The left-sided menu requires a Java-enabled Browser. If you cannot see the left-sided menu, please click here for an alternative menu.

Survey of Theology 5. The Doctrine of Salvation in Christ

PDF (Adobe Portable Document Format) and .doc files (Microsoft Word format) of the overheads used in this presentation are available from the Survey of Theology Page or the Download page

 

Topics

1. Salvation and Christ

1.1. Introduction

1.2. Distinctive Features of Christian Salvation

1.2.1. Salvation Is Grounded in the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ

1.2.2. Jesus Is the Model For Redeemed Life

 

2. What Are We Saved From, Saved For?

2.1. Our Deficiencies and Needs

2.2. Liberation from Our Broken Relationship with God

2.2.1. How Do We Find a Gracious God?

2.2.2. Justification and Sanctification

2.3. Liberation from Oppression by the Powerful

2.3.1. Basic Problem of Society According To Liberation Theology

2.3.2. Biblical Basis of Liberation Theology

2.3.3. Tenets of Liberation Theology

2.4. Liberation From Inauthentic Life

 

3. How Are We Saved?

3.1. Introduction

3.2. The Cross as Sacrifice

3.3. The Cross as Victory (Christus Victor)

3.3.1. The "Classic" Theory of How the Victory Was Won

3.4. The Cross and Forgiveness of Sins

3.4.1. The "Satisfaction" Theory

3.4.2. Problems with the "Satisfaction" Theory

3.5. Incarnation and Deification

3.6. The Cross as Moral Example

3.6.1. Peter Abelard: The Cross Illustrates God's Love

3.6.2. Christ is the Moral Ideal

 

4. When Are We Saved?

 

5. Who Will Be Saved?

5.1. Three Views of Who Will Be Saved

5.2. Universalism

5.2.1. Origen: All of Creation Must Be Restored to God

5.2.2. John A. T. Robinson: God's Love Will be Overpowering in the End

5.3. Only Believers Will Be Saved

5.3.1. Augustine and Calvin: Faith is a Precondition for Salvation

5.3.2. What Kind of Faith is Needed?

5.3.3. What is the Church?

5.4. Only Elect Will Be Saved

 

Primary References

 

 

1. Salvation and Christ

1.1. Introduction

In the comparative study of religions, salvation is sometimes defined broadly so as to illustrate commonality among the various religions. For example "Salvation" could be defined as “a benefit conferred upon or achieved by its members.” Many religions / institutions / philosophies offer benefits (“salvation”). 

 

However the nature of the "benefit" and how it is achieved varies enormously among different religions.

  • e.g., “Salvation” in Buddhism is quite different than “salvation” in Christianity

 

It is important to understand, honor and respect these differences

 

 

1.2. Distinctive Features of Christian Salvation

The Christian Doctrine of Salvation was not rigorously defined in the early church; and there is diversity in views on:

  • what we are saved from

  • what we are saved for

  • how we are saved

  • who is saved

 

Two distinctive features in Christian salvation are agreed upon:

  • 1. Salvation is grounded in the life, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ

  • 2. Jesus Christ provides a model or paradigm for the redeemed life

 

 

1.2.1. Salvation Is Grounded in the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ

Salvation is grounded in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ

 

There are different views on how salvation is “grounded" in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus:"

  • 1. Jesus’ life and death were illustrative. They illustrated / showed / proved to us the saving will of God that had been present for eternity

  • 2. Jesus’ life and death were constitutive. Jesus’ life and death caused something new to arise that made salvation possible. Jesus’ life and death achieved something new, without which salvation would not be possible

 

 

1.2.2. Jesus Is The Model For Redeemed Life

Jesus provides a model or paradigm for the redeemed life

 

There are two different ways in which Jesus is viewed to provide the model for redeemed life:

  • 1. The believer takes responsibility to bring his or her life into line with Christ

    • for example: Thomas a Kempis' Imitation of Christ

  • 2. The Holy Spirit works in us and “conforms” our lives to Christ

 

 

2. What Are We Saved From, Saved For?

2.1. Our Deficiencies and Needs

What are we save from? What are we saved for?

In brief:

  • We are saved from our human deficiencies and unmet needs

  • We are saved for a life in which these deficiencies and needs are overcome

 

Our deficiencies and needs can be described as "vertical" (between God and Humanity) and "horizontal" (between our fellow human beings and within ourselves):

  • 1. “Vertical” deficiencies

    • our broken relationship with God caused by sin

  • 2. “Horizontal” deficiencies

    • the lack of harmony in society

    • brokenness in our personal relationships with other persons

    • our inner deficiencies and “demons” that hold us back from “authentic life”

 

 

2.2. Liberation from Our Broken Relationship with God

2.2.1. How Do We Find a Gracious God?

Sin causes a broken relationship with God.

