Friday, March 26, 2010

An overdue correction of TurretinFan

Our new Muslim contributor and friend (thegrandverbalizer19), has promised to comment on the following from the previous thread:

>>Seems to me a more flexible picture of a loving family. Father divine, Holy Spirit feminine divine, and the Son. Let US make man in OUR image. Male and Female.>>

Me: Could you explain a bit further how the above formulation would work within an Islamic paradigm? (LINK)

After 138 comments, is seems the great discussion(s) is finally slowing down a bit. GrandVerb has been very active, and I would like to extend my thanks to him for his cogent and charitable contributions. I know from his last comments that he is very busy; as such, I do not want him to feel any time pressure in responding to the above.

So, with all that said, I would now like to address an issue that I have been ignoring way too long now: TurretinFan’s misguided remarks concerning me, and Dr. Charles Hodge.

Back in November, 2009 I started of series of sorts on the issue of whether or not the Catholic Church is a Christian/true/valid church with this thread:

Luther: “I honor the Roman Church”

I continued the series/theme with two subsequent threads:

CHARLES HODGE – “Is the Church of Rome a Part of the Visible Church?”

Steve Hays and Jason Engwer vs. Dr. Charles Hodge

Following his typical modus operandi, the anti-Catholic, epologist, TurretinFan (hereafter TF), rather than responding directly in the comments sections of the threads listed above, instead posted his criticisms on his own blog (Note: TF moderates the comments on his blog, and has chosen not to post a good number of the comments I have submitted; further, to deflect the charge of moderation, he later created a totally separate blog specifically for what he has termed, “criticism of turretinfan”):

Charles Hodge on Rome

From the above post we read:

David Waltz is trying to make something of Prof. Hodge's comments on Roman Catholicism (link to Waltz's post). It is worth noting that Waltz has chosen to selectively present one side of Hodge's coin. The other side is that Hodge viewed Rome as both apostate and antichristian (link to example of such teaching) and also as antichrist and a synagogue of Satan (link to example of such teaching) to which we may add the mystery of iniquity and the man of sin (link to example of such teaching).

TF does not attempt to explain what he meant by, “trying to make something of Prof. Hodge’s comments on Roman Catholicism”; my intent was to bring to the attention of the readers here at AF two insightful essays by one of the greatest Reformed theologians of all time. I provided the links (see below for those links, and further options) to both essays, and selections from those essays that set the tone for Dr. Hodge’s argument. TF opines that I did not present the “other side”, but his charge is baseless: first of all, as I said earlier, I provided the links to both of the pertinent essays (BTW, TF only linked to one of them); and second, one of the selections I provided most certainly touches on the “other side”—note the following from my second thread on this topic:

Fifthly, it is said we give up too much to the papists if we admit Romanists to be in the church. To this we answer, Every false position is a weak position. The cause of truth. The cause of truth suffers in no way more than from identifying it with error, which is always done when its friends advocate it on false principles. When one says, we favor intemperance, unless we say that the use of intoxicating liquors is sinful; another, that we favor slavery, unless we say slaveholding is a sin; and a third, that we favor popery unless we say the church of Rome is no church, they all, as it seems to us, make the same mistake, and greatly injure the cause in which they are engaged. They dive the adversary an advantage over them, and they fail to enlist the strength of their own side. Men who are anxious to promote temperance, cannot join societies which avow principles which they believe to be untrue; and men who believe popery to be the greatest modern enemy of the gospel, cannot co-operate in measures of opposition to that growing evil, which are founded on the denial of what appear to be important scriptural principles. It is a great mistake to suppose popery is aided by admitting what truth it does include. What gives it its power, what constitutes its peculiarly dangerous character, is that it is not pure infidelity; it is not the entire rejection of the gospel, but truth surrounded with enticing and destructive error. Poison by itself is not so seductive, and therefore not so dangerous, as when mixed with food. We do not believe that those of our brethren from whom we are so unfortunate as to differ on this subject, have a deeper impression than we have either of the destructive character of the errors of popery, or of the danger to which religion and liberty are exposed from its progress. We believe it to be by far the most dangerous forms of delusion and error that has ever arisen in the Christian world, and all the more dangerous from its having arisen and established itself in the church, or temple of God.

TF then continued with:

Waltz does not explain his motivations for choosing to highlight only part of what Hodge taught, and for doing so in a way that grossly exaggerates the differences between Hodge and some of my friends at Triablogue.

TF is clearly confusing his own methods with mine; it was TF who chose “to highlight only part of what Hodge taught”, not me. As for the charge of exaggeration, once again, it is totally baseless.

And finally, from TF:

Yes, my friends and I may well agree with Thornwell and others that Hodge (no doubt due to the softness of his heart) conceded too much to Rome in places such as those Waltz highlights, but the difference between Hodge and us is a lot smaller than Waltz's article would suggest to the unwary reader.

