The early church held to the eternal generation of the Son of God, which can be defined as “the unique property [characteristic, attribute] of the Son in relation to the Father. Since God is eternal, the relation between the Father and the Son is eternal” (Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity, 499). Augustine provided a helpful analogy: it’s not like “water flowing out from a hole in the ground or in the rock, but like light flowing from light” (De trin. IV.27, 172).

Keith Johnson summarizes the teaching in a bit more technical detail: “the Father eternally, necessarily, and incomprehensibly communicates the divine essence to the Son without division or change so that the Son shares an equality of nature with the Father yet is also distinct from the Father” (“Augustine, Eternal Generation, and Evangelical Trinitarianism,” TrinJ 32 [2011]: 141-163).

This understanding is reflected in the original wording of the Nicene Creed (325 AD):

[We believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.

If you want a very careful summary and introduction to Augustine’s De trinitate (On the Trinity), see  Johnson’s Rethinking the Trinity and Religious Pluralism: An Augustinian Assessment (IVP, 2011). For those, like me, who aren’t actively interesting in the issue of pluralism as it relates to the Trinity, I would recommend simply reading his summary exposition of Augustine’s work.

The doctrine has fallen on hard times, however, and some of the evangelical theologians I admire the most don’t think that the idea is biblical.

A full exegetical defense is obviously beyond the scope of a blog post, but I thought it might be helpful to excerpt a couple of sections from those who do think the idea is biblically defensible and theologically indispensable. These selections provide some helpful angles on this ancient doctrine.

First, in his new systematic theology—written with no footnotes except for biblical references!—Gerald Bray writes in God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012):

The framework within which we must understand the true meaning of “generation” with respect to the second person of the Trinity is established by the discipline of law, not by biology or grammar. As a legal principle, “generation” is fully consistent with the covenant principle and the structure of Old Testament revelation that provides the basic framework for understanding God’s saving work. The relationship of the first to the second person of the Trinity is based on the concept of inheritance. The Son has been appointed the heir of all things, and it is in this sense that he is described as the firstborn of all creation [Col. 1:15-16; Heb. 1:2; see also Gal. 4:7]. By the law of primogeniture, the firstborn is the one who receives the inheritance, as the story of Esau and Jacob reminds us [Gen. 27:18-35; Jacob (the younger son) stole his brother's inheritance by impersonating him in the presence of his blind father Isaac].

In human affairs the language of inheritance is normally attached to the process of birth and human reproduction, but not always—it is quite possible to leave a legacy to someone totally unrelated to the donor, or to adopt others with the intention of giving them an inheritance, as God has done with us [Gal. 3:29; Eph. 3:6]. The concept is flexible and can be applied to different situations by choice, not merely by necessity, which makes it so valuable for understanding both our relationship to God and the relationship of the Son to the Father.

The use of Father-Son language serves the additional purpose of emphasizing the underlying unity of being that binds them together and makes it possible for us to say that the Son is the Father’s natural heir, whereas we are heirs only by the grace of adoption. “Like father, like son” is a well-known popular expression that conveys the essence of this and reminds us that, just as a human child shares the nature of his parents, so the Son of God must share the nature of his Father if he is to be a genuine Son. The shared being and nature are inherent in the terminology used to describe them. It is true that angels, and perhaps other heavenly beings, are occasionally called “sons of God” in the Old Testament, but this refers to their spiritual nature, which is like that of God himself, and is not connected to any inheritance that might be reserved for them [Gen. 6:2-4; Job 1:6; 2:1]. In that sense, the Son is the only begotten, as the prologue to John’s Gospel specifies and as the creeds of the early church repeat [John 1:14].

D. A. Carson, writing in his Gospel according to John Pillar commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), looks at a very interesting verse: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:26). Carson writes:

The logical For (gar) is important: this verse explains how it is that the Son can exercise divine judgment and generate resurrection life by his powerful word. It is because, like God, he has life-in-himself. God is self-existent; he is always ‘the living God’. Mere human beings are derived creatures; our life comes from God, and he can remove it as easily as he gave it. But to the Son, and to the Son alone, God has imparted life-in-himself.

This cannot mean that the Son gained this prerogative only after the incarnation. The Prologue has already asserted of the pre-incarnate Word, ‘In him was life’ (1:4). The impartation of life-in-himself to the Son must be an act belonging to eternity, of a piece with the eternal Father/Son relationship, which is itself of a piece with the relationship between the Word and God, a relationship that existed ‘in the beginning’ (1:1). That is why the Son himself can be proclaimed as ‘the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us’ (1 Jn. 1:2).

