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Permanence of personal salvation

Conflicting beliefs among Christian groups.

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Conflicting beliefs about the permanence of salvation:

There are many differing beliefs among modern-day Christians about the permanence of salvation. Every denomination teaches their belief with absolute certainty, being quite confident that they have the truth. But no consensus exists.

A sampling follows:

bulletThe Roman Catholic Church has consistently taught that the believer is saved by grace from God through the power of the church's sacraments. But one's salvation is lost when a mortal sin is committed. One's salvation can subsequently be restored through the sacraments.
bulletThe great Protestant reformer, John Calvin, taught in the 16th century that people were "predestined" to either be among the elect (those who will spend eternity in Heaven) or the damned (those who will be punished for eternity in Hell). From that belief was derived the doctrine of "once saved, always saved." Protestants who follow Calvinism teach that a person who is once saved will never lose their salvation. Their followers can relax in the security that they are certain to spend eternity in heaven. This is known among theologians as "inadmissible grace" (a.k.a. " unconditional perseverance" and "perseverance of the elect.")
bulletOpposed to this belief was John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. He taught that it was possible for an individual to fall from grace and lose their salvation.

The Roman Emperor Constantine probably would have agreed with Wesley. He put off his baptism until near his time of death. At the time, the church taught that baptism wiped away a person's accumulated sins. This way, he was free to indulge in any sinful behavior that he wished during his lifetime, and have all of his sins forgiven at the last minute. He would not have much of a chance to lose his salvation between his baptism and death. Of course, he took the risk of experiencing a sudden aneurysm, being injured during warfare, having an accident, etc. If one of those events happened, he might not have an opportunity to be baptized before he died.

Followers of Wesley's teachings believe that it is possible for saved individuals to lose their salvation at any time. Their believers must live in a state of insecurity, not knowing for certain whether they or their loved ones might lose their status through a sinful act or thought. To lose salvation would mean that they would go to Hell after death for eternal torture without any hope of mercy or relief from a God filled with wrath towards all of the unsaved.
bulletThe Amish believe that one is saved by a lifetime of proper behavior. One's salvation status is not determined until they die, because they may do something late in life which terminates their salvation.
bulletThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often referred to as the Mormons, teach that salvation requires good works in addition to grace. Attendance at temple services is required to prevent loss of salvation.
bulletTo most liberal  Christians, the permanence of salvation is of lesser importance because most believe in universalism: that God will welcome everyone eventually into heaven. Many reject the concept of Hell. They abhor the concept of imprisoning people for committing thought crimes. They are revolted by the practice of torturing or maltreating prisoners. They regard an infinitely long punishment for a finite and often trivial sin to be profoundly unethical. All of these are integral parts of the concept of Hell.

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Which belief is correct?

With so much hanging in the balance -- eternal joy in Heaven or perhaps eternal pain in Hell -- one might ask which of the many views on the permanence of salvation is the correct one? It is obvious that many intelligent, thoughtful, sincere, devout, prayerful Christians down through the ages of the stature of Calvin and Wesley have studied the Bible in depth and arrived at conflicting conclusions. It would appear that the Bible is ambiguous on this topic. One can find convincing support in its pages for many different salvation belief systems. Determining the correct answer by assessing the will of God thorough prayer does not seem to be an option. A pilot study that we conducted appears to imply that one cannot determine God's will via prayer. The whole topic may have to remain a mystery as long as we live on earth.

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