Salvation outside of Christ


I come from a Reformed Protestant background, was saved when I was 18 and have followed God ever since. Discovering the works of St Augustine and how faithfully Catholic he was has really weighed on my heart that I probably should consider the Catholic Church. I have a few questions that have been on my mind and I could really use some help.

First, I was baptized as an infant in the Catholic Church, does that mean I am still Catholic?

Second, the major question that’s been weighing on me: I found this in Catholic Answers regarding salvation:

Non-Christians can be saved, said John Paul, if they seek God with “a sincere heart.” In that seeking they are “related” to Christ and to his body the Church (address to the CDF).

Those who do not know the Church, even those who fight against it, can receive these gifts if they honestly seek God and his truth. But, Adam says, “though it be not the Catholic Church itself that hands them the bread of truth and grace, yet it is Catholic bread that they eat.” And when they eat of it, “without knowing it or willing it” they are "incorporated in the supernatural substance of the Church."

Are they trying to say that non-Christians can go to heaven too, outside of Christ? That they just have to be a good person and they can get into heaven? Does this mean that that there is a possibility that a person can be saved but it would be God saving them, as in Him choosing them, granting them grace?

I can kind of see the latter, but as far as this statement goes, it sounds as though John Paul is saying that a non-believer can just have a sincere heart (whatever that means) and be related to Christ? So a Buddhist could have a good heart, be a good person and he can go to heaven?

I hope I am completely reading this wrong. Please advise.


I believe so. After all, the range of types of exposure to religion, and childhood teaching, varies tremendously. Would it be fair to expect equal outcomes for everyone given vastly different starting conditions?

Would we expect a blind child to read in the same way as a child with full vision? Is the blind child to be faulted if he struggles sincerely and can never read the printed word, despite eventually learning braille?

Love, sincererity, and a life of honest searching for truth and goodness are all we can ask of anyone. :slight_smile:️ I’m a Catholic, and I think that’s a tall order!


The Church teaches that there is no salvation outside of the Church or Christ, but what that means is that salvation is only possible because of Christ and the Church is the living vehicle that brings that to people in all places and times ever since. We, as Christians, are bound to follow the laws we’ve been given, but God himself is not bound by anything. If there’s a Buddhist who’s never heard the Gospel and lives the best, most sincere Buddhist life he can live, he may go to heaven by the grace of God. That salvation will be through Christ and the Church despite not being the normal path we associate with. God does not eternally punish those who have no ability to follow his law.


Right, invincible ignorance. However at the end of the day only god knows what is truly in ones heart and who can say if a non believer who has done good works and has heard of the gospel won’t make it


Yes, but if you were not confirmed, you’ll need to do that.

No. Basically, what many Catholics interpret “no salvation outside the Church” to mean is that salvation is possible through the Church because of Christ. It doesn’t necessarily mean that only those who are in that Church can be saved. If non-Catholics can be saved, it is through the Catholic Church even if they don’t know it.


But what about all fall short of the glory of God, and also, I am the way the truth and the light, no one comes to the Father except through Me?

I am just trying to figure out why the need to be Catholic if one can live a sincere life to the fullest?

I am also trying to figure out why there is even a question about people who have never heard the Gospel, and why it’s not their fault? Are we all not dead in our sins? If we had not heard the Gospel and died before hearing it, wouldn’t we just go to Hell?

I thought the whole point of salvation was that Christ came to give us life? That we were all dead in our trespasses?


We all fall short of the glory of God, that’s why we cannot reach Heaven on our own. I’m not sure exactly what you’re tryingto get at with that bit, sorry!

We cannot get to the Father except through Jesus, that is correct. But I think you’re missing what I’m saying. Non-Catholics who go to Heaven (if there are any) are going to the Father through the Son. Because it is still the Son that makes salvation possible.

While we believe that non-Catholics may get to Heaven, we don’t know that they actually do. Catholicism is the surest way, if followed correctly. If you take a half-broken flashlight into the woods at night, you might find your way back out before a bear eats you. But wouldn’t you rather have the fully functioning flashlight that gives you all the light you need, rather than just enough light to barely see that the half-broken flashlight would give you?

Also, the Church teaches that those who know that Catholicism is true but do not accept it cannot get to Heaven. Because that would mean willfully rejecting the Church Christ founded, therefore willfully rejecting Christ Himself.

That is up to God, who is merciful as well as just. Two sides of the same coin.

