Christ Jesus: Eternal Yet Begotten

Christ Jesus: Eternal Yet Begotten

Article by Paul Chung

“The Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father, is truly God in infinity, BUT NOT IN PERSONALITY.” — (E.G. White, MS116, December 19, 1905) (emphasis in caps added throughout)

What did Ellen White mean when she said, Christ "is truly God in infinity, BUT NOT IN PERSONALITY."?

Waggoner explains in words that are easier to understand making what Ellen White said above easier to comprehend:

“Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. He was begotten, not created. He is of the substance of the Father, so that in his very nature he is God; and since this is so ‘it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.’ Col. 1:19 ... While both are of the same nature, the Father is first in point of time. He is also greater in that he had no beginning, WHILE CHRIST'S PERSONALITY HAD A BEGINNING.” — (E.J. Waggoner, Signs of the Times, April 8, 1889)

CHRIST IS ETERNAL (truly God in infinity) AND YET HE WAS BEGOTTEN FROM THE FATHER (but not in personality as He at one point was “brought forth”)

A BIBLICAL ILLUSTRATION:

We see a picture of this idea in Daniel 2:45. While interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s vision—in particular, the stone that crushed the statue—the Prophet Daniel stated the following:

“Forasmuch as thou sawest that the STONE WAS CUT OUT OF THE MOUNTAIN WITHOUT HANDS, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.” ( Daniel 2:45)

Notice here, the stone, which clearly represents Christ (cf. Rom 9:33; 1 Cor 10:4; 1 Pet 2:8) and His forthcoming kingdom, was CUT OUT WITHOUT HANDS from its source, the mountain. THE STONE IS OF THE SAME NATURE AND SUBSTANCE, containing all the same elements, and is—essentially—the SAME AGE, as the mountain itself. And yet, this stone, which was always a part of the mountain, was “brought forth” to become a separate “stone” apart from its "source" at some point in time.

The inclusion of the words "CUT OUT WITHOUT HANDS" is perhaps significant in regard to creation versus begotten. We think of objects that we create (artistic, scientific etc) as being made "by hand" or we think of God’s creation as God’s “handiwork.” (“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Psalm 19:1). And this stone, cut out from the "original" material "without hands,” strongly indicate that the “stone” was perhaps not "made" or "created."

When a person creates something, they make something other than themselves; i.e a sculptor makes a statue. But if that sculptor begets something, it will be another person of the same kind as himself; the nature of the one who is begotten is of the same nature as the one who begets him. Similarly, When God creates something, the nature of His creation is finite and of a different order of existence than God. But unlike God’s creation, Christ, the only begotten Son of God, bears the very nature as the Father Himself and therefore eternal and divine.

A finite created being begets a finite created son and an infinite uncreated Being begets an infinite uncreated Son. The nature of the begotten is always that of the begetter.

Notice the following statements (how Christ is essentially the same “material” as the Father):

“With what firmness and power he uttered these words. The Jews had never before heard such words from human lips, and a convicting influence attended them; for it seemed that divinity flashed through humanity as Jesus said, "I AND MY FATHER ARE ONE." The words of Christ were full of deep meaning as he put forth the claim that he and the Father were of ONE SUBSTANCE, POSSESSING THE SAME ATTRIBUTES. The Jews understood his meaning, there was no reason why they should misunderstand, and they took up stones to stone him." (ST, November 27, 1893 par. 5 )

Note: Here, Sister White refers to the Father and the Son as having “one substance,” but she qualifies the statement by adding, “possessing the same attributes.” Father and Son are two separate, distinct personalities and yet they have the SAME divine nature—“one substance, possessing the same attributes.” (Ellen White is not saying that the Father and Son are an amalgamation of one indivisible being.)

