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John Bid­dle : Twelve Argu­ments Refut­ing The Deity of the Holy Spirit

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John Bid­dle (16151662): The Father of Eng­lish Unitarianism

Born in 1615, John Bid­dle, often her­ald­ed as the Father of Uni­tar­i­an­ism in Eng­land, was a schol­ar who would pro­found­ly chal­lenge the reli­gious norms of his time. Known for his intel­lec­tu­al prowess, he grad­u­at­ed from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford and was lat­er employed as a teacher in Glouces­ter. It was here that he under­took a close exam­i­na­tion of the doc­trine of the Trin­i­ty, a cen­tral tenet of Chris­t­ian orthodoxy.

The Ori­gins of the Twelve Arguments” 

After a close study of the Trin­i­ty, he pub­lished a pam­phlet in 1644 enti­tled Twelve Argu­ments Refut­ing the Deity of the Holy Spir­it”, addressed to the Chris­t­ian read­er”. In 1645, the man­u­script of the Twelve Argu­ments” was seized and Bid­dle was impris­oned. He was called to appear before Par­lia­ment, but he still refused to accept the Deity of the Holy Spir­it. The pam­phlet was reprint­ed in 1647. On the 6th of Sep­tem­ber of the same year, Par­lia­ment ordered the pam­phlet to be burned. On the 2nd of May, 1648, a Severe Ordi­nance” was passed, which stat­ed that those who denied the Trin­i­ty or the divin­i­ty of Jesus or the Holy Spir­it, would suf­fer death with­out the ben­e­fit of clergy.

The Twelve Arguments”

Hav­ing seen how hard the Church tries to instill blind faith” into those who oppos­es the Doc­trine of Trin­i­ty, let us see the sum­ma­ry of the Twelve Argu­ments”, the cause of such extreme mea­sures, as fol­lows.1

The Dis­tinc­tion Between God and the Holy Spirit

    1) He that is dis­tin­guished from God is not God.
    The Holy Spir­it is dis­tin­guished from God.
    There­fore, the Holy Spir­it is not God. 

Bid­dle fur­ther explained this syl­lo­gism with these words :

The major premise is quite clear inas­much as if we say that the Holy Spir­it is God and yet dis­tin­guished from God then it implies a con­tra­dic­tion. The minor premise that the Holy Spir­it is dis­tin­guished from God if it is tak­en per­son­al­ly and not essen­tial­ly is against all rea­son : First, it is impos­si­ble for any man to dis­tin­guish the Per­son from the Essence of God, and not to frame two Beings or Things in his mind. Con­se­quent­ly, he will be forced to the con­clu­sion that there are two Gods.Secondly, if the Per­son be dis­tin­guished from the Essence of God, the Per­son would be some Inde­pen­dent Thing. There­fore it would either be finite or infi­nite. If finite then God would be a finite thing since accord­ing to the Church every­thing in God is God Him­self. So the con­clu­sion is absurd. If infi­nite then there will be two infin­ites in God, and con­se­quent­ly the two Gods which is more absurd than the for­mer argument.Thirdly, to speak of God tak­en imper­son­al­ly is ridicu­lous, as it is admit­ted by every­one that God is the Name of a Per­son, who with absolute sov­er­eign­ty rules over all. None but a per­son can rule over oth­ers there­fore to take oth­er­wise than per­son­al­ly is to take Him oth­er­wise than He is.

Jeho­va as the Sole Giv­er of the Holy Spirit

    2) He that gave the Holy Spir­it to the Israelites is Jeho­va Alone.
    Then the Holy Spir­it is not Jeho­va or God. 

The Holy Spir­it’s Lack of Autonomous Speech

    3) He that speak­est not for him­self is not God.
    The Holy Spir­it speaks not for himself.
    There­fore the Holy Spir­it is not God. 

Christ’s Depen­dent Knowledge

    4) He that is taught is not God.
    He that hears from anoth­er what he shall speak is taught.
    Christ speaks what he is told (John 8:26).
    There­fore Christ is not God. 

