Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus: The Relationship between Ecclesiology and Soteriology for Cyprian of Carthage
MetadataShow full item record
Cyprian of Carthage
De ecclesiae catholicae unitate
Cyprian wrote his treatise De ecclesiae catholicae unitate to discuss the relationship between the church and salvation. To counter the Novatian schism in Rome, Cyprian virtually equated the spiritual and visible church. Schismatics necessarily placed themselves outside the spiritual church and thus outside salvation when they departed the visible congregation. This linking of the visible and the spiritual church shaped Cyprian’s understanding of the role of the church in a person’s salvation. He did not hold to a works-based salvation, but the sacraments were essential for ecclesial life. At baptism, the Holy Spirit applied Christ’s work upon the cross to believers, so the Christian life officially began at baptism. After baptism, the eucharist subjectively strengthened believers to obey the commands of Jesus Christ. It also memorialized Christ’s sacrifice, which had bought their salvation. In a sense the bishops were also necessary for salvation. Schismatic bishops could not administer valid sacraments. When they left the visible church, the Holy Spirit removed his presence. As unsanctified people, they could not administer the sanctifying rituals of baptism and the eucharist. How close was the connection between the visible and the spiritual church? While Cyprian virtually wed the two together, he did not see them as the same thing. Catechumens who died during persecution were still saved based upon their faith, as revealed in their desire to receive baptism. Moreover, when Christians committed egregious sins, they maintained their salvation by truly repenting of their sins and seeking reconciliation with the church.