I'm interested in answers particularly from Evangelicals who might disagree with this idea, as well as those who agree with it. I'm especially interested in theological considerations — i.e. does this misunderstand the Trinity.

Essentially the thought came to me, if the Son is fully God, do those who have never heard the Jewish name of the Messiah (Joshua, meaning the Lord saves) or the exact details of his virgin birth, death, and resurrection, nevertheless believe in him (for salvation) when they trust in 'God' to forgive/save them? This excludes those who reject Christ explicitly (ie. orthodox Islam).

This would not be a universalist position, but a form of inclusivism. More like a psychological/conceptual faith in the Messiah/Christ/Savior. I'm looking for arguments for/against, as well as relevant verses/examples/doctrines. A similar question was asked here, but this gives it a trinitarian/soteriological bent.

For a practical consideration, Don Richardson (Eternity in their Hearts) notes a number of peoples geographically and intellectually isolated from Christianity/Judaism for centuries that had an underlying monotheism, and belief that this 'creator' was going to set things right if they only waited for special messengers bringing a special 'book'. Would their 'waiting for salvation' be comparable to some in Israel during the intertestamental period, waiting for the Messiah?

  • 1
    I have voted to close this as I consider it to be a matter of opinion. I know what I know because of up-bringing, country of origin, reading, conversation, tutorage and (above all) to the Providence of God which ensured that the gospel came to me. Then I know more because I sought more. (To him that hath shall be given.) The spiritual state of others is not my business and God will judge of all these kinds of matters in the day of judgment. Meanwhile, I testify when and where I can. (Like on here, for example.) The rest is just opinion.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 29, 2021 at 9:25
  • @NigelJ I appreciate your perspective on the issue, I think some sort of hopeful agnosticism is a legitimate perspective on this point, but I'm looking for some people's Spirit led bible-study influenced perspectives. Evangelicals make some pretty clear statements depending on the denomination and I'm wondering what other denominations might say, see, page 238 here for example: cdn.cmalliance.org/wordpress/cmalliance/…
    – ninthamigo
    Commented Nov 29, 2021 at 22:40
  • Thanks @GratefulDisciple, your answer covers a lot of points, I'm particularly interested in a trinitarian evaluation, does it confuse the persons? Perhaps this is too nuanced a question about too deep a theological mystery, just wondering if others have more knowledge than I.
    – ninthamigo
    Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 0:04
  • Some interesting insights in this question/answers: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/49022/…
    – Lesley
    Commented Jan 5, 2022 at 14:43

5 Answers 5


OP: if the Son is fully God, do those who have never heard the Jewish name of the Messiah (Joshua, meaning the Lord saves) or the exact details of his virgin birth, death, and resurrection, nevertheless believe in him (for salvation) when they trust in 'God' to forgive/save them?

There are a couple of paths to tread in order to answer from an Evangelical point of view.

Heard Never

There are those like from the book the OP cites who have never heard. If you never heard of Christ Jesus, then you can't deny Him.

Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. 1 John 2:23

Heard and Reject

There are those who have heard of the virgin birth, death, burial, resurrection (assumes this is the doctrine of Christ) of Christ Jesus and reject the Son of God. These who deny the Son of God also deny God the Father and thus God.

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 2 John 1:9

Heard and Looked Forward

The assumption of many Christian oriented religions is that a person receives one chance to hear and believe; that is, only when one is alive. If you never hear, if you hear and reject, they believe those persons will be banished to hell. There is some who introduce a purgatory idea in order to soften this blow.

If we consider the Bible, however, we already know there were some who looked forward to Christ's day, yet they died waiting. But after death, believed or received, and were resurrected.

And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised. Mt 27:52

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Cor 15:20

So, His resurrection triggered raisings of those who looked for Him before His virgin birth.

Heard and Believe

We also believe that those who die in faith will be raised to eternal life.

But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him. 1 Cor 15:23

Had No Chance

We now circle back to the tough part, to those who never heard, had no Old Testament. What happens to them?

It is written in the prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to me [Jesus Christ]. John 6:45

The only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. People may have "eternity in their hearts", but only through Christ will it be accomplished. When will this happen?

Then I saw a large white throne and the one who was seated on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne. Then books were opened, and another book was opened - the book of life. So the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to their deeds. Rev 20:11-12

So, to answer the OP, no, believing in God is not the same as believing in the Son of God.

