Comparative Soteriology (Salvation): A Handy Chart

Comparative Soteriology (Salvation): A Handy Chart September 3, 2018

TOTAL DEPRAVITY

CALVINISM Yes
ARMINIANISM See note
LUTHERANISM See note
CATHOLICISM No

All these belief-systems accept original sin and sola gratia: absolute necessity of God’s grace to be saved and to have the results of the Fall overcome (“total inability”), and deny Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism: the doctrine that man can initiate salvation. Classic Arminians and Lutherans (along with Catholics) are often falsely accused of semi-Pelagianism because they believe in human free will. Lutherans also falsely accuse Catholics of same, in their confessions, because we deny imputed justification, refuse to formally separate justification and sanctification, and assert merit.

Arminians and Lutherans posit a fall that is distinct from Catholicism and Calvinism, but closer to the latter. The main difference is that they would deny the notion that even good acts of an unregenerate person are evil, as Luther and Calvin taught. This is the strict definition of “total depravity” and relatively few brands of Christians hold it.

UNIVERSAL ATONEMENT 

CALVINISM No
ARMINIANISM Yes
LUTHERANISM Yes
CATHOLICISM Yes

IRRESISTIBLE GRACE 

CALVINISM Yes
ARMINIANISM No
LUTHERANISM No
CATHOLICISM No

FREE WILL 

CALVINISM No
ARMINIANISM Yes
LUTHERANISM Yes
CATHOLICISM Yes

Luther denied this, but Lutheranism decided to follow the thought of Melanchthon and others back to a more Catholic understanding.

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION 

CALVINISM Yes
ARMINIANISM No
LUTHERANISM No
CATHOLICISM See note

Thomist Catholics believe in unconditional election; Molinists and Congruists believe it is conditional only in the limited sense that God takes into account foreseen actions of man by means of Middle Knowledge. Man is still not causing his election even in Molinism and Congruism, because any good thing he does is always enabled by God in the first place. I am a Congruist, myself (a variation or modification of Molinism). But it is ultimately a mystery why one man chooses to accept grace and another does not, within a paradigm of free will. All views boil down to how one relates God’s sovereignty and providence to the free choices and free will of man: one of the most complicated questions in theology.

PREDESTINATION (TO SALVATION)

CALVINISM Yes
ARMINIANISM Yes
LUTHERANISM Yes
CATHOLICISM Yes

PREDESTINATION (TO DAMNATION) 

CALVINISM Yes
ARMINIANISM No
LUTHERANISM No
CATHOLICISM No

ETERNAL SECURITY or PERSEVERANCE

CALVINISM Yes
ARMINIANISM No
LUTHERANISM No
CATHOLICISM No

BAPTISMAL REGENERATION 

CALVINISM No
ARMINIANISM Mixed
LUTHERANISM Yes
CATHOLICISM Yes

Some Arminians, such as some Methodists and Anglicans, accept baptismal regeneration.

INFANT BAPTISM 

CALVINISM Mixed
ARMINIANISM Mixed
LUTHERANISM Yes
CATHOLICISM Yes

“Reformed Baptists” practice adult “believer’s” baptism; most Calvinists: such as Presbyterians and Reformed, baptize infants. Goups such as Churches of Christ and Disciples of Christ; combine baptismal regeneration with a belief in adult baptism. Methodists and Anglicans baptize infants. Pentecostals generally believe in adult baptism.

SACRAMENTALISM 

CALVINISM No
ARMINIANISM Mixed
LUTHERANISM Yes
CATHOLICISM Yes

Calvinists — except for Reformed Baptists — speak of sacraments, but in the end, their baptism and communion are mere signs of God’s mystical presence, without actually accomplishing anything themselves, which is the usual definition of “sacrament”: a physical means to obtain God’s grace. Methodist and Anglicans can be sacramental to various degrees; some believe in the Real Presence. Lutherans are highly sacramental, but have only two sacraments. Confirmation for them is sort of “semi-sacramental”. Catholicism and Orthodoxy alone retain the seven sacraments of historic Christianity, Sacred Tradition and the Bible.

Related Reading:

My web page: Salvation, Justification, & “Faith Alone”

My book: Biblical Catholic Salvation: “Faith Working Through Love”  [available as low as $2.99: e-book]

My book: A Biblical Critique of Calvinism  [available as low as $2.99: e-book]

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(originally 7-19-08)

Photo credit: Portrait of Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon (1546), by Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-1586) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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