A History of the Doctrine of Eternal Generation of the Son
and Its Significance in the Trinitarianism:
Jung S. Rhee
In the formation of the doctrine of the Trinity, the concept of the eternal generation of the Son was one of the essential and major factors. However, it is either rejected or neglected in most contemporary discussion of the Trinity. This contemporary neglect of the eternal generation is neither legitimate nor tolerable. For this extremely strange phenomenon arbitrarily revises and reduces the biblical and confessional doctrine of the Trinity. Though the nineteenth century liberal hostility to the doctrine of the Trinity has been largely overcome in the twentieth century,1 it has not been accompanied by a revival of the concept of eternal generation.
In 325 A.D., the Christian Church
admitted the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son into
the articles of essential faith for salvation and made it a
pillar of the doctrine of the Trinity. The Nicene Creed
I believe...in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
The doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son consists of two com-plementary concepts which are described in two technical terms: eternal and generation. First, Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the literal and metaphysical sense of "Son". The Father is the origin, source, and cause of the Son, and the Son is the offspring, image, and derivative of the Father. Eliminating the difference between human generation and divine generation due to the difference of nature, the relationship between the Father and the Son is precisely "father and son" in its real sense. The Son is, as the Nicene Creed confesses, "the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds." The begottenness and sonship of Jesus is not metaphorical but metaphysical.
Second, Jesus Christ is eternal. This is an affirmation not only of his pre-existence but also of his perfect deity. His generation transcends time and time measurement. He was begotten before time began. Furthermore, his existence has no beginning, for the Father cannot be Father without the Son. The Athanasian Creed clearly states: "And in this Trinity none is afore, or after another...the whole three persons are co-eternal."
Though the marriage of these two words "eternal" and "generation" safeguards the orthodox and biblical doctrine of the Trinity, it has nonetheless been continuously challenged as "contradictory." In this charge, the ancient Arian heretics and contemporary attackers share the same reasoning, though they differ in their intentions. While the Arian heresy sacrificed "eternity" to save "generation", the modern attackers sacrifice "generation" to save "eternity".
The modern inability to affirm the
doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son indicates the
confusion, division, and defectiveness in the modern
understanding of the triune God, in whom we believe. Contemporary
exclusion of the eternal generation from the essentials of the
Trinity and its negligence was unimaginable in the fourth century
when the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity was shaped. Gregory of
Nyssa vividly describes his contemporary interest in the eternal
It is not possible to exchange money, to buy bread or to go to the baths without getting involved in discussions on the problem of whether one can or cannot speak of generation in the Trinity.2
No doubt. The doctrine of the Trinity was discussed, shaped, and confessed around the concept of the eternal generation. How can we explain the difference of interest between the fourth century and today? Eternal generation has been accepted and confessed throughout church history, but suddenly it is in danger. In the trinitarian discussion of the nineteenth and twentieth century, the doctrine of the eternal generation is severely attacked and damaged without receiving any careful defence. Because it is a composite concept, the rejection of one word, either "eternal" or "generation", results in the rejection of the doctrine and thus falls into one of the pitfalls of trinitarian heresy--tritheism or modalism.
Modern rejection of the eternal
generation has originated from the Enlightenment which had
significantly contributed to the rise of Liberal Theology and
modernism in general. Even after the eclipse of Old Liberalism,
the impact of the Enlightenment is strongly felt in Christian
theologies. In connection with the eternal generation doctrine,
the consideration of the Enlightenment's theological impact would
be helpful to understand our contemporary rejection of the
The Enlightenment and
The Enlightenment in the eighteenth century was an attempt at liberation from the Church's dominion of faith, dogma, and authority. Any concept beyond reason was regarded as superstitious and mythical. One of the Enlightenment's main targets was Jesus' pre-existence, divinity, and eternal generation. Elimination of these beliefs has been attempted in the name of "demythologization" by certain heirs of the Enlightenment--Adolf von Harnack and Rudolf Bultmann.
Deism, the theology of the Enlightenment, aimed at banishing all mysteries and miracles from religion. As Paul Tillich correctly pointed out, "the category of myth...was invented by the deists two hundred and fifty years before Bultman's essay on demythologization."3 G. W. Hegel, the father of modern philosophy, idealized all theological languages and subtracted personality from discussion of the Trinity. For him, there exists no living personal God, only the idea of the Absolute or Geist. Therefore, he cynically declared that "the Trinity has been reduced to a relation of Father, Son and Spirit, and this is a childlike relation, a childlike natural form...merely pictorial."4
Rudolf Bultmann has tried to make the Bible meaningful to modern man by translating the old mythical language into modern scientific language. What is myth? Essentially, Bultmann called any scientifically meaningless element in the Bible a "myth", and by the term "myth" he meant a form of imagery in which "the other-worldly is expressed in terms of this world and the divine in terms of human life, what is above in terms of what is below," "The mythology of the New Testament," he understood, "is in essence that of Jewish apocalyptic and the Gnostic redemption myths."5 Of course, he classified Jesus' pre-existence, divinity, and eternal generation as myth.
In demythologization there are two ways of processing myth. In the opinion of Bultmann, the old liberals made a serious mistake by employing wrong method, which was one of elimination. They simply cut all myths out of the Bible. The result was the ethical Christianity of the Old Liberalism. Jesus turned into a moral teacher and the New Testament itself was reduced into a small booklet of ethical teachings. His own method is quite different. It is not elimination, but reinterpretation.6 Even myths have essential meaning, Bultmann thought. Such a meaning should take a form appropriate for communicating to contemporaries. Myth and non-myth differ only in form, not in meaningfulness. The task of a biblical theologian is therefore to translate, signify, and transform some meaningless myths into meaningful images for modern man. However, Bultmann's translation, in fact, requires a holocaust elimination of essential Christian beliefs. It is just an old trick, disguising a departure from traditional Christianity. It reflects the pride and rebellion of modern man, for whom the richly meaningful truths of the last nineteen centuries suddenly become totally meaningless. Pursuing abstract "meaning" apart from reality, Bultmann is a mere existentialist.
For the sake of modernman's pride, the heirs of the Enlightenment sacrificed the truth of the eternal generation of the Son, either in a barbarious or civilized way. The Old Liberals hung it on the public square but Bultmann poisoned it in a hidden room. The eternal generation of the Son was not only meaningless but also contradictory to their enlightened rationality. Their elimination of the "myth" of eternal generation made a grave impact on contemporary theology--the religionless Christianity movement,7 the Myth of God Incarnate Debate,8 and anti-trinitarian New Testament scholarship.9
However, the threat to the doctrine of
eternal generation is much older and pious. Since the beginning
of the Christian Church, attempts to remove this doctrine from
the system of faith or to reinterpret it metaphorically have
continued. Some of them had a pious motif to defend the equal
divinity of the Son with the Father against the threat of
subordinationism. But,there is a great danger in the denial of
the eternal generation doctrine simply to protect the Son's
co-equality, because it could lead to tritheism.
