Hyothetical question on nonbeliever and heaven

A colleague and I spend time on our breaks discussing the differences and similarities of doctrine. He’s protestant, I am Catholic. During one of our talks a hypothetical question came up.
I am the only survivor of a plane crash on an uncharted island. A local tribesman rescued me by taking me in to his home, tending to my wounds, feeding and clothing me. We did not speak the same language, and had no way of communicating with the outside world.
I am rescued within a couple of days due to the planes distress beacon. There was no way for me to have survived the ordeal without the care and kindness of this island native.
Though he knew nothing of Christ, would he have a chance to know heaven?

I think everyone has a chance to go to heaven. We can’t know for sure until we get there who makes it and who doesn’t.

1 Like

Are you saying that because the native was kind to you, it shows he has a good heart and God will judge him by that? I’m not following this hypothetical.

The Catechism says something like those who do not know Christ (invincible ignorance) and do God’s Will according to the graces God gives them can be saved.
You should look it up for farther clarification.


Great question. The answer is yes, he does – this is something God would determine based on His perfect judgement. Nonbelievers certainly have a chance, though the further they are from God, the more difficult it is, and every person deserves to know and experience the Gospel from the start. We definitely don’t want to risk anything by assuming nonbelievers will make it to heaven.

That exact sort of thinking is one of the things that led me from a fundamental evangelical belief to the Catholic Church. We believe that God discerns the state of every person’s soul at death. That He provides a means for those who had no way to accept Him in this life.

If the native was that kind to you in that situation, chances are he already seeks God in his heart and is moved by grace to do good works even if he thinks it is just his conscience that moves him. He may go to Heaven yes.


I think it was Pope St. John Paul II that wrote about this saying in effect, the "every man has within him a concept and an understanding of that which is good. And that good is consistent with his proper relationship with God, hence a man acting on this good is in the good grace of God and can be assured of salvation. NOTE: this is not verbatim, but what I recollect of the pontiff’s writing. Pope St. JPII spoke to the world of his belief of the universal possibility of salvation.

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.