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

Later Unitarians VI : Joseph Priestly


In this segment, Dr. Badawi continues telling us, based on selective misquotation of Biblical texts and writings of the Early Church Fathers, that the Bible and the early Church Fathers do not provide any proof for the existence of the Trinity or for the concept of atonement. I often wonder how Dr. Badawi explains the fact that 1.3 billion people on this planet believe both doctrines to be Biblical. Joseph Priestly was a brilliant chemist, however, his interpretation of the Bible was simply wrong. Citing his contributions to science in order to give credibility to his religious beliefs is nothing more than an appeal to irrelevant authority.

Host: Could you tell us about Joseph Priestly?

Jamal Badawi: He was born in Leeds England and was raised a strict Calvinist, he did not agree with all of the doctrines of the Church of England. He learned Greek and Hebrew and was not accepted into any University since he did not subscribe to all of the doctrines of the Church, so he went to an open academy where he was exposed to the writings of Servetus and others and concluded that the Bible did not have any proof for the Trinity or for atonement. Like Servetus, he had many talents and contributed to science, discovering oxygen, his main interest was theology and he was assistant minister until it was found that he was a Unitarian. He was a teacher in the Arian academy at Wellington. He big breakthrough occurred when he joined the Earl of Chilborn as his private librarian and accompanied him on his travels. He wrote many works which angered the Church.

Issue 1: Biblical proof for the Trinity

Dr. Badawi loves to repeat his incorrect claim that the Bible contains no evidence for the triune nature of God. The truth is that the Bible contains overwhelming evidence for the Trinity. Dr. Badawi's repetition of this claim does not make it true, nor does the citation of the beliefs of others remove any of these passages from the Bible. What does the Bible say about the nature of God?

The Bible calls the Father God (Philippians 1:2). The Bible also calls the Son God (John 1:1,14 and Colossians 2:9) and calls the Holy Spirit God (Acts 5:3-4).

The Bible calls the Father the creator (Isaiah 64:8 and 44:24). The Bible also calls the Son the creator (John 1:3 and Colossians 1:15-17) and calls the Holy Spirit the creator (Job 33:4 and 26:13).

The Bible says that the Father is everywhere (1 Kings 8:27). The Bible also says that the Son is everywhere (Matthew 28:20) and so is the Holy Spirit (Psalm 139:7-10).

The Bible tells us that the Father knows everything (1 John 3:20). The Bible also tells us that the Son is all knowing (John 16:30 and 21:17) and so is the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10-11)

The Bible says that the Father is eternal (Psalm 90:2). The Bible also says that the Son is eternal (Micah 5:1-2) and so is the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11).

Last, but certainly not least, the Father gives us life (Genesis 2:7) and so does the Son (John 1:3 and 5:21) and the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6,8).

Issue 2: Biblical proof for Atonement

The entire Bible tells us about our relationship with God through atonement! First, we begin with God who is holy (1 Samuel 2:2 , Isaiah 43:3,14,15, and Revelation 4:8), is just (Deuteronomy 32:4, Psalm 89:14; 97:2 and, 145:17), and righteous (Psalm 145:17). God is too pure to look on evil (Hab. 1:13) and He will judge us (Psalm 50:6; 96:10, 13; Isaiah 11:3-4) punishing the ungodly (Romans 1:18).

Now we take a look at man. Humans are sinners and sin is breaking the Law of God (1 John 3:4). We inherited our sinful nature from Adam (Gen. 3:1-6; Rom. 5:12). What does the Bible say about human nature? We are by nature children of wrath because we are sinners (Eph. 2:3), our heart is wicked (Jer. 17:9; Mark 7:21-23), we are spiritually blind (1 Cor. 2:14), we do not seek God (Rom. 3:11); we are lawless, rebellious, unholy, and profane (1 Tim. 1:9); we suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18); and we are at enmity with God (Rom. 5:10).

God will judge each of us for the evil that we do and have done. God will punish the evil (Ex.20:5; Isaiah 11:4) according to the Law (Deut. 29:21; Josh. 8:34; Rev. 21:8). This punishment is eternal (Matt. 3:12; Rev. 14:11) and we will forever be separated from God (Isaiah 59:2).

Fortunately, for us, God wants to make peace with us so that we can regain our fellowship with Him. The Means of Reconciliation is atonement. What does the Bible say about atonement? Atonement comes through the shedding of blood (Lev. 17:11). The sacrifice must be unblemished (Lev. 22:19) and must be conducted by appointed priests (1 Sam. 2:28) who must be lawfully clean (Ex. 29:1-9;19-35).

The Bible tells us that Jesus as the Atonement, or Sacrifice for ours sins because He is unblemished (1 Peter 1:19) according to the Law (Heb. 9:22); He is the High Priest (Heb. 4:14; 6:20); He is substitutionary (1 Pet. 2:24; Is. 53; Eph. 5:2); he is our propitiation [removes God's wrathful judgment] (1 John 2:2; 4:10); and He is a satisfactory sacrifice to God (Eph. 5:2, 10).

