Collective salvation

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Collective salvation is the religious belief that members of a group collectively influence the salvation of the group to which they belong. Collective salvation can teach that the group is collectively one person by its nature.[1] The concept of collective salvation is sometimes taught in Christianity,[2] Islam,[3] and Judaism.[4]

Traditional Jewish theology predicted that collective salvation for the Jews would be brought by the Jewish Messiah.[4] The book of Daniel states that there will be both collective forgiveness for the Jews, and individual judgment of unrighteous people.[5]

This idea was promoted by Cyprian in the 3rd century, before the Edict of Milan, when most Christians were persecuted and lived outside of society. Augustine of Hippo also discussed this topic in City of God, noting that some taught that the entire Catholic Church would be saved. At that time many taught that 1 Corinthians 12:12–14 which describes Christians as "one body" implied collective salvation. Augustine rejected the concept, maintaining that people who live immoral lives can never be saved, even if they partake of the Eucharist.[2]

Collective salvation was often rejected by early proponents of Christian monasticism. The Desert Fathers of Egypt in the 4th century advocated withdrawal from society to focus on individual salvation through individual isolation and prayer. However, in the Middle ages monastic movements often gave more attention to the idea of collective salvation and devoted much of their time to collective prayer and prayer for the dead.[6]

Scholars such as Hans Conzelmann have argued that the concept is found in the Christian scriptures, such as the Gospel of Luke.[7]

Some Muslim movements have also emphasized collective salvation, believing that the Quran speaks of both individual and collective salvation.[3] Many Turkish writers have depicted an ideal transformation of society into an ideal Islamic culture.[8] The Iranian intellectual Ali Shariati taught that Muslim societies could find collective salvation through revolutionary political movements. He believed that much of institutionalized Islam needed to be transformed into a revolutionary ideology.[9]

The theology of collective salvation has often been linked with Millennialism, a belief which forecasts an imminent transition to freedom from human suffering and oppression. Proponents of Millennialist views often teach that collective salvation will soon be granted to a certain group. Some Millennialist groups foresee an earthly collective salvation, while other believe that it will only be granted in Heaven.[10] Many 19th-century American adherents to Postmillennialism believed that evangelism and charitable deeds could bring about collective salvation on earth.[11] Those who believe in Millennialist collective salvation often teach that there is both a supernatural gift and a human role involved in that salvation. Some maintain that the transition will be the result of a sudden catastrophe (sometimes called an "apocalypse"), while others believe that human progress will progressively lead to such a state.[12]


  1. ^ Max Scheler; Manfred S. Frings (1973), Formalism in ethics and non-formal ethics of values: a new attempt toward the foundation of an ethical personalism, Northwestern University Press, p. 554, ISBN 978-0-8101-0620-8
  2. ^ a b Everett Ferguson (1993), Doctrines of human nature, sin, and salvation in the early church, Taylor & Francis, p. 247, ISBN 978-0-8153-1070-9
  3. ^ a b Andrew Rippin (2006), The Blackwell companion to the Qurʼān, Wiley-Blackwell, p. 29, ISBN 978-1-4051-1752-4
  4. ^ a b Todd M. Endelman (1997), Comparing Jewish societies, University of Michigan Press, p. 64, ISBN 978-0-472-06592-9
  5. ^ Gabriele Boccaccini (2002), Roots of Rabbinic Judaism: an intellectual history, from Ezekiel to Daniel, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, p. 194, ISBN 978-0-8028-4361-6
  6. ^ Stephen Sharot (2001), A comparative sociology of world religions: virtuosos, priests, and popular religion, NYU Press, pp. 175–76, ISBN 978-0-8147-9805-8
  7. ^ Bovon, François (2006). Luke the theologian: fifty-five years of research (1950-2005) (2nd, rev. ed.). Baylor University Press. p. 284. ISBN 978-1-932792-18-8.
  8. ^ Ümit Cizre (2008), Secular and Islamic politics in Turkey: the making of the Justice and Development Party, Psychology Press, p. 67, ISBN 978-0-415-39645-5
  9. ^ Hamid Dabashi (2005), Theology of discontent: the ideological foundation of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Transaction Publishers, p. 114, ISBN 978-1-4128-0516-2
  10. ^ Catherine Lowman Wessinger (2000), Millennialism, persecution, and violence: historical cases, Syracuse University Press, p. 7, ISBN 978-0-8156-2809-5
  11. ^ Thomas Robbins (1997), Millennium, messiahs, and mayhem: contemporary apocalyptic movements, Psychology Press, p. 47, ISBN 978-0-415-91649-3
  12. ^ Eugene V. Gallagher; W. Michael Ashcraft (2006), Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America: African diaspora traditions and other American innovations, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 166, ISBN 978-0-275-98717-6