Brethren Archive

Frederick Edward Raven

Born: 9th September 1837
Died: 16th August 1903
Appears in Glenny / Raven / Reynolds / Turpin Family Tree

Intro, Biographical Information, Notes etc:

  • Books & Pamphlets:
  • History Items:
    • The Person of the Christ   (Login Required)  (circa 1895) 19
    • Readings on the Gospel of John with F.E.R. at Greenwich 1897 - Volume 1   (Login Required)  (1921, 332 pp)
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Lon A. Chandler said ...
Friday, Sep 26, 2014 : 12:44
Cecil Weston said ...
One of my favorite. Love his treatise on the Son only refers to our Lord in his incarnate form and not in eternity past.
Friday, Oct 27, 2017 : 02:48
TPL said ...
Saturday, Feb 3, 2018 : 03:10
Philip Reynolds said ...
Sunday, Jun 17, 2018 : 18:11
Daniel said ...
Raven is often misunderstood - he was clear as to the Lord in His eternal deity, as well as being Man. This is often confused e.g. in 'And can it be --- that Thou my God shouldst die for me.' God did NOT die!
He was also very much set against claiming positions - something that brought him into conflict with many true big-B Brethren.
In Christ
Wednesday, Nov 21, 2018 : 20:38
Martin Arhelger said ...
I am sad to say that F. E. Raven was NOT right as to the manhood of Christ. He said: "In Person He is God; in condition He is man." After being asked "Why is He not PERSONALLY man?", Raven replied: "You cannot have two personalities in one." (Collected Writings of FER, vol. 8, p. 262 -263. It was first printed in "Truth for the Time", Part VIII, being Notes of Addresses and Readings at Quemerford, Mai 1895, page 132.)
For Raven, Christ's manhood was only a "condition". He denies that Christ was man IN HIS PERSON. This denies the REAL manhood of Christ in his PERSON.
J. N. Darby (JND) taught that Christ's manhood DOES belong to His person:
1) "But, if the writer {= B. W. Newton} means that in fact the state of Christ's humanity was not sui generis {= unique}, it is quite wrong; for it was united to Godhead, which no one else's humanity ever was; which, as to fact, alters its whole condition." (Collected Writings, vol. 15, p. 147). JND has seen: "it {the mahood of Christ} was united to Godhead".
2) JND also said: "We cannot fathom who He was. Our hearts should not go and scrutinise the Person of Christ, as though we could know it all. No human being can understand the union of God and Man in His Person - 'No man knoweth the Son but the Father.' " (Collected Writings, vol. 27, p. 357) JND clearly saw the fundamental truth of "the union of God and Man in His Person". For JND the manhood of Christ was not only a "condition" but the nature of His wonderful person.

3) JND also wrote: "I am quite aware of and accept the ordinary orthodox statement of two natures in one person . . . the simple faith that Jesus was God and man in one Person can be easily accepted as plain and vital truth; but the moment you deny personality in the man Christ Jesus, you run into a thousand difficulties and errors. What is really denied [in der Schrift, die JND widerlegt] is Christ's individuality as a man". (Collected Writings of JND, vol. 29, p. 212)

F. E. Raven denies "the ordinary orthodox statement of two natures in one person", that is to say "the union of God and Man in His Person". Raven does not see (or does not want to see) the real manhood of Christ. This is fundamental evil doctrine. "Many deceivers have gone out into the world, they who do not confess Jesus Christ coming in flesh -- this is the deceiver and the antichrist."
It does not help to say that Raven might have had correct thoughts on other subjects (for example the godhead of Christ). His fundamental false teachings on Christ's manhood qualify him as an antichrist.
Martin Arhelger
Friday, Nov 23, 2018 : 20:39
Lance said ...
I wonder if Martin has actually read FER for himself?
Sunday, Nov 25, 2018 : 17:04
Theophilus said ...

Daniel's comment “Raven is often misunderstood.” If Martin has actually read FER for himself, has he understood what he has read?

Sunday, Nov 25, 2018 : 19:22
Martin Arhelger said ...
Hello Lance and Theophilus,

yes, I think I have read enough from FER to understand what he meant. (FER's letters were an eye-opener for me when I read it about 20 years ago.) But you digress from the real topic. The real point is what FER actually SAID and WROTE. False teachers in church history have often be defended by saying they were "misunderstood". But that cannot whitewash their blasphemous writings.

Now, there was another, who very clearly understood, what FER said and meant: James Taylor senior. The following words are taken from JT's Ministry, New Series 48, p. 182-183:

"Becoming Man, He is Himself His Spirit, . . . Jesus was as really man as the thief, having a spirit as a man, too, but it was Himself. Coming into manhood He became His own spirit, taking on other component parts of humanity. Personally He never ceases to be God, but yet He is Man, but His Spirit is Himself, as my spirit is myself, but I receive my spirit from God. He was God and came into humanity here. He was personally a divine Person and became His own spirit in manhood, so that it was Himself. … Incarnation is the thought presented in scripture; that is, 'the Word became flesh'(John 1:14) - a divine Person taking human condition. He was His own spirit, and yet as in manhood, He was really Man."

Even more explicit is Ministry vol. 101, p. 108 - 109 (in the "Bible and Gospel Trust" edition 2007, it is on pages 113 - 114):

"JT: . . .He Himself is His own Spirit, He has not a spirit like you have or I have. The Lord Himself is His own Spirit. When He speaks of His own spirit, He is that Himself. (. . . ) It is His own spirit that is in mind, His own spirit, that is the Lord Himself. He is His own spirit. He has not two spirits, He is His own spirit. That is a very remarkable thing to understand, and I think the brethren will do well to look into it because there is no dual personality in Christ at all. He is only Himself, He is a divine Person himself, He became incarnate. He is a divine Person, He has not a human spirit at all as we speak. He is His own Spirit; when it speaks of His spirit, it is Himself."

See how JT learnt from FER:
FER: "In Person He is God; in condition He is man."
JT sen.: "a divine Person taking human condition."

JT is the direct result and continuation of FER's blasphemy. Do YOU think that FER or JTsen. were sound on the Lord's humanity?

Martin Arhelger
Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 : 04:33
Lance said ...
Yes and yes!
your quote speaks for itself
Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 : 06:20
Tom said ...
Thank you Martin for the succinct analysis of some of FER's teaching.
As I think everyone on here knows (or at least is quite evident by a brief pursue of the website) myself, and those who have most helped with providing material for it, like Martin, are from a part of the Brethren which have rejected this branch of doctrine. I've always tried to keep the website as impartial in historical context as reasonably possible, and put up both sides of an argument, including many things I personally wouldn't agree with, that all may have the material to make their own judgements. For example, on the Archive we have papers that analysis these teachings here from both sides, for and against. Also it's great the website gets helpful contributions from all over the spectrum, and I really appreciate that. Clearly though there are limits to what we want to be seen as promoting. I've tried to avoid using it as a platform to relentlessly bash those teachers I disagree with, but equally it's appreciated if others wouldn't try to promote things that it's obvious we would be uncomfortable with. I hope I would show the same courtesy on any resource run by others with differing views!

As to FER, only a brief comment, but it's well known that when even one so highly esteemed as C.H. Mackintosh tried to diffuse the situation and make the best of some of his remarks, that FER retorted that 'poor CHM' was mistaken and had misunderstand him. Now if someone as spiritual as CHM was unable to understand all this then what hope do the rest of us have? From the small amount of writings of his that I have read myself, I couldn't get anything helpful at all, but if others of you have managed to, that's great. Also I've never been convinced the 'have they every actually read .. ' argument that I hear time and time again, is a particularly good one. I've not ever tried drinking arsenic, but I'd still feel quite confident in asserting it wouldn't be any good for me.

Ok so I think we will all disagree on how we view F.E.R. and those who followed him, but I hope we can still appreciate together those things that we all value, which is why I assume we are here in the first place!
Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 : 07:21
Martin Arhelger said ...
I recommend to read W. T. Whybrow's brochure "The Truth of Christ's Person: Is It Taught by Mr. F.E. Raven?" which succinctly gives the facts about FER's error on the humanity of Christ, and also FER's departure from orthodox writers (including J. N. Darby).
Whybrow's brochure is here:
Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 : 05:40
Barry said ...
In my mind, most of the above discussion is unnecessarily divisive and consists of some things that poor mortal men can never know or understand about the nature of God. It should be put aside and never be discussed in a church setting.

