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

Later Unitarians III : Sozini and Socianus


In this segment, Dr. Badawi wraps up his discussion of the teachings and beliefs of Francis David and begins a new discussion on Sozini and Socianus. We will see, as we did in the cases of many early heresies, that the teachings of Socianus are as far from Islam and they are from the teachings of orthodox Christianity.

Host: How was Francis David influenced by Islam?

Jamal Badawi: David openly referred to the Qur'an to (referring to Sura 5:119-193). The Turks were not that familiar with the closeness of Islam and Unitarianism.

Perhaps the Turks were more familiar with the teachings of Unitarianism than Dr. Badawi imagines! Many Unitarian teachings conflict with the basic tenants of Islam which is probably why Francis David, in spite of referring to the Qur'an, never accepted Islam. I am also not aware of any of the group members becoming Muslims, although Campanus and Gentilis eventually accepted Arianism.

Host: What about the role of Sozini?

Jamal Badawi: There are two Sozini's Leo and Fausto the later became Socianus. Leo Sozini was born in 1525 he left Bologna and went to Venice where there was some freedom. He found a group of people who met secretly to study the teachings of Christ and attempting to re-establish the purity of the teachings. They reached the conclusion that there was no deity other than God and Trinity and deity were the opinions of Pagan philosophers. Leo met with them and was convinced that there needed to be more freedom from the Church dogmas. When that society was discovered, some escaped, others were put to death, and others became Muslims. Sozini tried to see Calvin but became disappointed and said that Calvin behaved like the Catholics. He went to Zurich and lived there for three years when he died at age 37. He was influential on his cousin Socianus.

The the main objective of the society was the advocacy of Antitrinitarianism, not what we now know as Socinian principles. Calvin was a close friend of Laelius Socinus, who was a member of this group. Calvin disapproved of the group's teachings because they were un-Biblical, not because Calvin was "Behaving like a Catholic".

Host: Can you tell us a bit more about Socianus?

Jamal Badawi: He was born in Italy and traveled Europe and settled in Basle and he published a book where he disagreed with the Church. He went to Poland where he wrote under his own name but the Church was very angry and had him arrested and condemned to be burned. Because of popular support, the penalty was changed to the ordeal of cold water, if he drowned he is assumed guilty, he survived the ordeal. He published a book in 1605, his teachings spread in England, in 1638 a severe and organized persecution began and his followers were deprived of civil rights. In 1658, people had the option of Catholicism or exile and that caused the dispersion of the Unitarians.

Once again, the treatment of Socianus was not an act of which Jesus would have approved.

Host: What were his teachings?

Jamal Badawi: He said that it was impossible to have one being who has supreme dominion in the world and then to talk about three supreme persons in the universe. The essence of God is one in kind and number, there are no persons. When we speak of three persons, there must be three individual essences. The moment we speak of one numerical essence, there must only be one person. It is impossible for the divine and human nature to be together because each are contradictory and opposite and they can' t combine in one person. You cannot have mortality and immortality in the same person. You can't combine someone that had a beginning and no beginning because Jesus did not exist before he was born. You can't be change-able and unchange-able. When we speak of Jesus, we are really speaking about two persons. The Church says that the unity of humanity and divinity in Jesus is like the body and soul is incorrect because both are conjoined so that a man is neither soul nor body because neither constitutes a person. The divine nature alone is a person, the human nature does constitutes a separate person. According to the Bible, there is no evidence that Jesus had a divine nature.

Socianus believed that God is absolutely simple and that the distinction of persons destroys this simplicity. Therefore, he concluded that the doctrine of the Trinity is unsound. Socianus also believed that there can be no proportion between the finite and the infinite, hence there can be no incarnation of the Deity, since that would demand some such proportion. St Thomas Aquinas addressed this issue in Summa Theologica:

The infinity of matter not made perfect by form, is unknown in itself, because all knowledge comes by the form; whereas the infinity of the form not limited by matter, is in itself supremely known. God is Infinite in this way, and not in the first way: as appears from what was said above (7, 1).