What is subordinationism? As a matter of fact, definitions of subordinationism are widely and confusingly divergent.10 Historically, there are three types of subordinationism: Origenian, Monarchianistic, and Arian types. In the history of theology, Origen is one of the first who used the orthodox term homoousios and "the eternal generation of the Son." Nonetheless, he did not arrive at the Nicene confession of co-equality. First of all, he regarded the Son only as a secondary species of divinity, which he sometimes even spoke of as Theos Deuteros. As Louis Berkhof rightly pointed out, "This was the most radical defect in Origen's doctrine of the Trinity and afforded a stepping-stone for Arius."11 For only the Father was God in the strict sense, that is to say, ho theos, autotheos. Thus understood, his belief in homoousios was not"as an identity of substance but rather as a moral union of virtually identical wills" and the Son's divinity is possessed "only by participation."12 And, his eternal generation must be eternal emanation in the neo-Platonic sense. Another fatal defect is found in his contention that the generation of the Son is not a necessary act of the Father, but proceeds from His sovereign will.13 This necessarily implies that the Son is not God in the genuine sense but a "creature", even though he is the first, and high enough to mediate between God and world.
Monarchianism is another type of subordinationism, which was mainly interested in maintaining the unity of God and thus became the forerunner of the later Socinians and Unitarians. Paul of Samosata, the most noted representative of the so-called "dynamic monarchianism", also believed in the homoousios of the Son with the Father. However, the Logos and the Holy Spirit are merely impersonal attributes or powers of God, which exist in Him just as human reason and spirit exist in man. This Logos gradually penetrated into a man named Jesus and deified him to be worthy of divine honour. This adoptionist Christology, separation of Jesus from the pre-existent Logos, and depersonification of the Logos became dominant in modern liberal theology. Here, the eternity of Jesus' divinity and eternal generation is totally rejected, because His sonship is adopted and temporal. Modalistic monarchianism also agrees in this rejection.
To some degree, Arianism was influenced
by Monarchianism, for both of them distinguished "between
the Logos that is immanent in God, which is simply a divine
energy, and the Son or Logos that finally became incarnate."14
The latter had a beginning. He was "created out of
nothing" before the world was created. That is, Arius
believed in the pre-existence of the Son, but not his eternity.
In his Letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia, Arius wrote as
And before he was begotten or created or defined or established, he was not. For he was not unbegotten. But we are persecuted because we say, "The Son has a beginning, but God is without beginning."....We are persecuted because we say, "He is from nothing." But we speak thus inasmuch as he is neither part of God nor from any substratum. On account of this we are persecuted.15
As he confessed, he believed neither the eternity nor the generation of the Son. The Son is inferior because of his temporal creation. As we have seen, all kinds of subordinationism reject the orthodox doctrine of the eternal generation.
These subordinationisms were overcome in the Nicene Council by adopting the doctrine of eternal generation and homoousios in that sense. The defective belief in homoousios was perfected by the addition of the eternal generation. Without the concept of eternity, generation is degraded into creation. Therefore, eternal generation itself is incompatible with subordinationism. Being a son does not necessarily make him inferior to the father, It is true even in human society throughout history whether formally acknowledged not, and it was thus understood in the Nicene Council. According to the cultural setting, "'father-son" relationships may require more or less obedience and respect in courtesy, but at no time in history has inferiority of nature been suggested because of being a son.
However, pious and intellectual subordinationists began to look at the doctrine of the eternal generation with a suspicious eye, because they understood that the doctrine of the Son's eternal generation from the Father would be a threat to the co-equality and full divinity of the Son. However, they did not recognize that their rationalistic piety was already beyond the bounds of Holy Scripture and the confessional tradition. Now, their doctrine of the Trinity involves tri-theism.
What is tri-theism? It is a belief in three deities who are not consubstantial. Strict monotheism like Judaism or Islam accuses the Christian belief in the triune God of tritheism or polytheism in the simple sense that the Christians believe in three persons of divinity, that is, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. However, the triune God of Christianity is not three gods but one God. Granted, the term persona refers to "distinct individual persons, each of whom we may call "God". But, though it is mathematically puzzling, the reason we may not call them "three gods" is because they are homoousios. How can this be so? The Bible gives us a clear answer. They happen are consubstantial because the Son was begotten by the Father and the Holy Spirit was proceeded from the Father and the Son in eternity. That is the doctrine of the Son's eternal generation and the Holy Spirit's eternal procession, which the Christian Church has ever held as pillars of the orthodox Trinity doctrine. Therefore, without keeping the eternal generation doctrine, we cannot explain homoousios and safeguards the Son's co-equality with the Father. This maintains the co-equality without recognizing the Son's eternal generation, but such a conception is too abstract and absurd. For it might be characterized as follows: "Once upon a time, there were three persons belonging to the species called 'god'..." Therefore, it is even tritheistic.
In the church history, there are two
types of tritheism: Subordinationist and Aristotelian types.
Usually, subordinationism is distinguished from tritheism. But,
there is a connection between them and both of them meet in the
pagan idea of pantheism. It was present typically in the Arian
conception of the Trinity which consists of one superior deity
and a couple inferior and subordinate deities. According to
Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Arianism "thus became the standard
It's Arianism that Hilary, Augustine, and the Cappadocians identify as pluralist heresy. For if Sabellius confound persons, Arians are said to be guilty of "dividing the substance." That is, Arians have a Son and a Spirit who are less than homoousios with the Father....he is in fact a creature. Arianism, as Jaroslav Pelikan points out, thus became the standard tritheist heresy because, despite Arius's own insistence on the unity and simplicity of God, Arians worshipped Christ and the Spirit and baptized in their names while refusing them full ontological deity.16
This Arian tritheism was condemnned as heretical and this type of tritheism disappeared in the Church.
