25 – Ontological Reality – Begotten from Eternity of the Father

Begotten from Eternity of the Father

OUTLINE

The purpose of this study is to understand the doctrine Christology ontologically, begotten from eternal by the Father. Begotten from eternity is not a philosophical speculation, nor a theological deduction, but an exegetically grounded doctrine. We can appeal to several biblical texts in both the Old and New Testament in support of this fact that the Son is eternally begotten of the Father. The concept of begetting is a metaphor reality drawn from the embodied experience of human fathers begetting human sons. This doctrine is important because it is crucial to defending the full deity of the Son, and it is the linchpin of defense against classical orthodox doctrine of the Trinity or trithestic God.

Throughout the fourth century, the church fathers [Athanasius and the Cappadocian fathers (Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzen, and Gregory of Nyssa)] were engaged in a bitter debate with Arianism, and it was within the context of that debate that the church formulated the doctrine of the Trinity. It is claimed Arianism was the view that the Son is a subdeity who did not always exist but was created by God as the first and most glorious being in the universe, “the firstborn of all creation.” Arians affirmed the preexistence of Christ — He existed as the Logos before His virgin birth. But they denied the eternal preexistence of Christ. They said there was a time when He did not exist, and that before His generation, He did not exist. They said He was created out of the things that do not exist. Although He is the most glorious and first creature made by God, and can even be called “God” in some sense because of His exalted honor and divine glory, He falls on the creature side of the Creator-creature distinction. [This may be disputable because no records of Arius teaching are found today. The little horn by uprooting the three horns burnt all their books].

In response, the true church fathers appealed to the scriptural teaching that the Son is not a creature external to God but is the eternal offspring of the Father and proper to the very essence of God. As the bishops confessed at the first ecumenical council at Nicaea (325), the church believes “in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father 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” [The Nicene Creed as reaffirmed at the second ecumenical council at Constantinople (381) changes the wording slightly]. The contrast “begotten, not made” is a broadside against “Arianism”. As Athanasius put it, “The Son is other than things originate [i.e., created], alone the proper offspring of the Father’s essence.” [Athanasius, Against the Arians]. The true church fathers saw a massive distinction between a creature made by God and an offspring begotten of God from eternity.

THE BIBLICAL BASIS OF A SON BEGOTTEN FROM ETERNITY

The doctrine of the begetting of the Son from eternity was not concocted by means of philosophical speculation. Nor was it primarily a theological deduction from the correlative names “Father” and “Son.” Rather, the Son’s personal property of being begotten of the Father is grounded in the explicit teaching of Scripture. The true church fathers appealed to a number of verses in both the New Testament and the Old Testament (interpreted in light of the New), which they read as teaching that the Son is “begotten, not made.” Let’s review some of these key passages.

The Ontologically Reality

The first Old Testament text to cite is Psalm 2:7, which says, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you” (ESV), and the church fathers interpreted “today” as the day of eternity. This verse is quoted three times in the New Testament with reference to Christ (Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5).

It has been objected that the first of these, Acts 13:33, views Psalm 2:7 as fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ, and therefore the “begetting” cannot be a reference to the pretemporal, begotten Son of God from eternity. But according to the uniform teaching of the New Testament, the resurrection of Christ was not the moment when He became the Son. The Gospels are clear that He already was called the Son at least from the time of His baptism (see Mark 1:11, echoing Psalm 2:7). It is better to interpret Acts 13:33 as teaching that, by His resurrection, Christ was “declared to be the Son of God in power” (Rom. 1:4 ESV, emphasis added).

The two citations of Psalm 2:7 in Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5 are clearer. The author of Hebrews gives clues in the immediate context that he understands Psalm 2:7 to be speaking of the Son as occurring before God “brings the firstborn into the world” (Heb. 1:6) and prior to “the days of his flesh” (Heb. 5:7).

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25 – Ontological Reality – Begotten from Eternity of the Father

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