Binitarianism: Is It Biblical?

How erasing the Holy Spirit also denies the true nature of the Father and the Son

by Simon Turpin on October 29, 2022

The Bible reveals to us that there is one true God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 45:5) who exists eternally as three coequal and coeternal distinct Persons: the Father (Philippians 1:2), the Son (John 1:1, 18), and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3–4). This biblical truth is what Christians call the doctrine of the Trinity. However, not all people who call themselves “Christians” accept the doctrine of the Trinity.1 There is a small but growing group of people and churches (Church of God [Seventh Day])2 who hold to an “unorthodox and non-creedal”3 position known as binitarianism.4 This is the belief that the one true God exists as two Persons (the Father and the Son).5 Binitarianism is a rejection of the full deity and personhood of the Holy Spirit.

This is not a new position. In the fourth century AD, after Arianism6 was defeated at the Council of Nicaea (AD 325), a group known as the Macedonians (Semi-Arians) denied that the Person of the Holy Spirit was God. The Macedonians were consequently known as the “Pneumatomachoi” (fighters against the Spirit). The Macedonians also believed the Son (Jesus) was “of a similar substance” as the Father but rejected that he was “of the same substance” (see below). The church fathers Athanasius of Alexandria (AD 296–373), Basil of Caesarea (AD 330–379), and Gregory of Nyssa (AD 335–394) wrote against and refuted the error of the Macedonians (see Letters to Serapion, On the Holy Spirit, Sermon on the Holy Spirit against the Spirit-fighting Macedonians).7 In the Nicene Creed of AD 381, the Council of Constantinople affirmed the deity of the Holy Spirit, stating, “and [I believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and the life-giver, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is worshipped together and glorified together.”8

Denying the True Nature of the Son

Because of their unorthodox position, binitarians ultimately end up embracing unorthodox beliefs, not only about the Holy Spirit but also regarding the divine nature of the Son. A binitarian website, in their affirmation and denials section, states their belief about “one God” this way:

We affirm that the Father is the one God, the definitive God, the Most High, the true and living God. We affirm that the Father possesses divine ultimacy in all things. He is the ultimate source and sovereign of all things and the ultimate savior of His chosen people.

We deny that anyone, including the Son, possesses divine ultimacy besides the Father.9

Because of their unorthodox position, binitarians ultimately end up embracing unorthodox beliefs, not only about the Holy Spirit but also regarding the divine nature of the Son.

This suggests the Father alone possesses the divine nature.10 The French Reformer John Calvin attacked this position, arguing that “whosoever says that the Son has been given his essence from the Father denies that he has being from himself.”11 If the Son’s deity is derived from the Father then he is not “‘God in himself’ [and] he cannot be divine.”12 The Bible teaches that the Son is equal with the Father with respect to his deity (John 5:18, 10:30–36; Colossians 1:15, 2:9; Hebrews 1:3). Because each Person of the Trinity is God and possesses the one being of God, the Son is not a lesser divine Person than the Father.

Other binitarians hold to the kenotic13 heresy, the belief that in his earthly ministry Jesus emptied himself of his divinity. A paper for the Churches of God states,

Unlike trinitarians, most binitarians do not believe that Jesus “was fully human and fully God” . . . Binitarians essentially believe that Jesus emptied Himself of His Divinity while in the flesh, prior to the resurrection.14

The kenotic heresy is based on a misunderstanding of the Apostle Paul’s statement regarding Jesus in Philippians 2:7: “But emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Jesus emptied himself, not by taking away anything that was divine, but by taking on a human nature (“the form of a servant” and “the likeness of men”). In his incarnation, Jesus may have suspended the use of some of his divine privileges—for example, his omnipresence or the glory that he had with the Father in heaven (John 17:5)—but not his divinity. Jesus was truly God and truly man (hypostatic union) throughout his earthly life (see Luke 9:28–35; John 1:14, 5:21–23, 8:58, 10:29–33).

