Who then can be save?

I am trying to study Paul’s Letter to the Romans and note that those who have faith will be saved. How can those who have never heard of God or Jesus (most of humanity) be saved?

*For Christ is the end of the law for the justification of everyone who has faith. (Rom. 10:4 NAB)

I don’t think the nab is a very good translation.


3 For they, not knowing the justice of God, and seeking to establish their own, have not submitted themselves to the justice of God.

4 For the end of the law is Christ, unto justice to every one that believeth.

5 For Moses wrote, that the justice which is of the law, *the man that shall do it, shall live by it.


3 Not recognising God’s saving justice they have tried to establish their own, instead of submitting to the saving justice of God.

4 But the Law has found its fulfilment in Christ so that all who have faith will be justified.

5 Moses writes of the saving justice that comes by the Law and says that whoever complies with it will find life in it.

"That solution to the problem of the salvation of those who do not profess the Christian creed is not in conformity with the Gospel. Rather, we must maintain that the way of salvation always passes through Christ, and therefore the Church and her missionaries have the task of making him known and loved in every time, place and culture. Apart from Christ “there is no salvation.” As Peter proclaimed before the Sanhedrin at the very start of the apostolic preaching: “There is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12).

For those too who through no fault of their own do not know Christ and are not recognized as Christians, the divine plan has provided a way of salvation. As we read in the Council’s Decree Ad Gentes, we believe that “God in ways known to himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel” to the faith necessary for salvation (AG 7). Certainly, the condition “inculpably ignorant” cannot be verified nor weighed by human evaluation, but must be left to the divine judgment alone. For this reason, the Council states in the Constitution Gaudium et Spes that in the heart of every man of good will, “Grace works in an unseen way… The Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery” (GS 22).

It is important to stress that the way of salvation taken by those who do not know the Gospel is not a way apart from Christ and the Church. The universal salvific will is linked to the one mediation of Christ. “God our Savior…wants all men to be saved and come to know the truth. And the truth is this: God is one. One also is the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:3-6). Peter proclaimed this when he said: “There is no salvation in anyone else” and called Jesus the “cornerstone” (Acts 4:11-12), emphasizing Christ’s necessary role at the basis of the Church."

~ Pope St. John Paul II


Thank you.
I just picked Rom 10:4 (NAB) as an example from Paul of the need for faith.

Romans 10:9

New International Version
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

New Living Translation
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

English Standard Version
“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Matthew 24:14

New International Version
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

New Living Translation
“And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.”

English Standard Version
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”


Bookcat #3

Many thanks. I always appreciate your thoughtful replies.

Perhaps one should consider both the gospels and St Paul. Reading your reply I think of “extra ecclesiam nulla salus”.

You mention ‘inculpably ignorant’, in the old days it was ‘invincible ignorance’. I believe all must be left to God’s justice, but also to his mercy and love. Your reply raises for me the issue of universal salvation.

Finally you note that Christ is our one mediator. How do you stand with Mary being ‘mediatrix of all graces’?

Edwest2 #5

In a previous post I suggested that as well as the gospels St Paul should be considered. You quote both these sources. Thanks.

However as I also previously wrote I use Rom 1:4 only as a typical example of Paul’s thinking.

I note you gave me translations using NIV, ESV and NLT. What translations do you generally prefer? My favourites are NAB and NRSV.

No - it is not about “universal salvation” (that was an error…).

Mary is the mediatrix. She is the our “Mother in the order of grace”.

Bookcat #8


I find it hard to see how a good God could create a person who will suffer for all time in hell. Hence I would like to believe in universalism. Hans Urs von Balthasar goes as far as a Catholic can, claiming a believer can reasonably believe that all people may be saved.

In recent times theologians and popes have played down hell and damnation, perhaps especially St JP II.

In CAF previously (2004) I read:

*I think the general Catholic view is that you should at least hope that all are saved even if you think it is improbable. This was H.U. von Balthasar’s opinion and it is the opinion of most modern theologians. It is not heresy to think that all might end up saved.

Such belief is heresy.

The person themselves wills to be in hell.

God created them for heaven. They choose hell and choose hell.

Universalism is an error.

Balthasar said we can “hope” for the salvation of all. Which is different.

God desires the salvation of all. All do not desire this.

Jesus was very serious in his preaching about both salvation…and the possibility of choosing hell.

Paul too.

As are the Popes…including St. John Paul II

That being said - yes let us propose the gospel …let us help them to come to know Jesus and true life in him…

…and let us pray and make sacrifices for the salvation of sinners and hope in each case. Our freedom can help others freedom in the supernatural order.

