Salvation in Christianity, or deliverance, is the saving of the soul from sin and its consequences.
Variant views on salvation are among the main fault lines dividing the various Christian denominations, being a point of disagreement between Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, as well as within Protestantism, notably in the Calvinist–Arminian debate. The fault lines include conflicting definitions of depravity, predestination, atonement, and most pointedly, justification.
According to Christian belief, salvation from sin in general and original sin in particular is made possible by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, which in the context of salvation is referred to as the "atonement". Christian soteriology ranges from exclusive salvation:p.123 to universal reconciliation concepts. While some of the differences are as widespread as Christianity itself, the overwhelming majority agrees that Christian salvation is made possible by the work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, dying on the cross.
At the heart of Christian faith is the reality and hope of salvation in Jesus Christ. Christian faith is faith in the God of salvation revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. The Christian tradition has always equated this salvation with the transcendent, eschatological fulfillment of human existence in a life freed from sin, finitude, and mortality and united with the triune God. This is perhaps the non-negotiable item of Christian faith. What has been a matter of debate is the relation between salvation and our activities in the world.
— Anselm Kyongsuk Min:p.79
Paradigms of salvation
See also: Jesus as Saviour
Different theories of atonement have been proposed for how Christian salvation can be understood. Over the centuries, Christians have held different ideas about how Jesus saved people, and different views still exist within different Christian denominations. The main paradigms of salvation that have been proposed are:
Main article: Moral influence theory of atonement
The moral transformation view was the predominant understanding of salvation among Christians during the first three centuries AD, and continues to be held by some denominations such as the Eastern Orthodox today. In this view, Jesus saved people from sinfulness through his life and teachings, thus transforming their character to become righteous. This salvation is seen as undeserved, since God graciously sent Jesus to save people when they were unrighteous and did not in any way deserve such a favour. In the moral transformation paradigm, a person is saved from sinfulness by faithfully following the teachings of Jesus, and the example he set of how to live. Consequently, a person becomes righteous in God's sight, and can expect a positive final judgment by God. Perfection is not required, and mistakes are forgiven after repentance. In this view, Jesus' crucifixion is understood primarily as a martyrdom.
The moral transformation view has been criticised and rejected by many Protestant Christians, for a variety of reasons. Critics believe that the moral transformation view conflicts with various biblical passages (particularly ones by Paul regarding 'faith' and 'works'), underestimates the seriousness of sin and denies the atoning value of Jesus' death.
In the Christus Victor view, people needed salvation from the powers of evil. Jesus achieved salvation for people by defeating the powers of evil, particularly Satan. This view has been dated in writings of the Church Fathers up to the 4th centuries AD, although it remained popular for several centuries. Several perspectives on this idea existed, which can be roughly divided into conquest of Satan and rescue from Satan's power. In the conquest of Satan version, writers such as Eusebius of Caesarea depicted Jesus defeating Satan in a great spiritual battle that occurred between his death and resurrection. By winning this battle, Jesus overthrew Satan and saved people from his dominion. The Christus Victor view is not widely held in the West.
Ransom from Satan
The ransom theory of atonement entails the idea that Satan had power over sinful souls in the afterlife, but that Christ rescued people from his power. Often, the death of Christ plays an important role in this rescue. The view appears to have arisen during the 3rd century, in the writings of Origen and other theologians. In one version of the idea, 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 is not widely held in the West.
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 (recently, this claim has been criticized as a Straw man) whose honour 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 honour debt. Anselm held that Christ had infinitely honoured God through his life and death and that Christ could repay what humanity owed God, thus satisfying the offence to God's honour and doing away with the need for punishment. When Anselm proposed the satisfaction view, it was immediately criticised by Peter Abelard.
Penal substitution and faith
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.
See also: Catholic Church
A crucial difference between the Catholic and Calvinist understanding of salvation is that, unlike Calvinism, Catholicism believes that, after the Fall, humanity did not become totally corrupt (as per "total depravity", which precludes man from any merit in salvation), but was only "wounded by sin," and "stands in need of salvation from God", nevertheless, "it is human nature so fallen, stripped of the grace that clothed it, injured in its own natural powers and subjected to the dominion of death, that is transmitted to all men..."
