An Open Letter.

To Mr. C. A. Coates.
Dear Brother in the Lord,

You have recently issued a pamphlet, entitled, "Remarks on a pamphlet by A. J. Pollock entitled 'The Eternal Son'," in which you endeavour to prove that,
  1) The Lord Jesus is not the Eternal Son,
  2) That the Lord Jesus is not the Everlasting Word,
  3) That the Lord Jesus was not that "Eternal Life," before time was,
  4) That the Father is not the Eternal Father. - Your reasoning also would seem to infer,
  5) That God is not the Eternal Jehovah.

At the time of the Barnet notes it was a question of neither affirming nor denying that the Lord Jesus was the Eternal Son. It was said that as Scripture did not use the term, Eternal Son, we must not use it. But you go further than the Barnet Notes in categorically denying these great facts of Scripture, which are fundamental to the Christian faith.

Many, who have not read my pamphlet, might think that your criticism of it is fair and just. If it were a matter of defending myself I would go no further. Since it is a question of truth I feel compelled to reply.

May I first point out that while freely criticising my remarks, you have not ventured to animadvert upon the weighty extracts from the writings of J. N. Darby, J. G. Bellett, W. Kelly, F. W. Grant and F. E. Raven? The writings of these servants of God show that they entirely refuse the views that you advocate. Their interpretation of Scripture cannot be lightly laid aside. I do not accept their statements simply because of the names attached to them, but as the result of their convincing appeal to Scripture. The Bereans were praised because they put to the test of the Scriptures the ministry of the Apostle Paul himself. It is well for us to follow their example.

The assertion has been made that if J. N. D. were alive to-day, he would be the first to receive this new teaching. Personally I believe he would resist it with all his powers. He said in the very foot-note, that J. T. has so unjustifiably ignored, "I hate the heresy [that is, the denial of the eternal sonship of the Lord], and would guard against the fibre of its roots." (Notes and Comments, Volume 7, page 7.)*
{*See pages 41-45 of my pamphlet.}

F. E. Raven wrote,

The fourth Gospel is given to us to afford full light as to His Person, that is 'The Son,' and in this respect He is seen in three aspects, namely as ETERNALLY WITH THE FATHER, as come into the world, and as going back to the Father, the same Person, unchanged and unchangeable." The Person of the Christ.

You no longer agree with Mr. Raven's teaching as here stated.

Mr. Bellett's beautiful book, "The Son of God," breathing devotion to the Lord in every line of it, was written to warn brethren in Ireland against this very teaching, viz., the denial of the eternal sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ, and was used, thank God, to their deliverance. The evil that then threatened, and was averted in God's great goodness, is now revived, and sanctioned by your community.

Further, it is surely a matter for humiliation, that twenty-five years ago a brother in fellowship with you was excommunicated rightly for denying the eternal sonship of the blessed Lord; whereas brothers are refused fellowship, if they assert it, to-day.

These solemn facts would indicate that you have parted company with Mr. Darby and the teachers of a past generation on these fundamental doctrines, and in so doing, I fear, have parted with the clear teaching of Scripture.

Let me, however, come to details. To begin with there is a glaring instance of unfair treatment in your reference to a statement at the beginning of my pamphlet.

You say,

"The readers of Mr. P's Pamphlet are told (page 8) that certain teaching (contained as the 'Foreword' to the pamphlet informs them, in the published notes of readings at Barnet in June 1929) 'means' that the Three Persons in the Godhead 'are not distinguished for us in Scripture, and their relationship One to the Other is unrevealed.' The readers are expected to accept this astounding statement without question, on the sole ground that Mr. P. says it is so. For no evidence is produced to show that any one, either at Barnet or elswhere, has given expression to such a foolish and unscriptural thought. The simplest reader of the Bible knows that it does carefully distinguish the Persons of the Godhead, both as known now, and as in the past eternity. (pages 4 and 5.)

Your last sentence I fully agree with, but in your pamphlet you do not agree with your own statement as to what the simplest believer in the Bible knows, as I shall point out presently.

You must be aware that there was no question as to the Persons of the Godhead, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as known now. You know as well as I do that the question raised was as to the Persons of the Godhead in a past eternity. Further, I complain that you have left out a material part of what I wrote. Let me give you the quotation in full, printing the part you left out in italics.

"If this new teaching is true, it means that though we have in Scripture the truth that there is one God, and that the Godhead has been pleased to make itself known in three Persons, who are One in substance, thought and purpose, yet these three Persons are not distinguished for us in Scripture, and their relationship One to the Other is unrevealed."