There is only one thing here that merits any attention and that is the assertion of Mr. Arhelger that FER said "You cannot have two personalities in one." Isn't this a flat-out denial of the trinity ? If that is what FER meant, then certainly he is in denial of the truth. If he meant somethingelse, then it is perfectly obscure to me and ought to be consigned to the waste-basket along with the other things that we cannot know about Christ.
Thursday, Mar 7, 2019 : 21:46
Paul S said ...
I've read the above comments and having been just given a collection of F E Ravens writings, I am wondering whether it is worthwhile committing time to reading them. Obviously there will be a difference of opinion out there, but with so many authors to choose from I just need a small bit of counsel.
Wednesday, Oct 23, 2019 : 23:05
Roger Holden said ...
Can anyone identify whether the New Series of Raven’s ministry includes notes of meetings at Quemerford in May 1896? I am working from the KBT electronic version which provides a date of 1896 for 4 items in volume 9 but does not give the exact date or where these meetings were held. Possibly the electronic version does not include all the information that is in the printed version, or maybe this information is simply not included. Some of Raven’s ministry appears to originally have been published in a periodical ‘Truth for the Time’ which might enable a date and place to be identified, but this periodical does not seem to be available on this web-site. My interest is because I believe James Taylor, senior, was present at these meetings.
Tuesday, Jan 4, 2022 : 02:14
Rodger said ...
Tuesday, Jan 4, 2022 : 06:18
Roger Holden said ...
Many thanks for that, I was looking in the wrong place. The addresses by FER and one reading are in the New Series but not identified by date. He does not seem to have been present at the other two readings.
Tuesday, Jan 4, 2022 : 19:11
Mark said ...

Googling "F E Raven" I notice that comes up at the top of the list. Clicking on it I see quotations from the writings of Mr Raven, but others from James Taylor Senior used to prove the former a heretic. This seems a strange way - proving one person wrong by using the writings of someone else as evidence! 

Was Christ a real man? Mr Raven taught this: "He is a real Man, body, soul, and spirit, but still God’s Son." (Ministry of F E Raven, New Series, volume 19, page 519.) 

It has been argued elsewhere that ‘For FER the “spirit” was His own (divine) person’, but Mr Raven elsewhere explained what he meant by the "spirit" of the Son as Man, saying, "It was the spirit of a man, but that man was Son of God." (Ibid, volume 8, page 264.) 

A claim that “JT learnt from FER” needs proof; and I do not mean as based on something Mr Taylor said. Nor even from Roy Huebner, whose writings are possibly the source behind much of this. As to JT, he tried to lend support for his incarnational sonship doctrine by bringing Mr Darby’s name into it, writing, "That he [JND] held and urged the eternal sonship of Christ as an accepted truth is true, but that he was satisfied with it in his later years is more than questionable." (J. Taylor, Letters, volume 1, pages 392-395 – 25th March 1933.) 

I agree that Mr Taylor might have learnt from Mr Raven, and from Mr Darby for that matter, but he certainly did not learn to deny the eternal sonship of Christ from the latter, and evidence for learning from the former is based on a letter which was not written by Mr Raven, even though it appears in his volume of letters. 

There is a comment on the page in question on in which its writer disagrees with Mr Raven’s statement, “You cannot have two personalities in one.” However, Mr Raven is quite right here, and it was not “a denial of the truth.” The error that there are two persons in Christ is called Nestorianism, and it was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in AD 431. 

Yet someone has denounced Mr Raven writing, “His fundamental false teachings on Christ’s manhood qualify him as an antichrist.” People need to be think before they press such serious charges on anyone, and to reach this kind of verdict. I do not maintain that everything Mr Raven ever said was correct, of course, but it would appear that some of his opponents might not be quite as sound in doctrine as they think they are. 

Just one more point. Where in Mr Raven’s books of ministry is his “treatise” found in which he taught that “the Son only refers to our Lord in His incarnate form and not in eternity past” as suggested in one of the above comments? I find in the books that he used the expression “Eternal Son” numerous times, but am aware of the oft half-quoted-out-of-context sentence taken, not from page 52 of volume 1, the primary source, but from a secondary source containing, not simply the fact, but the opinion of his critic. 

Wednesday, Mar 30, 2022 : 04:50
andrew Eden said ...
When we read our older brethren, especially after 1882, one comes away with much new works from many authors that bring out their expressions in scripture. With that said, today its a wonderful thing to have an expression of scripture and to see the way the Word of God deals with ones expression of the Word. Take CE Stewart for example, in his book "The Old Faith or the "New" one gets the Idea that Jesus took blood into heaven. Although he is careful to reveal that as such, but careful reading and understanding the way he reveals the doctrine, you see he was not making a change in the atonement of the work of Redemption of the application of the Bloor on the mercy seat, rather follow the types in Hebrews as what CES taught, Christ had to fullfill them by taking blood into heaven and his book was a commentary of Hebrews. But the issue was not that it wasn't applied there on the mercy seat for it was. Its that Christ was the mercy seat on the cross. Having been baptized by John as King, Prophet and Priest (Melchizedek Order). Often times many have had new revealing's during the 1882- 1924, but many separations were happening during those years as well based on these things as well. FER had understandings of Eternal Life, The Son named after His incarnation. So did many brethren at that time, including FW Grant on "Sealing of the Holy Spirit" and that Romans 7 was a msaved man in weakness and not an unbeliever coming to Christ which most brethren held prior to 1882. Most of these books and pamphlets came out after JND Passed in 1882.

These things we see in scripture could be easily understood if brethren were more practical in their expressions in the writings they revealed, many of the writers were former Pastors and Ministers most of which verbal in the assembly meetings many were common and not well informed in the Word as well so many questions were given to the brethren sitting in the center table. Although times are now closer to the coming of the Lord since our Older brothers have been on this earth, and the movement still going on what a wonderful thing it is to see all we do have in common.

"I love my master...I will not go out free" Ex 21:5

Andrew Eden
Wednesday, May 18, 2022 : 04:59
Andrew Eden said ...
Man has a spirit. We know that to be the "Identity" which makes us different than others, just not only in physical appearance and a soul which has an eternal ownership to God. God was manifested in the Flesh. Christ was manifested Man. I like the thought of having a spirit, and I see the Holy Spirit too, we all do. When Jesus said to the religious Jews/ Sanhedrin, "...the sin Against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven", This is to say that Christ could forgive sins on Earth he says, when he said which is easier to say, take up your bed and walk or thy sins be forgiven?" Yes, Christ was under the subjection of the Holy Spirit as he was on Earth, so there is a distinction between the Man Christ Jesus, and all that dwelt within this perfect manifested Man of, and Son of God. Jesus himself makes that distinction. Just a thought.

"I Love my master...I will not go out free"
Wednesday, May 18, 2022 : 05:16
Andrew Eden said ...
One last thought. God was never man before. So the work of atonement had to be in a two fold work in that Atonement. Two Goats. One in Propitiation and One in Substitution. To Propitiate it, it had to be done by a Perfect sacrifice, that's why the Meal offering follows the Burnt offering, which shows that it was accepted because He was Perfect in bearing all the Law personified, and can be that Sacrifice for me. But Substitution is also a great part of Atonement for it brings the work of the Holy Spirit to bear in that Atonement that Christ Jesus can have a distinctive glory in the God Head. He was never Man before in one Body, as in hearing the voice in Christ Baptism. Now Christ is Risen, and has a new Glory as a Risen Man in the Glory. What a distinctive place, that the God Head Planned that distinctiveness, knew would be accomplished together. Now that this distinction exists, called the Church - its a Distinct Glory. That is, for Christ. Christ is the True Hebrew Servant, leading our Worship as His Church through the Spirit before us. Very distinctive relationship we have. If Christ knows me, then why is it so hard to see that He has a distinct spirit as God Manifested in flesh. His God-liness before His Church, I see that clearly when the Voice in Heaven spoke at His Baptism " This is my Beloved Son - which is the Habitation of God, a Living Sanctuary, we are all "In Christ" As we know Him, then you can speak of Him, and share his thoughts and know His person. He also reveals the Father to me. Together we have a relationship and its altogether Lovely.
"I love my master...I will not go out free" Ex 21:5
Wednesday, May 18, 2022 : 05:49
Syd said ...
I think many know of the strange revelations that emerged in the late 1800's and early 1900's; all found wanting and rejected. And yes, it was always believed as the context shows, that the Romans 7 person is a carnal believer not knowing deliverance as in Rom 8.
Friday, May 20, 2022 : 20:55
andrew eden said ...
As I read the writings of CA Coates, I can't help notice the very close familiarity of his writings and that of the many of the ministry among the Kelly Grant Booth brethren who are active in the ministry meetings and preaching. CA Coates was a clear writer, I liked him in Deuteronomy. I have always seen this book as the coming in of Israel as the remnant during their Recap of the wilderness journey (which is Deuteronomy) as they will enter into that Land in Ch 8. The question is that many of the Jews didn't accept Christ as Messiah or the Son of God for that matter. So when Mr. Raven shared that teaching regarding the "Sonship" issue which brought separation from different parts of the world, CA Coates didn't back that teaching which put him on the outs. Oftentimes, men have their following and they also have their own ideas on things and create a party spirit like FE Raven did. Thats a bad thing for the testimony. Sonship before Christs incarnation, He was not Son until after his birth was a big problem during the Raven years.
What are your thoughts ? Or argument against this?
Saturday, Jun 25, 2022 : 05:59
Mark said ...

