Salvation In Christianity
Salvation in Christianity, or deliverance, redemption is the “saving [of] human beings from death and separation from God” by Christ’s atonement for sin, and the justification following this atonement. Christians partake in this redemption by baptism, repentance, and participating in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The idea of Jesus’ death as an atonement for human sin goes back to the Hebrew writings, and was elaborated in Paul’s epistles and in the Gospels. Early Christians regarded themselves as partaking in a new covenant with God, open to both Jews and gentiles, due to the sacrificial death and subsequent exaltation of Jesus Christ.
Early Christian notions of the person and sacrifical role of Jesus in human salvation were further elaborated by the Church Fathers and medieaval writers in various atonement theories, namely the Patristic ransom theory and recapitulation theory, adhered to by Eastern Orthodox Churches and other Eastern Christian Churches; the 11th century satisfaction theory, adhered to by the Roman Catholic Church, and its Protestant derivation, the penal substitution theory; and the 11th century moral influence theory, which is favored within Liberal Protestantism.
Variant views on salvation are among the main fault lines dividing the various Christian denominations, including conflicting definitions of sin and depravity (the sinful nature of humankind), justification (God’s means of removing the consequences of sin), and atonement (the forgiving or pardoning of sin through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus).
Definition and scope
Salvation in Christianity, or deliverance or redemption, is the “saving [of] human beings from death and separation from God” by Christs atonement for sin.
Christian salvation not only concerns the atonement itself, but also the question how one partakes of this salvation, by faith, baptism, or obedience; and the question of this salvation is individual or collective. It further involves questions regarding the afterlife, e.g. “heaven, hell, purgatory, soul sleep, and annihilation.” The fault lines between the various denominations include conflicting definitions of sin, justification, and atonement.
Main article: Jewish views on sin
In Judaism, sins between people are considered much more severe in Judaism than sins between man and God. Yom Kippur, the main day of repentance in Judaism, can atone for sins between man and God, but not for sins between man and his fellow, that is until he has appeased his friend. With few exceptions, korbanot (sacrifices) only expiate unintentional sins, that is, sins committed because a person forgot that this thing was a sin or by error. Korbanot have no expiating effect unless the person making the offering sincerely repents his or her actions before making the offering, and makes restitution to any person who was harmed by the violation.
Main article: Christian views on sin
Christian hamartiology describes sin as an act of offence against God by despising his persons and Christian biblical law, and by injuring others. It is an evil human act, which violates the rational nature of man, as well as God’s nature and his eternal law. According to the classical definition of St. Augustine of Hippo sin is “a word, deed, or desire in opposition to the eternal law of God”.
Christian tradition has explained sin as a fundamental aspect of human existence, due to original sin, also called ancestral sin, the fall of man stemming from Adam’s rebellion in Eden when by eated the Forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Paul espouses it in Romans 5:12-19, and Augustine of Hippo popularized it in the West, developing it into a notion of “hereditary sin,” arguing that God holds all the descendants of Adam and Eve accountable for Adam’s sin of rebellion, and as such all people deserve God’s wrath and condemnation – apart from any actual sins they personally commit.
Total depravity (also called “radical corruption” or “pervasive depravity”) is a Protestant theological doctrine derived from the concept of original sin. It is the teaching that, as a consequence of the Fall of Man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin as a result of their fallen nature and, apart from the efficacious or prevenient grace of God, is utterly unable to choose to follow God, refrain from evil, or accept the gift of salvation as it is offered. It is advocated to various degrees by many Protestant confessions of faith and catechisms, including those of some Lutheran synods, and Calvinism, teaching irresistible grace. Arminians, such as Methodists, also believe and teach total depravity, but with the distinct difference of teaching prevenient grace.
Main article: Justification (theology)
See also: Righteousness, Theosis, Divinization, and Sanctification
In Christian theology, justification is God’s act of removing the guilt and penalty of sin while at the same time making a sinner righteous through Christ’s atoning sacrifice. The means of justification is an area of significant difference among Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. Justification is often seen as being the theological fault line that divided Catholic from the Lutheran and Reformed traditions of Protestantism during the Reformation.
