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Eternal Sonship and Eternal Generation of the Son

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Introduction:
Understanding language We must remember that God alone has the right to describe how he is portrayed to mankind. His self definition of himself is the best description of these heavenly truths. These truths sometimes come to us in things that are very familiar to us but in another sense transcend our understanding. No where else is this true than in eternal Sonship of the Jesus. Theologian have argued about this point for many years. In fact, three camps have emerged when we talk about God communication to man:
His communication is Univocal: This means that when Gods says, “Jesus is God’s son!” We understand it exactly the same way as, “Ezra is Caleb’s son!” This would result in people thinking that God is just like human beings.
His communication is equivocal: This means that when God says, “Jesus is God’s son!” We understand it a completely different way as, “Ezra is Caleb”s son!” This would result in people thinking we cannot say anything factual about God.
His communication is analogical:
This means that when God says, “Jesus is God’s son!” We understand it as capturing part of the reality as, “Ezra is Caleb’s son!” This would result in people thinking that there is some overlap between God and man and some parts that are not overlapped.
Aquinas correctly says, “It seems that no word can be used literally of God. For as we have already said that every word used of God is taken from our speech about creatures, as already noted, but such words are used metaphorically of God (Qted. in Giles 22).”
In this sense it is very true that the finite minds with even more finite language with even more finite perspectives result in a significant limitation in our description God, especially, when we are talking about the trinity and this truth.
I think we can agree with Aquinas when he says, “These are truths about which we are instructed, in accord with the norm of Christian faith, in a way that transcends human perception. The teaching is that although God is one and simple, as has been explained above, God is Father, God is Son, and God is Holy Spirit. And these three are not three gods, but are on God. We now turn to a consideration of this truth, so far as is possible to us (Shorter 35).”
Our understanding of this truth is so crucial to our understanding of the trinity. If we get it wrong here, we may even miss the trinity.
We should remember this truth, “The Bible is the authority but the fathers can help clarify1”
The difficulty of this phrase
Some passages seem to indicate the sonship happens in a point in time. It adds to the confusion of these phrases.
Begetting suggests coming from someone else.
Begetting can suggest subordination.
The differing views:
The differing views: Modalism: They teach that God is one in being and person. However, this one person appears in three successive characters or modes. Arianism: God is one and superior and Jesus and the Spirit are created at some point in history. Thus, Jesus and the Father are not of the same substance nor are they eternally equal. Economic trinitarianism: They teach that God is one, however in the Father there is the word and spirit. These two come out of the father, or they proceeded from the father. Thus, God is the source of both of the Son and the Spirit. Suborndiation: This suggests that God is one in being and three in person, however, the Father is higher in rank than the Son and the Holy Spirit. Incarnational sonship: They teach God is one in essence while having three person in the trinity. However, Second member of the trinity did not become Son until the incarnation. This view, though wrong is not heretical. Even John MacArthur held this view for a time. Biblical, Orthodox or Athanisusian view: God is one in essence while they have eternally subsist in three persons. subsistence
Modalism: They teach that God is one in being and person. However, this one person appears in three successive characters or modes.
Arianism: God is one and superior and Jesus and the Spirit are created at some point in history. Thus, Jesus and the Father are not of the same substance nor are they eternally equal.
Economic trinitarianism: They teach that God is one, however in the Father there is the word and spirit. These two come out of the father, or they proceeded from the father. Thus, God is the source of both of the Son and the Spirit.
Suborndiation: This suggests that God is one in being and three in person, however, the Father is higher in rank than the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Incarnational sonship: They teach God is one in essence while having three person in the trinity. However, Second member of the trinity did not become Son until the incarnation. This view, though wrong is not heretical. Even John MacArthur held this view for a time.
Biblical, Orthodox or Athanisusian view: God is one in essence while they have eternally subsist in three persons. subsistence
Argument for the Eternal sonship and generation of the Son
Argument for the Eternal sonship and generation of the Son God is called Father: Title “Son of God” Phrase “Monogenes” Begotten does not mean to have a beginning, however, it does denote Jesus’ “Fromness.” It speaks of identical nature of the Father and Son. (NASB95) — 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NASB95) — 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (NASB95) — 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (NASB95) — 18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (NASB95) — 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. The importance of the qualifiers: Eternal: Giles says this, “[W]hatever terminology is used we must recognize that this is human language reflecting creaturely reality with all its limitations. Its applicability to God, who is not a creature, is only safeguarded by the addition of the qualifying word eternal. The premise of orthodoxy is that God is eternally triune (21).” Only: Another word that is very important is “only” or “unique.” Which marks the uniqueness of the sonship of Jesus Christ and the general sonship of all human beings.
