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Is Christ’s Sonship Metaphorical?  

Did you know the Seventh-day Adventist Church teaches that the relationship between Jesus Christ and God the Father as the Son of God is simply metaphorical?


The article that clearly stated this on AdventistWorld website seems to have been pulled down. However, at the time of posting this, a copy still appears here, but let me paste it here just in case it also gets pulled down. Please note that the Biblical Research Institute, which is responsible for the article below, exists to, among others, promote the study and practice of Adventist theology and lifestyle as understood by the world church and identify areas of doctrinal and theological concern and encourage commitment to the truths of Scripture. You can get more information from its website here. It means this is the official position of the church, and indeed, there are other official church websites that echo the same message.


A Question of Sonship


Ángel Manuel Rodríguez - Retired

What does the Bible mean when it refers to Jesus as “the Son of God”?


The significance of this title of Christ has been a matter of serious debate among Christians. The most basic understanding is that the incarnated Lord was born of the virgin Mary to be called the Son of God (Luke 1:32; 1 John 5:18). In sharing my understanding of the topic, I hope to motivate your continued study.

     1. Son(s) of God: In the Old Testament the phrase “son(s)/children of God” designates three types of persons. The heavenly beings who met with the Lord in the divine council are called “the angels” (Heb., “sons of God,” Job 1:6; 2:1).1  At the moment of creation we are told that “all the angels [Heb., “sons of God”] shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). The people of God are called “the children of the Lord your God” (Deut. 14:1; see also Hosea 2:1; Isa. 45:11). They became God’s children through creation and redemption (Ex. 4:22, 23). Finally, the Israelite king was called the “Son of God” (e.g., 2 Sam. 7:14). God appointed the king as “my firstborn” (Ps. 89:27; cf. Ps. 2:7). In these cases the word “son” is used figuratively. Heavenly beings are sons of God through creation; the people of God are God’s children through creation and redemption; and the king becomes a son of God through his appointment as king. In the Bible God does not have children through natural conception and birth.

     2. Eternal Sonship of Christ: Christ is the eternal Son of God. Paul wrote that “when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4). Christ was the Son of God before He was born of a woman. Through the preexistent Son, God “made the universe” (Heb. 1:2). However, the sonship of Christ is unique. Believers are spiritually born of God as children of God, but the Son is never described as being spiritually born of God; He is the Son, who came directly from the Father (John 16:28). He has life in Himself and is one with the Father in will (John 14:31; 15:10), character (John 14:8-11), purpose (John 15:16; 16:15; 17:4-8), and nature (John 8:58). Yet He is a different person. We are dealing with a metaphorical use of the word “son.”

     3. Metaphorical Significance: In our humanity the image of a child conveys some obvious ideas. First, it indicates that a child is of the same nature as that of the parents; they are human beings. When Christ is called “Son of God,” we are being told that He, like the Father, is a divine being (John 5:18). Second, a child is distinguishable from their parents. The metaphor of sonship means that although Christ and the Father have the same nature, they are different persons, implying a plurality of persons within the Godhead. Third, the relationship between parents and children is unique. Their union is practically indissoluble. The metaphor is therefore a good symbol for the deep unity that exists within the members of the Godhead (John 17:5). Fourth, a human child comes from its parents through natural birth. In the case of the Godhead, however, the Son proceeded from the Father, not as a divine emanation or through natural birth, but to perform a work of creation and redemption (John 8:42; 16:28). There is no biblical support for the eternal generation of the Son from the Father. The Son came from God but was not generated by Him. Fifth, the father-son image cannot be literally applied to the divine Father-Son relationship within the Godhead. The Son is not the natural, literal Son of the Father. A natural child has a beginning, while within the Godhead the Son is eternal. The term “Son” is used metaphorically when applied to the Godhead. It conveys the ideas of distinction of persons within the Godhead and the equality of nature in the context of an eternal, loving relationship.

     Ellen White wrote: “The Lord Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, existed from eternity, a distinct person, yet one with the Father.”2  This statement summarizes the main purpose of the metaphor.


     1Texts are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

     2Ellen G. White, Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958, 1980), book 1, p. 247. ]


The Adventist Review of October 31, 1996 also stated that the three Persons of the Godhead were role-playing, one taking the role of the Father and another the Son! Here is an excerpt from page 12:


"In God's foreknowledge and great love, such a provision had already been made. A plan of salvation was encompassed in the covenant made by the Three Persons of the Godhead, who possessed the attributes of Deity equally. In order to eradicate sin and rebellion from the universe and to restore harmony and peace, one of the divine Beings accepted, and entered into, the role (sic) the of Father, another the role of the Son. The remaining divine Being, the Holy Spirit, was also to participate in effecting the plan of salvation. All of this took place before sin and rebellion transpired in heaven."