Broadly speaking, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and Methodist Christians distinguish between initial justification, which in their view ordinarily occurs at baptism; and final salvation, accomplished after a lifetime of striving to do God’s will (theosis c.q. divinization).
Theosis, is a transformative process whose aim is likeness to or union with God, as taught by the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches. As a process of transformation, theosis is brought about by the effects of catharsis (purification of mind and body) and theoria (‘illumination’ with the ‘vision’ of God). According to Eastern Christian teaching, theosis is very much the purpose of human life. It is considered achievable only through a synergy (or cooperation) between human activity and God’s uncreated energies (or operations). The synonymous term divinization is the transforming effect of divine grace, the spirit of God, or the atonement of Christ. Theosis and divinization are to be distinguished from sanctification, “being made holy,” which can also apply to objects; and from apotheosis, also “divinization,” lit. “making divine”).
Catholics believe faith as is active in charity and good works (fides caritate formata) can justify man. Forgiveness of sin exists and is infused, but justification can be lost by mortal sin.
In the Protestant doctrine, sin is merely “covered”, and righteousness imputed. In Lutheranism and Calvinism, righteousness from God is viewed as being credited to the sinner’s account through faith alone, without works. Protestants believe faith without works can justify man because Christ died for sinners, but anyone who truly has faith will produce good works as a product of faith, as a good tree produces good fruit. For Lutherans justification can be lost with the loss of faith.
Main article: Atonement in Christianity
See also: Redeemer (Christianity)
According to The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, atonement in Christian theology is “man’s reconciliation with God through the sacrifcial death of Christ.” A number of metaphors and Old Testament terms and references have been used in the New Testament writings to understand the person and death of Jesus. Starting in the second century CE, various theories of atonement have been explicated to explain the death of Jesus, and the metaphors applied by the New Testament to understand his death. Over the centuries, Christians have held different ideas about how Jesus saved people, and different views still exist within different Christian denominations. Due to the influence of Gustaf Aulèn’s (1879-1978) Christus Victor, the various theories or paradigms of atonement are often grouped as “classic paradigm,” “objective paradigm,” and the “subjective paradigm”:
In the Hebrew writings, God is absolute righteousness, and only pure and sinless persons can approach him. Pureness or sinlesssness can be achieved either by the sacrificial “shedding of blood”; or, as stated by the Prophets, “by the future Divine gift of a new covenant to replace the old covenant which sinful Israel has broken,” or “by the action of a Divinely sent Servant of the Lord who was ‘wounded for our transgressions’ and ‘bare the sin of many’.” Yet, without repentance, such an offering of sacrifice was without effect. During the post-exilic period, martyrs cpould also bear atonic value.
Main articles: Paul and New Perspective on Paul
See also: Passover sacrifice and Sacrificial lamb
1 Corinthians 15:3 contains the kerygma of the early Christians: “Christ died for our sins.” The meaning of this kerygma is a matter of debate, and open to multiple interpretations. Traditionally, this kerygma is interpreted as meaning that Jesus’ death was an atonement or ransom for, or propitiation or expiation of, God’s wrath against humanity because of their sins. With Jesus death, humanity was freed from this wrath. In the classical Protestant understanding, which has dominated the understanding o Paul’s writings, humans partake in this salvation by faith in Jesus Christ; this faith is a grace given by God, and people are justified by God through Jesus Christ and faith in Him.