To answer Andrew Eden’s question in sufficient detail would take up quite a lot of time and space. 

From the outset it has to be said that Mr Raven did not "create a party spirit" and he had no desire to have a following of men schooled in his own ideas. 

Regarding the charge that he denied the eternal sonship of Christ, this seems to be based on one sentence, a sentence removed from its context, even at that only partly quoted, and which reads as follows: 

Now, “Son of God” I understand to be the title of Christ incarnate; I should hardly use “Son of God” as referring to His eternal Person.

Those who quote this out-of-context part of the sentence, and conveniently omit the rest, state their reference as being from one of R. A. Huebner’s books, thus giving themselves away as not having done their research properly. They are not quoting the primary source in order to obtain the fact of the matter, but are using as their evidence a secondary source, thereby based on an opinion, in this case that of Mr Huebner. Worse still is that opinions based on his opinion are then published in books or put on the Internet. 

To quote the whole paragraph from which it is taken: 

Now, “Son of God” I understand to be the title of Christ incarnate; I should hardly use “Son of God” as referring to His eternal Person, for which “the Son” is usually employed; He is the Son in contradistinction to the Father. There are three divine Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. In John 5 we have, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do”; it is one divine Person in relation to another; “What things soever the Father doeth, these things also doeth the Son likewise. When He is spoken of as the Son of God, it is according to Psalm 2: “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee”; He is begotten in time. 

(The Ministry by F E Raven, New Series, volume 1, p. 52.) 

This is not a denial by Mr Raven of the eternal sonship of Christ, but, rather, that he was explaining the distinction he drew between Christ as the Son of God begotten in time according to Psalm 2 verse 7 with Him in His eternal sonship.[1] 

It is worth looking into the writings of Mr Darby with regard to this. The places to look at are in the Synopsis on Psalm 2 verse 7, the closing verses of Matthew 1, the middle part of Luke 1, and the opening verses of Hebrews 1, besides in a footnote about the end of 2 Samuel 6 going into chapter 7.  Mr Darby in each of these places teaches that Christ as born into this world, having been conceived in the womb of the Virgin by the divine agency of the Holy Spirit, and thus to be called the Son of God, is distinguished in this aspect from what He is in His eternal sonship. 

Similarly, Mr Raven is distinguishing between Christ as the Son of God begotten in time and what He is as the Eternal Son.  He is not denying the eternal sonship of Christ. Certainly, “Son of God” is a title of Christ incarnate, and in the context of the Psalm, viz. in the sense of Christ being begotten in time, that he should hardly use the title “Son of God” as referring to His eternal Person. It would seem, if based on the opening sentence of this paragraph alone, that Mr Raven is wrong regarding the title Son of God as used more generally. The point is, however, that Psalm 2 verse 7 is not about the eternal sonship of Christ.[2] 

Therefore, this needs to be put into context with Mr Raven’s teaching on the sonship of Christ found elsewhere in the books of Ministry by F E Raven:            

I would like to know the grace of His Person, and to maintain in my soul, at the same time, His own proper dignity and glory as the eternal Son, equal with the Father.

(Ministry by F E Raven, New Series, Volume 7, page 123.) 

“In him all the fulness was pleased to dwell.” [...] The point is this – that the Son having become Man, the Spirit of God carefully maintains the glory of His Person. (Ibid.)            

I have previously spoken of the “Mediator,” and of the “Son of God,” the latter as a name inherited by Christ in becoming Man. Christ is the eternal Son, who became Man and inherited a more excellent name that the angels, as stated in Hebrews. (Ibid, volume 11, page 383.) 

It is God coming out in love to take up the liabilities under which man was, hence the Son of God must needs become incarnate, so that all that lay on man might be taken up in a Man, but it was the testimony of divine love. (Ministry by F E Raven, New Series, Volume 17, page 8.) 

All was dependent on the Son of God becoming Man. (Ibid, page 170.) 

He is always the eternal Son. He could not be anything else. The question is whether you look at Him on God’s side or on ours. On God’s side He is the eternal Son, a divine Person of the Godhead; as such we have no part in Him. On our side He is Son as man, to bring us into sonship. The point in John 5 is, the Son quickens; in chapter 6 we appropriate Him. In chapter 5 He is on the divine side; in chapter 6 He is on our side. But it is the same Person. The eternal Son was ever there, and there could be no difference between the eternal Son and the Son born in time except as to condition. 

(Ministry by F E Raven, New Series, Volume 8, pages 265 - 266.)            

Count how many times in this last extract Mr Raven uses the expression “eternal Son.” Is this denying the eternal sonship of Christ? Doubtless there are many more references to Christ’s eternal sonship in the ministry of Mr Raven, but this selection should more than suffice. 

It might be suggested by someone that these citations come from Mr Raven’s earlier ministry, and that he later changed his mind about the sonship of Christ, and from then on denied His eternal sonship. While not giving the actual dates of the Bible readings and addresses of these extracts, they span the years from 1895 to 1902, the latter date being the year before he became ill and died.[3] 

Now to letters written by Mr Raven: 

All hangs on the truth of His Person. He was the Eternal Son, and the Eternal Son has become a Man. That is entirely beyond the grasp of the creature. 

(From a letter on the “The Eternal Sonship of Christ.”) 

The following extracts are from the volume of letters of Mr Raven: 

In answer to your question I should say that if a man intended to deny the Eternal Sonship of Christ I should certainly not care to remain in fellowship with him – for “the Son” is the name that conveys the idea of the distinct personality of Christ; John 5:19,20; 1 John 4:14… 

On the other hand I fear a little of speaking of the Eternal Son as ‘in relationship’ lest the thought be extended according to in which we rightly regard a son as in a position of inferiority to a father. 

The eternal relationships subsisting between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are entirely beyond our knowledge. 

(Letters of F E Raven, New Series, page 101.) 

The statement in the first paragraph is most interesting, is it not? What lies behind the reticence for speaking of “in relationship” is unclear without access to that which prompted it. However, Mr Raven wrote of the “eternal relationships subsisting between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” Surely, though these relationships are indeed eternal, they are “entirely beyond our knowledge” nevertheless. 

To continue from the volume of Mr Raven’s letters: 

The only thing which stuck me in any other way was that it is perhaps necessary to guard a little more carefully the proper divine relationship of the Son and the Father – for though the relationship into which in Christianity we are brought has its character from that which is eternal, it is not identical, since in order that this relationship might subsist for us the Son emptied Himself – in mind took a place lower than that of God in which He could say “My Father is greater than I” – but the taking of this place could not set aside the truth and reality of His eternal relations with the Father, hence we have “no one knows the Son but the Father” – and yet it was that emptying Himself which alone could make the relationship of sons a possibility for men. 

(Letters of F E Raven, New Series, page 117 – emphasis Mr Raven.) 

Notice the expressions “the proper divine relationship of the Son and the Father,” “that which is eternal,” and “the truth and reality of His eternal relations with the Father.” Is this denying the eternal sonship of Christ? Obviously not! 

It is worth adding at this point an extract from an open letter by Mr A J Pollock in which he was answering C. A. Coates who supported James Taylor Senior’s then so-called “new light” denying the eternal sonship of Christ. 

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. 


(Used with permission) 

Please notice Mr Raven’s name as being included in this list. The matter of Christ’s sonship before incarnation, and that He was not Son until after his birth was not a big problem during the Raven years. That came in later with JT, supported by CAC and others. 

Mr Raven on the Manhood of Christ 

In response to one of the above comments, I find it very strange that the writings of James Taylor on the manhood of Christ are supplied as evidence against Mr Raven. As to whether Christ had, or has, a human spirit, or not, he wrote:            

He is a real Man, body, soul, and spirit, but still God’s Son. 

(The Ministry of F E Raven, New Series, volume 19, page 519.) 

It has been stated that ‘For FER the “spirit” was His own (divine) person.’ From the statement above as standing alone, that could be an inference if someone wanted to force that meaning into it. However, it should be understood in the light of that found elsewhere: 

“Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” It was the spirit of a man, but that man was Son of God(Ibid, volume 8, page 264.) 

Notice: “It was the spirit of a man.” If the Son of God as a real man had “the spirit of a man” then, despite the charge brought against Mr Raven, what is this other than that Christ has a human spirit? 

To write of Mr Raven, “His fundamental false teachings on Christ's manhood qualify him as an antichrist,” is a very serious matter; but it is evidence of the party spirit which marked “brethren” at the time, and sadly, evidently, still does. 

Mark Best 

[1] I am not inclined to agree with Mr Raven when he says that he should hardly use “Son of God” as referring to His eternal Person, but in keeping with the context, it is that aspect of His sonship according to Psalm 2 verse 7 which is the basis for its application to Christians which follows on from this in his address. 