The Divinity and Personhood of the Holy Spirit

Binitarians reject the deity and personhood of the Holy Spirit, but they accept the most common argument used against trinitarians by cultic groups and other world religions—that God’s being cannot be shared by more than one Person. However, because binitarians rightly accept that God can exist as more than one Person, they cannot consistently argue against trinitarians since the evidence that proves the Son is a divine Person equally proves the Holy Spirit is a divine Person. Since binitarians reject the deity and personhood of the Holy Spirit, they typically take references to the Holy Spirit (or God’s Spirit) as being the Spirit of God the Father—his presence or power. Binitarians argue that the spirit of someone does not indicate a separate other person, but something that is intrinsic to that person himself. But this is simply a distortion of what the Bible says about the Person of the Holy Spirit.

In the Old Testament, the Person of the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) is actively involved in divine works, not only in creation but also in redemption and revelation.

In the Old Testament, the Person of the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) is actively involved in divine works, not only in creation but also in redemption and revelation.

Genesis 1:2 states that at the beginning of creation “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The Hebrew word “rûaḥ” can be translated either as “Spirit” or “wind.” The latter term is used to suggest an impersonal force (see JPS).15 It is the context that determines the meaning of the word. The verb “hovering” (mĕraḥepet) more properly takes “Spirit” as its subject than “wind.” The composite expression “Spirit of God” (rûaḥ ʾĕlōhîm) is consistently used in the Torah as a clear reference to the Person of the Spirit of God (see Exodus 31:3, 35:31; Numbers 24:2).16 The Spirit of God is participating in creation as he “hovers” (rāḥap, Deuteronomy 32:1117) over the waters, preparing the way for the creative Word of God (Genesis 1:3) and the transformation of the earth, readying it for habitation. The psalmist confirms that it was God’s Spirit who transformed the earth: “When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground” (Psalm 104:30). Notice the Spirit is sent forth by the Father and therefore is distinct from him. In Job 33:4, Elihu acknowledges he was made by the Spirit of God: “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” The Spirit was actively involved in Elihu’s creation, just as he was in the creation of Adam (Genesis 2:7).

The nation of Israel’s exodus from Egypt is the major redemptive event of the Old Testament (see Psalm 105:23–45, 106:7–32). The people of Israel knew God as their Savior through the threefold activity of the Lord(יהוה) as seen in Isaiah 63—the Father in verse 8 (cf. 63:16), the Son in verse 9 (“angel of his presence,” i.e., “the angel of the Lord18), and the Holy Spirit in verses 10 and 14 (cf. Psalm 51:11). The personality of the Holy Spirit is seen in the fact that he can be “grieved” (Isaiah 63:10; cf. Psalm 78:40–41; Ephesians 4:30). The context of Isaiah 63:8–14 looks back to the exodus when God saved Israel by means of the “angel of his presence” (“he redeemed them”) and the Holy Spirit/the Spirit of the Lord (who was “in the midst of them” and “gave them rest”). Isaiah 63:8–14 shows a distinction between the Father, the angel of his presence (the Son), and the Holy Spirit.19

2 Samuel 23:1–7 records the last words of king David. Verses 2–3 state,

The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me; his word is on my tongue.

The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me.

The Spirit of the Lord spoke by and through David that the Messiah would be a righteous ruler (2 Samuel 23:3–4). The New Testament affirms that the Holy Spirit spoke prophetically through David (see Mark 12:36; Acts 1:16, 4:24–26). The fact that the Spirit speaks shows that he is a Person. Moreover, the Spirit of the Lord (verse 2) is identified as the God of Israel (verse 3).20 These verses confirm that the Holy Spirit is a Person and that he is God.

In his farewell discourse in the New Testament, Jesus told his disciples that because he was going back to the Father, he and the Father would send another Helper “paraklētos” (cf. 1 John 2:1), the Holy Spirit, to dwell in them (John 14:16, 26, 15:26, 16:7). Jesus presents the Holy Spirit as a divine Person, as he is eternal (John 14:16) and truthful (John 14:17) and would teach the disciples (John 14:26; cf. Luke 12:11–12). The fact that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit from the Father shows that all three Persons of the Trinity are distinct (John 15:26). Furthermore, the numerous triadic texts in the New Testament make it very difficult to think that the Father and the Son are different Persons while the Holy Spirit is not.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)

To be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:16)

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. (1 Corinthians 12:4–6)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)

For through him [Jesus] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:18)

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord [Jesus], one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4–6)

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord [Jesus], because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)

According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood. (1 Peter 1:2)

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (Jude 20–21)

The Holy Spirit in these passages cannot be referring to the spirit of the Father as he is not only distinct from the Father and the Son but equal to them.