More recent scholarship has raised several concerns regarding these interpretations. The traditional interpretation sees Paul’s understanding of salvation as involving “an exposition of the individual’s relation to God.” According to Krister Stendahl, the main concern of Paul’s writings on Jesus’ role, and salvation by faith, is not the individual conscience of human sinners, and their doubts about being chosen by God or not, but the problem of the inclusion of gentile (Greek) Torah observers into God’s convenant. Paul draws on several interpretative frames to solve this problem, but most inportantly, his own experience and understanding. The kerygma from 1:Cor.15:3-5 refers to two mythologies: the greek myth of the noble dead, to which the Maccabean notion of martyrdom and dying for ones people is related; and the Jewish myth of the persecuted sage or righteous man, c.q. the “story of the child of wisdom.” The notion of ‘dying for’ refers to this martyrdom and persecution.’Dying for our sins’ refers to the problem of gentile Torah-observers, who, despite their faithfulness, cannot fully observe commandments, including circomsision, and are therefore ‘sinners’, excluded from God’s convenant. Jesus’ death and resurrection solved this problem of the exclusion of the gentles from God’s convenant, as indicated by Rom 3:21-26.
According to E.P. Sanders, who initiated the socalled New Perspective on Paul, Paul saw the faithfull redeemed by particpation in Jesus’ death and rising. Though “Jesus’ death substituted for that of others and thereby freed believers from sin and guilt,” a metaphor derived from “ancient sacrificial theology,” the essence of Paul’s writing is not in the “legal terms” regarding the expiation of sin, but the act of “participation in Christ through dying and rising with him.” According to Sanders, “those who are baptized into Christ are baptized into his death, and thus they escape the power of sin […] he died so that the believers may die with him and consequently live with him.” By this participation in Christ’s death and rising, “one receives forgiveness for past offences, is liberated from the powers of sin, and receives the Spirit.” Paul insists that salvation is received by the grace of God; according to Sanders, this insistence is in line with Judaism of ca. 200 NCE until 200 CE, which saw God’s convenant with Israel as an act of grace of God. Observance of the Law is needed to maintain the convenant, but the convenant is not be earned by observing the Law, but by the grace of God.
Several passages from Paul, such as Rom. 3:25, are traditionally interpreted as meaning that we are saved by faith in Christ. According to Richard B. Hays, who iniated the socalled “Pistis Christou debate,” a different reading of these pasagges is also possible. The phrase pistis Christou can be translated as ‘faith in Christ’, that is, salvation by believing in Christ, the traditional interpretation; or as ‘faithfulness of Christ’, that is, belief “through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.” In this view, according to Cobb, Jesus’ life and death was not seen by Paul as an atonement, but as a means to participate in faithfulness. In this interpretation, Rom. 3:21-26 states that Jesus was faithfull, even to the cost of death, and justified by God for this faithfullness. Those who participate in this faithfulness are equally justified by God, both Jews and gentiles. While this view has found support by a range of scholars, it has also been questioned and criticized.
Main article: Gospels
In the Gospels, Jesus is portrayed as calling for repentance of sin, and stating that blood-sacrifices cannot substitute repentance. Yet, he is also portrayed as “giving His life [as] a ransom for many’,” and applying Isaiah 53s “suffering servant” unto himself. The Gospel of John portrays him as the sacrificial Lamb of God, and compares His death to the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb at Pesach.
The classic paradigm entails the traditional understandings of the early Church Fathers, who developed the themses found in the New Testament.
Ransom from Satan
Main article: Ransom theory of atonement
The ransom theory of atonement says that Christ liberated humanity from slavery to sin and Satan, and thus death, by giving his own life as a ransom sacrifice to Satan, swapping the life of the perfect (Jesus), for the lives of the imperfect (humans). It entails the idea that God deceived the devil, and that Satan, or death, had “legitimate rights” over sinful souls in the afterlife, due to the fall of man and inherited sin. During the first millennium CE, the ransom theory of atonement was the dominant metaphor for atonement, both in eastern and western Christianity, until it was replaced in the west by Anselmus’ satisfaction theory of atonement.
In one version of the idea of deception, Satan attempted to take Jesus’ soul after he had died, but in doing so over-extended his authority, as Jesus had never sinned. As a consequence, Satan lost his authority completely, and all humanity gained freedom. In another version, God entered into a deal with Satan, offering to trade Jesus’ soul in exchange for the souls of all people, but after the trade, God raised Jesus from the dead and left Satan with nothing. Other versions held that Jesus’ divinity was masked by his human form, so Satan tried to take Jesus’ soul without realizing that his divinity would destroy Satan’s power. Another idea is that Jesus came to teach how not to sin and Satan, in anger with this, tried to take his soul.
