Major Evangelical Views on Salvation: A Small Brief Overview

Written By Thomas Perez. July 5, 2010 at 3:48am. Copyright 2010.

1. Arminianism:

A. Definition:

The unconditional choice of God by which He determined who would believe based on His foreknowledge of who will exercise faith. It is the result of man’s faith & freewill.

B. Notable Adherents:

Jacobus Arminius, John Wesley (I’m almost tempted to place Pelagius as a notable adherent, but refuse to do so, due to the fact that many of his teachings were not scriptural to say the least. Except in his view that Christ died for all men).

C. Historical Roots:

First appearing as a Pelagian doctrine in the 4th cent, but then reformed in the early 17th cent, by Dutch Pastor Jacobus Arminius. Wesley, while attempting to defend Beza’s view, became convinced that Beza and Calvin were wrong. Wesley later went beyond Arminius by emphasizing prevenient grace.

D. Pro’s:

Emphasizes the responsibility of man to make a choice. Also acknowledges man’s depravity and helplessness without God’s intervention. Most attractive aspect is its allowance for man’s freewill to choose. Man can resist God’s grace.

E. Con’s:

Deemphasizes God’s sovereignty. By putting God in a position of dependence on the decisions of a created being, this view makes it appear that God is not in control of His universe. Also, acknowledges the doctrine of total depravity, thereby requiring Wesley to come up with prevenient grace, which has no basis in Scripture.

F. Scriptural Evidence:

Central: No logical treatises can be found to support the Arminian position. Hence, they appeal to the universal character of God’s invitation to salvation; I Tim 2:3-4 is offered as evidence that God desires all people to be saved (see also Isa 55:1, Ezek 33:11, Acts 17:30-31, 2 Pet 2:9, John 1:12, 3:16). Many other citations can be found.

2. Calvinism:

A. Definition:

The unconditional and loving choice of God by which He determines who must believe. It is the cause of man’s faith.

B. Notable Adherents:

St. Augustine, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon

C. Historical Roots:

During the Reformation, Calvin picked up on Augustine’s emphasis on God’s irresistible grace, man’s sin nature, and predestination. Calvin was succeeded by Beza, who went a step further concerning predestination by teaching double predestination – the predestination of the damned as well (As seen in what is deemed today as Hyper – Calvinism). Such a belief was not the intent of Calvin.

D. Pro’s:

Emphasizes the holiness and sovereignty of God and thus His right to make such decrees as election to salvation. Rightly emphasizes the total depravity of man and his inability to choose what is right unaided. The overriding doctrine is the absolute sovereignty of God, who is not dependant on the whim or will of man. Man cannot resist God’s grace. This viewpoint is supported by an overwhelming amount of Scriptural evidence.

E. Con’s:

Deemphasizes man’s responsibility. Seems to eclipse man’s freewill and thus his responsibility for his sin. Critics charge that it is fatalistic and destroys motive for evangelism, Biggest problem: apparent logical contradiction to human freedom.

F. Scriptural Evidence:

Central Text: Romans 9:6-24. This demonstrates that election is based on God’s just character and His sovereignty. Therefore, He will not make an unjust decision, and He is not required to explain to man why He still finds fault with those whom He did not choose. Here too, many other citations can be found.

3. Moderate Calvinism:

A. Definition:

The unconditional and loving choice of God by which He determines who will believe. It is the cause of man’s faith.

B. Notable Adherents:

Millard J. Erickson

C. Historical Roots:

Primarily a recent interpretation.

D. Pro’s:

Emphasizes the holiness and sovereignty of God while at the same time preserving the idea of man’s responsibility. God’s grace is irresistible but only because God has chosen to make it so appealing to the elect that they will accept it. In other words, God enables the elect to want His grace. Thus God works His sovereign will through the will of the elect. Strikes a balanced position between traditional Calvinism and Arminianism.

E. Con’s:

Lacks a clear precedent in Church History. Borders on semantical dodging when it distinguishes between God’s rendering something certain and something necessary (God’s deciding that something will happen as opposed to deciding that it must happen).

F. Scriptural Evidence:

No central text is specifically offered. Erickson bases his position on the strengths of the Calvinist position and the weakness of Arminianism and is motivated by the apparent contradiction of God’s sovereignty and man’s freewill. He would lean to the Calvinist position in most passages.

4. Universal Salvation: What I Favor.

NOTE: I felt it was necessary to go a bit in depth due to the lack of knowledge concerning this early Christian concept and belief.

