Bob and Jim - have both heard the Gospel message?

“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?


The Gospel message requires, for most (perhaps not for all) at least some intellecual pursuit in order to grasp the true message of the Gospel (which is Salvation History) and can be studied all throughout one’s life. For some more then others it takes a longer journey down the road of study to “buy the story”. Are the individualls who never pursued this study condemned becauseof thier lack of intellectual pursuit?

Personally I believe this is the story of this country, in fact all of the Western world. There are many many more Bobs then there are Jims. Hard working, family men who never venture into the study. Did they “hear the Gospel”?

Thanks for listening

Hello Mijoy,
That’s a great question, and I am looking forward to some answers.

Here is how I understand the big picture of salvation.

1 The New Testament needs to be studied in context, Christians writing to other Christians.

2 All men will be judged on the truth they have received during their lives, and what they have done with that truth. see the writhing of John Paul II the Great.

3 Catholics have the complete Gospel and more is required of us, than those with less truth.

4 All who are saved, are saved through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Hope that helps

For me personally both had the potential to have heard the gospel. The Word of God, while represented in a unique way in the Bible, is not limited to the Bible. It’s a living entity, God himself. While Bob and Jim may not be scholars or theologians, and one might no more or less about what the Bible actually says… the gospel is more than that. It can teach itself to us, and people can know Jesus without knowing the name “Jesus”.

I think Catholics have the right path. I think we know exactly how to go from A to B to C and know what it takes to die in grace. Not all of us are going to do that. Not all of us are going to be able to go from A (wherever we start) to Z(Heaven). Some of us are going to start at A and grow slowly, one letter at a time. Others are going to start at A and jump to H, in leaps and bounds. What is important is that we keep trying to get from wherever we are to someone closer to where we need to be.

Bob and Jim both have the ‘law’ written in their heart. All of us do. That is what Jeremiah wrote about the law. That in the New Covenant, God would write his law directly on our hearts. We then have the chance to follow that innate written law, or break it. Bob and Jim both could have been following it. Both could have been breaking it. One could spend their entire life studying theology and never meet Jesus face to face. Yet the poor uneducated and perhaps even ignorant sinner who says “Lord have mercy on me a sinner” may have come face to face with Christ without even knowing what to call him.

To whom little is given, little is required. To whom much is given… much is required. It’s what we do with how much we are given that determines if we hear the call of the Living Word of God.

Thanks David. To me this is the fundememtal issue I struggle with. My experience with the individuals who frequent these forums is that this is a ho hum issue. Therefore I doubt this thread will have legs.

To me it’s all or nothing. Love, I have heard defined is the desire for the other to get to heaven. This definition seems perfectly defined, for what else is important?

Yet as the story of Bob and Jim illustrate (or was my intention) the Bobs in the world who make up the vast majority are the elephant in the room. We listen to our most beloved apologists; we listen to the hosts of EWTN programming; we listen to the staff of Catholic Answers, yet these individuals speak of the more obvious “us vs. them” topics. The “us” being the devout, the “them” being the percieved anti-us (if you will). But what of those “Bobs” in this world who make up the (to use a modern term) the 99%.

I can talk loosely about Bob, but Bob is my brothers, my sisters my dear friends and most improtanly my children. I almost sometimes desire christianity to be a well crafted fable. If it is a fable I do not despair over salvation.

Ever notice most well know apologists come froma background of a strong faith and they have instilled this faith in thier children. Therefore they know not (in some cases) the depth of anguish the Jims in this world feel about their loved ones. Therefore they can speak loosly as Scott Hahn did on this program when spoke of “Hearing the Gospel”. I’d love to have an hour or two to discuss, “hearing the Gospel” with someone such as Dr. Hahn.

I too look forward to others answers. But I do not hold my breath in them coming.

Thank you fro your well thought out response. The question becomes if it is simply the Law written in our hearts" and how we respond to it, they why the sacrifice? perhaps the answer is that the sacrifice enabled us heaven if we comply to the law written in our hearts. Of this I am not certain.

For Bob’s sake, I hope so.

I think most would agree that no one deserves salvation. scripture tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:10-11 says that no one is righteous no one seeks after God. Romans 9 tells us that God chooses his people and also that he holds those he has not chosen accountable for their sins.
In the question have both heard the Good News the answer is probably no and irrelevant the Message is clear those who have not accepted God as their savior are damned. But it is our job to share the message not their to find it Rom 10:14-15.

Thank you for your reply kra130. My focus is more on the braodly used term, both, when explaining invincible ignorance and (moreso) generally speaking.

In my hypethetical story of Bob and Jim, did Bob ever really “hear the Gospel”? My contention is, very few have.

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