The ransom theory was first clearly enunciated by Irenaeus (c.130–c.202), who was an outspoken critic of Gnosticism, but borrowed ideas from their dualistic worldview. In this worldview, humankind is under the power of the Demiurg, a lesser God who has created the world. Yet, humans have a spark of the true divine nature within them, which can be liberated by gnosis (knowledge) of this divine spark. This knowledge is revealed by the Logos, “the very mind of the supreme God,” who entered the world in the person of Jesus. Nevertheless, the Logos could not simply undo the power of the Demiurg, and had to hide his real identity, appearing as a physical form, thereby misleading the Demiurg, and liberating humankind. In Irenaeus’ writings, the Demiurge is replaced by the devil, while Justin Martyr had already eqauted Jesus and the Logos.
Origen (184–253) introduced the idea that the devil held legitimate rights over humans, who were bought free by the blood of Christ. He also introduced the notion that the devil was deceived in thinking that he could master the human soul.
Gustaf Aulén reinterpreted the ransom theory in his study Christus Victor (1931), calling it the Christus Victor doctrine, arguing that Christ’s death was not a payment to the Devil, but defeated the powers of evil, particularly Satan, which had held humankind in their dominion. According to Pugh, “Ever since [Aulén’s] time, we call these patristic ideas the Christus Victor way of seeing the cross.”
Main article: Recapitulation theory of atonement
The recapitulation view, first comprehensively expressed by Irenaeus, went “hand-in-hand” with the ransom theory. It says that Christ succeeds where Adam failed, undoing the wrong that Adam did and, because of his union with humanity, leads humanity on to eternal life, including moral perfection. Theosis (“divinasation”) is a “corollary” of the recapitulation.
Main article: Satisfaction theory of atonement
In the 11th century, Anselm of Canterbury rejected the ransom view and proposed the satisfaction theory of atonement. He allegedly depicted God as a feudal lord 1 whose honor had been offended by the sins of humankind. In this view, people needed salvation from the divine punishment that these offences would bring, since nothing they could do could repay the honor debt. Anselm held that Christ had infinitely honored God through his life and death and that Christ could repay what humanity owed God, thus satisfying the offence to God’s honor and doing away with the need for punishment. When Anselm proposed the satisfaction view, it was immediately criticized by Peter Abelard.
In the 16th century, the Protestant Reformers reinterpreted Anselm’s satisfaction theory of salvation within a legal paradigm. In the legal system, offences required punishment, and no satisfaction could be given to avert this need. They proposed a theory known as penal substitution, in which Christ takes the penalty of people’s sin as their substitute, thus saving people from God’s wrath against sin. Penal substitution thus presents Jesus saving people from the divine punishment of their past wrongdoings. However, this salvation is not presented as automatic. Rather, a person must have faith in order to receive this free gift of salvation. In the penal substitution view, salvation is not dependent upon human effort or deeds.
The penal substitution paradigm of salvation is widely held among Protestants, who often consider it central to Christianity. However, it has also been widely critiqued. Advocates of the New Perspective on Paul also argue that many New Testament books by Paul the Apostle used to support the theory of penal substitution should be interpreted differently.
Moral government theory
The “moral government theory” teaches that Christ suffered for humanity so that God could forgive humans without punishing them while still maintaining divine justice. It is traditionally taught in Arminian circles that draw primarily from the works of Hugo Grotius.