God is called Father:
Title “Son of God”
Phrase “Monogenes”
Begotten does not mean to have a beginning, however, it does denote Jesus’ “Fromness.” It speaks of identical nature of the Father and Son.
(NASB95) — 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
(NASB95) — 18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
(NASB95) — 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
(NASB95) — 18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
(NASB95) — 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
The importance of the qualifiers:
Eternal: Giles says this, “[W]hatever terminology is used we must recognize that this is human language reflecting creaturely reality with all its limitations. Its applicability to God, who is not a creature, is only safeguarded by the addition of the qualifying word eternal. The premise of orthodoxy is that God is eternally triune (21).”
Only: Another word that is very important is “only” or “unique.” Which marks the uniqueness of the sonship of Jesus Christ and the general sonship of all human beings.
Clarification:
Clarification: I think that John MacArthur goes too far. He says that , and Romans the temporal setting is not important. This is not true! Rather, if he means what he says on page 240 then I agree, “[T]he divine declarations at his baptism and transfiguration merely express the Father’s approval and endorsement, not the initial appointment of the second person of the Godhead to the poison and rot of the Son.” Then we can agree. is the endorsement of Jesus ministry as Son! The resurrection is the endorsement of Jesus’ sonship not the basis for his sonship.
I think that John MacArthur goes too far. He says that , and Romans the temporal setting is not important. This is not true! Rather, if he means what he says on page 240 then I agree, “[T]he divine declarations at his baptism and transfiguration merely express the Father’s approval and endorsement, not the initial appointment of the second person of the Godhead to the poison and rot of the Son.” Then we can agree.
is the endorsement of Jesus ministry as Son! The resurrection is the endorsement of Jesus’ sonship not the basis for his sonship.
Historic statements Athanasisus, the first biblical scholar, had three simple lines of logic that are very helpful for us: Argument #1: The names “The Father” and “The Son” are correlatives. You cannot have a son without a father, nor can you have a father without a son. Therefore, if the father is eternal then so too is the Son Argument # 2: The scriptures bear testimony to what God creates is temporal; what is truly God is eternal. The scriptures bear testimony that The Son is one in being with God The Father. Therefore, Jesus Argument # 3: To call God “Father” implies a son. A son implies begetting Therefore, the eternal Son must be begotten or the Son is eternally begotten. Athanasisus saw this doctrine of “Eternal sonship and Generation of the Son” as a safeguard against both Arianism, Modalism and Economic trinitarianism. He is right! Against Arianism: Jesus is eternal, Jesus is of the same substance and Jesus is equal in being yet different is subsistence. Against Modalism: Jesus is eternally distinct from the father and yet Jesus is of the same substance as the Father. Against Economic: Jesus is eternally separate from the father, Does not loose the Scriptural language of “Beget” and does not suggest any ontological subordination within the trinity. Augustine says this, “When we say begotten we mean the same as when we say “son.” Being son is a consequence of being begotten, and being begotten is implied by being son.”
Historic statements
Athanasisus, the first biblical scholar, had three simple lines of logic that are very helpful for us:
Argument #1: The names “The Father” and “The Son” are correlatives. You cannot have a son without a father, nor can you have a father without a son. Therefore, if the father is eternal then so too is the Son
Argument # 2: The scriptures bear testimony to what God creates is temporal; what is truly God is eternal. The scriptures bear testimony that The Son is one in being with God The Father. Therefore, Jesus
Argument # 3: To call God “Father” implies a son. A son implies begetting Therefore, the eternal Son must be begotten or the Son is eternally begotten.
Athanasisus saw this doctrine of “Eternal sonship and Generation of the Son” as a safeguard against both Arianism, Modalism and Economic trinitarianism. He is right!
Against Arianism: Jesus is eternal, Jesus is of the same substance and Jesus is equal in being yet different is subsistence.
Against Modalism: Jesus is eternally distinct from the father and yet Jesus is of the same substance as the Father.
Against Economic: Jesus is eternally separate from the father, Does not loose the Scriptural language of “Beget” and does not suggest any ontological subordination within the trinity.
Augustine says this, “When we say begotten we mean the same as when we say “son.” Being son is a consequence of being begotten, and being begotten is implied by being son.”
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