It is also interesting to note that Islam has a similar philosophical problem. Most Muslims, especially Sunni Muslims, believe that the Qur'an is the eternal uncreated speech of Allah. Therefore, they have the same problem (assuming that it is a problem) of the finite and the infinite.

Host: How did he support the claim that there was a divine nature in Jesus?

Jamal Badawi: He said that the Bible says that God is the one who created Jesus and speaks about Jesus as a human being, Jesus had a divine gift, Jesus never related miracles to himself he referred to God. Until Nicea (325 AD) it was obvious from the writings that only the Father was called God. Others were regarded heretics, divinity was exclusive to the Father. He said that the essence of God is one and therefore one cannot generate the other if they are three integral persons. They say that the Son proceeds from the Father and so does the Spirit, so one cannot generate the other and be three independent persons.

Issue 1: From whom did the miracles of Jesus originate?

Jesus and God are One so. For example, in John 5:17-19 Jesus is criticized for healing a man on the Sabbath (working on the Sabbath is the prerogative of God alone. Read how Jesus responded to this charge :

Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Now, please pay attention to what Jesus says in the next verse, Dr. Badawi loves to distort this passage out of context:

Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does

Think for a moment, what did Jesus mean when He said that He cannot do anything by Himself and can only do what the Father does? Jesus is telling the people, once again, that He and the Father are One, He is God. Jesus did not say that he can only do what the Father tells Him to do! NO, He can only do what the Father does, making Him equal to the Father. In fact, Jesus is doing what God is doing, which makes them One! The Jewish leaders in the crowd also reached this conclusion because they wanted to execute Jesus for blasphemy! How could these leaders accuse Jesus of blasphemy if He was merely saying that He can do only what God allows, or tells, Him to do? Once again, and unlike Dr. Badawi, these men understood exactly what Jesus was saying, but like Dr. Badawi, they did not believe.

Another interesting passage which relates to this topic is Luke 11:20 where Jesus says:

But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.

Jesus did indeed drive out demons with His finger, the finger of God!

Issue 2: Only the Father was called God before Nicea

St. Ignatius of Antioch (A. D. 110-117) said :

"Ignatius . . . . to the Church . . . which is at Ephesus . . . . in the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ Our God (tou theou hemon)."(c. vii; Funk, I, 218)

And, to the Romans he wrote:

"For Our God Jesus Christ, abiding in the Father, is manifest even the more" (c. iii, 3; Funk, 1, 256).

The Letter of Barnabas says:

"Lo, again, Jesus is not the Son of man but the Son of God, made manifest in form in the Flesh. And since men were going to say that the Christ was the Son of David, David himself, fearing and understanding the malice of the wicked, made prophecy: The Lord said to my Lord . . . . . Lo, how David calls Him the Lord and not son" (c. xiii; Funk, I, 77).

Justin Martyr (AD 150) wrote, concerning Jesus:

"Since the Word is the first-born of God, He is also God" (Apol. I, n. 63; P. G., VI, 423).

Irenaeus said:

that Jesus Christ is rightly called the one and only God and Lord, in that all things are said to have been made by Him (see "Adv. Haer.", III, viii, n. 3; P. G., VII, 868; bk. IV, 10, 14, 36).

Deutero-Clement (AD 150 or 166) said:

"Brethren, we should think of Jesus Christ as of God Himself, as of the Judge of the living and the dead" (Funk, I, 184).

Clement of Alexandria (A D 190) spoke of Christ as

"true God without any controversy, the equal of the Lord of the whole universe, since He is the Son and the Word is in God" (Cohortatio ad Gentes, c. x; P. G., VIII, 227).

Once again, Dr. Badawi is incorrect.

Issue 3: The Essence of God

Socianus believed that Christ was the Logos, but he denied (against overwhelming Biblical evidence) His pre-existence. He believed that Jesus was the Word of God only in terms of being an "interpreter". The passages from the first chapter of the Gospel according to John, which say that the Word is the medium of creation, were explained by Socianus in terms of regeneration. When Jesus was miraculously begotten, He was a perfect man and the appointed mediator, however, according to Socianus, He was not God - only a "deified" man. Jesus, according to Socianus, was to be adored and this belief is the dividing line between Socinianism and Unitarianism, because Unitarianism not only denies the miraculous birth of Christ they also refuse to show Him any form of adoration. Although I do not agree with Unitarianism, I must admit that, based on the principles presented in the respective arguments, the Unitarians are much more logical.

