This is a question that has led to much debate and controversy during
the history of Christianity.
That the heathen, like all men, are in spiritual darkness, called “dead in trespasses and sins;” Eph. 2:1, is most certainly true.
Men who propagate this doctrine use several scriptural “proof texts,” such as, Acts 10:34,35 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. Also Rom 2:7 - 11 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God.
In interpreting Scriptures we must follow a strict rule that no part contradicts any other. We must seek to harmonize apparent discrepancies. A wise rule to follow is to make the obscure fit into the plain, or take the few and fit them into the many. The reverse of this has produced divisions and many cults. Here is an example: 1 Cor. 15:29, speaks of “baptism for the dead” It is used by others to baptize a living person on behalf of the dead. This is interpreting it at face value and ignoring the many verses that teaches only living believers should be baptized.
Let us look at the plain and plenteous verses that teach dogmatically that there is no salvation apart from Christ: John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 10:9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The definite article “the” makes it crystal clear that there is no salvation apart from Christ. John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. Again, very emphatic. 1 John 5:11, 12 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. Peter says, Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Acts 4:12
If we take the verses of Rom 2: (above) can we fit them into these without distorting them? I think not! It behooves us then to seek an explanation to Rom. 2: and Acts 10:. God, in His sovereign ways, deals with people as they respond to the light they have. He has given light to all men in at least four distinct ways.
1–Creation–Psm. 19:1....Rom. 1:20
3–Word of God -- Psm. 119:105, 130
4–The Gospel–2 Cor. 4:3,4
All men everywhere have the first two lights. It is the light of the Creator God. There is no salvation directly in or from these lights. They must have the latter two in order to be saved. These latter lights are about the Redeemer God. There is only salvation in them.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which