Mr. Max Hatton is not timid when expressing his firm conviction that Ellen White was NOT in harmony with the early SDA Pioneers who believed that Christ was somehow literally born of the Father in eternity. He maintains that the "mature Ellen White" (after "The Desire of Ages" 1898) was decidedly, and fully Trinitarian. The following EGW quotation, when examined closely, and in context, will undoubtedly prove Mr. Hatton's premise incorrect.
He became the Son of God in a new sense
“In His humanity He was a partaker of the divine nature. In His incarnation He gained in a new sense the title of the Son of God. Said the angel to Mary, 'The power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God' (Luke 1:35). While the Son of a human being, He became the Son of God in a new sense. Thus He stood in our world--the Son of God, yet allied by birth to the human race.” (E. G. White, Selected Messages Book 1, pp. 226, 227; THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES, AUG. 2, 1905.)
The obvious question arises, "In what sense was Christ the 'Son of God' prior to His incarnation?" Mr. Hatton would have us believe that: "We are left with no alternative than to accept that Jesus could not have become a literal son of God in eternity – He could not be His own son. He clearly accepted that role for the purposes of the Plan of Redemption. Some anti-Trinitarian objectors have claimed that we accuse God of only pretending to be the Father and that Jesus was only pretending to be the Son. Those who make such accusations have obviously blinded themselves from the evidence. Pretending implies deception and God should not be accused of such a practice. Why retreat from the concept that the Members of the Trinity participate in role-playing? Role-playing is not deception. Jesus for example performs many roles in the plan of redemption. Was He really the Angel of the Lord, Michael the Archangel, the Lamb, a Lion, a High Priest, the Rock, and so on? Yes, but not literally so, He fulfilled these roles and it would be absolute foolishness to accuse Him of pretense or deception in doing so." (A FEW COMMENTS BY MAX HATTON ON THE BOOK “THE TRINITY WHAT HAS GOD REVEALED” by Glyn Parfitt.)
"His Sonship can only be figurative. Correspondingly, the Father has not always been the Father. These must have been adopted titles suitable for the parts the Two played in the Plan of Redemption." (The-Trinity-Dcoctrine-for-SDA-Division-CD)
Max Hatton and "incarnational Sonship"
Max Hatton believes what is known as the "incarnational Sonship" view of the Trinity. At this point we could reference copious amounts of Bible and EGW quotes about God's "only begotten son;" to which Hatton would counter that they have all been mistranslated and simply mean a "unique" Son, and have nothing to do with any relational sonship. Therefore, we go to the original source from which Ellen White copied her 1905 Signs of the Times statement.
Derived from D. W. Clark D.D.
"In the first place Christ Jesus, in some mysterious yet real sense, sustained in heaven and from all eternity the actual relation of Son to the Father—'the only begotten of the Father;' for the Son is not represented as being created at the time of the advent, but 'the Father sent the Son'—already existing—'to be the Savior of the world.' The Son also was the partaker of the Father's glory 'before the world was.' Then, again, in his incarnation the title of Son is gained in a new and actual sense. For, said the angel to Mary, 'the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.' In this act Christ not only became the Son of God in a new sense, but also the son of an earthly parent—thus allying him to the human race, as he was before allied to God." (D. W. Clark D.D. from The Ladies' repository, Volume 22 By Methodist Episcopal Church. General Conference 1862)
D.W. Clark did not believe in the "incarnational Sonship"
The significant point of the above quotation is NOT that Ellen White copied it from a Methodist, Trinitarian minister. Rather, that this Trinitarian minister obviously believes that the pre-incarnate person of Christ "in some mysterious yet real sense, sustained in heaven and from all eternity the actual relation of Son to the Father." This belief in a literal "Son of God" prior to His incarnation, is the only rational explanation of how "in his incarnation the title of Son is gained in a new and actual sense. The irony is quickly seen here, since Max Hatton comes from a Trinitarian Methodist church background, and would obviously disagree with both EGW's and D. W. Clark's conclusions. The Methodist church formally rejected the "incarnational Sonship" view, (in 1880), as advocated by Methodist minister, and chief promoter Adam Clarke. It was then voted that no one could be a minister in the denomination who denied the "eternal Sonship" view.
