Over the past week I had a couple conversations with unbelievers; one agnostic and one undecided. On both occasions one of the issues that arose, as it often does, was the question of who is saved that may not have known the Bible, the name of Jesus, etc. I’m amazed at how often this issue arises even among those who are confessing believers.
To this question I have no better answer than that proffered by John Donne, the great Anglican preacher of the 17th century:
To me, to whom God hath revealed his Son, in a Gospel, by a Church, there can be no way of salvation, but by applying that Son of God, by that Gospel, in that Church. Nor is there any other foundation for any, nor any other name by which any can be saved, but the name of Jesus. But how this foundation is presented, and how this name of Jesus is notified to them, amongst whom there is no Gospel preached, no Church established, I am not curious in inquiring. I know God can be as merciful as those tender [Church] Fathers present him to be; and I would be as charitable as they are. And therefore humbly embracing that manifestation of the Son, which he hath afforded me, I leave God, to his unsearchable ways of working upon others, without further inquisition.
– John Donne, Sermons (Ten Volumes), edited by George R. Potter and Evelyn M. Simpson, Volume IV. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1953–1962, 77-78.
I guess there is one detail on which John Donne and are different; I am curious as to the ways and means of how God reveals Himself to those who lack the established Church and the delineated Gospel-message. However, while curious I am content that this is effectively and justly carried out.