Need help - those who are ignorant of Christ not automatically damned to hell


How can I explain what I believe the Church’s teaching to be (correct me if I’m wrong) - that if someone is raised totally ignorant of Christ he/she is not automatically damned to hell. That we rely on God’s mercy and he makes the final judgment, and we can’t assume he holds people accountable for things they have no control over.

I got into a discussion recently with a Fundamentalist friend who likes to use the bible verse that “no one comes to the Father except through Me”, and that means that non-Christians cannot be saved because they have not accepted Christ She even applied this to tweens and teenagers who are raised in an atheistic, Jewish, or Hindu home, who obviously have very little or no control over what they have been exposed to.

I"d like to be able to show how “through Me” could mean that the mediation of Jesus and the mercy of God can be applied after death or by the sheer benovolence of God, but I’m not sure where to find that in the bible - or if I’m even correct in my thinking.

Please help!

I need to explain this from the bible. Can anyone help?


The catechism contains a very good and concise explanation of this.


Christ decended to hades to preach to those who had been waiting since the time of Noah?


My reply to this type of belief is the following.

Do you honestly believe that God would create souls that would through no fault of their own be automatically damned to eternal separation from Him. That would then mean that God is a cruel and merciless being and that Christ’s sacrifice was for naught.

No true Christian could possibly believe that.

You must explain that the power of God has no limitations whatsoever, that is His Grace is boundless.

Remember the good thief whom Christ told "Amen I say to thee: This day thou shalt be with me in paradise” (Lk 23:39-43). This man was not a follower of Christ, do we know for sure if he believed that Jesus was the Son of God. No we do not for sure.

This is another reason why I am Catholic, because I have a 3 legged stool to stand upon. Sola Scriptura is false and cannot be proven.

Pray for your friend to see the truth.


You can counter with the verse, which escapes me at present, that says that God wished for all to be saved.

But then it would be easy to get into a _____ing match with bible verses.


This portion of the Catechism of the Catholic Church might help. From the section “Outside the Church there is no salvation”:

CCC 846: How are we to understand this affirmation [that outside the Church there is no salvation], often repeated by the Church Fathers? [335] Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

[quote]Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it. [336]

CCC 847:This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation. [337]

CCC 848: “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.” [338]

[335] Cf. Cyprian, Ep. 73.21:PL 3,1169; De unit.:PL 4,509-536.
[336] LG 14; cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5.
[337] LG 16; cf. DS 3866-3872.
[338] AG 7; cf. Heb 11:6; 1 Cor 9:16.


It is absolutely true that no one comes to the Father but through Jesus. Ordinarily, this happens through people becoming members of His Church and living lives of faith. However, it is possible for people to be saved through Christ without knowing it. Here’s some Scripture that might help:

1 Timothy 2:4: “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Acts 17:21 ff.: Paul preaches to the pagans that “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.”


some Calvinists believe exactly that which you say no true Christian can believe… I will not judge the truth of their Christianity.

…and I’ve met Baptists who believe it as well. I was told by one Baptist that if his own 5 year old daughter died before she had “accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior” *, she would go to hell.

Not all Calvinists or Baptists believe this, but I believe many do.

*(where is that in the Bible?)


As I stated earlier no True Christian and like you said where is that in the Bible, well guess what it ain’t. They are taking certain verse quotes totally out of context and putting there own thoughts on it. hmm they call themselves Bible Believing Christians.:confused:


My wife and daughter ran into this during an Alpha Course at a Baptist Church. When told that that would mean that most of the Old Testament righteous including Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be in hell, one of the ministers said that was correct. In all of history only eleven Jews got into heaven; the eleven apostles. He said, “We don’t put much stock in the Old Testament anyway.” I am quite certain that there would be Baptists that disagreed with that, but then every Minister is basically his own pope, if you will.

Numerous verses from Scripture did not move either the minister or the discussion leader, because Jesus said," I am the way the truth and the life…" They hung their position on that one quote and would not move off of it. :shrug:


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