There exists within Adventism, especially among the trinitarians and the non-trinitarians, a contentious subject, dealing with the topic of Christ’s pre-incarnate sonship. The non-trinitarians contends that Christ’s sonship is an objective reality and ontological, in the real filial sense, wherein Christ was “begotten” or came forth from the Father at some period in the days of eternity past. Modern Adventist trinitarians however contends that Jesus had no beginning and therefore the idea of Christ’s Sonship is merely a metaphor and any thesis that would undermine the eternality (existence without beginning) of Christ would be tantamount to denigrating His divinity. Click HERE to see what the modern Adventist scholars are saying about Christ’s sonship.
Charles Longacre presents a unique perspective as he endeavors to reconcile Christ’s eternal existence with his begetting. He draws a biblical parallel from Levi, having existed in the loins of Abraham, to how Christ existed in the bosom of the Father in His pre-begotten existence.
Charles Longacre: Son of God existed “in the bosom of the Father” from all eternity
Charles Longacre was born in 1871. He was intimately acquainted with Ellen White, Uriah Smith and other Adventist pioneers. He was one of six pall bearers selected at Ellen White’s funeral. He also attended the 1919 Bible Conference and was a member of the Bible Research Fellowship which was organized in 1940 by the North American Bible Teachers. Under the chairmanship of L.L.Caviness in 1944. He was offered the opportunity of presenting a paper at Pacific Union College on “The Diety of Christ.” in January 1947. A sermon on the same subject was presented shortly thereafter at the Takoma Park Church in Washington, D.C.
Longacre began his discourse by presenting the various views of Christ’s Godhood. After discussing the two extremes of both-an only human Christ and a God the Father Christ, he continued,
“We now come to the third group which hold that Christ was the only begotten Son of God, the Father, and that He was such from the days of eternity and was the only one who proceeded directly from God, being begotten by the Father before all creation, before anything was created in an empty universe. This group hold that the Son of God is equal to the Father, is the express image of the Father, possesses the same substance as the Father, the same life as the Father, the same power and authority as the Father, but that all these attributes were given to the Son of God by the Father, when He was begotten by the Father.”
“This group believe that the Son of God existed “in the bosom of the Father” from all eternity, just as Levi existed in the “loins of Abraham,” as the apostle Paul said; “And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchesedec met him.” Heb. 7:9, 10.” (Charles S. Longacre, The Deity of Christ, paper for the Bible Research Fellowship Angwin, California January 1947, page 3)
Disclaimer: There is no further data that I’m aware as to what is being asserted above by Longacre in that the “Son of God existed ‘in the bosom of the Father’ from all eternity, just as Levi existed in the ‘loins of Abraham,’”. Again, the writer of this article has yet to find anyone else (with the exception of W.T. Knox’s statement below) within Adventism who shared similar thoughts as Longacre’s. But the “third group” alluded by Longacre suggests that there was a group perhaps within Adventism or from without, who are of the same opinion as he was, thus it does warrant some consideration. Click HERE for the full article.
In responding to Longacre’s view, here are some things to consider… For those who view Christ’s begetting as an event that have taken place in the eternity past, and since there are no inspired evidence as to how or if Christ existed before He was “begotten”, it would also be a remiss to simply rule out the possibility of the existence of Christ in some fashion or Him existing in the “bosom” or in the “loins” of the Father as Longacre suggested before He came forth from the Father as a separately personality. According to Longacre’s view, Christ existed in the loins of the Father without beginning, from all eternity, as same age as the Father, before He came forth from the Father and became a separate, individual personality.
W. T. Knox: “Levi existed in the loins of his forefathers…”
In a Bible Conference session in the year 1919, concerning “The Person of Christ”, led by W.W. Prescott, W.T. Knox intimates a similar thought as Longacre and says,
“… I do believe that the Lord has given us glimpses in his Word; which he has Intentionally placed there, to draw our minds out into the contemplation of truths concerning God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost.…I believe in the trinity of God, and I believe that Jesus is God….”
Here we find Knox espousing what appears to be his trinitarian position and yet he goes onto say:
“Now again the servant of God speaks of the Son as the first created being. I never saw that and never believe that, but it speaks of him as having sprung forth from the bosom of the Father. Now the Word also speaks of Levi paying tithes while he was in the loins of Abraham. Now it would have been equally true if the Lord’s Spirit had carried the acts of Levi back to the time when he was in the loins of Adam. From God’s viewpoint Levi had existed in the loins of his forefathers from the very beginning of time, but he did not have a separate existence until he was born. [A]nd so Christ was with the Father, and of the Father—from eternity and there came a time—in a way, we cannot comprehend nor the time that we cannot comprehend, when by God’a mysterious operation the Son sprung from the-bosom of his Father and had a separate existence… I believe in the eternity of Jesus Christ. I cannot grasp the eternity of his separate and distinct existence.” —W. T. Knox Bible Conference 1919, pg. 64
It is interesting to note that while Knox says he believes in the “trinity” and have used familiar trinitarian expressions such as “God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost”, and yet he affirms a similar belief to Longacre and have alluded to the idea of Levi having existed in the loins of his forefathers, etc. He says, “there came a time—in a way, we cannot comprehend nor the time that we cannot comprehend, when by God’a mysterious operation the Son sprung from the-bosom of his Father and had a separate exi
stence”. This would be completely antithetical to what the modern trinitarians believe. What this indicates is that just because someone uses the word, “trinity” does not necessarily mean that it is the same thing (unbegottenism) as how modern trinitarian Adventists believe.
Within the same Bible Conference in 1919 Bollman also stated,
“My conception of the matter is this; that at some point in eternity the Father separated a portion of Himself to be the Son. As far as the substance is concerned, He is just as eternal as the Father, but did not have an eternal separate existence. I do not think that approaches any nearer to Arianism than the other does to ________.” C. P. Bollman, Bible Conference 1919, pg 20
What we see above is just a small sampling of Adventist scholars openly discussing the topic of Christ’s sonship within Adventism in the early to mid 1900s. It is worth noting that the church was allowed to have differences of opinion and did not necessarily adhere to a single, rigid dogma as it does now. Much of the ideas of maintaining the integrity Christ’s divinity rests on how we define Christ’s pre-incarnate sonship, His eternal existence and what we can observe from volumes of published articles by the early adventist pioneers (who were non-trinitarians) are that they were able to maintain that tension, wherein, while they fully affirmed Christ’s divinity and His eternal existence and yet spoke of Christ’s pre-incarnate sonship as an objective reality and not a mere metaphor.