What is “Once Saved, Always Saved”?

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While “Original Sin” and “Once Saved, Always Saved” are mainstays of Western Christian doctrine, the Orthodox have quite a different view on our relationship with God. Discover the truth taught by Orthodox Christianity.

Familiar Western doctrines

“Once Saved, Always Saved” is a doctrine invented by John Calvin in the 1500s when he and Martin Luther broke away from the Roman Catholic Church. Western Christianity (whether Roman Catholic or Protestant) believes in Original Sin (everyone is born guilty of Adam’s sin and are therefore going to Hell from the moment they are born). For Roman Catholics and some Protestants, the purpose of baptism is to wash away Original Sin. If the Christian sins after his baptism he loses his salvation, but he can be restored through the sacraments of the church. Calvin believed in Original Sin but rejected the idea that you could lose your salvation by sinning after you were saved (whether by baptism or by saying “the sinner’s prayer”). For Calvin and those who follow his teaching, salvation means the event that removes the guilt of Original Sin that condemns one to Hell. Those who have the “event” are thus “saved” from Hell forever. Thus: “Once Saved, Always Saved.”

The Orthodox do not believe in “Once Saved, Always Saved”

Since the Orthodox Church does not believe in Original Sin, the Orthodox Church has no need of the new doctrine of “Once Saved, Always Saved.” We are not born guilty and condemned to Hell when we are born. We are born separated from God because we are mortal and finite while God is immortal and infinite.

Our baptism establishes a personal relationship between God and us and as we grow in our relationship with Him we begin to become more like Him. Salvation for the Orthodox Christian is the whole journey, the whole relationship that deepens and culminates with our being welcomed by Him in Paradise. Our God, Who is the only Lover of mankind, was humanised so that we could be divinised. St Athanasius put it this way: “God became man that we might become gods.” We call this process theosis or divinisation. This is salvation for the Orthodox. It is a life-long process.

God does not wish any to perish.

Our God is not looking for an excuse to kick us out and send us to Hell. He does not wish any to perish. However, He wants us to love Him freely, of our own free will. If someone who is baptised and following Christ decides one day he wants out and does not want to follow Christ anymore, God lets him or her leave. It is possible to believe for a while and then fall away. Jesus Himself taught this in the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-15).

Now the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.

(Luke 8:13 Orthodox Study Bible).

But if that person who leaves ever decides to come back to Christ, God welcomes the lost son back — just like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) — and through the sacraments of the church he or she is restored and partakes again of the Eucharistic banquet.

The choice is yours.


Learn more

Click these links to learn more about baptism and theosis.