A. Definition:

The concept and belief that all men (that is all individuals and not just sorts of men) will be saved. This concept is based upon the belief due to the evidential Scriptural underlining message of the all inclusive thought (inclusive as in its message) as used in the word “All.” But for some ardent Christian believers that “inclusion” is only exclusive in Christ. Many differ on this issue. Furthermore, believers of such (inclusion – like myself) do not see the impending wrath of God or His anger as eternal, or as a judgment carried out by, and through, annihilation, but as corrective, punitive, and fading; seen as a judgment for a set duration of time. Whether in this life or the life to come. It is where, or when, God destroys the sin, but not the sinner. The concept views God’s implacable judgments as a that of a Refiner’s fire. For God Himself is a Refiner’s fire.

B. Notable Adherents:

Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, once wrote:

“God forbid that I should limit the time for acquiring faith to the present life. In the depths of the divine mercy there may be opportunity to win it in the future state.” – Letter to Hansen von Rechenberg, 1523. (Luther’s Briefe, ii. 454.)

Others Include…

Clement of Alexandria, second head of catechetical school at Alexandria; Origen, greatest scholar of the early church; Athenasius, Archbishop of Alexandria; John Chrysostum; Bishop Gregory of Nyssa; Bishop Gregory of Nazianzus; Macrina, the younger; John Scotus Erigena; Thomas Hobbes; Sir Isaac Newton; Isaac Watts, hymnist; John Donne, poet; Frederick the Great; Ferdinand Oliver Petitpiere; Immanuel Kant; Goethe; William Law; Elhanan Winchester; Anne Bronte; Robert and Elizabeth Browning; Robert Burns; George MacDonald; Alexander Pope; Florence Nightingale; Canon Kingsley ; Bishop Westcott; Andrew Jukes; Canon F. W. Farrar; Lord and Lady Byron; William Cullen Bryant; Nathaniel Hawthorne; Hans Christian Andersen; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; John Greenleaf Whittier; Harriet Beecher Stowe; Charles Dickens; Lewis Carroll; Henry Ward Beecher; Johann Tauler; Hans Denk (Anabaptist leader); Victor Hugo; Schleiermacher; Canon Wilberforce; Hannah Whitall Smith, Evangelist and Bible teacher; Clara Barton, founder of American Red Cross; Christopher Sauer, Bible Publisher; Dr. Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independance; William Sargent; Marie Huber; Jane Leade; Abraham Lincoln; Benjamin Franklin; George Washington; John A. T. Robinson, theologian; Jacques Ellul, theologian; William Barclay, theologian and translator; Sadhu Sundar Singh, Evangelist; A.E. Knoch, Bible student and translator; Hannah Hurnard, author of “Hind’s Feet in High Places”; Andrew Murray, Christian writer and intercessor; Karl Barth, one of the leading European theologians of the 20th century. (Although Karl Barth did not admit to Universal Salvation, his teachings and conclusions led to its concepts).

C. Historical Roots:

“In the first five or six centuries of Christianity there were six theological schools, of which four (Alexandria, Antioch – where they were first called Christians, Caesarea, and Edessa, or Nisibis) were Universalist; one (Ephesus) accepted conditional immortality (annihilationism); one (Carthage or Rome) taught endless punishment of the wicked.” (The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. 12, p. 96; Retrieved April 29, 2007).

D. Pro’s:

God is the ultimate victor over all. This victory is not just over sin and death, but He is thus glorified by eliminating every aspect of its traces. Such a concept eliminates the belief of eternal suffering, eternal death, and/or that of total annihilation. Hence, His sovereignty is greatly magnified beyond that of any sin, devil, demon, belief, and creed (this includes Calvinism and Arminianism, or any decree of judgment). The death of Christ has acquitted all mankind of their condemnation before God, just as Adam brought the entire human race into sin (Rom 5:18, 1 Cor 15:22). Therefore, if the concepts of Freewill and/or Predestination prevails, the doctrine of Universal Salvation or Ultimate Reconciliation can not be moved, since the latter concept is to believe in the final election of all men, but each one in his own order (I Cor 15:23).

Hence, the teaching concerning eternal damnation is re-examined according to its original Hebrew and Greek meanings along side with that of early Church history or dogma as mentioned above in the concepts concerning our notable adherents and historical roots. According to the ‘Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry,’ “Is it possible for a Christian to be a universalist? Some will say no, others will say yes. My position is that it is possible for a Christian to be a universalist – note, I said “possible.” Furthermore, “I cannot automatically pronounce condemnation upon a person who acknowledges the essentials of the Christian faith and also affirms universal salvation. I don’t because I don’t see the scriptures doing it.” – As quoted by Matt Slick of C.A.R.M.

