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Salvation in the Orthodox tradition

2 December 2010

My Protestant friends like to talk about salvation in terms of “justification by faith”, and “by grace ye are saved through faith”. When Orthodox Christians say that they find that inadequate and partial, the Protestants then tend to conclude that the Orthodox believe in salvation by works, and it is difficult to explain that Orthodox Christians believe salvation by grace even more than most Protestants do.

How can one explain this?

Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s the explanation of the Orthodox view of salvation.This is where Orthodox soteriology begins.

from the Russian Orthodox chapel in Dachau (which housed large numbers of clergy)

No works there. Just grace.

You can find a bigger version here.

And if you’d really rather have a thousand words, you can read Salvation and atonement | Khanya.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Alan permalink
    2 December 2010 10:37 pm

    OK: nothing in that icon about any works being required. But the Orthodox typically insist that works are essential (quoting James), as I just heard in the podcast of a sermon by a former Lutheran pastor, now Orthodox. So I must ask: For what are works essential? Are they essential as a *supplement* to faith, which is in itself insufficient? Or are they essential as a *demonstration* (“*Show me* your faith…”) of the genuineness of one’s faith, to distinguish a commitment of the whole person to Christ which (super-)naturally results in good works from mere intellectual assent to certain doctrines.

    “We are saved by faith alone,
    but the faith that saves is never alone.”

    If Luther himself did not write that, many of his followers (and Protestants in general) have said it.

    Similarly, from _The Heidelberg Catechism_ (1563; Calvinist):
    Q. 64 “But doesn’t this teaching [being right with God by faith alone, with works being unable to contribute anything] make people careless and wicked?
    A. No, for it is impossible for those who are grafted into Christ by true faith not to bring forth the fruit of gratitude.”

    • asinusspinasmasticans permalink
      5 December 2010 2:21 am

      What I have heard –

      Works don’t make you righteous like paying your debts make you solvent. They make you righteous like exercise makes you strong.

  2. Сергей permalink
    4 December 2010 12:19 am

    I like this image very much. Thank you.

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