ARCIC Agreed Statement on Salvation and the Church


The ARCIC participants chose, rather than arguing over the mechanics of justification, faith and grace, to put all of these within the context of the theology of salvation. The following are summaries of the four issues which dominated 16th Century theological controversy but which ARCIC has brought within a commonly agreed framework:

1. Salvation and Faith

1.1 16th Century Positions

  1. Catholics and Protestants held that confidence in God is a sign of Christian hope
  2. Catholics feared that the Protestant combination of assurance and predestination neglected the efficacy of a holy life
  3. Protestants, suspecting a Catholic lack of confidence in the sufficiency of Christ's work saw them lapsing into scrupulosity and legalism, losing assurance and hope.

1.2 The ARCIC Synthesis

  1. The Father's purpose for creation and salvation is realised in the Son, whom he sent to redeem us and to prepare a people for himself by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
  2. The unmerited love of God is expressed in the language of grace
  3. The Spirit makes the fruits of Christ's sacrifice actual within the Church through Word and Sacrament
  4. The human response to God is a gift of grace and is a truly human, personal response
  5. It is through grace that God's new creation is realised
  6. Salvation is the gift of grace appropriated through faith
  7. The gracious action of God is revealed in the Gospel, proclaiming Christ's atoning work and the certainty of God's promise of eternal life
  8. It is God's gracious will that we should be confident that the gift of eternal life is assured to each of us
  9. Living faith is inseparable from love, shown in good works and a holy life
  10. Assurance does not resolve us from working out our salvation in fear and trembling
  11. Christian assurance is not presumptuous; it is founded on God's faithfulness and not our response
  12. God gives us what means we need through Word and Sacrament
  13. Christians are not to depend on perseverance but in the assurance of grace
  14. Living faith is inseparable from hope.

2. Salvation and Justification

2.1 16th Century Positions

  1. Suspecting the view that righteousness might depend upon good works, Protestants held that God accepted the unrighteous because of Christ's obedience and sacrifice
  2. Catholics said that this left the sinner unchanged, ignoring the righteousness imparted by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

2.2 ARCIC Synthesis

  1. New Testament language varies on the subject of salvation but it is generally taken to mean the deliverance of human beings from evil and their establishment in that fullness of life which is God's will for us
  2. The language of expiation or propitiation denotes the putting away of sin and the re-establishment of a right relationship with God
  3. The concept of justification refers to the removal of condemnation and a new standing in the eyes of God
  4. Salvation comes to each believer as he/she is incorporated into the believing community
  5. Reformation theologians tended to think of Justification in the New Testament meaning of: "to pronounce righteous"; whereas Catholics used the Medieval Latin term meaning: "to make righteous", the latter containing elements which Protestants associated with sanctification, threatening the absoluteness of gratuitous salvation
  6. Catholics feared, on this view, that Protestants emphasised justification at the expense of sanctification and its human response
  7. Justification and sanctification are two aspects of the same divine act
  8. Justification is linked with the sanctifying re-creation of us in grace
  9. Pronouncing us righteous, God makes us righteous
  10. Justification is a divine declaration of acquittal; through Christ God declares that we are forgiven.

3. Salvation and Good Works

3.1 16th Century Positions

  1. Protestants thought the Catholic emphasis on good works and worship compromised justification based on the unconditional freedom of God's grace
  2. Catholics understood Protestants to be saying that human actions were of no worth in God's sight, negating human freedom and responsibility.

3.2 ARCIC Synthesis

  1. As justification and sanctification are aspects of the same divine act, so also are living faith and love inseparable
  2. Faith is not private but acted out, from which good works spring
  3. Works are truly good in their dependence on God's grace
  4. We are not saved by good works but are created to do them
  5. Good works result from our freedom in Christ
  6. Good works performed in grace can be flawed and only through penance can our freedom be re-appropriated
  7. We are just and sinners
  8. Penitential disciplines place no obligation on God
  9. Those who respond to Grace will be granted a place in The Kingdom
  10. When God crowns our merit he crowns his own gift (Augustine).

4. The Church and Salvation

4.1 16th Century Positions

  1. Protestants suspected Catholics of not acknowledging the authority of Scripture and thought that Catholics designated the Church as an intermediary between humanity and God, replacing Jesus as the sole intermediary
  2. Catholics thought that Protestants down-graded the Church's ministry, including divinely ordained Sacraments as the means of grace, and its divinely ordained role as interpreter of the Word of God.

4.2 ARCIC Synthesis

  1. The doctrine of salvation is intimately associated with the doctrine of the Church which is the community of those reconciled with God and each other, justified through Christ's grace
  2. The Church is a sign of the Gospel, for its vocation is to embody and reveal the redemptive power contained within the Gospel, communicated by the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church
  3. Christ's atoning work, realised and experienced in the Church and celebrated in Eucharist, is the free gift of God
  4. The Church is servant and not master of what it has received, working in the power of The Spirit
  5. The Church can be described as a sacrament which is called to be, and by the power of The Spirit actually is, a sign, steward and instrument of God's design
  6. The Church, always in need of renewal through repentance, is a foretaste of The Kingdom


Anglican/Roman Catholic  International Commission (ARCIC) II: Salvation and The Church: An Agreed Statement, 1986                                                                            KC VII/09

Related Study Sheets…