In theology, salvation can mean three related things: being saved from, or liberation from, something, such as suffering or the punishment of sin – also called deliverance; being saved for something, such as an afterlife or participating in the Reign of God – also called redemption; or social liberation and healing, as in liberation theology.
The theological study of salvation is called Soteriology and covers the means by which salvation is effected or achieved, and its results or effects.
Soteriology is the study of salvation. Many religions give emphasis to salvation of one form or another and as such have their own soteriologies. Some soteriologies are primarily concerned with relationships to or unity with deity. Others more strongly emphasize the cultivation of knowledge or virtue. Soteriologies also differ in what sort of salvation they promise.
Christian soteriology focuses on how Jesus Christ saves people from their sins, reconciling them with the Triune God. Islamic soteriology focuses on how humans can repent of and atone for their sins so as not to occupy a state of loss. Sikhism advocates the pursuit of salvation through disciplined, personal meditation on the name and message of God, meant to bring one into union with God. In Vedic (Hinduism) religion, individual salvation is not --- as is often alleged --- pursued to the neglect of collective well-being. "The principle on which the Vedic religion is founded," observes the Sage of Kanchi "is that a man must not live for himself alone but serve all mankind." Well, varna dharma in its true form is a system according to which the collective welfare of society is ensured. Hinduism, which teaches that we are caught in a cycle of death and rebirth called saṃsāra, contains a slightly different sort of soteriology devoted to the attainment of transcendent moksha, meaning liberation. For some this liberation is also seen as a state of closeness to Brahman. Jainism emphasizes penance and asceticism meant to lead to a liberation and ascendance of the soul. Buddhism is in a real sense devoted primarily to soteriology, i.e. liberation from suffering, ignorance, rebirth. Epicureanism is primarily concerned with temperance and simple life as a means to the absence of pain or freedom from anxiety (αταραξία) and Stoicism is concerned with the cultivation of virtues such as fortitude and detachment to improve spiritual well-being. Shinto and Tenrikyo similarly emphasize working for a good life by cultivating virtue or virtuous behavior, and many practitioners of Judaism also emphasize morality in this life over concern with the afterlife. In Falun Dafa salvation refers to cultivation practice, or xiu lian, a process of giving up human attachments and assimilating to the Buddha Fa(佛 Fǒ, 法 Fǎ), or the fundamental characteristic of the universe, Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance (真 zhen, 善 shan, 忍 ren).
The New International Version of the New Testament contains 138 verses that with the words "salvation" (45), "save" (41) or "saved" (52). The following are some of the New Testament passages most cited in this regard:
Roman Catholics believe "Man stands in need of salvation from God, and "Divine help comes to him in Christ through the law that guides him and the grace that sustains him. It was for our salvation that "God loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins; the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world, and he was revealed to take away sins. "By his death (Jesus, the Son of God) has conquered death, and so opened the possibility of salvation to all men.
Jesus has provided the Church with "the fullness of the means of salvation which [the Father] has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession". Baptism is necessary for salvation. And the sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn. But these are not the only sacraments of importance for salvation: "The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. This holds especially for the Eucharist: ".Every time this mystery is celebrated, the work of our redemption is carried on and we break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ.
At the same time, however, the Roman Catholic Church teaches that through the graces Jesus won for humanity by sacrificing himself on the cross, salvation is possible even for those outside the visible boundaries of the Church. Christians and even non-Christians, if in life they respond positively to the grace and truth that God reveals to them through the mercy of Christ may be saved. This may include awareness of an obligation to become part of the Catholic Church. In such cases, "they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it. Catholics believe that people, even those who are not explicitly Christian, have the moral law written in their hearts, according to Jeremiah 31:33 (prophecy of new covenant): "I will write my law on their hearts." St. Justin wrote that those who have not accepted Christ but follow the moral law of their hearts (logos) follow God, because it is God who has written the moral law in each person's heart. Though he may not explicitly recognize it, he has the spirit of Christ. According to Fr. William Most's article for EWTN (the primary Catholic television network), those who have the spirit of Christ belong to the body of Christ. He writes, "Those who follow the Spirit of Christ, the Logos who writes the law on their hearts, are Christians, are members of Christ, are members of His Church. They may lack indeed external adherence; they may never have heard of the Church. But yet, in the substantial sense, without formal adherence, they do belong to Christ, to His Church."
Catholic doctrine states that a person is not guilty of disbelief in Christ, and could be saved, if it is due to invincible ignorance, or ignorance which could not be disposed of, even if the person were to try to educate himself or herself about the nature of God. Such ignorance may be a result of a non-Catholic or non-Christian upbringing, as well as a result of never having heard of Jesus. However, those who are saved even though they have not faith in Jesus are saved not because of their disbelief, but in spite of it, because of God's mercy.