 

How do I find a gracious God?” (Martin Luther). 

How can sinners (all of us) ever be accepted by a Holy God?

 

Salvation 

  • is liberation from condemnation because of our sins so we can someday stand in righteousness before God.

  • involves our justification and sanctification.

 

 

2.2.2. Justification and Sanctification

Some terminology (Protestant):

  • Justification

    • individual “declared just” (the broken relationship with God restored)

    • God active, human being passive: “Justification is by faith alone”

  • Sanctification

    • individual “making just”

    • the growth in holiness by a human being restored to God through justification

    • both human being and God active

 

Roman Catholicism has tended to use a slightly different terminology:

Some terminology (Roman Catholic):

  • Objective Justification = equivalent to Protestant “Justification” = “declared just”

  • Subjective Justification = equivalent to Protestant “Sanctification” = “making just”

  • Sanctifying Grace = a combined process of objective and subjective justification

 

If these different terminologies are appreciated, the differences between Protestant and Roman Catholic views on "Justification" are not as profound as sometimes suggested:

 

“Protestants speak of a declaration of justice and Catholics of a making just. But Protestants speak of a declaring just which includes a making just; and Catholics of a making just which supposes a declaring just. Is it not time to stop arguing about imaginary differences?”

- Hans Küng

 

 

2.3. Liberation from Oppression by the Powerful

2.3.1. Basic Problem of Society According To Liberation Theology

In Liberation Theology, the oppression and exploitation of powerless classes by the powerful. Salvation is liberation from this oppression

 

 

2.3.2. Biblical Basis of Liberation Theology

Biblical basis for liberation theology:

  • 1. God has sided with exploited peoples through the history of salvation (the Hebrews oppressed by the Pharaoh)

  • 2. Jesus in his ministry expressed a preferential option for the poor

 

 

2.3.3. Tenets of Liberation Theology

Basic tenets of LIberation Theology:

  • God came to earth and entered the human struggle through the Incarnation

  • God is thus active in the world. God is involved with the poor in their struggle

  • God’s will for an equalizing justice means that in an unjust world, God works in an unequal manner, favoring the poor to compensate for the world's injustice

  • Those who believe in God must utilize all means (political action, revolution) possible to work for salvation from oppression

 

 

2.4. Liberation From Inauthentic Life

Existential Theology

Salvation is liberation from the forces that deprive us of authentic existence (Bultmann, Tillich)

 

terms from Existential philosophy:

  • Authentic Existence: to be as we are meant to be, to live to fulfill our human potential

  • Inauthentic Existence: to fail to live in a manner that allows us to fulfill (as much as possible) what we are meant to be

 

Bultmann:

Christian Inauthentic Life arises from two human tendencies:

  • 1. A self-orientation, a desire for self-aggrandizement that takes precedence over:

    •  love for others

    •  knowing, telling, honoring the truth

  • 2. Desire for autonomy. Desire for security by one’s own efforts

 

A Christian must abandon the quest for tangible realities, transitory objects.

 

 

3. How Are We Saved?

3.1. Introduction

How does Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection save us? What are the mechanisms by which the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and/or the Resurrection makes our salvation possible?

 

Some views (not mutually exclusive):

 

3.2. The Cross as Sacrifice

The view that Jesus' sacrificial offering of himself on the cross made our salvation possible pervades liturgy. This view proposes:

  • In dying on the cross, Christ was both victim and priest, offering himself to the Father as the Passover sacrifice

  • Purpose of Christ’s sacrifice was to appease the Father for the sins of humanity, thus making our salvation possible.

  • Jesus’ single sacrifice sufficed, was “perfect” because Jesus was divine as well as human, making the “magnitude” of his sacrifice far greater than that of any ordinary human being

 

Problems / Questions with this view of how we are saved through Jesus' life and death

  • What does a sacrifice do for God? Why would God want a “sacrifice” before God could be merciful to sinners? How could God’s mercy be dependent on a sacrifice?

 

Horace Bushnell (1866) suggested:

  • Christ’s sacrifice awakens our sense of guilt and shows us God suffers because of our sins (illustrative dimension)

  • Jesus’ death both affected / moved / changed God as well as expressed God (constitutive dimension)

 

 

3.3. The Cross as Victory (Christus Victor)

Christ the Victor = Christus Victor

Through his Crucifixion and Resurrection, Jesus achieved a lasting victory over sin, death and Satan. The view that Christ won a victory through his Crucifixion and Resurrection also pervades our liturgy.

