The 7 Core Fundamental Doctrines Required for a Salvific Faith

In our day and age, many individuals hold various beliefs concerning various things. Everyone has an opinion about everything. Unfortunately, the post-modern world has elevated every opinion to the level of being factual and concrete. Such a mentality is especially problematic when it comes to religion and philosophy. But, if one is to accept the validity of Christianity, it must be admitted that certain beliefs are fundamental to the Christian construct. As far as this writer can tell, there are at least seven fundamental elements that comprise a saving faith. These seven beliefs are ground zero and cannot be changed without drastically affecting one’s integral belief system. Other doctrines logically flow from these seven (i.e. the Bible is the Word of God). Nonetheless, these seven doctrines comprise the pillars of classic Christianity. It will be the purpose of this article to examine these seven fundamental beliefs and describe how that these seven are non-negotiable doctrines for the believer.

1. Belief in God’s Existence.

Central to the idea of salvation is found the belief in God. Seeing that salvation is fundamentally based upon the notion that humankind is trying to build an eternal link with the divine, the existence of the divine is of utmost importance. Concerning the existence of God, let it suffice to say as does the psalmist that the “fool says in his heart, ‘God does not exist’” (Psalm 14:1).[1] As has been noted on previous articles, the existence of God is a necessity since we exist.

2. Belief in Human Sinfulness.

The classic phrase in recovery groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous, is “the first step to recovery is the admission that you have a problem.” The same could be said for salvation. Many have criticized what has been termed easy believism. That is, that one can say a prayer and expect to be in heaven while living like one who resides in hell. Such a mentality is not to be found in the pages of Scripture. In fact, one will find words like “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 3:2)! Even in the classic story of Jesus forgiving the woman caught in adultery, Jesus tells the woman, “Neither do I condemn you…Go, and from now on do not sin anymore” (John 8:11). Thus, one must come to the understanding that one is lost in sin and needs to be saved before one can be saved. This requires the understanding that one cannot work one’s way to heaven but that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

3. Belief in Jesus’ True Identity.

Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am” (Matthew 16:15)? The same question is posed to all of us. The New Testament writers make it clear that two fundamental features of Jesus’ identity are mandatory in order to have a saving kind of faith.

            Jesus’ Divinity

First, the order of Jesus’ deity is required. Oddly enough, this has become a somewhat controversial topic even amongst those claiming to be Christians. This was not so much a controversy in the early church. In Romans 10:9, Paul issues to the Church of Rome what is an early creedal statement from the earliest church. Paul writes that for one to be saved, one must confess that “Jesus is Lord.” The term kurios which is translated “Lord” is the same term used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament used by Paul and many of the early Christians) in the place of Yahweh, the personal name for God the Father. Thus, this identification of Jesus as Lord is representative on one’s acceptance that Jesus was in fact God incarnate (God having come to earth in the flesh). If one should require more evidence of Paul’s understanding of Jesus’ divine nature, look at the elevation of Christ in passages such as Romans 9:5 and Colossians 1:15ff. For this reason, many evangelicals (including myself) have stated that denominations and movements that do not accept the divinity of Christ are outside the umbrella of Christianity. I fear that this also may mean that such groups are outside the scope of salvific faith.

            Jesus’ Humanity

Oddly enough, the more controversial topic facing the church around the turn of the 1st into the 2nd century was not the idea of Jesus’ deity, but that of His humanity. Some who were influenced by Platonic philosophy had incorporated an idea that the spirit was good and the flesh was bad. This movement would be known as Gnosticism. While the movement took off in the 2nd century, the Apostle John battled this heresy late in his life. The aged apostle wrote things like “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:2-3). John goes on to say that such a notion comes from the “spirit of the antichrist” (1 John 4:3).

