The Sonship of Jesus Christ - Refuting the Heresy of Eternal Generation (Part 1)Submitted by Pastor Chad Wagner on Saturday, April 11, 2015.
I. An overview of the debate concerning the Sonship of Christ 1. The doctrine of the sonship of Christ has been hotly debated among professing Christians for centuries. 2. There are those who contend that Jesus Christ is the eternally begotten Son of God. A. This doctrine is called eternal sonship or eternal generation. B. They teach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in his divine nature, and not merely in his human nature. C. They teach that Jesus Christ was begotten by God the Father in eternity and is therefore eternally begotten. D. This doctrine is widely held among Catholics, Protestants, and Baptists. i. "And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;" (Nicene Creed - First Council of Constantinople - 381AD (Catholic), Wikipedia) ii. Begotten, not made? (Rom 1:3) iii. "In this Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son." (Catholic Encyclopedia, The Dogma of the Trinity) iv. “the Son is eternally begotten of the Father” (Westminster Confession (Presbyterian), Ch.II, Section III, 1646) v. “the Son is eternally begotten of the Father” (1689 London Baptist Confession, Ch. 2, Section 3) vi. "Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ, He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary." (Southern Baptist Convention Statement of Faith) vii. "...the Son is eternally begotten of the Father..." (The 1900 Primitive Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter II - Of God and of the Holy Trinity, Mt. Moriah Primitive Baptist Church) viii. "The Lord hath said unto me, thou art my Son; not by creation, as angels and men; nor by adoption, as saints; nor by office, as civil magistrates; nor on account of his incarnation or resurrection....He is the true, proper, natural, and eternal Son of God, and as such declared, owned, and acknowledged by Jehovah the Father" (John Gill (Baptist), commenting on Psa 2:7) ix. ""therefore should be called the Son of God": not that he was now to become the "the Son of God"; he was so before his incarnation, and even from all eternity; but he was now to be manifested as such in human nature:" (John Gill (Baptist), commenting on Luk 1:35) x. "Further, to satisfy us that his kingdom is well-grounded upon his sonship, we are here told what his sonship is grounded on: This day have I begotten thee, which refers both to his eternal generation itself..." (Matthew Henry (Protestant), commenting on Psa 2:7) xi. "He is not just the only begotten Son of the Father, for He is also the eternally begotten Son of the Father." (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., God's Only Begotten Son) xii. "The doctrine of "eternal generation" was what the older theologians called this great truth. He did not become the only Son by His virgin birth. He was the only begotten Son from eternity, "set up from everlasting" (Proverbs 8:23)." (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., God's Only Begotten Son) 3. There are those who contend that Jesus Christ is the begotten Son of God in His humanity (His human nature, not His divine nature was begotten). A. This doctrine is called incarnate sonship. B. They teach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in his human nature, but not in his divine nature. C. They teach that Jesus Christ was begotten by God the Father in time in Mary's womb, and is therefore not eternally begotten. D. This position is the truth. II. Definitions of the words 1. Eternally adv. - In an eternal manner. 1. Chiefly with reference to God: ‘From everlasting and to everlasting’. 2. Eternal adj. - 1. a. Infinite in past and future duration; without beginning or end; that always has existed and always will exist: esp. of the Divine Being. 3. Begotten adj. - 1. Gotten. 2. Procreated. (Usually with only-, first-.) 1382 Wyclif John iii. 16 His oon bigetun sone. 4. Procreate v. - trans. To beget, engender, generate (offspring). 5. Generation - 1. a. The act or process of generating or begetting physically; procreation; propagation of species. 6. Son n. - 1. a. A male child or person in relation to either or to both of his parents. III. Questions 1. How can the "process of generating" be eternal? 2. How can a son be eternally procreated? 3. Since to be begotten is to come into existence, how could Jesus have eternally come into existence? 4. How can the divine nature of Christ have been begotten without it having a beginning? 