I linked to BOTH of Dr. Hodge’s essays; TF linked to only the first, and completely ignored the second essay which clarifies much of the content of the first. Further, to make matters even worse, the links that TF gave his readers pertain primarily the “Popish hierarchy”, and not to the issue of whether or not the Roman Catholic Church is still a true/valid church.

As for Thornwell, I have read his emotionally charged essay (“The Validity of the Baptism of the Church of Rome”, pp. 283-412, The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell – Volume 3. Theological & Controversial) directed at Dr. Hodge—I sincerely believe that one who exercises some objectivity will side Dr. Hodge’s clear, and articulate position, over Thornwell’s, sometimes crass, objections.


LIST OF LINKS TO: Dr. Hodge’s essays:

Discussions in Church Polity (Pages 191- 215.)

The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review Vol. 17 No. 3 (1845) (Pages 444 – 471.)


The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review, Vol. 18 No. 2 (1846) (Pages 320 – 344.)

The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review, Vol. 18 No. 2 (1846) (Pages 320 – 344.)

THEOLOGIA - Is the Church of Rome a Part of the Visible Church?

Anyway, I have taken time away from much more important issues, but in my defense, I did want to correct yet another misguided diatribe from our Reformed brother in Christ.



Grace and peace,

David


NOTE: I did not take the time to enable the links from TurretinFan's post; please go to his blog for the links.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bible prophecy: is the rise of Muhammad and/or Islam foretold?


The Bible contains numerous prophetic passages concerning many important events and peoples throughout its pages. The Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires are just a few of the more important ones that immediately come to mind.

For a number of years now, I have asked myself this question: Does the Bible predict the rise of Muhammad and/or Islam? One would think that this massive cultural/political/religious movement, which has been inextricably linked with Christians and Jews for well over millennia now, would at the very least be mentioned in the Bible. To make a very long story ‘short’, yes, I have come to believe that it does.

In this post, I will examine one such passage: Isaiah 63:1-7:

1 Who is this who comes from Edom, With garments of glowing colors from Bozrah, This One who is majestic in His apparel, Marching in the greatness of His strength? "It is I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save."

2 Why is Your apparel red, And Your garments like the one who treads in the wine press?

3 I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.

4 "For the day of vengeance was in My heart, And My year of redemption has come.

5 "And I looked, and there was no one to help, And I was astonished and there was no one to uphold; So My own arm brought salvation to Me; And My wrath upheld Me.

6 "And I trod down the peoples in My anger, And made them drunk in My wrath, And I poured out their lifeblood on the earth."

7 I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, According to all that the LORD has granted us, And the great goodness toward the house of Israel, Which He has granted them according to His compassion, And according to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses. (NASB)

Though commentators traditionally apply the above to Jesus Christ, I think that Muhammad is clearly a better fit.

Muhammad was first of all an Edomite (see information below); Jesus was not.

Muhammad spent a lot of time in Bozrah during his merchant days; Jesus never went to Bozrah.

Muhammad was a military leader, hence the “red apparel”, “garments like the one who treads in the wine press”.

Muhammad for quite sometime was essentially “alone” in Mecca; he was persecuted and had his life threatened on many occasions by the Meccans. However, he later exacted vengeance on the Meccans, and “trod down the peoples in My anger”.

Muhammad constantly praised God and contrasts the blessings “granted us” with the “great goodness toward the house of Israel, Which He has granted them”.

Excursus: Edomites and Arabs

The Bible strongly implies that the descendants of Ishmael and Esau (Edomites) were closely linked through marriage/bloodlines and geography. Esau married one of Ishmael’s daughters (see Gen. 28:9; 36:3); and Ezekiel 25: 12-14 links Edom with Teman and Dedan, indicating that the descendants of Esau ranged from North Arabia (i.e. Edom/Idumea) all the way thru South Arabia (i.e. Dedan). Pslam 83:6 links the “tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites” together. Note the following comments:

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states:

We also find northern Arabian tribes mentioned among the descendants of Abraham by Keturah (Gen. 25:1-4) and Hagar (25:12-15) and among the descendants of Esau (Gen. 36). (1979 edition - Vol. 1, p. 220.)

A Baptist website has the following to say:

The descendants of Ishmael and Esau would remain closely associated throughout their history. (In Psalm 83 -- as we shall see, the descendants of Esau and those of Ishmael are found in alliance against End-Time Israel.) As God had foretold, a great people sprang from Ishmael. Today's Arabs are the family of Ishmael grown great!…Consider the additional fact that Edomites intermarried with the stocks of Ishmael and Canaan. The Edomites were descendants of Esau (who was also called Edom), the elder son of Isaac and Rebekah. Earlier, when Jacob and Esau were yet in Rebekah's womb, "the children struggled together within her" (Gen 25:22). [LINK]

Further, Arab historians in the past have usually divided the ancient Arab people into two major groups: the pure Arabs (identified with Southern Arabia); and the mixed Arabs (identified with Northern and Western Arabia)—Muhammad and his descendants are part of the mixed Arabs (see Thomas Patrick Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, pp. 18, 19.).