Through Jesus we obtain justification. We are lawfully righteous before God (Rom. 3:24-26); are clothed in righteousness (Isaiah 61:10); have Imputed righteousness (Rom. 4:6): escape the judgment of God (Rom. 8:1); are restored to fellowship (1 Thess. 5:9-10); are at peace with God (Rom. 5:1) ; are reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:19); are righteous before God (2 Cor. 5:21); have access to God (Eph. 2:18); and, have an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1).

Host: What angered the Church about his writings?

Jamal Badawi: He said that the narratives of the birth of Jesus were inconsistent with each other, he said that Jesus was a man like all other humans however, he was chosen to introduce a moral dispensation. He said that Jesus revealed knowledge about the next life where people were rewarded not by baptism, but by their acts. He denied the virgin birth which did more harm to Unitarianism that good. In 1691 there were riots in Birmingham where the homes of Unitarians were burned and the army was called in. Priestly was warned so he escaped to London. In 1794, he sailed to the United States with Benjamin Franklin where he established Unitarian Churches in the Philadelphia area.

Issue 1: The birth narratives

The birth narratives are not inconsistent at all. Matthew gives Joseph's genealogy and Luke gives that of Mary, it is clear that Joseph was descended from David through Solomon and Mary through Nathan.

Issue 2: Moral dispensation and salvation through acts

God's divine plan, as I discussed in the previous paragraph, is that mankind is saved only through the blood of Jesus. There are two large problems with the idea that man can save himself through performing acts such as charity, prayer, fasting, or pilgrimages. The first problem is that this idea elevates man to the point that we can "do" something that is acceptable to an all good and all powerful God. Second, it implies that God must accept out acts as sufficient payment for our sins, thus lowering God, while elevating man.

Host: What would you consider Priestly's major contribution?

Jamal Badawi: He used the Bible and writings of the Church Fathers and concluded that the Church was Unitarian.

Was the early Church Unitarian as Dr. Badawi constantly claims? NO! Repeating a falsehood will never make it true, so I will repeat the truth. Here are some quotations from the early Church Fathers:

Polycarp (70-155/160 AD). Bishop of Smyrna. Disciple of John the Apostle:

"O Lord God almighty...I bless you and glorify you through the eternal and heavenly high priest Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom be glory to you, with Him and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever" (n. 14, ed. Funk; PG 5.1040).

Justin Martyr (100?-165? AD). Christian apologist and martyr:

"For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water" (First Apol., LXI).

Ignatius of Antioch (died 98/117 AD). Bishop of Antioch:

"In Christ Jesus our Lord, by whom and with whom be glory and power to the Father with the Holy Spirit for ever" (n. 7; PG 5.988). And "We have also as a Physician the Lord our God Jesus the Christ the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For ‘‘the Word was made flesh.' Being incorporeal, He was in the body; being impassible, He was in a passible body; being immortal, He was in a mortal body; being life, He became subject to corruption, that He might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts." (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., The ante-nicene Fathers, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975 rpt., Vol. 1, p. 52, Ephesians 7.)

Irenaeus (115-190 AD) - who Dr. Badawi implied was a Unitarian in an earlier segment:

"The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father ‘‘to gather all things in one,' and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, ‘‘every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess; to him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all...'" (Against Heresies X.l)

Tertullian (160-215AD) - who Dr. Badawi implied was a Unitarian in an earlier segment:

"We define that there are two, the Father and the Son, and three with the Holy Spirit, and this number is made by the pattern of salvation...[which] brings about unity in trinity, interrelating the three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are three, not in dignity, but in degree, not in substance but in form, not in power but in kind. They are of one substance and power, because there is one God from whom these degrees, forms and kinds devolve in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit." (Adv. Prax. 23; PL 2.156-7).

Origen (185-254 AD) - who Dr. Badawi implied was a Unitarian in an earlier segment:

"Moreover, nothing in the Trinity can be called greater or less, since the fountain of divinity alone contains all things by His word and reason, and by the Spirit of His mouth sanctifies all things which are worthy of sanctification..." (Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4, p. 255, de Principii., I. iii. 7).

He said that Jesus invited people to practice virtue. Jesus and his followers foretold that there would be a departure from what Jesus taught and these would be corrected to restore Christianity.

Jesus said no such thing. In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 16:18:

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

When the heathens embraces Christianity, they imposed their views. The people who accepted Jesus were accused of being followers of a man who was crucified and according to the Old Testament that is something that happened to people who blasphemed or were false prophets. The heathens were disposed to any idea that made a move from the reproach that they were following a man who died on the cross. That is where philosophy provided an escape because Greek philosophy talks about the soul before its reunion with the body and its existence after. The soul of Jesus could be given divine rank before he was born. This idea was given by the Gnostics who were influenced by Oriental philosophy. The Christians presented Jesus as the wisdom or Logos of God being equal with God. The rites of the heathens crept into the Church and Jesus was given the same nature as the Father as well as the Holy Spirit.

