A call for clarity in our terminology


This is where the rubber hits the road, on the back of the book the question was raised: 'What does it mean to confess Jesus as God's only Son?' As this chapter tackles a couple of Bible passages in depth, digging into what it means to believe in 'God's only Son our Lord,' this was where I expected that the Davidic Son of God title would give way to trinitarian concepts. But it did not. Not clearly anyway. Carson uses the two Bible passages (Hebrews 1 and John 5), which to me are clearly speaking of Jesus as God the Son, and yet Carson continues to mostly use the term Son of God. I concede that we're entering confusing territory, as there's a lot of overlap in the biblical terms. And because God the Son is not a Bible phrase, I can see that it does not have to be used, but it still pays to be clear in your terminology when you're discussing these concepts in order to help clarify some issues. There is a difference between the concept of Jesus as God the Son and as the Son of God.

Carson's been exploring how there are many sons of God, and then there's Jesus who is God's only Son while also being called the Son of God. As he considers the first passage, Carson asserts that Davidic typology drives Hebrews 1, but as he continues he does conclude that 'the sonship language applied to Christ in the prologue cannot be restricted to a strictly Davidic-messianic horizon.' He notes that the author links Jesus' messianic with his divine status and he ends by arguing that 'the complementary christologies are woven into one organic whole.' The Bible certainly does combine the two concepts in many places, but in others it focuses on one or the other and it seems to me that in Hebrews 1 and John 5 we're clearly talking about the eternal Son.

I've been struggling to write this post, finding myself caught between the categories I've been thinking in over the last few years, and those modelled in this book. I've been taught to observe when a Bible passage is talking about Jesus as God the Son in order to truly appreciate the wonders of God's perfect plan that the ultimate Son of God was God the Son. We can only see this if our terminology is clear as we discuss it. As I read a bit wider on these issues it does seem that the North Americans do tend to use the Son of God term for both meanings. In the beginning of chapter one Carson observes how the term Son of God was mainly dealt with in trinitarian articles, and he seems to disagree with this categorisation, but he himself refers to the term 'Son of God' as a trinitarian identity and reflects that 'for most of us it's so tightly tied to the second person of the trinity'. But I want to argue that it isn't tied there and that the more accurate term for that is 'God the Son'.

Am I being 'atomistic'? I like to think I'm being biblical. Maybe I'm being pedantic, but I do believe that it's important to be precise in your terminology on issues such as this. I find it helpful to separate out the passages identifying Jesus as a member of the Trinity, from those saying he is the Christ, at the points where the Bible is separating them, anyway. The term Son of God, as clearly shown by Carson in both chapters one and two, is the term the Bible primarily uses for the Christ. But at times, especially when speaking of Jesus as 'the Son', the Bible is referring to Jesus' deity. It's helpful to know when that is. One of the mysteries revealed by the gospel is that God the Son became the Son of God, the only one who could be the perfect king. If we don't read carefully we may not see it, when we do, we have all the more reason to wonder at the work of God.