Salvation in Christianity:
Part 1 of three parts:
According to the ancient creeds
& specific passages in the Bible:
What Do the Ancient Creeds Say?
||The Apostles' Creed states that Christ will return to earth "to judge the
living and the dead.". When one recites the creed they agree that they believe in "...the forgiveness of sins...". But it gives no guidance on the
mechanism by which one's sins are forgiven - whether it is based on faith or good works, or something else, or some combination.
||The Nicene Creed states that Christ "for us men and for our salvation
came down from heaven...". It also says "he will come again to judge both
the living and the dead..." And when a person recites the creed they "acknowledge
one Baptism for the remission of sins..." It implies that an individual's
original sin, plus any sins committed from birth until the time of baptism, are all erased
by the church ritual of baptism. It mentions nothing about the effects of good or wicked
deeds that a person might commit after baptism.
||The Athanasian Creed is also ambiguous about salvation:
On one hand, it states that faith is a necessary precondition to salvation:
will be saved shall, above all else, hold the catholic faith. Which faith, except everyone
keeps whole and undefiled, without doubt he will perish eternally."
describing the nature of the Trinity, the creed states:
"He, therefore, that will
be saved is compelled thus to think of the Trinity."
Presumably, this means that anyone who otherwise qualifies to spend eternity in Heaven would be rejected if they did not believe in the Trinity. The creed concludes with:
is the catholic faith, which, except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be
The creed does not state specifically that faith in the Church is
sufficient for salvation; only that it is a necessary precondition.
But the creed also plainly states that good works alone are sufficient: When
Christ returns, all men will:
"give an account of their own works. And they
that have done good will go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into
Presumably the phrase "all men" means
everyone: males and females, Christian and non-Christian alike. The sorting of all humans into their final destination -- Heaven or Hell -- is determined according to their good and bad works on Earth.
Taking all three ancient creeds together, it would appear that in order to be saved,
one must satisfy one or more of the following three criteria:
||do good deeds,
||be baptized, and
||"hold the Catholic faith." The last criteria raises the question:
which faith group or groups of the thousands of Christian denominations in North America represent the "Catholic faith" today?
However, it is not clear which of the three criteria -- or which combinations of criteria -- is required to attain Heaven.
How well do the creeds match what the Bible says?
Many faith groups teach that the unsaved will spend eternity being punished in hell.
This makes salvation a matter of unprecedented importance in some Christians' lives. Because of the critical nature of salvation, one would expect that the Bible would define
precisely and clearly what one must do to be saved. Unfortunately, Bible passages seem to
speak with multiple voices over this matter:
||"Salvation Requires Good Deeds": Some passages in the Bible imply that
one is saved through works. That is, God weighs the good and bad deeds that each person
commits during their lifetime. If the balance is reasonably positive, the individual goes
to heaven. This is the most popular belief among American adults. However, it is opposed
by all conservative denominations.
Verses supporting this belief are seen mostly in the
Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and in the gospels when they discuss the religion of
"...and what doth Jehovah require of thee, but to do justly, and to
love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (ASV)
This implies that
God wants everyone to act in a kind manner and justly to others while walking humbly with God. If the concept of Heaven and Hell and been thought of at the time that the book of Micah was written, this verse probably would have contained some reference to both destinations after death, and the criteria used to determine where one spent eternity.
Matthew 25:31-46: These verses explain the Last Judgment in precise
detail. The verses describe how Christ:
"... will sit on his glorious throne. Before
him are gathered all the nations and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd
separates the sheep from the goats..." (KJV) Addressing those on his right, he
says that they will "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of
the world." He orders those on his left hand to "depart from me, you
cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." where they will
go away into eternal punishment."
The sole criteria for routing individuals either to
heaven or hell is whether the person gave food, drink or clothing to the destitute, and
welcomed strangers and visited the sick or persons in prison. That is, salvation is
totally dependent upon one's treatment of other people -- one's good works. Trust in God or Christ, or
repentance, or baptism is not even mentioned.
||"Salvation Requires Good Deeds" (Continued):
"And behold, one came to him and said, Teacher, what good
thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" (17) "And he said unto
him, Why askest thou me concerning that which is good? One there is who is good: but if
thou wouldest enter into life, keep the commandments." (18) "He saith
unto him, Which? And Jesus said, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou
shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness," (19) "Honor thy
father and mother; and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (20) "The
young man saith unto him, All these things have I observed: what lack I yet?" (21) "Jesus said unto him, If thou wouldest be perfect, go, sell that which thou
hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow
A man asks how he can attain eternal life. Jesus answered that one
must keep at least 6 of the commandments, give their possessions to the poor, and join his
group. Repentance, baptism and faith are not mentioned. Good works, alone, in the form of
generosity to the needy and keeping most of the commandments will assure salvation.
Copyright © 1996 to 2016 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2016-FEB-18
Author: B.A. Robinson