Salvation through works is the primarily Christian belief that you can be saved by doing works.

It can be stated in this way:

"If I do certain things, I can make up for my sins, and get to Heaven."

There are a few ways in which salvation through works is expressed:

The overall theme here? Works are fine and dandy, except when they get in the way of one's salvation. And for some people, works get in the way of salvation.

The opposing view is that of salvation through faith.

Note that this doesn't mean you shouldn't do works - quite the contrary, you ought to. It just means that they aren't your ticket to heaven.

UPDATE: Well, see to the right. Deborah909 kindly pointed out the lack of generalness in this node. I was focused more on those people who think exactly what I described under the good works heading. Apparently, there's more. Uh oh. I think my bias is showing. I'm not actually a member of either of the churches she lists. However, she has brought up a valid point or two.

So I changed things.

Thanks, Deborah909, and sensei, for your comments.


Actually, the traditional doctrine of "works righteousness" was that the works involved were the sacraments, such as baptism and communion.

The big argument between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestants was not over whether being kind to widows and orphans (even if you had no faith) was good enough to get you into heaven.

Disclaimer: I am not a Christian. I am correcting what I perceive as a misconception about church history rather than asserting my own theological convictions.

Actually, what constituted good works has varied throughout history. For centuries dispensations were sold as a means of funding the church. Liteally this implied that you could buy your way into heaven regardless of how you had conducted your life. This view has been discredited generally, but still persists in some churches.

For an interesting view of this you may wish to read Graham Greene's novel Monsignor Quixote. The book portrays a festival where important places are purchased by rich families, leaving the poor alone. I think this falls partly under the special works doctrine listed in s alanet's post. But imperfectly so, a special work ought to have some spiritual significance greater than exchanging money for status.

I think faith is the key to attaining heaven. But not the sort of faith where you go to church on Sunday, pray now and then and that's it. A theology professor of mine once said, "A person's religion is the rules by which they live their lives." Belief has implications. If you have faith, you must act on it. It is by these actions that we witness our faith.

In essence good works the means by which we bring our faith into action, to show that belief is more than mouthing the words. To divorce one from the other is artificial.

Yet the question arises that what if a person lives a good life, performing good works out of a sense of duty rather than a desire for self-glorification? If you go by what my professor said, whatever his stated beliefs, by living a Christian life he has shown that he understands God, even if he will not say his name.

While this view would be attacked by some Christians, I think there is evidence of this in the life of Christ himself. In examining the New Testament one is struck by how often Christ lifts up those who are seen as outside or marginal in the Jewish society at the time of his life. The Good Samaritan, the lady at the well, the tax collector and lepers and more are all evidence that Jesus walked among the outsiders and estranged. It was the Temple priests who had him crucified after all.

By your deeds you shall know us. That applies to everyone no matter what their creed.

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