The Prin­ci­ple of Divine Giving

    5) In John 16:14 Jesus says : God is He that giveth all things to all”.
    He that receives from anoth­er is not God. 

Divin­i­ty and the Act of Sending

    6) He that is sent by anoth­er is not God.
    The Holy Spir­it is sent by God.
    There­fore the Holy Spir­it is not God. 

The Gift-Giv­er Ver­sus the Gift

    7) He that is not the giv­er of all things is not God (Acts 17:25).
    He that is the gift of God is not the giv­er of all things.
    He that is the gift of God is him­self given.
    The gift is in the pow­er and at the dis­pos­al of the giver.
    It is there­fore absurd to imag­ine that God can be in the pow­er or at the dis­pos­al of another. 

The Impos­si­bil­i­ty of Divine Relocation

    8) He that changes place is not God.
    The Holy Spir­it changes place.
    There­fore the Holy Spir­it is not God. 

This syl­lo­gism was explained by Bid­dle as follows :

If God changes place then He would cease to be where He was before and begin to be where He was not before, which is against His Omnipres­ence and His Deity. There­fore it was not God who came to Jesus but an Angel sus­tain­ing the Per­son in the Name of God.

The Holy Spir­it’s Prayer to Christ

    9) He that prays to Christ to come to judge­ment is not God.
    The Holy Spir­it does so.
    There­fore the Holy Spir­it is not God. 

The Lack of Belief in the Holy Spirit

    10) In Romans 10:14 it reads, How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard. He in whom men have not believed, yet were disciples”.
    He who is not believed in is not God.
    Men have not believed in the Holy Spir­it, yet were disciples.
    There­fore the Holy Spir­it is not God. 

Receiv­ing Instruc­tions From God

    11) He that hears from God at the sec­ond hand, viz the Christ Jesus, what he shall speak has an under­stand­ing dis­tinct from God.
    He that heareth from God what he shall speak is taught of God.
    The Holy Spir­it does so.
    There­fore the Holy Spir­it is not God. 

Dis­tinct Wills and Divinity

    12) He that has a will dis­tinct in num­ber from that of God is not God.
    The Holy Spir­it has a will dis­tinct in num­ber from God (Romans 8 : 26 – 27).
    There­fore the Holy Spir­it is not God.


John Bid­dle’s lega­cy is a tes­ta­ment to the pow­er of crit­i­cal inquiry in the face of severe soci­etal and insti­tu­tion­al pres­sures. He stands as an endur­ing fig­ure in the his­to­ry of reli­gious thought, a man whose ques­tions con­tin­ue to res­onate in mod­ern the­o­log­i­cal debates. Oppo­si­tion to Trini­tar­i­an doc­trines had been ongo­ing since it was first estab­lished in 325 CE. One would no doubt won­der why the Church resort­ed to burn­ing John Bid­dle’s anti-Trini­tar­i­an writ­ings instead of debat­ing about it in a schol­ar­ly man­ner, if the Church is cer­tain that the doc­trine is undis­putable and is indeed an inher­ent part of the Chris­t­ian faith.Endmark

  1. As repro­duced & adapt­ed from Muham­mad Ata ur-Rahim, Jesus A Prophet of Islam, pp. 142 – 146.[]

1 Comment

  1. shadowofears Reply

    The­o­log­i­cal­ly speak­ing, the con­cept of Holy Ghost as Filioque’(“a dou­ble pro­ces­sion”) was added to the Orig­i­nal Doc­trine much lat­er. As taught by the Greek the­olo­gians and advo­cat­ed by St. Augus­tine, it sim­ply makes the Holy Ghost a go-between” com­mu­ni­ca­tions or things that pro­ceed from the Father and is received by an indi­vid­ual via Jesus Christ. One may argue that since the Holy Ghost emanates from God the Father, it is also God. In real­i­ty, this would only be pos­si­ble if there was a total ema­na­tion” (100% trans­fer). If that be the case, then the Pri­ma­ry Source has either anni­hi­lat­ed Him­self (Itself) or has pro­duced a Clone. God the Father still exists and Chris­tians with their Trini­tar­i­an Beliefs yet claim God is One.

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