 

But how? How did Jesus' death on a cross achieve a victory?

 

3.3.1. The "Classic" Theory of How the Victory Was Won

The Classic Theory of How the Victory was Won (Origen, Gregory the Great):

  • The devil had gotten rights over fallen humanity. God had to respect those rights

    • The devil’s right could only be forfeited if the devil exceeded his authority

  • God devised a plan to trick the devil in order to get him to unknowingly exceed his authority:

    • Jesus was sent into the world, divine and sinless (the “hook”), but in the form of a sinful human being (“the bait”)

    • The devil took the “bait” and tried to claim authority over Jesus, discovering too late the “hook” – that Jesus was also divine and sinless. Thus the devil exceeded his authority and had to forfeit his claim on fallen humanity.

 

3.3.2. Problems with the Classic Christus Victor Theory

St. Anselm was troubled by this classic explanation of the Christus Victor theory because:

  • How could the devil ever get “rights” over fallen humanity, and why would God be under any obligation to respect them?

  • God is righteous and would never deceive, not even the devil

 

 

3.4. The Cross and Forgiveness of Sins

3.4.1. The "Satisfaction" Theory

Anselm, with later refinement by Thomas Aquinas, proposed:

  • God acts according to the principles of justice in humanity’s redemption

  • God’s sense of justice demands some satisfaction or penance be done for the disobedience of humanity before humanity’s sin are forgiven

  • Jesus’ death allows the forgiveness of sins because:

    • 1. Jesus substitutes for us on the cross. God allows Jesus to stand in our place and take our guilt upon himself.

    • 2. Jesus is the covenant representative for humanity. By his obedience on the cross, he wins the benefit of forgiveness for those he represents.

    • 3. Through faith, believers participate in the risen Christ (Paul: “in Christ”), and thereby share the benefits won by Jesus.

 

 

3.4.2. Problems with the "Satisfaction" Theory

Problems with this "satisfaction theory:"

  • in what sense is it moral or “just” for one human being to bear the penalties due to another?

  • why does God need “satisfaction” or penance for sins? There surely cannot be some “law of justice” that is higher than God that demands each sin be counterbalanced by a proportionate penance (especially a penance provided by a innocent substitute!)

 

 

3.5. Incarnation and Deification

 

“God become human, in order that humans might become God.”

 - Athanasius

 

Salvation in Orthodox Church: the broken relationship between individuals and God is restored so that human beings can participate in the uncreated energy of God (“deification”)

 

“Deification” is possible because:

  • in the Incarnation:

    • Jesus did not only become an individual human being, but:

    • the Godhead, divinity itself took on general human nature

  • this new divinized human nature heals the gap between human beings and their Creator

    • Jesus (the “new Adam”) is the first example of divinized humanity, of our ultimate vocation

 

“It was necessary that the voluntary humiliation, the redemptive selfemptying (kenosis) of the Son of God should take place, so that fallen men might accomplish their vocation of theosis, the deification of created beings by uncreated grace.”

- Vladimir Lossky, 1953

 

 

3.6. The Cross as Moral Example

3.6.1. Peter Abelard: The Cross Illustrates God's Love

The incarnation, the life and death of Jesus illustrates God’s love for humanity and moves us to love of God. This love is what saves us.

 

Peter Abelard:

 

“the purpose and cause of the incarnation was that Christ might illuminate the world by his wisdom, and excite it to love of himself”

 

“our redemption through the suffering of Christ is that deeper love within us which not only frees us from slavery to sin, but also secures for us the true liberty of the children of God, in order that we might do all things out of love rather than out of fear. . .”

 

 

3.6.2. Christ is the Moral Ideal

After the Enlightenment, this view “expanded” to:

  • Christ the moral ideal

    • taught by his words

    • illustrated by his life and death

    • the most important aspect of this moral ideal was his love for others

  • Taking to heart and trying to live Christ’s moral ideal is all we need to be saved

 

 

4. When Are We Saved?

Is our salvation:

  • a single event at the beginning of our Christian life (“I am saved”)?

  • a process continuing throughout Christian life (“I am being saved”)?

  • a future event (“I will be saved”)?

