The Salvation of ‘Jane’ and the Problem of Ignorance

Stephen Bullivant

in The Salvation of Atheists and Catholic Dogmatic Theology

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199652563
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191740725 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Theological Monographs

The Salvation of ‘Jane’ and the Problem of Ignorance

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This chapter and the next develop a new account of how an atheist may be saved. The starting point is Gavin D’Costa’s recent work concerning the salvation of a non-theistic Buddhist (‘Jane’). This appeals to Christ’s descent into Hell, and revives the limbus patrum (‘limbo of the just’) as the post-mortem location for a righteous, unevangelized non-Christian’s coming to the requisite relationship with Christ. While fundamentally accepting D’Costa’s schema, the chapter nevertheless identifies a number of difficulties – including its lack of a sustained discussion of ‘unevangelized’, especially in light of Vatican II’s repeated insistence on ‘inculpable ignorance’. This criterion, and its relationship with chapter two’s invincible ignorance, is addressed at length – drawing on Aquinas, Las Casas, Vitoria, and the sociology of knowledge – offering strong reasons for hoping that a great many unbelievers are indeed inculpable.

Keywords: D’Costa; descent into Hell; limbus patrum; limbo of the just; unevangelized; inculpable ignorance; invincible ignorance; Aquinas; Las Casas; Vitoria

Chapter.  13627 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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