Those who believe in the Son of God are in the first resurrection. They do not face the Great White Throne Judgment. The second death has no power of them.

Blessed and holy is the one who takes part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. Rev 20:6


Is believing in God for salvation the same as believing in Jesus as Christ? Does this misunderstand the Trinity? How about the Sawi people of Irian Jaya and their understanding of the Peace Child?


A mainstream Christian group's answer (including by evangelicals) would be NO, it is not the same conceptually, since we understand Jesus Christ to have dual nature, and the name Jesus refers specifically to the incarnation of the Word, which primarily denotes his human nature. But YES, those who believe God under another name do make contact with the Christian God who graciously guides those who lack sufficient gospel knowledge to a more true fellowship (metaphysically) and to a more true understanding (conceptually) of Him, since the Christian God is a living God who searches for His lost sheep beyond the confines of those who have been evangelized.

True conceptual understanding

In the Christian understanding of God, we are saved:

  • by being united with the human nature of Jesus (who is also the Word, his divine nature) and
  • by being given a share of the Trinitarian life (when we were born again) donated by God to humanity for those who respond positively to Him.

This Trinitarian God who is Wisdom (the Word, the Person of Truth) and Love (the Holy Spirit) works out our salvation (either synergistically or monergistically, depending on the denomination) in the sanctification process (for Protestants & Catholics) or in deification (for Eastern Orthodox).

Aiming for true communion with the One living God

Now Jesus's human nature (seated at the right hand of God the Father) keeps calling both believers and non-believers with His Shepherd heart who looks for the lost even today. The Inclusivism view (see the comparison table in my other answer) says that Jesus would communicate God's love and wisdom through the imperfect revelation that God imparts to everyone including those who haven't heard the gospel (defined as the true conceptual understanding of God and His salvation), such as the oft-cited Sawi tribe of Irian Jaya whom Don Richardson featured in his book Eternity in Their Hearts.

Of course the gospel can only be communicated in its perfect clarity when the Sawi tribe is presented with the Bible, to which they would immediately recognize that their Peace Child (in their imperfect understanding of God) points to the Biblical Jesus. Furthermore, when they learn the doctrine of the Trinity they will understand their God even more. So prior to learning the Bible, when their hearts respond positively to God accompanied by their imperfect understanding, the object of their response is the same BEING who called them, namely Jesus Christ the Shepherd who uses whatever means they have at their disposal until the feet of the messengers bring the Bible to them.

Reconciling metaphysical and conceptual knowing

I find it extremely useful to distinguish knowledge ABOUT God and knowledge OF God. Understanding who Jesus Christ is and his relationship with the Trinitarian God is knowledge ABOUT. But God through the human nature of Jesus Christ also communicates Himself metaphysically to every human heart, in the sanctity of their conscience, to whom they can respond positively or negatively, so no human being has any excuse. The response is knowledge OF, the Hebrew meaning of "knowing" (which is different than the Western enlightenment era meaning of "knowing"). So "knowing God" in the Biblical sense is "knowing being to Being".

It's part of the nature of our minds that when we know someone we simultaneously form a concept of that someone. So when they respond to God metaphysically (knowledge "of") they also formulate some understanding of the Being they respond to conceptually (knowledge "about"). Ideally, as in a fully discipled Christian's mind and heart (2 aspects of our soul), the knowledge "of" and the knowledge "about" help each other to know God more deeply metaphysically and conceptually. That is why studying theology can lead to better relationship with God and vice versa.

The "scandal of particularity" and the universal salvation plan

YES, I agree with you that when non-evangelized people developed a hope (using their own cultural terms) that the God they believed in would "set things right" and "waited for special messengers" to come, it can be characterized as "waiting for salvation" that is consistent with the Jewish expectation in the intertestamental period. God would justly and graciously deal with them the way God dealt with OT righteous like Abraham, Job, and David.

But to say that each culture will have their own version of Jesus would be incorrect; there is only ONE incarnation which happened 2,000 years ago in the specific city of Jerusalem. Of course God knows that the feet of the messengers (Rom 10:15) would not be able to bring the gospel in time for some people.

