Throughout history Christians have wrestled with the question of what happens to people who have never heard of Christ, who have died as babies or who are challenged because of a mental condition. What about people of other religions? Will they be excluded to a life apart from God?
I tend to think that faith in Jesus should make us more inclusive of others, rather than less. Heaven can be thought of as that place and time in which God’s love reigns supreme, not given to human acts of exclusion.
“Since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse “(Roman 1:20) and “the requirements of the law are written on their hearts” (Romans 2:15). Together these passages indicate that everyone has an inborn knowledge of God, that this can clearly be known from the marvels of creation and that everyone also has a God-given moral compass.
Is it true, then, that “those who have never heard,” really have no idea of God’s existence or of their moral responsibilities? Biblically speaking, it’s not true. “Those who have never heard” have heard something and they do have access to key information about God. They know that God does exist, that there is a moral standard- it is written on their heart.
God is holy, just, unchanging and all loving. This means that God will always do what is right.
Since Christ dies for all of us, and since all men are called to the same destiny, which is divine, it is reasonable to believe that the Holy Spirit offers to everyone the possibility of being made participants in a way known to God. We hope that every person who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding can have eternal life.
God does reveal himself to other cultures through prophets and teachers. God is a just and loving God and it is difficult to believe that through an accident of birth God would separate himself from those of other religions that are trying to follow God as best they know according to the dictates of their conscience. Our prayer should be that they can also have access to the kingdom of God and the redemptive act of Jesus will apply to them if they are just trying to follow God, as they understand him.
However, those that are influenced by evil through their religion and beliefs, who kill and commit unspeakable crimes in the name of religion, are separated from God. Jesus gave us the path and insight into God – Love and Truth.