A Response to "There Never Was a Time"

A Response to “There Never Was a Time”

Article by Paul Chung

“Christ is the pre-existent, self-existent Son of God.... In speaking of his pre-existence, Christ carries the mind back through dateless ages. He assures us that there never was a time when He was not in close fellowship with the eternal God. He to whose voice the Jews were then listening had been with God as one brought up with Him.”—The Signs of the Times, August 29, 1900. {Ev 615.2}

Trinitarian objection: “there never was a time” should be understood to mean, there never was a time when Christ did not existed with the Father…therefore Christ is unbegotten for He always existed alongside the Father.

"there NEVER WAS A TIME when He was not in CLOSE FELLOWSHIP with the eternal God."{Ev 615.2}

This statement would also be true even with the supposition that Christ was begotten of the Father (even if one of the persons within the "close fellowship" came into existence later than the other).

I could say, "there never was a time when my son, was not in close fellowship with myself"... even though he came into existence later than myself... this would be speaking from the perspective of my Son's relationship with me (since his birth). In other words, AS FAR AS MY SON IS CONCERNED, there never was a time when he was not in close fellowship with me.

But It would be incorrect to say, "there never was a time WHEN *** I *** WAS NOT IN CLOSE FELLOWSHIP WITH MY SON...

Do you see the difference? Latter phrase speaks to my experience before my Son came into existence. This statement would not be true because, for as it relates to myself, THERE WAS A TIME, BEFORE my son was born, where my son was not around for me to have a close fellowship with him.

In the same way, the Ev 615.2 statement is NOT saying, "there never was a time when the ***Father*** was not in close fellowship with the Son"

Consider the following statement

“The salvation of the human race has ever been the object of the councils of heaven. The covenant of mercy was made before the foundation of the world. It has existed from all eternity, and is called the everlasting covenant. So surely as there never was a time when God was not, So surely as there never was a time when God was not, so surely there NEVER WAS A MOMENT when it was not the delight of the eternal mind TO MANIFEST His grace TO HUMANITY.” (ST June 12, 1901)

Question: How long humanity must have existed in this quote if “there never was a moment when it was not the delight of the eternal mind TO MANIFEST His grace TO HUMANITY.”?

If we read the statement from 1901 like how a Trinitarian (SDAs) would read the statement from Ev 615.2, then humanity must be co-eternal with God for humanity must exist for God to manifest grace to them. Yet, it is stated that the MANIFESTING of grace is something that there "NEVER WAS A MOMENT when it was not the delight of the eternal mind" to do. Furthermore, this is linked to the fact that "so surely as there never was a time when God was not". Thus, if we read this statement from 1901 in a consistent manner with how trinitarians are reading the one from Ev 615.2, we run into trouble...

BUT... we don't read it that way. We read it as a figure of speech.

"There never was a moment" presupposes additional details not found within the statement... There is a missing parenthetical CONTEXT OF THE MUTUAL EXISTENCE OF BOTH PARTIES FOR THIS FIGURE OF SPEECH TO WORK. "there never was a moment (since the creation of man) when it was not the delight of the eternal mind to manifest His grace to humanity". I could just as easily say, that "there never was a time when I was not deeply in love with my wife". This figure of speech presupposes my having met and fallen in love with her in the first place.

When we see this as a figure of speech, which begins with the relationship two parties have, we can see that Christ CAN be begotten and it also be true that "there never was a time when He was not in close fellowship with the eternal God" (until the sundering of divine powers between Gethsemane and the resurrection).

Additionally, please note the portion where she says, “TO HUMANITY”

"so surely THERE NEVER WAS A MOMENT when it was not the delight of the ETERNAL mind TO MANIFEST His grace TO HUMANITY"… To “manifest” means to "make known" and "reveal." Thus, for God to "manifest", "make known" or "reveal" His grace TO humanity, humanity must exist to have this grace manifested, made known and revealed to!

Therefore, in Ev 615.2 statement, Ellen White is employing a figure of speech that is not meant to be taken IN THE WAY most trinitarians have taken it (Christ has always existed alongside the Father and therefore is unbegotten).

Thus, the correct way (or an alternative way) to understand the Ev 615.2 statement is to see that "there never was a time when He [Christ] was not in close fellowship with the eternal God [SINCE the Son was begotten by the Father]."