Looking forward to others thoughts and reflections on this passage from the Bible.


Grace and peace,

David

Thursday, March 4, 2010

TurretinFan and Islam

I have recently noticed that there has been a considerable amount of internet chatter concerning Dr. Ergun Caner, President and Dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary (BIO HERE).

I first became aware of this new round of assaults directed at Dr. Caner via James White’s Dividing Line program (03-02-2010). Just days before this program, James had devoted a rather large blog diatribe (HERE) at Dr. Caner. Though I certainly have no inherent problem with pointing out some of Dr. Caner’s blunders/errors concerning Islam, when done in an objective manner (and there are some interesting new details that have been brought to light), I cannot help but think that much of the ‘heat’ is of a personal nature—a Baptist ‘soap-opera’ if you will, Baptist vs. Baptist—i.e., a vendetta.

Now, after a bit of online research, I discovered (earlier today), that our old friend TurretinFan (hereafter, TF), has entered into the fray, and, interestingly enough, in defense of Dr. Caner (as it pertains to Dr. Caner’s claim to be an ex-Muslim). TF, in his 02-24-2010 thread links to a Muslim apologetic site that seems to be one of the primary sources for much of ‘fuel’ that is being utilized by Caner ‘stalkers’.

We can certainly applaud TF’s efforts to defend Dr. Caner; however, TF’s defense has some ‘problems’ that need to be corrected (IMO). In his 03-02-2010 thread TF wrote:

In one video that FxM has identified, Ergun Caner claims that both the Sunni and Shia Muslims believe that a caliph named Mahdi disappeared and is hidden somewhere, still alive. According to FxM, this is something believed only by the Shia Muslims. FxM is insistent that no devout Sunni Muslim could be unaware of this difference in belief between the Sunnis and the Shia Muslims.

Result: Again, this seems like a relatively trivial error. The main point of what Caner was talking about was the belief itself. Although he may (as far as I know, he did) erroneously attribute a Shia belief to the Sunni, this doesn't appear to be a significant error.


This may seem “like a relatively trivial error” to uninformed Christians, but I sincerely doubt it is “trivial” to most practicing Muslims. Dr. Caner (in the YouTube snippet) makes some significant errors:

First, Dr. Caner mentions a “Muhammad ibn Haniaf” (i.e. Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah), and claims that “he lived about 870, 880”.

Wrong: Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah died 700/701 (though the Kaysāniyya would say later that he went into ‘occultation’—i.e. hiding). [Dr. Caner is probably confusing Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah with Abu’l Qāsim Muhammad ibn Hasan (b. 868), the 12th Imam of the ‘Twelver’ Shia sect.]

Second, Dr. Caner states that he was “one of the Caliphs”.

Wrong: Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah was never a Caliph, but the Kaysāniyya, under the influence of Mukhtār ibn Abū’Ubayd ath-Thaqafī, taught that the Imamate was transferred to him after the death of the 3rd Imam Husayn.

Third, Dr. Caner said, “the Sunni and the Shia believe that the Mahdi disappeared into the caves, he did not die, he is waiting”.

Wrong: The ‘occultation’ of the Mahdi is one of the core beliefs of many of the Shia sects (most importantly, the largest Shia sect—the ‘Twelver’), but it is a doctrine repudiated by the Sunnis.


Summation: Dr. Caner certainly gets some significant details wrong; details that may undermine his credibility as an Islamic “scholar”. IMO, such errors need to be addressed, and not swept away as “relatively trivial”. However, I must point out that one should attempt to keep such corrections on an objective level, and not turn such ‘blunders’ into some sort of personal vendetta.


Grace and peace,

David

UPDDATE: Ken Temple has added additional information concerning the quote from the Caner’s Unveiling Islam that Ken and I explored, in the combox of this thread, with this NEW POST at the Beggar’s All blog.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Eternal Generation of the Son


Ken Temple, in the COMBOX of the previous thread, raised some questions concerning the use of monogenēs (μονογενὴς) in the NT, and the related doctrine of ‘eternal generation’ (i.e. eternal begetting) as it pertains the Second Person of the Trinity.

