The concept of mortal sin has been an integral part of the Christian message since the very beginning.
Literally dozens of passages in the New Testament proclaim it a fearful reality, and these biblical teachings were fully accepted by, and indeed expounded upon, by the early Church Fathers.
It was not until the time of John Calvin that anyone would claim that it was impossible for a true Christian to lose his salvation. That teaching, which was not even shared by Martin Luther and his followers, was a theological novelty of the mid-sixteenth century, a teaching which would have been condemned as a dangerous heresy by all previous generations of Christians.
In time the "once saved, always saved" teaching even degenerated in many Evangelical circles to the point that some would claim that a Christian could commit grave sins and still remain saved: sin did not injure his relationship with God at all.
The early Church Fathers, of course, were unanimous in teaching the reality of mortal sin. They had to embrace the doctrine of mortal sin precisely because they recognized not only the salvific power of baptism but also the damning power of certain serious sins.
The idea that one could never lose salvation would have been unimaginable to them, since it was evident from the Bible that baptism saves, that the baptized can deny Christ, and that those who deny Christ will not be saved unless they repent, as did Peter.
This tract examines the writings of the Church Fathers to get their take on the issue.
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