I am grateful to all who contributed to this discussion, but I am annoyed at myself. Here we should build each other up, be positive and try to be helpful. But I seem to be locked into my difficulty in seeing God as good. My spiritual director and I do not discuss the matter much, as I fail to be convinced and make progress.

My only answer is to remember I am not God. we need to leave all in his hands, do our best and hope in his mercy for all.

I have added some quotes from St Paul about mutual encouragement, as well as others about acknowledging God’s supremacy.

*Mutual Encouragement

that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by one another’s faith, yours and mine. (Rom. 1:12 NAB)

Let us then pursue what leads to peace and to building up one another.
(Rom. 14:19 NAB)

Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do. (1 Thess. 5:11 NAB)

So what is to be done, brothers? When you assemble, one has a psalm, another an instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Everything should be done for building up. (1 Cor. 14:26 NAB)

to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, (Eph. 4:12-13 NAB).

God’s supremacy

But who indeed are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Will what is made say to its maker, “Why have you created me so?” Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for a noble purpose and another for an ignoble one? (Rom. 9:20-21 NAB)

16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:16 NAB)*

I disagree with your comment that most of humanity has not heard of Jesus. I believe most HAVE heard of Jesus.

Just a thought


it’s sort of like saying, I hope Jesus doesn’t do what He said will happen. When Jesus was asked, will only a few be saved, #40 notice he didn’t correct the questioner. If comparatively speaking, only a few go to heaven, then the rest go to hell. Anyone who goes to purgatory goes to heaven, so they are counted in the few.

Fr Joseph Mary Wolf told this story in a homily at an EWTN mass.
youtube.com/watch?v=FeQNdXu-Uvc note the part when Fr Jose, goes to hell. Who he saw, and why they were there,

Reply to #14

I am grateful to all who contributed to this debate. As you know I find it difficult to accept that all may not be saved.

I note the grim words in #40 “Jesus who says only a few will make it to heaven”. The horrible vista that “only a few go to heaven, then the rest go to hell” makes it difficult for me to see God as good.

The quote about doubt reminds me of the words of Blessed J H Newman “Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, as I understand the subject.”

Let us pray that all may be saved by the mercy of God.

Re: #14** , **note it’s all quotes

Jesus is the one who judges ALL. He tells us in advance that getting to heaven isn’t easy. Are you upset that it is not a breeze to get to heaven? Somehow it is God’s fault not the individual’s fault, if one doesn’t make it to heaven?

Don’t get this confused. God is 100% Good
People who go to hell are the ones Jesus judges as NOT good.

As we all know May does not equal will.

Re: Newman’s phrase that you reference

National Catholic Register had the following.


"as John Henry Newman observed, a difficulty is not a doubt. The person with a difficulty says, “How can that be so?” whereas a person who doubts says, “That can’t be so!” The first statement expresses difficulty, but willingness to believe. The second statement expresses cynicism and unwillingness to submit to the Church’s teachings. The person with difficulties says, “I believe, Lord; help my unbelief!” The person with doubts says, “I don’t believe Lord, and don’t bother to help my unbelief!”

From: ncregister.com/site/article/blessed-john-henry-newman-explains-faith-doubts-and-difficulties

# 16 Steve B

I note ‘* For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving*,’ (1 Tim. 4:4 NAB)

I agree ‘may’ is not ''will.It is heresy to say all will be save, it is acceptable to say all may be saved,

I prefer what Newman himself wrote in his Apologia.

to add

[FONT=Verdana,Arial,Helvetica]God “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4),

That doesn’t translate to “all men will be saved”
It means no one is capriciously predestined by God for hell. People go to hell because of their actions in this life. And as Jesus said, few make it to heaven while everyone else are on the wide easy road to perdition.

Steve B
Thanks again for continuing in dialogue with me.
You write “And as Jesus said, few make it to heaven while everyone else are on the wide easy road to perdition.”

You touch exactly on my problem. If what Jesus said is true I find it difficult to see God as good.

But I am not God. It is my job to accept.

Thus it all boils down to attempting to love God and neighbor and obeying the Silver Rule of not doing to anyone what you would not like to be done to you.

The angels were tested first, and 1/3 were thrown out of heaven (Rev 12:4). The test is over for the angels.

Now it’s humanities turn to be tested. All I can say, I’m glad I’m not being threatened by being thrown to the lions for my faith.

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