[2] I do not comment on the use of ‘title’ here. In reality ‘Son of God’ is His name. Mr J N Darby wrote: 

So I see this title, Son of God, applies to the three several estates of Christ: Son of God, Creator, in Colossians, in Hebrews, and in other passages which allude to it; Son of God, as born in the world; and declared Son of God with power as risen again from the dead. 

(J N Darby, Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, volume 1, page 121.) 

Notice the word “title” that Mr Darby used. 

[3] 16th August 1903. 

Monday, Jun 27, 2022 : 02:32
Roger Holden said ...
Another document on this web-site ‘Notes of a Meeting in Connection with Stow Hill Depot 1962’ ( provides an interesting view on the question as to whether or not F. E. Raven denied the Eternal Sonship.

First, they evidently accepted that Raven did originally teach the Eternal Sonship and that when his ministry was re-published it would not be edited to remove this. JTJnr was present at these meetings and agreed to this. (pg.34). This no doubt has to be seen in the light of his qualification (pg.13) that the older ministry should be approached through the more recent ministry.

Secondly, James Taylor later claimed that during his visit to North America in 1902 Raven had explicitly denied the Eternal Sonship but this had not been published for fear of division. He said this was ‘well known’. It is stated here (pg.32) that manuscript notes of those meetings had been circulated at the time, on both sides of the Atlantic, and that they had tried to find copies of these, presumably so they could now be published, but had not been able to locate any. JTJr said he did not know of any such in his father’s papers. Whether any have come to light since then, I do not known but without such it remains an open question as to whether JT’s claim was correct or whether he misunderstood Raven.
Tuesday, Jun 28, 2022 : 17:02
Mark said ...

There are those who think that the various divisions were of the Lord as acts in His name and must therefore be maintained ad infinitum. On the other hand, there have been “reunions” once those who were at the cause of the divisions have passed on. The so-called Kelly-Lowe-Glanton reunion was one such, but only to divide again in a little over twenty years. The main concern was the reception of those unable to affirm the eternal sonship of Christ. Books were advertised, some set out, and though maintaining Christ’s eternal sonship, they were pressing doctrines which were not in themselves sound, and which would not be helpful in the way intended. 

If “brethren” were to read Mr Darby in the Synopsis on Psalm 2 verse 7, the latter part of Matthew 1, the middle of Luke 1, the opening verses of Hebrews 1, they would be helped. Similarly, F W Grant on Psalm 2 and Luke 1 in the Numerical Bible. On doctrine concerning Christ, Hamilton Smith wrote an excellent booklet bearing the title The Son of God: His Deity, Incarnation, and Manhood. It is obvious that the reading on Hebrews 1 and 2 at Quemerford in 1895 with Mr Raven and T H Reynolds in attendance greatly influenced Mr Smith’s understanding of these matters. 

In fact, if Mr Raven did not hold to Christ as being the Eternal Son, then his argument that there was no change as to His Person when He became a man would fall to the ground. Indeed, A J Pollock quotes Mr Raven against JT Snr and CAC: 

F E Raven wrote, “The fourth Gospel is given to us to afford full light as His Person, that is ‘The Son,’ and this respect He is seen in three aspects, namely as ETERNALLY WITH THE FATHER, as come into the world, and as gong back to the Father, that same Person, unchanged and unchangeable.” The Person of the Christ. You no longer agree with Mr Raven’s teaching as here stated. ( Used with permission. Emphasis AJP's.) 

Nevertheless, JT Snr maintained that he got his doctrine of non-eternal sonship from Mr Raven. He wrote: 

I have read F.E.R.’s remarks – had read them before you sent the paper – and they represent what he held at the time, of course, indeed, what was, and is, generally held; but as a matter of fact, it was Mr Raven who first mentioned the questionableness of the application I have mentioned. This was in my hearing – when he was in America in 1902. The remarks were not published, as far as I know, but they are well known to many. I heard of a letter of his lately as to the same effect, and while J.N.D. like F.E.R. treats sonship in the ordinary, or accepted way, in “Notes and Comments,” Vol. 7, page 7, he (speaking of John 1:14) says, “Nor do I see that in this character He is spoken of as Son save as known in the flesh.” He guards his statements afterwards with a “note” lest bad use should be made of them, but they remain in the text – hence we can see what was in his mind, although not pressed. (Letters of James Taylor, page 260.) 

It is interesting that on page 33 mentions a letter to Mr S J B Carter. In this letter, in similar words to those in the one just quoted, JT writes: 

What I expressed has been in my mind for at least twenty-five years; and it came to me through F.E.R. when he was in America in 1902. It came out in a Reading but was not in the printed notes. (Ibid, page 263, emphasis JT.) Then is immediately added: J.N.D. evidently had the same thought, although like F.E.R. he generally treated the subject as commonly accepted; Mr Raven had the thought later, I think. I refer to “Notes and Comments,” Vol. 7, page 7: “nor do I see,” he says, “that in this character (John 1:14) He is spoken of as Son save as known in the flesh.” He guards this afterwards with a note, but the text remains. (Ibid.) 

I have read enough to know that Mr Darby held strongly to the eternal sonship of Christ all his life and condemned any denial of it. JT has completely misunderstood, not to mention misrepresented, Mr Darby on this part quoted out-of-context sentence. So how reliable is the testimony of JT concerning Mr Raven? 

Wednesday, Jun 29, 2022 : 00:19
Martin Arhelger said ...


I am not aware that FER’s sentence “I should hardly use ‘Son of God’ as referring to His eternal Person” was widely used to prove that FER denied the eternal Sonship of Christ. R. A. Huebner is an exception (and, I think, G. W. Zellers who probably used Huebner). Huebner’s enmity against FER, sometimes, prevented a calm and unprejudiced view. But this is no proof that FER ever clung to the Eternal Sonship of Christ. That he abandoned this in later years (about 1900) becomes more and more clear. But even if FER held to Eternal Sonship up to his death he was certainly heterodox in other fields, as I have shown above and here.

And it seems that you did not fully understand what FER really implied in what he wrote in the text you quoted. FER is making a distinction between two expressions, namely

No. 1 “Son of God” and

No. 2. “the Son”.

According to FER, No 1 (“Son of God”) refers to Christ as man (incarnate) and no. 2 (“the Son”) to his eternal Person. That this was really the opinion of FER is clear from a letter he wrote in 1894: “We find as a rule that when He is spoken of as Son of God it refers to Him as Man, and when it is 'the Son' it is His eternal Sonship.” (Letters of FER, p. 232).

Another proof is in vol. 12 of FER’s Ministry. Here we get the following conversation:

R.S.S. I do not think that we got all that we might as to the difference between the Son and the Son of God. It was apprehending a little of that which we have in Matthew 11:25, and the following verses, that helped me very much on that subject.

F.E.R. Well, I think 'the Son' presents Christ in distinctness of person but in relation with the Father, and I think 'Son of God' presents Him more in relation to man and the universe. You have ‘The Father loves the Son’ and kindred expressions. 'The Son' is presented as Man. One verse proves that (John 5:26), ‘For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself’. That is the position of the Son in relation to the Father. 'The Son' connects Him with the Father. On the other hand, 'Son of God' puts Him more in relation to man.”
(Ministry of FER, vol. 12, page 119. In Ministry, vol. 8, page 267, FER only spoke of “a shade of distinction”.)

Thus FER did not (at least in 1894) deny the Eternal Sonship of Christ - but he was already confused about the terms.

Novelties as these are abundant in FER’s writings.  W. Kelly already answered in 1901: “The alleged difference between ‘the Son’ and ‘the Son of God’ is rash and wrong, being even refuted by the text itself. That ‘Son of God’ is (in Ps. 2 and elsewhere as John 1: 49, as well as Luke 1: 35) said of Christ as the King of Israel is true; yet the generalisation made in page 109 is a dangerous falsehood, as is made certain by such texts as 1 John 3: 8, 1 John 4: 10, 14, 1 John 5: 5, 9, 10, 20. But if one desire a single distinct disproof of its folly, one could not have a more decisive one than 1 John 5: 12: ‘He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.’ In this case the emphasis is rather the opposite way, as every spiritual mind must feel.” (The Bible Treasury, New series 3, p. 379, left column; also in F. E. R. Heterodox on Life Eternal, p. 36) 

By the way: FER's curious distinction between “Son of God” and “the Son” has even been repeated by others.

Two examples:

a) “Whenever He is viewed in scripture as having taken upon Him the condition of man, His personal and distinctive title is the ‘Son of God’, The title Son of God does not describe Him as a divine Person in eternal relationship with the Father; it describes that same divine Person as a Man down here, as a Man born in time, for when He was brought into this world the Father salutes Him, ‘Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten thee’.”   (The Closing Ministry of J. Pellatt , p. 89-90)

b) For my second example I have only a German translation. It is from L. H. Farrell’s book “Fellowship”. I try an English re-translation (in my German edition on page 9): “He was always the eternal Son in the bosom of the Father, but the designation ‘Son of God’ describes His relation to God as a man in time.” (German: “stets war Er der ewige Sohn im Schoße des Vaters, doch die Bezeichnung ‚Sohn Gottes‘ beschreibt Seine Beziehung zu Gott als Mensch in der Zeitlichkeit.“


Friday, Jul 22, 2022 : 21:50
Mark said ...