5. Their answer: it's an inscrutable mystery. A. "In a word, the generation of the Son, and procession of the Spirit, however mysterious, are unavoidable corollaries from two facts. The essence of the Godhead is one; the persons are three. If these are both true, there must be some way, in which the Godhead multiplies its personal modes of subsistence, without multiplying or dividing its substance. The Scriptures call one of these modes a "genesi" and the other an "ekporeusi". We hence learn two truths. The Second and Third substances are eternally propagated in dissimilar modes. The inscrutable mode of the Second substance bears some mysterious analogy to the generation of human sons." (Robert L. Dabney, Systematic Theology, Ch. 16: Personal Distinctions in the Trinity) B. "The eternal generation of the Son is “beyond the sphere of time, and above the grasp of reason” (Gregory Nazianzen, Third Theological Oration, NPNF2 7.302)" (Eternal Generation of Son, The Upper Register) C. “On hearing of a Son, understand it not merely in an improper sense, but as a Son in truth, a Son by nature, without beginning … a Son eternally begotten by an inscrutable and incomprehensible generation … God is a Spirit; He who is a Spirit has spiritually begotten, as being incorporeal, an inscrutable and incomprehensible generation … And whenever you hear of God begetting, sink not down in thought to bodily things, nor think of a corruptible generation, lest you be guilty of impiety. God is a Spirit, His generation is spiritual: for bodies beget bodies, and for the generation of bodies time needs must intervene; but time intervenes not in the generation of the Son from the Father” (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 11.4-7, NPNF2 7.64-6) (Quoted from The Upper Register) 6. Inscrutable - That cannot be searched into or found out by searching; impenetrable or unfathomable to investigation; quite unintelligible, entirely mysterious. A. Is a Bible doctrine, such as the sonship of Christ, which is so basic and fundamental to the Christian faith (Act 8:37) really unfathomable, unintelligible, and incapable of being found out? B. The sonship of Christ is a great mystery (1Ti 3:16). i. But a mystery is not something that cannot be known, but is rather something than can be known by divine revelation. ii. Mystery - A religious truth known only from divine revelation; usually (cf. sense 5), a doctrine of the faith involving difficulties which human reason is incapable of solving. iii. Paul declared the mystery: God was manifest in the flesh (1Ti 3:16). iv. The sonship of Christ is knowable and understandable just like the other mysteries which are revealed in the scripture. v. One must simply read what has been written to understand the mystery (Eph 3:3-4). IV. Jesus became the Son of God when he was conceived by the virgin Mary. 1. The definitive verse which declares when Jesus became the Son of God is Luk 1:35. A. This verse explains why Jesus was called the Son of God. B. He was called the Son of God because He was conceived by the power of God. i. Therefore adv. - II. 2. In consequence of that; that being so; as a result or inference from what has been stated; consequently. ii. In other words, He was called the Son of God because God was His Father by supernaturally causing His conception. C. The holy thing that would be born of Mary was to be called the Son of God. i. In other words, the human baby that Mary gave birth to was the Son of God. ii. It was not the Word that was to be called the Son of God, but rather the holy thing which was born of Mary. D. The baby Jesus was to be called the Son of God. i. He was to be called the Son of God because that's what He was. ii. Things are called what they are. iii. For example: Eve was called Woman because she was created as a woman (Gen 2:23). 2. In the beginning was the Word who was God (Joh 1:1). A. The Word made all things (Joh 1:3). B. The Word was/is the second person of the Trinity (1Jo 5:7). C. The Word was not the Son prior to the incarnation. i. Joh 1:1 does NOT say "in the beginning was the Son..." ii. The Word was NOT begotten; He was God (Joh 1:1). D. The Word was made flesh (Joh 1:14). i. It was only after the Word was made flesh and dwelt among the apostles that they beheld His glory as the only begotten of the Father (Joh 1:14). ii. It was only after the Word was made flesh as the holy thing that was born of Mary that He was called the Son of God (Joh 1:14 c/w Luk 1:35). V. If the divine nature of Christ (the Word) is begotten, that makes him a begotten god. 1. By definition, to be begotten is to have a beginning. 2. God has no beginning; He is eternal (Psa 90:2; 1Ti 1:17). 3. To be begotten is to be formed (Jer 1:5). 4. If the Word who is God was begotten, then He would have been formed, which is both blasphemous, impossible, and untrue (Isa 43:10). 5. If Jesus' divine nature was eternally begotten, then he is a begotten god. A. This is pure paganism -- gods begetting gods; for example: i. "Osiris was an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead.... Osiris was at times considered the oldest son of the earth god Geb, and the sky goddess Nut, as well as being brother and husband of Isis, with Horus being considered his posthumously begotten son." (Osiris, Wikipedia) ii. "Horus is one of the oldest and most significant deities in ancient Egyptian religion, who was worshipped from at least the late Predynastic period through to Greco-Roman times. Different forms of Horus are recorded in history and these are treated as distinct gods by Egypt specialists." (Horus, Wikipedia) B. This damnable heresy is taught in the New American Standard Bible (NASB) which renders "begotten Son" as "begotten God" in Joh 1:18. VI. The phrases eternally begotten, eternal generation, and eternal Son are not found in scripture and are nonsensical and self-contradictory. 1. These terms are not only unscriptural, they are also illogical. 