Salvation based on belief in the Trinity: It seems the thief on the cross was saved, I doubt that he fully understood the Trinity. Maybe Zacchaeus didn't understand the Trinity completely either. While the Trinity is important to understand, ultimately it is a changed heart that leads a man to repentance and belief in Christ.
This is a first for me. I have heard a lot of pastors say it is important to BELIEVE in the Trinity but I have never heard anyone say it is important to UNDERSTAND the Trinity. The reason why you are the first person I have heard mention this is because NOBODY can UNDERSTAND the Trinity. If you, or anyone else, can fully understand the Trinity then you need to write a book. Trust me, if you can logically fill all the holes apparent in the doctrine then you need to write a book and let everyone know that you solved the mystery to the doctrine of the Trinity.
You are conflating the two claims of Understanding and Believing. The two words mean two different things. For instance, you BELIEVE that Samson's hair gave him strength but you don't UNDERSTAND how his hair makes him strong.
Like I said before, nobody can understand the Trinity because it's like saying someone can understand how a square and a circle can be the same shape. It is impossible and incomprehensible to understand. For example:
You say that Jesus is one nature with the Father and is fully the one true God. You say He claimed it through the "I am" statement in John 8:58. So the bible says that God "knows all things". But then speaking of the timing of his second coming, Jesus says, "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone". So if Jesus is "one being" with God and He knows all things then why does Jesus claim ignorance as to the timing of his second coming?
I'm not a prophet but I am going to predict that the answer you will give me will sound a lot like you are trying to round the corners of a square to make it a circle so they can be the same shape. Nothing you say will make sense to me because this is a contradiction. My guess is that you will "round the corners" and say that Jesus didn't have all the attributes in His humanity. If this is the case, then He wasn't fully God. Saying that Jesus is fully man and fully God is a CONTRADICTION. This is one example out of many why the doctrine of the Trinity is impossible to understand. CONTRADICTIONS DON'T MAKE SENSE TO HUMANS WHO ARE LOGICAL!
Here is a comparison for you:
TRUTH is to FALSEHOOD like DIVINE INSPIRATION is to CONTRADICTION
Believing Jesus is the eternal Son, that the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of man to bring him to salvation, and in the Father is all plenty of understanding for most people. Because it's what the bible says.
Here's another comparison for you:
The words "Eternal Son" put together are not in the Bible like The word Trinity is not in the bible
And you say it's what the bible says??? Maybe it's what YOU say the bible says. I'll challenge you on this claim that the bible teaches the Son is eternal (no beginning). Warning: It will get "scholarly" again. By the way, I'm still waiting for a rebuttal to BeDuhn's "scholarly" arguments concerning the "I am".
But this is something that I'm interested to know about you. When you were a Christian, did you believe that it was absolutely necessary to have just the right view of the Trinity? That salvation depended upon intellect and knowlege?
As a Christian I believed that Children before the age of accountability (whatever age that is) were saved without intellect and knowledge no matter what. Individuals who were mentally disabled, etc. fell into this category for me as well. Why did I believe this? I don't know. I think I was creating God in my own image because there is not too much scriptural backing to support this view I had.
Everybody else after the age of accountability (whatever age that is) was responsible for their salvation. They were supposed to work out their salvation with fear and trembling as Paul puts it. And yes, intellect and knowledge played a role. People had to KNOW they were sinners and repent from their sins and have the INTELLECT to believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God and that he died on the cross as a sacrificial atonement for one's sins and rose again.
This was pretty much as far as I went when it came to the requirement of intellect, knowledge and belief one had to have in order to be saved. I didn't think people had to have "just the right view of the Trinity" because I didn't think the bible taught the Trinity.
I don't think you would find the concept of the Trinity if you were stuck on an island alone and found a bible and read it for the first time. I seriously doubt that you would pull the doctrine of the Trinity out of it. I don't think you would say, "That was cool that God revealed himself as one being in the Old Testament but then as one being in three persons that are co-equal, co-eternal, and consubstantial in the New Testament". Who knows, I could be wrong. It's just a guess on my part. I believe that the doctrine of the Trinity is taught through INDOCTRINATION. It won't take you that long to think about this but how did you come up with the idea that Jesus was claiming to be God by saying "I am" in John 8:58? I'm going to make another guess and say that you did not discover this on your own but THE CHURCH made this connection for you. I don't think you would have ever made this connection on your own if you were on an island alone reading the bible from cover to cover.
In addition, through indoctrinating people, fear is added to the process by saying that the people who do not believe in the Trinity are involved in a cult. I saw this first hand. I've read a lot of material concerning this issue. Every non-trinitarian "Christian" group is considered a cult according to the majority of Christians.
