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

Later Unitarians IV : John Briddle


In this segment, Dr. Badawi cites several Unitarians, and their works, in order to attempt to prove that the Holy Spirit is not divine. As in other segments, Dr. Badawi will attempt to prove his point through selective quotation and misquotation from the Bible.

Host: What about the Unitarians after the 16th century?

Jamal Badawi: There were a number like Briddle, Lock, Newton, Priestly, and Channing and they are in Jesus a Prophet of Islam.

Host: Could you tell us about their contributions beginning with John Briddle?

Jamal Badawi: John Briddle is the father of Unitarianism in Britain. He was born in 1516, graduated from Oxford, was a teacher at that was the time when he thought about religion and questioned the Trinity. In 1640 a convention at Canterbury and York decided that there should be ban on the writings of Socianus and anyone who believed these things would be excommunicated. Briddle spoke about his beliefs and in 1645 he wrote "12 Arguments refuting the Deity of the Holy Spirit", Briddle was jailed and was called before the Parliament. It was republished in 1647 and Parliament ordered it burned and anyone who denies the divinity of Jesus would be killed. He published two more tracts showing, from the Bible, that the Holy Spirit was not divine. He could have been hanged if it were not for some of his friends.

Now we will examine the evidence based on the Bible.

Host: Why were his writings considered so dangerous?

Jamal Badawi: One of his most outstanding works in the booklet I mentioned. Argument one: anything that is distinguished from God is not God - the Holy Spirit is the strength from God therefore it is not God. He said that the current of the scriptures shows that the Holy Spirit and God were different. Some people argue that they are not distinct in essence, but only if taken personally. He says that it is impossible to make a distinction between the person and essence, there should be a distinction, because a person can be either finite or infinite, to be finite means you are not divine. To be infinite is there are two infinites within God. This means that we are speaking about God impersonally and we cannot say that the essence of God is impersonal.

The Holy Spirit is fully God and is eternal (Hebrews 9:14), is omnipotent (Luke 1:35), is omniscient, is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-10), has a will, and can speak. The reason that the Holy Spirit has less visibility in the Bible is because His ministry is to bear witness of Jesus (John 15:26). The Holy Spirit is more than a force. He can speak (Acts 13:2), can grieve (Ephesians 4:30), and has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11).

Second: The Old Testament indicates that God gave the Holy Spirit to the Israelites, therefore the gift is different that the one who gives.

Dr. Badawi, once again, is reading his own agenda into the Bible. God the Father gives gifts and so does God the Holy Spirit. For example, 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 :

To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

The third argument the one who does not speak of his own is not God, so the Holy Spirit is not divine.

God cannot contradict God. Therefore, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit speak as God because they are God. The Holy Spirit does not learn but instructs, according to John 14:26:

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Forth, any who learns or listens is not divine.

As mentioned in the previous section, the Holy Spirit instructs and guides us in the truth (John 16:13). He does not acquire knowledge because, like God the Father, the Holy Spirit knows all things. I wonder, according to Dr. Badawi's argument if God is not divine because he listens to our pleas? The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is all knowing (1 Corinthians 2:10-11).

Fifth, John 16:14 God gives everything to all and the Holy Spirit receives and cannot be God.

God the Holy Spirit gives just as God the Father (1 Corinthians 12:8-11). The Holy Spirit is not created but creates (Job 33:4).

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Sixth, anyone who is sent is not God and the Holy Spirit was sent by God.

This is interesting. Why does God send the Holy Spirit? There are several reasons, but one reason is that the Holy Spirit is to dwell within us John 14:17:

the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

God the Father also dwells with us (2 Corinthians 6:16) and son does God the Son (Colossians 1:27)

Seventh anyone who is not a giver of all things cannot be God and the Holy Spirit is a gift.

Once again, Dr. Badawi misunderstands, or intentionally distorts, the Bible. According to the Bible, the Father gives (Genesis 2:7), the Son gives (John 1:3; 5:21), and the Holy Spirit gives (2 Corinthians 3:6,8).

Eighth any who changes his place is not God and the Holy Spirit can change place like in the story of the baptism of Jesus when the Holy Spirit came as a dove. If God changes his place, he ceases to exist in the place he was before.

