Hello dear Father Angelo,
This is Massimo. We have already got to know each other some time ago.
First, I would like to thank you for the work you carry out through the Dominican friends’ website. Your clear and comprehensive answers, that always provide scripture references, have already dispelled many doubts of mine. I would like to take the opportunity to ask you a question: you often mention the “extraordinary ways of salvation”: which are they? Could you give me some scripture references?
Best regards and thank you in advance.
The priest’s answer
1. The Sacred Scripture does not talk explicitly of the extraordinary ways of salvation.
In the first place, it is appropriate to remember that the ordinary ways of salvation are the Sacraments, first and foremost Baptism.
As a matter of fact, Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit”. (Jn 3:5).
Water and Spirit point to the external and visible element of the incorporation into Christ, and to the interior and invisible one, respectively.
We adhere to Christ through the Church, with whom Christ identifies Himself: (cf. the words addressed to Saint Paul at the moment of his conversion: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts, 9:4): He did not say: “why are you persecuting the Church”; he said: “why are you persecuting me”).
Within the ecclesiastical communion, Jesus enlightens everyone with His truth, gives life through the grace of the sacraments and guides safely to Heaven.
2. Nevertheless, joining the Church materially is not enough to be saved.
Unfortunately, this is what Jehovah’s Witnesses, Evangelicals and many Protestants believe. In a similar manner, Muslims believe that professing Islam is enough to go to Heaven, regardless of whether the behavior complies with human and divine law or not.
In fact, the life given by the Spirit is also necessary. The Spirit acts by means of sanctifying grace, that purifies and makes holy.
Grace is communicated for certain in the Sacraments, if those who receive them do not put obstacles in the way.
3. On the other hand, many people do not know Jesus Christ yet because they have not had a proper announcement.
How can they be saved?
Here is how the question of the extraordinary ways of salvation comes into play.
The Sacred Scripture hints at them in several places.
4. First, we can find a clue in the First Letter of Saint Paul to Timothy: “God our savior wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3–4).
Since God wills everyone to be saved, he must offer the grace without which it is impossible to become adopted children of God.
In which way does He communicate grace?
Through ways we do not know, but that are, nevertheless, certain, because God the savior wills everyone to be saved.
5. Another relevant statement is to be found in the Second Epistle of Peter: “[The Lord] is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9)
Since we perish only when we are deprived of grace, which is the ‘wedding garment’ mentioned in Mt. 22:12, hence it is clear that the Lord offers this vestment to everyone. If He did not, His wish to save every soul would be contradictory.
6. The Gospel according to John should also be mentioned: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (Jn. 1:9)
First, there is the natural light of human reason, through which man can achieve the knowledge of God’s existence and of natural law (the Ten Commandments). Additionally, He enlightens through the light of an embryonic, although supernatural, faith, corresponding to what is required by God Himself in the Epistle to the Hebrews: “without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb 11:6).
This is how He enlightens: revealing Himself as Creator and legislator and presenting Himself as judge and prize.
7. A further instance of this can be found in the Acts of the Apostles, specifically in the famous sermon delivered by the Apostle Paul at the Areopagus in Athens:
‘[God] indeed is not far from any one of us. For “in him we live and move and have our being”, as even some of your poets have said, “for we too are his offspring” ’ (Acts, 17:27–28).
“Because he is found by those who test him not, and he manifests himself to those who do not disbelieve him” (Wis 1:2).
Those who put Him to the test are those who, through sin, erect obstacles to the knowledge of Him.
We could go on, but I think these statements are already sufficient.
I wish you all the best, I remember you in my prayers to the Lord and I bless you.
Translated by Alessandra N.
Verified by Tom D.