John Biddle’s “Twelve Arguments Refuting The Deity Of The Holy Spirit”

Brief Biography of John Biddle (1615-1662)

John Biddle, the Father of Unitarianism in England, was born in 1615. He was a brilliant student and was described as a man who “outran his instructors and became tutor to himself”. He went to the University at Oxford n 1634, was made a B.A. in 1638 and an M.A. in 1641. After leaving Oxford, he was appointed as a teacher in Gloucester. It was here that he began to re-examine his religious views and began to doubt the validity of the doctrine of Trinity.

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

    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.

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

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

    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.

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

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

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

Conclusions

Opposition to Trinitarian doctrines had been ongoing since it was first established in 325 A.D. 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.

Footnotes

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

1 Comment

  1. 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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