Perverse Evangelical Interpretation, Univocal Language, and Idolatry

..."perverse" evangelical interpretations of the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son not only disclose a profound ignorance of doctrinal history but also a profound misunderstanding of what theology is and how all theological language works. They assume that the meaning of words used of God must be derived from their use in everyday speech, referring to created realities, particularly words related to human birth. For the Nicene fathers, as we have shown, giving meaning to words used of God in this way only leads to error and heresy. To do so is to depict God in human terms, which is idolatry. Words used theologically are not to be given content or definition on the basis of human experience but are to be adapted to the proper object of reference-namely, God. No word can be used of God in exactly (univocally) the same way as it is used of creation since God is not a creature. This means specifically that the Son's begetting cannot be understood in terms of human begetting, nor can the divine names Father and Son be understood in terms of human fathers and sons.


Calvin and the Full Equality of the Divine Three

Calvin's insistence that the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son spoke not of the Father deifying the Son and thus of his subordination but rather of the full equality of the divine three in being and power and of their eternal divine self-differentiation became a characteristic of Reformed orthodoxy, maintained by Beza and by most Reformed theologians in the seventeenth century.


Common Statements of the Emanation of the Divine Essence

The common statements in the patristic trinitarianism respecting this emanation of the essence are the following: The Son is from the Father, not as an effect from a cause; not as an inferior from a superior; not as created finite substance from uncreated infinite substance; but as intelligence is from intellect, the river from the spring, the ray from the sun.


William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, ed. Alan W. Gomes, 3rd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub., 2003), 246.

Definition of the generation of the Son

It is that eternal and necessary act of the first person in the Trinity, whereby He, within the divine Being, is the ground of a second personal subsistence like His own, and puts this second person in possession of the whole divine essence, without any division, alienation, or change.


Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co., 1938), 94.