Soteriologies

Soteriology is the study of salvation and the destinies of mankind.  It is from the Greek root soteria, meaning salvation. Wikipedia defines soteriology as "the study of religious doctrines of salvation."  One can see why this is a particularly important subject.  For example, it is said, "All is well that ends well."  Religious doctrine may touch on various subjects, but the subject of how to confirm our positive end ought to hold a special place of significance.  Jesus asks us in Luke 9:25 (WEB), "For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits his own self?"

The major religions are different primarily because they have different understandings of God and different salvation recipes.  The Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religions each have different instructions for a positive end.  There are also differences within these major labels themselves.  For example, there are Protestant and Catholic Christians.  There are Reformed and Orthodox Jews.  There are also Sunni and Shi'a Muslims.  Beyond that there may even be cultural expectations as to what it means to be Christian, as well as doctrinal and practical expectations.  Catholic Christians in the United States see things differently than Catholic Christians in Argentina.  Also, the expectations from our contemporaries are not the same as Christians from yesteryear, nor even the same as the Bible itself.

New Christians are often surprised to learn that there are divisions over the gospel.  How can one determine if a particular church or individual is close enough to the Bible to be authentic?  There are too many variations of Christian salvation to highlight them all in this short book.  Furthermore, you certainly do not need one more book explaining why I think I am right and others are wrong.  Instead I plan to highlight the two most common views and then propose a model for evaluating and categorizing any understanding of Christian salvation that you may encounter.

In the end, the Bible itself strangely says that you do not need a teacher, but that the Holy Spirit is your teacher -- that is, if you are a Christian.  We read in I John 2:27 (WEB),

As for you, the anointing which you received from him remains in you, and you don’t need for anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, you will remain in him.


So ask God to give you understanding as you continue your study.  If you discover errors in my thinking, please talk to me.

The two most common views of Christian salvation found in various denominations that I want to highlight are Arminianism and Calvinism.

In a nutshell, Arminianism is the belief that Jesus died for ALL mankind, but only those individual people who provide the missing PART or condition of choosing faith with their free will are finally saved to eternal life.  Arminianism is named after Jacob Arminius, who supported this view.

Calvinism is the belief that Jesus died only for PART of mankind, but he provides ALL of salvation to guarantee eternal life for these chosen ones, and God also leads these chosen ones irresistibly to faith in Christ. Calvinism was named after a prominent historical proponent of this idea, John Calvin.  Calvinism, sometimes called Augustinism has its roots in the theology of Catholic Saint Augustine.

You may be well acquainted with these different views.  You may even be sick of hearing one more word about them!  However, consider one last thought. As I compared and contrasted these two views, a model for evaluating any salvation doctrine was born.  The model proposes two questions, each with only two answers for a combination of only four possibilities.

Is God the savior of ALL or PART of mankind?

Does God do ALL or PART of the saving?

SALVATION
EVALUATOR
PART
OF
MANKIND
ALL
OF
MANKIND
PART
OF
SALVATION

?

?
ALL
OF
SALVATION
? ?


If we use the words ALL or PART carefully, we can divide every view of Christian salvation into one of these four categories.  No one could ride on the fence unless their doctrine was internally contradictory or they simply did not take a position on the subject.  This exercise will be very useful to understand current Christian salvation doctrines, and also useful to explain my own view of salvation.

Please also note that Christian salvation can sometimes refer to salvation from sin and other times salvation to eternal life.  In this discussion, however, my four-part matrix is used specifically to categorize the different views of salvation to eternal life.