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A ransom, of course, is some form of payment made to attain the freedom of someone held in captivity. Kidnappers demand a ransom of money for the safe return of their victim, for instance. Thus the idea is that Christ's death released sinners from their captivity. However, extended contemplation of this theory leads to complications. Origen of Alexandria, for example, pointed out that a ransom must be paid to someone. But it could not have been paid to God, since he does not hold sinners captive, it must have been paid to the devil.

Gregory the Great and later writers developed this idea further, suggesting that Christ tricked or trapped the devil. This rested on the assumption that the devil had acquired rights over sinful humanity that God had to recognize, and that if he exceeded the limits of his authority, he would have to forfeit his rights. As Rufinus of Aquileia explained, around AD:. Having swallowed it, he was immediately caught. In more modern times, Rudolf Bultmann and Paul Tillich offered existentialist understandings of Christus victor, interpreting it as a victory over inauthentic experience and unbelief.

However it is understood, the idea that something cosmically dramatic happened at the cross continues to be an important part of Christian belief. Christian theology and evangelism centers on the "good news" that Christ's death and resurrection opened up the way for salvation.


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The last article explored what Christians are saved from - sin, suffering, death and hell. We now turn to the next logical question: "What are Christians saved to?

The nature of salvation has been understood in various ways throughout Christian history. Certain interpretations have held more appeal for certain cultures or Christian traditions, but few Christians would argue that there is a single, "true" understanding of the nature of salvation. This article explores four major perspectives on the meaning of Christian salvation: deification, righteousness, authentic human existence, and liberation.

The idea of salvation as deification may be summed up in the phrase, "God became human so that humans might become God. The notion of deification Theosis in Greek is based on the perspective that when Christ was incarnate in the man Jesus, he did take on just one human nature, but all of human nature.

Salvation from the Perspective of the Early Church Fathers

He thus made it possible for the reverse to occur — for humans to participate in the divine nature. The understanding of salvation as deification has had considerable appeal in eastern Christianity, both in the early patristic fathers and in modern Greek and Russian Orthodoxy. Instances of this doctrine in the early Greek fathers include for example:. We are not made gods from the beginning; first we are mere humans, then we become gods.

Let us become the image of the one whole God, bearing nothing earthly in ourselves, so that we may consort with God and become gods, receiving from God our existence as gods --St. Maximus the Confessor On Theology, 7. The Word became flesh and the Son of God became the Son of Man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God --St.

Let us applaud and give thanks that we have become not only Christians but Christ himself. Do you understand, my brothers, the grace that God our head has given us? But to the righteous and holy, and those who have kept his commandments and have remained in his love…he will by his grace give life incorrupt, and will clothe them with eternal glory ch.

It is the entire gamut of the Christian moral life, according to Irenaeus, that brings salvation. IV, ch. The more we receive that grace, the more we are obligated to love Christ:. That means more is required if we are to reach the goal of salvation:. We have discovered faith to be the first movement towards salvation. After faith, fear, hope, and repentance accompanied by temperance and patience lead us to love and knowledge The Stromata, Bk.

II, ch. VI, ch, VI.

Need for Salvation: Sin and Death

Clement is simply teaching what he received from the earlier Christians, that salvation will require faith and conversion. Inner conversion will show itself externally in a life of holiness; without that, faith is barren. V, ch.

The Apostle Paul

And he also writes:. We make petition, then, that He supply us with the substance of His will and the capacity to do it—so that we may be saved both in the heaven and on earth On Prayer, part III, ch. Theophilus approx. I, ch. So, by obeying the will of God, he who wants to can procure for himself life everlasting Bk.

Origin AD , another Easter Father, would speak about having communion and friendship with God only if, along with faith, we lived our life according to the teaching of Jesus:. It is those who not only believe, but also enter upon the life that Jesus taught Against Celcus, Bk. III, ch. Cyprian d. How can a man say that he believes in Christ, if he does not do what Christ commanded him to do? From where will he attain the reward of faith, if he will not keep the faith of the commandment?

Labors that are endured and overcome all the way up until death, cannot fail to obtain a reward…. And this reward can be nothing else but immortality The Divine Institutes, Bk. He who would obey the gospel must first be purged of all defilement of the flesh and the spirit that so he may be acceptable to God in the good works of holiness The Morals , 2, 1. Speaking on penance, Basil believed that simply renouncing sins was not enough for salvation; rather, an act of penance was necessary as well:. Mere renouncement of sin is not sufficient for the salvation of penitents, but fruits worthy of penance are also required of them The Morals , 1, 3.

The writings of St.

Salvation Outside the Church

Ambrose, a Latin Father, would be very much akin to St. Ambrose taught that faith—not works that would lead one to boast—is necessary for salvation:. God chose that man should seek salvation by faith rather than by works, lest anyone should glory in his deeds and thereby incur sin In Ps. That means that with the support of faith, good works can stand. If they can stand, then they certainly do not lead one to boast in himself, they do not lead one to sin. These latter works can never stand, with or without the support of faith.

This implies that there is more to follow, since faith is not said to be the beginning, the middle and the end of the Christian man, as if there were no other obligations.

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Furthermore, the whole chapter of Psalm , which is what Ambrose is commenting on, is a treatise on faith, obedience and love. John Chrysostom, an Eastern Father, was very familiar with Pauline thought.


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And why did [God] choose us? This, he says, is the reason and the purpose of his choice—that we should be holy and blameless… Being holy is a matter of sharing in faith; being blameless is a matter of living an irreproachable life Homilies on Ephesians, 1, Augustine, a Latin Father, taught that righteousness consists of doing good works:. How speedily are the prayers of people who do good works heard!

For it is precisely in fasting, alms, deeds and prayer that our righteousness in this life consists In Ps. But Augustine made the critical distinction that Paul made, that Luther refused to make:. We do the works, but God works in us the doing of the works De Dono Perseverentiae , 13, What we find in the writings of the early Fathers is a consistent voice in early Christian life and thought affirming the indissoluble necessity of faith in our Lord and interior conversion that must show itself in a life of holiness.

Salvation by Grace Alone? - FairMormon

Catholic teaching is not only clearly present in early Christian life and thought, but it has remained remarkably consistent throughout twenty long centuries, faithfully handing down what it had received. Are we to conclude that the Reformers of the sixteenth century better understood the tenets of the Christian Faith than these early Christian teachers? Chris Erickson received his undergraduate degree in Theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He and his wife, Jody, married in and parents of six children, live in Hopedale, Ohio, twenty minutes from Franciscan University.

Salvation is from the word "save.