Rus Hooper makes an important point about Cyprian’s dictum: “nulla salvus extra ecclesiam” — outside the church there is no salvation. Hooper notes that, “The Fourth Lateran Council (ca. 1215) allowed that Cyprian could be wrong and that salvation could exist outside the church, but not outside Christ.” However, “The Fifth Lateran Council (ca. 1512-1517), though, reaffirmed Cyprian’s dictum “nulla salvus extra ecclesiam” –outside the church there is no salvation, excluding the Greek Christians.” ((These quotes are from a series of e-mails from a theology group of which I participate.)) Cyprian, of course, referred to the Roman Church as the source of salvation. Notice that the Fifth Lateran Council occurred during the birth of the Reformation. Cyprian’s dictum is also found in the Westminster Confession of Faith, though, the WCF did not limit the church to the Roman Church. The Genevan reformer John Calvin, writing his Institutes of the Christian Religion at the very time of the Reformation, wrote therein “beyond the pale of the Church no forgiveness of sins, no salvation, can be hoped for.” Hence, the Reformation brought with its dogma a strong view of the salvific nature of the church, though not as exclusive as Rome. ((Of course, the Confession certainly had anti-catholic sentiments and I am certain that they would have considered Rome an apostate church; the anti-christ–gladly that was changed in the Revision.))
Cyprian’s dictum, however, can be used in a conciliatory fashion, though his intention was one of exclusivity. Though there are clear sacramental and ecclesial distinctions among the Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox tradition, all share a Trinitarian Baptism. This baptism, brings infants and adults to enjoy the benefits of the true church, no matter how wrong it may be in certain areas.