“Heard the Gospel”; this is a term we often hear when we consider ignorance or perhaps invincible ignorance, of the Gospel message.
Recently a question was asked on a Catholic Answers Live (CAL) episode that had Scott Hahn as a guest. The question was in regard to Jews and thier potential salvation. Once again the answer was basically that, only God judges individual souls, which I understand. The answer though elaberated in more general terms about how the Gospel message is there for all to hear. Then further elaborated on the potential of “by no fault of thier own” not hearing the Gospel.
My question, hence this post, is on hearing the Gospel. What is hearing the Gospel?
I’ll attempt to illustrate my confusion by using a somewhat hypothetical story.
Although very accuate I believe.
Bob and Jim, both consider themselves christian, both now in thier 50s, both grew up together in the same suburban neighborhood. Both had parents who led mostly a secular lifestyle of working hard, playing hard and being good parents and spouses. With very little religion in thier lives beyond going to church on Easter Sunday and Christmas and whenever someone close to them passed away.
Bob and Jim are both blue collar workers. Bob is largely into Nascar and all other sports. Professional and college alike. He is a very hard working auto mechanic. He owns his own shop. He has his own family now who take up virtually all of his time. He loves his wife and kids greatly. His interests are, and always have been simple. He spends whatever free time he has reading up on the latest muscle cars and spends a great deal of time working on motorcycles when not watching sports on TV.
Jim is much the same. nearly identical situation, also with a family. The difference is however Jim was never much of a die hard sports fans beyond being a fair weather fan of the local professional sports teams. He doesn’t give a hoot about Nascar and other than being a very good carpenter he is not overly interested in cars or motorcycles. He does enjoy fishing and hunting but only has occasion to do these things a handful of times a year. Jim is perhaps more of the intellecual sort.
Here is a substantial difference between Bob and Jim. Jim, unlike Bob, was not always happy. Jim conducted himself in some manners that Jim now regrets deeply. These regrets caused Jim to reevalute himself and his life. Bob never did anything more wrong then perhaps having a few too many while watching a football game. Jim did not like what he saw when he looked in the mirror. This resulted in Jim questioing many things about his life and this questioning, along with his inquisitive nature (something Bob lacks) resulted in Jim taking a deeper look into his faith.
Prior to this Jim thought very little, if at all, about his faith. Much the same with Bob.
Up to this point in time Jim and Bob both knew very very little about the Gospel message. They knew something of the Gospel story. Only that Jesus died on a crosss, was executed and as the story goes was resurrected on Easter Sunday and eventually acsended into Heaven. There was virtually no religious education beyond a very poorly conducted Sunday school education of thier youth were they mostly colored pretty pictures.
When Jim would be channel surfing and by happenstance stopped on a televangilist spouting how “Christ died for our sins” Jim honeslty had no idea what this meant. Jim would think, “I didn’t ask Him to do this” so why should I be greatful. Pure but honest ignorance. He knew very little to nothing of the entirety of Salvation History.
We are, in all aspects of life, taught it wise to doubt. We doubt politicians, we doubt the latest and greatest scientific data on what is good and bad to eat, we doubt much. All with good reason. We’d be considered fools otherwise. The Gospel story, prior to looking deep, on the surface is a nice supernatural story. At it’s most elementary level the true story of the chrisitan Gospel, is just that, a story. The story requires a depth of knowledge that, through at least some study, begins to reveal the evidence and Truth of the story. For many it takes much study before the Truth of our belooved faith is revealed. A study most never undertake
Jim, perhaps only because of his past situation of which he was not proud, and his more intellectual characteristics and naure, was more interested in pursuing this story then in watching college football, like Bob. Not through any special “righteousness” on Jims part. He just found the topic more interesting then sports and wanted to investigate to satisfy his intellecual curiousity.
Jim through much study was convinced of the Gospel message. However it took a great deal of doing. At first he held it with no more regard then the story of Mohammed, or the story of Joseph Smith, or Christian Science, Buddism or any other held belief in our times. The story of Salvation History, fullfilled messianic prophecy, the continuity of the Bible over many millenia, these things finally help convince Jim he was on the right path.
Jim and Bob will lead out the rest of thier lives living thier respective day to day existense. Not much witll change.
When the day comes and Jim and Bob find themselves before Christ, did both Jim and Bob “hear the Gospel”? Will Jim hold less potential of damnation because of the circumstances that led him to the path of discovery which eminated only from his nature and not from any rightous beginnings. Will Bob hold less potential of salvation because he found what little he know of the Gospel message to be perhaps a nice story?