The “moral influence theory of atonement” was developed, or most notably propagated, by Abelard (1079-1142), as an alternative to Anselm’s satisfaction theory. Abelard not only “rejected the idea of Jesus’ death as a ransom paid to the devil”, which turned the Devil into a rival god, but also objected to the idea that Jesus’ death was a “debt paid to God’s honor”. He also objected to the emphasis on God’s judgment, and the idea that God changed his mind after the sinner accepted Jesus’ sacrificial death, which was not easily reconcilable with the idea of “the perfect, impassible God [who] does not change”. Abelard focused on changing man’s perception of God as not offended, harsh, and judgemental, but as loving. According to Abelard, “Jesus died as the demonstration of God’s love”, a demonstration which can change the hearts and minds of the sinners, turning back to God.
During the Protestant Reformation in Western Christianity, the majority of the Reformers strongly rejected the moral influence view of the atonement in favor of penal substitution, a highly forensic modification of the honor-oriented Anselmian satisfaction model. Fausto Sozzini’s Socinian arm of the Reformation maintained a belief in the moral influence view of the atonement. Socinianism was an early form of Unitarianism, and the Unitarian Church today maintains a moral influence view of the atonement, as do many liberal Protestant theologians of the modern age.
During the 18th century, versions of the moral influence view found overwhelming support among German theologians, most notably the Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant. In the 19th and 20th century, it has been popular among liberal Protestant thinkers in the Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches, including the Anglican theologian Hastings Rashdall. A number of English theological works in the last hundred years have advocated and popularized the moral influence theory of atonement.
A strong division has remained since the Reformation between liberal Protestants (who typically adopt a moral influence view) and conservative Protestants (who typically adopt a penal substitutionary view). Both sides believe that their position is taught by the Bible.
Moral example theory
A related theory, the “moral example theory”, was developed by Faustus Socinus (1539-1604) in his work De Jesu Christo servatore (1578). He rejected the idea of “vicarious satisfaction”. According to Socinus, Jesus’ death offers us a perfect example of self-sacrifical dedication to God.”
A number of theologians see “example” (or “exemplar”) theories of the atonement as variations of the moral influence theory. Wayne Grudem, however, argues that “Whereas the moral influence theory says that Christ’s death teaches us how much God loves us, the example theory says that Christ’s death teaches us how we should live.” Grudem identifies the Socinians as supporters of the example theory.
According to Eastern theology, based upon their understanding of the atonement as put forward by Irenaeus recapitulation theory, Jesus’ death is a ransom. This restores the relation with God, who is loving and reaches out to humanity. Eastern Christianity was not much influenced by the theological writings of Augustine, and it generally views salvation less in forensic terms (e.g. pardon from punishment), more in therapeutic terms (healing from sickness, injury etc.). It views salvation more along the lines of divinizationor theosis, a seeking to become holy or draw closer to God by being united to him in will and operation as an extension of God in the world, a traditional concept taught in the Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and the Eastern Catholic Churches. It also stresses teaching about forgiveness.
The Orthodox Church further teaches that a person abides in Christ and makes his salvation sure not only by works of love, but also by his patient suffering of various griefs, illnesses, misfortunes and failures.
In the Catholic theological understanding of salvation, after the Fall, humanity was “wounded by sin”, and “stands in need of salvation from God”. God invites us to enter into relationship with Him, and grace (Divine help), which is a gift from God, helps us to respond to this invitation. by believing in Christ and the truth of the Catholic Church.
Christ died as a satisfaction for human’s offense against God’s honor, committed by human sinful behavior. Baptism is necessary for salvation. It erases original sin, unites the person with Jesus Christ, infuses grace or Divine help, and gives him justification. When one is baptized, one is saved. Christ can work apart and before the sacrament of baptism, as desire for eventual baptism is grace enough to be saved, since God is not tied to the salvation of persons by means only of his instituted sacraments. To maintain salvation and grace, one has to perform good works and participate in the sacraments.
Venial sin (lesser sin) lessens infused grace. Venial sin can be redeemed by taking the Eucharist and performing penance. The sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert, and to recover the grace of justification. In some cases, venial sin can also be forgiven by confessing to God alone. This way Christians outside of the Catholic Church, who don’t receive the sacrament, can also be saved. Indulgences are also necessary as substitute for the punishment earned by sin; these indulgences can also be applied for the dead. A mortal sin makes infused grace and justification lost, and a Sacramental penance is needed to restore grace.
