Six things you have to believe to be a Christian

Here is the article on the Stand to Reason web site, written by Greg Koukl.


The six essential doctrines would be: the Trinity, the deity and humanity of Christ, the bodily resurrection, man’s fallenness and guilt, salvation by grace through faith by the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, and belief that Jesus is the Messiah. And you have a seventh doctrine that strikes me as a functional necessity, that is the ultimate authority of Scripture without which none of the other truths can be affirmed or asserted with confidence.

By the way, it’s really important that people know these doctrines because many Christians are quite kind-hearted and they end up not being very careful about drawing distinctions between truth and falsity because they don’t want to disagree. I understand that. But if you were really kind-hearted then you would be honest and straight-forward with people about the demands of the gospel on their lives. The demand of the gospel is that you believe particular things to be true. It’s not just a matter of mere belief, as if these are just some incidental details of theology that you might happen to be mistaken about. And if you just happen to be mistaken, why should you go to hell because of that?

You don’t go to hell because you just happen to mistake a doctrine. You go to hell because you have broken God’s law. It is very critical to understand that. God only judges guilty people. People get judged by God not because they mess up on their theology but because they are guilty. People who are guilty get condemned. That’s it. There is a way to get around that but you’ve to know a couple of particular things that are true before you can take advantage of the forgiveness God offers. That’s where the essential doctrines come in.

He’s writing from a Calvinist perspective, which I don’t entirely agree with. But I don’t see anything wrong in that minimal list. Sometimes, it’s a good thing for us to focus on the essentials. There are lots of Christian denominations, and they disagree on many minor things, but on the major things, they are in agreement. And that’s a good thing, too.

8 thoughts on “Six things you have to believe to be a Christian”

  1. You can almost always detect a false teaching by the way it adds to what is required for salvation. Belief in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God is not *required for salvation*…. It really is a result of believing in Jesus and study, though.


  2. Greg Koukl is a great authority for me. The work STR does sustained my faith and gave me strength to continue my journey, but there are things like this that make me cautious about his theological views.
    Every point is fine, except the last, seventh one. I do not deny the authority of the Scripture, but above it there is the authority of the Church, the living body of Christ, the pillar and foundation of the truth. (1 Tim. 3:15)
    He doesn’t mention it.


  3. Here is another view, which more-or-less corroborates this posting by Greg and your fine summary on denominations, WK: I like that the author brings in the orthopraxy of the early church as well, while treating non-essential denominational differences with grace.
    I admire the compactness of Greg’s summary, and I greatly appreciate him bringing Scriptural authority forward. I agree that you don’t have to be a theologian to accept Jesus, but it would be really hard to understand just which “jesus” you have accepted without the authority of Scripture, even if you have secular extra-Biblical historical facts regarding Him.
    As an example of this, is it not probable that the current American president has accepted abortion “jesus,” gay “jesus,” government-forced wealth redistribution “jesus,” but not the Biblical-historical Jesus? it certainly seems that way when you also consider his persecution of the religious freedoms and orthopraxy of the general authentic Christian church. (
    Without some significant level of Scriptural authority, how do we know that Jesus is God and not just a social justice leader like myriad others throughout world history? Maybe He is like Che or Castro or Stalin or even MLK or Gandhi? And how would we really KNOW the other 6 foundational elements that Greg talks about here? Church tradition and authority doesn’t cut it, since that seems to change with the winds. And early church writings were grounded in the authority of Scripture, anyway.


  4. I have to disagree here. There is only one thing required for justification, and that is to believe the gospel. According to Paul in I Corinthians 15, the gospel is the good news that Jesus rose again from the dead, never to die again.
    Paul again underlines that salvation (justification) is contingent on one thing: believing that Jesus rose from the dead. Note the words of Romans 10:9b & 10:10a:
    ” If you … believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, …”
    This is the minimum necessary for justification. It is true that the gospel (good news) in I Corinthians 15 is the fact that Jesus died for our sins with the confirmation of acceptance of his sacrifice by God in that he was then raised from the dead as attested by the list of eyewitnesses that Paul provides, according to Romans 10:9-10, God equates belief in that proof (the resurrection) with belief in what the proof pertains to (Jesus’ vicarious atonement on the cross).
    I think that although Koukl’s six points can be argued as something a consistent, Biblically-based Christian should believe, it is adding to the simplicity of the gospel to make all of these things part and parcel of the gospel itself.


  5. This confuses sanctification with justification. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” ~Romans 10:11. “For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” ~Romans 10:13. Sanctification is a continuing process after the moment when one is reborn in the Spirit. One who has received the Holy Spirit will then be led to the true doctrines of the faith – but that takes time. How many of these doctrines did the thief on the cross next to Jesus believe when Jesus said to him, “This day you will be with me in paradise?? The Apostle’s Creed already lays out the doctrines we are supposed to accept as we grow in the Lord. That creed has served us well.


  6. PLUS: Greg Koukl titled his article “Essential Christian Doctrines” – not “Six things you have to believe to be a Christian.” There is a big difference.


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