If you have been watching Oprah Winfrey lately, then you have probably heard her talk about her views on religion. She says she believes there are many paths to heaven. She also asks a very good question that I think most people wrestle with. I am not quoting here, but she basically asks what happens to those people in very remote regions of the earth who have never even heard of Jesus? How can Jesus be the only way then? Good question Oprah! If you would like to hear the episode I am referring too, then you can find it here.
This question bothered me and I didn't want to run from it or ignore it. I found one answer to this question on a website called Christian answers. I thought it was pretty good, so I included it here. I have lots of stories and pictures from the last week coming soon!
What about those who have never heard the gospel?
The traditional Christian position on this subject is that no one can or ever will be saved apart from Christ. Jesus Himself once made the following categorical statement: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me." (John 14:6) Yet in the case of a native tribesman living deep in some remote African jungle who has never heard of Jesus Christ, what will God do--if He is, in fact, a just God?
Many theologians teach that "God will give eternal life to anyone who responds to His general revelation in nature and in conscience... [however this] doesn't mean that a person can be saved apart from Christ. It would be that the blood of Christ or the sacrifice of Christ was applied to that person even though he did not have any conscious knowledge of Christ." (as quoted from William Lane Craig in a debate held at Willow Creek Community Church, June 27, 1993). Romans chapters 1 and 2, referring to the general revelation of God in His creation, is often cited for this response. But this position can only be inferred--it is not explicitly stated anywhere in Scripture.
What actually happens to those who have not heard the gospel of Christ depends upon several factors.
It depends first of all (but not finally) on how they have responded to God's general revelation. In the case of those who have neglected or rejected such general revelation (no doubt the case with the vast majority of those who have never heard of Christ), they're lost, condemned for all eternity to a real hell. But note--they are not condemned for what they haven't heard. They are judged for what they have heard and rejected. In this sense, as R.C. Sproul rightly states, "there are no innocent people in the world."
In the case, however, of the one who has never heard of Christ, yet sincerely worships God as he knows Him, and lives consistently with moral law as he understands it, we do have some grounds (Acts 10 et al) to believe that God may be pleased to grant a further special revelation involving the Gospel of Christ Himself, which one would then, in turn, either accept or reject. Exactly how or when would God arrange for such a further revelation? Might I Peter 3:18-20 or 4:6 somehow correlate with Romans 2:16 here? The Scripture allows many such details to remain hidden, while being unequivocal about the fact that God will judge with perfect justice (Psalm 98:9). (Could this be what is happening on a widespread basis in the Muslim world today?)
Does all this detail somehow seem trivial to you? Be certain that it is not! In fact, this subject in all of its related subtlety is absolutely critical. Among other things, for instance, correct Biblical exegesis on this subject provides an unequaled incentive for the continued Christian mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. As Romans 10:14 says,
"How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?"