Here I clearly state that there were ever three Persons in the Godhead, but that the Barnet Notes put forth the teaching that their relation One to the Other was not defined. This is of course before the incarnation of our Lord. Your handling of my statement, makes me appear to assert what in fact I did not assert.

You call this an "astounding statement," that my readers are asked to receive without question because I say it, and you claim that no evidence is adduced, either from Barnet or elsewhere.

Let us begin with Barnet,

"J .T . You cannot give names to, or define relations between, divine Persons before incarnation." (Barnet Readings, June 1929, page 57.)

Is this not a proof of what I say? If it is an "astounding statement," if it is "such a foolish thought," J. T. himself makes it.

Let us go "elsewhere." You yourself say,

"Divine Persons knew each Other and loved each Other eternally; this has been made known. But names of revelation were certainly 'not needed within the sphere of Deity. That is a region utterly beyond creature apprehension." (page 25.)

True, this was not printed when I wrote my pamphlet, but seeing that I had challenged the teaching of the Barnet Notes, it is not without significance, that you thus endorse this teaching in the very pamphlet where you impugn my statement for saying that it was so taught. Is this fair treatment?

This refusal to accept the plain truth of Scripture as to the Names and relationships of Divine Persons in a past eternity makes it difficult for those, who do so, to refer to the Persons of the Godhead in a past eternity, save in a very cumbersome way, such as, The divine Person, who became the Father through the incarnation of the Son; or the divine Person, who became the Son in incarnation. No wonder that brethren, who have been taught the truth as we have known it for many years, and who have alas! embraced this new teaching, find it difficult to adjust their language to the new ideas. We do not find such language coming from the writers of the New Testament.

You, yourself, are inconsistent in this way. In your pamphlet you say,

"It is quite beside the mark to say that 'the Father was the Father before the Lord Jesus was born into the world.' Of course there is no change in God; what He is now He ever was and ever will be. But He was not known to any man as Father until the Man was here who was 'called the Son of God.'" (page 20.)

This last sentence is perfectly true, and I know of no one who would question it, though I should have guarded the sentence and said that "the Man" was more than a Man, a divine Person, who became Man, never ceasing to be less than what He was from all eternity.

But you say that it is beside the mark to say that "the Father was the Father before the Lord Jesus Christ was born into the world." This clearly denies on your part that the Father was the Father eternally. That being so, why do you state in five places at least that the Father is "the Father ETERNALLY"? Is this not inconsistent?

Let me remind you of the places in your pamphlet where you do this.

"He was with the Father as to presence and place ETERNALLY, having a Personality distinct from the Father but co-equal with Him." (page 7.)

"He had glory along with the Father IN ETERNITY, and was loved by the Father. But who could define the glory which attached to His presence and place with the Father ETERNALLY?" (page 12.)

"He did leave the glory which He had ALONG WITH THE FATHER BEFORE THE WORLD WAS, and in John 17 He asked to be glorified with it as Man." (page 14.)

"The glory which He has WITH THE FATHER is the same as He had in ETERNAL DEITY." (page 14.)

"In John 17:5, He asks to be glorified along with the Father WITH AN ORIGINAL GLORY which was His along WITH THE FATHER FROM ETERNITY.” (page 15.)

This shows that the teaching of years does not easily give way before these new ideas. According to these extracts you have a "FATHER ETERNALLY," yet you teach that the Son was not the Son till incarnation; a Father in eternity, but no Son till time, till incarnation. This is surely a contradiction of terms for you, yourself, say,

"Eternal sonship necessitates eternal fatherhood." (page 39.)

With this I most fully agree. But to be consistent you must admit that eternal fatherhood necessitates eternal sonship.

Yet you speak of "the Father . . . ETERNALLY," whilst refusing the title, Son, to the Lord Jesus till incarnation. That you have made these five statements show that it is not just a slip of the pen.

In this new teaching much is made of the virgin birth and the baptism of our Lord, facts most precious, and which have their place in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. But is it not noticeable that the gospel of John, which brings out the glory of the Son in such wonderful fulness, does not mention the virgin birth or His baptism, showing that Sonship was not dependent on these things? Does this not powerfully confirm the thought that the blessed Lord was the eternal Son?

You say,

"On page 18 there are some remarks on our Lord's precious designation, 'the Word.' Mr. P. says that John 1:1 says 'that the Lord was the Word in eternity.' Mr. P. may be assured that if John 1:1 did say so, the brethren whom he criticises would fully believe and assert it. But the language of Scripture is, 'In the beginning was the Word.' The very statement supposes that 'the Word' is a designation which will be understood by those who read." (pages 26, 27.)

