This question usually is asked when someone quotes John 14:6 (NIV), AJesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.@, or perhaps John 3:18 (NIV), AWhoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.@. It stands to reason that if the Bible says a person is condemned if they do not believe in the name of God=s one and only Son, and they have not even heard the name Jesus, that they would be condemned.
The problem with that deduction is it is not consistent with the attributes of God. God is perfect and God is fair, and God does not change, so one can rightly surmise that God is always perfectly fair. It would not be fair to condemn someone for not believing in a name which they had not even heard.
It is not the name Jesus that we believe in. Well, it is and it isn’t. If you speak English the name is Jesus, but if you speak Spanish the name is pronounced differently. In Hebrew the name is Yesua, Yehosua, or Joshua.
It is what the name means that is the most important. It means AGod Saves@ (Jehovah is his help, or Jehovah the Savior). I believe this is what the Bible means when it says a man is condemned if he doesn’t believe in the name of God=s one and only Son. A person can believe that a loving God will save them with out knowing the details about Jesus. No one in the Old Testament knew the name of God=s one and only son; Jesus. Yet all that were saved knew that God saves. They all understood that it is only God that can save and that they needed forgiveness and salvation. Though they had many verses explaining Jesus and what He would do for all of mankind, God had not given them the proper name AJesus@, only the understanding of what it means.
God is always fair, just, and loving, so much so that the Bible says, AGod is love@(1 John 4:8 & 4:16). If we can keep this first and foremost in our thoughts we will not be troubled about whether children, or someone who has not even seen a Bible, or pagans, or anyone is saved or not saved. It would not be fair, just, or loving to condemn anyone who has not had the opportunity to be saved, so God would not do such a thing.
Believe in the goodness of God and all of these questions will fade away.
Just another example of the fairness of God.
(John 9:40-41 NIV) Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.