Responses to Jamal Badawi's "Radio Al-Islam Channel RA 200"

Later Unitarians II : Francis David


Dr. Badawi continues his discussion about Servetus, repeating several of his inaccurate interpretations that we discussed in the previous segment. He then spends a great amount of time recounting the story of Adam Neuser who converted to Islam and moved to the Ottoman Empire. Last, but certainly not least, we are given some information on Francis David.

Host: How did these ideas get mixed up with the teachings of Jesus?

Jamal Badawi: Servetus blames the Greek philosophy, he called it plug, he said it led to the creation of new Gods, the most burning planks was added and superimposed on the news gods which have recently come that our fathers did not worship. This plug was brought on us by the Greeks for they above all men are most given to philosophy and we Christians have become philosophers. And they never understood the passages of the scriptures with regard to this matter.

There have been many accusations made concerning Christian "borrowing" of Greek [Pagan] ideas. One main issue is the term "Logos" (or Word), which some accuse John of borrowing from Greek philosophy. However, when we analyze John's use of this term, we find that he did not use the term Logos in the same way as the Greek philosophers used the term. When the Greek philosophers discussed Logos, the term was an undefined and ethereal essence that was the guiding principle of all things. When John used the term Logos, it was well defined and filled with the personality of Jesus, the eternal Son of God, the One Who entered into time, and into man's experience as Jesus of Nazareth. The "Word" reveals that Jesus is the mind of God, the thought of God, His full and living revelation. Jesus did not just come to tell us what God is like - He showed us. He is the revelation of God.

The second issue raised by Dr. Badawi is that Christians did not understand their own scriptures. Looking at the first chapter of the Gospel of John, John tells us that the Word is eternal and he clearly distinguishes between the Word and God because these terms are not interchange-able. John IS NOT talking about two different gods. The question is: can two beings be eternal? John answers this question by telling us that the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Jesus, as we know Him as the Word, does not constitute everything that is included in the Godhead. John is not teaching the heresy of Sabellianism (which taught that Jesus and the Father and the Spirit are simply three different aspects of one person, that is Jesus is the Father, the Father is the Spirit, and on and on). John asserts the full Deity of Christ, while telling us that He is not the Father, but that they ("God" and the "Word") have eternally co-existed

In contrast to the philosophical explanation of the Trinity, Servetus said Jesus was a prophet and this upset people. The scriptures and ancient writers called him a prophet.

I honestly doubt that Servetus' statement, concerning that fact that Jesus was a Prophet, upset many people - Jesus was a Prophet and the Son of God. Servetus' belief that Jesus was not divine generated criticism, not his statement that Jesus was a Prophet.

Servetus showed an in depth knowledge of the Bible. The reason Servetus was burned was the issue of the Trinity, something that has not been accepted by many Christians, many privately and there are sects like the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons, his ideas are now popular among many Christians. It was interesting in a dialogue, one evangelist said that Jesus was God and a prophet, the burning of Servetus did not destroy his work. Many Christians upheld monotheism and were killed, some escaped to Muslim rule.

Servetus showed an ability to quote Bible passages out of the context in which they were written in order to extract the meaning that he desired and numerous examples were given in the segment on Servetus. Additionally, what proof does Dr. Badawi have which indicates that "many Christians" do not accept the doctrine of the Trinity? This statement comes to us with absolutely no proof of its veracity. It might also surprise Dr. Badawi that the Mormons actually believe in "monolatry" - that is, there are many gods, but only one is worshiped. The Jehovah's Witnesses have an even more bizarre Christology believing that God's first creation was his 'only-begotten Son' through whom God created all other things") - sounds a great deal like the heresies of Arius, doesn't it? From my vantage point as a graduate student, who is constantly required to back up statements with references, I would like to have a reference which shows that many Christians "upheld monotheism" at this time.

Host: Can you give us examples of those who were able to escape?

