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BOOK REVIEWS 695 Salvation Outside the Church? Tracing the History of the Catholic Response. By FRANCIS A. SULLIVAN. New York/Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1992. Pp. i + 224. $12.95 (paper). The subtitle of the volume describes well its purpose and content. The author surveys in chronological order, beginning with the earliest ecclesiastical writers and ending with John Paul II, the various interpretations of the axiom extra ecclesiam nulla salus. What prompted Sullivan to undertake a historical rather than systematic approach in his volume is the conviction that without taking into account the historical and cultural factors that conditioned the formulation of this axiom it is impossible to make sense of the shift from the exclusivism of the pre-Vatican II Church to the inclusiveness of Vatican II and post-Vatican II theology with regard to the salvation of those who are not members of ,the Roman Catholic Church. The principle that guides Sullivan's attempt to disclose the meaning embodied in the manifold formulations of the axiom " there is no salvation outside the Church" is Pope John XXHI's distinction between " the substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith " and " the way in which it is presented," and the more recent emphasis of the Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae (1973) on the historical condition affecting the expression of divine revelation. As a historical study, Salvation Outside the Church? is an excellent continuation of Louis Caperan's two-volume work Le probleme du salut des infideles, which is still unavailable in English. Obviously an overĀ· view of almost two thousand years of theological discussion of this problem has to be highly selective if one is not to miss the forest for the trees, and Sullivan's choice of authors as well as of historical periods for discussion is judiciously made. If a complaint is to be made in this regard, it is that he has focused too much attention on magisterial documents, and Roman documents at that, and not enough on contemporary theology. True, he devotes a chapter to the theory of " anonymous Christians," espoused mainly by Karl Rahner (chapter 10), and defends it against criticisms by Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Hans Kiing, and Max Seckler. He is well aware that Rahner's theory has become the position of mainstream Catholic theology and cites authors who support it in one way or another (p. 181). However, a book that claims to present " the Catholic response " to the problem posed by the axiom extra ecclesiam nulla salus should, one would expect, have discussed in greater detail the various positions of contemporary Catholic theologians on this issue. It is to be fervently hoped that Sullivan will take up this task in his next book. 696 BOOK REVIEWS Sullivan's basic thesis is that the substance underlying the various negative formulations of the axiom extra ecclesiam nulla salus is the positive belief ithat " God has assigned to the church a necessary role in the accomplishment of his plan for the salvation of humanity " (p. 12). Such a thesis is, of course, neither new nor startling. Hans Kling had already said that much in his 1967 Die Kirche (English translation, p. 318). What is helpful in Sullivan's account is his explanation of both the intent of those who affirmed this axiom with its apparent exclusiveness and the limitations that prevented them from perceiving the universality of God's saving grace. With regard to intent, Sullivan shows conĀ· vincingly that the patristic usage of the axiom is intended as a warning for those Christians who had separated themselves from the catholica either by schism or by heresy that they must remain within it in order to be saved, whereas ithe medieval usage is intended to warn pagans and Jews that they should accept the message of the Gospel now that it had been announced to them. With regard to limitations, Sullivan singles out two: the geographical and the psychological. On the one hand, there was before the discovery of America the conviction that the world was identical with Christian Europe. This belief led theologians to postulate that the Gospel had been spread throughout the world. On the other hand, their ignorance...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 695-697
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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