Jesus is the Son of God, right? Well, we all know that sons have a beginning, because they come from their fathers who are before them. So how can Jesus be eternally God without beginning since he has a father? I mean, fathers and sons are not the same age, duh!
Most of my regular readers are aware by now of my stance on philosophy: I’m not a fan. Therefore, I’m just going to come right out and say it: I really have no patience for vapid questions like this. If this is a question that has caused you to stumble, I’m sincerely sorry – it shouldn’t, you know.
Here’s the thing: in God’s word there are tons of unanswered questions. One may well ask, “how can God exist for all eternity”, “how will WE live for all eternity in heaven?”, “how can God know the innermost thoughts of humans?”, “how can God be all-powerful?”, etc. But we aren’t told the “hows”.
Now, most people let these philosophical questions go by without getting tangled up in them – they recognize that God is God, and we are not, therefore it is patent arrogance to demand an answer, least of all in this lifetime. To demand God fit into human categories of thinking and everything about Him “make sense to me” is just foolish.
So how is it, then, that the Unitarians who will accept God as eternal and uncreated (mind-blowing, just think about that concept of eternity for a while and watch your nose bleed from the strain) can ask a question like the above? I think God’s eternality is more understandable to me than how they can do that, but I digress.
The Bible says “in the beginning was the Word” (which we know is the Son) in John 1:1 – why is this not good enough, and just leave it at that? Why do the unbelieving Unitarians (and other Trinity-deniers) stand up in the assembly and say with a smirk as if they are some benevolent sphinx dispensing patronizing riddles about the world:
“Can God in His Eternity or Divinity have a Father? If yes then God is not from the beginning since whoever has a Father has a beginning! If not How can there be an Eternal Son without beginning when He has a Father?”
Philosophical hogwash. If you consider yourself a believer in the God of the Bible, then such a question is beyond the pale. You should be ashamed of yourself, trying to prove God does not mean what He clearly says in his word through empty and vain philosophy and human reason. Go on, tell me how this is not the exact approach used by Satan in the garden of Eden?
SOPHISTS! ALL OF YOU! HOW DARE YOU?!
What right have you, other than that usurped from God, to ask questions that even the angels know better than to ponder?! What purpose, other than to deceive yourselves and others?!
Repent, brothers. God’s word is more sure and true than your feeble mental capacities at reason could ever begin to grasp. You cannot overthrow the witness of God by the meager speculations of a mind feverish with sin, as all of ours are in this life. My advice: stop trying.
Okay, then, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system… ( ;D ) Deep breaths… deeeeeeep breaths…
Though I’ve just thoroughly decried the use of philosophy here, I’m going to indulge the skeptics and make use of it. Why? Simply because philosophy, rightly done, will always square up with the Truth. It is our corrupt and sinful inability to recognize and come to the Truth that prevents it from actually being rightly done in most cases (have you read John chapter 8 recently? Do so now!), but when used as a servant to God’s Word instead of the arbiter of it, philosophy has spectacular benefits. It is the overwhelming use of philosophy as a means to convince folks that God’s Word does not mean what it says which gets me in a tizzy, and not otherwise. That is why I can employ it here against the philosophers without being a hypocrite.
Oh, and also because I like beating them at their own games. 😉
As with other objections in the past, this one will be broken down into subsections, which are as follows:
- Creator-creature distinction
- The element of time
- Chronology, or Personal Relationship?
1 – Creator-creature Distinction
Right, so the first thing that should be noted is that God is God, and men are men. Yeah.
Sounds pretty basic, right? It should be, and yet in all my conversations with philosophically-inclined Unitarians this is the principle that is consistently overlooked. But it cannot be taken for granted.
The idea here is that God does not exist in the same way as man, and little to no comparisons can ultimately be drawn between the two. As a consequent of that, to take what we know of man and how we exist and operate and then apply that back up to God assuming that He must function likewise is folly. God is eternal, man is not. God is omnipotent, man is not. God is omnipresent, man is not. God is omniscient, man is not.
Therefore, to come to the table with the ingrained idea that any Father-Son relationship in the Godhead must be subject to operate on the same terms as that of humans really just assumes too much. It is on this basis that we can say for certain that the above question fundamentally undermines the Creator-creature distinction and fails to take into account that God, as our Maker, is wholly other than us and not subject to the rules He has put in place to govern our existence and, as such, the relationships between fathers and sons such as one-before-the-other.
(of course, He did voluntarily subject Himself to our rules of existence in the Incarnation, but that is beyond the scope of the current discussion)
2 – The Element of Time
To say that whomever has a father must therefore come AFTER that father and thus not be eternal is to implicitly assume the function of time. But such should not be taken as a given, least of all with God.