"From All Eternity"

The plan of salvation HAD ITS PLACE IN THE COUNSELS of the Infinite FROM ALL ETERNITY. The gospel is the revelation of God’s love to men, and means everything that is essential to the happiness and well-being of humanity.{CE 83.3}

Note: we are told here that "The plan of salvation HAD ITS PLACE IN THE COUNSELS of the Infinite FROM ALL ETERNITY." Does this mean that the plan had always existed without beginning?  Please consider carefully the words Ellen White uses in describing this plan which "had its place in the counsels."

"This covenant, MADE FROM ETERNITY, was given to Abraham hundreds of years before Christ came. With what interest and what intensity did Christ in humanity study the human race to see if they would avail themselves of the provision offered." {FE 403.1}

"The covenant of mercy WAS MADE before the foundation of the world. It has existed from all eternity, and is called the everlasting covenant. So surely as there never was a time when God was not, so surely there never was a moment when it was not the delight of the eternal mind to manifest His grace to humanity." (The Signs of the Times, June 12, 1901). {7BC 934.25}

“Father and Son are pledged to fulfill the TERMS OF THE EVERLASTING COVENANT. God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Christ was not alone in making His great sacrifice. It was the fulfillment of the covenant made between Him and His Father before the foundation of the world was laid. With CLASPED HANDS THEY ENTERED INTO THE SOLEMN PLEDGE that Christ would become the surety for the human race if they were overcome by Satan’s sophistry.” {FLB 76.3} 

“The salvation of the human race has ever been the object of the councils of heaven. The covenant of mercy WAS MADE before the foundation of the world. IT HAS EXISTED FROM ALL ETERNITY, and is called the everlasting covenant. So surely as there never was a time when God was not, so surely there never was a moment when it was not the delight of the eternal mind to manifest His grace to humanity.” {FLB 76.4}

"divine love had CONCEIVED a plan... had been LAID" (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 63)

"ARRANGED with Christ" (Signs of the Times, August 24, 1891)

"covenant MADE... ENTERED INTO the solemn pledge" (Ms 111, 1897)

"was LAID before the foundation of the world" (Signs of the Times, December 23, 1897)

"the angels were not admitted to THE INTERVIEWS BETWEEN the Father and the Son when the plan of salvation was LAID" (Lt 232, 1903)

"the angels were not permitted to share THE COUNSELS BETWEEN the Father and the Son when the plan of salvation was LAID" (Ministry of Healing, p. 429)

"PLANNED before the foundation of the world" (Ms 139, 1907)

"BEFORE THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE EARTH WERE LAID, THE FATHER AND THE SON HAD UNITED IN A COVENANT TO REDEEM MAN IF he should be overcome by Satan. THEY HAD CLASPED THEIR HANDS IN A SOLEMN PLEDGE that Christ should become the surety for the human race. This pledge Christ has fulfilled. When upon the cross He cried out, “It is finished,” He addressed the Father. The compact had been fully carried out. Now He declares: Father, it is finished. I have done Thy will, O My God. I have completed the work of redemption. If Thy justice is satisfied, “I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am.” John 19:30; 17:24. {DA 834.2}

Note: Just to reiterate, here we are told that the “The plan of salvation HAD ITS PLACE IN THE COUNSELS” and that this covenant “existed from all eternity” and yet it “was MADE BEFORE the foundation of the world.” It was "CONCEIVED", "ENTERED INTO" and was "LAID", all suggesting that the covenant was "arrange" at some period within the "eternity." How can something be "MADE" or "CONCEIVED" before the foundation of the world always existed or had no beginning? This event of clasping of hands or entering of solemn pledge, certainly took place before the foundation of the earth, “from all eternity” but it wasn’t an event that always existed or had no beginning. 

