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What Happens to the Unevangelized

Updated: Nov 11, 2023

Perhaps the most widely known of modern defenders of the Christian faith, William Lane Craig, once told his audience in a Q&A that salvation was available to those who have never heard of Christ. According to him, the unevangelized could respond favorably to the revelatory lights they have in either nature or conscience and find themselves in right standing with God.

Of course, Craig merely echoed the sentiments of another iconic evangelist, Billy Graham, in fact, who told Robert Shuler in a 1997 interview that those who have never heard of the name of Christ could merely have faith per the light they have. “They may not even know the name of Jesus,” noted the late evangelist, “but they (can) turn to the only light that they have, and I think that they are saved…” (

While there’s no denying the intellect of Craig or the sincerity of the late Graham, the problems with such thinking are many with the one in this column highlighting the elevation of “faith” above its biblical intent. Faith has become a virtue in and of itself and it doesn’t seem to matter whether one’s faith is founded upon knowledge of Christ or not.

In contrast, while Jesus spoke much of faith, he always attached it to knowledge of his himself. As he put it so many times, "he that believeth on me..." shall never thirst or never hunger (John 6:35). He told Nicodemus forthrightly that those who believe “in” him would have everlasting life (John 3:16) while those who do not would remain under divine condemnation. As such, saving faith requires knowledge of Christ.

As significant is the fact that John linked salvation to believing on his name. “But as many as received him,” said John, “to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). Like above, the faith to which John refers also requires a prior knowledge of both Christ and his work.

Finally, let’s not forget that Paul forthrightly declared the Gospel to be the “power of God unto salvation to everyone who believeth” (Romans 1:16) and then defined said Gospel for us in 1 Corinthians 15:1-3. It is good news regarding Jesus’s substitutional death, burial, and resurrection with knowledge of said Gospel being a logical necessity. The Gospel, then, not “faith,” is “the power of God unto salvation.”

On the flip side, notice what Paul did not say. He did not say that “faith” was the power of God unto salvation. He never even vaguely suggested that faith spawned by the lights of creation and conscience was a sufficient saving faith. And he certainly gave no indication that a faith’s sincerity or strength apart from knowledge of the Gospel might give anyone a right standing with God.

Scripturally speaking, then, faith is not a virtue in and of itself but valid only when rightly directed toward the Christ of the Gospel and such faith can be properly placed only if people have sufficient knowledge of him.

This, of course, highlights both the power of the Gospel, information without which no man can be saved, and the urgency of the Great Commission to “go ye into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mark 16:15).

Tony is author of What in the World is God doing with COVID-19? and can be reached at

Published in the High Point Enterprise 1/28/23

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