I do not like the question, "What is essential for salvation?"
#1 Problem: It is reductionistic. It's kind of like saying, "it's the least I could do," and meaning it. An intentional effort to reduce something into the very least one could do does not exactly jive with being in love with someone. I rememeber guys in college complaining about always having to pay for dates. OK, I was one of them. OK, I didn't date very much, but let's not talk about that. Anyway, if a guy approaches a girl and says, "so, what is the least I could do for you such that you will commit the rest of your life to bless me?" what do you think will happen? Alone forever is a long time.
#2 Problem: It is selfish. It smacks of what I can do for me. Brian Mclaren in his book A New Kind of Christian, talks about evangeliscals being too concerned wth getting the butts into Heaven. It's like this: You know the Tsunami is coming and you pass by 100 people who don't know anything about it just so you can get to safety. Then you either laugh at, condemn or feel sorry for these sorry souls who were too dumb to know about the oncoming tsunami. What you don't do serve them, talk with them, tell them about what is coming. Or you just yell at them for not getting to higher ground when they don't even know what you are talking about.
#3 Problem: It assumes the meaning of salvation. What this assumes is that salvation is a salvation from Hell. OK, yes, I'm not into going to Hell. But the way I don't get into Hell is to be saved from my sin. What's the difference? Hell is later and sin is now. I can be saved from my sin right now when I could just keep sinning and not experience Hell. Also, I am saved, at least in part, from the immediate consequences of sin. Not completely, but some what.
Anyway, I do not like the question, even though it seems to be a pivotal question from my family of faith and evangelicals in general.