Theological use of 'Begotten'

The theological use of [begotten] makes the infinite difference between human begetting and divine begetting explicit by the addition of the word eternal.17 What is temporal is part of this world that God created; what is eternal is divine. When God created the world he created time. He himself is not limited or constrained by time. He is the Lord of time. Thus to speak of the eternal begetting of the Son is to speak of what takes place within the life of God, of a reality outside of human experience, not definable in human categories, and not bounded by temporal constraints.

 


The Word 'Begotten'

...the word begotten, when used of the divine Son, cannot be understood in terms of human begetting, most obviously because, although he had an earthly birth and a human mother, he also existed before his human birth and incarnation, yet he had no divine mother. The early theologians settled on the term "begotten" (gennao) to speak of the eternal generation of the Son because they found it repeatedly in Scripture...

 


Summary of Eternal Begetting

  • The eternal begetting of the Son does not involve a change in God. God is eternally triune; he does not become a Trinity in time. There never was a time when the Son (or the Spirit) was not.

  • The eternal begetting of the Son cannot be likened to human generation, except on one matter: like produces like, and thus fathers and their offspring are of the same nature. Divine begetting is "immaterial," "spiritual," like the unceasing light coming from the sun, or "light from light," or the utterance of the divine Word.

  • The eternal begetting of the Son is not to be understood in terms of temporal, contingent causation or as human begetting in the created order. The eternal generation of the Son and procession of the Spirit are necessary divine acts ad intra. Nothing is produced outside of God.

  • The Son, on the basis of his eternal begetting, is to be confessed as "true God from true God, one in being [homoousios] with the Father."

  • The eternal begetting of the Son eternally and indelibly differentiates the Father and the Son as "unbegotten God" and "begotten God." It does not differentiate or separate them in being or power, or as underived deity (the Father) and derived deity (the Son and the Spirit), or as contingent and noncontingent God. The Father, the Son and the Spirit all possess aseity. They are each "true God," each self-existent God.

 


Cappadocian Fathers and Knowing God Christologically

[The Cappadocian fathers] would not allow that logic or rational arguments are ways of knowing God, which for them is what theo-logy is all about, or that human analogies or the meaning of words as they apply to creation can tell us anything about God. For them the path to knowing God is prayerful reflection on the Scriptures read holistically and christologically.

 


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.