Since the sixth century, another type of tritheism appeared and confused the Medieval Church regarding the doctrine of the Trinity. It is the Aristotelian tritheism which fails to distinguish person and nature. Historically, it first appeared in the Monophysite Church in the sixth century,17 and then among the Nominalists, namely, Roscellinus(d.c. 1125), Gilbert de la Porree (c. 1084-1154), and Joachim of Fiore(c. 1132-1202), who were accused of teaching tritheism and condemned at the Councils of Soissons, of Reims and the Fourth Lateran Councils. Without exception, all of them were under the strong influence of Aristotelian philosophy, especially the distinction of substance into "primary substance" (prote ousia) and "secondary substance" (deutera ousia). The former refers to the individual substance, and the latter to the generic substance. When this Aristotelian distinction was applied to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, the "primary substance" of the Trinity was understood as the individual property (he idikotate phusis), and the "secondary substance" as the common (koine) substance which the three persons have in common. This represents a clear confusion in the use of trinitarian terms. Orthodox trinitarianism is very careful in the choice of terms, and it does not call the "primary substance" a "substance" or "nature" to avoid confusion between person and nature. Rather, it is called "personal property," "personal characteristics," or simply "person." Substance is what he is, while Person is who he is, including what he does. Also, the Aristotelian distinction relatively reduced the divine substance to something common, whatever it is left. This distinction of the divine substannce threatened the unity of the divine substance, i.e., homoousios, and raised tritheist controversies.
The basis for the Fourth Lateran Council's definition and condemnation of tritheism has been questioned, on the ground that the Council wrongly employed the Neo-Platonic conception of divine simplicity beyond the intention of the Nicene term homoousios.18 It is true that the Aristotelian or medieval tritheism fundamentally differs from Arian tritheism, and also it is true that the standard of the Council, later summed up in Thomas Aquinas as "in God, Nature and Person are identical,"19 is not biblical and orthodox. Nonetheless, they are guilty, not because they introduced pagan polytheistic tritheism, but because they carelessly introduced the Aristotelian logic to the doctrine of the Trinity and confused it. As a result, they were accused of teaching three substances.
The Nominalist philosophy of the universal and particular influenced some to translate "three persons in one substance" as "three particulars in one universal." This highly abstract language certainly distracted Roscellinus20 from the ontological unity by generation and procession to the social "unity of will and power," and thus, as Anselm pointed out, "this position logically leads to Tritheism."21 Also, Joachim of Fiore's statement of the Trinity went beyond the Nicene homoousios. On the conviction that the belief in one substance would logically lead to Sabellianism, he suggested that three persons must have three really distinct but utterly like substances and called them "one substance similitudinarie," which is not different from the semi-Arian concept of homoiousios. Their unity is not a unity of singularity but of idemptity, i.e., idemptitas, an assimilative and collective unity. For "if there were a singular unity of the three Persons, the three Persons would be distinct only in names and not in reality."22 As a result, he reduced the unity of the divine Trinity to a moral union of three gods. He leaned toward tritheism. In his trinitarian discussion, the doctrine of the eternal generation is not denied but set aside so as not to function properly and securely. Therefore, the Council instructively proclaimed that the unity of the Father and the Son is "inasmuch as he generates the Son" and "inasmuch as he is generated by the Father."23 However, it is strange that this condemned monk became a hero to the modern liberals and intellectuals.24 Their confusion between person and nature was corrected by John Calvin when he returned to the unsophisticated and realistic distinction of the Nicene-Athanasian Creeds.
After the Reformation, William
Sherlock(1641-1707), Pierre Faydit of Paris(d. 1709), Heinrich
Nicolai of Danzig(d. 1660), Anton Oehmbs(d. 1809), and Anton
Gunther(d. 1863) were accused of teaching tritheism. However, it
was used by modalists to criticize the orthodox trinitarians who
strongly affirm three distinct persons of God. In America,
Unitarians criticized traditional trinitarians like Moses Stuart
and Nathaniel Emmons as tritheists. Certainly, their charge was
inorder to justify their heretical view, but it is ironical that
American rejection of the eternal generation doctrine began from
these New England theologians. Nathaniel Emmons(1745- 1840), a
disciple of Samuel Hopkins, criticized the doctrine of the
eternal generation and even called it "eternal
nonsense". Contrary to his teacher,25 Emmons
We feel constrained to reject the eternal generation of the Son, and the eternal procession of the Holy Ghost, as such mysteries as cannot be distinguished from real absurdities, and as such doctrines as strike at the foundation of the ture doctrine of three equally divine persons in one God.26
The Scripture teaches us that each of the divine persons takes His peculiar name from the peculiar office which He sustains in the economy of redemption.27
By whom he was influenced enough to
resist his teacher's teaching is not clear, but it is certain
that the pious and rationalistic fear of subordinationism
motivated the denial of any element which might promote
subordinationism, in which they included the doctrine of the
Son's eternal generation. And this theological tradition was
succeeded by the Princeton theologians.
Benjamin B. Warfield insists that "this view became thereafter the common view among the New England churches, finding its complete expression in Moses Stuart and Horace Bushnell."28 It may be a slight exaggeration, but as far as the Princeton theology is concerned, it is absolutely true. It is very regrettable that the founders of modern evangelicalism based on the orthodox doctrine of the Scripture were influenced by their enemies, to whom the Scriptural language including "the Father" and "the Son" was purely symbolic and metaphorical in nature, and thus rejected the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son.
Charles Hodge(1797-1878), the chief architect of conservative Princeton Theology,29 rejected the traditional doctrine of the eternal generation. The main idea which he attacked was "derivation" of the Son, for he concluded, "All that is contended for is, that we are not shut up to the admission that derivation of essence is essential to sonship."30 Despite their basic denotation, he repeatedly emphasized that "the terms Father, Son, and Spirit....adds nothing to the facts themselves." And then, he explains what "the facts" are: (1) That there is one divine Being. (2) The Father, Son, and Spirit are divine. (3) The Father, Son, and Spirit are, in the sense just stated, distinct persons. (4) Attributes being inseparable from substance, the Scriptures, in saying that the Father, Son, and Spirit possess the same attributes, say they are the same in substance; and, if the same in substance, they are equal in power and glory.31 Thus, he excluded the eternal generation of the Son from the essential facts of the Trinity. The terms "Father-Son", therefore, are revealed simply to give us some ideas of "equality and likeness", not of generation or derivation.32
For him, real generation or procession is mere speculation. Therefore, discussion of the constitution of the Godhead held no attraction for him because it cannot be experienced and, therefore has "no practical concern."33 He blamed Origen for introducing the highly speculative Platonic doctrine of eternal generation,34 and mistakenly believed that the doctrine of eternal generation was invented by Origen. In addition to that, Hodge suggested two more reasons to reject the doctrine of the eternal generation, which are peculiar to Princeton Theology.
