The question of whether and how people who have not had the chance to hear the gospel can be saved goes back to the beginnings of Christian reflection. It has also become a much-debated topic in current theology. In Will Many Be Saved? Ralph Martin focuses primarily on the history of debate and the development of responses to this question within the Roman Catholic Church, but much of Martin’s discussion is also relevant to the wider debate happening in many churches around the world.
In particular, Martin analyzes the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, the document from the Second Vatican Council that directly relates to this question. Contrary to popular opinion, Martin argues that according to this text, the conditions under which people who have not heard the gospel can be saved are very often, in fact, not fulfilled, with strong implications for evangelization.
“One reason why evangelization may be stymied is that there seems to be in the minds of many Catholics, and other Christians as well, a lack of conviction that being a Christian is really necessary in order to be saved. If it is not really necessary to become a Christian in order to be saved, why bother to evangelize?” (Page 5)
“In this book, we will only attempt to focus on one obstacle to a response to the call to evangelization, namely, a certain doctrinal ignorance or confusion about what exactly the Church is teaching about the possibility of salvation outside the visible bounds of the Church, or of Christianity.” (Page 6)
“The witness of Scripture is that the powerful workings of the world, the flesh, and the devil are operative among non-Christians in a less restrained way than they are among those who live within the protection of the means of grace available in the Church. If Christians sometimes stifle the light of conscience or disobey a direct command of Christ or sometimes prefer the darkness to the light, how much more likely for this to happen in the absence of all the help of explicit revelation and sacramental life in the Church?” (Page 15)
“It is a balance that avoids the extremes of presuming everyone who has not heard the gospel is lost, or the other extreme, that of presuming that everyone who has not heard the gospel is saved and therefore there is no need for evangelization.” (Page 19)
“‘Those who are unbaptized, though not actually in the Church, are in the Church potentially. And this potentiality is rooted in two things—first and principally, in the power of Christ, which is sufficient for the salvation of the whole human race; secondly, in free-will.’” (Page 8)
For many years we have all appreciated Dr. Martin’s considerable contributions to the mission of the Church. Now he gives us a profound doctrinal foundation for understanding and implementing the ‘new evangelization.’ This is a shot in the arm for bishops, priests, and laity as we respond to the Holy Father’s call.
—Timothy Cardinal Dolan, archbishop of New York
Dr. Ralph Martin’s Will Many Be Saved? contributes significantly to a richer understanding of our faith, helps restore confidence in the gospel message, and engenders a desire to share the truth of Christ’s message. An important contribution to the pastoral strategy of the ‘new evangelization.’
—Donald Cardinal Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C.
Martin clarifies a doctrinal point that has been often obscured but must be recovered as a necessary foundation for the ‘new evangelization.’ This is a uniquely important book.
—Francis Cardinal George, archbishop of Chicago
Provides a refreshing reminder of the undiminished urgency and validity of the missionary mandate of Jesus to his followers to evangelize.
—Peter Cardinal Turkson, president, Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice
These penetrating reflections will compel us to reassess our pastoral approach to the preaching of the gospel in our present circumstances. An important book.
—J. Augustine Di Noia, OP, archbishop, Vatican City
In the Logos editions, these volumes are enhanced by amazing functionality. Scripture citations link directly to English translations, and important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.
Ralph Martin, STD, is the director of graduate theology programs in the new evangelization at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, president of Renewal Ministries, and a consulter to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.