Only a few moments ago I commented again on the page concerning Miss Stoney, but more with regard to the teachings of James Taylor.

I think the part citation you mention generally comes from Roy Huebner via Zeller and Showers - at least as far as I have observed on the Internet. The sentence from which this part citation is extracted is in the context of the well known verse, 'Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten thee' (Ps 2:7).

This verse is explained by Mr Darby in the "Synopsis" as well as being referred to by him in Matthew 1, Luke 1, Hebrews 1. He draws a distinction between Christ as the Son of God born in time and His eternal sonship. Many other leading teachers among "brethren" take the same view as he does in contrast to those who explain Psalm 2 verse 7 in terms of the "eternal generation" of the Son.

My point is that Mr Raven was not denying the eternal sonship of Christ in that sentence, and in many places he fully affirmed it. Evidence that he later questioned it at least is now being presented on this website, but such men as James McBroom, A J Pollock, and Hamilton Smith, who all esteemed Mr Raven, and who all maintained Christ's eternal sonship as the truth, wrote to James Taylor, C A Coates, and others of that persuasion, but were ignored. The reason according to Mr Taylor was that it was "a subject requiring the most mature spiritual judgement," and by implication therefore, something which these "Glanton" brethren did not possess. 

As to what Mr Raven actually said, and what he meant by what he said, unless there is written evidence or as established by the mouth of two or three witnesses, it remains somewhat obscure. 

That Mr Taylor claimed non-eternal sonship came to him through FER, and that JND evidently had the same thought, I take with a pinch of salt. 

Saturday, Jul 23, 2022 : 00:00
Nick Fleet said ...
Martin, FER's "curious distinction between “Son of God” and “the Son” is one which AR made in a recent visit to the UK where 1 John 5: 12 ‘He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.’ was in view. I asked him about the use of the different expressions and he suggested that those who refuse to accept that the Lord (as a Man) is the 'Son of God' have not life. In other words, if they do not accept who He is in incarnation and revelation ('Son of God' as a Man) then they will not see what He ever was in eternity ('the Son'). I conclude that Pellatt, Farrell et al are quite right here, and WK is wrong. Scripture never uses different expressions without purpose and they are not interchangeable.
Saturday, Jul 23, 2022 : 03:16
Hiereus said ...

The following excerpt from the pen of William Kelly (Lectures on the Epistle to the Ephesians) indicate that he attached a two fold significance to the title Son of God, as He was found here in manhood.

Our Lord stood in a twofold relation to God; He was Son of God, not only as a divine person, but as man in the world (Luke 1); besides His highest personal glory which shines through John's Gospel, etc. "That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." This last title refers to Christ, viewed in humanity in this world; and it is therefore stated only in the Gospel of Luke, which is pre-eminently the human biography, if I may so speak, of Christ. But it might not have been known, unless God has told us, that He carried that same relationship as man into His resurrection. He teaches us that death and resurrection gave Him title in God's righteousness to put us in His position. So that He could for the first time say, in the fulness of meaning which those words convey, "I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." He is now not merely "my Father" and "my God," but "your Father" and "your God."
Sunday, Jul 24, 2022 : 00:39
Jonathan said ...
Hebrews 7:1-3 makes it pretty clear that 'Son of God' is not limited in expression to time. Melchizedek's history is presented in the OT in such a way ('having neither beginning of days nor end of life') to liken him to the Son of God - who is eternal.
Sunday, Jul 24, 2022 : 01:03
Martin Arhelger said ...


You forget that FER presents his thoughts as a “rule”. That is: He thinks that it is always true. But W. Kelly has already given some verses in 1Joh where FER’s definition does not hold water. Jonathan also rightly hints at Heb 7:1-3. Or think of Joh 3:18: “. . . he that believes not has been already judged, because he has not believed on the name of the only-begotten Son of God.” The word “only-begotten” shows Him to be a person of the Godhead, the eternal Word; and he is called “Son of God” in this verse, not “the Son”.

Even if your (and AR’s?) though on 1Joh 5:12 were true this does not prove FER’s thought to be a “rule” (in all other cases).

But I am not convinced by your interpretation of 1Joh 5:12. This verse contrasts (as John and especially 1John often does) the only two possible cases:

(1) he that has the Son (he has life) and

(2) he that hath not the Son of God (he has not life).

Case (1) speaks of a believer (and this could be the reason why it simply says “the Son”; of course, the believer knows who this "Son" is and needs no further explanation). Case (2) is the saddest possible case: Someone who does not have the Son. Would it not be appropriate to remind him in solemn and serious terms that such an unbeliever is not resisting a man, but that it is a person of the Godhead with whom he has to do?

Compare a similar case in Joh 3:36 “He that believes on the Son has life eternal, and he that is not subject to the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of” whom? a man? no: of “God abides upon him.”


Sunday, Jul 24, 2022 : 04:52
Nick Fleet said ...
Martin, in English the expression "as a rule" means "usually" or "for the most part."
Sunday, Jul 24, 2022 : 16:14
Syd said ...
Without derogating from the eternalness of the Son, alluded to in Heb 7:3, nor the type of Melchizedec’s “made like unto the Son of God,” I believe that it is not the eternal Sonship (blessed fact!) that primarily is presented in Heb 7. Readers could possibly deduce this?

I say this so that we don’t simply quote this verse to prove the eternal sonship, and lose sight of the fact that there is now a Man in heaven, our Great High Priest (Jesus, the Son of God – Heb 4:14) who arose after the similitude of Melchisedec, and was made priest, not after the law, but after the power of an endless life—He who once was dead, having completed the work of atonement, ever liveth to make intercession.

It is by virtue of His completing the work God gave Him to do on the cross, that He has this eternal priesthood; being established by the oath of God—“but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore” (Heb 7:28). I think this latter reference to “the Son,” is indeed an allusion to the Eternal Son (?). Thus, it is He, Jesus the Man, having become the surety of a better covenant, that has earned the right to continue evermore in an unchangeable priesthood.
Monday, Jul 25, 2022 : 03:15
Martin Arhelger said ...

thank you for your correction and clarification about the English term "as a rule". Please excuse my poor English!
So FER was only talking about something that was (as he thought) normally so. But I think FER is still incorrect even in the majority of cases (and WK has provided several counter-examples) nor do I think that FER gives the right criterion to make a difference. I think that "the Son" and "Son of God" often have only a very slight nuance (difference) in meaning. I would be very cautious about mechanical separation of terms. It seems to me that we need to pay close attention to the context of a verse to decide whether "Son" here means the eternal Sonship (I will call it the “divine Sonship”) or the Sonship of Jesus Christ as man (“human Sonship”). In several passages you will find the human and the divine Sonship of Christ put side by side. Take, once again, the beginning of Heb 7. These verses were not written to give us a detailed treatise on sonship. Nevertheless we get the King of Salem who was, as a type, made like the Son of God:
(1) He was like the Son of God as King of righteousness.
(2) He was like the Son of God as King of Salem (= King of peace).
(3) He was like the Son of God without father, without mother, without genealogy.
(4) He the like Son of God as having neither beginning of days nor end of life.
(To clarify: I think we agree that (3) and (4) are not true of the historical king of Salem but refer to his presentation in Scripture in Gen 14: No parents and no genealogy is given there; therefore the antitype had no father etc. But that is not my point now.)
No (1) and (2) stress the human side of Christ’s being Son of God. But (3) and (4) show the divine side of His being Son of God: As man he had a father (Joseph) and a mother (Mary) and a genealogy (Mat 1 and Luk 3) and a “beginning of days” (Mat 1 and Luk 2). Thus, these typical attributes can refer only to His divine Sonship where he had no (human) parents and no “beginning of days” because he was eternally the Son of God.

Monday, Jul 25, 2022 : 13:45
Martin Arhelger said ...


you wrote:

> My point is that Mr Raven was not denying
> the eternal sonship of Christ in that sentence,

I think that nobody here has questioned this.


> As to what Mr Raven actually said, and
> what he meant by what he said, unless
> there is written evidence or as established
> by the mouth of two or three witnesses,
> it remains somewhat obscure. 

I think we have at least two witnesses of what FER said: J. Taylor and J. S. Allen. (JT was an admirer and JSA an intimate friend of FER.) Both men were present at meetings of FER in America. I don’t think that J. McBroom, A. J. Pollock, or H. Smith were present in America while FER spoke. They could rely only on written evidence of FER - and we agree that FER held Eternal Sonship at least until the midst of the 1890th and that there seems to be no clear denial of the Eternal Sonship in FER’s later writings.