You’re not wrong, so I’m confused at your use of a question mark.


Let me answer it this way. In your work, do you try to just get by or do you make an effort to do your best? And the same question applies to your life. According to the Church, the best way to succeed in life is by being Catholic, and I mean success in the temporal world as well as salvation. You can just get by without the Sacraments of the Church and abiding by the Catholic faith; but is that the way you really want or should want to live with regard to your relation to Gd and to others. The Church says no.


Agatha, thanks for being patient. I am trying to wrap my head around this.

So, I agree, God is not bound by just what He tells us in His Word. There is a possibility that perhaps he can and does save certain people that He perhaps wrote the law in their heart and graced them with that. Sure. That no matter what salvation is through Christ.

I was just making sure that you guys weren’t saying that a Muslim or a Buddhist would enter heaven through their religion.

But I would assume that if God were to save either a Muslim or a Buddhist, that God would put it on his heart to know that Buddhism or Islam were not the answer. That they would live a good life apart from Islam or Buddhism, and just wonder where this feeling of truth is coming from only for it to be revealed to him in heaven.

I don’t think they’d be sincere Muslims or Buddhists.


I think that’s entirely possible. Maybe, for all we know, God saves the sincere non-Catholics by giving them a change of heart/teaching them the truth of Catholicism right before death. I don’t know.


The only thing I worry about is that it gets close to what the Protestants assume Catholics believe which is that a good Muslim who follows his religion can reach heaven, that all they have to do is be a good person.

I know that is not what is meant but since it’s not explored in the Bible, why speculate? Or at least have no official position? That it’s just a possibility, but probably not likely because we do not know for sure.


That is what is meant.


A good Muslim who is genuinely seeking God may be saved, not because of his religion, but because God may see that he is honestly trying to seek the truth of God and live by it even if he is not privileged enough to know what the full truth is. Protestants often misunderstand just enough to totally misrepresent the Catholic faith.

Catholicism does not believe in the Protestant teaching of “Sola Scriptura”. We do not believe that everything we need to know can be found explicitly in the Bible. We believe that the Church is protected by the Holy Spirit from teaching error in faith and morals. We also believe that some teaching was passed down orally instead of written as the Scriptures were. That is why we can have official positions on certain things, such as abortion, without it being explicitly addressed in the Bible. The Scriptures were never intended to be an exhaustive guide. (Well, at least the New Testament.)


Yes, I agree with that. But not live by Islam, right? Basically just live a good life according to the law which God wrote on their hearts Romans 2:15.

I would assume God wouldn’t steer them to live by their Islamic faith. That would just seem fruitless.


The Islamic faith isn’t “wrong”. It contains many important commonalities with Catholicism, most importantly belief in a monotheistic God.


I’m not sure what you’re questioning. God can see a Muslim who is genuinely trying to live the Islamic faith and see good there. That Muslim is trying to act according to the law which God wrote on His heart.

Of course, God wouldn’t steer somebody toward a false religion. But if the Muslim man himself chooses to go the Islamic path to try to live by the truth and goodness, then surely that bears some fruit.


It can’t be because that would negate John 14:6. I don’t think God, if He wrote the law on someone’s heart, their conscience bearing witness, would steer them to follow Islam. Islam has a lot of questionable teachings, and I am not just talking about the more extreme strains.

Why would He steer them to follow any other religion too? Or what if it was a pagan religion that was completely un-Godly?


God saving a non-Catholic doesn’t necessarily mean God steered that person to the non-Catholic religion.


But Christians believe in a Triune God. Muslims think we are heretical and paganistic because we believe in more than one God. They think the idea of God having a Son is pretty bad.

The Muslim conception of God is completely un-Biblical. They see God, or Allah, as a dictator who changes his mind all the time and the person must submit. It’s not a relationship like in the Christian sense at all. He is not a Father to them. He is a dictator.

There is no comparison. If God were to possibly save a Muslim, He probably would not steer the person to go further into that faith, He would grace them with enough knowledge to know it’s not the Truth.


I don’t know if Catholics believe this, but I can say Jews do. It would be even better, however, if that “good person” with a good heart show their goodness by means of the way they treat others and help others on a daily basis. That’s as far as Judaism goes with respect to salvation since the rest is in the hands of Gd. Salvation is not a preoccupation. Our job here on earth is to make our lives and those of others as good and meaningful as possible.

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