My header question had to be curtailed - this is my question in full :

Do any living authors of Reformed, Protestant, Trinitarian systematic theologies interpret ‘the life the eternal’ (1 John 1:2) as anything other than an expression of the eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ ?

Controversy arose in the mid 1850s wherein some asserted that Jesus Christ was only ‘son’ in respect of his incarnation in humanity. A number of authors have deliberately published against that concept and supported the doctrine of ‘the eternal Sonship’ of the Lord Jesus Christ, which, although that exact collocation does not appear in scripture, the words are nevertheless present in John’s writings in separate statements.

I am wondering if that position is still being publicised today by authors of systematic theologies or has the situation changed within that which identifies itself as ‘Reformed’ ‘Protestant’ and ‘Trinitarian’. Do any such authors - living, contemporaneous authors - differ and revert to the views published in the mid 1850s ?

(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) [1 John 1:2 KJV]

την ζωην την αιωνιον [TR undisputed] 'the life the eternal' [Literal]

The Argument (Summarised from the Below Quotations)

‘The life, the eternal’ (as is the original Greek) ‘was’ (John states) with the Father, 1 John 1:1. And if ‘eternal’ then the ‘was’ is an eternal state, not a matter of something temporal. And if ‘Father’ then, of necessity, Son, as Son, prior to manifestation in flesh.

This agrees with the beginning verses of John’s gospel account, John 1:1 where He who is ‘God’ was with ‘the God’ in the beginning.

But in his epistle, John enlarges on the primary concept and adds relationship to the fact of nature.

‘God’ was the word ; and the word was ‘with the God’ . . . 'and the word came (in) flesh [it is not poeio 'made', it is ginomai] . . . then becomes . . . ‘The life the eternal was with the Father‘. . . . . ‘and was manifested‘.

This truth is expressed by J N Darby in his extensive systematic theology of thirty four volumes, collated by William Kelly :

The eternal life that was with the Father actually entered this world in the person of Christ … That was from the beginning … was in a man bodily … so we see divine life in Christ. Now God has been manifest in flesh.

Notes on the First Epistle of John - Collected Writings of J N Darby Edited by William Kelly pp311-313 1867

It is recorded, privately (but on record), that JND also stated :

There are persons who take it that Christ was only Son as come into the world. I lose all that the Son is - if he is only son as incarnate.

J C Philpot, who edited the Gospel Standard magazine for thirty-four years, stated, in one of his many published works :

... we cannot conceive a time when he was not a Son. He is the eternal Son of the eternal Father

The True and Proper Eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ 1862 pp34.

John Metcalfe in one of the thirty or so volumes of his coverage of the doctrine of the Gospel, published between 1975 and 2002, by the Registered Charity, The John Metcalfe Publishing Trust, states :

If with the Father, then as the Son. And if ‘was’ with the Father, then everlastingly, eternally, by definition … And if eternally as Son, it follows of necessity that he is the eternal Son.

The First Epistle of John, by John Metcalfe. The John Metcalfe Publishing Trust 2000. P24.

And, from one of my own twenty four books, all available as PDF download, free of charge, on my publishing company's website, which form a systematic expression of the doctrine of Christ written between 2010 and 2020 :

Before being manifested, the Eternal Life was. And that Eternal Life was with the Father -prior to manifestation. If so, then that Eternal Life is a matter of Sonship. This is sheer logic.

The Son, Everlasting by Nigel Johnstone Belmont Publications 2015 p.2

1 Answer 1


I have spent several hours trying to find material to answer this question on Christ, the eternal Son (1 John 1:2). I've spent well over two hours, in vain, trawling through lots of books, including one by Martyn Lloyd-Jones and one giving a series of 10 sermons of Aiden Wilson Tozer (1897-1963) - both deceased. I am sure they subscribed to the eternal Sonship of Christ. Indeed, Tozer's book is entitled 'Christ the Eternal Son', the sermons drawn from John's gospel, chapter 1 to 3. Unfortunately, 1 John 1:2 was not included in the scripture references at the back. But I think everyone will agree, "The title of the book says it all."

I can find nothing referring to any Reformed, Protestant authors who did not take 1 John.1:2 to mean the Reformed belief of 'the life eternal' being Christ, the eternal Son. However, I do have publications written by religious leaders of three denominations who disbelieve that (claiming Christ had a starting point in time, having been created, therefore he could not be the everlasting anything.) They do not claim to be Reformed, and although two might think of themselves to be Protestant, one abhors that label, saying they are neither Protestant nor Catholic. This actually lends substance to my answer below.

The only answer I can give is to say, "The answer is 'No', there are not any, because anyone disagreeing could not call themself Reformed, Protestant, Orthodox, nor Catholic."

However, as every Laboratory Chemist knows, a negative result is still a result.

It proves that something is not there.

There's no living (or even dead, I dare to suppose) Reformed, Protestant, Trinitarian authors who interpret "the life the eternal" of 1 John 1:2 as anything other than an expression of the eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • My thanks for this, that some might call a 'negative result' but which is - as you so rightly say - a valid result. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 2, 2022 at 8:32

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