Eternal Generation: An Act Always Continuing and Yet Ever Completed?

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Alexander Suarez

Puritan Board Freshman
Louis Berkhof (1873 - 1957) speaks of the eternal generation of the Son from the Father as "a timeless act, the act of an eternal present, an act always continuing and yet ever completed."

My question is if any other theologian before Berkhof spoke similarly, particularly using "always continuing" language.
 
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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Louis Berkhof (1873 - 1957) speaks of the eternal generation of the Son from the Father as "a timeless act, the act of an eternal present, an act always continuing and yet ever completed."

My question is if any other theologians before Berkhof speak similarly, particularly using "always continuing" language.

That ambiguity is a danger whenever we talk about eternity. If time is a succession of moments, and time isn't eternity, then eternity isn't a succession of moments. That's the danger in speaking, as we inevitably do, about "eternity past." I think that is what Berkhof is getting at. So far I agree with him. I probably wouldn't say that it is an act always continuing, because that is still speaking in temporal terms.
 

Alexander Suarez

Puritan Board Freshman
That ambiguity is a danger whenever we talk about eternity. If time is a succession of moments, and time isn't eternity, then eternity isn't a succession of moments. That's the danger in speaking, as we inevitably do, about "eternity past." I think that is what Berkhof is getting at. So far I agree with him. I probably wouldn't say that it is an act always continuing, because that is still speaking in temporal terms.

Thank you Jacob. I found a few authors who discuss it since posting the question. Our difficulty in discussing eternality without using temporal references certainly contributes to some of the confusion that might arise. It also seems to me that confusion on this point can arise if one conceives the Father's begetting as principally from the will, so as to imagine a process of becoming or potentiality from the original assertion by Berkhof and others. On the contrary, conceiving the generation of the Son as principally from His nature, "even as He is good, just, and wise by his nature" (Synopsis of a Purer Theology 1.211), seems to clarify this additional confusion.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
Calling eternal generation perpetual or continuous strikes me as reasonable. I understand that one may have caveats given the nature of eternity, but all such language is ultimately analogical. It is no less literal or proper than calling the Son generated or begotten, which in created things implies physical birth.
 

Stillwaters

Puritan Board Freshman
Many say it is an eternal personal act of the Father (by necessity of nature and not by choice of will).

I think Berkhoff says only the personal subsistence is generated (and the essence is communicated), and then Calvin started the Autotheon controversy, while Nicae Church Fathers (and I think Athanasian Creed) say the whole indivisible substance (essence) is also communicated.

I was studying this too and it just became too much for me.

I find the Critical Text (as opposed to the TR) very interesting in John 1:18 with the "Monogenes Theos" meaning "Only Begotten God" because that sounds like the essence is also generated to me. And it is Creedal.


And then I found a different version and way of wording it

on the PB's Bayou Huguenot Blog by A.A. Hodge ==>

"Eternal Generation: eternal personal act of the Father.

He generates the person of the Son by communicating to him the whole indivisible substance of the Godhead (182).

It is a communication within the Godhead."

 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Many say it is an eternal personal act of the Father (by necessity of nature and not by choice of will).

I think Berkhoff says only the personal subsistence is generated (and the essence is communicated), and then Calvin started the Autotheon controversy, while Nicae Church Fathers (and I think Athanasian Creed) say the whole indivisible substance (essence) is also communicated.

I was studying this too and it just became too much for me.

I find the Critical Text (as opposed to the TR) very interesting in John 1:18 with the "Monogenes Theos" meaning "Only Begotten God" because that sounds like the essence is also generated to me. And it is Creedal.


And then I found a different version and way of wording it

on the PB's Bayou Huguenot Blog by A.A. Hodge ==>

"Eternal Generation: eternal personal act of the Father.

He generates the person of the Son by communicating to him the whole indivisible substance of the Godhead (182).

It is a communication within the Godhead."


Right. The Father generates the person of the Son, which also includes a communication of the entire essence.
 

Stillwaters

Puritan Board Freshman
Right. The Father generates the person of the Son, which also includes a communication of the entire essence.
I am inclined to agree, and this is also what the Nicae Church Fathers taught.

However, the reasoning behind Berkhoff and others who believed as he did is interesting.

And then Calvin was fighting Subordination & struggled with the language of Nicae, and also struggled with terms relating to God's "from Eternity", and thus resulted in his Authotheos beliefs.

By the way, recently I have noticed that some "major players" in the Van Til Trinitarian realm (absolute personality & 1 Person & Self-Consciousness in Unity) are adopting Calvin's Autotheos beliefs.

BUT THIS IS REALLY OVER MY HEAD.

The more I studied it the higher in altitude it rose above me!

LOL

I know we are not supposed to go be "feelings" ... but I have a deep abiding "feeling" about the authenticity and accuracy of Nicae & then later Chalcedon & then later Luther & then finally the miracle of the Reformed Confessions.

I also believe that we stand on the shoulders of giants.

So think it is wise to rest in the wisdom of those whom God purposed to work out these matters long ago.
 
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