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Cory Smith wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a question. It's my understanding that the only individuals who have a chance of going to Heaven:

  1. Believe in Jesus and put their faith in Him
  2. Repent of their sins
  3. Confess Jesus as Lord to someone, and
  4. are baptized

So, with that in mind, here is my question:

Imagine a situation in which a person is born and lives their entire life as a prisoner with no awareness of God and has never even thought about the existence of, or lack there of, God.
We can attribute the lack of thinking to his captor's explanation of his surroundings which seemingly account for every question.

Within this prison cell there are two buttons which the prisoner must press twice a day:

  1. a good button, and
  2. a bad button.

The prisoner believes that the good button gives another person food and that the bad button causes pain to another person.

Throughout the prisoner's life he experiences pain which he believes is caused by someone pressing the red button. Despite this, the prisoner never presses the bad button and only presses the good button for the entirety of his life.

With this example, the prisoner suffers yet never causes harm or pain to anyone else.
The prisoner only causes good.

  • With these requirements of Heaven in mind, would God still deny the prisoner entry into Heaven?

The prisoner had no choice or chance to believe in Jesus.

I'm wondering what you guys think.

Thanks,

Cory

  { With these requirements of Heaven in mind, would God still deny the prisoner entry into Heaven? }

Mike replied:

Dear Cory,

Thanks for the question.

Many hypothetical questions, like the one you have given us, have no basis in reality and we strive to answer questions based in the reality of our Catholic faith and the Church Jesus founded on
St. Peter and his successors. This is serious stuff; we are talking about issues of salvation and justification.

Although there have been some hypothetical questions we have answered where we can give a fruitful response in order to advance a better understanding of the Church's teachings, I don't think you question falls into this category.

Maybe my colleagues are willing to answer your hypothetical question, but I see no basis for answering a question that has no basis in reality.

Here is an example of a good hypothetical question:

If you are a Catholic:

  • What's on your mind?
  • What are you getting at?
  • If you are not a Catholic, why haven't you considered joining Jesus' Church?

Sorry,

Mike

Cory replied:

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the response, however, I do not see the irrelevance of the hypothetical situation I have brought forth.

I read the web posting you brought to my attention and still pose a question.

Instead of my hypothetical situation, imagine a situation in which an individual (let's name that individual A, for simplicity) on earth has no conception of Jesus, (i.e. the individual never was contacted by a Catholic or the individual never heard about the theology on which Catholicism is based), but lives a life that is parallel to a Catholic who is worthy of being spared eternal damnation by Jesus.

The situation may be similar to the situation of a mentally disabled individual who is spared from damnation because of obvious limitations. Furthermore, the situations of individual A and the mentally disabled seem to disprove the notion that God is omnipotent, which is distressing for me as a Catholic.

  • If God is omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient then how are there individuals who fail to even think about the Word of Jesus like individual A?

I feel as though God should make sure all individuals have a fair chance of repentance to Jesus because of His Unlimited Power.

The situation detailed (individual A) is realistic and plausible. I feel individuals without connection or contact with the western world (i.e. the Amazon people) do indeed exist and have no conception of Jesus or Catholicism and therefore have not rejected Her doctrines. Further, it is not implausible to imagine such an individual leading a proper life.

I am a Catholic who is seeking insight. Any further explanation would be of great help to me.

God bless,

Cory

Mike replied:

Hi Cory,

Remember to Reply All so the whole team can reply.

There are several things at play here:

  • one's knowledge of the truth, or lack their of
  • the Natural Law that every baptized and unbaptized person has
    The natural law is that thing inside us that tells us something is right or wrong, without someone telling us it is right or wrong.
  • and each individual's free will

Those who through no fault of their own don't know the Gospel, yet follow the good that the Natural Law tells the to follow, can be saved.

Those who know the truth yet refuse to follow it cannot be saved.

  • Does this help?

Mike

Cory replied:

Hi Mike,

  • What you say does make sense, however, if our conception of God as an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent is correct, I still do not understand why individuals would be able to avoid The Truth?

Essentially, if God is in fact God then I feel He would use His Infinite Power to ensure everyone has the capability and opportunity to be exposed to The Truth.

Thanks for your help,

Cory

Mike replied:

Hi Cory,

He wants and calls those in the Church to do what you are asking.

Catholic Christians are called to do and continue what the Apostles and disciples started:

  • preach the Gospel, and
  • bring people into the Church.

As I have said in some of my previous answers:

One of the greatest, yet deadliest, gifts God has given every man and woman is free will.

He will not force His Will on any one, though we, as Catholic Christians, are called to share the fullness of the Gospel with other non-Catholics. A Fullness that can be found in the only Church Jesus founded on St. Peter and his successors — the Catholic Church.

We can't know everything in this earthly life, so asking why a mentally-challenged person is mentally-challenged is over my pay grade.

What we can say is the Lord will never permit something to happen that He also can't pull a greater good out of.

We can also say the obvious:

One is not culpable for sin they don't know is sin.

You said:
I still do not understand why individuals would be able to avoid The Truth?

Because of free will.

You said:
Essentially, if God is in fact God then I feel He would use His Infinite Power to ensure everyone has the capability and opportunity to be exposed to The Truth.

He does at our conception; when we were created: it's called the Natural Law. Our job is to follow the Natural Law. (Again, the Natural Law is that thing inside us that tells us something is right or wrong, without someone else telling us it is right or wrong.)

  • He also wants his chosen members of the faith to preach the Gospel.
  • He is the Head, we are the Body called to build and strengthen the Body as:

I hope this helps,

Mike

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