Many systematicians have tied this teaching to what they call ‘the eternal generation of the Son’. This is unobjectionable, though ‘the eternal generation of the Son’ should probably not be connected with the term monogenēs (sometimes translated ‘only begotten': cf. notes on 1:18). In the immediate context, it is this eternal impartation of life-in-himself to the Son that grounds his authority and power to call the dead to life by his powerful word.

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Comments:


41 thoughts on “Is the Eternal Generation of the Son Really a Biblical Idea?”

  1. Lee Irons says:

    Good post. I am glad that the doctrine is being revived today, probably because of the renewed interest in the church fathers. One small but important point: Carson thinks the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son should not be tied to the Greek term *monogenes* but the case for translating the term “only begotten” is stronger than many think. See my paper here: http://www.upper-register.com/papers/monogenes.html

  2. John T. "Jack" Jeffery says:

    Anyone desiring to pursue this subject further should not neglect the following sources:

    James Petigru Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology (n.p., 1887), pp. 136-155, s.v. Ch. XV, “Personal Relations in Trinity”, on Founders Ministries at http://www.founders.org/library/boyce1/ch15.html, with other digital formats available at http://www.founders.org/library/founders.html [accessed 21 MAR 2012].

    Isaak August Dorner, and Patrick Fairbairn, History of the Development of the Doctrine of the Person of Christ, Vol. XVIII in Clark’s Foreign Theological Library, Third Series, Trans. William Lindsay Alexander, David Worthington Simon (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1863; New York Public Library original digitized July 19, 2006), pp. 426-427; At Google Books
    http://books.google.com/books?id=WhUPAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA426&lpg=PA426&dq=treffry+eternal+sonship&source=web&ots=b6GPp2avfr&sig=pUxRflVt15OHcmStcbvv4amhKcc#PPR8,M1accessed [accessed 2 MAR 2010].

    John Gill, “A Dissertation concerning the Eternal Sonship of Christ; shewing by whom it has been denied and opposed, and by whom asserted and defended in all ages of Christianity”, in Sermons and Tracts (Choteau, MT: Old Paths Gospel Press, n.d.; from 1814 original by W. Hardcastle, London), VI:178-221; on Providence Baptist Ministries at http://www.pbministries.org/books/gill/Sermons&Tracts/sermon_17.htm [accessed 12 MAR 2012].

    John MacArthur, “Reexamining the Eternal Sonship of Christ”, on Grace To You at
    http://www.gty.org/Resources/articles/593 [accessed 12 MAR 2012].

    J. C. Philpot, The Eternal Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ (Choteau, MT: Old Paths Gospel Press, n.d.); on The Highway at http://www.the-highway.com/Sonship_Contents.html [accessed 12 MAR 2012].

    Richard Treffry, An Inquiry into the Doctrine of the Eternal Sonship of our Lord Jesus Christ
    4th ed. (London: Wesleyan Conference Office, 1865); on Google Books at http://books.google.com/books?id=TYwTAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=treffry#v=onepage&q=&f=false [accessed 12 MAR 2012]
    Concerning this work, William Cunningham wrote:
    “On this field I am not called upon to enter; and it is the less necessary, as there is a very accessible book, published a few years ago, in which the whole subject is most fully and minutely discussed with great ability, and in an admirable spirit – I mean Treffry on “The Eternal Sonship of our Lord Jesus Christ,” where the doctrines which I have endeavoured briefly to state and explain are, I think, established by unanswerable evidence from the word of God.” (pg. 302)
    “Treffry’s admirable work shows that some of these alleged modes of filiation or grounds of Sonship have no foundation whatever in Scripture, – i.e., are not adduced and represented there as the reasons why Christ is called the Son of God; and that, in regard to all of them, the evidence is much more defective and uncertain than might at first sight appear, – that, in short, the ordinary and general, if not the exclusive, application of the title, Son of God, to Christ, describes or indicates a relation subsisting between Him and the first person of the Godhead from eternity.” (pg. 303)
    William Cunningham, Historical Theology: A review of the principal doctrinal discussions in the Christian Church since the Apostolic Age, 2 vols. (Edmonton, AB Canada: Still Waters Revival Books, n.d.; 1991 reprint of 1882 first ed.), I:302-303

    W. E. Vine, The Divine Sonship of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, Inc., n.d.; 1984 reprint from Pickering & Inglis, London, original).

