Generation, Eternal (2)
Generation, Eternal is a term used as descriptive of the Father's communicating the divine nature to the Son. On this subject we excerpt the following remarks from Buck's Dict. of the Bible, ed. Henderson:
"The Father is said by some divines to have produced the Word, or Son, from all eternity, by way of generation; on which occasion the word generation raises a peculiar idea: that procession which is really effected in the way of understanding is called generation, because, in virtue thereof, the Word becomes like him from whom he takes the original; or, as St. Paul expresses it, the figure or image of his substance; i.e., of his being and nature. Hence it is, they say, that the second person is called the Soif; and that in such a way and manner as never any other was, is, or can be, because of his own divine nature, he being the true, proper, and natural Son of God, begotten by him before all worlds. Thus, he is called his own Son (Ro 8:3), his only begotten Son (Joh 3:16). Many have attempted to explain the manner of this generation by different similitudes; but as they throw little or no light upon the subject, we shall not trouble the reader with them. Most modern divines believe that the term Son of God refers to Christ as mediator; and that his sonship does not lie in his divine or human nature separately considered, but in the union of both in one person (see Lu 1:35; Mt 4:3; Joh 1:49; Mt 16:16; Ac 9:20,22; Ro 1:4). It is observed that it is impossible that a nature properly divine should be begotten, since begetting, whatever idea is annexed to it, must signify some kind of production, derivation, and inferiority; consequently, that whatever is produced must have a beginning, and whatever had a beginning was not from eternity, as Christ is said to be (Col 1:16-17). That the sonship of Christ respects him as mediator, will be evident, if we compare Joh 10:30, with Joh 14:28. In the former it is said, 'I and my Father are one;' in the latter, 'My Father is greater than I.' These declarations, however opposite they seem, equally respect him as he is the Son; but if his sonship primarily and properly signify the generation of his divine nature, it will be difficult, if not impossible, according to that scheme to make them harmonize. Considered to a distinct person in the God bead, without respect to his office as mediator, it is impossible that, in the same view, he should be both equal and inferior to his Father. Again, he expressly tells us himself that the Son can do nothing of himself; that the Father showeth him all things that he doth; and that he giveth him to have life in himself (Joh 5:19-20,26). These expressions, if applied to him as God, not as mediator, will reduce us to the disagreeable necessity of subscribing either to the creed of Ainis, and maintain him to be God of an inferior nature, and thus a plurality of Gods, or of embracing the doctrine of Socinus, who allows him only to be a God by office. But if this title belong to him as mediator, every difficulty is removed. Lastly, it is observed, that though Jesus be God, and the attributes of eternal existence ascribed to him, yet the two attributes, eternal and son, are not once expressed in the same text as referring to eternal generation. This dogma, held by systematic divines, according, to which our Lord was the Son of God, with respect to his divine nature, by communication from the Father, who on this account is called πηγὴ θεότητος, the Fountain of Deity, is of considerable antiquity. It was customary for the fathers, after the Council of Nice, to speak of the Father as ἀγέννητος, and to ascribe to him what they termed generatio activa; and of the Son as, γεννητός, to whom they attributed generatio passiva. According to them it was the essential property of the Father eternally to have the divine nature of or from himself, so that, with respect to him; it was underived; whereas it was the property of the Son to be eternally begotten of the Father, and thus to derive his essence from him. To this mode of representing the relations of these two persons of the Trinity, as it respects their essence, it has justly been objected, that it necessarily goes to subvert the supreme and eternal Deity of the Son, and to represent him as essentially derived and inferior; a doctrine nowhere taught in the Scriptures. Some prefer saying that it was not the divine nature that was communicated to the Son, but only distinct personality; but this can scarcely be said to relieve the difficulty. In regard to this and all similar subjects, the safest way is to abstain from all metaphysical subtleties, and rest satisfied with the Biblical mode of representation. That Christ is the Son of God in a sense perfectly unique, and that he was from eternity God, are truths which the Scriptures clearly teach, but wherein, in that sense, his filiation consisted, is a subject on which they are entirely silent. Every attempt to explain it has only furnished a flesh instance of darkening counsel by words without knowledge." See Owen, Person of Christ; Pearson, Creed; Ridgley, Body of Divinity, 3d ed. pages 73, 76; Gill, Body of Divinity, 1:205, 8vo ed.; Lambert, Sermons, sermon 13, text Joh 11:35; Hodson, Eternal Filiation of the Son of God; Watts, Works, 5:77; also Dr. A. Clarke, Watson, Kidd, Stuart, Drew, and Treffry on the subject. SEE SON OF GOD.