Discussion Summary: The Sonship and the Divinity of Christ

Here is a summary of a discussion I am having with a brother who is trying to explain to me the Adventist trinitarian belief. In this summary, I outline his two most recent responses to my questions. Just a note here that this brother claims to have written some books on the trinity doctrine, which books are available in SDA literature outlets.

Hi Bro,

Thanks for your response. I want you to know that I genuinely desire to have someone restore my faith in the trinity. And it is good that you are among those who have tried to explain its intricacies. However, the way you are going about it is doing no less damage than those I have spoken to before.

Consider the recent trend of our interaction so far.

1.       I presented to you how a metaphor works in grammar, that it is a comparison ALWAYS based on the literal. Therefore, when trinitarians and tritheists say the sonship is metaphorical, either they do not know what a metaphor is, or they are unknowingly admitting that the relationship between the Father and the Son has all the characteristics of a normal Father-Son relationship. In the latter case, the so-called metaphorical sonship is a contradiction in terms which confirms the true literal sonship.

Your response to this was a claim that a metaphor can be abstract, but you neither gave examples, nor explained how. Instead, you explain a theory based on grammatical apposition.

With the apposition, it seems to me you use appositions to make the claim that the term Son of God, being used in apposition to the term Messiah means it is just a term equivalent to Messiah, not an actual sonship. But that’s not what an apposition is meant to do. An apposition is never intended to take away the literal meaning of either of the terms used in the apposition. For example, “The boy, an avid sprinter, raced ahead to the finish line” (https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/parts-of-speech/nouns/example-of-an-appositive-noun.html ). That appositive statement has ‘boy’ and ‘an avid sprinter’ in noun apposition. But you would not claim that the boy is not a literal boy or not a literal sprinter because of the apposition. The term avid sprinter does not qualify anything else about the nature of the boy and his boyhood other than that he can ran well. To project the avid sprinting of the boy into the nature and origin of his boyhood is clearly an error.

Similarly, the appositions you give such as this verse below do not nullify the literal sonship at all.

Matthew 26:63 But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.

If in this case the noun apposition “the Christ, the Son of God” could be used to say Christ is not a literal Son, then similarly the reverse would be also true, that he is not a Christ, just a Son. All that the apposition does is that it lets us know that the Son of God is ALSO the Christ.

Hence the theory that you build, that Christ is not the Son of God based on the noun appositions does not hold. It is clearly a misuse of the workings of an apposition in grammar.

·         Secondly, I gave you two examples of EGW explaining the divinity of the Son of God. I have since found another two and I present all the four here.

“To the Saviour’s words, “Believest thou?” Martha responded, “Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” She did not comprehend in all their significance the words spoken by Christ, but she confessed her faith in His divinity, and her confidence that He was able to perform whatever it pleased Him to do.” {DA 530.4}

“Christ’s divinity is to be steadfastly maintained. When the Saviour asked His disciples the question, “Whom say ye that I am?” Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15, 16). Said Christ, “Upon this rock,” not on Peter, but on the Son of God, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (verse 18).” {EGW, The Upward Look, p. 58}.

“At the Saviour’s baptism, Satan was among the witnesses. He saw the Father’s glory overshadowing His Son. He heard the voice of Jehovah testifying to the divinity of Jesus. Ever since Adam’s sin, the human race had been cut off from direct communion with God; the intercourse between heaven and earth had been through Christ; but now that Jesus had come “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3), the Father Himself spoke. He had before communicated with humanity through Christ; now He communicated with humanity in Christ. Satan had hoped that God’s abhorrence of evil would bring an eternal separation between heaven and earth. But now it was manifest that the connection between God and man had been restored.” {DA 116.2}

“In the closing events of the crucifixion day, fresh evidence was given of the fulfillment of prophecy, and new witness borne to Christ’s divinity. When the darkness had lifted from the cross, and the Saviour’s dying cry had been uttered, immediately another voice was heard, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God.”” Matthew 27:54. {DA 770.1}

With four witnesses, we can attest to the fact that EGW testified that Christ’s divinity is in the testimony “Son of God” whether uttered by the Father Himself or by inspired human witnesses. His sonship is his divinity because his divinity is by inheritance from God (John 5:26; Hebrews1:3, 8) as a son.

All three-in-one god believers disagree with how EGW explained the divinity of Christ in these quotes. No three-in-one god believer would explain divinity on the basis of pre-existent sonship. All three-in-one god believers explain divinity as opposed to pre-existent sonship.

I note below your responses to this EGW testimony that sonship is divinity in Christ.

Firstly, you admit that you do not understand divinity the same way as EGW. As you say, “I have found no Biblical evidence that the expression SON OF GOD must refer to Christ’s divinity”, you confirm that your reading of the Bible is different from EGW. I then wonder how you can use her writings to support yourself if you clearly differ from her understanding of this subject.

