Thursday, July 10, 2014

More on the Trinity: Eternal Generation of the Son

In my previous post I briefly discussed my concern with this article over at Reformation21, where the author referenced Geerhardus Vos in Biblical Theology as stating that Jesus was created in his human nature. The author specifically states, "With Vos, we say that relative to the divine essence, he is uncreated; relative to the human nature, created." Therefore, I assigned myself a two-fold project, first to research Vos for the exact quotation, in which I did find his statement on page 76 of my edition. The second part of my self-assignment was to pull together a collection from my personal library of scholars and creeds that directly address the false notion that Jesus was created. I am certainly not up to the task of taking on a theologian as great as Vos, but the following resources and excerpts should make my case with regard to the problem of saying that Christ is created in his human nature.
Heidelberg Catechism
The Heidelberg Catechism raises the question, “Why is Christ called the only begotten Son of God, since we are also the children of God?” and answers it, “Because Christ alone is the eternal and natural Son of God; but we are children adopted of God, by grace, for his sake.” -- Sanders, Fred (2010-08-31). The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (p. 160). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

Nicene Creed Arius' desire was to make the relation of the Father to the Son comprehensible by teaching several particulars that were rejected. Arius' claim that the Son is finite and created was chief among his errors. "This council produced the Nicene Creed, which affirms that Christ is “the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds,” and that He was “begotten, not made.” It further declares that He is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God . . . being of one substance with the Father.” With these affirmations, the church said that scriptural terms such as firstborn and begotten have to do with Christ’s place of honor, not with His biological origin." - Sproul, R.C. (2011-07-01). What is the Trinity?: 10 (Crucial Questions Series) (p. 32). Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Chalcedon speaks of one Person and two natures: a divine and a human nature, but never declares the Son to have been created. “The Chalcedonian box” that defines the boundaries of orthodoxy by affirming four factors: deity, humanity, the unity of one person, and the distinction of the two natures. However, within the definition of the two natures, Jesus is never said to have himself been created.

Athanasian Creed
"In line with historic Christianity (in this case, the Athanasian Creed), orthodox theology has historically affirmed that:
 'the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Incomprehensible....'
  1. Since God the Father has no cause, then He has been the Father for eternity. He cannot have been the Father without a Son, which means the Son could not be a created being (as Arius taught, relying on Proverbs 8:22 for support) because that would mean there was a time when the Father was not actually the Father.
  2. The Son is described as begotten, which means he is a distinct person from God the Father.
  3. The begetting of the Son does not, in any way, imply that the Son is subordinate to the Father. This would mean that the Son is a lesser god and the Holy Spirit a lesser deity than the Son.
While affirming this truth, we must also affirm with the same creed that “the Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.”
K. Scott Oliphint (2011-09-11). God With Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God (p. 41). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition. 

F.F. Bruce expresses the importance of accurate language in the creeds: "Inasmuch as the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity are embedded in the New Testament, although not explicitly formulated there, we must make the effort of wrestling with difficult terminology if we are not to fall an easy prey to misunderstanding or to actual heresy."

R.C. Sproul/Ligonier
"The clearest reference to Jesus’ deity in the New Testament comes at the opening of John’s gospel. It reads, “In the beginning was the Word [that is, the Logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1). In that first sentence, we see the mystery of the Trinity, because the Logos is said to have been with God from the beginning. There are different terms in the Greek language that can be translated by the English word with, but the word that is used here suggests the closest possible relationship, virtually a face-to-face relationship.... The apostle says more. He adds: “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (vv. 2–4). Here we see eternality, creative power, and self-existence attributed to the Logos, who is Jesus." -- Sproul, R.C. (2011-07-01). What is the Trinity?: 10 (Crucial Questions Series) (pp. 24-26). Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Eternal Generation of the Son by Kevin Giles
In The Eternal Generation of the Son, Kevin Giles shows that the recent tendency of younger evangelicals adapting the view that Jesus was not the eternally begotten Son of God isn’t without historical precedent. Arius taught this as well: that the Son was a created being in time, not an eternally begotten being, and his doctrines were strongly opposed by the early church. The Nicene and Athanasian creeds, in no uncertain terms, oppose this theology. Giles' historical treatment of the subject spans more than two millenia of church fathers, reformers, councils and a host of experts to show that this has been the standard teaching of the church for most of our history.
Why is this important?
Most importantly, we do not want to go against the scriptures and the historic teaching of the Church. I believe there is enough evidence on the eternal generation/begotten, not made side of this debate to know where we should head. 
Summary response to Modifying Classical Theism:
God has given form and order to the history of salvation because he intends not only to save us through it but also to reveal himself through it. The economy is shaped by God’s intention to communicate his identity and character.” -  Sanders, Fred (2010-08-31). The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (p. 94). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

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