First, the Nicene Creed does not propound the doctrine of the eternal generation. He argued for this position by distinguishing between the Nicene Creed and the theology of the Nicene fathers.35 In the examination of the Nicene Creed, he charged the Nicene fathers with inventing the speculative "explanations" of what the Nicene Creed implies. Second, John Calvin rejected this doctrine. He simply assumed Calvin's acceptance of the Son's autotheos as the logical rejection of eternal generation.36 Upon these two mistaken assumptions, he rejected eternal generation.
Eliminating some unreasonable and
mysterious elements from the doctrine of the Trinity, Charles
Hodge reduced the divine Tri-unity to the social unity of three
To say that it is impossible that the one divine substance can subsist in three distinct persons, is certainly unreasonable, when....all men are the individualized forms of the numerically same substance called generic humanity.37
This rationally clear but biblically defective understanding of the Tri-unity is exactly the same as the social or moral unity of Roscellinus or Joachim of Fiore, who were condemned as tritheists. It was not because three distinct persons are conceived, but because no ontological relationships among them are supposed.
However, it does not seem that Charles Hodge was influenced by Roscellinus or Joachim of Fiore in rejecting the eternal generation, for both of them did not explicitly reject this doctrine. Neither his beloved teacher Archibald Alexander, nor his textbook teacher Turretin, nor directly John Calvin influenced his rejection. Rather, it may be a departure from John Calvin38--what Ralph J. Danhof called "the stains of humanism",39 that is, "the anthropocentricism of Scottish Philosophy."40 According to Sydney E. Ahlstrom, the Scottish Philosophy of Thomas Reid, so-called "Common Sense Realism", was first introduced to America by John Witherspoon, who became president of Princeton College in 1768, and was powerfully advocated by Archibald Alexander and Charles Hodge.41 It is reasonable, therefore, to assume that the Common Sense Realism encouraged him to reject this doctrine, for the generation of God seems absurd and contradictory to the common sense of the enlightened reason.42
The immediate impulse, however, might
have come from Nathaniel Emmons and Moses Stuart, both of whom
shared the same philosophical principles of Common Sense Realism
with him. In spite of some theological differences Charles Hodge
was proud of being within the tradition of Nathaniel Emmons and
Consequently, Charles Hodge argued that the bearers of the authentic Edwardsean mantle were the Princetonians, despite the fact that Edward's Idealism made them a little nervous. The tradition of Dwight, Emmons, and Hopkins was being substantially preserved at Princeton and substantially subverted at Yale.43
Charles Hodge, as is obvious from his correspondence with Edward Robinson, a student and collegue of Stuart's from 1821-1833, is to be located in the Moses Stuart tradition.44
Hodge's respect of Emmons and Stuart and the consequent acceptance of their common sense rejection of the eternal generation seems quite natural.
At least, three apparent mistakes are
easily found in his discussion of the eternal generation. First,
his rejection of the doctrine as not in the Scripture and
confessions is not consistent. As a matter of fact, Charles Hodge
twice recognized the Father's generation of the Son as biblical
and confessional, in the following passages:
Thus, generation belongs exclusively to the Father, filiation to the Son, and procession to the Spirit. This is the form in which the doctrine of the Trinity lies in the Bible. The above statement involes no philosophical element. It is simply an arrangement of the clearly revealed facts bearing on this subject. This is the form in which the doctrine has always entered into the faith of the Church, as a part of its religious convictions and experience.45
This is implied in the explanation of "eternal generation" universally accepted by the Nicene fathers, as "the eternal communication of the same numerical essence whole and entire, from the Father to the Son."46
However, what he is so concerned about is not the belief in eternal generation itself, but its "explanation". His naive principle is that we may not attempt to explain the eternal generation of the Son, for "what is meant by the term, neither the Bible nor the ancient creeds explain."47 Therefore, he severely criticized the Nicene fathers who attempted to "explain" what the Nicene creed simply affirmed.48 But his neutrality did not last long. He listed several possible explanations: "It may be sameness of nature: as a son is of the same nature as his father. It may be likeness, and the term Son be equivalent to eikon, apaugasma, charakter, or logos, or revealer. It may be derivation of essence, as a son, in one sense, is derived from his father. Or, it may be something altogether inscrutable and to us incomprehensible."49 And then, he violently and prejudicedly began to choose one of them as "his explanation". Most probably, it is "equality and likeness" and possibly "affection", but absolutely not "derivation."50 However, he gives us no plausible explanation for the violation of his own principle against explanations. What else can this be except his rationalistic anxiety over subordinationism! Sometimes, he used the term "subordination" too carelessly and inconsistently. As an advocate of trinitarian equalitarianism, he easily says that the subordination of the Son to the Father is a Scriptural fact and creedal assertion.51 Further, he explained that "this subordination does not imply inferiority....Neither does it imply posterity; for the divine essence common to the several persons is self-existent and eternal."52 However, his rejection of eternal generation as eternal derivation demonstrates an inordinate level of hositility and anxiety regarding the subordination which it seems to imply.
Second, he is self-contradictory in the understanding of the terms "Father" and "Son". Unlike Tritheists, Charles Hodge correctly perceived the terms "Father" and "Son" as revealing the relationships of the ontological Trinity, not merely of the economic Trinity.53 However, he rejected any idea of derivation, which is the most basic denotation of the terms "Father" and "Son". If they are conceived of only as the designations of the economic Trinity, it is understandable. But, it is inconceivable that the ontological designation "Son" does not imply any derivation.
Third, he misapplied the traditional
rejection of human traducianism to the divine generation of the
Trinity. He argues as follows:
But, in the first place, it is a gratuitous assumption that, so far as the soul is concerned, there is even among men any communication of the essence of the parent to the child. Traducianism has never been the general doctrine of the Christian Church. As, therefore, it is, to say the least, doubtful, whether there is any communication of the essence of the soul in human paternity, it is unreasonable to assume that such communication is essential to the relation of Father and Son in the Trinity.54
This is definitely, a defective syllogism, for God does not belong to the category of man. God is the pure Spirit, to whom the discussion of traducianism may not be applied. Ironically, this mistake was corrected by his son and successor, A. A. Hodge, who correctly pointed out that "This objection derives all its plausibility from unduly pressing the analogy between the human relations of Father and Son and the divine relations signalized by the same terms."55 Rather, his deductive reasoning had to be done in the other way. What is impossible in man could be possible in God. Therefore, the Nicene fathers had emphasized that it is possible because God is not human.