Derived from W. A. Butler
Digging deeper, D. W. Clark's article is adapted from W. A. Butler's "The mystery of the Holy Incarnation" (1849). Not only does Mr. Butler expound his understanding of the doctrine of Christ's pre-incarnate Sonship, but references this teaching as a vital model to understand many other biblical truths (i.e. nature of humanity; family relationships; church polity, or government; the incarnation of Christ; resurection of Christ; regeneration, or new birth; joint heir-ship with Christ). The following is a portion of Butler's sermon:
"There is a very deep and very wonderful connexion between the relations of our Lord Christ to His Father and to us. In heaven, and from all eternity, He has been a Son, 'the only begotten of the Father;' on earth He became the Son of the Father again, and by a new title,—'therefore that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God,'—He being by the same wondrous act the Son also of an earthly parent. By His resurrection from the dead He acquired another, a third title to divine Sonship; as St. Paul seems to explain the matter in the thirteenth chapter of the Acts, applying to the resurrection of Christ the declaration of the second Psalm,—'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee;' confirmed by a similar application in Heb. v. 5. Now in all these three forms and grounds of divine Sonship we are interested. In the first, because, doubtless, it is the eternal model and type upon which all other spiritual filiations were primarily formed and designed. It is one of the ways in which we are made like to God, imitators of deity, 'partakers of a divine nature,' that we should be thus bound to God even as the Second Person of the Trinity to the First. Nay, probably, since the family relationship itself is unquestionably a pure and holy thing, it was originally created as a sensible image of that ineffable relationship of the everlasting Father and Son; a perpetual picture in time of that great fact in eternity. Instead of supposing, as speculators often do, that the words, as applied to the divine persons, are a mere metaphor derived from the earthly relation, why not rather conceive that the earthly relation was itself created to be the counterpart, and symbol, and memorial of the heavenly? And possibly, too, the apostolic polity of the Church, with its paternal, filial, fraternal relations, may have had some similar ground deeper than we can fathom; may have been intended to reproduce in that 'new earth,' which is the Church, another perpetuated image and symbol of the same eternal connexion;—a supposition which may chance to appear less fanciful when you remember in what peril that great doctrine of the Father and the Son has ever been of corruption or extinction, in almost every religious community where the apostolic polity has been rejected. With the second—the Sonship by Incarnation—we are yet more deeply concerned, because it laid the foundation (whether as designed from everlasting or at length realized in the fulness of time) of all filial relation between God and man, being itself the conduit that connects deity and its graces with humanity and its weaknesses; the source, cause, and principle of every divine blessing whatsoever. And with the third—the Sonship of Christ by Resurrection—we are again more intimately connected than even with the last; for with this we have a real and direct, though most mysterious communion, in that twofold regeneration (for to both the same name is instructively given) of which we are made the possessors and the heirs; the regeneration of the soul in this life, and that of the body in the life to come; both of which are expressly said to make us 'the sons of God,' because the one only completes and consummates the other; and in both of which we are 'the children of God, being the children of the resurrection'....You see, then, how deeply, in every form of His divine relationship, we are interested in 'the Son of God;' how in His generation we see our regeneration; and how, in this sense no 'jealous God,' He would make us sharers of all His own unspeakable privileges, and teach us not even to dread the awful glory of reposing in that 'bosom of the Father,' where He himself from all eternity has dwelt." (emphasis supplied)
W. A. Butler did not believe the "incarnational Sonship" doctrine
Butler, although a Trinitarian, believed in a literal "generation" or birth of the pre-incarnate Christ from God the Father. Many Trinitarians of that era were satisfied not to speculate if, and how the Son is continually or perpetually derived or begotten from the Father. The early SDA Pioneers including Ellen White believed in a slightly modified version of "eternal generation," (or "eternal Sonship"). This teaching is foundational to understand many other biblical truths. Some might claim that since EGW is copying from a Trinitarian author (in 1905), she is therefore in full agreement with the Trinitarian doctrine. Yet, in claiming this, modern SDA Trinitarians would have to admit that EGW was advocating a "different version" of the Trinity then eventually developed by the modern church (i.e. "incarnational Sonship). Adventist scholars are hard pressed to find any professed SDA Trinitarian who believes in the literal "generation" or "birth" of Christ prior to his incarnate birth at Bethlehem. While openly advocating Trinitarianism, ALL modern SDA Trinitarians categorically reject the historic doctrine of "eternal Sonship" or the "eternal generation" of the Son of God.