Divine help comes in Christ through the law that guides and the grace that sustains, by which souls work out their "own salvation with fear and trembling." That divine help, that grace, is a favour, a free and undeserved gift from God which helps us to respond to his invitation to enter relationship.
Catholics profess belief that Christ alone is the Saviour of the human race. Christ is God incarnate, bringing about redemption from sin, for "…all salvation comes through Christ."
"…she (the Church) proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ 'the way, the truth, and the life' (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself."
In Catholicism, justification is granted by God via the act (ex opere operato) of baptism firstly, by which the subject is formally justified and made holy by Christ's justice and holiness (causa formalis), instead of appropriated plainly by a living faith as under sola fide, and normally from the sacrament of reconciliation after if a mortal sin is committed. 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 work by means of his instituted sacraments. Nevertheless, Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as "the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace." This is not the only way for sins to be forgiven, as in some cases these can also be forgiven by confessing to God alone. This is why the Catholic Church teaches that Christians outside of the Church can be saved, since in many cases other Christian denominations do not possess the priesthood instituted from Jesus Christ and thus lack access to the "binding and loosing" that priests of the New Covenant practice through the sacrament. A mortal sin makes justification lost even if faith (intellectual assent) is still present. The Catholic Church declared in the ecumenical Council of Trent that, "If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema." in canon 9 of session VI. It also said in the VII session in canon IV, "If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not indeed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema (excommunicated)."
Salvation of non-Catholics
Main article: Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus
In Catholicism, Christ provides the Church with "'the fullness of the means of salvation' which he has willed: correct and complete confession of the Christian faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession." Although the Catholic Church upholds the doctrine of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the Church there is no salvation) this does not mean that all the elect were in visible communion of the Catholic Church during their life, for "Jesus, the Son of God, freely suffered death for us in complete and free submission to the will of God, his Father. By his death he has conquered death, and so opened the possibility of salvation to all men."
As regards Protestants in particular, in Vatican II and subsequent teaching it is stated,
"The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. (Cf. Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15-16 and 26)
For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. (Cf. Jn. 16:13) They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical [Protestant] communities...They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood..."
"...men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. ...it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church...For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church...." "It is right and salutary to recognize the riches of Christ and virtuous works in the lives of others who are bearing witness to Christ, sometimes even to the shedding of their blood. For God is always wonderful in His works and worthy of all praise.”
Catholicism teaches that Protestantism is a part of Christianity, the only true "faith" (Catholicism regards all non-Christian religions as "beliefs" since they are not based on God's revelation in history, Dominus Iesus p. 7), nevertheless, individual Protestants aware of the fact that Christ established the Catholic Church, but fail to join its membership, "cannot be saved" since they are living in open contempt towards God's known truth.
Concerning Jews and Muslims, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium, states:
"In the first place we must recall the people [the Jews] to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues. But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind."
Paragraph 16 of Lumen gentium takes a step further and declares:
"Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel"
However, Judaism and Islam cannot be seen by the Church to be satisfactory in themselves. Catholics must call all people to the Christian faith, since it is Christ who must save them in the end. As noted above, whatever truth is found in Judaism and Islam is used as a "preparation for the Gospel." The Christian faith cannot be merely looked at "human wisdom, a pseudo-science of well-being", for "all are called to it and destined for it" since it contains the full truth (Redemptoris Missio p. 11).Lumen gentium goes on to state:
In explicit terms He Himself (Jesus Christ) affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.
The Catholic Church holds to the possibility of non-Christians being saved from hell. As Pope John Paul II stated in his encyclicalRedemptoris Missio,
"The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all. But it is clear that today, as in the past, many people do not have an opportunity to come to know or accept the Gospel revelation or to enter the Church. The social and cultural conditions in which they live do not permit this, and frequently they have been brought up in other religious traditions. For such people salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation."