Saving them through partial revelation does NOT take the glory away from the gospel preached in full clarity, which is based on the canonical books of the Bible. NOR does it reduce the urgency, for a lot of un-evangelized people are in spiritual pain, although evangelicals taking the Inclusivism view don't have to be distressed that they will automatically go to hell. I think it is consistent in the Bible that Jesus himself will personally reveal Himself to all souls whom His apostles in the 2,000 year history were not able to reach them in time, maybe on the threshold of their death, so they all have the opportunity to accept or reject Jesus.


A people who don't know the Gospel would commune with God aided by their culture's conceptual understanding of this ONE Being of God. But God is not silent or passive. He would actively lead those who respond positively to Him (however He is conceived) to a better understanding of Him mediated through their life experiences. But although they commune (metaphysically) with the same Being (for metaphysically there can only be ONE Supreme Being) we cannot say that it is the same as believing in Jesus as Christ, who needs to be understood (conceptually) according to how the Bible describes God who reaches out to humanity through His Incarnation.


I'll try to address the question, but as others have pointed out, perspectives on this issue are mostly subjective, and this topic is quite a complex and multi-faceted one.

One thing to consider is the challenges that face the belief of 'salvation through Christ alone'. If this is the case, then how did the billions of people who lived and died before Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross achieve salvation? And what about the people who were/are unable to hear and learn about His sacrifice, not as a result of their own will, but the shortcomings of their circumstances? On the other hand, it is safe to say that belief in God is quite a universal and timeless belief. Societies all over the world have developed their own forms of theism and ideas of sin. The complexity of life and the universe are good enough catalysts to introspection for people to contemplate on whether or not there is a Creator.

Some Christian scholars, like Pastor Don Mackenzie of the "Interfaith Amigos", believe that readings from the Gospels that seem to support the idea that "belief in Christ leads to salvation" instead support the idea that belief in God Himself leads to salvation. e.g. in John 14:6, "I Am the way, the truth, and the life", it can be argued that Jesus is essentially saying I Am is the way, the truth, and the life, with I Am of course referring to God.

Now of course, I highly stress that more thought is put into this question than my own. Many argue that MacKenzie's view downplay Christ and that Bible scripture would've been more specific, and in addition, there are beliefs about the afterlife and hell that justify the problems associated with belief in Christ leading to salvation (e.g. Purgatory, in which those who haven't confessed their belief in Christ are given the opportunity to and to atone for their sins rather than face damnation), however, those views are an entirely different problem all together (The Problem of Hell).

It is evident that this question is incredibly complex, one with many layers, which is why alot of it comes down to subjective views rather than objective truths. I hope I was able to provide depth and nuance to the discussion.


I was deciding which side to answer from when I stumbled upon a verse which decided for me. Thus, I will attempt to prove that monotheism is not saving:

I'm going to provide that Scripture:

"For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse" (Romans 1:19-20, ESV).

His nature is apparent in Creation, thus anyone in the world, whether they know the Gospel or not, can worship the one true God, and be saved. But anyone who knows Christ and doesn't follow Him is condemned.

"Those people who are listening to Me, those people who hear what I say and live according to My teachings—you are like a wise man who built his house on a rock, on a firm foundation[,] [but] [t]hose of you who are listening and do not hear—you are like a fool who builds a house on sand" (Matthew 7:24,26 VOICE).

To put it simply, if you hear His words but don't follow Him, you are doomed.

"No one who believes in Him has to fear condemnation, yet condemnation is already the reality for everyone who refuses to believe because they reject the name of the only Son of God" (John 3:18, VOICE).

Notice that very important word; 'Reject'. If you hear but despite this, do not believe, you are condemned.

Not, 'If you hear, but do not believe, but nonetheless believe in one "god", you are saved.'

"[W]hoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (My emphasis, John 3:18, ESV)

Thus, you must believe in the name of Jesus to be saved.

What about the Jews? For this, I'll need to introduce some common terminology in Christianity, namely, the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace.

The Jews' salvation came from the Covenant of Works. We know they were saved (Jonah 9:2, among hundreds of others, supports this, look up "salvation" in a concordance), and the were saved by obedience. This covenant was made in Genesis 2, and worked up until the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Another theory that I would like to say is that the Lord is beyond time, thus His Grace could work backwards as well as forwards, and a Jewish faith would bring salvation also. This would mean that we could view Jesus as the Agonizing Savior, forever in pain.

Thus, a belief in one generic god is not the same as a belief in the one true God.


No. We must believe in both. They are separate beings.

John 17:3 KJV

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Note: The conjunction "and".

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