I do not recall exactly when I first learned of the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son, but it was probably during my first reading of Charles Hodge’s, Systematic Theology (circa early 1980s). It was not long after my initial exposure to this doctrine, that I ran into a robust denial of it by another Trinitarian author: Walter R. Martin. From his famous book, The Kingdom of the Cults, in his chapter on the “Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watch Tower” (chapter 4, 1977 rev. ed.), we read:

Arius derived many of his ideas from his teacher, Lucian of Antioch, who in turn borrowed them from Origen, who himself introduced the term “eternal generation” or the concept that God from all eternity generates a second person like Himself, ergo the “eternal Son.” Arius of course rejected this as illogical and unreasonable, which it is, and taking the other horn of dilemma squarely between his teeth reduced the eternal Word of God to the rank of a creation! It is a significant fact, however, that in the earliest writings of the church fathers doting from the first century to the year 230 the term “eternal generation” was never used, but it has been this dogma later adopted by Roman Catholic theology, which has fed the Arian heresy through the centuries and today continues to feed the Christology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. (pp. 101, 102—1977; pp. 115, 116—1985 rev. ed.; p. 168—1997 rev., updated, expanded anniversary ed., Hank Hanegraaff, general editor; pp. 137, 138—2003 rev., updated, expanded ed., Ravi Zacharias, general editor.)

After insisting that “monogenes” must be rendered “only” or “unique” in its NT usage, Martin continues with:

The Bible clearly teaches, then, that Jesus Christ before His incarnation was the eternal Word, Wisdom, or Logos, of God…and further, that Jesus Christ is not called by Scripture the “eternal Son,” the error passed on from Origen under the title “eternal generation,” but rather He is the Living Word of God…Let us fix these things in our minds then: (a) the doctrine of “eternal generation” or the eternal Sonship of Christ, which springs from the Roman Catholic doctrine first conceived by Origen in A.D. 230, is a theory which opened the door theologically to the Arian and Sabellian heresies which today still plague the Christian Church in the realms of Christology.

(b) The Scripture nowhere calls Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God, and He is never called Son at all prior to the incarnation, except in prophetic passages in the Old Testament…

(d) Many heresies have seized upon the confusion created by the illogical “eternal Sonship” or “eternal generation” theory of Roman Catholic theology, unfortunately carried over to some aspects of Protestant theology.
(pp. 102, 103—1977; pp. 116, 117—1985; pp. 169, 170—1997 rev., updated, expanded anniversary ed., Hank Hanegraaff, general editor [with minor additions and deletions]; pp. 138, 139—2003 rev., updated, expanded ed., Ravi Zacharias, general editor [with minor additions and deletions].)

One need not bring into question Walter Martin’s popularity within the Evangelical community, and his influence upon subsequent generations of believers, especially those involved in apologetics; however, theology is never a ‘popularity contest’, and I shall submit that Martin’s positions on the term “monogenes” and the doctrine of “eternal generation” must be critically examined.

First, is Martin correct concerning the use of “monogenes” in the NT; that is must be rendered either “only” or “unique”? Note the following reflections:

The Greek word μονογενής is an adjective compounded of μονος "only" and γενος "species, race, family, offspring, kind." In usage, with few exceptions it refers to an only son or daughter. When used in reference to a son, it cannot mean "one of a kind," because the parent is also of the same kind. The meaning is, the son is the only offspring of the parent, not the only existing person of his kind. And so in the Greek translation of the book of Tobit, when Raguel praises God for having mercy on δυο μονογενεις (8:17), he does not mean that his daughter Sara and Tobias were two "unique" persons; he means that they were both only-begotten children of their fathers. In Luke's Gospel, the word is used in reference to an only child in 7:12, 8:42, and 9:38. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, it is said that when Abraham was ready to sacrifice Isaac he was offering up τον μονογενή, "his only-begotten" (11:17), because although Abraham had another son, God had said that only in Isaac shall Abraham's seed (σπερμα) be named. (Πίστει προσενήνοχεν Ἀβραὰμ τὸν Ἰσαὰκ πειραζόμενος, καὶ τὸν μονογενῆ προσέφερεν ὁ τὰς ἐπαγγελίας ἀναδεξάμενος, πρὸς ὃν ἐλαλήθη ὅτι Ἐν Ἰσαὰκ κληθήσεταί σοι σπέρμα). When the word μονογενής is used in reference to a son or daughter, it always means "only-begotten." (Michael Marlowe, “The Only Begotten Son”, online paper @ http://www.bible-researcher.com/only-begotten.html.)

Dr. Gordon H. Clark, in a critique of J. Oliver Buswell (who rejected eternal generation, but not eternal Sonship) wrote:

…when Dr. Buswell says that the Greek fathers did not know as much Greek as we do, it must surprise the student to learn that Athanasius and a hundred Greek bishops, whose mother tongue was Greek, knew less Greek than we do, and in particular did not know that monogenes is derived from ginomai rather from gennao. Even so, the two verbs are themselves derived from an earlier common stem. At any rate, the genes in monogenes derives immediately from genos. This word as a matter of fact suggests begetting and generation, as much as if it had been derived from gennao. (The Trinity, p. 120.)