 

This question in part arises from the attempt to shoehorn justification, sanctification and our final salvation into a past-present-future framework, and then to emphasize just one part of the process:

Processes of Salvation:

  • 1. Justification (past event)

  • 2. Sanctification (present event, dependent upon the past event of justification)

  • 3. Final Salvation (future event, dependent upon, anticipated and partially experienced in the past events of justification and sanctification)

 

However, the processes of salvation are complex in their chronology:

  • Justification has future and a past (Romans 2:13, 8:33, Galatians 5:45)

  • Sanctification has a past (1 Cor. 6:11) and a future (1 Thess. 5:23)

 

“Christian understanding of salvation presupposes that something has happened, that something is now happening, and that something will still happen to believers.”

 - McGrath

 

 

5. Who Will Be Saved?

 5.1. Three Views of Who Will Be Saved

Three views:

  • 1. Universalism – All will be saved

  • 2. Only believers will be saved

  • 3. Particular Redemption – Only the elect will be saved.

 

 

5.2. Universalism

5.2.1. Origen: All of Creation Must Be Restored to God

Origen proposed that all will be saved (Universalism) because he could not accept the Gnostic-like view that there would be a realm of Good and a realm of Evil existing side by side for all eternity:

  • The idea that God and Satan would rule over respective kingdoms for all eternity a flawed dualism

  • The final redeemed version of creation cannot include a hell or kingdom of Satan. In the end, all of creation must be restored to God

 

5.2.2. John A. T. Robinson: God's Love Will be Overpowering in the End

John A. T. Robinson (radical English theologian 1960’s) proposed all will be saved because in the end, no one will reject the overpowering love of God:

  •  “May we not imagine a love so strong that ultimately no one will be able to retrain himself from free and grateful surrender?”

  •  “In a universe of love there can be no heaven which tolerates a chamber of horrors.”

 

 

5.3. Only Believers Will Be Saved

5.3.1. Augustine and Calvin: Faith is a Precondition for Salvation

Augustine distanced himself from Origen, and stressed that faith is a precondition for salvation.

He and later Calvin argued that those Biblical passages which say that God wishes all to be saved refer to all kinds of people, not all people.

 

This logically leads to the view that salvation can only be found within the Church.

 

 

5.3.2. What Kind of Faith is Needed?

Question: what kind of belief or faith is the precondition for salvation? Must it be an explicitly Christian Faith?

 

John Wesley agreed that faith is needed for one to be saved, but not necessarily a fully Christian faith

C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity suggests that a commitment  to the pursuit of goodness and truth is a sufficient faith for salvation

 

 

5.3.3. What is the Church?

The Roman Catholic view remains that salvation can be found only in the church -- but “the church” is more than just the visible institutional Catholic church.

 

Vatican II:

  • God’s grace is found in nature and hence is available to all religions

  • Describes three groups of the “People of God:”

    • 1. Catholics, “incorporated” into the church

    • 2. Non-Catholics Christians, “linked” to the church

    • 3. Non-Christians, “related” to the church

 

With this definition of the "People of God," some Catholic theologians have reversed the usual formula, suggesting that "the Church," by definition, is that place where salvation is found:

 

Wherever there is salvation, there the church is also

- Yves Congar

 

 

5.4. Only Elect Will Be Saved

The basis for this view is the Reformed doctrine of predestination.

 

The logic behind this view is:

  • The Problem:

    • Jesus cannot have died in vain

    • Yet some will not accept God and will not be saved – meaning that Jesus would have died in vain for them

  •  The Solution:

    • Jesus did not die for all people, but died only for the predestined elect

    • Thus Jesus did not die in vain

 

 

Primary References

 Chapter 13 “The Doctrine of Salvation in Christ” in: Christian Theology. An Introduction. Third Edition. Alister E. McGrath, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, 2001

Chapter 43 “Conceptions of Salvation” in: Christian Theology, Second Edition. Millard J. Erickson, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1998

Chapters 13 and 14 “The Work of Christ,” “The Holy Spirit and Salvation” in: Principles of Christian Theology, Second Edition, John Macquarrie, Charles Scribner, New York, 1977

 

 

 

Survey of Theology

 

1. The Doctrine of God

2. The Doctrine of the Trinity

3. The Doctrine of the Person of Jesus, Part 1. Classic Christology

4. The Doctrine of the Person of Jesus, Part 2. Modern Views and Concerns

5. The Doctrine of Salvation in Christ

6. The Doctrines of Human Nature, Sin, and Grace

7. The Doctrine of the Church

8. The Doctrine of the Sacraments

9. Christianity and the World Religions

10. Last Things: The Christian Hope