Sometimes I hear someone skeptical about Christianity asking: “What is the minimum you have to believe to be a Christian?”
I have a problem with that question. It assumes that becoming a Christian is simply assenting to a list of propositional truths or facts or dogmas. But this is a misunderstanding of what it means to believe.
Why? Because in the Bible “to believe” has a much deeper, wider meaning than just saying that a list of facts is true. To start, let’s look at what Jesus said to Martha about faith. The regular NIV translation says:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; (John 11:25)
That translation gets part of the meaning. But the Amplified Bible expresses the full meaning of the original Greek word:
Whoever believes in (adheres to, trusts in, relies on) Me [as Savior] will live even if he dies
So, an effective way to rephrase the skeptic’s question is: Who do you need to trust to be a Christian? And the simple short answer is Jesus.
But then the next question is: Who is this Jesus that I trust?
John’s gospel is especially helpful here:
but these have been written so that you may believe [with a deep, abiding trust] that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), the Son of God; and that by believing [and trusting in and relying on Him] you may have life in His name. (John 20:31AMP)
John’s whole Gospel explains why Jesus is worthy of deep, abiding trust. It explains who Jesus was, describes the miraculous things he did, expounds his commands to love, and shows how he gives eternal life to those who repent of their sins and trust him.
Taking all of this to heart, try to imagine what it would be like if you died and met God — would he give you a theology exam, asking “Which facts and propositions did you believe?”
Or would he say, “Did you live your life by fully relying on my Son Jesus?”