Dr. John V. Dahms, in an essay published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, states:

John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9 teach than Christ is God’s monogenēs Son. That monogenēs implies that he was begotten is the understanding of Justin Martyr Apol. 1.23 (c. A.D. 150); Dial. Trypho 105 (c. 153). Theophilus of Antioch (115-181) Theophilus to Autolycus 2.10 seems to assue such an understanding. Tertullian (c. 197-c. 225) Against Praxeas vii evidently had such an understanding. And Hilary of Poitiers On the Trinity 1.10; 6.39 (before 358) implies that the Latin Bibles with which his readers were familiar had unigenitus in John 1:14, 18. Moreover the fact that Isaac could be described as Abraham’s monogenēs son (Heb. 11:17), despite Ishmael, is not surprising. Philo had stated: “He [Abraham] had begotten no son in the truest sense but Isaac” (de Abr. 194: cf. de Sac. 43) and had even spoken of Isaac as Abraham’s “only (monos) son” (de Abr. 168: cf. de Abr. 196; Quod Deus Imm. 4). (JETS 32/4, Dec. 1989, p. 495.)

Lee Irons:

Traditionally, the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son was supported by an appeal to the five Johannine texts in which Christ is identified as monogenes (Jn 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; I Jn 4:9). As early as Jerome's Vulgate, this word was understood in the sense of "only begotten" (unigenitus), and the tradition was continued by the Authorized Version. However, most scholars of this century reject this understanding and believe, instead, that the idea behind the word is more along the lines of "only" (RSV) or "one and only" (NIV) [3]. One of the main arguments is that the -genes suffix is related to the verb ginomai rather than gennao, thus acquiring the meaning "category" or "genus."

Unfortunately, this argument requires a selective reading of the evidence. It ignores the wealth of lexemes that have the -genes suffix. After searching Thesaurus Linguae Graecae on CD-ROM (a comprehensive collection of all extant Greek literature up to the 6th century AD), my estimate is that there are approximately 120 such words in the Greek vocabulary. Of these, 30% are not listed in Liddell and Scott, but the lexicon's glosses of 55% contain such words as "born" and "produced." For example, neogenes is glossed as "newly produced," and theogenes, "born of God." A mere 11% involve meanings related to "kind" (e.g., homogenes means "of the same genus"), while the remainder of usages have miscellaneous meanings. The sheer preponderance of the evidence would indicate that monogenes in the Johannine literature could very well mean "only begotten." At least, it cannot be ruled out on the basis of etymology.

If this meaning is now considered a very live possibility, then an inspection of some of the Johannine texts will render that possibility all the more likely. In the first text monogenes is used as a substantive: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14). In the second text, I follow the textual variant found in the Bodmer papyrus, dated c. 200, and other ancient manuscripts: "No one has ever seen God, but the only begotten God, who is in the Father's bosom, has made him known" (v. 18). The NIV completely misses the point ("God the One and Only ... has made him known"), for it is not the fact that the Son is the only God (as opposed to another god) but the fact that he is begotten of God (and thus truly God) which enables him to make God known. On balance these passages provide strong support for the interpretation "only begotten."

Further support may be marshaled from I John 5:18, which, though it does not use the word, shows that John taught that the Son is begotten of God: "We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who is born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him." It seems reasonable to suppose that "the one who is born of God" is the Son of God. Some follow the textual variant "keeps himself" and see this as referring to the believer. However, this would lead to a redundant statement. It seems likely that John is pointing to the similarity between two sonships - that of the believer and that of Christ. Christ, of course, is the Son by nature, and we are sons by grace. But the point is that the ontological Son of God will protect the adopted sons of God from the evil one. Although it would be dangerous to make too much out of the different tenses (aspects) used, the distinction may be signaled by the fact that the believer is ho gegennemenos of God (perfect), while Christ is ho gennetheis (aorist). Be that as it may, the fact that the verb gennao is used in this context at least suggests the idea of generation. It also adds credibility to the traditional etymology of monogenes (mono + gennao) by providing at least one text where gennao is used in reference to Christ's sonship. (Lee Irons, “The Eternal Generation of the Son”, http://www.upper-register.com/papers/monogenes_print.html.)

Certainly, at the very least, one must differ with Walter Martin’s narrow position that “monogenes” in the NT must mean either “only” or “unique”; I shall let my readers decide whether or not “only-begotten” is the more accurate rendition.

Second, moving on to the doctrine of “eternal generation”, not only has this doctrine been enshrined in many Catholic creedal documents from the 4th century forward, it is also found in many of the Protestant confessions. For instance, in the Westminster Confession of Faith, we read:

In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. (Chapter 2.3.)

