Is The Denial of The Eternal Sonship
of the Second Person of the Triune Godhead
A Matter of Damnable Heresy
This is the question that I both raise and hope to answer for myself as God enables. I am currently trying to find the works and writings of such Incarnation Sonship proponents as James Wells (of the Surrey Tabernacle) and John Andrew (J.A.) Jones as posted in the Earthen Vessel Magazine (mid-late 1800’s UK) and elsewhere.
Although I believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God in both His deity as well as in His humanity (a belief that the Incarnation Sonship advocates reject), at this time, I do not believe that the Incarnation Sonship position reaches the level of damnable heresy. However, I say this in ignorance (having not really studied the matter either way), hence my desire to research it more and see what motivates such a denial of the Eternal Sonship of Christ.
From my readings so far, it is clear to me that neither side supports Arianism, Semi-Arianism, Neo-Arianism, Subordinationism, or any other such heresy. Both sides clearly maintain that the Lord Jesus Christ is the God Man Mediator. Both sides clearly maintain that God the Word (the Second Person of the Elohim, the Triune Godhead) is co-equal, co-divine, and co-eternal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Both sides clearly maintain that God the Word became incarnate and that He is both fully God and fully man. However, the dispute centers around whether, in eternity past, God the Word was always the Son of God (i.e. the eternally begotten of the Father) or whether He became the Son of God when He took upon Himself human flesh (i.e. during the incarnation). Said another way, the question at issue is whether God the Word was always God the Son (or God, the Son of the Father), or whether the title of Son only applies to His human nature alone and not to His eternal, divine nature.
The Gospel Standard Strict Baptists maintain, and I believe rightfully so, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God; that is, even before He became incarnate, He was the beloved Son of the Father. In other words, He was not only God the Word (See John 1:1-3), but God the Son as well. The Earthen Vessel (and other) Strict Baptists maintained, on the opposing side, that God the Word was God the Word in eternity, but not God the Son (or the Son of God). They assert that God the Word became the Son of God only in His humanity. So the issue, the eternal sonship controversy, boils down to whether the Second Person of the Triune Godhead was (a) the Son of the Father in His humanity only or (b) whether He was God the Son in both His deity and His humanity.
So in the hopefully near future, I hope to be able to ascertain (1) whether denying the Eternal Sonship of Christ in His deity while affirming His deity is equivalent to damnable heresy and (2) whether those who knowingly spoke spiritual peace to the Incarnation Sonship advocates were partakers of their evil deeds and thus unsaved themselves (presuming of course, that the Incarnation stance rises to the level of heresy — an assertion that I cannot affirm at this time).
Some may wonder why I even care about such a seemingly out-dated controversy; the answer is simple, I have read several sermons and other works from Mr. Wells, Mr. C.W. Banks, and other Earthen Vesselers and found them to be a rich blessing indeed (they are very faithful and experimental in nature, not much different that the Gospel Standard Magazine’s publishings). Although I feel more comfortable with the doctrinal positions of the Gosepl Standard Strict Baptists, I nonetheless appreciate much of what the Vesselers wrote. Yet, James Wells was a supporter of the Incarnation Sonship position and though he agreed with Mr. J.C. Philpot regarding the Eternal Sonship of Christ, and deemed Mr. Philpot to be a friend, Mr. C.W. Banks published the works of Mr. Wells and Mr. J.A. Jones (deeming both of them friends as well). I lean towards the position of Mr. Banks, who felt quite surely that this issue was not a matter of damnable heresy and that both sides of the controversy had many a godly preacher fighting for their respective cause. Nonetheless, I hope to research and (if God wills and enables) come to a conclusion on the matter in the not too distant future. I welcome any thoughts and insights that others may have on the matter.