    See also other sources listed on Monergism at http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Jesus-Christ/Eternal-Sonship/ [accessed 12 MAR 2012].

  3. MarkO says:

    What concerns me is that I’ve been hearing various Christian leaders using the ideas about “eternal generation” as a basis (among others) for their affirmation of “eternal subordination of roles in the Trinity.”

    I regard “eternal subordination of roles” as an error regarding the Trinity and “eternal generation” as a legit explanation of mutuality within the Trinity.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      From what I’ve heard, those who hold to a subordination in role tend to deny eternal generation.

    2. Michael says:

      Don’t the terms “Father” and “Son” imply subordination, not to mention all the verses we could bring forth as evidence? It seems the reason to deny subordination is a presupposition that it can not be true because complementarianism can not be true.

      1. MarkO says:

        @Michael, I think your question is one that many evangelical assume is answered with a yes.

        However, if God has one nature and thus has one will, the Son within the essence of the Godhead cannot be subordinate. Otherwise, within the eternal essence of the Trinity the Son would have to have a separate will so He could submit to the Father.

        Only in His passage through the work of Redemption as the Second Adam did the Son submit His Person to God. In eternity the Son remains co-equal (of the same rank and position) as the Father.

        When I came to understand that “seated at the right hand” means co-regency the beauty of Melchidezek brighten in my heart. Jesus is presently our kingly Priest, our priestly King. (note: I was not aware of this beautiful truth while in the Dispensational camp)

        As for complementarianism there is plenty of other data to wrestle with in Scripture without tampering with the Trinity.

        Subordinationism outright was ruled a heresy around the time of Arius.

        those are my thots – hope that is helpful

        1. Michael says:

          Thanks MarkO. I realized after I wrote the comment that it might sound like I was talking about subordinationISM, when I had in mind subordination (submission) in roles. I could have used more clear language.

        2. Ted Bigelow says:

          Hi MarkO:

          Perhaps I can help?

          You wrote, “Otherwise, within the eternal essence of the Trinity the Son would have to have a separate will so He could submit to the Father.”

          If I read you correctly you see a divide in wills where there ought not be one – the Father’s will to be in authority and an alternate will in the Son’s to submit to that authority.

          Could John 8:29 help here: “He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.”

          Jesus’ claim here to *always* do the things that are pleasing to the Father isn’t limited to His incarnation but reaches back to the eternal plan of redemption (John 8:28). Otherwise “always” loses it’s force if we require of it only an incarnational time stamp, for it certainly can not mean that the Son did not please the Father in eternity. Hence “always” carries the force of eternity.

          So there has always been one will in the Trinity – which will includes the Father to rule and the Son to submit. Like one coin has two sides, otherwise it’s not a coin. For if in eternity past the Son was not submissive to the Father but was only submissive in the incarnation then we have been denied a true picture of the actual relationship of the Son to the Father in the incarnation. The incarnation muddies their actual relationship since it does not perfectly portray who they are in nature.

          And if the incarnation misrepresents what God is actually like then we are misled in our worship to pray in Jesus’ name since such a prayer is aimed at the Son’s glory in His Father’s superior position (John 14:12-13). If the incarnation fumbles the real nature of God as He exists within himself then we are idolators in our every prayer and walk about still in darkness.

          But we are assured in Scripture that the incarnation perfectly represents God’s nature, especially at the cross: “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” See, no difference :).

          1. MarkO says:

            “at the right hand” is an expression of equal authority, co-regency, and affirms the sameness of rank

            …and there is no coin with regard to the Father being on one side and the Son on the other. We believe in the Trinity. The illustration might work if we could find a 3 sided coin.

            As for “always” in John 8:29 this looks to me like only one facet of the diamond mutuality within the Trinity. Later we read that the Father “always” does the Son’s bidding. There the Father is described as a servant to the Son. When we take all the data into account we find not subordination within the Godhead, but mutual deference.

            1. Ted Bigelow says:

              MarkO,

              ““at the right hand” is an expression of equal authority, co-regency, and affirms the sameness of rank”

              Hmmm, it didn’t mean this to Jesus: “But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” Reading Jesus’ words through your statement would mean someone in the future kingdom will have equal authority and rank as Him. Haha.