A. A. Hodge(1823-1886), "a master of summation and popular presentation,"56 simply followed his father's rejection of the eternal generation, though he presented it more radically and systematically than Charles Hodge, in a summarized form. Frankly recognizing that the orthodox understanding of the eternal generation includes derivation,57 he held it in suspense.58 In two points at least, he made a radical departure from his father's rather mild and conservative rejection of the eternal generation. First, he tends to view the terms "Father" and "Son" as designations of relations in the economic Trinity, though he could not totally disassociate them with "some" relation within the Godhead.59 Second, he insists that the generation and aseity of the Son do contradict each other. This is precisely the Arian understanding and contrary to that of Charles Hodge.60
Finally, Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield(1851-1921), "a warrior for the convictions that they(his predecessors) held dear,"61 has completely discarded the traditional belief in the eternal generation of the Son. As shown earlier, Charles Hodge recognized that there exists "the subordination of the Son to the Father...as to the mode of subsistence and operation."62 Furthermore, he understood that the mode of operation reflects the mode of subsistence and, therefore, the terms "Father" and "Son" reveal the ontological relations within the Godhead rather than that of the economic Trinity.63 However, this traditional view is no less obscured in A. A. Hodge, who was suspicious of the terms "Father" and "Son" as denoting the mode of subsistence, while he was very confident in their implication as far as the subordination in the mode of operation is concerned.64 Now, in Warfield, the final stage of the evolutionary process is completed. Without a reasonable and sufficient argument grounded in Scripture and orthodox theologies, he simply declared that the terms "Father" and "Son" should be taken "of merely economical relations."65 And then, the fundamental question arises: why does the Son's subordination to the Father happen in the mode of operation. To this, the orthodox answer is clear; it is the reflection of the mode of subsistence. However, when Warfield tends to deny that, the remaining answer is one of the tritheists. That is, the observed subordination in the mode of operation is due to an agreed covenant between the persons of the Trinity, on the voluntary basis:
But we are bound to bear in mind that these relations of subordination in modes of operation may just as well be due to a convention, an agreement, between the Persons of the Trinity--a "Covenant" as it is technically called--by virtue of which a distinct function in the work of redemption is voluntarily assumed by each.66
Therefore, it is an absurd idea to him that Scriptural phrases like "Son of God" or "the only begotten Son" imply any idea of derivation.67 Furthermore, he severely criticized the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, for they confessed the "doctrines of the eternal generation of the Son and procession of the Spirit, with the consequent subordination of the Son and Spirit to the Father in modes of subsistence as well as of operation."68 Perhaps, he did not recognize that it was against Charles Hodge too.
However, his more fervent and polemical
rejection of the doctrine appears in his long article entitled
"Calvin's Doctrine of the Trinity."69 Warfield
tried to find strong support for his rejection of eternal
generation in John Calvin, and insisted that the concept is
"entirely alien" to Calvin, in the following passage:
The point of view which adjusted everything to the conception of "generation" and "procession" as worked out by the Nicene Fathers was entirely alien to him[Calvin]. The conception itself he found difficult, if not unthinkable; and although he admitted the facts of "generation" and "procession", he treated them as bare facts, and refused to make them constitutive of the doctrine of the Trinity.70
Furthermore, he insisted that Calvin
attempted to annihilate the doctrine of the eternal generation by
destroying its proof passages:
The direct Scriptural proof which had been customarily relied upon for its establishment he destroyed, refusing the rest a doctrinal determination on "distorted texts." He left, therefore, little Biblical basis for the doctrine of "eternal generation."71
Definitely, this is contrary to the fact. Only for his own profit, Warfield misrepresented and maltreated John Calvin. Calvin did not reject the eternal generation of the Son.
After three centuries, he insists,
Charles Hodge reproduced precisely Calvin's position on the
eternal generation of the Son. However, it is not true. The
positions of both are really antithetical. Hodge rejected the
concept of derivation, but Calvin accepted it. Even Warfield
himself once confessed that Calvin included the concept of
derivation in his doctrine of the eternal generation in the
Nevertheless Calvin's conception of the
Trinity....included a doctrine of generation and procession by
virtue of which the Son as Son derives from the Father, and the
Spirit as Spirit derives from the Father and the Son....he taught
a doctrine of order and grade in the Persons of the Trinity
involving a doctrine of the derivation--and that, of
course, before all time--of the second and third Persons from the
first as the fountain and origin of deity.72
But, he obstinately suggested that what Calvin had meant by derivation is not derivation. It is really absurd to say that the orthodox doctrine of the eternal generation was not believed in its original sense by the Reformer John Calvin, who clearly said that the Father is the "beginning and fountainhead" of the Son.73
If there was ever any divergence in Calvin's doctrine of the Trinity, it was the concept of eternity in the "eternal" generation. To Calvin, it was implausible that the Son is still being generated by the Father. So, he strongly rejected the concept of eternity as continuity and perpetuality: "For what is the point in disputing whether the Father always beget? Indeed it is foolish to imagine a continuous act of begetting, since it is clear that three persons have subsisted in God from eternity."74 Warfield falsely assumed this rejection of continuous generation as "a definite rejection of the Nicene speculation of 'eternal generation'",75 and misled his readers by saying that Charles Hodge precisely repeated this rejection in his Systematic Theology (1: 466-7),76 where, however, no discussion on the concept of eternity is found. Rather, Calvin and Hodge are antithetical in this aspect too. Frankly speaking, Charles Hodge has no reason to discuss the concept of eternity, because he does not retain the concept of derivation. And, therefore, he has never discussed it. Once derivation is rejected, the remainina explanation is but an eternal, i.e., continuous relationship between the Father and the Son. Calvin was totally different. Because he genuinely believed in the generation of the Son before all worlds, he was not able to understand that the generation of the Son has not yet been completed, and therefore rejected the idea of perpetual generation. Therefore, we may conclude that Warfield's premise, that Charles Hodge precisely repeats John Calvin's doctrine of the eternal generation, is a bare fallacy.
His maltreatment of Calvin is
reproachable. In his article, Warfield introduced the Catholic
debate between Robert Bellarmine and Dionysius Petavius on
Calvin's doctrine of the Trinity. To both of them, the belief in
the doctrine of the eternal generation was "the test of
orthodoxy". While Bellarmine defended Calvin, saying that
"Calvin soundly believes in the doctrine of 'eternal
generation'; and therefore he pronounces him orthodox,"
Petavius condemned him, insisting that "Calvin does not
really believe in it; and therefore he pronounces him
heretical."77 However, although being himself a
Calvinist, Warfield sided with Petavius, praising him as
"right,"78 and criticizing
"Bellarmine's inability to conceive" of Calvin's
rejection of eternal generation.79 It is unfair and
1 Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., "The Hodgson-Welch Debate and the Social Analogy of the Trinity," (Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton Theological Seminary, 1982). In spite of his dissatisfaction with Barth's modalistic understanding of 'person', Plantinga gives credit to Karl Barth for the recovery of the Trinitarian faith: "Schleiermachian theology and the liberal reduction of trinity doctrine lost their dominance with the rise of Karl Barth and neo-orthodoxy," p. 6. "It seems fair to say that...Karl Barth has to be regarded as the major trinitarian theorist of the twentieth century. He not only revived, but also decisively shaped, most contemporary trinitarian discussion." p. 8.