You are certainly taking too much for granted here. J. N. D. and other spiritual teachers of a past generation did not so understand it. It is stumbling indeed to be told that the plain words of Scripture do not mean what they say. It is this strange handling of Scripture that is causing such alarm among Christians. We have no sure foundation for our souls if we cannot take Scripture as it stands. You say that "Mr. P. says that John 1:1 says, 'that the Lord was the Word in eternity.'" I reply, SCRIPTURE says it plainly, and because Scripture says it I believe it.

Brethren generally for many years have believed that the plain meaning of the words, "In the beginning was the Word," affirmed the Lord to be the Word from all eternity, You, yourself, believed this for many years. Often you have sung the words,

"Thou art the everlasting Word,
The Father's only Son,"

words to your shame expunged from the revised Hymn Book.

You quote a part of J. N. D.'s definition of the Greek word, Logos [Word], saying that you suppose no one will call it in question. I do not suppose any one will call it in question, though anyone who refers to the note from which you quote might wonder why you omitted the sentence with which the note opens. Logos means "the thing expressed" as well as "the expression of it." I, too, will quote from J. N. D. something that you flatly deny. May I entreat you to give it your earnest consideration?

"In the beginning was the Word”! Was there nothing beside Him? Impossible! Of what would He have been the Word. 'The Word was with God.' That is to say, A PERSONAL EXISTENCE is ascribed to Him. But, lest it be thought that He was something which eternity implies, but which the Holy Ghost comes to reveal, it is said that He 'was God.' In His existence eternal—in His nature divine—in His Person distinct, He might have been spoken of as an emanation in time, as though His personality were of time, although eternal in His nature: the Spirit therefore adds, 'In the beginning He was with God.' It is the revelation of THE ETERNAL LOGOS BEFORE ALL CREATION. . . The language of the Gospel is as plain as possible, and, like the sword of paradise, turns every way, in opposition to the thoughts and reasonings of men, to defend the divinity and personality of the Son of God."

(Synopsis, Vol. III, pages 381-5.)

"It was not merely that He was the Word when He came into the world, but 'in the beginning was the Word' when there was no creature. Before anything came into being that was made, the Word was in the beginning with God; not merely in God, as if merged or lost in God, but He had a distinct personal subsistence before a creature existed. He 'was in the beginning with God.' This is of immense importance." (Coll. Writings, vol xxi. page 138.)

"THE ETERNAL LOGOS BEFORE ALL CREATION" is the plain teaching of Scripture, which you alas! reject. If the thought of the Word, or the Logos, is the full expression of God by One, who was all that He expressed, we may well, ask, Who can express God but God? And if God, surely without question, eternal. Hence the Everlasting Word. The first expression, we know, was in creation. "All things were made by Him [the Word]." Thus He set forth God's "eternal power and Godhead" (Romans 1:20). Then in incarnation, in life and in death and resurrection, He revealed God's nature to man, His wisdom, His righteousness, His love, His grace.

Further, you say,

"Mr P. says that 'the eternal life, which was with the Father, and has been manifested to us' was before time began. (Page 17) How does Mr. P. know this? Certainly John did not tell him so. I have no doubt that eternal life was with the Father in the Person of the Son in Manhood, and as being there was manifested to the apostles. The Scripture quoted does not prove what Mr. P. says it does." (page 26.)

I, in my turn, wonder how you ever came to write the above. You cannot point to where I say, "that 'the eternal life which was with the Father, and has been manifested unto us,' was before time began." Turn to page 17 of my pamphlet, and you will search in vain for such a statement. What I did say was,

"Will it be said that 'that Eternal Life,' a Divine Person, only began to be with the Father when our Lord was born into this world?"

My sentence does not add what you have added, "And has been manifested unto us," which clearly could not have taken place save in time, and through the incarnation of the blessed Lord. I wrote of the Person, who was manifested, before He was manifested. You have overlooked this evidently.

Let the extract from your pamphlet be well weighed over. You limit the thought of eternal life being with the Father, for there was no Father till the incarnation, you say, so to be consistent eternal life is limited to the Person of the Son in Manhood. You further write,

"Where did Mr. P. learn that eternal life was a Divine Person? That God's Son as a glorified Man 'is the true God and eternal life' is the truth of Scripture." (Page 26.)

In one passage you limit the thought of eternal life to time, as being in the Person of the Son IN MANHOOD; in the other you connect "the true God and eternal life" with God's Son as a glorified Man. But can you limit the thought of eternal life to time? To do so is to deny the very surface meaning of the word, "eternal."

It is true that "the true God and Eternal Life" is known now as the glorified Son of God in heaven, but you must not deny that He was ever such from all eternity. You say that John did not tell me this. This is just what I am assured he did tell me in writing, "that eternal life which was with the Father." And multitudes of God's saints have the same assurance. You at one time, I believe, had this assurance yourself. The plain words of Scripture convey this meaning.