If it is not clear enough that these verbs indicate that the plan had a beginning, this next statement should:

"'Canst thou by searching find out God?' 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.' The Lord existed BEFORE He PURPOSED to create the world. He is 'from everlasting.' 'Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.'" (Ms 24, 1891)

Let's reason this out. BEFORE God PURPOSED or conceived the idea to create the world, there would not have been the need for a plan of redemption. Therefore God existed BEORE He both PURPOSED to 1) create the world and 2) laid the plan of redemption. It is clear to me then that the plan of salvation had a beginning because "the Lord existed", that is, had some sense of existence "BEFORE" any purpose entered into His mind to create and have a contingency for sin. It's quite possible that God always had the thought in His mind but that does not necessarily negate the fact that the "counsel" itself also took place as SOP describes as "from all eternity."

Thus, "FROM ALL ETERNITY" does not necessarily mean it always existed or without beginning. It means it is FROM that period called eternity. They CLASPED HANDS, they ENTERED in a pledge, they MADE a covenant and it was BETWEEN them both; the covenant was “MADE” in the period or LOCATION called “from all eternity.”

Not Measured by Figures

“Angels that were loyal and true sought to reconcile this mighty, rebellious angel to the will of his Creator. They justified the act of God in conferring honor upon Christ, and with forcible reasoning sought to convince Lucifer that no less honor was his now than before the Father had proclaimed the honor which He had conferred upon His Son. They clearly set forth that CHRIST WAS THE SON OF GOD, EXISTING WITH HIM BEFORE THE ANGELS WERE CREATED;” — (Ellen G. White, Story of Redemption, 15.2)

“HChrist shows them that, although they might reckon His life to be less than fifty years, yet His divine life could not be reckoned by human computation. The existence of Christ before His incarnation is NOT MEASURED BY FIGURES.--Signs of the Times, May 3, 1899.” {Ev 616.1}

“Angels of God looked with amazement upon Christ, who took upon Himself the form of man and humbly united His divinity with humanity in order that He might minister to fallen man. It is a marvel among the heavenly angels. God has told us that He did do it, and we are to accept the Word of God just as it reads. AND ALTHOUGH WE MAY TRY TO REASON IN REGARD TO OUR CREATOR, HOW LONG HE HAS HAD EXISTENCE, WHERE EVIL FIRST ENTERED INTO OUR WORLD, AND ALL THESE THINGS, WE MAY REASON ABOUT THEM UNTIL WE FALL DOWN FAINT AND EXHAUSTED WITH THE RESEARCH WHEN THERE IS YET AN INFINITY BEYOND.” {E. G. White, S.D.A. Bible Commentary Vol. 7, p. 919} 1888

Note: Why would sister White even belabor the thought that Christ was the Son “before the angels were created”, “could not be reckoned by human computation”, “is not measure by figures” and if “we try to reason.... we may reason about them until we fall down and exhausted with research.” Something else worth noting, Ellen White did not say, Christ's pre-existence “could not be reckoned at all.” She just said, “could not be reckoned by HUMAN COMPUTATION, suggesting the possibility that it may be reckoned, just not BY HUMAN COMPUTATION. Or, she did not say, “is cannot measured by any means…” but said, “not measured BY FIGURES." Point being, She could easily have worded this so as to leave no doubt or misunderstanding—she could have said, “His divine life had NO beginning.” BUT SHE DIDN’T! Some have come to place more meaning into the words of this paragraph than what was intended by the Author.

Consider A. T. Jones Statement that corroborates with Sister White’s sentiment:

”IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” “In the beginning,” that is, before creation, BEFORE TIME WAS; for in his prayer at the last supper he said: “O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold the glory which thou hast given me; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:5, 24. HOW LONG BEFORE, NO FINITE MIND CAN MEASURE; for in the announcement by the prophet of the place of his birth, when he came into the world, it is said: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2. The margin reads, Hebrew, from “the days of eternity.” THE MIND MUST BE ABLE TO GRASP ETERNITY BEFORE IT CAN MEASURE THE LENGTH OF DAYS OF THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD; BEFORE IT CAN KNOW HOW LONG THE WORD WAS BEFORE THE WORLD WAS. {A.T. Jones, SITI March 25, 1886, p. 186.1}

Note: Again, A. T. Jones could have simply said that Christ’s pre-existence was without beginning. But instead, the impression you get from both Ellen White and A.T. Jones are that the expression, “eternity,” as far as it relate to Christ’s pre-existence, connotes a definite period that is “before time was” but it cannot be reckoned by finite computation.

Related topic:
Self-Existent
Infinite and from All Eternity