2 Gregory of Nyssa, Patrologia Graeca (J. P. Migne), Paris, 1857-1866, 46 7B. quoted in Bertrand de Margerie, The Christian Trinity in History, tr. Edmund J. Fortman (Still River, MA: St. Bede's, 1982), p. xviii.
3 Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought, ed. Carl E Bratten (New York; Harper & Row, 1968), p. 291.
4 G. W. Hegel, The Philosophy of Religion, 3 vols, tr. E. B. Speirs and J. Burdon Sanderson (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Truber; & Co Ltd. l895), 3: 25.
5 Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, tr. Kendrik Grobel (New York: Scribner's, 1951), 1: 42.
6 Rudolph Bultmann, "New Testament and Mythology", in his Keryama and Myth, ed. Hans Werner Bartsch, tr. R. B. Fuller and H. Bartsch (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), pp. 12-16. "Perhaps we may put it schematically like this: whereas the older liberals used criticism to eliminate the mythology of the New Testament, our task to-day is use criticism to interpret it," p. 12; "....Harnack ethics; Unfortunately this means that kerygma has ceased to be kerygma; it is no longer the proclamation of the decisive act of God in Christ," p. 13.
7 Dietrich Bonhoeffer advocated the modernization of Christianity, i.e., religionless, godless, mature, secular and twentieth century grown-up Christianity in his Letters from Prison. John A. T. Robinson, in response to the reactions compiled in The Honest to God Debate, ed. David L. Edwards (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1963), defends his position: "I have been, and I remain, primarily a Biblical theologian and a fairly conservative one at that. I have no desire to 'preach any other gospel', nor do I wish to deny anything in the faith which the Creeds enshrine. My sole concern and contention is for the Scriptural revelation of God as dynamic personal love. And it is precisely because I am contending for this that I am so concerned for its meaningfulness in an age which has decisively turned its back on the picture of the world presupposed by the Biblical writers. The only question at issue is how the Biblical doctrine is to be given expression today, in a non-supranaturalistic world-view," p. 262. Again, "My concern...is not to throw out the myths, but precisely to enable us to use them....For modern scientific man cannot accept the mythological world-view as in any sense a description of reality," p. 267. Robinson classified "God sent his only-begotten Son" as a mythological statement, p. 266. And, he rejected a "mythological" reality generally: "Secularism rejects a supranaturalistic world-view, This does not mean that it rejects God....What it does reject is a picture of the world in which the reality of God is represented by the existence of gods or of a God in some other order or realm of being 'above' and 'beyond' the world in which we live," p. 256; Harvey Cox, The Secular City (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1965); Thomas W. Ogletree, The Death of God Controversy (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1966), pointed out four "similarities and points of contact" among the death-of-God theologians (Thomas J. J. Altizer, Paul M. van Buren, William Hamilton, and Gabriel Vahanian), one of which is "the assertion of the unreality of God for our age, including the understanding of God which have been a part of traditional Christian theology," p. 26. In this movement, which includes the death-of-God theology and the secularization theology, the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son is discarded or secularized.
8 This debate was started with the publication of The Myth of God Incarnate, ed. John Hick (London: SCM Press, 1977) by seven British theologians (Frances Young, Michael Goulder, Leslie Houlden, Don Cupitt, Maurice Wiles, and John Hick). In the same year, a response was given by a number of evangelical theologians in a book entitled The Truth of God Incarnate, ed. Michael Green (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 19ff), while an Anglican vicar, George Carey, wrote the booklet God Incarnate (Leicester: Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, 1977). In the following years the debate continued. In 1978 a colloquy was held between the original seven essayists and a group of their leading critics. The result were published in the symposium papers entitled Incarnation and Myth, ed. Michael Goulder (London: SCM Press, 1979), subtitled 'The Debate Continued'. The implication of this debate is profound, for disbelief in incarnation of Jesus entails the collapse of all the Christian doctrines. John Macquarrie, in his review of The Myth of God Incarnate, comments: "Christian doctrines are so closely interrelated that if you take away one, several others tend to collapse. After incarnation is thrown out, is the doctrine of the Trinity bound to go? What kind of doctrine of atonement remains possible? Would the Eucharist be reduced simply to a memorial service? What a rewriting of creeds and liturgies, of prayer books and hymn books, even of Holy Scripture, would be demanded!", as quoted in Klaas Runia, The present-day Christological debate (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1984), p. 109. This debate represents the contemporary rebellion against what Christianity has traditionally believed. When theologians reject even incarnation, the eternal generation of the Son is totally a nonsense to them.
9 Cf. de Margerie, The Christian Trinity in History, p. 153, He points out a strange phenomenon in the exegesis of the "Son of God" in recent New Testament scholarship: "Over the centuries Catholic exegesis has always presupposed that the expression 'Son of God' alluded to the eternal generation of the Son, without seeing any special difficulty in this. But modern functional exegesis--especially non-Catholic--believes there is question here of a temporal name and takes no further interest in the eternal condition of the Son."
10 de Margerie, The Christian Trinity in History, p. 74. "The essence of Subordinationism consists in the affirmation that the Son, and a fortiori the Spirit are inferior and unequal to the Father. A perpetual temptation and one which should not suprise us."
11 Louis Berkhof, The History of Christian Doctrines (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975), p. 84.
12 Edmund J. Fortman, The Triune God:.A Historical Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982), p. 56.
13 Berkhof, The History of Christian Docrines, p. 84.
15 Arius, "Letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia", The Trinitarian Controversy ed. & tr. by William Rusch (Philadelphia: Fortress Fress, 1980), p. 30.
16 Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., "Social Trinity and Trintheism" (unpublished article, 1989), p. 20; Cf. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, 5 vols. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1971-1989), 1:198-200; J. N. D. Kelly, The Athanasian Creed (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1964), p. 78. "Their teaching thus amounted in practice to tritheism." He attributed vv. 15-20 of the Athanasian Creed, especially the condemnatory rejection of calling Three persons of God as "three Gods," as aimed at Arian tritheism (pp. 76, 79).
17 For the detailed study of Monophysite tritheism, see R. Y. Ebied, A. Van Roey and L. R. Wickham, Peter of Callinicum: Anti-Tritheist Dossier (Leuven: Department Orientalistiek, 1981).
