Permanence of personal salvation
Conflicting beliefs among Christian groups.
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:
|The 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.|
|The 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.") |
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.
|The 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
|The 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.|
|To 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
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
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.