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In Christianity, salvation is arguably the most important spiritual concept, second only to the divinity of Jesus Christ. The term is also used in the study of Buddhism as a technical term for the discourse that has to do with the attainment of nirvana.

For many Christians, the primary goal of religion is to attain salvation. (Others maintain that the primary goal of Christians is to do the will of God, or that the two are equivalent.) In many traditions, attaining salvation is synonymous with going to heaven after death, while some traditions place a stronger emphasis on the belief that salvation represents a changed life while on Earth. Many elements of Christian theology explain why salvation is needed and how to attain it.

The existence of salvation is contingent upon there being some sort of unsaved state from which the individual (or mankind) is to be redeemed. To most Protestant and Catholic Christians, this is the state of original sin, inherited from the Fall of Adam and Eve. The Orthodox churches do not accept original sin in terms of inherited guilt, viewing salvation as a ladder of spiritual improvement and healing of a human nature that was damaged or injured in the Fall. Most Christians believe that humanity was created sinless, but after the Fall, needed a Savior to restore us into a right relationship with God. This Savior redeemed people from sin, and Jesus was (and is) this Savior.

Within Gnosticism, salvation was achieved through exclusive inner knowledge (see gnosis). Many non-Christian traditions have some parallel to salvation, some redeemed spiritual state that it is desirable that the believer or mankind attain. Examples include the Buddhist goal of Nirvana, the Hindu aim Moksha and the Kabbalist/Judaic tikkun olam ("repairing the world").

Christian views of salvation

In Western Christianity the doctrine of salvation, or soteriology, falls roughly into two points of view - Calvinism and Arminianism, though there are numerous variations within and in between these two "extremes" (including, but not limited to Amyraldism and Pelagianism). Calvinism follows the teachings of Augustine and John Calvin emphasizing total depravity,unconditional election,limited atonement, irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints. Arminianism, named for Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius, teaches general depravity, conditional election, general atonement, free will, and apostasy. Topics such as atonement, election, regeneration, and all components of what most theologians consider salvation.

A third point of view, universal salvation, became popular especially in America starting during the Second Great Awakening. This point of view states that all people, regardless of creed or belief, will eventually be saved and go to heaven, and is the central theme of Universalism and Unitarianism. In more colloquial terms it is often stated as "God is too loving to damn anyone". Many Christians find this view to be heretical because it implies that non-Christian religions can be correct, and that there may be paths to salvation other than through the grace of Christ.

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, and with less exacting precision. Instead, it views salvation more along the lines of theosis, a concept that has been developed over the centuries by many different Eastern Orthodox Christians.

New Testament passages

For Christians, the Biblical approach to salvation begins in the Scriptures of the New Testament. Many of these texts are found in the Epistle to the Romans, largely because that Epistle contains the most comprehensive theological statement by Saint Paul of Tarsus. Because of this, some Protestant Christian denominations have called these texts the Romans road.

Some key passages in the New Testament concerning salvation include:

See also: sin, born again