILL BE JUDGED ACCORDING TO OUR OWN WORKS.

    I would appreciate your comments to my objections.

    Little Peter

  2. Hello Peter,

    Thanks for your interest and your comments.

    In a nutshell, Sola Fide (“Faith Alone”) is a concept that is seen even in the Old Testament. For example, in Habakkuk 2:4, the prophet says that “the just shall live by faith.” The apostle Paul then quotes this very same verse in Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38 (if Paul is indeed the author of this epistle).

    But even more, the thrust of Paul’s “faith alone” teaching is even more clearly seen in Romans chapters 3 through 5. It is THIS context that Paul explains the doctrine which asks the question, “How is a man made right with God?” Here, he is SPECIFICALLY dealing with the doctrine of justification. This specific doctrine of justification is NOT the emphasis in Matthew 25, Romans 2:13, 2 Corinthians 5:10, James 2, or many other passages that Catholics often use to try and prove salvation by faith plus works.

    Furthermore, there are other passages that support justification by faith alone, e.g., Luke 23:39-43; Acts 16:31; Romans 11:6; Galatians 2:16, 3:1-3; Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:5, etc., etc.

    But for an article that specifically deals with Romans 2:13, see here:

  3. Russell,

    What about the Catholics who say that Protestants can be saved?


  4. Jesse,

    I'm not sure exactly what you're asking, but in spite of the anathemas on Protestants from the Council of Trent and others, Catholics now tend to be very ecumenical and claim to see us as "separated brethren." I find this to be a double standard.

    But anyway, many Catholics do believe that a Protestant can be saved.

  5. every time i read you articles i get disappointed by the way you misrepresent the Catholic Faith. Here is what we believe about No salvation outside the Church.

    first of all its not a trap, because the Church from the onset encourages the search of truth no matter where i takes you
    2. the church only says only those who invincibly ignorant of the Church and Its teachings can be saved even if you are not a part of it, but what is invincible ignorance. invincible ignorance applies when someone is sincerely looking for the truth (this applies to Catholics as well as Protestants) and is adopting all the means necessary to find that truth. it also applies if that person is willing to leave whatever that he or she has attachment to be it fame or old church in order to follow the truth, if that person is held back from following/seeking for the truth due to human weakness then he is not in invincible ignorance. thirdly that person should be someone who is willing to learn(an attribute most protestants do not have) and is not lazy to do whatever it takes to find the truth. all these conditions are necessary for one to be in invincible ignorance otherwise that person 's ignorance is due to his own fault, and hence even to a Catholic who is lazy to study and look for the truth and let me suppose that CC is a false church that person will be condemned because he was lazy and not sincerely looking for the truth. the same with me if i am failing to convert out of Catholicism because i have pride even if i know that its a false religion. and with you if you failing to adopt the real means of finding the truth because you do not what want to find out what the Catholic Church REALLY teaches, but you continue writing blogs on what you assume it teaches then you might end up there.

  6. Perfect Mug,

    I don’t see where I misrepresented Catholicism at all. I listed several official sources (three Catholic councils and the Catholic Catechism, itself). And I don’t believe I misrepresented “invincible ignorance” either. In fact, I agree with much of what you said about it. I agree that a person should be searching for the truth, no matter where it leads. And I believe that if a person is ignorant due to his own fault, then yes, he is not saved. I even showed how the ignorant can be saved from the Bible (Acts 17:26-27 and Romans 1:18-20).

    So, what exactly is your point? How, specifically, have I misrepresented you, or Catholicism? It is certainly not my intention to do so.

    But I don’t think that invincible ignorance is the issue. The real issue, as stated in the article, is the Catholic Church’s arrogant assertion that they, and they ALONE, are the true church. THAT is the point.