How does this relate to Max Hatton? Mr. Hatton is the most outspoken Adventist in his conviction AGAINST any doctrine of a pre-incarnate generation or birth of God's Son. Mr. Hatton is unquestionably the boldest advocate of the economic, role-playing, Trinitarian model in Adventism today. (see economic Trinity) So where did Mr. Hatton, and the rest of the modern SDA Trinitarians "derive" this "economic" role-playing Trinity from? Ellen White? The Desire of Ages? Really? Was it derived from W. W. Prescott? Of course not! Prescott did NOT believe in a "incarnational Sonship" Christology (see his book "Doctrine of Christ").
"Incarnational Sonship" is derived from Walter Martin
Although most SDA historians really believe that the current denominational "version" of a "biblical Trinity" comes directly from Ellen White; another source for this precise "version" is more easily demonstrated. Leroy Froom (in Movement Of Destiny) makes much of the 1931 Statement of beliefs that included the "term" Trinity. Yet even Froom admits that F. M. Wilcox drafted this statement with enough ambiguity, that it would hopefully be accepted by both SDA Trinitarians and non-trinitarians alike. The simple, historical fact is that Adventism NEVER settled upon any precise "definition" of Trinitarianism until the late 1950's (i.e. Questions on Doctrine).
SDA's agree, with Walter Martin's Trinity
Walter Martin, (rising self-proclaimed "expert" of cultist theology), was primarily asking the Questions during the "evangelical conferences" of 1955-1956. Leroy Froom, (greatest SDA apologetic historian), was primarily answering Martin's questions about SDA theology. One thing was certain, if Adventism was to be reclassified by Martin from a non-Christian cult, to one of the "orthodox" evangelical Protestant brethren; SDA's MUST essentially AGREE with Walter Martin's "version" of the Trinity doctrine. Walter Martin's belief of a "incarnational Sonship" has been entirely overlooked by modern SDA scholarship. The significance of this fact is clearly seen when examining Walter Martin's precise Trinitarian definition in his book "Kindom of the Cults."
The Bible clearly teaches, then, that Jesus Christ before His incarnation was the eternal Word, Wisdom, or Logos, of God…and further, that Jesus Christ is not called by Scripture the “eternal Son,” the error passed on from Origen under the title “eternal generation,” but rather He is the Living Word of God…Let us fix these things in our minds then: (a) the doctrine of “eternal generation” or the eternal Sonship of Christ, which springs from the Roman Catholic doctrine first conceived by Origen in A.D. 230, is a theory which opened the door theologically to the Arian and Sabellian heresies which today still plague the Christian Church in the realms of Christology.
(b) The Scripture nowhere calls Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God, and He is never called Son at all prior to the incarnation, except in prophetic passages in the Old Testament…
(d) Many heresies have seized upon the confusion created by the illogical “eternal Sonship” or “eternal generation” theory of Roman Catholic theology, unfortunately carried over to some aspects of Protestant theology. (pp. 102, 103—1977; pp. 116, 117—1985; pp. 169, 170—1997 rev., updated, expanded anniversary ed., Hank Hanegraaff, general editor [with minor additions and deletions]; pp. 138, 139—2003 rev., updated, expanded ed., Ravi Zacharias, general editor [with minor additions and deletions].)
He judged others by the creeds: The same have judged him
Walter Martin's ultimate double standard is clearly revealed. Martin uses the early Christian creeds and the basis for orthodox belief regarding the Trinity; while at the same time REJECTING the foundational premise of those same creeds (i.e. the literal "generation" or begetting of God's Son in eternity). In other words Walter Martin rejected major aspects of the early creeds, (i.e. Nicene), in order to accept the "incarnational Sonship" belief. Why was Martin so fiercely opposed to the doctrine of eternal Sonship? He believed it to be: "a theory which opened the door theologically to the Arian and Sabellian heresies which today still plague the Christian Church in the realms of Christology." In other words, Martin spent his entire lifetime battling Jehovah's Witnesses regarding their "Arianism," and "oneness Pentecostals" regarding their modalism. Therefore, he rejected any teaching that would seemingly give support to either position. The extreme irony is that while Walter Martin was accusing so many non-trinitarians of "heresy," he had accepted a "new version" of Trinitarianism which had already been REJECTED by the vast majority of professed Trinitarian Christian churches. Simply put, Walter Martin's "incarnational Sonship" view of the Trinity is heterodox!
