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Eric Mattson wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a question regarding whether Muslims are adoring a false god or not. Here is just one example from Lumen Gentium, section 16 which reads:

"But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator.

In the first place amongst these there are the Mohammedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind."

  • How can this possibly square with the following few examples?

"The Holy Catholic Church teaches that God cannot truly be adored except within its fold."

Pope St. Gregory the Great, Doctor of the Church, 6th Century

The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this the house of Faith, this the temple of God: if any man enter not here, or if any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation.

Pope Pius XI, "Mortalium Animos", 1928 A.D.

"A true worshipper is one whose mind has not been defiled with any false belief."

Pope St. Leo the Great

“... Our Catholic faith, without which it is impossible to please God.”

Council of Trent, 1848 — 5th Session

“Consider (therefore) the fact that whoever has not been in the peace and unity of the Church, cannot have the Lord. (Galatians 3:7)"

Pope St. Pelagius II, c. 585 A.D.

  { With regard to Muslims, how does the Vatican II square with what previous popes have said? }

Mike replied:

Dear Eric

Personally, I don't see any contradiction.

All Lumen Gentium 16 is saying is that followers of Islam, meaning Muslims:

  • believe in one God, like Catholics do
  • profess the faith of Abraham and along with us adore the one and merciful God, as Catholics do — We call Abraham who in our liturgy we call our Father in Faith, and
  • believe our merciful God will judge mankind on the last day.

    We call this the General Judgment.

Your quotes from various Popes and Councils just reaffirm what all Catholic are bound to believe:

That the only true worship that can be given to God can be found within the Catholic Church.

Although there are many, many Muslims that believe they are worshipping the true God through Mohammed, it is the job of lay Catholics in the pew to manifest a spirit of evangelism and share with them the Good New of Jesus and how is proved Himself to be God, (His Resurrection) and historically came into this world as the Incarnate (God-Man) at least 600 years before Mohammed's supposed revelations from Allah.

  • Does this make sense?

Mike

Eric replied:

Hi Mike!

St Thomas has defined the essential attributes of God to (obviously) include his Trinitarian nature (e.g. Summa Theologica - Question 39 - Article 1). So if it isn't the same essential substance as that which is God then it is not God that is being adored (by definition).

  • That being said, how is it possible that along with us (Muslims) adore the one and merciful God as Lumen Gentium 16 states?

Eric

Mike replied:

Hi Eric,

I would argue that practicing Muslim's erroneously perceive they are adoring the one true God.
Our job is to get off our but and steer them to the Gospel.

If you want to get tied down in semantics or supposed councillor errors of the documents of Vatican II, I personally don't have the time and I don't think the Lord would want us arguing over these fruitless issues. It promotes stupid family fights from within that do nothing to bring people into the Church.

Mike

Richard replied:

Dear Mike, Eric M., and all,

There is a real, substantial question to explore here: the Muslim concept of God is very flawed, inasmuch as it separates God from reason, and presents God as an absolute and arbitrary power who can even contradict Himself. The unity of God and reason is part of what God communicated to the Israelites through Moses, and alas, the Muslims do not accept this principle.

For anyone interested, here is the passage from St. Thomas to which Eric M. makes reference:

I think it's a stretch to start from Thomas' point (the relations in God are the divine essence itself) and get to where Eric M.'s argument is going. Certainly Thomas wrote quite a bit directed at the Muslims, so perhaps we can find out someday what he thought on this issue.

  • So what is the Council saying about Muslims in Lumen Gentium?

To understand that, see how the paragraph begins:

  • Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.

This actually relates to a statement of St. Thomas (ST III Q8, art 3, ad 1):

Those who are unbaptized, though not actually in the Church, are in the Church potentially. And this potentiality is rooted in two things — first and principally, in the power of Christ, which is sufficient for the salvation of the whole human race; secondly, in free-will.

So the Council is going to speak of non-Christians who relate to the Church in various ways.
First, it speaks of the Jewish people:

In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.

Then it speaks of others who acknowledge the Creator, and places Muslims among those people:

But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind.

So this is a more distant connection — people who don't share the Old Covenant, people who have a more limited knowledge of God; they know him as:

  • the Creator
  • as being one
  • as being merciful, and
  • as being the final Judge of mankind.

These are all truths, and they are truths that the Muslims have in common with us.

(They probably got them from us.) These common truths do set the Muslims apart from the Eastern religions that do not acknowledge God as the Creator, as one, etc.

The Council's text is doing a balancing act: in one way, it tries to be generous to Muslims, and in another way, it is somewhat reserved about them.

It says that Muslims adore the one God. The Council is saying this in a generous frame of mind, much as St Paul did when he spoke at the Areopagus (Acts 17:16-34). He told the Greeks that they had been worshipping God already, under the name of an unknown God — and St. Paul was there to tell the Greeks more about Him. Come to think of it, St Paul is going farther in his generosity than the Council, since he is talking to polytheists!

The Council doesn't say that the Muslims know God accurately or worship Him correctly. It doesn't even say that Muslims actually hold the faith of Abraham, but only that they profess to do so. So there is a certain reserve being used.

Now, Eric M. does present an argument, which suggests that people who do not acknowledge God as the Holy Trinity cannot be worshipping the true God. If one were to follow this argument strictly, then one would have to say that the Jewish people do not worship the true God now and never did. But Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, never said such a thing to His people, and, to the best of my knowledge, the Church does not teach that.

  • How can we resolve this?
  • Is it possible for people to worship God imperfectly and even with some admixture of doctrinal error, but still be directing their worship to the one true God?

I don't want to go too far into speculating about this matter, since we're not here to give personal speculations.

The Council is giving a summary about specific categories of non-Christians who worship the one God, and talking in a positive manner about the things they do have in common with us, even though they have only limited knowledge about Him and how to worship Him rightly.

  • Is the Council intending to present a binding teaching on this point, something which all Catholics would have to affirm?

This is an interesting question, which we really have to leave up to the Church, Herself, to clarify.

The Church has already taken a step to bring some clarity to this area. In 2000, under Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, the (CDF) Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith issued the declaration "Dominus Jesus" [EWTN version], which reaffirms the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, the Christian revelation, and the Church as bringing salvation to mankind. It takes a clear stand against indifferentism:

Certainly, the various religious traditions contain and offer religious elements which come from God, and which are part of what "the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures, and religions". Indeed, some prayers and rituals of the other religions may assume a role of preparation for the Gospel, in that they are occasions or pedagogical helps in which the human heart is prompted to be open to the action of God. One cannot attribute to these, however, a divine origin or an ex opere operato salvific efficacy, which is proper to the Christian sacraments. Furthermore, it cannot be overlooked that other rituals, insofar as they depend on superstitions or other errors (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:20-21), constitute an obstacle to salvation.

I hope this helps. God bless!

— Richard

Eric replied:

Hi Richard,

I just wanted to say thanks for your reply. It cleared up a few things I had on my mind!

Cool, I agree!

Eric
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