Secondly, you wrote, “My observation is that sometimes, Ellen White has expressed in writing nothing more than the common SDA belief of her contemporaries. Where she has some additional light by visions, she departs from others, but usually she repeats what others have said.”

That claim did not start with you. It has been popularized by Adventist theologians such as G Knight and J Moon among others. But it is so contrary to the evidence.

1.       EGW herself says this about the source of her writings.

“I said, “If any of the citizens of Battle Creek wish to know what Mrs. White believes and teaches, LET THEM READ HER PUBLISHED BOOKS. My labors would be naught should I preach another gospelTHAT WHICH I HAVE WRITTEN IS WHAT THE LORD HAS BIDDEN ME WRITEI HAVE NOT BEEN INSTRUCTED TO CHANGE THAT WHICH I HAVE SENT OUT. I stand firm in the Adventist faith; for I have been warned in regard to the seducing sophistries that will seek for entrance among us as a people. The Scripture says, ‘Some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.’ I present before our people the danger of being led astray as were the angels in the heavenly courts. The straight line of truth presented to me when I was but a girl is just as clearly presented to me now.”” {RH January 26, 1905, par. 19} (emphasis added)

But you say she was just repeating others. She says no, I was ALWAYS given what to write by the Master.

·         Would we all believe EGW if all she did was repeat some errors and claim to be what God has given her?

·         Why is it that when EGW confirms the pioneers it is not new light, but when you think she differs from them then that’s new light? Are you not then a judge of EGW’s writing and not a student of them?

·         Does it not make sense to you that we should harmonise EGW’s writings as we do with the Bible rather than project a change in her belief which change she denies herself?

“The meeting on Sunday afternoon was attended by many of the citizens of Battle Creek. They paid the best of attention. At this meeting I had opportunity to state decidedly that my views have not changed. The blessing of the Lord rested upon many of those who heard the words spoken. I said: “You may be anxious to know what Mrs. White believes. You have heard her speak many times…. She has the same service to do for the Master that she had when she addressed the people of Battle Creek years ago. She receives lessons from the same Instructor. The directions given her are, ‘Write the messages that I give you, that the people may have them.’ These messages have been written as God has given them to me.””—Letter 39, 1905. {3SM 73.1}

And again,

“You must know if you are not blinded, that my testimonies have not changed, that I have not changed in character or in my work, and hope through the grace of God, never to swerve to the right or to the left to have harmony with you or Elder Butler or any elder in the ranks of Sabbathkeepers.” {1888 734.1}

So, we know she did not change into an understanding that departs from the pioneers. She taught the pioneers the same message since she was a girl, i.e., since December 1844.

·         If EGW changed her beliefs and yet claimed to have never changed, would she be an honest messenger of God?

·         Why do you make your own perception of EGW more important than her own statements about herself, that she never changed and that she endorsed the views of the pioneers on this point?

·         Did the pioneers reach their understanding of this subject independent of EGW’s input? She says no.

“Many of our people do not realize how firmly the foundation of our faith has been laid. My husband, Elder Joseph Bates, Father Pierce, [Older brethren among the pioneers are here thus reminiscently referred to. “Father Pierce” was Stephen Pierce, who served in ministerial and administrative work in the early days. “Father Andrews” was Edward Andrews, the father of J. N. Andrews.—Compilers.] Elder [Hiram] Edson, and others who were keen, noble, and true, were among those who, after the passing of the time in 1844, searched for the truth as for hidden treasure. I met with them, and we studied and prayed earnestly. Often, we remained together until late at night, and sometimes through the entire night, praying for light and studying the Word. Again, and again these brethren came together to study the Bible, in order that they might know its meaning, and be prepared to teach it with power. When they came to the point in their study where they said, “We can do nothing more,” the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me, I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to how we were to labor and teach effectivelyThus, light was given that helped us to understand the scriptures in regard to Christ, His mission, and His priesthood. A line of truth extending from that time to the time when we shall enter the city of God, was made plain to me, and I gave to others the instruction that the Lord had given me.” {1SM 206.4} (emphasis added)

EGW taught the pioneers what they believed and taught!!

·         Considering the above quote, why do you make her a recipient not the source of the truth that the pioneers had, when she clearly says that the pioneers came to know about Christ through her visions? Bro, do these words from EGW mean anything to you (“The straight line of truth presented to me when I was but a girl is just as clearly presented to me now”)? Do you account for them before you claim that EGW only repeated other people’s thoughts?

Therefore, in summary, while EGW does not say “now I am agreeing with the pioneers” and then later on “now I am departing from the pioneers”, this understanding that she differs from the pioneers on this subject has been created for no other reason than that it is convenient to navigate her writings in favour of the new theology the church has taken. Meanwhile, the church clearly escapes the obvious and most logical choice which is that all her writings from the first to the last agree with each other. This is the choice that she states herself when she says quotes given above.