I don’t know about you, but I’m clueless as to how eternity operates. My guess is that that’s pretty common, no one really seems to be able to grasp it. Our entire experience is embedded within the space-time mesh of our created universe, so it’s understandable that what is beyond that mesh must be regarded as a mystery.
And yet here is another place the Unitarian derails. He assumes that somehow eternity is just another time-zone, and that what takes place there must follow a chronological sequence of cause-and-effect, one event tailing after another.
C.S. Lewis actually has a very nice section on this topic in his book, “Mere Christianity”. I offer here a portion from book 4, chapter 4, “Good Infection” – it’s a remarkable discussion on the relationships existing between the persons of the Triune Godhead and if you have not read it, I commend it to you for further study of this topic.*
Imagine two books lying on a table one on top of the other. Obviously the bottom book is keeping the other one up – supporting it. It is because of the underneath book that the top one is resting, say, two inches from the surface of the table instead of touching the table.
Let us call the underneath book A and the top one B.
The position of A is causing the position of B. That is clear?
Now, let us imagine – it could not really happen, of course, but it will do for an illustration – let us imagine that both books have been in that position for ever and ever. In that case B’s position would always have been resulting from A’s position. But all the same, A’s position would not have existed before B’s position.
In other words the result does not come after the cause. Of course, results usually do: you eat the cucumber first and have the indigestion afterwards. But it is not so with all causes and results.
– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (italics original)
3 – Chronology, or Personal Relationship?
What do the terms “Father” and “Son” mean? Many answers could conceivably be given, I’m sure, but not all are equally valid. For our purposes, the question I think really boils down to this: are Father and Son terms denoting chronology? Or personal relationship?
My answer: they are, strictly speaking, terms describing a personal relationship between two individuals (i.e. begetter and begotten). If these be human persons, an element of chronology is certainly implied due to the fact that we are temporal creatures. However, when using Father and Son of the non-temporal Creator, the element of chronology disappears.
That is to say: the concept of “one before the other”, chronologically speaking, is not at all an essential one with regard to the terms “Father” and “Son”. It is no more inseparable from these terms than the idea of nursing an infant is inseparable from the terms “mother” and “offspring”. Certainly, for any human (or other mammal) mother and offspring the concept of nursing is implied due to the nature of the things involved. However, baby snakes have mothers, and mother snakes have offspring, but no one would enforce the concept of nursing upon a mother snake and her offspring. “Mother” and “offspring” speak ultimately only in terms of personal relationship – beyond that it is only in the context in which the terms are used that you can assume additional characteristics such as nursing of the young.
In the same way, “Father” and “Son” only ultimately tell us about the essential personal relationship between the two persons so named. To add the concept of chronology (one after the other) to the definition of “Father and Son” is as foreign an addition as adding the concept of nursing to the definition of “mother and offspring”. While in some contexts, it might by assumed or implied, it can NEVER be said to be necessary to the definition of the terms themselves.
Therefore, my position (and I think it a very reasonable one) is that to say that the Father-Son relationship within the non-temporal God MUST involve an element of chronology is the same as saying that the mother-offspring relationship between non-mammal snakes MUST involve an element of nursing.
In a word: ludicrous.
Let me add some more C.S. Lewis to the pot, from the same chapter as my earlier citation, because I think he brings this concept of relationship out very nicely.
The First Person [of the Trinity] is called the Father and the second the Son. We say that the First begets or produces the second; we call it begetting, not making, because what He produces is the same kind as Himself. In that way the word Father is the only word to use. But unfortunately it suggests that He is there first – just as a human father exists before his son.
But that is not so.
There is no before and after about it. And that is why I think it important to make clear how one thing can be the source, or cause, or origin, of another without being there before it.
The Son exists because the Father exists: but there never was a time before the Father produced the Son.
– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (italics original)
In the end, what should always be remembered is that A) God is wholly other than us and cannot be expected to operate by our conditions of existence, B) that God is not subject to time (Incarnation aside for the moment) in the way human beings are, and C) that the Father is the Father because He is the source of the Son, and the Son is the Son because He is begotten of the Father. These words, Father and Son, denote relationship in person, not relationship in time.
Finally, we all need to remember that when philosophy and God’s Word collide – God’s Word wins. To speculate your way out of what is clearly revealed in Scripture (one God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God; and the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each personally distinct) is not only doing a disservice to yourself and others, but also blaspheming God’s very declarations about Himself – taking us again all the way back to the garden and, “Did God really say…?”
Trust what God says, friends.
He means it.
*You may read a digital copy of C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” at the following link:
To go immediately to the chapter discussed in this post, follow this link: