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Christian Soteriology is the branch of Christian theology that deals with salvation.[1] It is derived from the Greek sōtērion (salvation) (from sōtēr savior, preserver) + English -logy.[2] For similar concepts in other religions, see Salvation.


Traditional focus

Christian soteriology traditionally focuses on how God ends the separation people have from him due to sin by reconciling them with himself. (Rom. 5:10-11). Many Christians believe they receive the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), life (Rom. 8:11), and salvation (1 Thess. 5:9) bought by Jesus through his innocent suffering, death, and resurrection from the dead three days later (Matt. 28).

Christ's death, resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Holy Spirit, is called The Paschal Mystery. Christ's human birth is called the Incarnation. Either or both are considered in different versions of soteriology.

While not neglecting the Paschal Mystery, many Christians believe salvation is brought through the Incarnation itself, in which God took on human nature so that humans could partake in the divine nature (2 Peter 1.4). As St. Athanasius put it, God became human so that we might become divine (St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.). This grace in Christ (1 Cor. 1:4) is received as a gift of God that cannot be merited by works done prior to one's conversion to Christianity (Eph. 2:8-9), which is brought about by hearing God's Word (Rom. 10:17).

Distinct schools

Protestant teaching, originating with Martin Luther, teaches that salvation is received by grace alone and that one's sole necessary response to this grace is faith alone. Older Christian teaching, as found in Catholic and Orthodox theology, is that salvation is received by grace alone, but that one's necessary response to this grace comprises both faith and works (James 2:24,26; Rom 2:6-7; Gal 5:6).

The different soteriologies found within the Christian tradition can be grouped into distinct schools:


Comparison between Protestants

This table summarizes the classical views of three different Protestant beliefs about salvation.[3]

Topic Lutheranism Calvinism Arminianism
Human will Total Depravity without free will Total Depravity without free will Depravity does not preclude free will
Election Unconditional election to salvation only Unconditional election to salvation and damnation Conditional election in view of foreseen faith or unbelief
Justification Justification of all people completed at Christ's death. Justification is limited to those elected to salvation, completed at Christ's death. Justification possible for all, but only completed when one chooses faith.
Conversion Through the means of grace, resistible Without means, irresistible Involves free will and is resistible
Preservation and apostasy Falling away is possible, but God gives assurance of preservation. Perseverance of the saints, once saved, always saved Preservation upon the condition of persevering faith with the possibility of a total and final apostasy.

See also


  1. ^ Soteriology. WordNet 3.0. Princeton University. (accessed: March 02, 2008).
  2. ^ soteriology - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
  3. ^ Table drawn from, though not copied, from Lange, Lyle W. God So Loved the Word: A Study of Christian Doctrine. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2006. p. 448.

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