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Salvation refers to deliverance from undesirable state or condition. In theology, the study of salvation is called soteriology and is a vitally important concept in several religions. Christianity regards salvation as deliverance from the bondage of sin and from condemnation, resulting in eternal life with God.


Christian views of salvation

Salvation is arguably one of the most important Christian spiritual concepts, perhaps second only to the deity of Jesus Christ.

For many Christians, the primary goal of religion is to attain salvation. Others maintain that the primary goal of Christians is to do the will of God, or that the two are equivalent. In many traditions, attaining salvation is synonymous with going to heaven after death, while most also emphasize that salvation represents a changed life while on Earth as well. Many elements of Christian theology explain why salvation is needed and how to attain it.

The idea of salvation rests upon there being some sort of unsaved state from which the individual (or mankind) is to be redeemed. To most Protestant and Catholic Christians, this is the judgment of God upon mankind due to the guilt of original sin (inherited from the Fall of Adam) and actual committed sins, recognizing that all have sinned.

Orthodox Christian churches totally reject the concept of "original sin" as unbiblical, but view salvation as a ladder of spiritual improvement and healing of a human nature that was damaged or injured in the Fall (for which see theosis). Most Christians agree that humanity was created sinless, but after the Fall, needed a Savior to restore us into a right relationship with God. This Savior redeems people from sin, and Jesus was (and is) this Savior.


In Western Christianity the doctrine of salvation, or soteriology, involves topics such as atonement, reconciliation, grace, justification, God's sovereignty, and the free will of human beings. Various understandings on each may be found in Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Especially within Protestantism, this may be seen in the differences between the theologies of Calvinism and Arminianism as well as mediating versions of the two.

Among evangelical Christians, salvation means that all have sinned and are justly under God's condemnation. Atonement or reconciliation with God is possible for anyone, but only through Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life and died as a perfect sacrifice in place of the death deserved by all humanity, by (1) confession of sin and (2) faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. The consequence of salvation is that the sinner's sins are forgiven and he/she is born again as a new person, a Christian, a believer, a child of God, and is sealed with the Holy Spirit. Evangelical Christians believe that not every individual obtains salvation (forgiveness) because not all will trust in Jesus Christ. Those who do not are subject to divine condemnation in some form of eternal separation from God.

Conservative Restoration Movement churches (e.g. Churches of Christ) not only recognize the conditions of hearing the gospel and responding with faith as part of the salvation process, but also repentance, baptism and continued obedience. (Acts 2:38-39, 2 Corinthians 7:10, Hebrews 6:4-6)

A third point of view, universal salvation, has existed throughout the history of Christianity and became popular in the United States with the rise of rationalism and modernism in the late 1800's. This point of view states that all people, regardless of creed or belief, will eventually be saved and go to heaven, and is the central theme of Universalism and Unitarianism. In more colloquial terms it is often stated as "God is too loving to condemn anyone". Many Christians find this view to be heretical because they claim it implies that non-Christian religions are equally valid, and that there are paths to salvation other than through the grace of Christ. This is an accurate description of some universalist beliefs, but not all. Other forms of Christian universalism do hold that Christianity is the only completely true religion, and that salvation comes only through Christ. They simply believe that Christ's death and resurrection redeemed all people, regardless of their beliefs. Religious pluralists, however, sometimes criticize this view as being patronizing toward non-Christians.

Roman Catholicism

For the Roman Catholic Church, salvation is not just a negative deliverance from sin (original sin and actual sin) and its effects: God saves us not just from something, but for something. God’s action is a positive liberation that raises human beings to a supernatural status, to eternal life on a higher plane than earthly life, to union in a single body with Christ, one of the three Persons of the Trinity, to the dignity of not only being called but actually being adopted children of God, to seeing God "as he is" (1 John 3:2) in communion of life and love with the Trinity and all the saints (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1023-1025, 1243, 1265-1270, 2009).

These blessings man could never merit. Indeed, in the strict sense, man can never merit anything from God: the creature has received everything, including abilities and potentialities, from the Creator. The possibility of meriting anything in the eyes of God derives entirely from a free gift or grace of God. Salvation or justification can by no means be merited, but once God has justified us, we can then, through the influence of the Holy Spirit and love, merit graces useful for sanctification, for growth in grace and love and for reaching the eternal life for which God destines us. We can merit even material benefits, such as health and friendship (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2006-2011).