The Bible presents the Holy Spirit as a divine Person (Acts 5:3–4) who is distinct from the Persons of the Father and the Son. For example, personal pronouns are used of him (Acts 10:19–20, 13:2); personal properties are ascribed to him—wisdom, knowledge, might (Isaiah 11:2), and will (1 Corinthians 12:11); personal activities are ascribed to him—he speaks (Acts 13:2), he reveals (Luke 2:26), he comforts (Acts 9:31), he can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), and he can be lied to (Acts 5:3). Furthermore, several New Testament authors identify the Holy Spirit as YHWH (יהוה) of the Old Testament (Acts 28:25–27 quotes Isaiah 6:9–10; Hebrews 3:7–9 quotes Psalm 95:7–11; 2 Corinthians 6:16 quotes Leviticus 26:11–12).21

Is the Holy Spirit to Be Worshipped?

Recently, a theologian who came to reject the Trinity and accept the binitarian position explained one of his reasons to me.

In the Bible I see no evidence that the Holy Spirit is to be worshipped alongside the Father and the Son as a separate third person. Indeed, the Book of Revelation presents the image in heaven of worship of (1) God (the Father) on the throne, and of (2) Jesus, the Lamb, at His side (e.g., Revelation 5:13-14).22

The hidden assumption here is that because the Holy Spirit is not mentioned in this text, he therefore is not to be worshipped as God. But it is illogical to establish a conclusion based on something that has not been stated. The fact that there is no text in the New Testament like Revelation 5:13–14 where the Holy Spirit is worshipped alongside the Father and Son does not mean he is a not a divine Person or that he is not to be worshipped.23

In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit does not usually function as a recipient of worship but is referred to as empowering and enabling worship (Philippians 3:3; cf. Romans 8:26–27; Galatians 4:6).24 This is because in his role in redemption, the Holy Spirit does not point to himself but bears witness about Jesus and glorifies him (John 15:26, 16:14). The Holy Spirit is the Helper (advocate) and Sanctifier of Christians (John 15:26; Romans 15:16). The role of the Holy Spirit is to point our attention toward Jesus so that we can be conformed to his image.

But should we worship the Holy Spirit? The seventeenth century Puritan theologian John Owen stated, “When we worship, we worship the divine nature. So it is impossible to worship any one person in the Godhead and not worship the whole Trinity.”25 It is always appropriate to worship God, and since the Holy Spirit is a divine Person, then it is appropriate to worship him. But this does not mean that we seek to separate the Godhead; that would be inappropriate.

The Bible makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is a distinct divine Person who is fully equal with the Father and the Son.

Binitarianism (Semi-Arianism) is an old heresy that is slowly creeping back into the church. This is important for Christians to be aware of, because when we do not teach and emphasize the importance of biblical doctrine (such as the Trinity), we open the door to heresy as is evidenced by church history. The Bible makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is a distinct divine Person who is fully equal with the Father and the Son.


