The idea of redemption is common to many religions, being based on people's wish to be delivered from sin, suffering, and death. Christianity claims that it has become a fact through the Incarnation and Death of Christ. It is viewed by theologians under the double aspect of deliverance from sin and the restoration of humanity and the world to communion with God.
While the Greek Fathers stressed the restoration of humankind to the Divine life (see deification), those of the W. Church gave primacy to the expiation of our sins through the sacrificial death of Christ and worked out their theology of redemption in connection with the doctrine of Original Sin. St Thomas Aquinas maintained that, though it was impossible that sin should be abolished as a physical reality, it could be repaired morally by the objective merits of the Redeemer, which, applied to repentant sinners, enabled them to cooperate with grace towards justification and sanctification. The Reformers denied the possibility of human cooperation except by faith alone, and placed exclusive emphasis on the forgiveness of sin and justification by imputation to the sinner of the righteousness of Christ. In the 16th and 17th cents. some Protestant and RC theologians, influenced by the teaching of J. Calvin and C. Jansen, maintained that Redemption extends only to the elect; this was pronounced heretical by Innocent X in 1653. See also Atonement.