Not A Son By Creation

Article by Jason Smith
Originally published on Facebook, 12/20/17

“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.” {ST May 30, 1895 par. 3}

If there is one issue, more than any other, that stands between Seventh-day Adventists who believe in begotten theology and Seventh-day Adventists who believe in unbegottenism, it is the definition of “a Son begotten.”

I believe there has been an astonishing (yet simultaneously understandable) failure to define this word according to inspiration. In an effort to help bring understanding on this matter I offer the following op. Again please ask God the Father for the guidance of His Spirit that Jesus promised!

Now according to God’s Word, the Bible, the Son of God was begotten and brought forth before this world was, even from everlasting. This truth is revealed to us in Proverbs 8 where the Son of God is presented as Wisdom. EGW affirms this by directly applying this section of God’s Word to Him multiple times. Now there are 3 action verbs that concern us there. They are in vss. 22, 23, 24, 25 respectively

The first is “qananiy.” This is a form of the verb “qanah” which means “to get” or “to acquire.” It is in the perfect tense so a strict translation would render this as “got” or “acquired.” The KJV renders it as “possessed” but contextually the best rendering here is actually “begot.” This is actually due, in large part, to another verb in this context which we will look at here shortly.

The second verb is “nissachti.” This is a form of the verb “nasak” which means “to pour out, to set, or to install.” It is in the perfect tense too (I won’t get into the stem) but its meaning here is “anointed, set up, or installed.”

The third verb is “holaleti.” This is a form of the verb “hul.” It is in the perfect tense (and once again I won’t get into the stem) but it’s meaning is “brought forth.” This word is indisputably associated with child birth and thus it strongly indicates that “qanah” (which is another possible birth word) carries that meaning too. This verb “holaleti” is used twice in this section.

These verbs indicate to us that Wisdom (aka: the Son of God) was begotten, set up (or anointed/installed) and brought forth. These would be simultaneous events (that is quite obvious with the first and last verb and the context indicates the same for the middle verb too).

Now there are several descriptions of the timing of this event. First up we have is “before his works of old” (vs. 22). Then we have “from everlasting” and “from beginning” and “from before the earth” (vs. 23). Here we can most certainly say that the 3 actions verbs mentioned above occurred before this world. However there is more than that suggested here. The Son was begotten, anointed (or set up), brought forth before God’s works (plural) of old and from everlasting. This suggests before absolutely everything! Before any work of God! Before the ages He was God’s Son, to use language from Hebrews 1. Thus we are dealing with before creation in its entirety.

Finally there is one more point to make here. In Prov 8:30 Wisdom is called the “amon” which is a masculine noun that means a master craftsman or worker. This strongly suggest that Wisdom (aka: The Son of God) was the active creative Agent in this passage. This is supported contextually earlier on in Proverbs

“The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.” (Proverbs 3:19)

And the Sonship aspect is reinforced later on by the question of Agur:

“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? (Proverbs 30:4)

These questions remind us of the Divine challenge from God to Job (see Job 38) and the prophetic oracle of Isaiah (see Isaiah 40:12). Of course these challenges can only be answered in the affirmative by God and/or His only begotten Son. And the latter has the Name of the Father in Himself. And being co-Creator with God He can reveal Him. And this is He who incarnated and descended to the earth. Thus no one has ever descended or ascended into heaven except Him.

“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. (John 3:13)

Or again as the apostle Paul taught.

8 Wherefore he saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth. 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4:8-10)

And isn’t it intriguing that when He descended by means of the incarnation it was with the express purpose to declare God’s Name?

“And I have declared unto them Thy Name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved Me may be in them, and I in them (John 17:26)

“Saying, I will declare Thy Name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee (Hebrews 2:12)

Wonderful! Magnificent! Son of God, He in Whom is God’s Name, came to declare it! The only begotten Son came to gather all who desired to become sons by adoption. Anyhow I’m getting a bit off topic.

The salient point here, for this article is that we have Biblical evidence of a pre-incarnate Son, begotten, set up and brought forth before any work of creation as the master craftsman of creation! Thus we have a good Biblical reason to view this as a different type of event from any creative work of God.

Now some will contest this (although I think it impossible for anyone to refute it is a viable Biblical possibility) with an argument that if the Son is begotten then that means He was created. In meeting that objection we now turn first to the words of the Spirit of prophecy.

“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}

Here we see an explicit differentiation between being a son by creation or being a son by adoption (both of which are literal occurrences) and being a Son begotten in the express image of the Father’s person and in ALL the brightness of His majesty and glory.

By the way, when it comes to this quote please pay attention when people quote it. It has been my experience that sometimes people leave off the key aspect about “all” the brightness. I believe they do this because that part does not mesh well with the incarnation. Also using this language of “not a son by creation, as were the angels” to describe the Son of God when He became a creation seems a bit odd. And finally, and this is a powerful point, the language of this quote is actually borrowed from the SDA pioneers.

