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The more I study scripture the more I realise that all those proof texts for the deity of Christ can also be interpreted in another way that points more in the direction that Jesus is an Elohim but not YHWH. John's gospel for example makes it very clear that when Jews accused Jesus of making himself to be God, they actually refer to Elohim and not YHVH because he immediately quotes from psalm 82:6 where it says "“I said, ‘You are gods; you are all sons of the Most High.’". As we know, even Moses was called an Elohim and this word is also used to describe people in an exalted position like judges and princes.

Since the Greek doesn't differentiate between the different expressions used for God it is often difficult to exactly know what this word is referring to which gives rise to different interpretations that equally can be justified to be true.

To me it makes much more sense to see Jesus as an exalted person rather than him being the almighty God. This appears to me much more in harmony with the TeNaCh (Old Testament) which also uses the Hebrew word Elohim when in Isaiah it prophecies about the Messiah.

My question however is, can someone who doesn't believe in the deity of Christ still be called a Christian, or does Christianity stipulate that you are only saved if you believe that Jesus is God Almighty?

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    Different denominations have different views on this. Most Christians are Trinitarians, but there are several denominations who don't believe in the deity of Jesus. Whose answer are you after?
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 22 at 6:52
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    In Trinitarian churches, mostly, you cannot take communion, or become a church member unless you believe Christ is God. Any fellowship which allows communion for such would not be recognised as a true Christian Church by Trinitarian fellowships. Apr 22 at 10:19
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    Anyone may be called a Christian, even if they are not. Can one be a Christian while denying the divinity of Christ? Apr 22 at 12:03
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    Some gatherings refuse persons to join them if the person believes in the Deity of Christ. Some gatherings refuse persons to join them if the person believes not Christ's Deity. What people call themselves, or what others call them is of little import.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 22 at 13:02
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    @Kris - Being a Bible believing, God fearing, born-again Christian has nothing to do with man-made creeds. Christians belong to Christ and follow Him, and not any denomination or creed. We will not be judged on the basis of which denomination we belonged to or which creeds we affirmed, but only if we belonged to and believed in Christ Jesus. That's why it's vital to know who He REALLY is, and to follow Him. But I'm sure you already know that :-)
    – Lesley
    Apr 22 at 15:46

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I would not worry much about different Hebrew names of God, as those early Jewish believers that believed that Jesus the Messiah was divine understood Hebrew a lot more than we do.

In fact, according to those Apostles: To reject Christ’s divinity is to reject Christ.

There are many places in scripture to settle the fact and it was one of the areas the early Catholic church in agreement with the Protestant church 1500 years later unanimously uphold.

The Apostle John is pretty clear about the divinity of the Christ:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all >mankind. (NIV John 1:1-4)

The same Apostle is clear that denying the Christ (that is by definition divine and eternal as stated by John above) means one is an antichrist.

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going >showed that none of them belonged to us.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the >Son has the Father also. (NIV1 John 2:18-23)

The Apostle Paul also is clear that Jesus was in his very nature God taking human nature through the incarnation.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (NIV Phil 2:5-6)

These few verses alone make it clear that it is essential to believe in Christ’s divinity to be a Christian.

In addition to simply rejecting clear scriptural references on his divinity and the early creeds of the primitive church who followed the Apostles doctrines of the New Testament, there are many theological problems if we reject his divinity.

If Christ was not infinite in power, how could he pay for the infinite punishment of sin?

To be a Christian there are only a couple basic requirements: believe you are a damned sinner. In other words you needed Christ. Then believe God took on human nature to die for your human sins and 3 days later rose from the dead obtaining eternal life for you.

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  • So from what you said I infer you would not accept someone as a Christian if he doesn't believe in the deity of Jesus? Am I correct? One correction to your post. You gave a definition of the term Christ to mean someone who is "divine and eternal". Christ however is the Greek translation for Messiah which means "anointed" or "anointed one". David was a Messiah and I don't think we can refer to him as "divine and eternal".
    – Tasso
    Apr 22 at 8:29
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    @Taso - yes I understand that the Apostles would not accept someone as a real Christian who rejected Christ’s divine nature. Furthermore if they actively taught otherwise but claimed to be a Christian then they referred to them as antichrists (something worse than a simple unbeliever)
    – Mike
    Apr 22 at 8:51
  • I'm not so sure about the Apostles since the question about the divinity of Christ arose much later. In John's gospel for example the purpose of writing it was, according to him, that we believe that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ), the son of God. He doesn't say you have to believe that Jesus is God. Jesus himself also refutes the claim of the Jews that he makes himself to be like God with quoting from Psalm 82:6. He affirms their claim with a reference to Elohim in the context of the Sons of God. I don't think you can call someone antichrist only because they don't believe Jesus is God.
    – Tasso
    Apr 22 at 15:44
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Anyone can be called a Christian, even if they are not. This answer deals with whether one may deny the deity of Christ and be a Christian.

