A believing community has a creed, a code, and a ceremony that they share. Roman Catholics respect their teachers, who are presumed to be telling the truth, so that there is docility to Church teaching, admitting the ability to be taught. There are central beliefs which all Catholics must give the fullest level of assent, the defined dogma, such as the Trinity, One God with three persons, and belief in Jesus Christ, two natures both divine and human. Jesus was a real person who died and rose from the dead. The magisterium comes in the form of papal documents and ecumenical worldwide councils.
Everyone has the right to an opinion. We all enjoy freedom of speech. Yet we have to ask the question about what is truth. What are the boundaries of Church membership? We always create boundaries. States need lines or borders. Groups have laws, common beliefs, values, and practices.
African Christians put emphasis on creation and deliverance from hardship, while European Christians put emphasis on sin and salvation. These differences show up in death rituals and funerals. The early Church suffered political persecution. Freedom from slavery saw redemption as the main form of freedom. The early Medieval Church (4th-11th centuries) was more concerned about freedom from the power of the devil after Augustine had emphasized the concept of original sin. The early Scholastic theologians like Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) put less emphasis on the ransom from the devil. Adam had disobeyed and dishonored God. Christ has saved us by being the second Adam, the so-called satisfaction theory. Order and honor were more important. The Third world today sees redemption as something else. Christian redemption is the same reality, but there are different interpretations of what it means to be redeemed.
Jesus may not be the only Savior. We can learn from other religions. New is not wrong, just like the ideas of slavery have changed. This psychology of faith says we have to follow the example of Jesus, really experience the presence of God in Jesus. The Christian mission to teach all remains, but Christianity is not the final or superior religion. Christianity is the best good news, not the only good news. We appreciate all colors, but those in love say that the most beautiful woman in the world is the women that that they love.
The inclusive model holds that Jesus Christ is the normative expression of God’s will for all people. The problem is that many people have never known Christ. What role has the God of love for them? Is Christian faith offered to everyone? Some Christians believe in predestination so that only a few are chosen. Christianity has always been missionary, sometimes overly zealous, as in the Crusades and the Inquisition. What about those who have never heard of Jesus Christ? The Catholic Council of Trent (1545-1563) in the 16th century talked about a baptism of desire. You will be saved by Jesus without knowing him. Salvation is fully found in Jesus, but offered to everyone in all genuine religions who live the good life, who sincerely seek God, moved by grace, and strive by their deeds to do his will as they know it. Sometimes we call them like Karl Rahner (1904-1984) “anonymous Christians.”
The exclusive model holds that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, as the only Son of God, the only Savior. Jesus is the clearest way to salvation. Evangelicals believe that you are not saved unless you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior. Certainly, he is the “best.” Baptism in Jesus Christ brings the fullest revelation of truth. There may be positive values elsewhere, but can you learn anything else? The Christian Church is the one and only true religion. There is no salvation outside this church. Missionaries and evangelists have preached the need to know Jesus Christ as your personal savior.