Main article: Protestantism
In Protestantism, grace is the result of God’s initiative without any regard whatsoever to the one initiating the works, and no one can merit the grace of God by performing rituals, good works, asceticism, or meditation. Broadly speaking, Protestants hold to the five solae of the Reformation, which declare that salvation is attained by grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone for the Glory of God alone as told in Scripture alone.
Most Protestants believe that salvation is achieved through God’s grace alone, and once salvation is secured in the person, good works will be a result of this, allowing good works to often operate as a signifier for salvation. Some Protestants, such as Lutherans and the Reformed, understand this to mean that God saves solely by grace, and that works follow as a necessary consequence of saving grace. Others, such as Methodists (and other Arminians), believe that salvation is by faith alone, but that salvation can be forfeited if it is not accompanied by continued faith, and the works that naturally follow from it. A minority rigidly believe that salvation is accomplished by faith alone without any reference to works whatsoever, including the works that may follow salvation.
Main article: Lutheranism
Lutherans believe that God has justified all sinners, that is, he has declared them “not guilty” for the sake of Christ. Lutheran churches believe that this is the central message in the Bible upon which the very existence of the churches depends. In Lutheranism, it is a message relevant to people of all races and social levels, of all times and places, for “the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men” (Romans 5:18). All need forgiveness of sins before God, and Scripture proclaims that all have been justified, for “the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men” (Romans 5:18).
Lutheranism teaches that individuals receive this free gift of forgiveness and salvation not on the basis of their own works, but only through faith (Sola fide):
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.(Ephesians 2:8,9)
Saving faith is the knowledge of, acceptance of, and trust in the promise of the Gospel. Even faith itself is seen as a gift of God, created in the hearts of Christians by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word and Baptism. Faith is seen as an instrument that receives the gift of salvation, not something that causes salvation. Thus, Lutherans reject the “decision theology” which is common among modern evangelicals.
Main article: Calvinism
Calvinists believe in the predestination of the elect before the foundation of the world. All of the elect necessarily persevere in faith because God keeps them from falling away. Calvinists understand the doctrines of salvation to include the five points of Calvinism, typically arranged in English to form the acrostic “TULIP”.
- “Total depravity”, also called “total inability”, asserts that as a consequence of the fall of man into sin, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin. People are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, mind, or strength, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so out of the necessity of their own natures. (The term “total” in this context refers to sin affecting every part of a person, not that every person is as evil as possible.) This doctrine is derived from Augustine’s explanation of Original Sin.
- “Unconditional election” asserts that God has chosen from eternity those whom he will bring to himself not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people; rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God’s mercy alone. God has chosen from eternity to extend mercy to those he has chosen and to withhold mercy from those not chosen. Those chosen receive salvation through Christ alone. Those not chosen receive the just wrath that is warranted for their sins against God
- “Limited atonement”, also called “particular redemption” or “definite atonement”, asserts that Jesus’s substitutionary atonement was definite and certain in its purpose and in what it accomplished. This implies that only the sins of the elect were atoned for by Jesus’s death. Calvinists do not believe, however, that the atonement is limited in its value or power, but rather that the atonement is limited in the sense that it is designed for some and not all. Hence, Calvinists hold that the atonement is sufficient for all and efficient for the elect. The doctrine is driven by the Calvinistic concept of the sovereignty of God in salvation and their understanding of the nature of the atonement.
- “Irresistible grace”, also called “efficacious grace”, asserts that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect) and, in God’s timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. This means that when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved. The doctrine holds that this purposeful influence of God’s Holy Spirit cannot be resisted, but that the Holy Spirit, “graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ.”
- “Perseverance of the saints”, or “preservation of the saints”, asserts that since God is sovereign and his will cannot be frustrated by humans or anything else, those whom God has called into communion with himself will continue in faith until the end. Those who apparently fall away either never had true faith to begin with or will return. The word “saints” is used to refer to all who are set apart by God, and not only those who are exceptionally holy, canonized, or in heaven).
