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The Catholic Doctrine of Non-Christian Religions According to the Second Vatican Council.

The Catholic Doctrine of Non-Christian Religions According to the Second Vatican Council. By Miika Ruokanen. Studies in Christian Mission. Leiden: Brill, 1992. Pp. 169. $51.50.

In the aftermath of Vatican II, a number of Catholic theologians have interpreted the council's optimismm about the possibility of salvation for non-Christians and its recognition of positive elements in their religions as sufficient grounds for attributing to non-Christian religions a mediating role in the salvation of their adherents. Ruokanen, Docent of Dogmatics at the University of Helsinki, is convinced that such a conclusion is not warranted by what Vatican II has actually said.

From his analysis of all the passages in the documents of Vatican II which speak of the possibility of salvation extra ecclesiam or of values to be found among non-Christians, he concludes that the council nowhere recognized the presence of supernatural grace in their salvation or their religions. His thesis is that the council recognized nothing more than natural cultural values among them: the knowledge of God by reason, and the keeping of the natural law.

R.'s thesis involves a distinction between two ways of salvation and two kinds of grace. Non-Christians can be saved through the keeping of the natural law, aided by God's created and common grace." Christians are saved through faith based on revelation, and through the gift of "uncreated and supernatural grace," which R. describes as "the superabundant gift of God's grace which cannot be obtained unless through conversion and Christian baptism" (120).

R. believes that such a distinction is a standard element of traditional Catholic theology. The present reviewer finds it impossible to believe that the bishops at Vatican II had such a distinction in mind, or that it offers at tenable basis for the interpretation of what the council said about the salvation of non-Christians.

Francis A. Sullivan, S.J.

Boston College
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Author:Sullivan, Francis A.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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