The number of non-Christians saved is known to God alone and must come through Christ's atonement for the sins of the world—an atonement which is specifically called "mysterious" (above, Dominus Iesus p. 21). Nevertheless, Catholics have been exhorted in numerous recent papal encyclicals to not forget the mission ad gentes (to the non-Christians), as the evangelization of the non-Christian world remains central to the Church's mission because of Jesus's great impetus: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."(Mark 16:16, Dominus Iesus p. 21-22 ). Those who fail to preach the exclusivity of Christianity as the fullness of God's revelation and the only means to be saved, are teaching against the doctrine of Christ and the Church (Dominus Iesus p. 5-9).
Shortly after 1100, Anselm, appointed as archbishop of Canterbury, wrote a classic treatise about atonement. In it he puts forward the "satisfaction theory" of the atonement in salvation. Man's offense of rebellion against God is one that demands a restitution or satisfaction. Fallen man is incapable of making adequate satisfaction. Nevertheless, such is God's love that God will not simply abandon us to the consequences of our sins. Anselm wrote, "This debt was so great that, while none but man must solve the debt, none but God was able to do it; so that he who does it must be both God and man." The suffering of Christ, the God-man who is God's only son, pays off what human beings owe to God's honor, and we are thereby reconciled to God. So God took human nature upon himself so that a perfect man might make perfect satisfaction and so restore the human race. His foundational work is seen later in Calvinism and Arminianism.
See also: Eastern Christianity
Eastern Christianity was much less influenced by the theological writings of Augustine. It asks different questions, 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 divinization or 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 Longer Catechism of the Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church, known also as The Catechism of St. Philaret, includes the questions and answers:
155. To save men from what did (the Son of God) come upon earth? From sin, the curse, and death.
208. How does the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross deliver us from sin, the curse, and death? That we may the more readily believe this mystery, the Word of God teaches us of it, so much as we may be able to receive, by the comparison of Jesus Christ with Adam. Adam is by nature the head of all humanity, which is one with him by natural descent from him. Jesus Christ, in whom the Godhead is united with manhood, graciously made himself the new almighty Head of men, whom he unites to himself through faith. Therefore, as in Adam we had fallen under sin, the curse, and death, so we are delivered from sin, the curse, and death in Jesus Christ. His voluntary suffering and death on the cross for us, being of infinite value and merit, as the death of one sinless, God and man in one person, is both a perfect satisfaction to the justice of God, which had condemned us for sin to death, and a fund of infinite merit, which has obtained him the right, without prejudice to justice, to give us sinners pardon of our sins, and grace to have victory over sin and death.
Orthodox theology teaches prevenient grace, meaning that God makes the first movement toward man, and that salvation is impossible from our own will alone. However, man is endowed with free will, and an individual can either accept or reject the grace of God. Thus an individual must cooperate with God's grace to be saved, and he can claim no credit of his own, as any progress he makes is possible only by the grace of God.
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 (Luke 16:19-31, Mark 8:31-38, Romans 6:3-11, Hebrews 12:1-3, Galatians 6:14).
See also: Five solae
The Protestant Christian perspective on salvation is that no one can merit the grace of God by performing rituals, good works, asceticism or meditation, because grace is the result of God's initiative without any regard whatsoever to the one initiating the works. 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.
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. 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. A minority rigidly believe that salvation is accomplished by faith alone without any reference to works whatsoever, including the works that may follow salvation (see Free Grace theology).
Karl Barth notes a range of alternative themes: forensic (we are guilty of a crime, and Christ takes the punishment), financial (we are indebted to God, and Christ pays our debt) and cultic (Christ makes a sacrifice on our behalf). For various cultural reasons, the oldest themes (honor and sacrifice) prove to have more depth than the more modern ones (payment of a debt, punishment for a crime). But in all these alternatives, the understanding of atonement has the same structure. Human beings owe something to God that we cannot pay. Christ pays it on our behalf. Thus God remains both perfectly just (insisting on a penalty) and perfectly loving (paying the penalty himself). A great many Christians would define such a substitutionary view of the atonement as simply part of what orthodox Christians believe.