Finally, a Catholic's salvation also depends on the actions he freely chooses during his life. If he commits a very grave sin, fully conscious of its severity and with full intent, then he could not be saved without repenting for the action.
Eastern Christianity was much less influenced by Augustine, and even less so by either Calvin or Arminius. Consequently, it doesn't just have different answers, but asks different questions; it generally views salvation in less legalistic terms (grace, punishment, and so on) and in more medical terms (sickness, healing etc.), and with less exacting precision. Instead, it views salvation more along the lines of theosis, a seeking to become holy or draw closer to God, a concept that has been developed over the centuries by many different Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Christians. It also stresses Jesus' teaching about forgiveness in : "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." See also Sermon on the Mount.
The Longer Catechism of the Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church, known also as The Catechism of St. Philaret includes the questions and answers: "155. To save men from what did (the Son of God) come upon earth? From sin, the curse, and death." "208. How does the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross deliver us from sin, the curse, and death? That we may the more readily believe this mystery, the Word of God teaches us of it, so much as we may be able to receive, by the comparison of Jesus Christ with Adam. Adam is by nature the head of all humanity, which is one with him by natural descent from him. Jesus Christ, in whom the Godhead is united with manhood, graciously made himself the new almighty Head of men, whom he unites to himself through faith. Therefore as in Adam we had fallen under sin, the curse, and death, so we are delivered from sin, the curse, and death in Jesus Christ. His voluntary suffering and death on the cross for us, being of infinite value and merit, as the death of one sinless, God and man in one person, is both a perfect satisfaction to the justice of God, which had condemned us for sin to death, and a fund of infinite merit, which has obtained him the right, without prejudice to justice, to give us sinners pardon of our sins, and grace to have victory over sin and death.
Orthodox theology teaches prevenient grace, meaning that God makes the first movement toward man, and that salvation is impossible from our own will alone. However, man is endowed with free will, and an individual can either accept or reject the grace of God. Thus an individual must cooperate with God's grace in order to be saved, though he can claim no credit of his own, as any progress he makes is possible only by the grace of God.
Broadly speaking, Protestants hold to the five solas of the Reformation, which declare salvation to be by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone. Some Protestants understand this to mean that God saves solely by grace and that works follow as a necessary consequence of saving grace (see Lordship salvation), while others believe that salvation is rigidly by faith alone without any reference to works whatsoever (see Free Grace theology), while still others believe that salvation is by faith alone but that salvation can be forfeited if it is not accompanied by continued faith and the works that naturally follow from it.
Calvinists, who adhere to Lordship salvation, further understand the doctrines of salvation to include (but not limited to) the five points of Calvinism, all of which contrast sharply with Arminianism. In the Calvinist system, all people are born sinful (see original sin) and thus are in need of God to save them. God's plan of salvation included the appointing of the elect before the foundation of the world, according to His sovereign good pleasure. The entire process of being born again (or regeneration) is performed solely by the Holy Spirit prior to the person exercising faith, and, indeed, the doctrine of total inability says that faith is impossible apart from such divine intervention. All the elect necessarily persevere in faith because God keeps them from falling away. Thus, the Calvinist system is called monergism because God alone acts to bring about salvation.
Calvinists recognize three tenses of salvation as they are used in the Bible: a Christian has been saved (past), is being saved (present), and will be saved (future). These three steps have also been distinctly referred to as: regeneration, sanctification, and glorification. All three tenses are needed in order to be saved, all three are freely given of God through Jesus Christ, and all three together constitute the full biblical meaning of salvation. Calvinists confirm, according to Romans 8:30 & Philippians 1:6, that the presence of the first (i.e. if you have been saved) means that the other two will surely follow.
Churches of Christ believe that humans are lost in sin but can be redeemed because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, offered himself as the atoning sacrifice. The means of salvation that the members of Christ's church experience rely heavily on obedience to the gospel, especially distinctive in today's world, the understanding that baptism saves (I Ptr. 3:21). Churches of Christ reject original sin, salvation by faith alone, and a godless life. Churches of Christ depend on Christ, His death, burial , and resurrection offering the only hope for mankind. A believer is one who has reached an understanding of the gospel, then believed in the Lord with all their heart (Acts 16:31), repented of their sins (Acts 2:38), confessed their faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9), and been baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38; Col. 2:12; Gal. 3:26-27).
Like Calvinists, Arminians agree that all people are born sinful and are in need of salvation. However, they argue that each person can successfully resist God's offer of salvation and that a person can lose his or her salvation if one does not maintain it by continued faith in Jesus. Arminians distinguish between loss of faith and sin and believe that sin alone cannot result in the loss of salvation. However, John Wesley taught that continued backsliding could inevitably lead to loss of faith, and consequently salvation, if left uncorrected.
