For years I’ve been hearing the claims that belief in the Trinity and belief in the deity of Christ are not necessary for salvation. I heard it again this morning. A number of years ago I wrote a book that I never published called The Defense of an Essential: A Believer’s Handbook for Defending the Trinity. You can find excerpts of that book here (then you’ll see why I never published it!). But in the introduction (which is not excerpted on the blog) I said the following:
I can already hear the opposition shouting, “We only need to believe in Jesus!—Not some man-made Trinity dogma!” Well, this is but a half-truth as the Bible repeatedly states that we must believe in Jesus in order to be saved (John 3:16-18, Acts 16:31, Rom. 10:9-10, etc.) but herein lies the problem of that assertion: we must believe in the Jesus of scripture for this salvation, for there is only one Jesus that can save us. This Jesus as will be proven throughout the course of this book is God incarnate, the second Person of the Holy Trinity. Reject the Trinity and you have rejected the Jesus that saves!
My point then, which remains the same today, is that there is a particular source of salvation (God, who is Trinity) and that there is no salvation outside of this particular source. One can point to passages in the NT that speak about being saved through baptism, endurance, faith, etc., but they all presuppose a particular God in whom salvation is made available (and it should be noted that every reference to salvation isn’t a reference to the same kind of salvation, but that’s a topic for another day).
It’s not just any Jesus that died on the cross and rose from the dead; it’s a particular Jesus; and while I know that it’s popular to separate the so-called historical Jesus from the so-called Christ of faith, this is not a bifurcation that the NT or the early church made. The Jesus that saves is the second person of the Trinity. The eternal Son of God who became incarnate for us and for our salvation. There’s no difference between the Jesus of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed and the Jesus of the NT.
Now if the objection was simply something like saying one mustn’t have a sophisticated understanding of the doctrines of the Trinity or the deity of Christ then you’d have a point. But doctrines are particular ways of explaining particular content. The particular content of salvation is the Trinity. The resulting explanation can be as simple or as difficult as you’d like it to be, but the Trinity itself (which necessarily entails the deity of Christ) is the saving reality.