You cannot put JT’s attitude towards FER and towards JND on the same level because

1) JT never heard JND on this theme and
2) Although JT tried to belittle the difference between his and JND's view of eternal sonship, he had to admit that JND held to eternal sonship until his departure. (Letters of JT, vol. 2, p. 42 and letters vol. 3, page 312 [new editions by BGT]).

It would not eliminate all problems if it could be proven conclusively that FER held to Eternal Sonship until the last day before his death. FER had other points where he taught heresy that he is definitely not reliable and sometimes his false teachings concern fundamental points about the person of the Lord Jesus. I have written on this website about FER’s denial of the Lord’s real manhood. His rejection of the Lord as the eternal Word (λόγος) could be added.


Monday, Jul 25, 2022 : 14:10
Syd said ...
I suppose that there is some historical interest in following the trail of the emergence of FER's heresy on the divine Sonship of Christ. But from many of those brethren who lived closest to Raven, who heard him and read his writings in situ, and then wrote against his unscriptural expositions, it seems conclusive - Raven was not only controversial on the subject, but wrong! But then, some disagree.

We live more than 130 years later and would like to conclude from a simple literature study that which we believe to be right concerning the storm that broke in the 1890's. But why would so many godly, eminently gifted Bible teachers spontaneously rise up against Raven's teachings?

It remains a lesson for us. Let us carefully scrutinise what we and others teach and write. Let us test it against Scripture prayerfully - as Wigram (I believe it was) said: "we prayed out the truth on our knees in persevering prayer." Let us be humble enough to allow others to question what we say and write, and then to re-examine it.

I do believe that there was a jostling among leading brethren in those days to be another "Darby." The apostle Peter could refer the saints to Paul's writings. Darby simply said: "Let not John's writings be forgotten, whilst insisting on Paul's." Strange (?) but perhaps prophetic in a sense, that John's writings on the Person of Christ - the Son; the Word - were indeed forgotten and led to confusion and division. May the Lord give us grace to "hold fast the form of sound words."
Tuesday, Jul 26, 2022 : 16:32
Mark said ...


I can only refer you to the things I have already said as to the sonship of Christ and His manhood, and which are found above. 

The point is that if a Google search is made of "F E Raven" at present, one of your comments comes up at the top. Hence the whole world will assume that FER denied "the Lord's real manhood." 

Yet he said of Christ, "He is a real Man, body, soul, and spirit, but still God’s Son." Further, regarding "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit,” he also said, "It was the spirit of a man, but that man was Son of God." Is this denying the Lord's real manhood?

Called into question by him were the things which some were teaching with regard to the Incarnation. I have mentioned elsewhere the attempts they made to explain it and shown that the Scriptures say nothing of the sort. One brother even wrote of the Incarnation, "It is inexplicable," but still went ahead with his explanation of it nevertheless! 

I only add, though it be addressed to Nick Fleet, that 1 John 5 verse 12 is referred to as based on a correct quotation, then "the saddest possible case" is mentioned. However, to write, "Someone who does not have the Son," is to misquote the verse, or at least stopping short of the words 'of God', they being particularly relevant. That "it is a person of the Godhead with whom he has to do" is not exactly what this verse directly in itself is saying. John 3 verse 36 would be a more suitable text, which, in fact, is then in part correctly quoted, but broken into towards the end with a question, a question to which a wrong answer is then supplied. 

In that verse, the person believing on the Son has life eternal. The person not subject to Him will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. It is not the wrath of the Son abiding on him. The verse does not say, nor does it imply, "the Son of God" as though the genitive tou theou - "of God" - at this point here in it applies to the Son. The verse says that it is 'the wrath of God' that abides on that person. The Son is God of course, but it is not the Son's wrath.  Also worth pointing out is that it does not say the wrath "of the Father" since that would not be in keeping with the name of Father, His name being connected with grace especially in John's Gospel. 


The line of sucession Darby, Stoney, Raven, Taylor Senior, Taylor Junior, which is the current notion among the PBCC, perhaps came about in the thinking of the "London" brethren in the later Taylor Senior years. Hence Taylor Junior eventually stepping into his father's shoes. 

I do not think that FER had any desire to be "another Darby," nor that such an idea as an "elect vessel" or "universal leader" was ever in his mind, a notion doubtless he would have refused. That, I suggest, is a rewriting of history on the part of the Taylorites. 

Regarding the question, "But why would so many godly, eminently gifted Bible teachers spontaneously rise up against Raven's teachings?" 

It is not that I agree with everything FER said. His statement, "Becoming a man, he becomes the Logos," I admit is completely erroneous. But then similarly is Mr Kelly's statement of Christ that "He emptied Himself of His deity" when He took the form of a servant, when He does become a man. I do not accept W J Hocking's excuse that it is preceded by the word "if" since it is the premise from which the conclusion that "He humbles Himself and becomes obedient as far as death" is deduced. 

However, there is a context. Similarly with FER. I have written more than enough to show that Mr Raven's critics were not always right, some of them indeed quite in error; but it is against the backgound of things being said and written by his opponents at the time, and in response to them, that many of his statements were made, and are thus to be understood. Indeed, on this very page, if the comments of others are not read, the relevance of mine will be missed. 

Tuesday, Jul 26, 2022 : 16:50
Syd said ...
There is no “similarly” when it comes to Kelly’s statement vis-á-vis that of FER! You cannot for the briefest moment compare the two without realising that it is a straw man to argue the same for Kelly. Read the whole of his commentary carefully.

The intrinsic deity of Christ is repeatedly stated and exalted by Kelly, and then to demonstrate the enormous condescension of the One being in the form of God, he writes that “when about to become a man, He did not carry down the glory and power of the Godhead to confound man before Him, but rather emptied Himself.” The context of this in relation to His phrase on deity is as plain as daylight—not the slightest hint of denying Christ’s deity.

But here is a “similarly” when Darby writes: "Christ . . . when He was in the form of God, emptied Himself, through love, of all His outward glory, of the form of God, and took the form of a man; and even when He was in the form of man, still humbled Himself.” So Darby says Christ "emptied Himself of the form of God." It demonstrates how vital it is to consider the whole piece and the context honestly. And this applies to all, including FER.
Wednesday, Jul 27, 2022 : 04:07
Mark said ...


I am not really wanting to carry on with this debate. I do not think that this is exactly the place for it. 

William Kelly did not believe that Christ ceased to be God when He became Man. Of that I am quite sure. Nevertheless, the sentence to which I have referred as it stands is plainly wrong, seriously erroneous. Philippians 2 verse 7 does not say what Christ emptied Himself of, but it was certainly not His deity. 

The point is that anyone can put out a statement which on the face of it is perilously flawed. The sad thing is that Mr Kelly wrote a book against Mr Raven in which the words and phrases that he used against him were excessive to say the least. 

That aside, my exercise has been to consider statements made by Mr Raven in their context. 

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2022 : 05:48
Martin Arhelger said ...


I am persuaded that FER denied the Lord's real humanity though nobody asserted that FER denied the Lord’s real manhood in every sentences he ever wrote. In Fact at several occasions FER confesses the biblical terms but when you look closer you will see that his terminology is not used as scripture does but is filled with new and unscriptural ideas.

It is your exercise to consider statements made by FER in their context. Well, let’s do this.

Your first quotation of FER is this: "He is a real Man, body, soul, and spirit, but still God’s Son." Now, what did FER write immediately in the next sentence? Here it is: “If you carry the thought of the incarnation beyond the scriptural limit, that is, form (that of a servant) and condition (flesh and blood), you cannot avoid, that I can see, reaching distinct personality, and so making two personalities in Christ, a divine and a human.“ So incarnation is limited by FER to “form” and “condition”; to say more would be, according to FER, “beyond the scriptural limit”. On the other hand FER says that he believes in “a real Man, body, soul, and spirit”. So, according to FER, the human Body, soul and sprit of the Lord is only (yes: only! He says that it would go beyond the scriptural limit so say more) a form or a condition.

FER misunderstands the term “flesh” which is (in Joh 1:14) a synonym not only of the condition of His holy Body (though that is included, of course) but of his complete Humanity (Spirit, Soul, and Body) which is far more than form and condition. Joh 1:14 does not only say that since the incarnation “form” or “condition” changed but much more: The Word became (ἐγένετο) flesh.

FER is wrong when he claims that this (scriptural) view of the incarnation would be “making two personalities in Christ, a divine and a human”. But it proves that (for FER) Christ’s humanity does not belong to His person.