According to Christian Frank Stagg, salvation is rooted in the grace of God. "For bankrupt sinners with no ground of their own upon which to stand, with nothing of their own upon which to stand, with nothing of their own to hold up to God for [one's] reward, it is their only hope, but it is their sufficient hope.":80
"Debates about how Christ saves us have tended to divide Protestants into conservatives who defended some form of substitutionary atonement theory and liberals who were more apt to accept a kind of moral influence theory. Both those approaches were about 900 years old. Recently, new accounts of Christ's salvific work have been introduced or reintroduced, and the debates have generally grown angrier, at least from the liberal side. Those who defended substitutionary atonement were always ready to dismiss their opponents as heretics; now some of their opponents complain that a focus on substitutionary atonement leads to violence against women and to child abuse."
— William C. Placher
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:" This doctrine, 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:" This doctrine 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", this doctrine 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:" This doctrine, 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:" Perseverance (or preservation) of the saints (the word "saints" is used to refer to all who are set apart by God, and not of those who are exceptionally holy, canonized, or in heaven). The doctrine 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.
Main article: Arminianism
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. Arminians hold the following beliefs:
- Depravity is total: Arminius states "In this [fallen] state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace."
- Atonement is intended for all: Jesus's death was for all people, Jesus draws all people to himself, and all people have opportunity for salvation through faith.
- Jesus's death satisfies God's justice: The penalty for the sins of the elect is paid in full through Jesus's work on the cross. Thus Christ's atonement is intended for all, but requires faith to be effected. Arminius states that "Justification, when used for the act of a Judge, is either purely the imputation of righteousness through mercy… or that man is justified before God… according to the rigor of justice without any forgiveness." Stephen Ashby clarifies: "Arminius allowed for only two possible ways in which the sinner might be justified: (1) by our absolute and perfect adherence to the law, or (2) purely by God's imputation of Christ's righteousness."
- Grace is resistible: God takes initiative in the salvation process and his grace comes to all people. This grace (often called prevenient or pre-regenerating grace) acts on all people to convince them of the Gospel, draw them strongly towards salvation, and enable the possibility of sincere faith. Picirilli states that "indeed this grace is so close to regeneration that it inevitably leads to regeneration unless finally resisted."  The offer of salvation through grace does not act irresistibly in a purely cause-effect, deterministic method but rather in an influence-and-response fashion that can be both freely accepted and freely denied.
- Man has free will to respond or resist: Free will is limited by God's sovereignty, but God's sovereignty allows all men the choice to accept the Gospel of Jesus through faith, simultaneously allowing all men to resist.
- Election is conditional: Arminius defined election as "the decree of God by which, of Himself, from eternity, He decreed to justify in Christ, believers, and to accept them unto eternal life." God alone determines who will be saved and his determination is that all who believe Jesus through faith will be justified. According to Arminius, "God regards no one in Christ unless they are engrafted in him by faith."
- God predestines the elect to a glorious future: Predestination is not the predetermination of who will believe, but rather the predetermination of the believer's future inheritance. The elect are therefore predestined to sonship through adoption, glorification, and eternal life.
- Christ's righteousness is imputed to the believer: Justification is sola fide. When individuals repent and believe in Christ (saving faith), they are regenerated and brought into union with Christ, whereby the death and righteousness of Christ are imputed to them for their justification before God.
- Eternal security is also conditional: All believers have full assurance of salvation with the condition that they remain in Christ. Salvation is conditioned on faith, therefore perseverance is also conditioned. Apostasy (turning from Christ) is only committed through a deliberate, willful rejection of Jesus and renunciation of saving faith. Such apostasy is irremediable.
The Five Articles of Remonstrance that Arminius's followers formulated in 1610 state the above beliefs regarding (I) conditional election, (II) unlimited atonement, (III) total depravity, (IV) total depravity and resistible grace, and (V) possibility of apostasy. Note, however, that the fifth article did not completely deny perseverance of the saints; Arminius, himself, 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.
Main article: Christian Universalism
See also: Universal reconciliation
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
See also: 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, which don't 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 Saviour
- One must be baptized for the remission of sins
- One must remain faithful until death on Earth
While other Churches of Christ which 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 Protestantbeliefs about salvation.
|Human will||Total depravity: Humanity possesses "free will", but it is in bondage to sin, until it is "transformed".||Total depravity: 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 mankind 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.
