December 1, 2020

The Council

Proclaiming the truth to the world.

An argument from some advocates of eternal generation is that Jesus comes “from God”. Jimmy Stephens shares his thoughts on this argument:

What verse do you have in mind? John 16 uses a lot of that language for example and the idea is well summarized by Jesus at the end of his spiel in verse 28.

I came from the Father and entered into the world, but in turn, I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.

This is how John opened his Gospel:

The true Light who gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him. . . Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.

The Son preexists His human incarnation in His divine nature. He has to come from the Father because He is by (divine) nature eternally face to face with the Father.

The sent language in this way presupposes Christ’s deity.

Imagine someone uses the language of (3) to say that the Father generates Bob, the second Son of the Trinity. We should, of course, guard ourselves from all the Bobs in creation. It’s not as if Bob is a creature. No, Bob is the Second Son of the Trinity in virtue of the fact that He is generated out of the essence.

In fact, George, the oak tree of the Trinity, was also not created. No, this oak tree is special and a member of the Godhead because George receives his Godly oakdom as part of the same indivisible act of communicating the essence.

As a matter of fact, that’s just what all the universe is- one grand eternal generation, where the persons in the universe are generated in an indivisible way from the communication of the essence.

Welcome to Neoplatonism.

This is one reason why Calvin’s view is silly.

Nothing about the unity of generation and essence-communication distinguishes the act from the act of creation. Add that it’s timeless and you still have no relevant distinction. Adding the distinction that it’s involuntary does remove creation but does not distinguish it from Neoplatonic emanation.

The essence of the Father cannot be generated nor communicated. Since the essence of the Father is the same as the Son, the essence of the Son cannot be communicated.

And the glaring error is to think anything of the word “begotten” remains in this concept anyway. The concept of procreation is of creation. If you strip creation from begottenness, then there’s no reason why we shouldn’t strip causality wholesale.

Broadly, it just means God’s personhood is a social network.

My take: the Trinity is a community where the Divine Members can be differentiated by the way in which they love one another. The distinctness of each Member’s love is reflected in human nature, especially the family and the church.

God the Father demonstrates the love He has for the Son by loving us like He loves the Son. God the Son demonstrates the love He has for the Father by winning our adoption.
Part of Christ’s mediation, we would probably all agree, includes bringing down to human experience the condescended presence of God. Jesus, therefore, allows humans to be with God, fellowshiping with Him as Triune. Christ makes the economic Trinity experienced by bringing us into covenant union with the Triune God, in which each Person plays an essential communitarian role. Communitarian meaning, the economic Trinity establishes a people, a culture, a social network that is united to and reflects God’s original.

This is that “participate in God” kernel of truth EO make weird by adding a bunch of Neoplatonic baggage.

Do the Three Persons have a separate love that is proper to them that is then shared/communed by each other, which then makes the three loves into one?

The word “then” is worrisome, at best. The Members of the Trinity do not have abstractable or independent loves “first” which they “then” add or put together to form a society called “God.”

I hold to the following staunchly. Whether the Members of the Trinity possess individual or share one mind/will/love, etc., no individual Member of the Trinity can be intelligibly referred except by presupposing the other two as members of numerically one Godhead.

This is sufficient to rule out most forms of social trinitarianism. Most social trinitarians, per your wording, think of the unity of the Members as emergent or that each Member is or has something extractable from the Triune God. That is, at best, unbiblical confusion.

I hold to the following tentatively. I suspect God possesses both a singular and a triune love. That is, God both has a numerically single self-love shared by the Members and each Member possesses a unique love as well, and each Member’s love both (a) distinguishes that Member from the Others and (b) entails the other Members as the object or medium of that love.

For example, I suspect the Father and Son both have the same God-love, same meaning indistinct, numerically one. At the same time, the Son’s patrifugal love both distinguishes Himself from the Father and requires the Father as identical to God.

I think the phrase social trinitarian applies only because I think the essential means for distinguishing the Trinitarian Members in Scripture is their interlinked names and loves.

The Father is distinct from a rock. A rock is not a person at all.

The Father is distinct from a parent. Frogs can be parents, but God is not a creature.

The Father is distinct from a progenitor. Humans can produce offspring without caring about them at all. Moreover, procreation is causal and God is acausal, Uncaused.

The Father is distinct from a guardian, as with adoption. Humans can adopt by law, but God is subject to no law.

What concept of fatherhood is left? Only two.

We are still left with ESS, which profoundly is better supported by all the EG arguments. (One more reason EG is silly.)

Now our last option. When you cut away all the senses of “Father” that cannot apply, and also reject ESS, one sense remains: male-parent-like affection. Meaning, the kind of limitless self-giving love father’s are supposed to have but do not inherently possess by means of any of the above sense.

This is one reason why EG is eyebrow-raising. It’s entirely unneeded. For one thing, we deny adoption for the same reason we deny EG: procreation is essentially creaturely just as adoption is essentially creaturely.

Recommended Reading:

Is Eternal Generation Biblical?