18 Plantinga, "Social Trinity and Tritheism," pp. 25-3l, "But is the standard itself plausible? And are we simply obliged to accept it, plausible or not?....Surely not."(p. 27)
19 Alvin Plantinga, Does God Have A Nature? (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1980), p. 9.
20 The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, F. L. Cross, ed. (Oxford University Press, 1958), s.v. "Roscellinus": "He was accused of Tritheism at a Council at Soissons in 1092, but denied having taught it and went to England, where his doctrines were opposed by St. Anselm."
21 Berkhof, The History of Christian Doctrine, p. 94.
22 Fortman, The Triune God, pp. 198-199.
23 de Margerie, The Christian Trinity in History, pp. 138-139.
24 Jurgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God, tr. Margaret Kohl (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), p. 203. "But in fact, ever since the middle ages, there is hardly anyone who has influenced European movements for liberty in church, state, and culture more profoundly than this twelfth-century Cistercian abbot from Calabria."; p. 206. "To take only a few examples of this influence: in Germany, Lessing's Gedanken die Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts ('Thoughts on the Education of Mankind') had a formative influence on the interpretation of the Enlightenment. Lessing quite deliberately picked up Joachim's ideas. Auguste Comte's
teaching about the law of the three stages of the spirit is a reflection of Joachim. And when Karl Marx declares that communism is the final transition from the realm of necessity to the realm of liberty, then here too the far-off echoes of Joachim's influence can be heard."
26 Nathaniel Emmons, Works, 6 vols., (Boston: Crocker & Brewster, 1842), 4: 114.
27 Ibid., 4: 109.
28 B. B. Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Trinity", in Calvin and Calvinism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1931), p. 276, n. 134.; Berkhof, The History of Christian Doctrines, p. 97. quotes Moses Stuart, who said, "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are words which designate the distinctions of the Godhead as manifested to us in the economy of redemption, and are not intended to mark the eternal relations of the Godhead as they are in themselves."
29 Sydney B. Ahlstrom, ed., Theology in America: The Major Protestant Voices from Puritanism to Neo-Orthodoxy (lndianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Educational Publishing Co., 1967), p. 47. "He(Archibald Alexander) is the founder of the Princeton Theology. But it was his pupil and colleague, Charles Hodge(1797-1878), who became the chief architect of Reformed Confessionalism at the seminary."
30 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B.
Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), 1: 470.
31 Ibid., 1: 444-445.
32 Ibid., 1: 469-471.
33 Ibid., 1: 442-443. "The doctrines of the Bible are, therefore, intimately connected with religion, or the life of God in the soul. They determine the religious experience of believers, and are presupposed in that experience. This is specially true of the doctrine of the Trinity. It is a great mistake to regard that doctrine as a mere speculative or abstract truth, concerning the constitution of the Godhead, with which we have no practical concern, or which we are required to believe simply because it is revealed. On the contrary, it underlies the whole plan of salvation, and determines the character of religion(in the subjective sense of that word) of all true Christians. It is the unconscious, or unformed faith, even of those of God's people who are unable to understand the term by which it is expressed." Here, the influence of several traditions are mixedly felt--the piety of John Calvin, the experience of Jonathan Edwards, and even the religious consciousness of Friedrich Schleiermacher.; The piety is an important aspect of Charles Hodge. See, Charles D. Cashdollar, "The Pursuit of Piety: Charles Hodge's diary, 1819-1820", Journal of Presbyterian History 55 (I977): 267-284; W. Andrew Hoffecker, "The Devotional life of Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, and Benjamin B. Warfield," Westminster Theological Journal 42 (1979/80): 111-129.
34 Hodge, Systematic Theology, 1: 451.
35 Ibid., 1: 462. "A distinction must be made between the Nicene Creed (as amplified in that of Constantinople) and the doctrine of the Nicene fathers. The creeds are nothing more than a well-ordained arrangement of the facts of Scripture which concern the doctrine of the Trinity. They assert the distinct personality of the Father, Son, and Spirit....and their consequent perfect equality....But the Nicene fathers did undertake, to a greater or less degree to explain these facts. These explanations principally to the subordination of the Son and Spirit to the Father, and to what is meant by generation, or the relation between the Father and the Son."; 1: 468. "The Nicene fathers, instead of leaving the matter where the Scripture leave it, undertake to explain what is meant by sonship, and teach that it means derivations of essence."; 1: 471. "There is, therefore, a distinction
between the speculations of the Nicene fathers, and the decisions of the Nicene Council. The latter have been accepted by the Church universal, but not the former."
36 Ibid., 1: 467.
37 Ibid., 1: 445.
38 Sydney E. Ahlstrom,. "The Scottish Philosophy and American Theology", Church History 24 (1955): 266. "The foundations of his[Charles Hodge] ethic and his conception of natural theology, moreover, are Scottish rather than Calvinistic....Despite his reiterations of dogmatic formulae, the optimism of the Scottish Renaissance interposes itself and seperates his theology from that of John Knox and John Calvin."; David Wells, "The Stout and Persistent 'Theology' of Charles Hodge", Christianity Today, August 30, 1974, p. 15. Charles Hodge was criticised not to be faithful to John Calvin: "First, C. P Krauth, the Lutheran dogmatician, observed that as a Calvinist divine, Hodge built on only a part of his heritage. He restricted his attention almost wholly to the scholastic Calvinists of the seventeenth century instead of viewing the whole tradition from Calvin to his own day. Charles Briggs even accused him of having deviated from the standards of the Westminster Confession because of his love of these scholastics. More telling than this however, has been the observation that Hodge went beyond Calvin without satisfactorily explaining why it was necessary to do so." Even Taylor "boldly attacked Hodge for having evolved beyond genuine Calvinism."
39 Ralph J. Danhof, Charles Hodge as a Dogmatician (Goes: Oosterbaan & Le Cointre, 1929), p. 192.
40 Ahlstrom, "The Scottish Philosophy and American Theology", p. 266.
41 Ibid., p. 262. "As a result of Witherspoon's powerful influence, Reid did supplant Berkeley at Princeton, and due to the powerful advocacy of Archibald Alexander, the first and for a year the only professor in the Princeton Theological Seminary, and Charles Hodge, his great colleague and successor, the Scottish Philosophy was carried by Princeton graduates to academies, colleges, seminaries, and churches all over the country."
42 Ibid., p. 264. Nathaniel William Taylor excellently stated the basic proposition of the Common Sense Realism as follows: "No proposition in mental philosophy is of any value, unless its statements can be reduced to the simple language of life. We must identify it with the principles of common sense."
