Sin and Salvation
The Nicene Creed states belief in ‘one baptism for the remission of sins’. Although the exact understanding of this has been a major point of dispute between Christians, there is general agreement that repentance and baptism are two means whereby people can experience reconciliation with God and welcome into membership of the Church.
The term sin has several meanings, including disobeying God’s commands, ‘missing the mark’, and, failing to live up to God’s standards. St Augustine of Hippo (354-430) is attributed with having popularised the concept of original sin (that we have all inherited sinfulness, from even before birth, as a result of the sin of Adam & Eve), although the Orthodox Churches argue that this does not render us guilty or estranged from God at birth. In contrast, Catholics traditionally consider early baptism as imperative, in order to remove the scourge of this affliction.
Major issues of contention on this topic (particularly at the Reformation) concern whether only the Church has the power to grant absolution of sins, but also whether forgiveness is subsequent entirely on expression of faith, or whether one should also follow ritual practices in order to experience full and lasting forgiveness. Furthermore, in light of God’s omniscience, debates have also been prevalent about whether repentance (and thus salvation) is due to an individual’s own concerns and actions, or whether God foreordains those who will be saved from sin and it is His ‘calling’ which subsequently leads them to be drawn to eternal life.