Saturday, May 17, 2008

More "White-out" on Sonship


Back in the early 1990s, only a few -- who were known to me --seemed to be concerned about the importance of firmly contending for the truth of the Eternal Sonship of Christ.

As I recall -- without trying to be exhaustive -- my concern was openly shared by Dr. Kenneth Connolly, Pastor George Zeller, Dr. Renald Showers, Pastor Dr. R. L. Hymers Jr. -- just to name a few -- who became publicly outspoken in favor of the Creedal view of Sonship, in open oppositoin to the "incarnational sonship" view advocated (at the time) by Dr. John MacArthur.

Actually, the Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA), with which MacArthur's church was affiliated, suffered the loss of several churches over this issue, so there were others who were sorely disturbed by MacArthur's view.

Zeller and Showers put their heads together and wrote a book, The Eternal Sonship of Christ published by Loizeaux Brothers in 1993, in opposition to the MacArthur view.

Dr. Hymers publicly rebuked Dave Hunt for accepting a speaking engagement at MacArthur's church in view of JMac's denial of the creedal view, while Hunt downplayed the significance of the issue and defended MacArthur.

Dr. Kenneth Connolly published a booklet on Eternal Sonship, and refuted the view of MacArthur.

So I was not alone in opposing the "incarnational sonship" view. It is rather amusing that James White and Dave Hunt found some mutual ground in not taking a stand for Eternal Sonship in opposition to MacArthur's view of "incarnational sonship."

Also, all of the self-proclaimed "Apologists," -- which by then were numbered by the scores -- were completely mum on the matter. The Watchman Fellowship, Personal Freedom Outreach, Christian Research Institute, Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR), and others who advertise themselves as "defenders of the faith" acted as if they were in total ignorance on the issue -- which most likely was the case in some instances.

The self-exalted "equippers of the saints" -- such as Hank "Bible Answer Man" Hanegraaff, Robert "Truth Seeker" Morey, and James "the Exegetist" White -- were all in the same boat, having no paddle. In fact, Morey and Hanegraaff claimed to be proteges of the late Walter Martin, and Martin himself denied the Eternal Sonship of Christ the same as John MacArthur.

In Morey's case, he finally recanted, informing me by telephone that he had become convinced of Eternal Sonship by reading Martin Lloyd-Jones on Romans 8:3.

In Hanegraaff's case, after some badgering from us, we finally received a letter from CRI in which it was stated, "Now that Walter Martin is gone, the eternal Sonship of Christ is the official position of CRI" (Nov. 21, 1995). Up to that time, CRI and Hanegraaff had never said a word about the matter, so far as we know. We were the first, to my knowledge, to bring out the fact that Martin did not hold to the Creedal view of Eternal Sonship.

Martin's anti-Eternal Sonship view is expressed in his book, Kingdom of the Cults (pages 114-118, 1985 edition; pages 167-170, 1997 edition). Martin also denied Eternal Sonship on the John Ankerberg Show when he and Cal Beisner debated Oneness Pentecostals, Nathaniel Urshan and Robert Sabin.

So -- back in the early 1990s, we had names such as John MacArthur, Walter Martin, Peter Ruckman, Gail Riplinger, Texe Marrs, and some others denying the Eternal Sonship of Christ, while the so-called "Apologists" sat idly by with their mouths shut and their pens dry.

The great Exegetist himself, James White, never once made a video, wrote a booklet or book, wrote an article, staged a debate, or did anything else to refute MacArthur, or Martin, or Ruckman, or Riplinger, or Marrs on the doctrine of the Eternal Sonship of Christ. And even to this day, he has not done so.

Yet all the while -- James now claims -- he "always" believed Eternal Sonship and always "disagreed" with John MacArthur. He claims he has "documentation" for this -- but so far, he has not bothered to produce it.

If any one reading this is interested in studying the subject, I naturally recommend my own book, The Trinity and the Eternal Sonship of Christ.

In his very thorough review of my book, Dr. Jack Warren in The Baptist Evangel (May 1993), among other things, says:

"This book is not only an answer to the Oneness Pentecostal denial of the Trinity and the eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, but it is also a great treatise on the Doctrine of the Trinity.

"There are 21 chapters, discussing Pentecostal attacks on the Trinity and eternal Sonship, and an appendix on John 1:18. . . . I have never read a better revelation of and denunciation of Pentecostals as Brother Ross does in this book. He gives a thorough history of Oneness Pentecostalism from its beginning . . .

"While he does not say they are Pentecostal in doctrine, Bro. Ross also discusses the view on the Sonship of Christ held by fellow trinitarians John MacArthur, Walter Martin, J. Oliver Buswell, as well as Adam Clarke's commentary and the Dake Bible. . . .

"In a chapter on the views of 'Historic Christianity,' Ross quotes from the Westminster Confession, the London Confession, the Philadelphia Confession, the New Hampshire Confession and many others. On Christ as the begotten Son of God, he quotes many theologians, including: Augustus H. Strong, John Gill, C. H. Spurgeon, A. T. Robertson, B. B. Warfield, and others.

"THIS IS AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT BOOK. It challenges attacks made by Pentecostalism, Adam Clark, and others, on the Biblical teaching of the deity of Christ."


At Saturday, May 17, 2008 3:57:00 PM, Blogger Cindy said...