Christians receive even in this life, as it were in incipient or seed form, a pledge and a hope of what is to come, the blessings of salvation that are to be given fully and definitively in the afterlife. Thus the Catholic Church sees salvation, even for the individual, as something for which we can use both past, present and future tenses:

  • Our salvation has already been achieved in principle and in hope, since Christ died for all on the cross and since we accepted Christ by faith and baptism: "When the kindness of God our Saviour, and his love towards man, appeared, not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that, being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:4-7).
  • The process of salvation continues in God's work in those who accept the Gospel. St Paul uses the present tense in this regard: "To us who are being saved, (the word of the cross) is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18). It is regrettable that older Protestant versions of the New Testament, in particular those derived from the King James Version, mistranslate the present-tense σῳζομένοις in this passage, as if it were perfect-tense σεσῳσμένοις or past-tense (aorist-tense) σῳθεῖσιν.
  • Only on completion of our earthly life will God’s saving work in us reach its final stage. There is no magic formula or emotional experience that will definitively prevent us, as creatures whom God has endowed with free will, from ever rejecting God’s offer of salvation. Even the great Apostle Paul envisaged this eventuality for himself, considering it possible that he himself, after having preached to others, might be rejected (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Eastern Christianity

Eastern Christianity was much less influenced by Augustine, and even less so by either Calvin or Arminius. Consequently, it doesn't just have different answers, but asks different questions; it generally views salvation in less legalistic terms (grace, punishment, and so on) and in more medical terms (sickness, healing etc.), and with less exacting precision. Instead, it views salvation more along the lines of theosis, a concept that has been developed over the centuries by many different Eastern Orthodox Christians. It also stresses the clear teaching of Jesus in the Gospels, that as a prerequisite for our sins to be forgiven, something is definitely required on our part. (Matt 6:14-15).

New Testament passages

For Christians, the Biblical approach to salvation begins in the Scriptures of the New Testament. Many of these texts are found in the Epistle to the Romans, largely because that Epistle contains the most comprehensive theological statement by Saint Paul of Tarsus. Because of this, some Protestant Christian denominations have called these texts the Romans road.

Some key passages in the New Testament concerning salvation include:

  • God's love: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. " (Romans 5:8)
  • Sin separates mankind from God. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God"(Romans 3:23) "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12)
  • God gives eternal life because Jesus Christ atoned for our sin: "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
  • Saved (from sin) by our own forgiveness of others: "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14-15)
  • Confession and believing: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." — "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:9-10) "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13)
  • Saved at Baptism: "Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 1 Peter 3:20-21; "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:" (Romans 6:3-5)
  • Saved by God's grace: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • Saved by Works: "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." (James 2:24) This passage is disputed as the meaning of the word justified. Protestants argue here the word justified is not used as "To make righteous" but to be "shown already righteous". This is meant in the sense that a person's good behaviour proves they have been saved, as God is "sanctifying" them, making them a better person, after having saved them.
  • Judged by Works: "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works." (Book of Revelation 20:12 - 20:13) Again, this is another verse to watch out for. All Protestants do not agree with this type of interpretation of this verse. Some believe there will be the judgement all people go through, and then the white thrown judgement, for all those who are saved. In that judgement we will get rewards based on what we do. They do not believe eternal life is a reward that is going to be given out in result of works done. Others understanded it in the same way as the "Saved by Works" verses, in the sense that those who will not have done good proved they were not saved, because their works did not correspond to their 'saved' status.
  • Christ Says...: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." Matthew 7:21 Many interpet this in the same way as the "Saved by Works" and "Judged by Works" verses: those who claim to be Christians will be proved false by their actions if their good works do not back up their claim to be Christians.


For a Muslim, the purpose of life is to live in a way that is pleasing to Allah so that one may gain Paradise. It is believed that at puberty, an account of each person's deeds is opened, and this will be used at the Day of Judgment to determine his eternal fate. The Qur'an also suggests a doctrine of divine predestination. Qur'an 4:49, 24:21, 57:22. The Qur'an teaches the necessity of both faith and good works for salvation.

The Muslim doctrine of salvation is that unbelievers (kuffar, literally "those who are ungrateful") and sinners will be condemned, but genuine repentance results in Allah's forgiveness and entrance into Paradise upon death.


The Four Noble Truths outline the essentials of Buddhist soteriology. Suffering (dukkha) is treated as a disease, which can be cured by understanding its causes and by following the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path includes morality and meditation. The means of achieving liberation are further developed in other Buddhist teachings. They are expressed in very different terms by Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana Buddhists.


Concepts of salvation are markedly different in Pagan religions, even those that have been strongly influenced by (and incorporate elements of) Abrahamic mythology.

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