In Christianity, salvation is arguably the most important spiritual concept, second only to the divinity 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 some traditions place a stronger emphasis on the belief that salvation represents a changed life while on Earth. Many elements of Christian theology explain why salvation is needed and how to attain it.

The existence of salvation is contingent 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 state of original sin, inherited from the Fall of Adam and Eve. The Orthodox churches do not accept original sin in terms of inherited guilt, viewing salvation as a ladder of spiritual improvement and healing of a human nature that was damaged or injured in the Fall. Most Christians believe that humanity was created sinless, but after the Fall, needed a Savior to restore us into a right relationship with God. This Savior redeemed people from sin, and Jesus was (and is) this Savior.

Within Gnosticism, salvation was achieved through gnosis, inner knowledge. Many non-Christian traditions have some parallel to salvation, some redeemed spiritual state that it is desirable that the believer or mankind attain. Examples include the Buddhist goal of Nirvana, the Hindu aim Moksha and the Kabbalist tikkun olam.

Christian views of salvation

In Western Christianity the doctrine of salvation, or soteriology, falls roughly into two points of view - Calvinism and Arminianism, though there are numerous variations within and in between these two "extremes" (including, but not limited to Amyraldism and Pelagianism). Calvinism follows the teachings of Augustine and John Calvin emphasizing total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints. Arminianism, named for Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius, teaches general depravity, conditional election, general atonement, free will, and apostasy. Topics such as atonement, election, regeneration, and all components of what most theologians consider salvation.

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, 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.

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 loves you: "For God so loved the world that whosoever believeth in him should 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)

  • Our sin separates us 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 us eternal life because Jesus Christ paid the penalty 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)

  • Turn from your sins, confess and believe: "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)

  • We are saved by God's grace: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

See also: sin, born again