You also quote the following part of a sentence from FER: “It was the spirit of a man, but that man was Son of God." Now let us see the context of this quotation, too. In Readings at Quemerford 8 (1895), p. 135 (reprinted in Ministry of FER, vol. 8, p. 264). W. T. P. Wolston asked FER: “We say of man he is a tripartite creature, body, soul and spirit. The Lord was ... you do not contend against His manhood?” FER answered: “No; but you might be near error there. You get on dangerous ground in applying such things to the Lord. He is a divine Person in manhood. In the thought of spirit I believe you get the idea of personality. ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ It was the spirit of a man, but that man was Son of God. ” etc.

FER said, that to apply Body, Soul, and Spirit (as men have) to the Lord is “near error” and “dangerous ground”. This denies at least that the Lord has a Body, Soul and Spirit as we have it as human beings (and the context shows that he does not mean that the Lord had no sin; that was not the point, here). Few minutes before, FER had said (in the same reading): “In Person He is God; in condition He is man.” and refused to confess that the Lord was “personally man”. I have already made comments on this some time ago.

Your quotations of FER remind me of what has been written in March 1891 from the European continent to Anstey, Stoney, and Mackintosh: “It is true that the friends of Mr. Raven take pains to prove from other letters and writings of his, that he, as regards the points of doctrine objected to, is not only thoroughly sound, but even teaches precious truths: they bring extracts which appear to state exactly the contrary of the above citations. As long, however, as these latter and the doctrines contained in them, have not been clearly and distinctly acknowledged as evil and withdrawn, we consider these efforts but a clever attempt of the enemy, to cover up the evil and to blind the eyes of the saints.” (N. L. Noel: History of the Brethren, vol. 2, p. 554)

As for John 3:36, you misunderstood me. Of course the second part of Joh 3:36 is about God. That is precisely my argument: the one who rejects faith is dealing with the highest possible being. Therefore, it is not plausible that in 1 John 5:12 the humanity of the Lord should be emphasized. It is rather His divinity which is in focus.


Wednesday, Jul 27, 2022 : 15:22
Syd said ...
I agree that this is not the most suitable platform for debate; but respectful exchanges on these historical, but also doctrinally important matters, has some value, and may serve to help others. You were busy with Raven, but brought in Kelly. Surely you should expect someone to disagree with you. But we'll leave it there.

For the benefit of others wondering about Philippians 2:7. The kenosis theory of "emptying" has led to much confusion and debate. "He made Himself of no reputation" is a better translation. We do learn in the passage of His descent from equality with God (being in the form of God) to the form of a servant, but never divesting Himself of His deity nor any of His divine attributes.
Wednesday, Jul 27, 2022 : 16:07
Mark said ...


To respond to the comment, 'W. T. P. Wolston asked FER: “We say of man he is a tripartite creature, body, soul and spirit. The Lord was ... you do not contend against His manhood?” FER answered: “No; but you might be near error there. You get on dangerous ground in applying such things to the Lord. He is a divine Person in manhood." ' 

Then added in the next paragraph is, 'FER said, that to apply Body, Soul, and Spirit (as men have) to the Lord is “near error” and “dangerous ground”. This denies at least that the Lord has a Body, Soul and Spirit as we have it as human beings (and the context shows that he does not mean that the Lord had no sin; that was not the point, here).' 

Read Dr Wolston's question carefully. Notice the word "creature" in it. To use the word "creature" of the Lord, even if being applied to His manhood, would indeed be a serious error. It is that to which Mr Raven was responding. He was not denying that "the Lord has a Body, Soul and Spirit as we have it as human beings." That he clearly affirms elsewhere; and I do not follow your reasoning that this was "only" a form or condition. It is rather pressing the matter beyond that intended. 

As to Mr Raven's seeming evasion with regard to the question, "Why is He not personally man?" I would say unreservedly that the Lord was and still is personally a man. However, it is a matter of how the question is worded. The context to all this is that his opponents were making a man - a person - out of His manhood. 

It is said, 'FER is wrong when he claims that this (scriptural) view of the incarnation would be “making two personalities in Christ, a divine and a human”. But it proves that (for FER) Christ’s humanity does not belong to His person.' 

However, is this a valid proof? Humanity, like manhood, is an abstract noun. Humanity is not a person; or, put in other words, manhood is not a person. Manhood in itself is not a man, but manhood, or humanity if you prefer, "belongs" to a man. A human person has a human nature. It is that nature, manhood, which makes someone a man. There is a difference between a person having manhood, and making out manhood or human nature to be a person. 

To speak of someone having a personal manhood, or a personal humanity, or a personal human nature, is nonsensical. A human being, human person, has a human nature, but to ascribe a personality to the  nature itself, even with regard to Christ, was an error being taught at the time, and the background to Dr Wolston's question and that which lay behind Mr Raven's answer. 

The Lord's manhood did not have a personality of its own. His manhood, humanity, human nature, was not a person in itself anymore than in you or in me, though it was impeccable of course. I suggest that it was Mr Raven's opponents such as Mr Hennessy that were in error over this, not Mr Raven. 

Coming to another point, John 1 verse 14 does not mean the same as Philippians 2 verse 7 exactly. It might well be the same event, the Incarnation, but it is looked at in different ways for different reasons. In the former the word "flesh" is used, and in the latter, the word "form" in both the KJV and Darby Translation. 

As an aside, JT's error was to assume that the Word became the Son by incarnation, instead of seeing that it was only as incarnate that He could be beheld by the apostles 'as the only begotten of the Father' (Jn 1:14 KJV), the reason why John had just previously written, 'And the Word became flesh' (Jn 1:14 JND). Without having become flesh he could not have been beheld as the only begotten Son. 

However, this is very different that which Paul is teaching in Philippians 2, the word "form" being used there. Hence the word "flesh" here as used by John. This is not playing one scripture off against another, but considering each of these words in their context. 

Hence, regarding the letter in Mr Noel's History of the Brethren, there is the bringing in of scriptures which have little bearing on the doctrines in question - and there are a number refered to - mixing up different verses as though they all mean the same thing. I refrain from going into it in detail. However, to cite one but very relevant part:  "As long, however, as these latter and the doctrines contained in them, have not been clearly and distinctly acknowledged as evil and withdrawn, we consider these efforts but a clever attempt of the enemy, to cover up the evil and to blind the eyes of the saints." The inference is that Mr Raven, led by Satan, taught evil doctrine, but added some bits of truth to disguise it. I suggest that this "Second Circular of the Continental Brethren" letter has not only influenced the "Continental Brethren" ever since, but stands in perpetuity as a judgement never to be rescinded. 

As to Noel's History, every Brethren historian thinks their section of the Brethren the right one, and that includes not only those known as "exclusives" but also the Open Brethren. Who is right? 

I just add that Quemerford in 1895 has been mentioned. The comments referred to were made during a reading on Hebrews 1 and 2. Read Hebrews 2 verse 14 in the Darby Translation, and especially the notes referring to it at the bottom of the page. Notice how Mr Darby disinguishes between 'koinoneo' and 'metecho', but it is interesting how he uses the latter when he translates it in the phrase as 'took part in the same' ie. of blood and flesh. Neither this verse, nor Philippians 2 verse 7, or John 1 verse 14, convey any notion of "union" as was being pressed by others. 

You might reply if you wish, but I leave the matter now as it stands. I already said to another last evening that I do not intend to continue with this, since I do not think the arguing out of these matters here is the point of this website, but rather to provide information and evidence for research. 


Wednesday, Jul 27, 2022 : 18:29
Dirk said ...
Hi Mark,

I totally agree with Syd that this respectful exchanges on doctrinally important matters, "has some value, and may serve to help others". Perhaps it is of more help than a new historic item, although it may not be the main topic of this website I agree. So I would strongly encourage you and all the other participants to follow up with this exchange which I personally have also followed with much interest.

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2022 : 22:16
Andy Eden said ...
Often times back in the day of many of these writers among the brethren, the prominant speakers,teachers were former Pastors and Theologians, they spoke and many listened. But as time went by some 60 years or so since the movement began in Dublin, and close to JND's home call in 1882, many tried to put a spin on things to become prominent in the assembly movement like that of CE Stuart who taught Jesus took blood into heaven. You see many never read JB Stony, FER, or CA Coates and others they hold on to peripheral elements in this one-upism that brethren during that time after JND's departure had over 10 different splits after 1882 to 1907, Kelly, Lowe, Raven, Glanton, Grant, Tumbridge Wells among the closed assemblies. Not including Gospel Halls or and John Richie's side of the brethren. Its sad but its true that many recanted there false teaching. But Sonship and The Person of Christ has been a departure no doubt.
Thursday, Sep 8, 2022 : 05:45
Roger Holden said ...
Al – I understand your concerns with Raven’s ministry, but my understanding is that this is an archive web-site for all material relating to the Plymouth Brethren. If you click on “About & Welcome” in the right-hand menu it says “The purpose of this website is to provide a free and non-partisan digital repository for all material related to the "Plymouth Brethren" movement, and to facilitate a collaborative platform for the collection and retention of this material.” I for one have made use of the Raven material for historic purposes, to understand what he was saying and why it was controversial so would not wish to see this material removed. This does not mean in any way that I agree with or would propagate his teaching. I am indeed somewhat intrigued that over a century on he still generates such controversy, as witness the length of this comment thread.
Friday, Nov 11, 2022 : 01:52
Mark Best said ...