Did the Lord Jesus only become "the true God" in incarnation? If not, the two statements stand together, "The true God and ETERNAL Life"—such from all eternity. This is the truth of God.

You remark,

"To say that eternal life is a Divine Person is so unscriptural and untrue that one wonders how he [Mr. P.] ever came to write it." (page 26.)

Again I wonder how you ever came to write this, seeing I was not writing of eternal life in a general way, but specifically of 1 John 1:2, where we read,

"That Eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us."

In 1 John 1:1 we have the Lord spoken of as, "the Word of Life"; in verse 2 as, "That Eternal Life"; in verse 3 as, "His [the Father's] Son Jesus Christ." We are told that He was seen with the eyes of the apostles, that they heard His voice, that they handled Him with their hands. The actual existence of a divine Person, disputed by the Gnostics, is presented to us in this vivid way by the Holy Spirit. You cannot see, hear and handle an impersonal life.

It is eternal life manifested in a Man down here, in Christ Himself; but if it is "eternal life" it cannot be, in any sense, limited to the beginning of time. Life cannot be disassociated from a Person, so that He who manifests eternal life in all His blessed ways is Himself "that Eternal Life." This is Scripture teaching.

You will of course refuse the following from J.N.D.,

"If we turn to 1 John 1:1 we see how this life came down (vers. 1-3)—'What our hands have handled, of the Word of life' IT IS A REAL MAN. The life which was with the Father was manifested down here in the person of Christ. In many you will find great vagueness of thought in connection with this life. IT IS CHRIST HIMSELF." (Coll. Writings Vol. xxi. page 537.)

I must leave you wondering however J. N. D. ever came to pen such words as these.

Then you take me up strongly for saying that the expression, "a place of inferiority to the Father," is "false and offensive in the extreme." He certainly took in Manhood a place of lowly subjection to the Father's will, but the word "inferiority" has an irreverent sound. It is true that as to flesh and blood, the blessed Lord "was made a little lower than the angels" (Psalm 7:5). I was of course well aware of this Scripture. Also that J. N. D. used the expression, "Some little inferior to the angels," in his New Translation.

But you cannot show me a place in Scripture where it says that the blessed Lord took "a place of inferiority to the Father." Of course I am aware of the Lord's own words,

"My Father is greater than I." (John 14:28.),

but this does not warrant us in using the word "inferiority." There the Lord is speaking of the lowly place He had taken in this world to do the Father's will.

The Lord Himself says that,

"All men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." (John 5:23.)

The Jews complained that when the Lord said that He was the Son of God that He was claiming to be on an equality with God, and they were quite right. At His birth the decree went forth,

"Let all the angels of God worship Him." (Hebrews 1:6.)

The angels did not worship One inferior to them, they worshipped God.

Further, you say,

“Another of those Persons condescended to be sent by the Father and the Son, and to indwell those who believe." (Page 18).

Your use of the word, "condescended" in this connection makes painful reading. The sending of the Holy Spirit was that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, absolutely one in thought and purpose, acted in holy concert of the fullest nature, and there can be no thought of "condescension" in action taken within the Godhead. The Holy Spirit has not become incarnate, nor is it said of Him that He humbled Himself, as it is said of the blessed Lord.

I do not wish to make you an offender for a Word. It is surely condescending grace, amazing beyond our understanding, that the Holy Spirit deigns to indwell the believer. But in your statement "condescension" is connected with the words, "To be sent by the Father and the Son." If the king speaks to a commoner, it may be truly said to be an act of condescension, a superior person speaking to an inferior. If, however, the King were to send the Prince of Wales on a mission, it would be offensive to say that the Prince of Wales "condescended" to be sent. How much more should we be careful to guard against anything that savours of irreverence!

I read again,

“One would like to ask whether Mr. P., when he baptises, changes the formula, and adds the word 'eternal' to each of the sacred Names? Of course, if we are justified in adding to the Lord's own words, and then building a system of teaching on our additions, there is no more to be said." (page 46.)

This is not a fair question. You ought to know perfectly well that I should not add the word, "eternal" when baptising. In my pamphlet I used the formula to show how all Scripture runs in the line of the Father, Son and Spirit being such eternally, as presented in Scripture. I pointed out how incongruous a position your teaching puts you in when you baptise in the name of the Holy Spirit, who is "the eternal Spirit" (Hebrews 9:14), and in the names of the Father and the Son, whom you state only became so in incarnation.