E. Con’s:

Although God desires salvation for all mankind, a person must respond to God’s offer of salvation and many do not (John 5:40). This con is expressed within the ranks of Arminianism, as in freewill; (man accepting the offer of grace). It is also expressed within the Calvinist approach (God revealing His irresistible grace to the sinner, to the point that the unbeliever will find this grace attractive and thus believe due to the fact that he/she has been chosen by God, and can do no other). Moreover, according to ‘Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry’ “Though belief in Universalism, in and of itself, does not automatically void salvation, it has the potential danger of allowing false teachers to abide alongside true believers as well as deny basic Christian teaching such as eternal damnation. Therefore, to determine if a Universalist is Christian, you must delve further into other areas of his/her belief system.” – As quoted by Matt Slick of C.A.R.M.

F. Scriptural Evidence:

To many indications directly and indirectly in the Bible to cite. At least over 150, plus many 1st century to 3rd century documentations of proof.

In Conclusion:

To further explain my belief system and how I operate, let me explain myself clearly. I am always willing to change if a concept is proven wrong beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus far, I have studied the many opposing views with much joy, fear, and trembling for the past 37 years, and have concluded or at the very least found peace for the past couple of years (2009 – to the present) pertaining to the concept of Universal Salvation. And so far, it has not been proven false by way of reasonable doubt.

Universal Salvation is a doctrine and belief that is often misunderstood. A true Universalist does not tinker with the Exclusive message of the Gospel. Moreover, the misconceptions that are often posted on many web sites that have articles refuting or exposing “Universalism” fails to refute its concepts properly. I have read many of them. Many of them do not know what they are talking about. Or many of them declare and hold certain truths but at the same time withhold theological and important historic information. Such is the case pertaining to the ‘Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry’ (CARM, founded by Matt Slick) who often tries to debunk Universal Salvation.

Yet, it will be noted that Slick observes a tolerance pertaing to such a concept, but all the while rejecting its claims. Furthermore, according to Matt Slick, “should we pronounce the judgment of condemnation upon a person for believing a doctrine that the scriptures have not stated is an essential? For those who would say yes, then are you not elevating the non-essentials to the level of essentials? It would be like a person condemning another to damnation because the latter believes in pre-trib rapture (or post, or mid, or even non-cessationism). Since the scriptures do not pronounce judgment of condemnation for a rapture view or a view on the gifts, then neither should we – and neither should we concerning predestination, election, millennial views, on which day to worship, charismatic gifts, etc., if others hold views different than we do on these issues.”

The issue of Universal Salvation is often ms-interpreted in its ref to whether it is exclusive or not. In other words is there only one religion that leads to God or do several? Or, is the truth somewhere in between? Few issues are as controversial and important as this issue of which religion(s) leads a person to salvation. The purpose of this clarification is to define three key terms related to the issue of the Gospel. Issues such as: Pluralism, Inclusivism, and Exclusivism.

1. Pluralism – “All major world religions lead to God and salvation.”

Various forms of Pluralism exist. For our purposes, though, the Pluralism we are concerned with is “Religious” or “Philosophical” Pluralism. Religious Pluralism is the view that all major religions are equally valid and lead to God and salvation. Thus, no one religion is inherently better or superior to any other major world religion. With Religious Pluralism, all the major religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam are equal. For pluralists, there may be differences in rituals and beliefs among these groups, but on the most important issues, there is great similarity. Most religions, they claim, stress love for God and love for fellow human beings. They also point out that most religions have a form of the Golden Rule. Religious pluralists also point out that there are pious people in all the major religions. Religious Pluralism became increasingly popular in the latter half of the twentieth century. The leading proponent of Religious Pluralism in the last few decades has been John Hick and the Jesus Seminar Organizarion.

2. Inclusivism – “One religion is best but salvation is possible in other religions.”

“Inclusivism” is the position that one religion is uniquely true but salvation is accessible to those outside of that faith. For example, a Christian inclusivist might say, “I am a Christian and I think Christianity is the most correct religion, but I also think there is saving truth in other religions like Islam and Hinduism. People of other faiths can be saved by Jesus even if they do not explicitly believe in Him.” Inclusivists do not go as far as pluralists in that inclusivists do not claim that all religions are equal. They do believe, though, that truth and salvation can be found in other religions. Some Christian inclusivists claim that the salvation of Jesus is unknowingly applied to adherents of other religions who live good, moral lives. Catholic and Inclusvist theologian, Karl Rahner, referred to such people as “anonymous Christians.”

The sixteenth century reformer Ulrich Zwingli held to a form of Inclusivism. In more recent years, Karl Rahner helped popularize this perspective. The Roman Catholic Church and several mainline Protestant denominations have also shifted toward Inclusivism in recent decades. The Roman Catholic “Vatican II Council” of the 1960s explicitly declared that people of other religions could be saved. Evangelical theologian, Clark Pinnock, too, has espoused Inclusivism. Traditionally, religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism have been proponents of Inclusivism as well.

