Over on Turretinfan’s blog, TF suggests that Catholics believe that Islam is salvific. He states:
“Question for my readers who follow Vatican 2's proclamation that "the plan of salvation includes" Muslims: Can you see from the example above that zealously following Islam leads to eternal destruction? If so, how do you justify to yourself your church's claim? Can you not admit that your church has erred on this point?”
TF’s brief remarks above grossly distort what the Catholic Church teaches. Moreover, his questions as written as are a prime example of fallacy known as Plurium Interrogationum more commonly known as "begging the question". Simply put, one engages in Plurium Interrogationum when he asks a question which contains a false, disputed or question-begging presupposition as its premise. The obvious example law students are taught is, “Did you stop beating your wife?” The question first presupposes 1) you are married and 2) that some time prior to the question being asked, you beat your wife. Now, the problem is that the form of the question only allows the responder to answer the question two ways. If the responder says ‘yes’ then he has admitted that he has beaten his wife. If the responder says ‘no’, then an ambiguity arises from which the fact-finder or audience can infer that the responder has not stopped beating his wife when in fact the responder in all likelihood is actually stating that he never had beaten his wife in the first place. When such questions are used rhetorically, the writer is hoping to create in the mind of his audience a false impression that someone adheres to a view that they, in fact, do not adhere to. If an advocate used such questions in a court of law, the trial judge would sustain an objection to their use and order such questions stricken from the record.
In the case at bar, Turretinfan hopes to create the impression in the minds of his audience that the Catholic Church teaches that Islam is salvific when in fact it does not so teach nor has it ever taught that a person who is a zealous follower of Islam can be saved.
Proof of my contention that TF's questions are based on a false premise is as follows:
One of the basic documents of Vatican II is The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church also called Lumen Gentium (LG). At LG 16, it does indeed state that God’s “plan of salvation” include Muslims. Here is the full text as opposed to the snippet offered by Turretinfan:
Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. 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. But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, 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. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel. She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature", the Church fosters the missions with care and attention. (Emphasis mine).
A close reading of the section states why Muslims are included in the plan of salvation: because they claim to profess a belief in the God of Abraham. A proclamation indicating a belief in God is a step closer to accepting the fullness of His Gospel even if there is much error in what a Muslim may otherwise believe. If we accept that Muslims do in fact believe in the God of Abraham, then such a belief would make them more receptive to accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thus be saved. As noted above, “Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.”
Scripture, itself, demonstrates that the truth contained in a pagan religion can prepare adherents to accept the Gospel of Christ. After all, did not St. Paul state to the pantheistic Athenians: "For passing by, and seeing your idols, I found an altar also, on which was written: To the unknown God. What therefore you worship, without knowing it, that I preach to you." The entire pericope may be found at Acts 17:16-34.
Further documentation that TF has misstated the Church's position is as follows:
In Dominus Jesus (2000) a magisterial document released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith one may find the following:
"It would be contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her" (DJ 21).And
"If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation" (DJ 22).
Likewise, Pope John Paul II in Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994), wrote:
"Some of the most beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Qur'an, but he is ultimately a God outside of the world, a God who is only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us. Islam is not a religion of redemption. There is no room for the cross and the Resurrection. Jesus is mentioned, but only as a prophet who prepares for the last prophet, Mohammed. There is also mention of Mary, his Virgin Mother, but the tragedy of redemption is completely absent. For this reason not only the theology [doctrine of God] but also the anthropology [doctrine of man] of Islam is very distant from Christianity." (Emphasis added) See, pp. 92-93.
I would also note that Catholic apologists have addressed the premises raised in Turretinfan's rhetorical questions. For example, David Armstrong, a noted Catholic apologist, addresses the premises of the questions written by Turretinfan on his educational blog, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism here.
Thus, the underlying premise of TF’s rhetorical questions to Catholics is misleading and simply untrue. To restate: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH DOES NOT BELIEVE THAT A PERSON CAN BE SAVED THROUGH ADHERENCE TO ISLAM.
With the above statements in mind, I, a follower of the proclamations of Vatican II, would simply answer TF’s rhetorical questions with an objection and trust that such an objection will be sustained by you the audience, acting as the trier of fact.
I ask Turretinfan as a brother in Christ to correct the false impression his questions give his audience in regards to what the Catholic Church teaches.