The Arminian emphasis on free will, or more properly, free choice is important in salvation. If one has free choice, each individual can choose to accept or reject the gift of salvation. The fact that an individual is baptized or associates with other Christians does not mean that he or she has accepted salvation.
Those in the Reformed Protestant camp frequently attach the label Semipelagianism to Arminian ideas. Many Arminians disagree with this generalization and consider it a libel against Jacobus Arminius, John Wesley, and the many other Arminians who maintain original sin.
Universalists agree with both Calvinists and Arminians that men are born in sin and in need of salvation. They also believe that one is saved by Jesus Christ. However, they emphasize that judgment in hell upon sinners is of limited duration, and that God uses judgment to bring sinners to repentance.
Within the emerging church and various branches of liberal or progressive Christianity, there are a number of different views on the meaning of salvation. This is largely related to post-modern views on Christianity as a dialogue rather than a set of doctrines. Salvation can mean a salvific personal and/or social deliverance from the effects of structural (social) or personal sins. In this context, salvation could mean anything from participation in a glorious afterlife – which is generally a less-commonly held belief in these circles – to a kind of liberation similar to that in Hinduism or Buddhism, to the repair of interpersonal relationships, to societal deliverance into a future perfect world (ie. the New Jerusalem or the Reign of God), and even to such concepts as gay liberation, women's liberation, the raising up of the oppressed and marginalized, or the equal distribution of goods. Any or all of these views are likely to be held and debated within the emerging church.
The Christian Science textbook defines "Salvation" as follows: "Life, Truth and Love understood and demonstrated as supreme over all; sin, sickness, and death destroyed." (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures p. 593, by Mary Baker Eddy.)
In the New Church salvation is seen as the process of spiritual rebirth, rather than an instantaneous event. Christ is not seen as an atoning sacrifice to appease an angry Father, but is seen as Jehovah, God Himself, come to subdue the Hells, make His Human Divine, and redeem people's freedom to believe in Him and follow the path of salvation He has laid out. This path is seen in the model of His life on earth. It is still believed that a person is saved by Divine grace, but that one has the choice and must stop doing evil actions in order to receive this grace.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints defines the term salvation in two distinct ways, based on the teachings of their modern-day prophet Joseph Smith, as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants. The general Christian belief that salvation means returning to the presence of God and Jesus Christ is similar to the way the word is used in the Book of Mormon, wherein the prophet Amulek teaches that through the "great and last sacrifice" of the Son of God, "he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; ... to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance. And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice;" (Alma 34:14-16)
Rabbinic Judaism teaches that "Every Jew has a share in the world to come (the afterlife)" (TB Sanhedrin 90a), and also that "the righteous people of other (non-Jewish) nations...", those who follow the elementary morals embodied in the Seven Noahide Laws, "...have a share in the world to come" (Tos. Sanhedrin 13, TB ibid. 105a). Although a person who sins may be punished either in this world or the next, punishment in the next world is in most cases limited in duration to 12 months (Mish. Eiduyot 2:10). Complete loss of a share in the afterlife (or, alternatively, eternal punishment; TB Rosh Hashanah 17a) is imposed for only a small number of very serious sins, most of which have to do with heresy. Even then a person can regain his share in the world to come through repentance and atonement. E. P. Sanders describes this overall view of salvation as "covenantal nomism".
Some Jewish denominations disagree with Rabbinic Judaism regarding the nature or importance of the afterlife. For them, the "world to come" may not be a significant focus of religious thought, since they emphasize that Judaism concentrates on the here and now.
Unlike Christianity, Islam does not conceive man as "a sinful being to whom the message of Heaven is sent to heal the wound of the original sin". According to the Qur'an, God created man in the best stature, with an intelligence capable of knowing the One. Islam teaches that men and women carry within themselves a primordial nature (al-fitrah) which they have forgotten and is now buried deep under layers of negligence. Salvation according to Islam is therefore remembrance, recollection, and confirmation of a knowledge deeply embedded in the very substance of our being.
In the Qur'an, God (Allah in Arabic), states (2:62): Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in God, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.
According to all the traditional schools of jurisprudence, faith (Iman) ensures salvation. There are however differing views concerning the formal constituents of the act of faith. "For the Asharis it is centred on internal taṣdīḳ[internal judgment of veracity], for the MāTurīdī-Ḥanafīs on the expressed profession of faith and the adherence of the heart, for the Muʿtazilīs on the performance of the 'prescribed duties', for the Ḥanbalīs and the Wahhābīs on the profession of faith and the performance of the basic duties." The common denominator of these various opinions is summed up in bearing witness that God is the Lord, L. Gardet states.
