So what are we to make of salvation? Is there only one way it can be understood or is the grace of God more accommodating than that which is practiced by humans? Certainly, it seems that inclusivism and exclusivism as understood within the Roman Catholic Church may go some way towards offering a model between the dichotomy of those christians who believe and can’t do otherwise, and those who experience the exact opposite – see below
‘Ordinary’ salvation (a very potted version)
The thinking goes something like this: this type of Christian salvation is considered to exist for people from other faith groups who have not heard the gospel of Christ but have worshipped the Divine within the religion they were brought up in. Had these people been born at a different time or in a different context where there had the opportunity to learn about Jesus, the belief is that they would have become followers of Christ.
The thinking behind this is that although Jesus makes limited reference to people from other religions in the Bible, there is sufficient reason to presume his sacrifice extends to others who do not profess to know him. Certainly the Bible details many people who received help from Jesus even though they were not Jewish. The argument is that in the same way that Jesus is prepared to help these people while they are alive, so the likelihood is that his same generosity will extend to them later on at the point of death.
Within this model is the notion that people are saved by the sacrifice of Jesus, and not by the rites of their different religion. This is not a new idea within the Church. However, in regard to people from other faiths, the idea is quite problematic because it implies that people’s other attempts to worship God are somehow less than that which the Christian experiences. However, it is also worth noting that the term ‘ordinary’ salvation seems to suggest an experience which is commonplace to the majority of people who do not recognise or understand Jesus as their saviour during their physical lifetime.
The ‘extraordinary’ way of salvation refers to people who have come to see and understand Jesus as their saviour during their lifetime. The experience of God’s revelation leads the individual to become a follower before physical death occurs. The result of this is that salvation is understood early on in the believer’s life in ways that are considered ‘extraordinary’ because it seems to have been revealed directly to the individual by God.
One thing that must also be considered within these models is that the Roman Catholic’s belief in a place of purgatory – where souls must pay penance (often measured in hundreds of years) before entering heaven is quite likely at play in the thinking that underpins all are included but not all enter at the same time.