What? God the Father is everywhere (1 Kings 8:27), God the Son is everywhere (Matthew 28:20), and God the Holy Spirit is everywhere (Psalms 139:7-10). It amazes me how Dr. Badawi can place limitations on an all powerful God!

Ninth, the Bible indicates that the Holy Spirit prays to Christ to judge and God does not make petitions.

The Holy Spirit also judges and convicts of people of sin according to John 16:7-9:

But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me;

As far as the Holy Spirit "praying", we think and often speak to ourselves, so why would God not do the same since we are made in His image?

Tenth, people who do not believe in the Holy Spirit as God and were disciples (Romans 10:14).

Dr. Badawi is completely distorting the words of Paul! Paul is asking a rhetorical question in verse 14:

Romans 10:14:

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

Paul is not saying that there are disciples who deny the Holy Spirit, he is telling people that the calling implies believing, and believing implies hearing, and hearing requires preaching, and preaching is mission!

Paul gives the answer to his rhetorical question in verse 17-18

Romans 10:17-18:

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: "Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world."

Eleventh, anyone who listens to God must have a different understanding from God since he listens.

Once again, Dr. Badawi is placing constraints on an infinite God. Once again we, who are made in God's image think and speak to ourselves.

Twelfth any one who has a will independent of God cannot be God (Romans 8:26-27). These basis for Trinity is against that Bible. He is saying many things between the lines and his understanding is close the Muslim understanding.

Romans 8:26-27:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

The will of the Holy Spirit and God the Father and God the Son are the same. The Holy Spirit searches our hearts, and He watches the surging emotions of our hearts while we are in prayer. The Holy Spirit and knows all and He draws forth, from within us, because He is the intercessor who cause us to plead only for what God Himself designs to bestow upon us.

Host: What do you mean that it is close to the Islamic understanding?

Jamal Badawi: He said that the Holy Spirit applies as well to Jesus because we have seen the evidence that Jesus never claimed independent authority and this applied to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, he probably thought it risky to explicitly say this. John 3:16, he says that Jesus is given, cannot be equated with God.

God's love for the world is measurable only, and conceivable only, by the gift which He drew forth from Himself. The gift is that "He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son," or, in the language of Paul, "spared not His own Son". I can understand that the Biblical concept of God's love is difficult for Dr. Badawi to understand. God did love the world so much that He reached down to bring His fallen creation back to Him. The God of the Bible is not a distant and boastful God who is always saying "We did this" and "We did that", He extended His love, through Jesus to all of humanity and all who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior will be with Him in heaven. Think about it, God offers salvation to everyone! It is guaranteed by the blood of Jesus, we do not have to die uncertain of whether (as the Qur'an teaches) God made us for Hell or He misled us by intention.

Jesus said John 5:30 that things were given to him, and John 14:16 where Jesus only says what he hears.

John 5:30:

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

Once again, Jesus is saying that He does nothing that is apart from the Father, or in any interest of His own. He does this because He and the Father are One and cannot work against each other.

John 14:16:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–

I think that Dr. Badawi misquoted. Jesus says and does what the Father says and does because they are One.

Whether Briddle meant it or not, he was implying that Jesus was not divine. Muslims believe that the Holy Spirit is the angel Gabriel and they are creatures, not a third person in the Trinity. In Briddle's "Confession of Faith", he sounds like a Muslim: "I believe that there is one most high God, creator of heavens and earth and the first cause of all things and consequently, the ultimate object of our faith and worship.....I believe in Jesus to the extent that he is our brother and may have a fellow feeling of our infirmities and become more ready to help us. He has only human nature and is subordinated to God and is not another God, no tow Gods....The Holy Spirit is an angel who due to his emmenace and intimacy to God is single out to carry his message".