When one examines the teachings of the vast majority of the greatest Trinitarian theologians down through the history of Christendom (Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant), one will be hard pressed to find those who reject the eternal generation of the Second Person of the Trinity prior to the 19th century.The first major Trinitarian theologian who seems to have had doubts about the doctrine was John Calvin. The precise position of Calvin is not without controversy, but I side with B. B. Warfield who wrote:

Although he taught that the Son was begotten of the Father, and of course begotten before all time, or as we say from all eternity, he seems to have drawn back from the doctrine of "eternal generation" as it was expounded by the Nicene Fathers. They were accustomed to explain "eternal generation" (in accordance with its very nature as "eternal "), not as something which has occurred once for all at some point of time in the past - however far back in the past - but as something which is always occurring, a perpetual movement of the divine essence from the first Person to the second, always complete, never completed. Calvin seems to have found this conception difficult, if not meaningless. In the closing words of the discussion of the Trinity in the "Institutes" (I, xiii. 29, ad fin.) he classes it among the speculations which impose unnecessary burdens on the mind. "For what is the profit," he asks, "of disputing whether the Father always generates (semper generet), seeing that it is fatuous to imagine a continuous act of generating (continuus actus generandi) when it is evident that three Persons have subsisted in God from eternity?" His meaning appears to be that the act of generation must have been completed from all eternity, since its product has existed complete from all eternity, and therefore it is meaningless to speak of it as continually proceeding. If this is the meaning of his remark, it is a definite rejection of the Nicene speculation of "eternal generation." But this is very far from saying that it is a rejection of the Nicene Creed — or even of the assertion in this Creed to the effect that the Son is “God of God.” We have just seen that Calvin explicitly teaches the “eternal generation” of the Son, in the sense that He was begotten by the Father before all time. (Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. WarfieldCalvin and Calvinism, pp. 247, 248—1981 reprint; online version HERE.)

Interestingly enough, the majority of theologians who would identify themselves as “Calvinists” did not follow Calvin here, and retained the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son it its fullest sense. The earliest Calvinist I have found (being limited to works either written or translated in English) who explicitly rejected the doctrine of eternal generation seems to have been the English Independent minister Thomas Ridgely (d. 1734). Unlike Walter Martin, Ridgely, while rejecting eternal generation, did not deny the eternal Sonship of the second Person of the Trinity. The earliest theologian (and/or Biblical scholar) to have denied eternal Sonship, that I have been able to identify, was the famous British Methodist, Adam Clarke (d. 1832). After Clarke, a number of theologians/scholars began to reject not only the doctrine of eternal generation, but also eternal Sonship (though those who do so remain in the minority).

The fact that the rejection of the doctrine eternal generation is a very late development (among Trinitarians), coupled with the fact that the majority of influential theologians down through the ages to our present day retain it, does not in and of itself make Walter Martin’s position untenable; however, for one to adopt the rejection of a doctrine that has been revered and cherished by so many, for such a lengthy period, there had better be some very strong and compelling evidence for doing so. I shall let my readers decide if such evidence exists.

I would now like to provide a list of representatives [with brief selections] from both sides on the issue of the doctrine of eternal generation. One should keep in mind that not all who reject the doctrine of eternal generation also reject eternal Sonship, however all who deny eternal Sonship, deny eternal generation. (The list is not meant to be exhaustive, and is based on works I own; the list does not include Catholic, EO, or Lutheran examples, for orthodox theologians of these communions have not questioned either eternal generation, or eternal Sonship.)

Those who accept the doctrine of eternal generation:

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Volume 1, pp. 468-474—1981 reprint. [Reformed Presbyterian] (Note: Hodge’s position on eternal generation is not entirely clear and at times appears to be inconsistent, with some actually maintaining that he denied the doctrine; I believe that he held to the doctrine, but with reservations—B. B. Warfield is of the same opinion: “His position [Calvin] is, in a word, that of one who affirms the eternal generation of the Son…It is interesting to observe that Calvin’s attitude upon these matters is precisely repeated by Dr. Charles Hodge in his discussion in his ‘Systematic Theology.’” – op. cit. pp. 249, 250.)

The First Person of the Trinity is Father, because He communicates the essence of the Godhead to the Second Person; and the Second Person is Son, because He derives that essence from the First Person. This is what they mean by Eternal Generation.” (p. 468)

There are numerous passages in the Scriptures which clearly prove that our Lord is called Son, not merely because He is the image of God, or because He is the object of peculiar affection, nor because of his miraculous conception only; nor because of his exaltation, but because of the eternal relation which He sustains to the First Person of the Trinity.” (p. 472)

Though Charles Hodge was not always clear (consistent?) on this issue, his son, A. A. Hodge was crystal clear:

The Father eternally ‘begets’ the Son, and the Spirit eternally ‘proceeds from’ the Father and the Son.” (A. A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology, p. 103—1990 reprint.)

The peculiar personal property of the first person is expressed the title Father. As a person he is eternally the Father of his only begotten Son. The peculiar personal property of the second person is expressed the title Son. As a person he is eternally the only begotten Son of the Father, and hence the express image of his person, and the eternal Word in the beginning with God.” (A. A. Hodge, The Confession of Faith, p. 60—1992 reprint.)

