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CHNetwork Online Community Forums Justification and Salvation Can non-believers be saved?

7 replies, 6 voices Last updated by Profile photo of John S. de Beer jsdebeer 1 month ago
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  • #22655
    Profile photo of johntaylor
    johntaylor
    Participant
    @johntaylor

    I read this quote from Lumen Gentium,

    Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. (Lumen Gentium)

    This seems to be contradicted by these vesres from the Gospels.

    Mark 16:16

    Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.

     John 3:18

    Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

     Although I absolutely agree with the Lumen Gentium quote, I would really like to understand it in relation to the Bible.

    #22656
    Profile photo of David W. Emery
    David W. Emery
    Keymaster
    @David W. Emery

    The contradiction is only apparent, John. They are referring to two different definitions of “non-believer.”

    The quote from Lumen Gentium refers to those people who have no “explicit knowledge of God” or Jesus Christ (for instance, a Hindu serf in rural India who has little to no contact with Christians). They are in a state of invincible ignorance and therefore are not responsible for their lack of explicit faith. Morally, there are also people who, because of trauma, addiction or mental disturbance, are governed more by fear, illness or irrationality than reason and faith. These, too, are not wholly responsible for any apparent act of refusal with regard to God or Christ.

    On the other hand, the passages from the Gospels refer to those people who, out of hatred, ideological opposition or a bent toward evil, refuse to believe in God or Jesus Christ, even though they may have learned sufficiently about Christianity to make an intelligent choice. The Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus to his face and eventually had him killed, or anyone who prefers evil to good and lives accordingly, would be in this category.

    David

    #22657
    Profile photo of johntaylor
    johntaylor
    Participant
    @johntaylor

    Thanks David.

    What about a person from Europe who has definitely heard of God and Jesus Christ, but ends up being a non-believer due the influence of family, friends and the society they grew up in.

    If such a person was always kind, generous and charitable towards other people, would they be saved?

    John

    #22658
    Profile photo of David W. Emery
    David W. Emery
    Keymaster
    @David W. Emery

    My brother (although American) is as you describe, and I fear for his salvation. Being simply a “nice person” does not qualify one as a virtual Christian, because that is not what Christianity is about. My brother has no ambition to live a life in union with a “higher principle.” His ideal is to follow the norm of the secular culture that surrounds him, pleasing only himself and “getting along” with others.

    Matthew 7:13–14 explains: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

    There are certainly many who follow the “easy way,” the path of least resistance, but they will end up in “destruction” (a synonym for hell) rather than heaven.

    David

    #22659
    Profile photo of Howard Hampson
    Howard Hampson
    Keymaster
    @Howard the Pilgrim

    I have often found that many of the “nice” secular people who have had the opportunity to hear the Gospel become very hostile towards Christians and Christian morality and the idea that they are sinners in need of salvation.  And although they may believe in a divine being of some sort, they want that being to keep its nose out of their business.  They’re not really interested in having a relationship with a Person who cares about their decisions.

    It is important to note that it is Jesus and His death on the cross as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world that makes possible the salvation of any who are eventually saved, even those who have never heard of Him through no fault of their own.  People also need to be following the light that they have.

    It is God, who knows all things including the motives and intentions of the human heart, who will determine who will be saved.  We always are looking for some way to make that determination for others.  But as they say in the business world that determination is above our pay grade.  God just tells us to pray for all people and their salvation.

    #22661
    Profile photo of Jennie1964
    Jennie1964
    Keymaster
    @Jennie1964

    I have often found that many of the “nice” secular people who have had the opportunity to hear the Gospel become very hostile towards Christians and Christian morality and the idea that they are sinners in need of salvation.

    And that pretty much sums up my mother and mother-in-law. They were Christians up until the point where Christianity told them no or asked them to do something they weren’t willing to do. At that point, they would say, “I make my own decisions and nobody including God is telling me what to do. I am just fine thank you.” That is certainly, in spite of all their goodness, not submitting themselves to an authority higher than themselves.

    As it has been mentioned, only God can judge these cases in spite of their appearance, because of course only God knows the heart. If I were judge, I would say that definitely my mom and mother-in-law were probably no where near heaven, but nobody knows what happens in a person’s heart on their deathbed. we cannot see or hear what happens in that place, or at least we very rarely do. And so in spite of appearances, I remember them in prayer. The prayers aren’t wasted because God can apply them to whomever he chooses in the end. Just pray and trust!

    #22678
    Profile photo of zaida
    zaida
    Participant
    @zaida

    Im very interested in this thread, as I have family (both my blood relations and many in laws) whom I love dearly, and who are not believers.

    Ive been reading Saint Faustina and about the “divine mercy”….if one is to believe in these revelations – they are very hopeful – as they teach that we can both pray and suffer for the salvation of others…and they also teach that God’s offer of mercy is expansive and that He works with people even in their dying moments….I think I need to believe this – as I look at someone (like my father) who has lived a life of so much goodness, and yet cannot seem to get past his prejudices regarding religion….my dad also has some psychological issues, and I need to believe God sees this and understands where my dad’s heart is….I hope and pray that “if” my dad doesn’t accept God openly and transparently, that in his final moments God comes to Him and offers salvation…I pray for all my relations….my husband as well – he and so many others here in Scotland are tainted by the history of violence and sectarianism, all the worst that has been done in the name of religion – that they cant see beyond that – maybe that’s not their fault   –

    I think, at the end of the day, we have to believe in God’s perfection, and His love and leave these judgments in His hands….and while we do that also pray for others, suffer for others, and live our lives in a way that they see the gospel in us….

    Blessings everyone!

    #22785
    Profile photo of John S. de Beer
    jsdebeer
    Participant
    @JSdeBeer

    The contradiction is only apparent

    As so often, David, your charitable explanations clarify the sitation wonderfully.  Thank you for your ministry here!

    Being simply a “nice person” does not qualify one as a virtual Christian, because that is not what Christianity is about.

    This seems to be the heart of the matter to me.  The rural Hindu striving for virtue in the best way he knows how is clearly fumbling about in the spiritual dark, through no fault of his own.  Lumen Gentium makes clear that there is good reason to hope for his salvation by the Blood of Christ even though he has never heard of Christ.  (I think now particularly of the Calormene youth whom Aslan brings to heaven in CS Lewis’s Last Battle.)

    On the other hand we have, say, a man who, knowing the Truth, turns his back on God.  We have strong grounds to fear for his salvation, though there may be factors reducing his guilt.  A parallel with regard to reduced guilt, to my mind, is the heathen who visits a church for the first time and receives Holy Communion simply because he sees everyone else doing it.  Objectively, he has committed the grave sin of sacrilege; his personal guilt, however, is reduced by his ignorance.  If he learns better and repents, we can rejoice with him; if he refuses to repent, or refuses to learn better, we must urgently pray for him!

    Also, as David has noted in another thread, the grace leading to salvation is unmerited.  Our hypothetical unbelieving ‘nice guy’ and ‘good person’ simply cannot possibly by their niceness or goodness (which in any case usually falls short of what they believe about themselves) earn this initial and indispensable grace from Jesus Christ our Saviour.

    Only God can judge these cases […] because of course only God knows the heart.

    Well put, Jennie.  No man knows the fate of another man’s soul in this life.  We can judge people’s words and actions, but God alone judges their heart and determines the fate of their body and soul.  We simply lack the data to make that judgment, especially given the number of difficult situations that might arise.  We can only fast, hope and pray for others’ salvation.

    (I am sorry for the long post.  I am still trying to work my way through these ideas, and it helps for me to write it out.  I welcome corrections, of course)

    God bless,

    —John.

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