The Eternal Generation of the Son: Maintaining Orthodoxy in Trinitarian Theology
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The Eternal Generation of the Son: Maintaining Orthodoxy in Trinitarian Theology

IVP Academic / 2012 / Paperback

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Stock No: WW839650


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Product Description

Should all Christians, especially evangelicals, hold on to the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son? What is lost if we don't?

In The Eternal Generation of the Son theologian Kevin Giles defends the historically orthodox and ecumenical doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son of God. He argues on biblical, historical and theological bases that, given its fundamental meaning, this formulation is indispensable, irreplaceable and faithful to Christian revelation.

The book will be especially helpful in the current discussion of this doctrine. It will also be of interest to students, pastors and laypersons who want to delve into the Christian understanding of the identity of the Son of God and serious study of trinitarian theology.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 264
Vendor: IVP Academic
Publication Date: 2012
Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)
ISBN: 0830839658
ISBN-13: 9780830839650

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Publisher's Description

Should all Christians, especially evangelicals, hold on to the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son? What is lost if we don't? Theologian Kevin Giles defends the historically orthodox and ecumenical doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son of God. He argues on biblical, historical and theological bases that, given its fundamental meaning, this formulation is indispensable, irreplaceable and faithful to Christian revelation. The book will be especially helpful in the current discussion of this doctrine. It will also be of interest to students, pastors and laypersons who want to delve into the Christian understanding of the identity of the Son of God and serious study of trinitarian theology.

Author Bio

Kevin Giles (Th.D., Australian College of Theology) is an ordained Anglican minister who was in parish ministry for forty years. He has studied in Australia, England and Germany, publishing broadly on topics such as the doctrine of the church, leadership in the apostolic age, the equality of men and women, the Trinity and congregational life. Giles has contributed numerous articles to scholarly journals, and to IVP's and . Among his books are and He has also served as a minister and consulting theologian for World Vision Australia. Giles and his wife Lynley have four grown up children and nine grandchildren. They live in Melbourne, Australia.

Endorsements

Kevin Giles has done the theological community a service with his detailed account of debates on the issue of the eternal generation of the Son by the Father. His work represents a fine example of a theological reading of Scripture drawing on the 'cloud of witnesses' throughout the ages to defend and explain this basic trinitarian doctrine.
-Neil Ormerod,
professor of theology, Australian Catholic University, Sydney, Australia

Rejecting the biblicism at the root of problematic presentations of trinitarian doctrine among evangelical theologians, Kevin Giles mounts a vigorous defense of the Nicene teaching of the eternal generation of the Son. His book expounds with uncommon depth and lucidity both the biblical background and the traditional reception of the doctrine of the relation between the Father and the Son.
-Hans Boersma,
Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia

In The Eternal Generation of the Son, Kevin Giles hits a home run in terms of defending the traditional, orthodox doctrine mentioned in its title. He does it in three ways: this doctrine is the only way reasonably to interpret Scripture; it is the consensual teaching of historic Christianity; it alone safeguards against the heresy of subordinationism of the Son. Game won; case closed. Let's move on.
-Roger E. Olson,
professor of theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary

If the doctrine of the Trinity goes wrong, every other Christian doctrine will necessarily implode. The church fathers surely understood this. Yet within evangelical circles, a departure from classical trinitarian thought is discernible regarding the eternal generation of the Son. Kevin Giles has recognized this drift, analyzes it well and calls us back to a better way.
-Christopher A. Hall,
chancellor, Eastern University, and dean, Palmer Theological Seminary

Kevin Giles, who has established a reputation as an important voice in support of the Nicene faith and of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity, enhances that reputation in this book by trenchantly illustrating why those who today oppose the doctrine that the Son is eternally begotten of the Father end up in opposition both to the biblical witness and to the Nicene faith. Giles meticulously argues that those evangelicals today who reject this doctrine have unwittingly embraced the very Arian views they themselves oppose. This is a book that will challenge readers to understand Scripture and the historical development of trinitarian doctrine once again before embracing views that unwittingly undermine the Son’s true deity. For anyone interested in seeing the practical implications of sound trinitarian theology and Christology, this book is must reading.
-Paul D. Molnar,
professor of systematic theology, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, St. John's University, Queens, New York