              The right hand in His kingdom wasn’t even His to give. So if Jesus is right now at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:34) how come Jesus subordinates that future decision to the Father if they are of equal authority?

              …and there is no coin with regard to the Father being on one side and the Son on the other. We believe in the Trinity. The illustration might work if we could find a 3 sided coin.

              Dismissing the analogy doesn’t dismiss it’s point.

              “Later we read that the Father “always” does the Son’s bidding.” Where?

  4. rk says:

    Justin,

    Would you recommend Gerald Bray’s God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology?

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Yes. Few know historical and systematic theology better than Bray. It is more introductory than the standard reformed ST, but I think it’s creative and well-worth reading. It also covers some issues in greater depth than usual.

      1. rk says:

        thank you!

  5. John T. "Jack" Jeffery says:

    FYI: Lee Irons’ paper that he mentions in his comment above from the Upper Register is also linked on the Monergism site I listed in my previous comment.

  6. Brannon Ellis says:

    Justin,

    Great reminder. Thankfully, there’s been renewed theological interest in this doctrine in the last several years.

    Still, most of the defense of eternal generation going on today is just that: a well-founded desire to uphold creedal orthodoxy (and its biblical basis) against nay-saying (or neglect), but with very little positive theological depth or development. When’s the last time anyone in your circles had a good long conversation about why the doctrines of the immanent divine processions of the Son and the Spirit are crucial for the Christian doctrine of God and his works of creation and redemption?

    There will actually be a new ETS session on trinitarian theology this year, which will be devoted to the significance of eternal generation in historical and systematic theology, including such notables as Fred Sanders and Michel R. Barnes. I’ve got a book on this coming out with Oxford this summer (http://tinyurl.com/7pyy4gk), and I’ll be participating in the ETS session as well.

    Thanks again for the post, blessings,

    Brannon

    1. John T. "Jack" Jeffery says:

      Brannon Ellis: Thank you for this “heads up” both on ETS and your book!

  7. Josh Malone says:

    Justin,

    Glad to see your post. I’m actually writing my doctoral thesis on eternal generation so I’m thinking about it a lot these days. You are right that the doctrine has fallen on hard times amongst evangelicals, and interestingly skepticism abounds even where there has been renewed interest in the Trinity. Seems like there are a number of reasons for the concern. One is related to what came up in the comment thread above – the assumption that the Trinity serves as an analog for human social relations has caused confusion regarding the doctrine (both for and against). Such difficulties are lessened, perhaps removed, if the assumption of an analog is interrogated. Another concern relates to what it means for a doctrine to be “biblical.” Those who tend to view the task of theology as primarily biblical summary are worried there is no verse or explicit statement of Scripture that explicates the doctrine; they challenge it on the basis of a word like monogenes. However, biblical summary alone, while critically important, does come up short when reflecting on Trinitarian doctrine. The historical moment when this came to the fore would be the Arian controversy; Arius was a deeply “biblical” theologian, brilliant at summary and synthesis, but he denied that the Son was son by nature – that he was “begotten, not made” as the creed puts it. The argument Nicaea made against Arius, of course, involved biblical summary, but it also required that the church to draw theological judgments about what the biblical terms “Father” and “Son” meant metaphysically. Biblical summary pointed the way, but not in the form of an explicit statement, an individual word, or one verse – rather the whole sense of who Jesus Christ was as Son of the Father.

    All this to say, it’s great that we are talking about the doctrine as evangelicals, and I think it has the potential to help us consider more carefully what the task of theology is about at its core. That’s my hope anyway. Thanks for flagging it up.

  8. Sphen says:

    Was there a time when the Logos did not exist as a distinct person? Not speaking of the incarnation, does the bible ever speek of the “begetting” of the Word?

    There is actually some evidence from the church fathers that the answer to both of these questions is yes.

    Col 1:15
    15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (genitive case).

    John 8:42
    Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God (preposition “ek” is used: “out from within”); nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.

    There are also some problematic texts for those who embrace the co-equal, co-eternal model, which was not articulated until Athanasius and Augustine:

    John 20:17
    17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them,’I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.'”
    NKJV

    John 17:3-4
    3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
    NKJV

    1 Cor 8:5-6
    5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.
    NKJV

    Eph 1:17-18
    17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,
    NKJV

    At least 14 times in the NT, the Father is called the “God” of Jesus Christ. The standard model that we are all taught is not without its textual issues.