Arminianism is a school of soteriological thought within Protestant Christianity, held by Christian denominations such as the Methodist Church. It is based on the theological ideas of the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609). Like Calvinists, Arminians agree that all people are born sinful and are in need of salvation. Classical Arminians emphasize that God’s free grace (or prevenient grace) enables humans to freely respond to or to reject the salvation offered through Christ. Classical Arminians believe that a person’s saving relationship with Christ is conditional upon faith, and thus, a person can sever their saving relationship with Christ through persistent unbelief.
The Five Articles of Remonstrance that Arminius’s followers formulated in 1610 state the beliefs regarding (I) conditional election, (II) unlimited atonement, (III) total depravity, (IV) total depravity and resistible grace, and (V) possibility of apostasy. However, the fifth article did not completely deny the perseverance of the saints; Arminius said that “I never taught that a true believer can… fall away from the faith… yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of Scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those answers to them which I have been permitted to see, are not of such as kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding.” Further, the text of the Articles of Remonstrance says that no believer can be plucked from Christ’s hand, and the matter of falling away, “loss of salvation” required further study before it could be taught with any certainty.
Methodism affirms the doctrine of justification by faith, but in Wesleyan-Arminian theology, justification refers to “pardon, the forgiveness of sins”, rather than “being made actually just and righteous”, which Methodists believe is accomplished through sanctification. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Churches, taught that the keeping of the moral law contained in the Ten Commandments, as well as engaging in the works of piety and the works of mercy, were “indispensible for our sanctification”.
Wesley understood faith as a necessity for salvation, even calling it “the sole condition” of salvation, in the sense that it led to justification, the beginning point of salvation. At the same time, “as glorious and honorable as [faith] is, it is not the end of the commandment. God hath given this honor to love alone” (“The Law Established through Faith II,” §II.1). Faith is “an unspeakable blessing” because “it leads to that end, the establishing anew the law of love in our hearts” (“The Law Established through Faith II,” §II.6) This end, the law of love ruling in our hearts, is the fullest expression of salvation; it is Christian perfection. —Amy Wagner
Methodist soteriology emphasizes the importance of the pursuit of holiness in salvation, a concept best summarized in a quote by Methodist evangelist Phoebe Palmer who stated that “justification would have ended with me had I refused to be holy.”Thus, for Methodists, “true faith…cannot subsist without works”. Bishop Scott J. Jones in United Methodist Doctrine writes that in Methodist theology:
Faith is necessary to salvation unconditionally. Good works are necessary only conditionally, that is if there is time and opportunity. The thief on the cross in Luke 23:39-43 is Wesley’s example of this. He believed in Christ and was told, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” This would be impossible if the good works that are the fruit of genuine repentance and faith were unconditionally necessary for salvation. The man was dying and lacked time; his movements were confined and he lacked opportunity. In his case, faith alone was necessary. However, for the vast majority of human beings good works are necessary for continuance in faith because those persons have both the time and opportunity for them.
Bishop Jones concludes that “United Methodist doctrine thus understands true, saving faith to be the kind that, give time and opportunity, will result in good works. Any supposed faith that does not in fact lead to such behaviors is not genuine, saving faith.”While “faith is essential for a meaningful relationship with God, our relationship with God also takes shape through our care for people, the community, and creation itself.” Methodism, inclusive of the holiness movement, thus teaches that “justification [is made] conditional on obedience and progress in sanctification”, emphasizing “a deep reliance upon Christ not only in coming to faith, but in remaining in the faith.”
Christian Universalists agree with both Calvinists and Arminians that everyone is born in sin and in need of salvation. They also believe that one is saved by Jesus Christ. However, they emphasize that judgment in hell upon sinners is of limited duration, and that God uses judgment to bring sinners to repentance.
Churches of Christ
Western Churches of Christ are strongly anti-Calvinist in their understanding of salvation, and generally present conversion as “obedience to the proclaimed facts of the gospel rather than as the result of an emotional, Spirit-initiated conversion.”
