Adam Clarke, John Milton, Buswell and the Eternally Begotten Son of God

Various voices have been raised in protest against what later became the Church’s official version of the origins of the Son of God. His beginning was supposed to have been in pre-history. He was presented as an apparent rival to the One God, coequal with Him in every way, even self-existent. Because the language of begetting was biblical it was maintained but emptied of recognizable meaning. Commentator Adam Clarke was one of many who protested about the garbled language attributing a non-biblical Sonship to Jesus:

With all due respect for those who differ, I must say that the doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Christ is antiscriptural and highly dangerous. This doctrine I reject for the following reasons: I have not been able to find any express declaration in the Scriptures concerning it… To say that the Son was begotten from all eternity is in my opinion absurd. And the phrase “eternal Son” is a positive self-contradiction. “Eternity” is that which has had no beginning, nor stands in any reference to time. “Son” supposes time, generation, and father and time also antecedent to such generation. Therefore the conjunction of these two terms “Son” and “eternity” is absolutely impossible as they imply essentially different and opposite ideas.1

Equally outspoken was the protest of the British poet, politician and theologian John Milton. Reflecting on the “orthodox” creeds of the Church he remarked:

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Author: Anthony Buzzard

Keywords: Shema, Christology, Trinity, Triunity, Three in one, God the Son, Preexistence, Pre-existence, Christ's preexistence, Christ's pre-existence, Christ preexisted, Christ pre-existed, Jesus preexisted, Jesus' preexistence, Jesus' pre-existence, Jesus pre-existed, Preexistence of Jesus, Preexist, Pre exist, Jesus was the Word, The Word was Jesus, Word was God, Messiah, Deity of Christ, Deity of Jesus, Jesus's preexistence, Jesus preexisted before he was born, Spirit of Messiah, Jewish preexistence, Jewish concept of preexistence, Jewish concept of pre-existence, Jewish understanding of pre-existence, Jewish understanding of preexistence, Jewish understanding of preexistence of Messiah, Messiah's preexistence, Messiah preexisted, Messiah pre-existed, Messiah's pre-existence, Unitarian, Eternal sonship, Eternal son, Eternal sonship of Jesus

Bible reference(s): Deut. 6:4, Matthew 16:15, Mar 8:27, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:18, Luke 9:20, John 1:1-3, 1 Cor. 8:4-6, 1 Tim. 2:5

Source: Anthony Buzzard, “Adam Clarke, John Milton, Buswell and the Eternally Begotten Son of God,” excerpted from Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian, pp. 220-2.

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