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Religion Library: Protestantism

Human Nature and the Purpose of Existence

Written by: Ted Vial

More liberal versions of Protestant traditions, holding to a more positive or optimistic view of human persons, often do not believe that the human race ever did fall into a profoundly corrupted, and certainly not a damnable, condition. Thus salvation involves a reordering of life and a renewal of thought and understanding so that humans choose what is good and right, not a supernatural atonement. Humans are not helpless, merely willful and ignorant.

Nearly all Protestants recognize the critical role of faith in recovering a renewed relationship with God. Faith is, in large part, an openness to and reliance upon God's forgiveness. Without faith, it is impossible to receive forgiveness, and without forgiveness a loving relationship with God is impossible in this life and in the next. Life without God in this world is darkness and death; life without God in eternity is hell.

All believe that salvation is marked by gratitude to God for the gift of forgiveness. All Protestants expect a change in behavior after conversion, improved moral behavior marked not by a fear of hell but by a genuine desire to do God's will. They disagree, however, on the extent to which godly behavior is possible. Some tend to emphasize that humans will never in this life achieve a state of pure holiness, though they are enabled by God's grace to live lives of love and service, however imperfectly, to God and others. Others teach that the Holy Spirit can empower them to live without any willful sin.

Study Questions:
1.     What is the purpose of human existence?
2.     How did Adam and Eve model the perfect relationship with God? How did they destroy it?
3.     What has sin done to the purpose of existence?
4.     What is Christ’s role in salvation?


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