By Langston Huges
I was saved from sin when I was going on thirteen. But not really saved. It happened like this. There was a big revival at my Auntie Reed's church. Every night for weeks there had been much preaching, singing, praying, and shouting, and some very hardened sinners had been brought to Christ, and the membership of the church had grown by leaps and bounds. Then just before the revival ended, they held a special meeting for children, "to bring the young lambs to the fold." My aunt spoke of it for days ahead. That night I was escorted to the front row and placed on the mourners' bench with all the other young sinners, who had not yet been brought to Jesus.
My aunt told me that when you were saved you saw a light, and something happened to you inside! And Jesus came into your life! And God was with you from then on! She said you could see and hear and feel Jesus in your soul. I believed her. I had heard a great many old people say the same thing and it seemed to me they ought to know. So I sat there calmly in the hot, crowded church, waiting for Jesus to come to me.
The preacher preached a wonderful rhythmical sermon, all moans and shouts and lonely cries and dire pictures of hell, and then he sang a song about the ninety and nine safe in the fold, but one little lamb was left out in the cold. Then he said: "Won't you come? Won't you come to Jesus? Young lambs, won't you come?" And he held out his arms to all us young sinners there on the mourners' bench. And the little girls cried. And some of them jumped up and went to Jesus right away. But most of us just sat there.
A great many old people came and knelt around us and prayed, old women with jet-black faces and braided hair, old men with work-gnarled hands. And the church sang a song about the lower lights are burning, some poor sinners to be saved. And the whole building rocked with prayer and song.
Still I kept waiting to see Jesus.
Finally all the young people had gone to the altar and were saved, but one boy and me. He was a rounder's son named Westley. Westley and I were surrounded by sisters and deacons praying. It was very hot in the church, and getting late now. Finally Westley said to me in a whisper: "God damn! I'm tired o' sitting here. Let's get up and be saved." So he got up and was saved.
Then I was left all alone on the mourners' bench. My aunt came and knelt at my knees and cried, while prayers and song swirled all around me in the little church. The whole congregation prayed for me alone, in a mighty wail of moans and voices. And I kept waiting serenely for Jesus, waiting, waiting - but he didn't come. I wanted to see him, but nothing happened to me. Nothing! I wanted something to happen to me, but nothing happened.
I heard the songs and the minister saying: "Why don't you come? My dear child, why don't you come to Jesus? Jesus is waiting for you. He wants you. Why don't you come? Sister Reed, what is this child's name?"
"Langston," my aunt sobbed.
"Langston, why don't you come? Why don't you come and be saved? Oh, Lamb of God! Why don't you come?"
Now it was really getting late. I began to be ashamed of myself, holding everything up so long. I began to wonder what God thought about Westley, who certainly hadn't seen Jesus either, but who was now sitting proudly on the platform, swinging his knickerbockered legs and grinning down at me, surrounded by deacons and old women on their knees praying. God had not struck Westley dead for taking his name in vain or for lying in the temple. So I decided that maybe to save further trouble, I'd better lie, too, and say that Jesus had come, and get up and be saved.
So I got up.
Suddenly the whole room broke into a sea of shouting, as they saw me rise. Waves of rejoicing swept the place. Women leaped in the air. My aunt threw her arms around me. The minister took me by the hand and led me to the platform.
When things quieted down, in a hushed silence, punctuated by a few ecstatic "Amens," all the new young lambs were blessed in the name of God. Then joyous singing filled the room.
That night, for the first time in my life but one for I was a big boy twelve years old - I cried. I cried, in bed alone, and couldn't stop. I buried my head under the quilts, but my aunt heard me. She woke up and told my uncle I was crying because the Holy Ghost had come into my life, and because I had seen Jesus. But I was really crying because I couldn't bear to tell her that I had lied, that I had deceived everybody in the church, that I hadn't seen Jesus, and that now I didn't believe there was a Jesus anymore, since he didn't come to help me.
This piece is very dear to me. I was in my second year of college when I read it. People react to it in different ways. I think it's important now and then to demonstrate how adult (and cult) behaviors can effect children. My personal experiences in church settings were very similar to this. It was like a weight on my mind until I was able to distance myself from people consumed by their ideology. Should children be raised in the manner demonstrated in this essay? It is my opinion that Hughes was brave for having written this. What's yours?