Stranger Than Fiction
Lest any accuse me of sensationalism; it can be easily proven that Walter Martin's "Trinity" is heretical, even as rejected by professed Trinitarians. How so? If you list all the advocates of the "incarnational Sonship" belief from the past two and a half centuries, you will also discover the MANY, many, many books written AGAINST their position. The public controversy and debate resulting from the "incarnational Sonship" teaching is a matter of historical record. In fact, the only denomination I know that has formally accepted this "version" of Trinitarianism is the Seventh-day Adventist church (via Walter Martin). "...I find the Trinitarian theology of Adventism, particularly its repudiation of the doctrine of the Eternal generation of the Son, most compatible with my own." (letter from Walter Martin to L. E. Froom, May 20, 1968; from "No new leaders...no new gods" by Fred Allaback p.83, 1995) Walter Martin is clearly stating that the early SDA pioneers believed in "the Eternal generation of the Son," and that modern Adventism has repudiated (rejected) this teaching.
C.R.I. does not believe in Martin's "incarnational Sonship"
Ironically enough, CRI (founded by Walter Martin), has officially changed its position from the "incarnational Sonship" to the "eternal Sonship" viewpoint after Martin's death. "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." (Bob Ross)
Walter Martin (unknowingly?) denounced as heretical by his own website
Carefully notice the statement of faith from the official WalterMartin.com website: "Transgression of the Doctrine of Christ
Wherefore, it is a transgression of the Doctrine of Christ to say that Jesus Christ derived the title Son of God solely from the fact of the incarnation, or because of His relation to the economy of redemption. Therefore, to deny that the Father is a real and eternal Father, and that the Son is a real and eternal Son, is the denial of the distinction and relationship in the Being of God; a denial of the Father and the Son; and a displacement of the truth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. (2 John 9; John 1: 1, 2, 14, 18, 29, 49; 1 John 2:22, 23; 4:1-5; Heb. 12:2)"
What a slap in the face to the late Dr. Martin. The statement of faith on his own website denounces his belief as heretical. This statement makes it appear that Martin accepted the doctrine of "eternal Sonship" when in reality he categorically rejected, and denounced it. This is simply the same, (and probably for the same reasons), as making the false claim that the majority of the early SDA pioneers were Trinitarians (i.e. Froom).
Much more could be said detailing the history of the "incarnational Sonship" doctrine, leave this for another blog. In summary, the main points of this article are as follows:
1. Ellen White never believed in the "incarnational Sonship" doctrine.
2. The SDA Pioneers never believed in the "incarnational Sonship" doctrine.
3. The "Trinity" of the 1931 statement of beliefs did not express the "incarnational Sonship" doctrine.
4. Even pioneering SDA Trinitarians such as W. W. Prescott never believed in the "incarnational Sonship" doctrine.
5. The "incarnational Sonship" doctrine was formally accepted in "Questions on Doctrine" via Walter Martin.
6. The "incarnational Sonship" doctrine, (even as held by Walter Martin), is considered heretical by the majority of all professed Trinitarians.
7. A challange to find any other professed Trinitarian Christian denomination, (other than the SDA church), that has formally accepted the "incarnational Sonship" doctrine.
Most modern SDA church leaders who have written upon subject, have difficulty putting Adventism's "version" of Trinitarianism into proper perspective. Many perceive the church's "official" definition of Trinitarianism, (although still deciding between Hatton's view vs. Whidden, Moon, and Reeve's), is challenged ONLY by small, but vocal pockets, of non-trinitarian / fountarian SDA's. If these fountarian SDA's would keep silent, or go away, everything would be fine and dandy. This perspective is missing the point by a long-shot. The sooner we recognize that "incarnational Sonship" has been rejected as heretical for over 250 years, (even by virtually all professed Trinitarians); the sooner SDA's will be able to openly discuss the possibility this view could be unbiblical, and false. It is only a matter of time before non-SDA scholars will publicly criticize, or even condemn denominational Adventism for advocating the incarnational Sonship theory.