What Does Christianity Say About Salvation? Six Big Questions
by J Warner Wallace
Every theistic worldview eventually asks a series of important questions: “What are God’s plans for us, His created children? Does God have a plan to reunite us to Himself? Is there a way we could someday meet God and exist with Him?” All theistic systems describe the manner in which its adherents are eventually “enlightened”, “saved” or “united” with God. The study of salvation is called “Soteriology,” a term derived two Greek words: “soter” (meaning “savior,” “deliverer,” or “preserver”) and “logos” (meaning “word,” “reason,” or “principle”). Soteriology, therefore, is simply the study of how we are “saved”. It is the reasoned examination of the principles defining salvation and describing how God will eventually unite us with Himself. So, let’s begin our study in a rather evidential way, asking six important questions and allowing the answers to these questions to define an orthodox Christian view of Salvation.
1. So, What’s the Problem to Begin With?
Before we can begin to address the issue of how we are saved, we have to be clear about what we need to be saved from. “What needs to be fixed?” Over the centuries, the answer to this first questions has varied depending on the group or theologian being asked. The range of responses can be divided into three broad categories:
It’s a Horizontal Problem (“Liberation Theology”)
We have separated ourselves from each other by failing to treat each other as we should. Salvation repairs the relationship between individuals and the larger society.
It’s an Internal Problem (“Existential Theology”)
We have internal feelings of guilt and lack of self-esteem. Salvation eliminates these feelings and provides self-understanding and self-acceptance as we discover all we can be.
It’s a Vertical Problem (“Evangelical Theology”)
We are separated from God by our disobedience and failure to follow his moral laws. Salvation restores the broken relationship between man and the God who created us.
The New Testament speaks to which of these three descriptions accurately describes our problem and our standing before God. The Bible declares we have a sin problem and our sin has separated us from a Holy and Perfect God:
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”
“For the wages of sin is death…”
“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
Our first question helps us define the initial problem: our illness is wrapped up in our sin nature and our free choice (and natural disposition) to commit sin separates us from God. Sin is the foundational problem causing our “horizontal” and “internal” problems to begin with. Because we have a vertical problem foundationally, we also find ourselves treating others poorly and suffering from the guilt and internal problems plaguing us. Let’s move on now and ask another question…
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