Theodorus VanderGroe: belief in the Trinity is essential to salvation

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Without believing this mystery of the Trinity, we cannot be saved, and it is therefore utterly ungodly, damning, and atheistic to maintain with the Remonstrants that it is not absolutely necessary to believe that God is a triune God. If it is not necessary unto salvation to believe that God is a triune God, then it is also not necessary unto salvation to believe that there is a God.

For he who believes that God is who He is must acknowledge and embrace Him as He is, namely, one in essence and three in persons. Otherwise, such a person will deny the true God and believe an idol that is a fabrication of his own imagination—an idol that is a nonentity in this world.

Therefore, he who does not wholeheartedly believe and confess that God is a triune God has never seen nor known God. He is a public denier of God, because He fully denies the true triune God, and apart from Him, there is no God. He is one who is openly wicked and entirely estranged from God and His blessed communion, for we can have communion only with a God who is triune. ...

For more, see Theodorus VanderGroe: belief in the Trinity is essential to salvation.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
I wonder how many brand-new believers knew all that much about the Trinity at the time they were saved. I know I didn't. I knew that I was a sinner and that Jesus died for my sins, and that I needed to acknowledge those things, repent, ask forgiveness, and know that Jesus had saved me.

I don't think anyone needs to have a thorough knowledge of the Trinity in order to be saved. Fuller knowledge of these things comes afterwards. Indeed, Christians spend the rest of their earthly lives trying to wrap their minds around the things of God.

I thank God that the gospel, in all its (initial) simplicity, is all that one needs to know for salvation (Romans 10.8-10).
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Senior
I highly, highly respect VanderGroe, but I’m wondering if this is biblical or helpful.

Is it biblical? The gospel call, while fully and incorrigibly Trinitarian, is not, “Believe in the Trinity.” It is, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13).

Is it helpful? I believe VanderGroe is lacking some nuance here. (I confess I need to look at the broader context.) There is a very wide gulf between being ignorant of the Trinity due to being a babe in Christ and being a “public denier of God.” There is a huge difference between being initially ignorant of the Trinity and denying the Trinity upon being exposed to the proper doctrine.

I worry about what this seemingly hard position of VanderGroe’s does to the believers in the Church before Nicæa. After all, if what VanderGroe says here is true now, it had to be true then. Yet I find it very difficult to believe that every single regenerate believer then had a grasp of the full-fledged and robust Trinitarian language of “one in essence and three in persons.” Do we even see this being taught in the proclamations of the gospel in Scripture? I’m not sure we do.

Now, that being said, I still agree with VanderGroe that belief in the Trinity is something without which ordinarily one will not be saved. (Did the rebel on the cross believe in the Trinity? Do all deathbed conversions need a corresponding confession and affirmation of the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity?) I’m not sure we can hold brand new believers to this. But, if someone is truly in Christ, and sitting under faithful biblical exposition, they will be taught the Trinity, and come to embrace it. His sheep will hear his voice.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Senior
By the way, I was hesitant to post what I posted, in fear that I would overstep in disagreeing with such an eminent divine on such an important and weighty matter. So, I want to say here that I’m more than open to correction in my thinking. I truly desire to be sharpened, as this is something I’ve thought about more than once over the last year.
 

Jerrod Hess

Puritan Board Freshman
Something else that comes to mind for me: the thief on the cross had no knowledge of the Triune God; and if the Jews had some knowledge of it, yet it was likely not a full knowledge.

I think it's one thing for someone to be ignorant of the Triune nature of God, and another for someone to vehemently teach against it. Such who preach a false God, have no light in them (Isaiah 8:20)
 