3. Exclusivism – “Salvation is found in only one religion.”

“Exclusivism” (or “Particularism”) is the view that there is only one way to God and salvation. Thus one religion is uniquely and supremely true and all other religions are false. Christianity is often viewed as an exclusive religion because of Jesus’ statement in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” In addition to Christianity, the religions of Islam and Judaism have traditionally been considered to be exclusive religions. Those who hold to Exclusivism usually affirm that other religions possess elements of truth, but these religions do not teach ‘the truth’ that is able to save its followers. In fact, much of what is taught in other religions is viewed by exclusivists as false. It should be noted that some groups within Judaism and Christianity have drifted away from Exclusivism in recent decades.

Misconceptions Concerning Universal Salvation:

The following is taken from http://www.tentmakers.org

Quote…

UUA or Unitarian Association:

There is another kind of Universalism connected with the Unitarian Universalist Association. There was a time (early to mid 1800’s) when there was a denomination called “Universalist Association.” They had hundreds of churches with several hundred thousand members. They were also Christ and Bible centered. This denomination during the late 1800’s went liberal. It had financial difficulties and lack of members. Like many other Protestant denominations that were losing members, it merged with another denomination, in this case, the Unitarian denomination which was VERY liberal. Many Bible centered churches within the Universalist Association did not participate with the merger and became independent. Some joined other denominations. The UUA doesn’t even consider itself Christian anymore.

Clergy or Ministerial Diploma Mills:

There are organizations like the “Universal Life Church,” the “Universal Ministries,” and “Universal Churches” of all kinds, teaching all manners of things. Many of them are nothing more than cheap ordination institutions. Twenty-five dollars will make one an ordained minister with them.

New Age Movement:

There is a Universalism taught in what is commonly called the “New Age Movement.” They speak of a cosmic Christ, an ascended Master, one among many other ascended masters. Among the names given as ascended masters by these various New Age groups are: Sanat Kumara, Jesus, Kuthumi, Lanello, Clara Louise, Kuan, Yin Afra, Igor, Venus, El Morya, Lanto, Paul the Venetian, Serapis Bey, Hilarion, Nada, Saint Germain, and Maha Chohan.

This is NOT true Christian universalism. True believers in Christ have nothing to do with the various forms of the New Age Movement. There is only one Name under heaven by which one must be saved; that name is Jesus the Christ (English), Yeshua Ha Machiach (Hebrew), Iesus Christos (Greek). There are no “ascended masters” as far as true believers are concerned. Everything centers around the Father of Creation, His Son Whom the Father sent to redeem the world and His Holy Spirit, Whom Jesus sent to “lead us into all truth.”

Silly Name Universal Churches:

Because the word “universal” has such a nice all-encompassing sound to it, many people use it as part of their organization’s name. Some of the names are rather silly. How about “Universal Church Of Cosmic Uncertainty.” There is the “Rational Universal Church,” and the “Universal Church of Google,” or the “Apotheosis of Google.” Silly isn’t it?

Universal Redemption:

There is another term which is often confused with the teaching of Universalism as prophesied by the Hebrew prophets and confirmed by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah and as preached by the apostles and writers of the New Covenant (Testament) Scriptures, and that is, “universal redemption.” Men like John Wesley made much use of that term. By “universal redemption” John Wesley meant that salvation was available to all mankind, but not that everyone would be saved. John Wesley wrote much on this subject because there was another teaching that was being taught which he greatly hated, the teaching of John Calvin who was perpetuating Augustine’s doctrine of election (a doctrine that most true Universalists would uphold to in ref to Christ calling out the Church, the elect, the chosen, the evangel, to thus declare His salvation message in a dark world. Seeing that God always had a chosen people set aside to declare His truth, whether that included the Hebrew nation or an individual prophet, or a Christian believer). Wesley’s “universal redemption” doctrine refuted Calvinism and Augustinianism, but to no effect. While John Wesley’s “universal redemption” doctrine is certainly more palatable than that of Calvin’s follower Beza, in ref to Beza’s “double predestination” doctrines, it still falls short of God’s plan of redemption.

End of Quote.

2 thoughts on “Major Evangelical Views on Salvation: A Small Brief Overview

  1. I am genuinely thankful to the owner of this website who has shared this enormous paragraph
    at at this time.

  2. Thank you. I’m the author/owner of this site. My name is Thomas Perez. Glad you enjoyed it. I try to be thorough as I can. I like to examine every aspect when needed. Hope you enjoy the other articles as well. Feel free to comment whenever you want, even if you disagree.

    Blessings,
    Thomas

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