July 10, 2020

The Council

A modern day council!

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Here are Jimmy Stephens thoughts about Eternal Generation in his conversation with an Orthodox person:

So your response will need the following two arguments, JonathynTalks. First, you need to define eternal generation in a way that saves it from the above reductio against aseity. Second, you need to show that there’s even a textual case to be made. You might, in the latter portion, defer to a church father, but that’s also revisionism. The church father’s never said, “Thus I say.” They made exegetical or eisegetical arguments and expected their audience to scrutinize said arguments. So you have misread the fathers entirely if you plan to replace exegetical argumentation with quote mines.

An argument against EG could go simply like this:
 
Step 1. EG either refers to a causal relation in the Godhead or it does not.
 
If not, then the doctrine is defined ahistorically. (Niceans meant to refer to a causal relation.)
 
Step 2. If EG refers to a causal relation, it the Essence or the Son is effected.
 
If the essence is effected, God is not a se.
 
Step 3. If the Son is effected, the Son’s essence is different than the Father.
 
The Father possesses the essence without subjection to some extrinsic causal law. He just is what He has. For a divine person to be caused to possess the essence means there must be some causal law defining the relation. Where do we locate that law? If it is in the Father, then the Father possesses a unique essence by which He can formally create new divine progeny. Meanwhile, the Son does not. On that view, there is no reason why God should not be binatarian or quintarian or infinitarian. If the law is outside the Father, then it is outside God, and there must exist causal laws external to and correlative to God. Platonism wins.
The Biblical alternative is twofold. First of all, “begottenness” terminology is not properly essential to distinguish the members of the Trinity. It is already clear from the revelation of three persons that they have distinct, concrete personalities. Second, begottenness language is properly understood as a social relation. It is a personal relationship between the Father and the Son analogized by the kind of love exchanged between human fathers and human sons.
Why is the Father the Father and not the Son? Because he does not love like a Son. He loves like a Father. His union with Son and Spirit is analogized by earthly fatherhood, not sonship. WHy is the Son the Son and not the Father? Because the Son loves like a Son and not a Father. The difference is between the cherishing love of a father and the adoring love of a child.

Can a person still affirm eternal begottenness? I would say so. This is revisionism (referring to the Creed), but it’s not outright abrogation of the idea. EG proponents make the mistake of projecting the fact that earthly fatherhood naturally means “birth.” It should have been obvious that God cannot be born; He is entirely acausal in His perfections, including His Triune Personhood. Moreover, adopted children possess “begottenness” even though they were not born from the father.

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