Some churches of Christ hold the view that humans of accountable age are lost because of their sins. These lost souls can be redeemed because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, offered himself as the atoning sacrifice. Children too young to understand right from wrong, and make a conscious choice between the two, are believed to be innocent of sin. The age when this occurs is generally believed to be around 13.
Some Churches of Christ that do not identify as a denomination teach that the process of salvation involves the following steps:
- One must be taught biblically and listen expositoraly
- One must believe or have faith
- One must repent of one’s sins, which means turning from one’s former lifestyle and choosing God’s ways
- One must confess belief that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior
- One must be baptized for the remission of sins
- One must remain faithful until death on Earth
Other Churches of Christ that identify as a denomination do not hold this view.
Beginning in the 1960s, many preachers began placing more emphasis on the role of grace in salvation, instead of focusing exclusively implementing all of the New Testament commands and examples. This was not an entirely new approach, as others had actively “affirmed a theology of free and unmerited grace”, but it did represent a change of emphasis with grace becoming “a theme that would increasingly define this tradition”.
Because of the belief that baptism is a necessary part of salvation, some Baptists hold that the Churches of Christ endorse the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. However, members of the Churches of Christ reject this, arguing that since faith and repentance are necessary, and that the cleansing of sins is by the blood of Christ through the grace of God, baptism is not an inherently redeeming ritual. One author describes the relationship between faith and baptism this way, “Faith is the reason why a person is a child of God; baptism is the time at which one is incorporated into Christ and so becomes a child of God” (italics are in the source). Baptism is understood as a confessional expression of faith and repentance, rather than a “work” that earns salvation.
Protestant beliefs about salvation. This table summarizes the classical views of three Protestant beliefs about salvation.
|Human will||Total depravity: Humanity possesses “free will”, but it is in bondage to sin, until it is “transformed”.||Original Sin: Humanity possesses free will in regard to “goods and possessions”, but is sinful by nature and unable to contribute to its own salvation.||Humanity possesses freedom from necessity, but not “freedom from sin” unless enabled by “prevenient grace”.|
|Election||Unconditional election.||Unconditional election.||Conditional election in view of foreseen faith or unbelief.|
|Justification and atonement||Justification by faith alone. Various views regarding the extent of the atonement.||Justification for all men, completed at Christ’s death and effective through faith alone.||Justification made possible for all through Christ’s death, but only completed upon choosing faith in Jesus.|
|Conversion||Monergistic, through the means of grace, irresistible.||Monergistic, through the means of grace, resistible.||Synergistic, resistible due to the common grace of free will.|
|Perseverance and apostasy||Perseverance of the saints: the eternally elect in Christ will certainly persevere in faith.||Falling away is possible, but God gives gospel assurance.||Preservation is conditional upon continued faith in Christ; with the possibility of a final apostasy.|
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
See also: Plan of salvation (Latter Day Saints)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) defines the term salvation based on the teachings of their prophet Joseph Smith, as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants and summarized in the Articles of Faith (Latter Day Saints) number four.
“We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
The general Christian belief that salvation means returning to the presence of God and Jesus is similar to the way the word is used in the Book of Mormon, wherein the prophet Amulek teaches that through the “great and last sacrifice” of the Son of God, “he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; … to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance. And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice.”
There are two kinds of salvation, conditional and unconditional. Unconditional salvation is similar to what is believed by other Christians in that the atonement of Jesus Christ redeems all humanity from the chains of death and they are resurrected to their perfect frames. They will also be redeemed from the powers of Satan, except those sons of perdition of vile wickedness and those who have been enemies to God, in which they will be returned to their master. All others will receive a degree of glory set apart for their just metes. Conditional salvation of the righteous comes by grace coupled with strict obedience to Gospel principles in which those who have upheld the highest standards and committed to the covenants and ordinances of God will inherit the highest heaven. Full salvation is attained by virtue of knowledge, truth, righteousness, and following true principles.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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