Briddle believed that Jesus was not divine, there was nothing implied to the contrary. I would also suggest that Briddles' teachings in particular and the teachings of Unitarianism in general are not close to the Islamic understanding of God. Briddle, and modern Unitarians, place great importance on human reason and rationality. Dr. Badawi uncritically accepts some Unitarian beliefs such as the denial of the divinity of Jesus and the denial of the Trinity since these conform to his (Islamic) views. However, when Dr. Badawi accepts Unitarian arguments as his conclusion, he ignores many of the premises of the Unitarian arguments. For example, Unitarians (being rational and scientific) deny that Jesus was born of a virgin - many believe that Joseph was His father. Also, important themes in Christianity and Islam, such as the belief in angels and miracles are discounted by the rational approach of Unitarians and many Unitarians deny that the supernatural exists. Unitarians do not hold any creed, they leave that to the reason and conscience of the individual. In fact, you can even be a Unitarian and be an atheist! Once again, if Briddle and the other Unitarians were so far from orthodox Christianity and so close to Islam, what prevented them (and modern day Unitarians) from converting to Islam? The truth is that Unitarians (both then and now) reject any and all creedal religions (which includes Islam as well as Christianity) because they are not based on reason and individual conscience.

Host: What became of John Briddle?

Jamal Badawi: After he published his arguments, he was imprisoned. In 1648, he published two other works and was released from prison where he soon returned. While he was in jail he was hired to proof read a new edition of the Septuagint. In 1652 An Act of Oblivion was passed and he was released, In 1654 he published a book about Unitarianism in Holland. He continued to worship with a group who believed in the same ideas, they did not believe in atonement and original sin. In 1654 he was arrested again, put in jail and was not permitted to have pens or paper and no one was allowed to visit him. In 1655, he was released on appeal and he had another clash. There was a public debate where it was asked if anyone present could day Jesus as God. He did, the debate continued and the organizers thought that they could counter his points so they stopped the debate and reported him to the authorities and he went to jail again and was denied the right to a lawyer. He was sent to Sicily into exile, the more he suffered, the more he believed. His ideas spread and he was released in 1658. As soon he was released he published again. In 1662, he and his friend were arrested in the public square during a meeting. He was put in solitary confinement and some say that the foul air caused him to die in 1662.

Host: What happened to his followers?

Jamal Badawi: They were under pressure, the Act of Uniformity was issued in 1662 relating to public worship that is allowed. His ideas and way of worship did not conform to the authorities. Under this act over 2,000 priests were ejected for their beliefs and 8,000 died in prison because the did not accept the Trinity. In 1664 another act passed which says that anyone who refuses to go to an established Church would be banished. If he returned, he would be hanged and no meetings of 5 or more could take place unless it was authorized by the Church. If some broke this law, they could be sent to America and if they returned, they would die without the benefit of the clergy. In 1673 the Fist Act said that any person who did not receive sacraments according to the rites of the Church of England will not have a right to bring an action in court, cannot be a guardian of any child, cannot receive any legacy or gift. In 1689 the Toleration Act was issued but did not apply to those who opposed the Trinity. Some worshiped privately but many would not publically read the Athanasius Creed. Other writers, like Milton, took a lower profile, his writing was discovered 150 years after his death.

Once again, there is no excuse for religious persecution, not in England centuries ago, or in modern day Saudi Arabia and Iran. People have the right to be wrong.

Host: You mentioned Milton, what were his views?

Jamal Badawi: He was in the stream of Unitarianism, Trinity and deity had no foundation. Deut 4:55, 5:39, 32:39; 1 Kings 8:60, 2 Kings 19:15, Isaiah 44:8, 45:5; in all of these he said there is none besides God, none is a universal negative, no spirit or person is like God.

There is no argument, there is only One God. However, God has a Word and a Spirit, and that is what the Trinity really is, not three Gods.

The scriptures are quiet about the Holy Spirit who is not omniscient or omnipresent and cannot be God and is less than the Father and the Son. There is no evidence of the eternal generation of Jesus. We might wonder why he did not publish, perhaps he was not as courageous, many people were burned alive.

The scriptures are not quiet about these issues, Dr. Badawi merely chooses to ignore them!

The Holy Spirit is omniscient 1 Corinthians 2:10-11:

But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit is omnipresent Psalm 139:7-10 :

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

The Holy Spirit is equal to the Father and Son because He is called God (Acts 5:3-4), He creates (Job 33:4,26:13), He resurrects (Romans 8:11), and He gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6,8). Jesus as Jesus is eternal and uncreated, so is the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11). It is amazing, when we read the Bible, how quickly Dr. Badawi's arguments evaporate.

Andrew Vargo

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