  1. This also includes Unitarians. See “Refuting Unitarian Errors Regarding the Deity of Jesus: How can we respond to claims that Jesus is a mere human?” by Simon Turpin on September 7, 2022,
  2. In their doctrinal statement, the Church of God (Seventh Day) states: “The sovereign deity of the universe is God Almighty, who is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth. He is eternal, infinite, holy, self-existent Spirit who created, sustains, rules, redeems, and judges His creation. He is one in nature, essence, and being. God is revealed in Scripture as Father and Son.” (“What We Believe,” Church of God [Seventh Day], accessed October 25, 2022,
  3. Mario Shepherd, Why I Became a Biblical Binitarian (independently published, 2022), 10.
  4. In scholarly discussions, binitarianism, complementary dualism, or Jewish “two power” traditions are found in Second Temple period Judaism. See Alan Segal, Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism (Baylor University Press, 2012).
  5. Binitarians often point to the greetings in Paul’s letters to argue their case that only the Father and Son are divine (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3; Philippians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 1:3). But this is an argument from silence. The fact the Holy Spirit is not mentioned in the greetings does not prove the Apostle Paul did not believe the Holy Spirit is a divine person. It also ignores the fact that the Holy Spirit is either mentioned within the context of those greetings (Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 2:4–5; 2 Corinthians 1:21–22; Ephesians 1:13–14) or later in the letter (Galatians 3:2–3, 4:6; Philippians 3:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Timothy 3:7, 4:1; Titus 3:5).
  6. In the third century, the Alexandrian presbyter Arius (AD 256–336) taught that the Son (Jesus) was formed out of nothing by the Father before the universe was created.
  7. Nick Needham, 2000 Years of Christ’s Power: The Age of the Early Church Fathers, Volume 1 (Scotland: Christian Focus, 2016), 237–239.
  8. Christians before Constantinople believed in the triune nature of God. The church father Irenaeus (AD 120–202), a disciple of Polycarp (who was a disciple of the Apostle John) stated, “The Church, though dispersed through the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one 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 [future] 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 Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father.” (Against Heresies, Book I, Chapter 10, Section 1). Here Irenaeus states clearly that the Holy Spirit is personal, and that the whole church agrees. Irenaeus also sees the Holy Spirit’s involvement in creation and providence: “For God needs none of all these things, but is He who, by His Word and Spirit, makes, and disposes, and governs all things, and commands all things into existence.” (Against Heresies, Book I, Chapter 22, Section 1).
  9. Thesis number 5 in “22 Theses - Affirmations & Denials,”,
  10. Binitarians come to this conclusion based on passages like John 5:26: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” Binitarians believe this passage teaches an ontological endowment from the Father to the Son, rather than the Son’s Messianic inauguration from the Father.
  11. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeil, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, 2 Vols., (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 1.13.23. Calvin believed that the Father is the source of the Son’s person but not of his deity.
  12. John Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (New Jersey: P&R Publishing Group, 2013), 492.
  13. The word kenotic comes from the Greek word ἐκένωσεν (ekenōsen—emptied) in Philippians 2:7.
  14. Bob Thiel, “Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning,”,
  15. The Jewish Publication Society translates Genesis 1:2 as “the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water.”
  16. The Spirit of God was not just involved in the creation of world but also in the making of the tabernacle. Alexander notes of the language used in Exodus 31:3: “The Spirit of God equips Bezalel for the tasks delegated to him and is the source of his ‘wisdom’, ḥokmâ; ‘understanding’, těbûnâh, ‘knowledge’, daʿaṯ; and ‘all craftsmanship’, kol-mělā’ḵâ . . . Using identical vocabulary, Prov. 2:6 affirms that ‘the Lord gives wisdom; / from his mouth come knowledge and understanding’. Elsewhere in Proverbs, the attributes of ‘wisdom’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’ are associated with the creation of the cosmos:
    By wisdom YHWH laid the earth’s foundations,
    By understanding he set the heavens in place;
    By his knowledge the watery depths were divided,
    And the clouds let drop the dew.
    (Prov. 3:19–20)” T. Desmond Alexander, Exodus (London: Apollos, 2017), 608.
  17. The verb “hovering” only appears one other time in the Torah—Deuteronomy 32:11, where God is likened to an eagle who “flutters” (rāḥap) over his young (Israel) during their wilderness wanderings.
  18. The Angel (Messenger) of the Lord is a manifestation of a divine Person (Genesis 16:7–13, 48:15–16; Exodus 3:2–4, 23:20–23; Numbers 20:16; Judges 2:1).
  19. See Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on Isaiah, 2 Vols (T&T Clark, 1873), 456; John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah Chapters 40–66: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 607–608.
  20. These verses use a form of Hebrew parallelism where the same concept is stated but just in a different way.
  21. In 2 Corinthians 6:16, Paul speaks of the church as “the temple of the living God” with whom YHWH dwells. God dwells in the members of his church by the Person of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9, 11).
  22. This was in private email correspondence.
  23. There are scholars who see the references to “the seven spirits” before God’s throne (Revelation 1:4, 4:5) as a reference to the Holy Spirit (rather than angels) who is sent out into the world by the Father and the Son to be their eyes (Revelation 5:6; cf. Acts 2:17, 33). See Craig S. Keener, Revelation: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 70; Grant R. Osborne, Revelation: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 36–37.
  24. In Philippians 3:3, the reading “worship by the Spirit of God [theou]” (ESV) rather than “worship God [theō] in the spirit” (KJV) has good external and internal textual support. See note 5 in “Philippians 3” NET Notes,,
  25. John Owen, Communion with God (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2013), 205.


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