Despite its prominent role in classic trinitarian orthodoxy, the eternal generation of the Son is routinely rejected by some evangelicals as unbiblical, speculative and philosophically problematic. In conversation with the great theologians of the church, Kevin Giles helps us understand the theological importance of eternal generation for the doctrine of the Trinity and presents a persuasive biblical and theological argument for why we, as evangelicals, should embrace this doctrine.
-Keith E. Johnson,
author of Rethinking the Trinity and Religious Pluralism: An Augustinian Assessment

Editorial Endorsements

The second book is just as rare and interesting, and what links it together with the previous is that both these books address a topic within the Godhead that cuts across the lines of gender conviction and unites egalitarians and hierarchists on both sides of the debate. In this case, the topic is not whether a one-way eternal subordination of the Son to the Father exists in the Trinity, but whether the Son is begotten by the Father solely in the incarnation or throughout all eternity, always proceeding from the Father.

While such a question may strike the casual reader as esoteric enough to evoke the age-old lay challenge to all theological questions (viz., Who cares?), the author, Rev. Dr. Kevin Giles, a long­term member of CBE and champion of biblical equality, argues that every historically orthodox Christian should certainly care, since "what we are in fact talking about in this study is eternal self-differentiation within the life of God in eternity" (24). In other words, for him, this doctrine "means that the Son is God in exactly the same way as the Father, but he is not the Father" (27), establishing that the Son was not merely created at the incarnation (as the neo-Platonist­influenced preacher, Arius, who saw the Son as a creation challenged the early church, "There was when [the Son] was not"). Instead, for Giles, the doctrine of the eternal generation teaches that the Son is eternally connected to the Father in the Godhead, revealing equality of substance (as the defenders of the Creed of Nicaea argued), but also distinction, making this doctrine nothing less than a defense of Trinitarian orthodoxy itself.

Of course, Professor Giles understands, as he notes, "Today, some of the best known names in the evangelical world advocate the abandonment of the doctrine of the eternal begetting, or generation, of the Son" (30), basically, because opponents contend "these words have no biblical warrant," and, since "'all we believe comes directly from the Bible,' the claim that the eternal begetting of the Son has no biblical grounding is a compelling reason why the words should indeed be set aside" (25). But, we should also note, some of the hesitation with current evangelicals is also over whether the Bible should be read first by itself or initially through the universally accepted creeds, which, though widely affirmed, are not themselves canonical Scripture. This division of approach can be found between the heirs of the more radical Reformational churches, such as congregational, Baptist, Pentecostal, and lower-church Presbyterian, and the Anglicans, Episcopalians, some higher-church Presbyterians, and others.

To the Anglican priest Kevin Giles, "However, the deletion of these words from the creed is a momentous step with huge consequences," since, in his view, "to cut out these words from this ecumenical creed is to cut oneself off from the belief of millions of Christians past and present who have confessed Jesus Christ as 'eternally begotten of the Father.' It is to break with historic orthodoxy, to move outside the catholic church, and a community that decides to do this becomes a sect." Giles cites Timothy Larsen's charge that "to reject all or part of the Nicene Creed is even to put oneself outside of the evangelical community of faith" (25-26).

Now, these are serious charges, indeed, for a doctrine that was presented to the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 by the early church historian, Eusebius, who was himself a semi-Arian, as part of the creed of the church he presided over at Caesarea. The doctrine was not adopted for inclusion in the creed of Nicaea by the Nicaean delegates. Later, according to historian Henry Bettenson, it was included in "a revision of the Creed of Jerusalem held by Cyril" ("as many believe"), becoming "the Constantinopolitan, or Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan creed," which 126 years later was presented at the council at Chalcedon in 451 as "the creed (of the 318 fathers who met at Nicaea and that of the 150 who met at a later time" (i.e., at Constantinople, 381), thereby being dubbed the "Nicene" creed 1 and replacing the actual historic Creed of Nicaea.

The very early theologian Origen, whose thought was later ruled heterodox, in his commentary on the Gospel of John, claimed that the Son derives deity from the Father (having "drawn divinity into himself") and would cease to be divine if disconnected ("he would not remain God if he did not continue in unceasing contemplation of the depth of the Father").2 Origen was a zealous proponent of "an eternal and everlasting begetting."3 Hesitation with such an interpretation may have accounted as heavily then as now for the rejection of this doctrine. To many evangelicals today, such a reading might make the Father appear to be the primary ingenerate deity out of which the Son and the Holy Spirit emerge eternally, thereby making the Son and Spirit secondary and tertiary gods.