·         Thirdly, there is another problem with your framework. It is built on perceiving an impossibility which the Bible does not state. When you say, “This would be strange”, i.e., that God has many sons. Why would it be strange? The Bible does not say it is strange, but if it sounds strange to human mind, that is no reason to say it is not so. Yet at the same time you ““today — when You were enthroned — I have begotten You””. In other words, you mean to be begotten is to be enthroned. Why is that not strange given that the Bible does not say so. But whoever begetting by enthroning or enthroning by begetting? Why does it not sound strange to you within your framework that Christ already has a throne as a co-equal of the Father therefore does not need enthroning?

·         Fourthly, you say that we need to understand how the Jews understood the title Son of God. Well, that is very clear. In agreement with EGW, the Jews understood the Sonship as the divinity as well.

John 10:33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. 34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? 35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; 36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

John 19:7 The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

According to the Jews, when Christ said I am the Son of God, they understood that as blasphemy. The blasphemy according to then was that by saying so Christ was making himself God. Two witnesses with the same claim that in the eyes of the Jews to claim to be the Son of God was to claim to be God.

Clearly, the Jews did not understand the term Son of God as simply a relationship with God.

·         Fifthly, again it is surprising to me that after admitting that you see things differently from EGW and that you cannot reconcile her writings with your own, you went on to quote her. Does it not follow that if you cannot reconcile her writings with your viewpoint then your use of her writings is a potential serious misunderstanding of her teaching?

Let us come to the quotation that you gave.

You quoted, “Re. John 1:4. It is not physical life that is here specified, but immortality, the life which is exclusively the property of God. The Word, who was with God, and who was God, had this life. Physical life is something which each individual receives. It is not eternal or immortal; for God, the Life-giver, takes it again. Man has no control over his life. But the life of Christ was UNBORROWED. No one can take this life from Him. “I lay it down of myself” (John 10:18), He said. In Him was life, ORIGINAL, UNBORROWED, UNDERIVED. This life is not inherent in man. He can possess it only through Christ. He cannot earn it; it is given him as a free gift if he will believe in Christ as his personal Saviour. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). This is the open fountain of life for the world. 1SM 296.”

Firstly, check out this bias. Earlier you said this, “Where she has some additional light by visions, she departs from others, but usually she repeats what others have said.” So, when EGW agrees with the pioneers, well there is no light there, no inspiration, just a repetition. Now in this statement, EGW quotes John Cumming, D.D., F.R.S.E. of London published by the John P. Jewett Co., Cleveland, OH in 1856 on page 5. Now that’s light because in your view she has departed from the pioneers.

Why is it that a perceived departure from the pioneers is called additional light and inspiration but agreeing with them is not? Why not take the view that the common beliefs that the pioneers had, which they hammered out together with EGW (from 1844-1848), and according to EGW with direct revelation from God was the LIGHT and the inspiration? That’s what she says herself. [“And now, after half a century of clear light from the Word as to what is truth, there are arising many false theories, to unsettle minds. But the evidence given in our early experience has the same force that it had then. The truth is the same as it ever has been, and not a pin or a pillar can be moved from the structure of truth. That which was sought for out of the Word in 1844, 1845, and 1846 remains the truth today in every particular.” EGW, Letter 38, 1906]

And that when EGW receives new light it confirms the same position she has always agreed with the pioneers? That’s what she says herself also. [But although the long line of events extends through so many centuries, and new and important truths are from time to time developed, that which was truth in the beginning is the truth still. The increased light of the present day does not contradict or make of none effect the dimmer light of the past. {ST June 3, 1886, par. 13}]

Why do you build this theory of a change in EGW belief and teaching which she denies more than once? Why ignore the fact that she denies ever changing to take a position contrary to the pioneers and the common beliefs of the SDA at that time?

Your view here, and many Adventist trinitarians/tritheists think so, is that because EGW says that IN Christ life was “ORIGINAL, UNBORROWED, UNDERIVED” therefore he could not have received life from the Father as John 5:26 says. But let us look at this.

Say a father made an original Seiko watch. Then that watch is original, unborrowed and underived. Then out of his own “agape love” he gives it to a son saying, “It is now fully yours; I do not want it back and you can do whatever you want with it.”

After it is given to the son, is the Seiko watch,

1.       Still original? Yes, originality here is an expression of its nature, not a method of acquisition.

2.       Unborrowed? Yes, it is unborrowed because it was freely given without any instigation from the receiver. The son did not ask for it.