And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. - John 8:23-24

The limiter is given as whether a person believes that Jesus is (is he). The divide is over who men consider Jesus to be. Some say he is a prophet. Others say he is an anointed man or some kind of exalted one. Who is he? This is the question and salvation, that is to say "being a Christian", hinges upon it.

Jesus asked this very question of the disciples and Peter, speaking from inspiration of the Father and on behalf of the disciples, declares:

When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. - Matthew 16:13-16

So we know (from God, through Peter) that Jesus is Christ and that Christ is Son of Living God. Peter also writes that it is the Spirit of Christ which was in the prophets testifying of the grace and salvation which was to come.

Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. - 1 Peter 1:10-11

The same Peter also wrote that it was the Holy Spirit (of God) by which those prophets spoke:

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. - 2 Peter 1:20-21

Thus, in Peter's mind, the Holy Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ are the same. Holy men of old spoke by the Spirit of God ... by the Spirit of Christ ... by the Spirit of the Son of the Living God.

This is not the only time in Scripture where the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ are conflated. It is, however, striking that the same one who received and declared the revelation (from the Father) that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God is the one who later had no qualms about conflating the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God.

It is not primarily an intellectual exercise to receive and declare as Peter has done: The Father in Heaven of the Son on earth by the Spirit of God/Christ.  

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  • Theological there is of course a way to look at scripture in the New Testament to see it affirming the deity of Christ. There's also a way to look at it in a way that affirms that he is the promised Messiah in the sense of a King (Lineage of David) and Prophet (like Moses) only, an Elohim but not YHVH. However, can those who make Jesus their Lord and Saviour worship alongside each other even if they don't agree on these points? Or are their insurmountable problems that make it impossible?
    – Tasso
    Apr 22 at 15:55
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    @Tasso I think the real issue is whether there can be unity in the spirit, same mindedness, and fellowship in the spirit between a person who believes Christ is God and a person who believes Christ was just a man. They cannot both be true and so they cannot both be worshiped in one spirit. Apr 22 at 16:54
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It is absolutely required in the New Testament for those claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ to believe that Jesus is Lord, and that God raised his Son from the dead. This is stated in Romans 10:8-15 and all of those verses need to be studied to grasp the essentials of being a saved Christian.

It is the public confession of Jesus as Lord that requires belief in the full deity of Christ, for that is to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved (vs. 13). But to show that from the scriptures would require a massive answer with dozens of texts quoted and explained. Equally, belief in Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection is vital for anyone claiming to be a Christian.

The significance of Peter' confession of Christ in Mat. 16:13-16 (as detailed in Mike Borden's answer) lies in Jesus saying Peter had that revealed to him by the Father. Grasping the full deity of Christ is a matter of revelation.

That is why I spent the first quarter-century of my life denying the full deity of Christ yet insisting that I and those in my denomination were Christians. I simply went along with the interpretations taught to us, some of which you seem to agree with. But God broke through into my life (in answer to prayer) and revealed to me that (as per John 1:1-3) "God was the Word" - not "the Word was a god" as I'd been indoctrinated with. It took two years of submitting to the scriptures for me to break free from the anti-trinitarian teaching I'd been brought up with from birth.

This means that my answer is "Yes" but that it is equally absolutely necessary to believe in this Christ to be risen from the dead. This is based on what Romans 10:8-17 states, where declaring the Lordship of Christ means declaring him to be God. Of course, all anti-trinitiarian people / groups will deny that, even if they agree Jesus is risen from the dead. The question is "Who is this resurrected Christ? Just a good man, or the eternal Son of God who made everything that was made (meaning he could not have been made himself)?

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