Is there any evidence of this? Of course not! The Gnostics were a heretical group which denied the human nature of Jesus and they have nothing to do with orthodox Christian teachings. Jesus said that He and the Father were One, not the Pagans!

Host: You said that Priestly supported his position from the Bible. How did he do this?

Jamal Badawi: He said that the Biblical account of creation talks about One God and when it mentions we, the verse speak about the singular. Genesis 1:26, if you read verse 27, it ways that God created man in his image singular. The second reference was in Genesis 11:7, in that verse God said let us go down and in verse 8 it said the Lord in singular which means one. A simpler way of responded that in English, Arabic, and Hebrew and other human languages, the King says we and God is the King of all Kings.

Dr. Badawi is, once again, attempting to misled us by imposing the rules of English and Arabic upon Biblical Hebrew. There is no plural of respect in Biblical Hebrew. This is admitted even by the Jewish rabbis. Maybe it exists in the Qur'an but this is irrelevant for the Hebrew Scriptures.

Priestly said that any discourse between God and man only one being is mentioned, not three. The Bible mentions angels as creatures, but they are not Gods. Deuteronomy 6:4, Exodus 20:3 where Jesus never negated these but confirmed them in Mark 12:29. He discusses the prophecies about the coming of the Messiah Genesis 3:15 the Messiah come from the seeds of the woman, Genesis 12:3 it says that God to Abraham that he would bless the nations through Jesus which means that he was form the seed of Abraham. How could the Messiah be called this if he was God? He said that Jesus denied that he was anything on his own and said that Jesus could say that he does nothing by himself and we call him God. The Bible says that Jesus was a man approved of by God in John 5:19, 20:17, Acts 2:22, 1 Timothy 2:5. He comments on the Trinity and says that scholars bring this on mere inferences and cannot express in through textual sources. The Bible claims the divine unity.

Host: What historical evidence did Priestly show that Jesus was not considered divine by his contemporaries?

Jamal Badawi: If Jesus were the maker of the world, he would not say that he does nothing on his own authority, but through the authority of the Father.

See the discussion of John 5:17-19 below.

If someone said that Jesus said that God was greater than him referring to his human nature, this is an abuse of the language. It is clear that the Father is greater. The writers of the Gospels wrote them to the Jews or Gentiles and they did not assume that the readers had no need to know about the divinity of Jesus.

Jesus was both man and God, human and divine and this passage, which is probably Badawi's favorite, has nothing to do with the question of hierarchy. The term greater refers to position, not nature. For example, in Philippians 2:6-8:

that Christ though He was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied Himself and submitted Himself to the Father and took on the form of a servant. Though Jesus emptied Himself, He was always in nature God and equal to the Father in nature.

If Jesus wanted to say that He was inferior to God in nature, He would have said, "The Father is better than I."

In contrast to this, if we read Hebrews 1:4, it says (speaking of Jesus),

"So he became as much superior to the angels...."

Notice here that Jesus is better than the angels, so the term superior is used. Once again, the term greater refers to position, not nature.

The deification of Jesus and Trinity were unknown among the Church Fathers. Why did the followers speak of Jesus as a man or the servant of God if they knew that he was the Son of God? They would say that he was God, but no one said that. Priestly said that deification was unknown during the life of the Apostles no one thought of Jesus as divine and the Jews were very zealous of divine unity.

I have already demonstrated that Dr. Badawi's claim about the early Church Father is untrue, now, was the divinity of Jesus "unknown during the life of the Apostles?

Matthew 16:15-16

Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Did Jesus object to Peter's statement? No!

Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.

What about the Jews? The Jews were very zealous of divine unity!

John 5:17-19:

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.

How did Jesus respond?

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

Please think about what Jesus said in this passage and put aside Dr. Badawi's attempts to distort it out of context. Jesus cannot do anything by himself and can only do what the Father does because He and the Father are One. Jesus does not say that he can only do what the Father tells Him to do, 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! If you question my interpretation, ask yourself one question: why did the Jewish leaders want to execute Jesus for blasphemy if He was merely saying that He can do only what God allows, or tells, Him to do? Unlike Dr. Badawi, these men understood exactly what Jesus was saying, but like Dr. Badawi, they did not believe.

Nowhere is there any accusations made by Jews against the Christians where they teaching a new divinity and if that were true the literature of the early Fathers would have responded to that.

They did, see the above discussions.

Acts 6:13, Steven was not accused of teaching that Jesus was God.

Act 7:55-60:

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Once again, Dr. Badawi is wrong!

Andrew Vargo

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