"According to this, Jesus Christ is begotten of God in a sense that no other being is; else he could not be his only begotten Son. Angels are called sons of God, and so are righteous men; but Christ is his Son in a higher sense, in a closer relation, that either of these. God made men and angels out of materials already created. He is the author of their existence, their Creator, hence their Father. But Jesus Christ was begotten of the Father's own substance. He was not created out of material as the angels and other creatures were. He is truly and emphatically the "Son of God," the same as I am the son of my father. This will appear more plain as we proceed" (D.M. Canright, RH June 18, 1867)

"A son always rightfully takes the name of the father; and Christ, as "the only begotten Son of God," has rightfully the same name. A son, also, is, to a greater or less degree, a reproduction of the father; he has, to some extent, the features and personal characteristics of his father; not perfectly, because there is no perfect reproduction among mankind. But there is no imperfection in God, or in any of His works; and so Christ is the "express image" of the Father's person. Heb. 1:3. As the Son of the self-existent God, He has by nature all the attributes of Deity.

"It is true that there are many sons of God; but Christ is the "only begotten Son of God," and therefore the Son of God in a sense in which no other being ever was or ever can be. The angels are sons of God, as was Adam (Job 38:7; Luke 3:38), by creation; Christians are the sons of God by adoption (Rom. 8:14, 15); but Christ is the Son of God by birth." (E.J. Waggoner “Christ and His Righteousness” pg 12 1890)

If Mrs. White was trying to teach differently from the SDA pioneers here she really couldn’t have picked more confusing language to accomplish that purpose. If, on the other hand, she was trying to teach that He, in His pre-existence, was a Son begotten and not a created son in harmony with the SDA pioneers then she really couldn’t have picked more fitting language.

Please think about it friends. It is popular tradition in Adventism today to say that EGW taught unbegottenism but where does she ever do it? A single statement like “the Divine Son of God was not begotten” or “Jesus was never begotten before His humanity” would settle the issue conclusively but no such statement is given. Instead we read many statements that very much appear to suggest a pre-incarnate begetting for the Son! That’s odd wouldn’t you say for the prophet who supposedly led the church into unbegottenism.

Anyhow the salient point for this document is that we see, according to inspiration, strong evidence for the idea that a Son begotten is NOT the same as creation.

Our final point in evidencing this concept will be to look at the SDA pioneers. They clearly understood God’s Word and the Spirit of prophecy to mean that “begotten,” as applied the only begotten Son of God, meant that He was of God’s very substance and therefore not a created being. This was the historical understanding of Seventh-day Adventism during this era and it was maintained for decades after. It is clear what they saw as the inspired definition.

“Christ is the only literal Son of God. "The only begotten of the Father. He is God because he is the Son of God; not by virtue of his resurrection. If Christ is the only begotten of the Father, then we cannot be begotten of the Father in a literal sense. It can only be in a secondary sense of the word " (J. G. Matteson, Review and Herald, October 12th 1869, ‘Children of God’)

"Will you please favor me with those scriptures which plainly say that Christ is a created being? Answer: "You are mistaken in supposing that S. D. Adventists teach that Christ was ever created. They believe, on the contrary, that he was "begotten" of the Father, and that he can properly be called God and worshiped as such." (W.H. Littlejohn Question No. 96, Review and Herald, April 17, 1883)

“He was begotten, not created. He is of the substance of the Father, so that in his very nature he is God; and since this is so “it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.” (E. J. Waggoner, The Signs of the Times, April 8, 1889)

“The Scriptures nowhere speak of Christ as a created being, but on the contrary plainly state that he was begotten of the Father.” (Uriah Smith, Daniel and Revelation, p. 430)

"From a reading of John 1:1-3, 10, it will be seen that the world, with all it contains, was created by Christ (the Word), for "all things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made." The angels, therefore, being created, are necessarily lower than Christ, their Creator. Christ is the only being begotten of the Father." (James Edson White, Past, Present, and Future, page 52, chapter, 'Angels - their nature', 1914 edition (1909)

“There is indeed a divine trio, but the Christ of that Trinity is not a created being as the angels- He was the “only begotten” of the Father...” (Robert Hare, Australasian Union Conference Record, July 19, 1909)

"Since Christ is begotten of the Father, he must therefore be of the same substance as the Father; hence he must have the same divine attributes that God has, and therefore he is God." (O, A. Johnson, Bible Doctrines, page 34, Lesson IX, 'God the Father' 1917)

"The word "born" is used because, in contrasting the Creator* with His creation, it postulates the nature of the Lord's origin. He was not created as were creatures, but was born out of God as God; and so is of the same nature as the Father. Just as a human son is born human by nature because his father is human, so the divine Son of God is by nature "born" God because His Father is God" ("William G. Wirth "The 'Signs" Question Corner" Signs of the Times, August 5th, 1930 *typo fixed)

Therefore brothers and sisters, when Seventh-day Adventist theologians, ministers or laypersons, come along to you and say that if you believe that the pre-incarnate Son of God was begotten you are therefore making Him into a created being because a Son begotten is the same as a son by creation, you can let them know that the Bible, the Spirit of prophecy and numerous Seventh-day Adventist authors, extending up until at least 1930, all disagree.

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