Archive for December, 2008

Durham on the Trinity (and so the Eternal Generation of the Son)

December 22, 2008

Following on from Saturday’s post here is James Durham stating the same truth via the same distinctions:

These three blessed Persons, who are One most glorious Being, have yet an inconceivable order in their subsisting and working; which, being to be admired rather than to be searched, we shall but say, 1. They have all the same One Essence and Being as is said. 2. They all have it eternally, equally and perfectly: none is more or less God, but each hath all the same Godhead at perfection: and therefore must have it equally and eternally: for, the Godhead is the same, and the Son is the first and the last, as the Father is; and the Father and the Son were never without the Spirit, who is the Spirit of God, and each of Them is God… Yet, 3. The Father subsists of Himself, and doth beget the Son by an inconceivable generation: the Son doth not beget, but is begotten, and hath His subsisting, as the second Person, from the Father.  So much the titles of Father and Son … the Spirit proceeds both from the Father … and from the Son … the Spirit doth neither beget, nor is begotten, but doth thus, in an inexpressible manner, proceed from Them both.

This is from Durham’s extended excursus on the Trinity in his commentary on Revelation.  This is my last post until the new year – see you in 2009, DV.

“The Son is eternally begotten of the Father”

December 19, 2008

So reads WCF 2:3.  Again part of Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 10 reads “It is proper to the Father to beget the Son, and to the Son to be begotten of the Father”.  It would therefore appear that the doctrine of the eternal begottenness, or eternal generation, of the Son would be beyond controversy in Reformed theology.  However, this one settled doctrine is now being questioned.  The argument goes that to speak of the Son as “eternally begotten” of the Father is to deny his essential Divinity and to construct an inherently subordinationist view of the Trinity.  In working through Richard Muller’s fine Christ and the Decree he explains how some of the Reformed held together the Doctrine of the Son’s essential Divinity with his eternal generation by the Father.

For instance Muller notes that Jerome Zanchi made “the important systematic distinctions between the Son in his essential Godhead, [and] the Son as person in relation to the other persons of the Trinity…”   Bear that in mind in reading the following quote from Zanchi:

The Father alone is autotheon, in this sense, since he alone is from himself, and has nothing from another: the Son  however, both in what he is and in what he has, has all from the Father, and is God of God: because of which all things that he receives he bears to the Father: all this we easily allow.  But in turn this too is confessed, Christ is also autotheon in another sense: for surely insofar as he is God according to essence … which essence although it is communicated, is entirely without antecedent principle: and so in the Son it is from itself (seipsa) just as it is in the Father.

Muller can summarise Zanchi as follows, “even though the Son receives all from the Father insofar as he is generated or begotten, this Sonship implies no subordination: the Son is not a dependent essence.” 

Muller also outlines Ursinus’ views on the generation of the Son.  He comments: “Ursinus makes the distinction between essence and person, arguing the aseity [self existence] of the Son considered as to his essence but not as to his person.  For it is not as if a divine essence is generated … [Neverthless] The Son is begotten out of the Father, and, as begotten, receives the divine essence by communication…”  Muller quotes Ursinus’ words, “the essence, thus, of the three persons, because it is one and the same, exists of itself: even so the person of the Father is not from another or proceeding, but from itself: but the persons of the Son and the Holy Spirit are not from themselves: the Son, indeed, is from the Father, the Holy Spirit from the Father and from the Son, the essence of the Father being communicated to them.”

Again Muller shows Perkins held to a similar mode of thought sumamrising his views as follows: “insofar as he is the Son, he does not exist from himself but is begotten from the Father; yet insofar as he is God, the second person of the Trinity exists of himself…”

I hope that sheds some light on how we can confess that “the Son is eternally begotten of the Father” without making him somehow less than fully Divine.  I close this post with some word’s from A.A. Hodge on the spirit in which to meditate on these matters:

This we must do with bowed heads and reverent hearts, for the ground on which we stand is holy.  The subject is transcendently sacred: it is the infinitely righteous and majestic God.

David Murray on Preaching

December 18, 2008

I’m back on line after the move to Cambridge where we are now settling in well.  Over at the website of  the Puritan Seminary they have a blog where David Murray posts short video extracts.  One recent post that struck me was a short plea for preachers to be pleaders:

It is very much worth watching – I tried to embed it in the post but failed.  He also has a couple of recent posts on the interpretation of the Song of Solomon.  I hope to have a journal article out next year (DV) on the traditional reformed understanding of that book as represented primarily by James Durham.

I should post something more from Muller before the week is out.

Iain Murray on John Calvin

December 8, 2008

In the week we are meant to be moving to Cambridge I have broken my arm (actually I broke it 10 days ago but only made it to A&E this week).  Having moved our goods down there on Friday we are due to go down tomorrow.  This is dependent on the results of a hospital appointment tomorrow.  Whatever the outcome, it is good to know these things are ordered by a gracious God who works all things for the good.

Anyway, back to the free offer.  Here are some comments from Iain Murray from the introduction he wrote for John Calvin: A Heart For Devotion Doctrine & Doxology (Reformation Trust, 2008):

We have found it easier to be “teachers” and “defenders” of the truth than to be evangelists who are willing to die that men might be converted. Sometimes the impression can be given … that we think all gospel preaching can be fitted into the five points [of Calvinism]. The five points are not to be depreciated, but God is incomprehensibly greater than our understanding, and there are other truths to be preached far beyond our capacity to harmonize.

Calvin cautions us here. In speaking of the indiscriminate invitations of Christ in John 5, he observes, “He is ready to give himself, provided that they are only willing to believe.”  He can say that “nothing of all that God wishes to be saved shall perish” and yet warn his hearers lest the opportunity of salvation “pass away from us.”  He speaks of Christ’s “great kindness” to Judas and affirms, “Christ does not lay Judas under the necessity of perishing.”  If on occasions, when in controversy with opponents of Scripture, Calvin unduly presses the implications of a doctrine, he guards against that temptation in his general preaching and teaching. He does not hesitate to teach that God loves those who will not be saved; indeed, he writes that God “wishes all men to be saved,” and to the objection that God cannot wish what He has not ordained, it is enough for Calvin to confess: “Although God’s will is simple, yet great variety is involved in it, as far as our senses are concerned. Besides, it is not surprising that our eyes should be blinded by intense light.” Our duty, he would say, is to adore the loftiness of God rather than investigate it.

Where Calvinistic truth is presented as though there is no love in God to sinners as sinners – that His only regard is for the elect – it is no wonder that evangelistic preaching falters. The preacher has to be possessed with a love for all or he will not represent the Savior in whose name he speaks. The men of Calvinistic belief who have stood out as evangelists and missionaries have always been examples of this…

Why did our Saviour have to be both God and Man?

December 6, 2008

Via Richard Muller, Theodore Beza answers as follows:

Indeed the term mediator describes nothing other than the office and work of reconciliation, which would not have been possible unless this one was at once both God and man.  For if he had been only man, human nature would have remained ever separate from divinity: and if, similarly, he was only God, God could not have been conjoined with man: and thus Christ would not have been mediator, that is, would not have reconciled God and man, which Augustine intended by his statement, “Divinity without humanity does not mediate, and humanity without divinity does not mediate…” that is, Christ is not mediator or reconciler, as God alone or as man alone, but as the man-God and God-man, in one and the same person.
Epistolarum theologicarum Theodori Bezae Vezelii, p160

More from Muller next week (assuming I have an internet connection) where Ursinus helps us on the Trinity (in particular the eternal generation of the Son).