There are traditions in which Muhammad stated that "No one shall enter hell who has an atom of faith in his heart" or that "Hell will not welcome anyone who has in his heart an atom of faith" however these passages are interpreted in different ways. Those who consider performance as an integral part of faith such as Ḵh̲ārid̲j̲īs, consider anyone who does a grave sin to be out of faith, while the majority of Sunnis who view works as merely the perfecting the faith, hold that a believing sinner will be punished with a temporary stay in hell. Still there are disagreements over the possibility of a believing sinner being forgiven immediately (e.g As̲h̲ʿarīs) and in full rather than undergoing temporary punishment. (e.g. MāTurīdīs)
Muslims also believe that those who have heard the messages of a prophet of God (Moses, Jesus or Muhammad) but chosen not to follow will receive eternal damnation in hell.
Adherents of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism do not believe in salvation in the sense understood by most Westerners. They do not focus on Hell or Heaven as the end of a soteriological choice, but on knowledge. They believe in reincarnation (Buddhism rebirth) after death. According to this belief, one's actions or karma allow one to be reborn as a higher or lower being. If one is evil and has a multitude of bad actions, one is likely to be reborn as a lower being. If one has a multitude of good actions or karma, one is likely to be reborn as a higher being, perhaps a human with higher status or in a higher caste.
Eventually, however, one is able to escape from saṃsāra, the cycle of death and rebirth, through the attainment of the highest spiritual state. This state is called moksha (or mukti) in Hinduism, Sac Khand in Sikhism, moksa or nirvana in Jainism and often called nirvāṇa in Buddhism. This state is not one of individual happiness but often a merging of oneself with collective existence. Sometimes, as with nirvāṇa, it is a liberation from conditioned existence.
In Hinduism, salvation is the Atman's liberation from Saṃsāra, the cycle of death and rebirth and attainment of the highest spiritual state. It is the ultimate goal of Hinduism, where even hell and heaven are temporary. This is called moksha (Sanskrit: मोक्ष, "liberation") or mukti (Sanskrit: मुक्ति, "release"). Moksha is a final release from one's worldly conception of self, the loosening of the shackles of experiential duality and a re-establishment in one's own fundamental nature, though the nature is seen as ineffable and beyond sensation. The actual state is seen differently depending on school of thought.
Brahman is the universal substrate and divine ground of all being. Thus monism is the basis of practically all philosophies in Hinduism, including major sects of Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism. Even the Dvaita school of Vaishnavism, is wrongly assumed as 'dualist' but it is actually a form of dualist monism. In contrast to the Smartha sect based on Advaita philosophy which regards identification of Atman with Brahman as the means to achieve liberation, practically all forms of Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism view union via close association with God through loving devotion.
Moksha is achieved when the individual Atman unites with the ground of all being - the source of all phenomenal existence — Brahman through practice of Yoga. Hinduism recognizes several paths to achieve this goal, none of which is exclusive. The paths are the way of selfless work (Karma Yoga), of self-dissolving love (Bhakti Yoga), of absolute discernment & knowledge (Jnana Yoga) or of 'royal' meditative immersion (Raja Yoga).
Liberation, called nirvāṇa in Buddhism, is seen as an end to suffering, rebirth, and ignorance. (It should be noted that Buddhism doesn't have a concept of original sin, or innate personal corruption/pollution, as is found in the Abrahamic faiths.) The Four Noble Truths outline some of Buddhist soteriology: they describe suffering (dukkha) and its causes, the possibility of its cessation, and the way to its cessation, that is, the Noble Eightfold Path, which includes wisdom (pañña), morality (sīla), and concentration (samādhi). The means of achieving liberation are further developed in other Buddhist teachings. They are expressed in different terms by Theravāda, Mahayana, and Vajrayana Buddhists.
- Where there is neither pain nor pleasure, neither suffering nor obstacle, neither birth nor death, there is emancipation.(617)
- Where there are neither sense organs, nor surprise, nor sleep, nor thirst, nor hunger, there is emancipation.(618)
- Where there is neither Karma, nor quasi-Karma nor the worry, nor any type of thinking which is technically called Artta, Raudra, Dharma and Sukla, there is . (619)''
According to Jainism, moksa or liberation can be attained only in the human birth. Even the demi-gods and heavenly beings have to re-incarnate as humans and practice right faith, knowledge and conduct to achieve liberation. According to Jainism, human birth is quite rare and invaluable and hence a man should make his choices wisely.
Redemption is a religious concept referring to forgiveness or absolution for past sins and protection from eternal damnation. Redemption is common in many world religions and all Abrahamic Religions, especially in Christianity and Islam. In Christianity redemption is synonymous with salvation.