My statement followed upon the establishing of the truth of the eternal sonship by the quoting of passages of Scriptures, which are surely unassailable, such as,

"I came forth FROM the Father, and am come INTO the world: again I leave the world, and go to the Father." (John 16:28.)

You will remember I added a confirmatory extract,

"We are baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19.) This carries with it the formal declaration of the Godhead; the Son being a Divine Person (in the recognition or declaration of this sentence), as is the Father, and is the Holy Ghost." (The Son of God, J. G. Bellett.)

You close up your pamphlet by saying,

"He [Mr. P.] has not been able to bring forward, any scripture that applies the title 'Son,' or 'Son of God,' to our Lord Jesus Christ as in Deity in the past eternity." (page 48.)

In reply I would remind you that I quoted Scriptures to show that "Son," which is not strictly a "title" but a declaration of relationship, refers to the Lord as in Deity in the past eternity. Let me remind you of one or two passages that I quoted.

"Say ye of Him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent INTO THE WORLD, Thou blasphemest: because I said, I am the Son of God.” (John 10:36.)

These words plainly assert certain actions on the Father's part previous to the incarnation, and from which the incarnation resulted. This, alas! you deny.

Again,

"And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." (John 17:5.)

Here the Son, as the Son, is addressing the Father as the Father, and calling upon the Father to glorify the Son with the glory which He, the Son, had with the Father before the world began. Surely language cannot be plainer, asserting the eternal sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that in His own words. I would not dare to tamper with HIS words.

Your handling of these Scriptures demands that we indulge in a process of mental reservation. We may hear the Son saying to the Father, "The glory which I had with Thee before the world was," but we are to accept it under the reservation that One who spoke as the Son was not the Son, nor the One He addressed as the Father, the Father, before the world was. If Scripture really is to be read in this fashion it is quite clear that the Father's things would be revealed to "the wise and prudent" and hidden from "the babes."

A brother for many years in your fellowship wrote as follows in reference to the way Scripture is being handled in the promulgation of these new doctrines,

"I feel if I cannot take Scripture to mean what it says, I shall have a doubt about the salvation of my soul."

Such a remark is enough to make you think as to where you are leading souls. He only states the logical result of the way Scripture is being handled in this connection.

I could have referred to much more in your pamphlet, for in several instances you have not treated my statements fairly, but this must suffice.

But I must add a word as to the revised Hymn Book. As one of the revisers of The Little Flock Hymn Book, you are responsible with others for altering time-honoured hymns that passed the scrutiny of G. V. W., J. N. D., T. H. R., and others with whom they took counsel. These alterations are not just the changing of a word here and there for greater correctness of doctrine in sympathy with the labours of former revisers.

You have dared to expunge from the Hymn Book all allusion to the Lord Jesus as the Eternal Son, as the Everlasting Word, as being ever in the Father's bosom, all allusion to the presence of the Lord in the midst of two or three gathered to His name, all allusion to the church as redeemed, and the Bride as ransomed, and also here and there allusion to the blood of Christ, presumably because you judge any reference to the blood is unsuited for the assembly at the breaking of bread. This is not REVISION, but the REVERSAL of fundamental doctrines, long held by brethren generally. You have destroyed your right to call this so-called revision "The Little Flock Hymn Book," for it does not contain the same fundamental doctrines that the former Hymn Book contained.

It is not a continuation of the labours of G. V. W., J. N. D., and T. H. R., but a REVERSAL of their service to the Church of God. Their grief and disapprobation I am sure would know no bounds, could they know what you have done.

I, for one, would not dare to use a book, which puts such a slight upon the glory of the Son of God.

It is a solemn reflection that Sardis follows Thyatira; Philadelphia follows Sardis, and Laodicea follows Philadelphia. The mark of Laodicea is, "I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing" (Revelation 3:17). It makes one wonder when one reads the remark,

"I have no doubt the spiritual intelligence in the meetings [that is the Barnet meetings June 1929] warranted attention being called to it [that in teaching that the Son of God only became so in incarnation]. What I expressed has been in my mind for twenty-five years." J.T.

If this was precious truth of a nature that affected the very fundamentals of the faith, how was it allowed to remain dormant in J. T.'s mind for a quarter of a century? Is this faithfulness to light professed to be given?

I would add that this new teaching has struck the heaviest blow against the blessed Son of God that Christians generally in this generation have known. This is so because of its coming from the source it does, from a body of Christians, who claim to have the most light of any in Christendom: a claim as significant as it is sad.

May God graciously open your eyes, and that of God's beloved people, to the dishonour put upon the blessed Lord and the Scriptures.

A. J. Pollock.

Green & Co., Printers, Crown Street, Lowestoft.