You can download the entire magazine here.


If the persons of the Trinity were just playing roles, how firm is our salvation yet it is based on acting?

Side-by-Side Comparison of Gradual Changes in Fundamental Principles


Seal of God vs Trinity


This is mainly for Seventh-day Adventists, but it will help anyone interested in digging for Biblical truth.


Revelation 14:1 says - And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having His Father's name written in their foreheads.


God’s seal is written in the forehead, and it involves the name of God the Father as the verse says.


It’s therefore VERY IMPORTANT to know whose name will really be written in the forehead.


We often point at Sunday as the mark of the beast.


Now let’s see this:


Article 234 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life.


The same statement appears in the Handbook for Today’s Catholic, with the emphasis that “Upon it are based all the other teachings of the church.”


You can also read about it here:


If the Trinity is the foundation on which everything the Catholic Church teaches rests, including Sunday sacredness, how can you reject Sunday and cling to the Trinity?


Please show me even one verse in the Bible about either “God the Son” or “God the Holy Spirit.”


I have really searched, but what I have found so far is “God the Father,” “the Son of God” and “the Spirit of God.”
(for the difference between "God the Son" and the "Son of God," please click here)


The Bible refers to God in many places as Holy (Leviticus 11:44, 45).


This is why His Spirit is also Holy. The word Holy is not a name but a description, just as there are “evil spirits” (Luke 7:21). Please click here for additional information.


Which name will be written in your forehead – in other words, which God do you believe in – God the Father or the Trinity?

Seventh-day Adventist Church's Creed

The Seventh-day Adventist Church insists that it does not have a creed, yet members get reprimanded and even kicked out of the church when they touch on some teachings.


What is a creed?

Merriam Webster dictionary describes it as:

1 : a brief authoritative formula of religious belief  such as the Nicene Creed

2 : a set of fundamental beliefs also : a guiding principle

In the 28 Fundamental Beliefs booklet, the Seventh-day Adventist Church states that "Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed and hold certain fundamental beliefs to be the teaching of the Holy Scriptures."

According to this, the SDA church takes both the Bible AND fundamental beliefs as their creed. Indeed, a creed is a set of fundamental beliefs. 

Initially, the church had Fundamental Principles, which were mainly directed at non-SDAs so they could understand what the church taught. They did not bind the church members to secure uniformity, failure to which members would be disfellowshiped.

"Appendix II - Fundamental Principles of SDA in 1872

In presenting to the public this synopsis of our faith, we wish to have it distinctly understood that we have no articles of faith, creed, or discipline, aside from the Bible. We do not put forth this as having any authority with our people, nor is it designed to secure uniformity among them, as a system of faith, but is a brief statement of what is, and has been, with great unanimity, held by them. We often find it necessary to meet inquiries on this subject, and sometimes to correct false statements circulated against us, and to remove erroneous impressions which have obtained with those who have not had an opportunity to become acquainted with our faith and practice. Our only object is to meet this necessity.

As Seventh-day Adventists we desire simply that our position shall be understood; and we are the more solicitous for this because there are many who call themselves Adventists who hold views with which we can have no sympathy, some of which, we think, are subversive of the plainest and most important principles set forth in the word of God. As compared with other Adventists, Seventh-day Adventists differ from one class in believing in the unconscious state of the dead, and the final destruction of the unrepentant wicked; from another, in believing in the perpetuity of the law of God as summarily contained in the ten commandments, in the operation of the Holy Spirit in the church, and in setting no times for the advent to occur; from all, in the observance of the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath of the Lord, and in many applications of the prophetic scriptures. With these remarks, we ask the attention of the reader to the following propositions, which aim to be a concise statement of the more prominent features of our faith.

- I -

That there is one God, a personal, spiritual being, the creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal, infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and mercy; unchangeable, and everywhere present by his representative, the Holy Spirit. Psalm 139:7.

- II -

That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, the one by whom God created all things, and by whom they do consist; that he took on him the nature of the seed of Abraham for the redemption of our fallen race; that he dwelt among men full of grace and truth, lived our example, died our sacrifice, was raised for our justification, ascended on high to be our only mediator in the sanctuary in Heaven, where, with his own blood, he makes atonement for our sins, which atonement, so far from being made on the cross, which was but the offering of the sacrifice, is the very last portion of his work as priest, according to the example of the Levitical priesthood, which foreshadowed and prefigured the ministry of our Lord in Heaven. See Leviticus 16; Hebrews 8:4, 5; 9:6, 7; etc."                                                                                                                                                                                               

Nowadays, the fundamental principles have not only been changed but they have also been turned into a creed despite claims to the contrary. People are not only removed from membership but sometimes even get barred from attending their former churches when they do not support the trinity.                        