I never let the doctrine of the Trinity (or Binity) overlap into the doctrine of salvation. As a Christian I would have said your gospel is to "inclusive" as you would have to say that one has to believe that Jesus is the "I am" of the Old Testament in order to be saved. Because you believe that Jesus claims to be God by saying "I am" in John 8:58 you would have to say that one will "die in their sins" if they don't believe that Jesus is the "I am" (John 8:24). Am I wrong? I don't want to misrepresent your gospel.
If you agree, then I would have said that you are adding to the gospel of salvation by making this belief a requirement and are accursed in Paul's eyes (Gal. 1:9).
Here's another question: Where does a non-trinitarian gospel lead a person?
My answer to where a non-trinitarian gospel leads a person will be threefold (or a trinity):1. Personally
, a non-trinitarian gospel led me to pastoring my own home fellowship for about 6 months. I was OSTRACIZED from my church. The closest church that shared my non-trinitarian gospel was 50 miles away and I could not make the drive every week.2. Eternally
I will mention five options:
1. Your gospel is right and the non-trinitarians will go to hell
2. The non-trinitarian gospel is right and you will go to hell
3. Trinitarian's and non-trinitarians will go to hell
4. Trinitarian's and non-trinitarians go to heaven
5. Nobody goes to heaven or hell because God doesn't exist.
My guess is #5!3.Historically
, a non-trinitarian gospel has led people to EXCOMMUNICATION from the church.
One example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arius
A non-trinitarian gospel has led people to PUNISHMENT AND IMPRISONMENT.
A non-trinitarian gospel has led people to DEATH.
One example: http://www.evangelicaloutreach.org/michael-servetus.htm
This last example I found interesting. Michael Servetus was a participator of the protestant reformation. He was a non-trinitarian that John Calvin was instrumental in putting to death. By order of the Protestant Geneva Governing Council, which John Calvin has association with, Michael Servetus was convicted of being against infant baptism and denying the trinity. John Calvin said, "I hope that sentence of death will at least be passed on him, but I desire that the severity of the punishment be mitigated". Servetus was burned at the stake with what was believed to be the last copy of his book chained to his leg. Historians record that his last words were, "Jesus, son of the eternal God have mercy on me". Notice Servetus didn't say "Jesus, the eternal God have mercy on me".
If the Christian God exists, all this is mind boggling to me. I'm sure you think that God is all-knowing as 1 John 3:20 suggests. So God would have known when he "inspired" his word back in the first century that there was not enough information in the bible for human brains to figure out concerning his nature. Also, since god is all knowing then he must have known all the disagreement, excommunications and killings that would result from this unclear and confusing doctrine.
Don't you think God could have clearly explained the doctrine of the trinity better in his revealed word? Don't you think the nature of the Godhead could have been expressed more clearly in the bible to avoid disagreements, excommunications, and killings? In fact, a MAN who tampered with the bible spelled the doctrine of the trinity out more clearly than God did. In the King James Version we find 1 John 5:7 say, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one". This is the clearest expression of the trinitarian concept in the bible. However, this verse is not found in ANY of the earliest Greek manuscripts. You can't find this verse in any of the new testament manuscripts before the sixteenth century. This tells me that a MAN who tampered with the bible could express the trinity clearer than God.
If the omniscient Christian God exists, my only conclusion as an outsider is that God didn't want to communicate the doctrine of the trinity clearly in his revealed word because he likes to see his children disagree, excommunicate, and kill one another over an unclear, confusing and contradictory doctrine found in his revealed word.
Regarding the unity of the church and common belief: The short answer is that there are essentials of the faith that unite people. Salvation by grace through faith in Christ as the final attonement for our sin, is the one thing that unites people.
I find it fascinating that you used the word "essentials". You know, I looked up the word "essentials" through blue letter bible (NASB). The word "essentials" only appears in the bible once and it's in Acts 15:28 (NASB):
“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials
You want to know what the "essentials" are? Verse 29: "that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication".
Let me ask you this PH. Does your "unity" with your fellow Christians involve saaaay, abstaining from blood? If you ask me, the JW's who are considered heretics follow the bible more closely as to obeying the "essintials" of the New Testament Church than you do. Maybe I'm wrong. Can you BIBLICALLY explain to me why the "unity" with your fellow Christians should not involve abstaining from blood and from things strangled?
Man says, "salvation by grace through faith in Christ as the final atonement for our sin, is the one thing
that unites people". The alleged word of God suggests something different.