Susan777

Puritan Board Sophomore
Interesting that this came up just now (for me). I’ve been writing to a few Christian prisoners in Iran. I found out recently that some are affiliated with “the Church of Iran” which turns out to be a non-trinitarian church similar to Oneness Pentecostalism. These aberrant teachings are the product of one William Branham and are an unfortunate American export. (It’s shameful how many terrible theologies our country has produced.) Anyway, they are not new believers but they are still undergoing persecution as Christians. So what do I do? If they reject the earliest creed are they outside the boundaries of the faith? Would the trinitarians have supported their Arian friends during a time of persecution? I’ve had about a month to think and pray about this and I think I know what course to take but I’m open to considering all biblical wisdom from PB.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Let us ask ourselves a few questions: 1) Is non-belief in the Trinity a damnable heresy? 2) Was the thief on the cross really as doctrinally ignorant as we presume that he was? (Carl Trueman argues that it is probable he had previously been catechised in a form of sound words.) 3) The gospel call is not simply to believe in the divine existence or in the Trinity but is that relevant as to whether or not a belief in God's existence or in the Trinity is essential to salvation? The gospel call is not merely to believe in the deity and humanity of Christ, but one cannot expect to be saved if he does not believe in the deity and humanity of Christ. 4) Is having a belief in the Trinity as a doctrine revealed in scripture the same thing as having an articulate understanding of it?
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Senior
Let us ask ourselves a few questions: 1) Is non-belief in the Trinity a damnable heresy? 2) Was the thief on the cross really as doctrinally ignorant as we presume that he was? (Carl Trueman argues that it is probable he had previously been catechised in a form of sound words.) 3) The gospel call is not simply to believe in the divine existence or in the Trinity but is that relevant as to whether or not a belief in God's existence or in the Trinity is essential to salvation? The gospel call is not merely to believe in the deity and humanity of Christ, but one cannot expect to be saved if he does not believe in the deity and humanity of Christ. 4) Is having a belief in the Trinity as a doctrine revealed in scripture the same thing as having an articulate understanding of it?
These are good questions. I think the fact that we are asking them at all is, in my sincere opinion, an indication that VanderGroe's blanket, qualification-less stance here is perhaps not the most helpful. Ryan McGraw, in his review of this work, concurs when he says, "In spite of the usefulness of VanderGroe’s sermons, they are marked by some pastoral imbalances. ... [T]he tone of VanderGroe’s exhortation results in pastoral imbalance that runs the risk of discouraging many of his readers rather than teaching them how to exercise faith in Christ for all things." Although he doesn't mention this excerpt in his critique, I wonder if he would include it. Perhaps not! I could be totally off base here.

Again, I want to emphasize that 1) my posts here do not come from anything other than the highest respect for this minister who exceeds me in every conceivable way, and that 2) I am not in any way denying the necessity of believing in and adoring the Trinity.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Ryan McGraw, in his review of this work, concurs when he says, "In spite of the usefulness of VanderGroe’s sermons, they are marked by some pastoral imbalances. ... [T]he tone of VanderGroe’s exhortation results in pastoral imbalance that runs the risk of discouraging many of his readers rather than teaching them how to exercise faith in Christ for all things." Although he doesn't mention this excerpt in his critique, I wonder if he would include it. Perhaps not! I could be totally off base here.

I would concur with Ryan McGraw's comments. This tendency is especially evident in VanderGroe's treatment of assurance. On the issue of the Trinity, however, he is not saying anything different to what the Reformed have traditionally said. Francis Turretin says essentially the same thing with respect to the Remonstrants' error that belief in the Trinity was not essential to salvation.
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Senior
I would concur with Ryan McGraw's comments. This tendency is especially evident in VanderGroe's treatment of assurance. On the issue of the Trinity, however, he is not saying anything different to what the Reformed have traditionally said. Francis Turretin says essentially the same thing with respect to the Remonstrants' error that belief in the Trinity was not essential to salvation.
Then perhaps I am misunderstanding VanderGroe. Would you say that the doctrine of the Trinity is essential to salvation in such a way that a man could never possibly be regenerate until and only until he understands and affirms the Trinity (since I suppose affirmation necessarily entails understanding)?
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
Then perhaps I am misunderstanding VanderGroe. Would you say that the doctrine of the Trinity is essential to salvation in such a way that a man could never possibly be regenerate until and only until he understands and affirms the Trinity (since I suppose affirmation necessarily entails understanding)?

Taylor, I would say no. See my reference above to Romans 10.8-10. It is not necessary for a person to become, for salvific purposes, a professional theologian. Simple belief in Christ and the realization of one's sinfulness are what are necessary for salvation, as far as knowledge of Christian doctrine is concerned. For the true believer, the rest will come later, with study and prayer.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
To confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord is to make a doctrinal confession - it is not merely a doctrinal confession, but it includes a confession of doctrine. For a person to be saved, they must likewise confess that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God.
 

PezLad

Puritan Board Freshman
Matthew 11:27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Romans 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
 
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