[See also A. A. Hodges’s 10 page treatment in his Outlines of Theology, pp. 178-188—1980 reprint.]

William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Volume 1, pp. 286-292—1979 reprint. [Reformed Presbyterian]

The Divine nature energizes internally from eternity to eternity in two distinct manners, and thereby is simultaneously and eternally three distinct persons: Father, son, and Holy Spirit; God Unbegotten, Begotten, and Proceeding. The Westminster Confession (II. iii.) defines this internal activity in the terms of the Athanasian creed. “In the unity of the Godhead, there are three persons of one substance, power, and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. (p. 286)

John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 12, pp. 177, 184-186, 189, 190, 193,213, 214—1976 reprint. [Reformed Congregational]

we say not that the Son is begotten eternally out of the divine essence, but in it, not by an eternal act of the Divine Being, but of the person of the Father. (p. 177)

He who is the true, proper, only-begotten Son of God, of the living God, he is begotten of the essence of God his Father, and is his Son by virtue of that generation… (p. 184)

The same truth may have farther evidence given unto it from the consideration of what kind of Son of God Jesus Christ is. He who is such a son as equal to his father in essence and properties is a son begotten of the essence of his father. Nothing can give such an equality but a communication of essence. (p. 186)

That Christ’s filiation ariseth from his eternal generation, or he is the Son of God upon the account of his being begotten of the essence of his Father from eternity. (p. 190)

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Volume 1, pp. 292-302—1992 English edition.

TWENTY-NINTH QUESTION: THE ETERNAL GENERATION OF THE SON
Was the Son of God begotten of the Father from eternity? We affirm
. (p. 292)

As all generation indicates a communication of essence on the pat of the begetter to the begotten (by which the begotten becomes like the begetter and partakes of the same nature with him), so this wonderful generation is rightly expressed as a communication of essence from the Father (by which the Son possesses indivisibly the same essence with him and is made perfectly like him.) (pp. 292, 293)

H. Orton Wiley, Christian Theology, Volume 1, pp. 430-434—1940. [Nazarene]

In the Nicene statement of the monarchy, the Father is not more divine than the Son, or the Son than the Holy Spirit. But in the order of subsistence in that one essence, the Father depends upon Himself alone for His Godhead, the Son derives His Godhead from the Father (God of God Θεον εκ Θεου)…The filial relationship as Son to Father is second and therefore in this sense subordinate; but the filial essence is equal and co-ordinate with that of paternity, “the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.” Furthermore, the order is not temporal or chronological, but grounded in the three distinctions or subsistences of the one essence, and therefore real and eternal. (p. 431)

J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology, Volume 1, pp. 92, 93—1988. [Charismatic]

The property of God the Father is generation. The Father who is “unbegotten” eternally “begets” the Son. (p. 93)

Augustus H. Strong, Systematic Theology, pp. 340, 341—1979 reprint. [Reformed Baptist]

That the Sonship of Christ is eternal, is intimated in Psalm 2:7. “This day have I begotten thee” is most naturally interpreted as the declaration of an eternal fact in the divine nature. Neither the incarnation, the baptism, the transfiguration, nor the resurrection marks the beginning of Christ’s Sonship, or constitutes him son of God. (p. 340)

John Gill, A Complete Body of Divinity, pp. 143, 144—1987 reprint. [Reformed Baptist]

The second Person, whose distinctively relative property and character is, that he is begotten, which is never said of the other two Persons, and so distinguishes him from them, and gives him the name Son…The Sonhip of Christ is an article of the greatest importance in the christian religion… (p. 143)

that Christ is the Son of God, Acts ix. 20. 2 Cor. i. 19. and, indeed, it is the distinguishing criterion of the christian religion, and what gives it the preference to all others, and upon which all the important doctrines of it depend; even upon the Sonship of Christ as a divine person; and by generation, even eternal generation. Without this the doctrine of the Trinity can never be supported. (p. 144)

Louis Sperry Chaffer, Systematic Theology, Volume 1, pp. 313-316—1980 reprint. [Dispensationalist]

The relation of the Second Person to the First Person has from all eternity been that of a Son, and, like all else related to the Godhead, is not only eternal but is unchangeable. He did not become a Son of the Father, as some say that He did, by His incarnation, or by His resurrection, nor is He a San by mere title, nor is He temporarily assuming such a relationship that He may execute His part in the Covenant of Redemption. Of these claims, that of sonship by the incarnation has had many exponents and none more effective than Ralph Wardlaw, who made certain distinctions which others of that school of interpretation failed to note, namely that the title of Son of God is not, according to this specific belief, to signify that He is a son through the channel of His humanity alone—which idea borders on the Unitarian opinion—nor is it true that the title belongs to His Deity alone. Dr. Wardlaw claims that it belongs to the Person of Christ including His Deity and His humanity as they both resided in Him following the incarnation. This incarnation theory of sonship does not question the preexistenc of the Second Person as the Logos of God, but it does assert that the specific title Son of God does not apply to the Logos until the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures is formed by the incarnation. Theologians generally have been emphatic in their insistence that the divine sonship is from all eternity. Their belief in this matter is based upon clear Scripture evidence. He was the Only Begotten of the Father from all eternity, have no other relation to time and creation than that He is the Creator of them. (pp. 313, 314)

