In some ways, the plan of salvation as presented in the Bible is very simple:
- “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)
- “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
- “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)
- “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
- “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)
But as the early church expanded in the centuries following the life of Jesus, a lot of conflicting perspectives on human nature, the nature and ripple effect of original sin, the definition of depravity, the nature of Jesus as the God/man and the efficacy of his crucifixion began to create the need for clarification.
As a result, the church had to address ‘doctrines of salvation’ (soteriology). It was a messy process. As church history unfolded, the church writ large occasionally gathered to address the implications of these attempts to explain God in a way that used the language and ideas of the audience. The controversy that followed looked like a pendulum swinging between doctrines that overemphasized either Jesus’ humanity or deity at the expense of the other, or perspectives on God that failed to account for the complexity of the Biblical revelation.