  9. Sphen says:

    Here’s how someone I know put it:

    1. The Son is “God” in substance and nature
    2. The Begotten takes the name of the Begetter
    3. The Messenger uses the name of the One He represents

  10. Stephen says:

    Sphen, all those verses are actually the reason why the doctrine of eternal generation came about, don’t you think? John MacArthur’s article on the subject was helpful to me (John Jeffery lists it above); there was a time when he believed that the Father and Son were identical in relationship (‘brother’ and ‘brother’ I suppose) but only became Father and Son at the incarnation, but verses like the ones you gave impressed upon MacArthur that the begetting nature of the Trinity was something outside of Creation. Other verses like John 1:1, 8:58, Titus 2:13, etc. make clear the eternal existence of Jesus as distinct from the Father in person.

  11. steve hays says:

    It’s important to distinguish between two similar sounding, but different propositions: (a) the eternal Sonship of Christ; (b) the eternal generation of the Son. These involve different arguments, prooftexts, literary allusions, and concepts. Although (b) entails (a), (a) does not entail (b).

  12. steve hays says:

    “The relationship of the first to the second person of the Trinity is based on the concept of inheritance.”

    That has reference to the economic Trinity, not the immanent Trinity. Otherwise, you end up with an adoptionist Christology.

    1. Ted Bigelow says:

      Exactly. Thnaks!

  13. steve hays says:

    “In the immediate context, it is this eternal impartation of life-in-himself to the Son that grounds his authority and power to call the dead to life by his powerful word.”

    The problem with that interpretation is that Jn 5:26 describes a process of transmission from Father to Son to Christians. If the same type of life is imparted in each instance, and that type of life is essentially divine, then that would be pantheistic, deifying Christians.

  14. Sam Waldron says:

    I think one of the most troubling features of modern evangelicalism is its drift from historic Trinitarianism on the subject of the eternal generation of the Son. Clearly, eternal generation is one of the most prominent features of the Nicene Creed. If eternal generation is rejected, the Nicene Creed is rejected. What should we think of a non-Nicene evangelicalism?

    But let me make two particular comments. First, one confusing factor in discussions of the doctrine of Trinity is that most people seem to think that there are only two kinds of subordination involved in the arguments over the Trinity. Actually, there are three. There is essential subordination. This says that the being of the Son is a kind of diluted deity or lesser godhood. It is associated with the Logos Christology in the early church. This is what is properly known as Subordinatioonism. There is also ecoonomic subordination. This is the subordination associated with the economy of salvation. I know of no one who objects to this. There is, however, also a third kind of subordination which does not pertain either to the essence of the Godhead or the historical economy of salvation. It is what may be called hypostatic or personal subordination. If the Son is eternally derived as to their persons from the Father, as the Nicene Creed emphatically teaches, it seems indisputable to me that this means there is a kind of personal–not essential–subordination between them. It is because Calvin believed in eternal generation in this way that he could teach both the self-existence of the Son and the eternal generation of the Son without contradiction. Self-existence has to do with His essence, eternal generation has to do with His person.

    And that brings to my second comment. It is the eternal generation of the Son and the kind of eternal relationship it implies, that is or ought to be the true ground and orientation of the functional, eternal subordination of the Son to the Father which it has become common to affirm in the arguments of the Complementarians. Sadly, I think some Complementarians have lamed their arguments for such subordination by not grounding it in the biblical and Nicene doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son.

    1. John T. "Jack" Jeffery says:

      What you express about “the most troubling features” and the “confusing factor” resonates with me. Your explanation of the “kinds” of subordination presents very helpful distinctions that need to be kept in mind on this subject.

  15. steve hays says:

    Sam Waldron

    “And that brings to my second comment. It is the eternal generation of the Son and the kind of eternal relationship it implies, that is or ought to be the true ground and orientation of the functional, eternal subordination of the Son to the Father which it has become common to affirm in the arguments of the Complementarians. Sadly, I think some Complementarians have lamed their arguments for such subordination by not grounding it in the biblical and Nicene doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son.”

    Why is it somehow inadequate to ground complementarianism in our doctrine of creation rather than our doctrine of the Trinity? If God designed men and women to differ from each other in complementary respects, why is that insufficient grounds?

    1. MarkO says:

      Amen! Thanks for pointing this out Steve. I agree. They don’t need to tamper with the Trinity in order to prove complementarianism. As you say, we have sufficient other data in Scripture to make that point (in both the OT and NT).