Various passages imply the generation of the Son,—“the only begotten of the Father”; “the only begotten Son”; “the only begotten Son of God.” On the basis of these and other terms the theological distinction is set forth to the effect that the Son is eternally generated. (p. 316)

Those who reject the doctrine of eternal generation:

Thomas Ridgely, A Body of Divinity, Volume 1, pp. 258-280—1814 American ed. [Reformed Independent]

And here we shall give a brief account of what we apprehend to be the commonly received sentiments of divines, who, in their writings, have strenuously maintained, and judiciously defended, the doctrine of the Trinity, concerning the eternal generation of the Son, and the procession of the Holy Ghost ; which I shall endeavour to do with the greatest deference to those who have treated of these subjects, as well as with the greatest impartiality ; and shall take occasion to shew how far the Arians conclude that we give up the cause to them, and yet how little reason they have to insult us upon this head.

(1.) As to the eternal generation of the Son, it is generally explained in this manner ; the Father is called, by some, the fountain of the Godhead, an expression taken from some of the fathers, who defended the Nicene faith ; but others of late, have rather chose to call the Father the fountain of the Trinity ; and he is said to be of himself; or unbegotten ; which they lay down as his distinct Personal character, from that of the Son.

On the other hand, the Son, as to his Personality, is generally described as being from the Father, and many chose to express themselves about this mystery in these terms ; that the Father communicated the divine essence to the Son, which is the most common mode of speaking, though others think it safer to say, that he communicated the divine Personality to him ; though I cannot tell which is least exceptionable
. (pp. 258, 259)

Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, Volume 3, pp. 725, 726—1846 reprint. [Methodist]

But I believe not in an eternal sonship of generation of the Divine nature of Jesus Christ. Here I have long stood, here I now stand, and here I trust to stand in the hour of death, in the day of judgment, and to all eternity. (p. 726)

Albert Barnes, Notes, Explanatory and Practical, on the Epistle to the Hebrews, pp. 27-29—1843 edition. [Presbyterian]

I do not see any evidence in the Scriptures of the doctrine of "eternal generation," and it is certain that that doctrine militates against the proper eternity of the Son of God. The natural and fair meaning of that doctrine would be, that there was a time when he had not an existence, and when he began to be, or was begotten. But the Scripture doctrine is, that he had a strict and proper eternity. I see no evidence that he was in any sense a derived being—deriving his existence and his divinity from the Father. The Fathers of the Christian church, it is believed, held that the Son of God as to his divine, as well as his human nature, was derived from the Father. Hence the Nicene creed speaks of him as " begotten of the Father before all worlds ; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made" language implying derivation in his divine nature. They held, with one voice, that he was God ; but it was in this manner. (p. 28)

J. Oliver Buswell, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, pp. 106-112—1962 one volume edition. [Reformed Presbyterian]

We have examined all the instances in which “begotten” or “born” or related words are applied to Christ, and we can say with conifidence that the Bible has nothing to say about “begetting” as an eternal relationship between the Father and the Son. (p. 111)

Robert Reymond, Systematic Theology, pp. 324-341—1998. [Reformed Presbyterian] (See also Reymond’s “Classical Christology’s Future in Systematic Theology”, in Always Reforming, ed. A.T.B. McGowan, pp. 112-123—2006.)

Bringing this chapter to a conclusion, I would contend that the three basic propositions given at the beginning of the preceding chapter are sufficient to express the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. When the church went beyond these three in its conciliar deliverances and added the two additional propositions that the Son’s essence is eternally generated by the Father and that the Spirit eternally and essentially proceeds fro the Father and the Son, I would urge that it went beyond the deliverances of Scripture and that these last two propositions should not be made elements of Trinitarian orthodoxy. (pp. 340, 341.)

Walter R. Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (referenced above). [Baptist]

Finally, there is the position/s of John MacArthur. Through much of his writing career, MacArthur rejected both eternal generation and eternal Sonship; however, sometime after 1991, he reversed his position. See his brief online essay, Reexamining the Eternal Sonship of Christ.


Well, this thread has already turned into the longest post I have yet to produce; so, I shall at this time refrain from delineating MY position, and let the readers decide for themselves which side of the issue they will embrace.


Grace and peace,

David