    1. 1. you claim its a trap thats misrepresenting how is it a trap when we are told to find out for ourselves if the CC 's claims are true?
      2. two its not an arrogant assertion because if read the sources those popes were quoting on those declarations its scripture and Apostolic tradition, what the Popes did was to declare what had been taught ALWAYS AND EVERYWHERE on this topic, so where is the arrogance.
      3. If Jesus did not intend for people to be saved in the Church he founded then he would not have founded one. this Church He publicly revealed through his Apostles and outside it there is no salvation. i read where you defined CHURCH your definition is not impressive at all. it does not include all characteristics of the Church as mentioned in the Bible, you error starts there then you start assuming things into your definition. a church obvious includes Bishops who are the Shepherds and the laity who the sheep. the Church obvious is built upon the apostles(i will not debate about Peter here). The Church is one. the Church is visible because its called the BODY of Christ not the Soul. It is directed by Christ the Head. It is the fullness of Christ. Hears dissensions among the faithful Matthew 18:17.
      4. catholic claims are the only ones valid morally historically and morally, we can trace every bishop we have right now to the Apostles through succession, the Church has been there from 33 AD and you claim it is not Apostolic, the Church is the one that spread the gospel everywhere and you claim its not Catholic, the Bride of Christ you claim its not Holy, with one invisible head and one visible head you claim its not one? i doubt your knowledge of Catholicism, study will do you good than anything else.
      5.i have always noted that whenever Catholics talk about the early Church Fathers you show no care at all, if you want to know what we believe and where we got it from it will be better for you study in Depth the first 3 centuries of Christianity, the Early Church Fathers are a good source get yourself the History book by Eusebius. thats where you will find how we think. learn to think like a Catholi for once.

  7. "The bottom line is that “No Salvation outside the Catholic Church” is an arrogant and unscriptural concept that has burdened and entangled millions of souls. So, dear friend, what will you do? Will you give in to the many unproven claims of the Catholic Church… or will you submit to the simple gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16)?"

    Your comment demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge on your part regarding reformed theology. A little research would have shown that both Luther and Calvin taught EENS. In fact, the church has always affirmed the doctrine through it's 2,000 year history.

    I guess both Calvin and Luther were unscriptural.

  8. Hello Catholic,

    First of all, I am non-denominational. I’m neither Reformed, Lutheran, nor Calvinist, so I’m not just trying to defend these guys because I belong to one of their churches.

    But when the reformers used the term, “no salvation outside the catholic church,” they meant the “catholic” (small “c”) UNIVERSAL church. Unlike Catholics, they had a biblical definition of “the church,” i.e., ALL BELIEVERS throughout the world make up the church, not just members of some particular organization or denomination.

    On the other hand, when Catholics say “no salvation outside the Catholic church,” they are speaking of the Catholic Church ONLY (but including its particular churches / rites, like Roman, Alexandrian, Ethiopian, Coptic, Maronite, etc.).

    Again, Catholics very often use the term “the church” in an unbiblical sense. So, my point in the article remains: The term “No Salvation outside the Catholic Church” as Catholics use it, is an arrogant and unscriptural concept.

  9. You could be a pagan for all I care, you certainly won't be saved unless you repent of your sins.

    When Calvin and Luther taught that *only* Christians were saved, they meant their particular version of Christianity. They had the same concept of Faith as Catholics of the medieval period(see St. Thomas's view on the necessity of explicit faith for salvation). There wasn't some nebulous concept of Christianity.

    You either believed in the doctrines proposed by their church or you were condemned. You should really read the work of Luther and Calvin, they certainly don't think like you modern heretics.

    1. Catholic,

      To be honest, I would have deleted your comments in moderation. Russell most probably has a higher lever of patience and tolerance than I. You are an arrogant troll--simple as that.

      Man is not the final standard of truth. Scripture is. Man in his fallen condition is frail and liable to error. Luther and Calvin were no exceptions to the rule. You really need to take a Christ centered approach to your academics.

      I suppose that you would have persecuted folks like us if we had been alive in the tenth or twelfth centuries, judging by the uncharitable tone of your reply. Nonetheless, it is you ad your deceived ilk who teach as doctrines the commandments of men; nullifying the Word of God for the sake of your own traditions.

      Idolatry, pure idolatry.