Host: Did he also disapprove of other doctrines?

Jamal Badawi: Atonement was a problem for him. He said that this doctrine teaches that humans are born in a state of sin because of Adam. Through the death of Jesus, that atones, through baptism, for the state of sin. He said that in traditional Christianity, the Church was a fellowship established by Jesus. The Church is more important than the believer because it needed for salvation. He said that it was not necessary to follow the Church blindly. Both Catholics and Protestants opposed him. He opposed atonement because Jesus could not have represented an infinite sacrifice because he suffered for a limited time, to say that Jesus suffered infinite sacrifice is not correct and could not equal eternal suffering. If the suffering was infinite, we can also say that his endurance was infinite, so it doesn't provide and advantage. Even if we accept that Jesus offered an infinite atonement, then we cannot speak about the forgiving quality of God or man's gratitude because forgiveness is automatic and God has no grace to offer. God's commands are not binding because the penalty was paid, you can do what you want. This means that God cannot require any more from humans because the price has been paid. If someone paid the debt, the creditors has no say. If Jesus paid the debt, God has no authority. He said that Jesus was not a word made flesh, he is a man who achieved victory in his life.

Issue 1: State of sin

The issue of original sin is often misunderstood by many people including, in this case, Scoainus. Will God punish me and Dr. Badawi for Adam's sin since neither of us were in the Garden of Eden at that time? No, Adam sinned, we did not. We humans suffer the consequences of Adam's disobedience and have inherited our sinful nature from him (Romans 5:12-23). I doubt that Dr. Badawi would argue that anyone, other than Jesus, is without sin!

How are we affected by Adam's sin? Please remeber, before the fall, that Adam was sinless, perfect, and good (Genesis 1:31). After the fall, he became a sinner and his nature changed from "good" to "bad" and, since we are his children, we inherited his sinful nature (Romans 5:12). In this sense, we suffer for Adam's sin because he gave his descendants a sinful nature and all of us suffer because of it. This is called original sin. It means that we have inherited a sinful nature and that all of what we are as individuals touched by sin.

Issue 2: Role of the Church

The only way to obtain salvation is to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, the Church, by itself, cannot save anyone. Christianity is based on a personal relationship with God, not rituals or doctrines. I believe that it is crucial for Christians to be in fellowship with other Christians to promote spiritual growth.

Issue 3: Infinite suffering and infinite atonement

The Bible answers this question clearly in Hebrews 10:12:

But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.

and, most important, Jesus said in John 19:30:

"It is finished."

Issue 4: God's authority

The sacrifice of Jesus for the sins of man was God's idea and was done through God's authority. Grace is a gift from God through the death of Jesus, all that we need to do is to accept it. On the other hand, the God of Islam does not give any guarantee of salvation, he leads and misleads whom he pleases and even creates some men to burn in hell!

Host: What was the Church's reaction?

Jamal Badawi: They did not like it because he wanted people to return to the pure teachings of Jesus and the various Councils would have to be brought into question and an honest review must be brought to the foreground. In 1618, George Ashwell wrote against Socianus, and concluded that he was the devil's snare.

It is simply untrue to claim that the teachings of Socianus were the "pure teachings" of Jesus because he denied many very important issues that Jesus made clear in the Bible. It is also interesting to note that most modern Unitarians do not believe many of Socianus' teachings. It is also interesting that Dr. Badawi quickly, and uncritically accepts many of the teachings of Socianus. This is philosphically dangerous because, while Socianus holds many opinions which are held by Muslims ( there is no Trinity and Jesus is not equal to the Father), he also holds beliefs that are against Islam including his belief that Jesus died on the cross and that Joseph was the biological father of Jesus.

Andrew Vargo

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