Eternally begotten of the Father?

Peter Leithart quoted this on his blog:

“‘Begotten and not created’ makes exactly that distinction between two ways of being originated from God, the lack of which enabled the subordinationist glissando from God himself, who is unoriginated, to us, who are originated, through the Son, who is a bit of each.  On the contrary, we are ‘created,’ the Son is ‘begotten,’ and these are just two different things.  Nobody claimed to know exactly what ‘begotten’ meant in this connection, and yet a tremendous assertion is made: there is a way of being begun, of receiving one’s being, which is proper to Godhead itself.  To be God is not only to give being, it is also to receive being.  And there went the rest of Plato.”

Here I go again.  If no-one knows what begotten means in this connection it is a meaningless assertion, exactly like Lewis Carrol’s nonsense verse.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe.

Then the quote informs us that the Second Person received his being from the Father, but within the Godhead.  So begotten means begotten after all.

The Fathers taught that the essence of the Second Person is unbegotten, and that it is the Personhood that is begotten.  He received his identity from the Father, but without a beginning, so that there was no time that the Second Person did not exist as such.

Where is that written again?

Why not stick to the Biblical data and assert that the Lord Jesus was the eternal Word prior to his incarnation, one God with the Father, and refrain from speculation about the unbegottenness of substance as opposed to the begetting of Person?

That way we still stick it to the Arians without opening a can of worms about subordinationism within the ontological Trinity.  Do not go beyond what is written.

Doctor Leithart says that the Lord is both originated and unoriginated, and explains this in terms of the divine person only.  My explanation satisfies me much more, but then it would, wouldn’t it?  The Lord is entirely unoriginated regarding his divinity, and entirely originated regarding his humanity.  

Simple and uncomplicated, and most of all, Biblical.

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Monophysites and Diophysites

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These words sound like something out of a physics textbook. In fact they describe two ways of thinking and speaking about the Lord Jesus Christ regarding the union and distinction between the divine Logos and his humanity.

Historically the Christian Church was divided by the Council of Chalcedon. Both sides agreed, and still do, that Christ is one person in which perfect divinity and perfect humanity are perfectly united. The difference lay in the terminology used by Chalcedon to describe this union. The monophysite (one nature) churches could not agree to the wording, so they withheld their consent. They were the African Churches of Egypt and Ethiopia, the Syrians, Armenians and the Indians. The diophysite (two natures) churches were the Western and Orthodox churches, and since then, the Protestant churches.

It may sound like a stupid argument about words, not substance, but there is a real and valid point to the Monophysite objection.

They argue that St. Cyril has taught us that since the incarnation it is wrong to speak of Christ as if he is two, and not one. For example, it is wrong to say that he is God and man, since that is to speak of two entities. Rather we should speak of the incarnate God, since that is to speak of a single entity, a single person.

They use the example of burning iron. One does not speak of it as fire and iron, but as one thing. To do otherwise is unnatural. Man is a perfect union of body and soul, yet we do not speak of man as body distinct from soul. When you have indigestion you do not say, “My body is feeling discomfort but my soul is not”. That is an absurd mode of speech.

There is a far more serious reason not to speak of the incarnate God in this way. Nestorianism teaches that Christ’s deity and his humanity are so distinct that they are in effect two persons. There is a divine person and a human person, but the union is hardly a union at all. The argument is that when Chalcedon speaks of Christ in these dualistic terms, even though they formally affirm the perfect union, they are thinking in a way that has very strong Nestorian tendencies, a way that is unnatural, and a way of thinking about the two natures that is heretical, because it is so much like Nestorianism.

If we are to speak of the Hypostatic Union even the language employed must avoid Nestorian-like modes of speech and categories of thought.

To be continued …