You seem to be in a rather highly emotionally charged state. Who has given you the right to decide what should and should not be on this website? Who is behind this motivating you to take such an extreme line? It is a valuable resource for looking into both sides of the arguments that have led to those known as “brethren” now having become so sadly broken up. I would not like to see things removed from it in order to push biased and one-sided opinions with no access to facts. 

The dust has long settled on many of the issues - except this one it would appear - and it can now be seen in many cases that the fault was not necessarily restricted to one side in a division, some sadly being personality clashes, some far too hastily pushed through. 

Some of us have spent a great amount of time and effort looking into the history of the Brethren Movement, in my case at one time delving into the Christian Brethren Archive in the John Rylands Library at Manchester University, particularly into the troubles of the late 1840s that led to the division of the  “Plymouth Brethren” into “open” and “exclusive” branches. Both sides claim to be right, so how otherwise could I have obtained the evidence needed to assess, also in the light of Scripture, where I should be? 

However, whence this concerning Mr Raven now brought to our attention?  "He denies the diety [sic] and humanity of Jesus." He most certainly did not deny His deity. Nor to my knowledge did he say that He is not God in the flesh. If he did, please enlighten us as to the source, and his own words precisely with book reference. His opponents might have claimed he denied the humanity of Jesus, but that depends on what they meant by humanity. From their writings it would seem they held the notion that His humanity was a person, that there was a human person in Christ. 

Mr Raven’s statements not only need to be accurately quoted but also must be put into their context. 

Friday, Nov 11, 2022 : 17:58
Steve Noble said ...
It also needs to be said that 2 John 11 has nothing to do with reading a book, whether by FER or anybody else. Scripture should not be misused in this way.
Saturday, Nov 12, 2022 : 00:43
Syd said ...
Thanks Roger, I think you gave a kind answer to Al who may have seen the ravages of the erroneous teaching and feels obliged to warn his "brothers." Now, he may be better informed about the website. A soft answer turneth away wrath.
Saturday, Nov 12, 2022 : 03:32
andy eden said ...
Often times when we look into the writings of the brethren movement, we come away with a wonderful understanding of the way the linkages have been made in the study of both the Old Testament and how the New Testament has brought out the fulfillment of the many shadows and types. Some teachers today among the brethren have at times over spiritualized these and have created difficulties in the true message of the Word. FER was a man who brought divergence into the assembly of believers gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus out of a pure heart. With that, if someone in a gathering assembly spoke these things, FER taught, regarding the incarnation elements of FER's writings and his view on Sonship, one can see how he got there. In that day, if I was wrong in what I was putting out in writing and in spoken word as a laborer of Christ and a respected minister, He certainly had the Grace of the brethren for looking at what he wrote and taught from friends within the laboring brethren. But during these sad days of FER's reign over the brethren, especially regarding the London meeting where the so called "see" was put in effect after JN Darby passed. This London meeting was a counsel of recognized brethren that came together to discuss the affairs of the assemblies which were united together in practical fellowship, issues like doctrines and questions and the like even in affairs of two wanting to go to law against one another. Today, many dont even know who is in fellowship the way things are so loosely done in these last days. But nonetheless, the correction of things was handled by this counsel in the city. Not many teachers were at the local assemblies of any oral or learned knowledge of the word, so most were not able to give out the knowledge of the word when in an open reading or in ministry. These things if they became a dilemma among local assembly was brought forward to the London Street meeting to look at things scripturally by those who were in fulltime service moving around these assemblies. Once JN Darby passed and the assemblies at the local grouping where FER was present, became the leading recognized enablement among the known exclusive brethren at that time (vs open assemblies). When FER began his writings on subjects as what have been discussed here, refused to back down, or even retract, and having a goodly following based on his recognition at the table, he saw his way to the head of the table and that at the London Street meeting. GV Wigram taught along with Kelly the "Assembly in a city" or Church in a city. Which could have comprised of many local assemblies within a metropolitan area or city. These assemblies would send a delegation to the "Brothers Meeting" which was the picture of what the London Street meeting was originally. The place throughout the assemblies in the movement at that time which had these said gatherings. Mainly in large cities as New York, Chicago, London, and many other cities world wide. During the turn of the 1900's. so when FER was becoming recognized and so many other leading brethren were removing themselves from that London meeting problem FER was chairing now, it was a ripple effect throughout the fellowship worldwide among those that were then called Exclusives, before the many splits occurring from 1898. If FER was not as prominent in the work he was doing at the city level, the writings and his ministry would not have taken root. But because prominent men separated from the assemblies that sided with FER (as Noel's book states "The Primitive company") FER would have not had the following that he had based on these subjects he wrote on and ministered on. What we learn from this, is a great importance, for even the scriptures themselves show out the many errors in many of the biblical accounts and portraits of many in scripture. Mainly all based on the error they have made which we all learn from. The outcome, and its famine, and its separations, all become an issue when we are looking for a clerical role. What was once a good idea "the central brothers meeting in a city", became a loudspeaker to establish a a clerical "See". That in itself was some of the problem with FER, in the beginning especially how he handled the Glanton Assembly difficulties. Later having the Grant fellowship in the US to take sides with Glanton based on the issues back at that time just made things even more alienating FER and London. After this we see a work what is commonly called the "closed" assemblies. Not associated with the Gospel Halls, or Open, but of the coming together of all the assemblies that have walked away from the London See. That in itself was a good thing, for it cleansed out the problem, not of the doctrines of FER but the clerical raising up of what we see today in the "Exclusive assemblies" called the "Man of God"! or "The House Father". For even if FER would not recant his error, if he saw he had made one, the work what was left after his departure; became more of an authoritarian one under JT Sr. who upheld FER's teachings. But many didn't believe them that were older and moving forward that JB Stoney and CA Coates. Authoritarianism is what the Lord pronounced against Judaism, when Jesus was working with Israel. They would crush out the Mercy of God in all that Christ shown in the miracles. Yes, legalism is a religion all its own, and without the Gospel of the Grace of God, where would we be?
Sunday, Dec 11, 2022 : 03:51
Jonathan said ...
Dear al'

Regular readers will know that I hold no candle for FE Raven, nor (though I have commented little on them) the PBCC as they style themselves today.

However I'm afraid you do shoot your own credibility down by jumbling up a number of facts.

'Green Batt Hall', a place neither in Greenwich nor Bexhill, was named simply after the street on which it was built, and the name speaks nothing about how 'creepy' FER was. This is a preposterous assertion.

Nor did Park Street disfellowship FER.

And the PBCC shock me in many ways, but having a website on google search engine is not one of them!
Thursday, Dec 15, 2022 : 21:15
Roger Holden said ...
Green Batt Hall was actually in Alnwick and, as Jonathan says, Green Batt is simply the street name (an odd name of course, these days seems to be spelt with two t's but in the pat with only one). This Hall does of course have some significance in Exclusive Brethren History because of the Glanton division.
Friday, Dec 16, 2022 : 00:44
Mark Best said ...


I wonder what your sources of information are in order that you reach the conclusion that "frederick raven is a satanic man." This is a very serious thing to say about anyone.

It is immediately claimed that he "willfully ruined the worldwide original fellowship of assemblies." I would emphasise here the word "wilfully" as implying that this was his deliberate intention. Was it?

If "frederick raven was a tare sowed by satan to ruin the original worldwide fellowship (matthew 13)" he would have been a son of the evil one, and as such, to be cast into the furnace of fire. Again, this a statement which needs to be carefully weighed.

As to the word "jumble" already used by another, it could hardly be said that your comment contains any "facts" at all, just words and names of places having some connection with that known as the "Bexhill division." Others, such as Green Bat(t?) Hall, as pointed out, having no bearing whatsoever on the matter.

Andy Eden

Much of your latest comment is also unclear. It is assumed by the "London Street meeting" that Park Street in London is meant.

As to Napoleon Noel's use of the expression "the primitive company", every group within the Brethren Movement think they are the continuation of it, and everyone thinks are they in that! That includes Open Brethren as well as those who remained in fellowship and did not withraw from Mr Raven.

Evidence is lacking for the concept of a so-called clerical "See" as some of the problem with Mr Raven, and he cannot be blamed as to "how he handled the Glanton Assembly difficulties." The Lord had taken him several years before.

Saturday, Dec 17, 2022 : 19:34
Gregory Morris said ...
I have read the above correspondence with much interest. It is an interesting theme of Church History that the Orthodox in their zeal to correct the Heterodox are rather prone to fall into Heresy themselves. Much grace is needed.
Friday, Jan 20, 2023 : 08:03

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