”Though sin had produced a gulf between man and his God, a divine benevolence provided a plan to bridge that gulf. And WHAT MATERIAL DID HE USE? A PART OF HIMSELF. The brightness of the Father's glory came to a world all seared and marred with the curse, and in His own divine character, in His own divine body, bridged the gulf. . . . The windows of heaven were opened and the showers of heavenly grace in healing streams came to our benighted world. . . ." (Our High Calling, 12.2; Emphasis in caps added)
"...Christ was the one who consented to meet the conditions necessary for man’s salvation. No angel, no man, was sufficient for the great work to be wrought. The Son of man alone must be lifted up; for only an INFINITE NATURE could undertake the redemptive process..." {ST March 5, 1896, par. 6}

Note: if Christ had no filial relations with the Father, meaning, if he is an independent, ingenerate God without source, without any ontological connection with the Father, then how is it that Christ's "MATERIAL" is the same as the Father's material ("PART OF HIMSELF")?

Notice the parallel in the following statement that speaks of Eve being part of Adam not unlike how Christ, the Son of God is also part of the Father.

"Adam regretted that Eve had left his side; but now the deed was done. He must be separated from her whose society he had loved so well. How could he have it thus? His love for Eve was strong, and in utter discouragement he resolved to share her fate. He reasoned that EVE WAS A PART OF HIMSELF; and if she must die, he would die with her; for he could not bear the thought of separation from her." {SR 36.2}

2 Corinthians 5:19 (KJV) To wit, that GOD WAS IN CHRIST RECONCILING THE WORLD UNTO HIMSELF, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

Colossians 1:19 (KJV) For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;

"A complete offering has been made; for “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,”—not a son by creation, as were the angels, nor a son by adoption, as is the forgiven sinner, but a Son begotten in the express image of the Father’s person, and in all the brightness of his majesty and glory, one equal with God in authority, dignity, and divine perfection. IN HIM DWELT ALL THE FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY." {ST May 30, 1895, par. 3}
“For centuries the Jews had vainly endeavored to show wherein the promise of God given by Haggai had been fulfilled; yet pride and unbelief blinded their minds to the true meaning of the prophet’s words. The second temple was not honored with the cloud of Jehovah’s glory, but with the living presence of One IN WHOM DWELT THE FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY—WHO WAS GOD HIMSELF MANIFEST IN THE FLESH.”{GC 24.2}
In contemplating the incarnation of Christ in humanity, we stand baffled before an unfathomable mystery, that the human mind cannot comprehend. The more we reflect upon it, the more amazing does it appear. How wide is the contrast between the divinity of Christ and the helpless infant in Bethlehem’s manger! How can we span the distance between the mighty God and a helpless child? And yet the Creator of worlds, HE IN WHOM WAS THE FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY, was manifest in the helpless babe in the manger. Far higher than any of the angels, EQUAL WITH THE FATHER IN DIGNITY AND GLORY, and yet wearing the garb of humanity! Divinity and humanity were mysteriously combined, and man and God became one. It is in this union that we find the hope of our fallen race (The Signs of the Times, July 30, 1896). {LHU 75.6}

What is all the FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY which dwelt in Christ?

"THE FATHER IS ALL THE FULNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY, and is invisible to mortal sight." SpTB07 62.3
"What manner of love is this, that the ETERNAL GOD SHOULD ADOPT HUMAN NATURE IN THE PERSON OF HIS SON, and carry the same into the highest heaven!" YI July 29, 1897, par. 7
“In the person of Christ we behold the eternal God...” (ST, Aug. 20, 1894)

Further note:

"We don't use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set-or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue. If he is a clever enough carver he may make a statue which is very like a man indeed. But, of course, it is not a real man; it only looks like one. It cannot breathe or think. It is not alive. Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is. They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God." (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 4, Chapter 1, Making and Begetting)

Caveat to C.S.Lewis’ statement- Lewis believed in the "eternal generation" of Christ. The doctrine of "eternal generation" is the idea that Christ is always in the process of being begotten; a continual begetting not a one time event... Nevertheless, he understood the crucial difference between that which is begotten and that which is created in that that which is begotten is of the same substance of that which begets and that which is created is of a different substance than that which creates.