Because of the scandals in various churches, especially in authority, many Christians, Catholic and Protestant, believe they can approach God in a private manner without the Church. I believe this is not a healthy attitude as the Church is the body of Christ.
Can these people obtain salvation if they are serious in their relationship with God?
This is a pertinent question today as statistics show the tremendous drop in attendance for many Christian churches. Various reasons cause people to stay away from church, including the scandals to which you refer. People tend to forget that imperfect humans are in charge and they make mistakes.
But, I believe the principal cause is that often Christians do not know the Scriptures, have limited understanding of the meaning of their faith and have no idea of the richness of its spirituality. Is it any wonder, then, that they often find church attendance empty and meaningless.
But can they be saved without the Church?
The Old Testament repeatedly tells us that the knowledge of God is inscribed in our hearts: "A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36.26-27).
Paul reaffirms this: "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans 5.5) and again "your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you" (1 Corinthians 6.19-20).
Salvation is a free gift from God. Christ died once and for all time, drawing all humanity to live with him forever. Salvation is not meant to be a burden and to be earned but something to be accepted, embraced and lived fully and joyfully.
Therefore, it is possible for people to live good lives in conformity to God's will by living from the knowledge in their hearts inscribed by God and by the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.
But Christ knew that humans were too weak to do this on their own. They would need help listening to and living by God's voice in their hearts. So he established a community of his followers to sustain, to nourish, to teach and to live with one heart and one mind.
Read the Gospels and Acts and get a glimpse how the first Christians lived. This is the community we call Church. We, too, are Church, when we gather together to pray and follow Christ's command to "Do this in memory of me." We are sustained by one another and by Christ whom we receive as the Bread of life.
Is that the image we have of the Church?
We were made in the image of a Trinitarian God, a God of three persons who is relational, not an isolated supreme being above and beyond the created world.
Therefore, we too need to live in relationships. In every aspect of life, we see the need for humans to associate, to work and to play together.
Humans wither and die in isolation. Why then do we think that the way to God is by praying in isolation? Remember, one grain cannot make a loaf of bread, nor one grape a glass of wine. One star alone cannot light the night sky.
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