43 David F. Wells, "Charles Hodge", in Reformed Theology in America: A History of Its Modern Development, ed. David F. Wells (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985), p. 42.
44 Thomas H. Olbricht, "Charles Hodge as an American New Testament Interpreter", Journal of Presbyterian History 57 (1979): 120.
45 Hodge, Systematic Theology, 1: 445.
46 Ibid., 1: 460.
47 Ibid., 1: 468.
48 Ibid., 1: 461, "....no attempts at explanation of these relations is given in these ecumenical creeds, namely, the Nicene, that of Constantinople and the Athanasian. The mere facts as revealed in the Scripture are affirmed,"; 1: 462. "But the Nicene fathers did undertake, to a greater or less degree, to explain these facts."; 1: 468. "The Nicene fathers, instead of leaving the matter where the Scriptures leave it, undertake to explain what is meant by sonship, and teach that it means derivation of essence." However, his pietistic suggestion of simple belief without any explanation is absurd. It will result in either theological anarchism or abstract faith.
49 Ibid., 1: 468.
50 Ibid., 1: 469-470.
51 Ibid., 1: 462. "The creeds...assert...the subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Spirit to the Father and the Son, as to the mode of subsistence and operation. These are Scriptural facts."; 1: 460. "the Nicene doctrine includes- 1. The principle of the subordination of the Son to the Father....": 1:464. "But it does not preclude subordination as to the mode of subsistence and operation. This is distinctly recognized in Scripture, and was as fully taught by Auguustine and by any of the Greek fathers, and is even more distinctly affirmed in the so-called Athanasian Creed, representing the school of Augustine, than in the Creeds of the Council of Nice."
52 Ibid., 1:460-461.
53 Ibid., 1:444. "The terms Father, Son, and Spirit do not express different relations of God to his creatures. They are not analogous to the terms Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor, which do express such relations."; Ibid., 1.472, "The First Person is called Father, not because of his relation to his creatures, but because of his relation to the Second Person. The Second person is called Son, not because of any relation assumed in time, but because of his eternal relation to the First Person....But if the terms Father Son, and Spirit do not apply to the persons of the Trinity as such, and express their mutual relations, there are no such distinctive terms in the Bible by which they can be known and designated."
54 Ibid., 1:469.
55 A. A. Hodge, Outline of Theology (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth
Trust, 1983), p. 180.
56 Mark A. Noll, "The Princeton Theology", in Reformed Theology in America, p. 17.
57 A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology, pp. 182-183. "Question 61. What is the common statement and explanation of this doctrine by orthodox writers? [Answer] The eternal generation of the son is commonly defined to be an eternal personal act of the Father, wherein, by necessity of nature, not by choice of will, he generates the person(not the essence) of the Son, by communicating to him the whole indivisible substance of the Godhead...., so that the Son is the express image of his Father's person....Those theologians who insist upon this definition believe that the idea of derivation is necessarily implied in generation....and they hold that this theory is necessary to the vindication of the essential unity of the three persons."
58 Ibid., p. 183. "The idea of derivation, as such involved in the generation of the Son by the Father, appears rather to be a rational explanation of revealed facts than a revealed fact itaelf. On such a subject, therefore, it should be held in suspense."
59 Ibid., "All that is explicitly revealed is....that the Father is first and the Son second in the order of revelation and operation."
60 Ibid., p. 185. "Question 68. If God is ens a se ipso, self-existent, how can the Son be really God, if he be theos ek theou, God from the Father? [Answer] The objection presented in this question....solely against the theory of derivation as involved in the ordinary definition. Those who insist upon the validity of that view rubut the objection by saying that self-existence is an attribute of essence, not of person."; Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 1:474. "If Christ is Son, if He is God of God, it is said He is not selt-existent and independent. But self-existence, independence, etc., are attributes of the divine essence, and not of one person in distinction from the others. It is the Triune God who is self-existent and independent."
61 Noll, "The Princeton Theology", p. 17.
62 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theoloy, 1: 462, 464.
63 Ibid., 1: 472. "The First Person is called Father, not because of his relation to his creatures, but because of his relation to the Second Person. The Second Person is called Son, not because of any relation assumed in time, but because of his eternal relation to the First Person."
64 A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology, p. 183.
65 Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, "The Bibllical Doctrine of the Trinity", in his Biblical and Theological Studies, ed. Samuel G. Craig (Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1968), p. 54. "Although, no doubt, in many of the instances in which the terms 'Father' and 'Son' occur, it would be possible to take them of merely economical relations, there ever remain some which are intractable to this treatment, and we may be sure that "Father" and "Son" are applied to their eternal and necessary relations. But these terms, as we have seen, do not appear to imply relations of first and second, superiority and subordination, in mode of subsistence; and the fact of the humiliation of the Son of God for His earthly work does introduce a factor into the interpretation of the passages which import His subordination to the Father, which throws doubt upon the inference from them of an eternal relation of subordination in the Trinity itself."
66 Ibid., p. 54.
67 Ibid., p. 52. Accordingly, he limited the conception of sonship in the Scripture to imply likeness, equality, and uniqueness.
68 Ibid., pp. 58-59.
69 Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Trinity," pp. 187-284.
70 Ibid., p. 257.
71 Ibid., p. 277.
72 Ibid., pp. 244-245.
73 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2 vols., ed. by John T. McNeil, tr. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics, 20-21 (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960). I.xiii.19: "But when we mark the relation that he has with the Father, we rightly make the Father the beginning of the Son."; 1.xiii.25: "but inasmuch as the Father is first in order, and from himself begot his wisdom, as has just been said, he is rightly deemed the beginning and fountainhead of the whole of divinity."; I.xiii.18: "we must not seek in eternity a before or an after, nevertheless the observance of an order is not meaningless or superfluous, when the Father is thought of as first, then from him the Son, and finally from both the Spirit."; in I.xiii.25, Calvin rejected "derivation" of essence but affirmed that of person.
74 Ibid., I.xiii.29.
75 Warfield, "Calvin's Doctrine of the Trinity," p. 248.
76 Ibid., p. 250.
77 Ibid., p. 256.
78 Ibid., p. 260.
79 Ibid., p. 258.
The Doctrine of the eternal generation in opposition to the hellenistic logos doctrine in the early church
the triumph of ontological realism and eternal generation in the nicene creed
John Calvin and Reformed Theology on the Doctrine of Eternal Generation
The Significance of the Eternal Generation Doctrine in the Contemporary Trinitarian Trends
Karl Rahner's Philosophical Understanding of the Trinity