Do you believe that it is correct to say that Jesus is the Eternal Son of the Father but then also hold to the following:

- The Father has "ultimate" or "supreme" authority within Trinity so that Jesus is always under that authority and bound to do the will of the Father as if their wills (before the kenosis and after the ascension) are different?

- That it is correct to say that if the Father has ultimate or supreme authority that it is wrong to then claim that this means that Christ has less authority? (If the Father has ultimate authority, then does that not mean that the Son has less than ultimate authority?)

I don't deny that, in my human understanding that Jesus has always been the Eternal Son of the Father, but does this then mean that Eternal Sonship renders Christ as a type of juvenile son?

There are those (Bruce Ware through personal correspondence who verifies this as his position) who maintain that Christ's Eternal Sonship render him without the authority to answer prayer and that prayer to Jesus that is not worship is theologically incorrect and those prayers are ineffective. Jesus only delivers prayers to the Father and only the Father has authority to answer prayer. If Jesus does answer prayer, then it is because the Father granted him a special authority to answer that particular prayer, but this is not the "role" of the Eternal Son.

At Saturday, May 17, 2008 6:48:00 PM, Blogger Charles said...

Excellent article, Brother Bob. Your strong defense of the Enternal Sonship doctrine has keep many from a misunderstanding of the Trinity.

James White also wrote a book on the Trinity, and to my knowledge not one person has changed their view on the Trinity as a result of reading James' book. Same with his debates, you have to ask at some point, where's the fruit?


At Saturday, May 17, 2008 7:28:00 PM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...


Cindy said...

Do you believe that it is correct to say that Jesus is the Eternal Son of the Father but then also hold to the following: etc.

What you relate seems a little "foggy" to me. I doubt if the Thief on the cross put much thought into the eternal relations of the Father & Son when he asked the Lord to remember him. It seems to me that prayer addressed to either the Son or the Father is acceptable.

So far as I can discern, the only "subordinacy" of the Son has to do with His voluntarily assuming a body of flesh as a means to fulfill all that is necessary for our redemption. I do not understand His Eternal Sonship to involve some type of subordination.

As for Bruce Ware, I would not comment on anything that is represented to be his views -- I would have to read them for myself so as to try to understand his thinking.

At Saturday, May 17, 2008 10:38:00 PM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...


Charles said...

James White also wrote a book on the Trinity, and to my knowledge not one person has changed their view on the Trinity as a result of reading James' book. Same with his debates, you have to ask at some point, where's the fruit?

The basic problem for me, Charles, with James' writings is that he is overly presumptuous, solicitous, inferential, excessive, generic, and superfluous.

For me, this makes for boring reading.

For example, in the very first chapter of his "Potter's Freedom" book, which he gratuitously estimates to be an effectual refutation of Norman Geisler's "Chosen But Free," he makes such irrelevant, meaningless remarks as --

"Most frustrating to the Reformed believer . . ."

"There is simply no attempt to interact on a meaningful level . . ."

"This is clearly seen. . ."

"Anyone reading the passage in context can see . . ."

". . . it is painfully obvious . . ."

"One cannot avoid noting . . ."

"What is truly amazing . . ."

"In reality, as we will see . . ."

"What is most troubling
. . ."

"We will carefully unpack . . ."

" . . . it can be logically expected . . ."

"Even a cursory glance at the text reveals . . ."

"I am confident that the Word is so clear, so plain, and so compelling
. . ."

All of these irrelevant expressions evidently are designed to "brain-bend" his reader's mind favorably toward James' opinions. It's as if a person who read Geisler has no discernment of his own, so James provides the proper discernment for him.

Also, throughout this first chapter, James is very repetitious in using his favorite word, "exegesis." It's enough to create boredom and put me to sleep.

He also uses the word "honest" so as to imply that any truly honest person will share his opinions. This is offensive.

For example, "The Reformed tradition is rich in honest dialogue," as if to say the "honest" person in theological dialogue is the "Reformed" party. Does that imply that the other party is less than honest?

On the whole, as a writer James impresses me as being a bit in the "nerdy" category.

At Monday, May 19, 2008 1:12:00 PM, Anonymous Douglas K. Adu-Boahen said...

If my teenage research skills haven't failed me, hasn't Dr. MacArthur revised his view on incarnational Sonship to the orthodox view of eternal sonship, revised that teaching in his study Bible [which I own] and in several articles he has written?

At Monday, May 19, 2008 8:21:00 PM, Blogger Cindy said...

Mr. Ross,

Thank you for responding to my question.

I would be thrilled if someone would review Dr. Bruce Ware's book ("Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Roles, Relationship and Relavence) and critique it. Kevin Giles has done so, addressing these doctrines that he deems to be an ontological subordination of the Son, but I would like to see a "non-egalitarian" review the book and render an opinion. I've asked several experts in the Trinity but everyone is "too busy."

Again, I am grateful for your response.

At Wednesday, May 21, 2008 12:03:00 PM, Blogger Bob L. Ross said...


Douglas K. Adu-Boahen said...

. . . hasn't Dr. MacArthur revised his view on incarnational Sonship to the orthodox view of eternal sonship, revised that teaching in his study Bible [which I own] and in several articles he has written?

MacArthur did recant his former view, for which see:

As for the Study Bible, it is perhaps as faulty as ever on Sonship.


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