      The problem is that some compl. want to see “make man in Our image” as justification for reading human subordination back up into the Trinity. BUT, God did not say let us make “society” in Our image.

  16. pduggie says:

    so eternal generation and the relationship of Father and Son is a legal concept, related to covenant?

    I heard people wildly accuse that view of tritheism, once.

    1. John T. "Jack" Jeffery says:

      Brandon: Thank you very much for this link.

  17. Edward Morris says:

    Justin,
    Your wrote “The doctrine has fallen on hard times, however, and some of the evangelical theologians I admire the most don’t think that the idea is biblical.” Is it possible to get the names of those who do not think the idea is biblical or a list of their writings to read?

    Also, does the eternal generation of the Son mean He is auto theos from the Father of from the essence of God (which He is God)?

    Thanks
    Ed M

  18. Jacob Young says:

    Where would John Owen’s work on the Trinity stand on this subject? Is he helpful?

    1. Andrew Moody says:

      [T]heir order herein [ie. in salvation history] doth follow that of subsistence. Unto this great work there are peculiarly required, authority, love and power, all directed by infinite wisdom. These originally reside in the first person of the Father, and the acting of them in this matter is constantly ascribed unto him. He sent the Son, as he gives the Spirit, by an act of sovereign authority. …The Son, who is the second person in the order of subsistence, in the order of operation puts the whole authority, love and power of the Father in execution. This order of subsistence and operation is expressly declared by the apostle, 1 Cor. 8.6. …The Father is the original fountain and spring, ejx ou{, from whom, …are all these things.

      – John Owen, A Declaration of the Mystery of the Person of Christ

      (so a traditional pre-Calvin view of the Father as font – I’m not sure if he’d describe it as “eternal generation” though – see distinction below)

      1. John T. "Jack" Jeffery says:

        FYI: The citation of Owen above by Andrew Moody is from John Owen, Christologia; or, A Declaration of the Glorious Mystery of the Person of Christ – God and Man (Oxford, 1655), in The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, n.d.; 1976 printing of Johnstone & Hunter ed. of 1850-1853), 1:219.

        See also pg. 13 in the work cited, and the following:
        Vindiciae Evangelicae; or, The Mystery of the Gospel Vindicated and Socinianism Examined (Oxford, 1655), in The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, n.d.; 1976 printing of Johnstone & Hunter ed. of 1850-1853), 12:73-74.

        1. John T. "Jack" Jeffery says:

          FYI: The citation by Andrew Moody appears to be from an edited version of Owen, and not verbatim from the Banner/Johnstone & Hunter volume of Owen’s “Works” that I listed.

    2. John T. "Jack" Jeffery says:

      Jacob Young: To answwer your question – Owen is always helpful! :-) However, that being said, his “Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity” (Vol. 2 of his “Works”), would not be the first place I would go on this subject. Where he deals specifically with Christology this issue is addressed: Christologia; or, A Declaration of the Glorious Mystery of the Person of Christ – God and Man (Oxford, 1655), in The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, n.d.; 1976 printing of Johnstone & Hunter ed. of 1850-1853), 1:13 – 17, s.v. Ch. III. See also the brief treatment I mentioned above in Vol. 12.

  19. Andrew Moody says:

    I have not yet read Dr Bray’s new book but it seems odd that talk of a “genuine son” who shares his parents nature should be set against eternal generation. I wonder if we are dealing with the slight nuance here between eternal generation (the eternal coming-forth imagined as complete yet ongoing process) and birth “before the ages”. This is typically an East-West division of thinking.

    btw – as well as commending Lee Irons’ very helpful article (see above), I can also recommend work by Jung S, Rhee:
    http://www.jsrhee.com/QA/thesis1.htm

    1. John T. "Jack" Jeffery says:

      Andrew Moody: Thank you very much for posting this link to Rhee’s thesis. I noticed that 3 of the 5 chapters were also linked on on the Mongerism site I mentioned in my comment above, but they seemed to be “broken”. I wrote to Monergism about this, and sent along the correct URLs (thanks to you!), so hopefully all five chapters will now be made available there with functional links.

      I agree with your finding as “odd” anyone who would speak of genuine sonship, i.e. including shared nature, as being somehow opposed to the doctrine of eternal generation. What is seen as proof to the orthodox somehow affirms denial for the heterodox. I am not sure if can be attributed to the “nuance” you mention, but it certainly does not stand the test of Scripture of sound theology.

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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