Jamal Badawi: The is a letter in Heidelburg archive written by a man named Adam Neuser, a contemporary of Servetus and the letter was directed to Sultan Salim II, the Turkish ruler. The letter tells the Sultan that he is a Christian who was invited to become a preachers, he read the Qur'an with great joy and that he believes that Muslim doctrine and religion is pure, clear, and acceptable to God, that was the belief of many people. He says that according to the Qur'an, there is praise of the Christians who heard Muhammad who responded with tears in their eyes (Sura 5:85-87). He also went through a faith experience, and was tied to the words of Moses and the Gospels and asked God to show him the right way and it pleased God to reveal the articles of invocation and he proved that the doctrine of Jesus was that there was only one God without a son. The doctrines of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad all agreed and there should be no difference to religions. Emperor Maximilian intercepted the letter and he and his friends were arrested and imprisoned but on July 15, 1570 he escaped but he was caught again and escaped again. The trial went on for two years prior to his escape, one of his friends was condemned to death but Neuser reached Constantinople were he embraced Islam.

People have changed their religious affiliations throughout history and many continue to do so today. I am not sure of Dr. Badawi's point in telling us this story. Also, in order to be fair about the history of religious tolerance in the Ottoman Empire, we should remember what happened to our Armenian brothers and sisters.

Host: Were there other scholars like Severtus who rejected the Trinity?

Jamal Badawi: Francis David was born in Transylvania in 1510, he was a brilliant student and studied to become a Catholic priest and was a rector in a Catholic school. When the split took place between Calvin and Luther, David joined Calvin at a time when there was still some freedom. He found two dogmas bothered him: Trinity and deity of Jesus. He believed these dogmas to be inexplicable and did not see why someone who accepted them as a better Christian. He decided that Jesus was not divine and believed the oneness of God. This was popular in Poland at the time and he was made a preacher in the Court of King John where he was a spokesman for the Unitarians in public debate. In 1567, the King issued a decree of toleration where preachers should explain the Bible as he understands it. If everyone agrees, it is alright if not they find another preacher. No one should be imprisoned or punished. This atmosphere was conducive for David.

Francis David went well beyond the rejection of the Trinity and the deity of Jesus. In spite of the Bible's command that believers be baptized, Francis David rejected baptism. He also was against the worship of God through Jesus Christ and, for the most part, denied Jesus had any importance at all.

Host: What was the content of these debates?

Jamal Badawi: In 1568, a synod was called to establish whether Trinity and divinity are taught in the scriptures. This lasted 10 days and no one could disprove David, so they began to abuse him, convincing the King that David was correct. The writings of Servetus were smuggled into Transylvania and they spread. In 1569 another synod was held in Hungary which was a vindication of Unitarianism.

Can you cite any historian who says that David's statements could not be refuted? I am no scholar of the Bible, however, I have answered all of Unitarian arguments that Dr. Badawi has presented.

Host: What were David's arguments?

Jamal Badawi: He tried to explain that the Trinity believes in 4 or 5 Gods, two substances and three persons and one man all regarded as God. There is only one God the Father for whom and by whom is everything. He is above all and creator of all creating everything through his word and a breath from his mouth.

Fortunately, the Bible answers this question. Jesus was eternal with God the Father before creation:

John 17:5

And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

John 17:24:

"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

There is no three substances or persons. That Jesus was born of substances has no support in the scripture and the idea of God's son is a human invention - I don't know if he is referring only to the Old Testament because John said that the word became flesh.

The relationship between Christ and God is given to him by God who alone remain divine and above all including Jesus. This debate lasted 5 days in a victory of the monotheist and the Lutheran Bishop was warned not to use force to convert them. He said that Trinitarians were self contradictory. The act was reversed after John and he was imprisoned for five months and then he died. After his death, the number of Unitarians in Transylvania decreased but increased late in southern Hungary when it fell under Turkish rule, where they had 100 of peace when people were forced to convert.

Once again, the Unitarians incorrectly interpreted the Bible and ,once again, persecution of religious dissenters is immoral.

Andrew Vargo

Responses to Jamal Badawi's "Radio Al-Islam Channel RA 200"
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