2. Each of these terms used by the proponents of eternal sonship are self-contradictions. A. Eternally begotten - Begetting happens in time and demands a beginning. Therefore to speak of something being eternally begotten is to speak of something eternally beginning, which is a contradiction of terms. B. Eternal generation - Generation is the act of procreation. Procreation demands a beginning. By definition, to be eternal is to be without beginning. Eternal generation is therefore a beginning without beginning, which is a contradiction of terms. C. Eternal Son - A son has a cause which is the action of his father. Something that is caused has a beginning. To be eternal is to be infinite in past duration and to have always existed. A son by definition cannot have always existed. An eternal son is a son without a beginning, which is a contradiction of terms. VII. Arguments for eternal sonship refuted 1. Argument #1: Alleged Old Testament references to the Son. A. All the places in the OT which refer to the Son are either spoken prophetically or are not referring to Christ. B. Psa 2:7,12 - "I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. 12) Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." i. The very wording "THIS DAY have I begotten thee" contradicts the heresy of eternal generation. There were no days in eternity past. ii. There is no need to guess as to when this begetting of the Son happened because the NT tells us exactly when it happened: when Christ was resurrected from the dead (Act 13:33-34). iii. This is when Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power (Rom 1:4). iv. The resurrection of Christ is elsewhere referred to as a begetting from the dead (Rev 1:5). a. It is in this sense that Jesus is the firstborn of every creature (Col 1:15), being the firstborn from the dead (Col 1:18). b. Jesus was the first that should rise from the dead (Act 26:23). c. He is the firstfruits of the resurrection of the dead (1Co 15:20). v. Far from referring to some inscrutable eternal generation of Christ, Psa 2:6-10 is a prophesy of the resurrection of Christ, when He would be setup as king of all creation, given the heathen (Gentiles) for an inheritance, and in all things have the preeminence (Col 1:18). C. Pro 8:22-23 - "The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. 23) I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was." i. These verses are speaking of wisdom which is referred to as a woman (Pro 8:1). a. If it is said to be speaking of "Christ the wisdom of God" (1Co 1:24), then it is clear that poetic language is being used, as Jesus is a man, not a woman. b. Furthermore, it is Christ, not the Son, who is called the wisdom of God; therefore if the verses prove that the Son existed from everlasting, then it also proves that the Christ existed from everlasting (more on that later). ii. God possessed wisdom from eternity and His wisdom was manifested in Christ, who is the wisdom of God, when God was manifest in the flesh (1Ti 3:16). iii. These verses say nothing of God begetting a Son in eternity. D. Pro 30:4 - "Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?" i. In this verse Agur asks a series of questions, of which God is the obvious and only answer to all of them (Job 38:4-11; Psa 104:2-9; Isa 40:12-14). ii. Agur is asking rhetorically if there is anyone else who can claim these attributes. a. If there is someone else, he then asks, "what is his name?". b. Agur is not asking for the name of God, for he already knows it is the LORD (Jehovah) (Pro 30:9). c. Therefore he is not asking for the name of God's son, but for the name man's son who has those impossible attributes. iii. This verse says nothing of God having a Son prior to the incarnation of Christ. E. Mic 5:2 - "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." i. This verse is a prophecy of Jesus Christ being born in Bethlehem (Mat 2:4-6). ii. In that Jesus is the Word made flesh (Joh 1:14), and the Word was God in the beginning (Joh 1:1), therefore Jesus' goings forth have been from everlasting (Mic 5:2). iii. This verse says nothing of God having a Son prior to the incarnation, nor of eternal generation. F. Dan 3:25 - "He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." i. King Nebuchadnezzar made this proclamation that the forth man in the furnace looked "like the Son of God". ii. How would Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan king, know what the Son of God looked like? iii. This is the same man who said (or it was said of): a. "...he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god." (Dan 1:2) b. "...do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?" (Dan 3:14) c. "...who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" (Dan 3:15) d. "But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and before him I told the dream, saying, O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee..." (Dan 4:8-9) e. "...but thou art able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee." (Dan 4:18) iv. What Christian is going to base his doctrine of the sonship of Christ on the words of a pagan, polytheistic king? v. If one is going to learn Christology from the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar, then he better read Neb's own commentary in which he identified the man who looked "like the Son of God" to be an angel (Dan 3:28). vi. This verse is hardly a proof that God had a Son prior to the incarnation of Christ.
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