Kevin Giles is totally opposed to such a radically subordinationist reading and utterly rejects the notion that the doctrine teaches any subordination in the Godhead at all, but contends it teaches exactly the opposite. As he explains: "The more common evangelical opinion that the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son implies or necessitates the eternal subordination of the Son in role and authority, not his ontological subordination, has nothing to commend it. This verbal distinction makes little or no difference. A necessary and eternal subordination of the Son in role and authority in the immanent Trinity implies the ontological subordination of the Son" (211-12). And here he cites Millard Erickson and others as well. One cannot make a statement more clearly than that, and his entire book is a careful exposition from the early church to the Reformation and Post-Reformation to the present day with copious examples to defend this doctrine as ensuring full equality in every aspect of the Godhead.

In essence, this is an important book, well thought through and passionately argued. Those who already accept this doctrine will be given reason for the hope that is in them, and those of us who question it will find provocative food for thought, as Giles skillfully seeks to set aside apprehensions that this doctrine undermines the equality of the persons of the Trinity, assuring us that it is not teaching any hierarchy at all in the Trinity, but the point of it is to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is fully God (along with being fully human), equal with, but differentiated from, the Father.

---William David Spencer
---Used with permission from Christians for Biblical Equality

Editorial Reviews

"Historic Trinitarianism has struggled to find meaning in the creedal confession that the Son is 'begotten, not made.' Giles has helped readers comprehend more fully the perils of subordinationism and the need to preserve the unanimous Christian tradition of 'the eternal generation of the Son.' Over all, this is a splendid work, readable, highly informative, and cogently argued."
"Despite its prominent role in classic trinitarian orthodoxy, the eternal generation of the Son is routinely rejected by some evangelicals as unbiblical, speculative and philosophically problematic. In conversation with the great theologians of the church, Kevin Giles helps us understand the theological importance of eternal generation for the doctrine of the Trinity and presents a persuasive biblical and theological argument for why we, as evangelicals, should embrace this doctrine."
"This study is marked by clarity of exposition and thorough footnotes, making it a valuable addition to the 'recommended' list for any graduate course on the doctrine of God. While the arguments draw upon evangelical commitments, students of the Catholic tradition would certainly benefit from its perspective on the discussion of God's triunity."
"The argument is rigorous and persuasive, and Giles' defense of the doctrine is much needed and timely given the pervasive influence of evangelical scholars who advocate the abandonment of the doctrine of the Son's eternal generation."
"A recommended read, not only for the particulars of the subject, but also for the lessons to learn concerning the necessary depth of understanding that today’s generation of church leaders need to attain as a core component of their vocation."
"Kevin Giles, who has established a reputation as an important voice in support of the Nicene faith and of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity, enhances that reputation in this book by trenchantly illustrating why those who today oppose the doctrine that the Son is eternally begotten of the Father end up in opposition both to the biblical witness and to the Nicene faith. Giles meticulously argues that those evangelicals today who reject this doctrine have unwittingly embraced the very Arian views they themselves oppose. This is a book that will challenge readers to understand Scripture and the historical development of trinitarian doctrine once again before embracing views that unwittingly undermine the Son’s true deity. For anyone interested in seeing the practical implications of sound trinitarian theology and Christology, this book is must reading."
"If the doctrine of the Trinity goes wrong, every other Christian doctrine will necessarily implode. The church fathers surely understood this. Yet within evangelical circles, a departure from classical trinitarian thought is discernible regarding the eternal generation of the Son. Kevin Giles has recognized this drift, analyzes it well and calls us back to a better way."
"In The Eternal Generation of the Son, Kevin Giles hits a home run in terms of defending the traditional, orthodox doctrine mentioned in its title. He does it in three ways: this doctrine is the only way reasonably to interpret Scripture; it is the consensual teaching of historic Christianity; it alone safeguards against the heresy of subordinationism of the Son. Game won; case closed. Let's move on."
"Rejecting the biblicism at the root of problematic presentations of trinitarian doctrine among evangelical theologians, Kevin Giles mounts a vigorous defense of the Nicene teaching of the eternal generation of the Son. His book expounds with uncommon depth and lucidity both the biblical background and the traditional reception of the doctrine of the relation between the Father and the Son."
"Kevin Giles has done the theological community a service with his detailed account of debates on the issue of the eternal generation of the Son by the Father. His work represents a fine example of a theological reading of Scripture drawing on the 'cloud of witnesses' throughout the ages to defend and explain this basic trinitarian doctrine."

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