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What is the Biblical basis for the belief that Trinitarian belief is not required for salvation?

The Athanasian Creed states

"And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons. [...] One cannot be saved without believing this [entire creed] firmly and faithfully."

It seems the belief that Trinitarian beliefs are required for salvation is somewhat common among Trinitarians, and indeed, may significantly explain why many Trinitarians view Trinitarian belief itself as being so important.

Yet, it seems early Christianity was diverse, with many not believing in Trinitarianism. Indeed, the first articulation of the Trinity as having 3 (unequal) persons is Tertullian, ~175 years after Jesus' ministry. There is no articulation of the Trinity as being composed of 3 equal persons for the first 3 centuries of Christianity.

For Trinitarians who don't agree with the sort of claim referred to above in the Athanasian Creed, what is the Biblical basis for the idea that Trinitarian belief (as described in the Athanasian Creed, for example) is not required for salvation?

Note that a similar question in the opposite direction is here.

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    For non-Trinitarians the answer is trivial, but there are some Trinitarians who say it's not required, and that is a much more interesting question. Do you want to specify whose answers you're after?
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 23, 2021 at 1:54
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    Could we start by seeing if there had a biblical basis for salvation being determined by the details of what you believe about God? Nov 23, 2021 at 3:04
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    @curiousdannii Good point - there are 2 questions here (although I'm not so sure the non-Trinitarian one is trivial). I'll modify this one to Trinitarians. Nov 23, 2021 at 4:34
  • @OneGodtheFather says "I'm not so sure the non-Trinitarian one is trivial". Isn't it equivalent to asking What is the Biblical basis for the belief that Ras Tafari (Haile Selassie) is not the second incarnation of Jesus?". Nov 23, 2021 at 16:00
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    @RayButterworth - Judging by the length of the answers here, I'd say it is not that trivial.
    – user50422
    Nov 23, 2021 at 16:32

2 Answers 2

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Both Old Testament and New Testament revelations indicate that there is a way of salvation which does not require the kind of faith described by the Athanasian Creed.

Jesus made this very clear when he was approached by someone who attributed 'goodness' to him. He stated quite firmly that there is none good but God and he reiterated the words of Moses :

... thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, honour thy father and mother. [Mark 10:19 KJV]

And again, to another person, Jesus stated - in strong terms - the way of salvation that requires no faith such as is described in the Athanasian Creed :

And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. [Luke 10:25-28 KJV]

This do - and thou shalt live - and live eternally.

Without any faith as is described in the Athanasian Creed.

This is the way which is set forth in scripture that requires no faith in, and no submission to, the doctrine set forth by Athanasius.

This do - and thou shalt live.

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  • +1 Glad to see this answer. You might want to add some statements in the Gospel of John. -God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (3:16) -John 6:54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. -My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, (10:27-18) Sep 12 at 20:47
  • @DanFefferman I think you have missed the point. Without faith, there is but a stone cold law, which has no life to give, only death.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 13 at 7:58
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Protestant answer. Simply, the Athanasian Creed is not Scripture. It is a 'doctrine of men'. We must be careful not to substitute man's teachings for God's, as the Pharisees often did. Creeds are useful summaries of the articles of our faith, and can serve as a litmus test to root out belief in false teachings, to prevent those who believe such from ascending to positions of leadership. But creeds not found within the text of Scripture should not be treated with the authority of Scripture.

Paul the Apostle teaches in New Testament Scripture:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9, NIV. No mention of the doctrine of Trinity here. Jesus is the Way.

Some things are implied here:

  • Belief in the God of Israel, the one true God
  • The God of Israel (not any other) raised Jesus from the dead
  • This confession is public, "with your mouth", not private, in your heart only
  • (By the way, 'Lord' in this verse is not the Divine Name and is not equivalent to 'Messiah'; it is a synonym for 'master'. Your confession is to Jesus' authority over you.)

Additionally, repentance as a precondition for salvation was taught by John the Baptist, Simon Peter and the other apostles. (For those two we have quotations of them teaching it.) Paul also taught the baptism of John which follows repentance to his student Apollos. He just doesn't mention it in this verse in Romans.

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

Acts 2:38-40, NIV. Jesus affirms that repentance is required for salvation in his famous dialogue with Nicodemus the judge. "Born of water and the Spirit" refers to the baptism of John; 'born of water' referring to literal immersion in clean water, and 'born of Spirit' referring to repentance as a means of spiritual purification.

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to spirit.

John 3:5-6, NIV. It could be argued what level of understanding of John's baptism is required for it to be an earnest thing. In my opinion, it is sufficient that baptism is accompanied by genuine repentance, given how John and Peter preached; but that is only my opinion.

But to my recollection, no Scriptural source teaches that belief in specific teachings about the Holy Spirit, including Trinity, or even awareness of such, are essential to salvation.

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    You have simply chosen a few texts at random and left out a multitude more - for example the necessity of being baptised publicly in the name of three Persons : Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit Matthew 28:19. This in no way answers the question adequately.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 23, 2021 at 16:56
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    Matt 28:19 is a commandment from the Lord, but he never declares it a requirement to be saved or to enter the kingdom. The question was specifically regarding salvation.
    – wberry
    Nov 23, 2021 at 23:39
  • 'Making disciples' includes (of necessity) the salvation of said persons : else could they not be termed 'disciples'. Once disciples, they are (of necessity) to be baptised.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 24, 2021 at 9:51
  • Yes, but I still draw distinction between how we are to make disciples and the "minimum requirements" so to speak for salvation. There are people, though a minority, who come to faith without any direct personal interaction with other believers, by reading the Bible or pamphlets, for example.
    – wberry
    Nov 24, 2021 at 20:50

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