Hi! I have been studying the Catholic faith for about 2 or 3 years now and have also been a frequent reader of these forums. I find the case for Catholicism very convincing and have even started attending Mass. I do have one big issue that has been the biggest stumbling block to converting. I know it has been discussed many times on this forum but I need to ask anyway. The issue is the salvation of those who have never even heard of Christ. In Scripture it seems clear that actually knowing and putting faith in Christ is absolutely necessary for salvation. I know the Catholic Church leaves open the possibility of salvation for those who have not heard and while I like the idea of it I feel like I am going away from the Gospel and Christ if I accept that. I feel so torn and don’t know what to do…
Christ’s sacrifice of the cross gained redemption for all mankind. That is how it is possible that those never hearing the Gospel can be saved.
It is certainly God’s will that everyone come to know Jesus Christ and put their faith in him. However, even Jesus suggests that those who are ignorant of the will of God will not be treated the same as those who know God’s will:
47And that servant who knew his master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. 48But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more. (Luke 12:47-48)
- God created us to know Him, to love Him, to work for Him in this life, and to be happy with Him in the next.
Given this fact, is it likely that God would create persons who are not capable of doing so? (Not likely.)
If God has created everyone with this capacity, then He has made a way (often unseen to us) for all to answer the call - or not - by their own free choice. No one, therefore, is automatically condemned to Hell without first knowing that fact, and having the option to change it.
You answered your own question if you would look at what you wrote, look
**the Catholic Church leaves open the possibility of salvation for those who have not heard **
Possibility being the operative word, it is not certain, or normative, only POSSIBLE!
Thank you for the replies! All those answers really do make a lot of sense especially when remembering that it is all grounded in the sacrifice that Christ made.
Mark does say, “…he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15) However, this in context refers to those who have heard the gospel preached and especially to those who have also seen the miraculous signs that accompany believers. In other words, those who knowingly reject Jesus Christ will be condemned:
15And he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. 16He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:15-18)
As for those who are ignorant of Jesus Christ through no fault of their own, consider the words of Peter, “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34b-35)
Thanks for the verses! One of the things I love about the Catholic faith is how it is able to bring everything together in a very complete way.
In Biblical terminology, to “believe” is to submit your mind and will to God’s revelation.
To “disbelieve” or be “unbelieving” is to refuse to submit oneself to God’s love and revelation.
Clearly believers will be saved and unbelievers condemned.
But there is a certain middle ground between those two positions, because of the outstanding difficulties of life, such as hardship, ignorance and etc. Therefore Salvation is open to those who do not fully know the truth of the Gospel. God is merciful and Jesus died for everyone. He, in some mysterious way, offers everyone a chance to be saved.
Soon to be Saint Pope John Paul II says in Redemptoris Missioo:
"The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all. But it is clear that today, as in the past, many people do not have an opportunity to come to know or accept the gospel revelation or to enter the Church. The social and cultural conditions in which they live do not permit this, and frequently they have been brought up in other religious traditions. For such people salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation.
For this reason the Council, after affirming the centrality of the Paschal Mystery, went on to declare that “this applies not only to Christians but to all people of good will in whose hearts grace is secretly at work. Since Christ died for everyone, and since the ultimate calling of each of us comes from God and is therefore a universal one, we are obliged to hold that the Holy Spirit offers everyone the possibility of sharing in this Paschal Mystery in a manner known to God.”
Blessings on your conversion - it took me about 3 + years before I converted but I appreciate so much being Catholic! You will too
You are misinterpreting the situation. When Church documents say it is “possible” for Non-Christians to be saved, they do not mean that God might possibly give them Grace or might possibly allow them into heaven. They are saying it is possible for them to be saved if they cooperate with the Grace that has been given to them.
As the quote from Pope John Paul II demonstrates, Salvation must and is made concretely available to all and all really are presented with an opportunity to be saved.
I don’t see the difference, salvation is possible.
Possible is the operative word.
I never mentioned the how, only the possibility of salvation!
I never misinterpreted anything, it looks like you are reading into what was said!
Your responsibility is to obey and submit to the Church. To think that you must see something written in black in the Holy Bible for it to be true is a Protestant heresy. But your faith in the revealed Truth which rests in Holy Church, and all will be well. As a convert from a Protestant background, I know that it is very, very important to cast aside all of these false ideas and replace them with the Truth. And ask the Holy Spirit and the Mother of God to help you in obedience, we ALL need help in that area!
I know you have already received some very fine answers…so I will just add a bit that has comforted me in understanding this.
In 1 John 4:7-8, 12 we see:
7Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.8He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. …
12No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit.
He who does not know our “God”, or “Yahweh” or “Christ”, or “Jesus” can still “know Love” and through that love, know God.
“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.” …John 15:22
I appreciate everyone taking the time to answer! The answers have given me a lot to think about! Coming from a Protestant background it is difficult breaking away from the mindset that I have to figure everything out for myself and only accepting truth if it agrees with me. I’m definitely working on learning to be humble and recognize the teaching authority Christ placed in the Church!
I think that’s what we’re all trying to do
And in time, it becomes a great relief to know that we don’t have to sit down and analyze doctrine for ourselves; God loves us so much he’s taken the guess work out of it. All we have to do is accept. And yet, he still chooses to give us minds and intellects capable of reasoning and understanding the Truths he reveals.
Another thing to think of is the saints of the Old Testament. There were men who were saved yet lived before Christ. They did not have explicit faith in Jesus, but they were saved anyway. This does not mean that they were saved apart from the application of Christ’s merits or without faith. Today we leave open the possibility of salvation to every individual. That is possible does not mean that it happens. I do not know of a canonized saint who was not a practicing Catholic.
That is the beauty in the Church He established- praise God!mlz