3.       Underived? Yes, there is no eternal generation of the Seiko watch. It is not siphoned from the father.

So EGW says elsewhere:

“All things Christ received from God, but He took to give. So, in the heavenly courts, in His ministry for all created beings: through the beloved Son, the Father’s life flows out to all; through the Son it returns, in praise and joyous service, a tide of love, to the great Source of all.” — The Desire of Ages p. 21

Clearly, according to EGW “ALL THINGS” Christ received include life. That is the life that was IN HIM (John 5:26).

So clearly, if the terms ‘original, unborrowed and underived’ are applied to the nature of the life, not the method of acquisition of the life, one can very easily reconcile this statement with endless other quotations from EGW which present the sonship as the divinity. Here is another such quotation.

“The Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father, is truly God in infinity, but not in personality.” (20LtMs, Ms116, 1905 par 6)

Still on this point, notice that this “original, unborrowed, underived” life is given to man as a free gift so that he possesses it. But it being given to man does not change its nature as being “original, unborrowed, underived”. The physical life that man has today, by nature is not original, is borrowed (its nature is subject to death) and is derived (its nature is subject to constant drawing from God to live). But that which man receives in Christ is of the opposite nature, it is eternal life (2 Peter 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.)

So, I see that you read a lot of your own thoughts into this quotation.

·         Sixthly, you say that the term Son of God simply means one who is in a relationship with God.

My questions are these. Why not explore the differences and similarities in the different relationships that are called Son of God? Do the sonships of angels, of Adam, of other men like Moses equal the sonship of Christ in characteristics? The answer is no.

If the term son simply means being in relationship with God, is the Holy Spirit Son also?

Why is it that with three co-equal gods/persons, the sonship is directional, i.e., it is referenced to the Father alone?

And if God means the Father to whom all the sonship relationships are referred, then who is the God overall?

Notice how EGW explains different forms of the sonship.

“A complete offering has been made; for “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,”—not a son by creation, as were the angels, nor a son by adoption, as is the forgiven sinner, but a Son begotten in the express image of the Father’s person, and in all the brightness of his majesty and glory, one equal with God in authority, dignity, and divine perfection. In him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” {ST May 30, 1895, par. 3}

Notice the verses used to explain the sonship. Hebrews 1:3 (the express image of the Father’s person), Philippians 2:6 (equality with God) joined to Colossians 1:9 and 2:19 (the fullness of divinity that the Father gave Christ) are used to explain to support John 3:16 (the only begotten Son). All these verses are explaining how Christ is a begotten Son. Thus, equality with God and fullness of divinity, according to EGW are all characteristics that explain sonship. That understanding is contrary to trinitarian/tritheistic explanation of the sonship of Christ, but in full harmony with everything that EGW ever wrote.

Compare this with the following:

“Before Christ came in the likeness of men, he existed in the express image of his Father.” (Ellen White, The Youth’s Instructor, December 20, 1900)

“The dedication of the first-born had its origin in the earliest times. God had promised to give the First-born of heaven to save the sinner.” (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 51}

So here again is EGW making a clear parallel between human sonship and Christ’s sonship contrary to every fibre of trinitarian/tritheist interpretation of Christ’s sonship and divinity. And notice that the pre-existence of Christ was that way, i.e., as an image of the Father. Before incarnation, Christ existed as an image of the Father.

Notice that God used the father-son relationship in humans to symbolise His relationship with His Son through the dedication of the human first-born son. To suit the trinitarian/tritheist view of three co-equal persons, a partnership or brotherhood would be more suitable model, since as you say, there is no sonship at all between the Father and the Son of God. The human father-son relationship is not poetic or metaphorical but literal and so is the divine Father-Son relationship of God and His Son.

·         Seventh, consider this verse.

Proverbs 30:4 Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell?

But you said only Psalms 2 speaks of Christ’s sonship in the OT. But Solomon understood that God has a son, a specific son with a specific name.

To conclude, Bro, I perceive that your understanding of this subject is contrary to EGW. Having noticed that, you try to bend EGW to suit your understanding by theorizing that EGW changed her understanding over time, which change she denies several times (just a quick note that here denial of these claims come after 1900).

Hence it is imperative that you take one of the following choices:

Either:

1.       Discard EGW and not use her writings to support your views since she is clearly at odds with your understanding,

Or

·         Realign with what EGW taught the pioneers that divinity and sonship of Christ are the same.

And

·         In addition, take the only logical view that all of EGW’s writings on this subject harmonise together as she says they do. At least if you believe in EGW, accept what she says about herself than make up what you think of her.

Please read this short writing about the thought processes that lead to the misunderstandings on this subject. Google “Deconstructing the three-in-one doctrine thought process” (or find it here https://www.asitreads.com/blog/2020/11/20/deconstructing-the-three-in-one-god-doctrine-thought-process).

There is also a critique of George R Knight found here.

Your brother,

The Rock Fortress Ministries

28 July 2021

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