Dr. John MacArthur has been asked the following question.
“A Mormon asked me this question a number of years ago, and through the years here at church, I’ve asked a number of people this question, and I wanted to get your opinion. Can you become a Christian if you deny the Trinity?’
On his website, Grace to You, Dr. MacArthur gave his answer, which is very sobering.
“I would answer, “No.” If you don’t believe in the Trinity, then you don’t understand who God is. You may say the word “God” but you don’t understand His nature. Second, you couldn’t possibly understand who Christ is—that He is God in human flesh. The Incarnation of Christ is an essential component of the biblical gospel, as John 1:1-14 and many other biblical passages make clear. To deny the Trinity is to deny the Incarnation. And to deny the Incarnation is to wrongly understand the true gospel.
In saying that, I realize that such an answer is going to not only impact people that you may have witnessed to (like Mormons), but it also applies to some in the broader Pentecostal movement, called United Pentecostals or “Jesus-Only” Pentecostals. Such individuals hold to a kind of modalism, where God is sometimes in the mode of the Father or the mode of the Son or the mode of the Spirit, but He’s never all three at the same time. That too is a deficient and heretical view of the Trinity. It denies the distinct Personhood of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The same question sometimes arises about the virgin birth. I think it is possible for a person to become a Christian before learning about the details of the virgin birth, though that person would certainly assume that Jesus Christ must have had a unique birth since He is both God and man. But, if someone knows about the virgin birth and says, “I deny the virgin birth,” then he is simultaneously denying the deity of Christ, and also the Trinity. Such a person betrays the fact that they do not understand the gospel, and therefore cannot have truly been saved.”
I esteem Dr. John MacArthur, and value his wisdom. Perhaps he is right. A person who understands the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity, and rejects it cannot be a Christian. Certainly Dr. MacArthur has support for his position in the history of the Church as per the Athanasian Creed which condemn anyone who rejects the Trinity.
Personally, I would not give a final answer to such an inquiry. Perhaps it is possible for people to have a good heart, and bad theology. How much bad theology the Lord will allow a person to have, is unknown.
What is known is that in the final Day of Judgement, the Lord will evaluate the heart and life of every person, and either confirm their justification, or say to them, “Depart from me you workers of iniquity. I never knew you.”
That, to me, is the heart of the matter. Do people who reject the historic faith of the Church, as stated in the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds of Christendom even know the Lord?
When a person denies that God is a Tri-unity of three persons in one, and compares that position to what the Bible plainly teaches, how can it be said they know the Lord of glory?
I tremble for the person who equivocates by saying, “I believe in the Trinity, but not as the Christian faith teaches. I do not believe the Holy Spirit is a person with will, emotion, and intellect, distinct from the Father, and the Son, or that He is of the same essence. I want to define the Holy Spirit in my own way.”
The mark of every heretic is that they want to redefine the Christian faith. Arius redefined the divinity of Christ by teaching that there was a time when Jesus was not. Jesus, said Arius, was the first of God’s creation, and the highest one, but there was a time when He was not. Joseph Smith wanted to redefine God the Father as an exalted man with multiple wives. Christian Science teaches the Holy Spirit is a power, much like the Secular Humanist who invoke an impersonal cosmic dynamic by saying, “The Force be with you.”
It is all too much.
The Puritan, Matthew Mead, wrote about The Almost Christian Discovered. (1661). Taking the story of the Rich Young Ruler, he wrote about how close the young man came to the kingdom of heaven, and then walked away from it.
Today, many are asking, “How far can I get away from Christ, and the Church, and still get to heaven?” Worse, some are asking, “How much of the Biblical teaching can I reject, and still be called a Christian?”
Paul warned that wolves would come into the Church in sheep clothing, pretending to be students of God’s Word, but in reality wanting to teach Christians how foolish they are to believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, or that He is eternal, or that the Holy Spirit is very God of very God. These individuals are often pleasant, and personable, but they are willing to undermine the historic faith, and damn the souls of the elect, if possible, along with their own. From such, turn away. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Rom. 16:17-18)
The Church has a responsibility to mark those who cause division and have nothing to do with them. A person who denies the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection, the integrity of the Bible, or the doctrine of the Trinity has no right to assemble with true believers. These people are blemishes when the church meets for fellowship. They are like clouds without water, and trees without fruit. The root of their faith is corrupt. “These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.” (Jude 1:12) Church, beware of people who deny the doctrine f the Trinity, or try to redefine the historic faith. Beware!