In fact, in many instances in the church, matters are decided based on the Church Manual and Fundamental Beliefs, not the Bible.


The reasons for which members shall be subject to discipline are: 1. Denial of faith in the fundamentals of the gospel and in the fundamental beliefs of the Church or teaching doctrines contrary to the same. – {Church Manual, 2015 Edition, pp 62}


Perhaps the most “sacred” one is the Trinity.


Question it and you either get warned or kicked out if you don't toe the line.


While the church acknowledges that it was not trinitarian at the beginning, they say they received new light (present truth). It's true that the members came from different churches with different beliefs and they struggled to harmonize their beliefs in accordance with the Holy Scriptures, but I don’t see how God’s nature can be present truth for a particular time yet God never changes.


I mean, for instance, preaching of the coming flood was present truth by the time Noah was preaching it.


Can you now preach that a literal flood WILL cover the entire earth or that Sodom WILL be destroyed by fire?


On the other hand, God’s nature has never changed.


Some people argue that the pioneers were not originally trinitarian and carried their earlier beliefs into the movement.


Yet Ellen White came from the Methodist Church, which was trinitarian. Others also renounced their trinitarian beliefs when they joined the SDA movement.


“Such were the blessed results experienced by those who accepted the advent message. They came from different denominations, and their denominational barriers were hurled to the ground; conflicting creeds were shivered to atoms;” –  {The Great Controversy, pp 379, par. 3}


So were they right before but got misguided after starting the movement?


Was Ellen White inspired during that period of misguidance? If not, why does the church claim to follow her writings?


Or was she misguided, and that's why her books are being changed?


The pioneers aside, no one says the Bible directly teaches the Trinity; only that the concept is implied.


By the way, most of the verses used to support the concept simply mention the Father, Son and Holy Spirit without any reference to God or even talking about “godship.”


Yet the Bible states eternal life (salvation) comes from believing in Christ as the Son of God.


John 3:18 He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.


John 20:31 But these are written, that all of you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing all of you might have life through his name.


Act 8:37-38  And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.


1John 5:5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?


1John 5:12  He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.


It’s when we believe in Jesus as the Son of God that we can really appreciate the great sacrifice God, the Father, made by giving His only Son.


But now the church teaches that Christ's Sonship is metaphorical.


“In the professedly Christian world many turn away from the plain teachings of the Bible and build up a creed from human speculations and pleasing fables, and they point to their tower as a way to climb up to heaven.” – {Patriarchs and Prophets – The Tower of Babel, pp 124, par 1}

"As the light and life of men was rejected by the ecclesiastical authorities in the days of Christ, so it has been rejected in every succeeding generation. Again and again the history of Christ's withdrawal from Judea has been repeated. When the Reformers preached the word of God, they had no thought of separating themselves from the established church; but the religious leaders would not tolerate the light, and those that bore it were forced to seek another class, who were longing for the truth. In our day few of the professed followers of the Reformers are actuated by their spirit. Few are listening for the voice of God, and ready to accept truth in whatever guise it may be presented. Often those who follow in the steps of the Reformers are forced to turn away from the churches they love, in order to declare the plain teaching of the word of God. And many times those who are seeking for light are by the same teaching obliged to leave the church of their fathers, that they may render obedience." - {Desire of Ages, pp 232, par 2}

Adventist Timeline
Fundamental Principles
Washburn Letters appealing to GC
Fundamental Beliefs, Adventist Review April 23, 1980
1932 Church Manual
1951 Church Manual
2015 Church Manual
Froom, Movement of Destiny
Desmond Ford and Righteousness by Faith Controversy
Desmond Ford's Apostacy
EGW Writings
KJV Bible With Strongs Dictionary
Bible Commentaries
Bible Dictionaries
Bible Concordances
Adventist Church President Holds First Meeting With UN Chief
The Forgotten Letter
SDA Year Book 1889
SDA Year Book 1931
Review & Herald 1913 Oct 9
Review & Herald 1931
Review & Herald 1981
SS Lesson, 4th Quarter 1936
SS Lesson 2001, 2nd Quarter
Biblical Leadership Model Abandoned
The Living Temple
Reorganization of Church Structure
Adventist Review, October 31, 1996
Bible Questions and Answers on the Godhead
The Trinity Doctrine Weighed in the Balance
Trinity in the Book Evangelism
The Line of Truth
Book Review: The Coming of the Comforter
Book Review: The Holy Spirit
Book Review: W.W. Prescott