Monday, February 8, 2010

Steve on Eternal Generation

Steve Hays responded to my posts on the Trinity. (link) My response is long, so I will break it into four parts, Steve’s view and my view on Consubstantiality and Steve’s view and my view on Eternal Generation.

a) The Bible doesn’t teach the eternal generation of the Son. Not that I can see.

b) There is also the exegetical question as to whether the Bible even applies that specific metaphor to Christ. Most NT scholars and lexicographers challenge the traditional rendering of monogenes.


The passages with ‘gennao’ (Acts 13:33, Heb 1:5, 5:5) are not really in question, even if those with monogenes are. Do you really question if begotten (or Fathered) applies to Christ? That goes against some rather plain scriptural statements.

BTW, the 381AD version of the Nicene Creed says “begotten of the Father before all worlds”. Same with the Athanasian Creed: “begotten before the worlds”. Likewise the 39 articles of the church of England: “begotten from everlasting of the Father”. Same with the WCF “the Son is eternally begotten of the Father”. Same with the London Baptist Confession “the Son is eternally begotten of the Father”. Yet you say the Son was not eternally begotten and question if He was begotten at all. Do you see why I question if your views are in line with the church at large?

In fact, when the author of Hebrews (7:3,16) tells us that Jesus is the Melchizdekian priest, he explicitly and emphatically denies that Jesus is begotten. He uses three alpha primitive compounds to accentuate the fact that Jesus is ingenerate and inoriginate.

No, that’s not what the text says. Here’s the text:

Hebrews 7:1This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, 2and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, his name means "king of righteousness"; then also, "king of Salem" means "king of peace." 3Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever.

The three statements (Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life ) are about Melchizedek, not Christ. The three statements demonstrate that Melchizedek’s priesthood is eternal (at least we are not told of its beginning or end).

Nor is the ‘without father or mother’ language the point of analogy between Melchizedek and Christ, since Christ is called the Son of God. Rather, the point of analogy is eternal priesthood. The passage says Melchizedek ‘remains a priest forever’, and then says ‘Jesus continues forever’, and He ‘has a permanent priesthood’ and ‘He always lives to make intercession’. Even the underlying Psalm declares Him “a Priest Forever according to the order of Melchizedek”.

So ‘eternal priesthood’, not being un-begotten, is the point of analogy.

Also, chapter 5 says:
4 And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was. 5 So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him:
You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.”
6 As He also says in another place:
You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek”;
7 who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, 8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, 10 called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek,”
That Christ is begotten and God’s Son is clearly reconcilable with His being a Priest in the Order of Melchizedek.

e) And even when he applies gennao language (in distinction to genes language) to Jesus in 1:5, one needs to understand that period usage drew a distinction between generation and self-generation–where self-generation was a figurative synonym for eternality.

Bauckham somehow manages to conclude that Christ is unbegotten from the scriptures' statement that Christ is begotten, based on Sibyl’s claim God is unbegotten. (p.52) Helenistic Jews probably did think of the Father as unbegotten, but that just sharpens the distinction between begotten and unbegotten rather than transformimg begotten into unbegotten.

The passage is “I have begotten you”. ‘I’ is the Father and ‘you’ is the Son. So the Father begets the Son. So the passage does not say the Son is self-begotten or un-begotten; it rules out those ideas.

f) I have also argued for the eternal Sonship of Christ. That’s a related metaphor, but a different metaphor. It’s much better attested in Scripture than generation. It’s a complex metaphor, with a variety of connotations. Depending on the context, the Sonship of Christ sometimes connotes an economic status, but at other times an intrinsic status.

Given Christ’s Sonship and being under the Father’s authority were before the foundation of the world, what’s the basis for a distinction between an economic and intrinsic status?

I already dealt with that in my post on K√∂stenberger. You’re behind the curve.

Here’s what you said about John 6:57 on Kostenberger:

To refer 5:26 to the immanent Trinity is pantheistic. For the “life” in question is a communicable attribute (v21; 6:57). If the life which Jesus imparts to others is the same kind of life that the Father imparts to Jesus, then we have a pantheistic chain-of-being.

iv) I think 5:26 is making a different point. You can only give what you have. Because God is the living God, he can give life to others (6:57). That’s how he can be the Creator. And it also makes him the recreator of the dead–with a view to the resurrection of Jesus as well as the resurrection of the just.

In context, the type of life which God imparts to Jesus, and Jesus imparts to others, is resurrection life (5:21). (link)


I agree with your view of John 5, but not its cross-application to John 6.

Here’s the text: As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.

So the Son proceeds from the Father (the living Father sent me) and is alive because of the Father (I live because of the Father) and those united with Christ (he who eats Me), will live because of Christ (will live because of me.) Rather than the Son having life to dispense because of the Father, He is alive because of the Father. The point of analogy is not the type of life; no one ever created, recreated or resurrected the Father, rather He has the power to create, recreate and resurrect. Rather, the point of emphasis is on “because of”. The Father is the source of the Son’s life and the Son is the source of our life.

Hence we use the Son’s being alive because of the Father to understand the metaphor of the Father’s generation of the Son.

“Further, we have passages where the Father gives authority to the Son: Philippians 2:9-11 9; Matthew 28:18; John 17:2; John 5:22-26 22; Ephesians 1:22-23 22; Hebrews 1:2; Mark 9:37; John 7:16’ Acts 3:13.”

That has reference to his economic status. The Messianic heir of God’s kingdom. That hardly underwrites eternal generation. To copy/paste quotes from Scripture is a poor substitute for exegesis.


The Father’s authority over the Son from before the foundation of the world (not just since the incarnation) helps us understand the metaphor of His begetting the Son. His authority is based on who He is, not some agreement the pre-Father makes with the pre-Son as to who gets to be Father and who will play the role of Son.

I also deny your assumption that if creation initiates time, then God acquires a temporal property by making the world.

Fair enough. We disagree on this point, but I haven’t criticized the B-theory of time because it hasn’t become all that relevant yet.

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