The Sonship of Christ

Angel Manuel Rodriguez, retired director of the Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference, was featured in the Bible Questions Answered section of the November 2015 issue of Adventist World. His article, A Question of Sonship, can be viewed even for those without a subscription to AW at the BRI's website.

He begins by making a distinction between the angels and human “sons of God” and the “eternal Son of God”. In this we can fully agree. Ellen White did as well, and though it is no longer fashionable for the BRI to invoke her as a credible authority*, she echoed the words of E.J.Waggoner 5 years after he did,
“...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...” ST May 30, 1895.
She did not shy away from the word “begotten” (as is so prevalent today in preference for “unique” or “one of a kind”) but notice that this begetting was “in all the brightness of his [the Father’s] majesty and glory” which is not that which occurred when he was born of Mary in Bethlehem’s manger with “no form or comliness... that we should desire him” Isaiah 53:2.

He concludes this section by noting that “God does not have children through natural conception and birth.” Again, we would be in full agreement with his assessment. It is the same objection that the Muslim world has with their concept of the Trinity: “Allah has no partners.” Of course, they mean “no sexual partners.” Similar misled thinking is expressed frequently by even Christians who object to the proposition that Jesus is the literal, divinely begotten Son of God in eternity when they question, “Then who was His mother?”

This brings us to the next section, the Eternal Sonship of Christ. “Christ was the Son of God before He was born of a woman. Through the preexistent Son, God ‘made the universe’ ” This is actually correct once again. But it is at this point that he says, “However, the sonship of Christ is unique.” Just like the popular modern preference for translating monogenes as “unique” rather than “begotten” the use of this rendering begs the question, “How is He unique?” His divine, eternal Sonship is different than ours to be sure, but just as literal because he made mankind after the image and likeness of God and Himself, “the eternal Son of God”. Ellen White again, Review and Herald, April 5, 1906.

It is at this point that brother Rodriguez makes this important statement: “He is the Son, who came directly from the Father (John 16:28)” one of the very four verses I presented to Dr. Gerhardt Pfandl in 2010 demonstrating the use of the Greek verb exerchomai “to come out of” which in the first person aortist (past tense) form is exelthon. Rodriguez follows this up with, “He has life in Himself” but quotes John 14:31 instead of 5:26. He then surprisingly concludes by saying, “We are dealing with a metaphorical use of the word ‘son.’” I can only explain why he would choose the term “metaphorical” after offering such strong indications of the Son’s divine origin from the Father, is because he feels he has adequately disproven a human kind of birth by sexual reproduction of the divine Son from the divine Father. But let us remember the words of Jehovah, “My ways are higher than your ways” Isaiah 55:9.

What Rodriguez and so many others fail to understand is that God and His Son are not modeled after the human reproductive system of father-son relationships, but rather the converse: Mankind is patterned after the divine relationship of Father God and His Son who was “brought forth” and “came out of God” (John 16:27,28; 17:8; 8:42) is the great Original. This was most clearly demonstrated in the creation of Adam and Eve, who was brought forth “out of man”, as Adam observed in Genesis 2:23.

Point three in his paper begins with several valid observations. Sons are the same nature as their father. Human sons have the same human nature as their human father. This was especially true of Eve who was literally bone of Adam’s bone and flesh of his flesh. Likewise, Christ as the “Son of God” is guaranteed to be fully divine because he came forth from his divine Father. Next, a child is distinguishable from their parents, that is, they are separate persons, separate individuals, and thus, ipso facto, there must be “a plurality of persons within the Godhead.” No argument here. But this does not require a metaphorical sonship for this to be true. Mankind may be a metaphor of God and His Son, but Their relationship is the true reality.

From here on, things fall apart. Though he continues to cite the exerchomai/exelthon texts of John 8:42 and 16:28, he side-steps the obvious meaning of this Greek verb which is used only twice in the New Testament in reference to coming out of a person: the casting out of evil spirits from demon-possessed people, and the Son of God coming out of God the Father who possessed His Son “from everlasting or ever the earth was” Proverbs 8:22. Instead he simply states on his own authority, “the Son proceeded from the Father, not as a divine emanation or through natural birth, but to perform a work of creation and redemption”. “There is no biblical support for the eternal generation of the Son from the Father. The Son came from God but was not generated by Him.”

As far as a mystical and inconceivable “eternal generation”, a process which has no beginning and no end, a continuous coming forth from the Father that is never completed, was the brain-child of Origen and embraced by the Roman Church. We definitely agree there exists no biblical support for such an unreasonable concept.

His clincher is that “A natural child has a beginning, while within the Godhead the Son is eternal.” Now, finally, he cites Ellen White: “The Lord Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, existed from eternity, a distinct person, yet one with the Father.” While his reference is 1SM p. 247, it is a reprint of the original article in the Review & Herald April 5, 1906, “The Word Made Flesh.” The continued context of this statement is very important. She adds, “He was the surpassing glory of heaven. He was the commander of the heavenly intelligences, and the adoring homage of the angels was received by him as his right. This was no robbery of God. “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way,” he declares, “before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth” quoting Proverbs 8:22-24. From eternity is equated here with that realm of existence “before the mountains”, before the creation of the earth.

At this time when the thoughts and attention of so many are directed toward “the Christ child”, let us ponder anew what the Word of God said about Himself.

Grace and peace be unto you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of the Father in truth and love. 2 John 3

Gary Hullquist

* This is based on my personal experience of receiving a paper in 2011 prepared by Ekkehardt Mueller at the BRI in response to my study submitted to Gerhardt Pfandl on the four Exerchomai/Exelthon texts in the Gospel of John. Not only was there not a single Ellen White citation, but no Adventist authors at all were represented among the many expert witnesses presented to deny the Scriptural evidence.