It is sometimes tempting to create two categories into which we can easily subdivide the entirety of humanity into "two kinds of people." Reality is much more complex. There are frequently two extremes and people are divided between them in varying degrees.
Thursday's class discussed another variation of the "salvation issue" and the "what abouts..." First, let me clarify the terms. Salvation means "who gets into heaven" and "what abouts" are people who seem to be cut off from eternal life through 'no fault of their own.'
Among the "what abouts" which are most intensely identified are "those people in a far off land who never heard of Jesus" and "the faithful Jews." This issue comes up frequently in my classes. It is because, as orthodox Christians, we believe Jesus is the Savior. We think He is the Word made flesh, God the Son become Jesus the Son of God, and the Incarnate Divine Human. Reading the Lazarus story in John's Gospel the last three days, we have heard Jesus say, "I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." This same Jesus said, NO one can come to the Father except through me." This is generally understood as "only Christians can go to heaven because only Christians believe in Jesus." While this is described as God's grace, the "what abouts" stir up questions in us all. Faith in Jesus seems a pretty arbitrary and limited gift. And in some ways it is like a 'magic word' which one receives through good fortune (someone told it to us). The idea of a loving God and such an arbitrary mode of providing eternal life do not easily go together.
Now it is true that we are all sinners and saving any of us is a grace; none of us deserves life. No one deserves it. Yet, from a human perspective, if someone who enters a burning school and leads children to safety she would be a hero, until we learned that she had intentionally only taken the boys or kids with brown eyes. Then it would look somewhat malicious...
I have no final answers to the question. As I wrote some months ago, Scripture also makes clear that God's desire is that all be saved. There is no question that salvation is in and through Jesus. How the exact process works out (whether limited to earth time or including some meeting with Jesus/God the Son after death) is not my business. God needs none of my input!
But I do think there is a range between "two kinds of people," the ones who think God is looking for an excuse to save people and the ones who think God is looking for an excuse to send them to fiery torment. Both kinds can believe only Jesus saves. It just ends up looking different as they explain exactly what that means. In the end, that is what drives much of the conversation.