Thus, the New Testament writers make it clear that a proper understanding of Jesus’ identity is of utmost importance if one is to be saved. This is far more important than one might think for this reason: if Jesus was only a good man and not God incarnate, then it could be said that Jesus did not bear the sins of the world because He couldn’t. Jesus would have lived a perfect life for God and this would mean that individuals would need to strife to live perfectly for God. However, one sin would automatically disqualify one from perfection. Thus, salvation would be moot under such circumstances. However, if Jesus was God incarnate, then it means that Jesus lived out a perfect life according to His nature and would be able to bear upon His back the sins of the world. The entire basis of salvation hinges upon the identity of Christ.

 4. Belief in Atonement.

Stemming from the last doctrine and from the crucifixion of one Jesus Christ, the natural outflow of the two doctrines lends itself towards the belief that Jesus did come to provide a means of salvation to the one who would trust in Him. On the movie Life of Pi, the aged Pi suggested that the cross made no sense to him as he could not fathom how God would send His Son for the sins of the world. Yet, if one understood Jesus to be God, then one would understand that God did not only send His Son, He came Himself to do what people could not do for themselves.  The cross is the story of loving sacrifice. If one is to receive the effects of the cross, one must place their trust in the One on the cross and in the action that occurred for them. It is essentially comparable to one opening a gift given to them at Christmas.

5. Belief in Resurrection.

The literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central fixed point that separates Christianity from every other worldview in history. No one else can claim that their Savior or avatar literally rose from the dead. Some might suggest that a story was borrowed from Greco-Roman or Egyptian myths; a point unproved as to the writing of this article and astonishing if one would considers that the earliest New Testament church was comprised of mainly Jewish individuals. Nevertheless, what really matters is whether such an event actually did occur. In regard to the resurrection of Christ, little doubt exists as to whether Jesus arose from the dead. While time and space will not allow a full treatment on this issue,[2] let it be said that textual evidence, psychological evidence, extra-biblical evidence, and even archaeological evidence supports the notion that Jesus literally did rise from the dead on that first Easter morning. Why is this fundamental to Christianity? It is fundamental because one must acknowledge the fact that Jesus has defeated death and the powers of Satan through the resurrection event. In fact, Paul adds that “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). The resurrection is a fundamental to the faith.

6. Belief in Triune Nature of God.

Some belief in the Trinity is necessary for the Christian, as well. Why is this important, particularly for a saving faith? It is so because it flows forth from identity of God. Throughout Scripture, the Father is identified as Yahweh (meaning the self-existent One). Jesus arrives and is proclaimed as the “beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17) by the Father. Furthermore, Jesus identifies a third person of the Godhead in the Holy Spirit, even going so far as to say that the only unpardonable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29); that is to say, the rejection of the Holy Spirit’s work in Christ. Jesus also states that the Holy Spirit would remain with believers (John 14:17-18). Thus, if one were to reject any Person of the Godhead, it would not seem that such a person could be in right standing with God Himself.

7. Belief in Eternal States.

Finally, the belief in eternal states is imperative: heaven and hell. It would be quite fruitless if one spent time contemplating the need for salvation only to reject the rewards that stem from such a salvation; that is, heaven. The necessity of repentance would seem quite futile if one rejected the final judgment and the reality of eternal punishment; that is, hell. Whereas many hold various views pertaining to both, some viewing hell as a place of everlasting punishment and others viewing hell as a place of annihilation where a person would be eliminated from existence;[3] nevertheless, all under the umbrella of classic Christianity (in fact those who hold a saving faith) will accept the existence of both eternal realities.

Conclusion

This article has presented seven core fundamental doctrines that are essential for one to possess a saving faith. Other doctrines could be added to this list. In fact, many doctrines outpour from these seven essential wells of truth. Many truths and doctrines may be negotiable and debatable. Yet, the seven core truths presented in this article provide a foundation that is unmovable for the one who holds a saving faith. To tamper with any of the seven provided will create a chain reaction that results in a tidal wave of doubt and apostasy.

Copyright. Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009).

[2] See articles pertaining to the resurrection of Christ at http://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com for a fuller treatment concerning the evidence behind the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

[3] This writer holds to the view that hell is a place of eternal torment as the writers of Scripture tend to portray hell in such fashion. But, this writer also believes that there may be various levels of rewards (in heaven) and levels of punishment (in hell), something that some do not accept.