The Sonship of Christ is the foundation of the gospel and Christianity. This is the foundation of which Christ said, “upon this rock I will build my church.”(Matthew 16:18)
We have been warned of accepting false theories about the Father and the Son. John wrote, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.” (1 John 2:22, 23) John also wrote, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 1:9) To acknowledge the Son and abide in the doctrine of Christ means more than just calling Jesus the Son of God. Nearly every Christian in the world will say that they believe Jesus is the Son of God, but among these Christians there are many different views about the Son of God, and every false theory distorts the love of God in giving His Son to die for our sins.
The disciples and apostles of Christ’s day, along with the large majority of Christians who lived in the first few centuries after Christ’s death, understood Jesus Christ to be the literal begotten Son of God without any mysterious definition attached to these words. For example, Justin Martyr, quoting from Proverbs 8, refers to Christ in the following statement:
“The Lord… begets me before all the hills.” He adds: “You perceive, my hearers, if you bestow attention, that the Scripture has declared that this Offspring was begotten by the Father before all things created; and that that which is begotten is numerically distinct from that which begets, any one will admit.” (Justin Martyr–AD 110-165, Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 129)
Novatian wrote, “God the Father, the Founder and Creator of all things, who only knows no beginning, invisible, infinite, immortal, eternal, is one God; to whose greatness, or majesty, or power, I would not say nothing can be preferred, but nothing can be compared; of whom, when He willed it, the Son, the Word, was born… the Father also precedes Him, — in a certain sense, — since it is necessary — in some degree — that He should be before He is Father. Because it is essential that He who knows no beginning must go before Him who has a beginning; even as He is the less as knowing that He is in Him, having an origin because He is born, and of like nature with the Father in some measure by His nativity, although He has a beginning in that He is born, inasmuch as He is born of that Father who alone has no beginning.” (Novation–AD 210-280, Ante Nicene Fathers, Volume 5, “A Treatise on the Trinity,” Chapter 31)
There are many more examples of early Christians, accepting the Word of God just as it reads, who believed Christ to be the literal begotten Son of God who was born before all creation.
Over time heresies arose, and the plain statements of the Bible began, by some, to be understood differently from their common and intended meaning. Origen, who lived from 185-254 AD, came up with a new concept of the sonship of Christ called “the eternal generation of the Son.” This theory maintained that Christ is not a real son, as we would think of a son, but rather a mysterious person who is continually in the process of being begotten by God the Father.
“Origen… was the first to propose the concept of eternal generation. The Son is said to be eternally begotten by the Father.” (Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary—New Testament, page 364)
The term “eternal generation” is defined as a continual process of being begotten. One Catholic publication says, “The Christian belief is that the Christ of history is the Son of God, eternally begotten by one ceaseless action from the Father…” (Tell Us About God… Who Is He?, page 30, by the Knights of Columbus) This idea teaches that Christ has been in the process of being begotten forever in the past, is still being begotten, and will continue to be begotten forever in the future, in some mysterious way.
The theory of eternal generation, originated by Origen, was not widely accepted until several years later. It underwent some changes and was accepted as truth in the creed formulated at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, but even then, it was not held by the majority of Christians, though most of the bishops at the Council signed the creed out of fear of punishment by the Emperor. The new idea that Christ was not a born Son emerged upon the pages of history rather late—far too late to be considered part of the religion of the Bible. The Council of Nicaea was a pivotal point for the mysterious view of the sonship of Christ, because it was there that this new view gained a foothold.
The Council of Nicaea
In 325 AD, 318 bishops assembled in the city of Nicaea to discuss whether Christ was literally begotten or not. “The Arian controversy was chiefly waged over the question of the eternal generation of the Son,” or in other words, the meaning of the term begotten Son. (The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Second Series, Volume 9, Chapter 2, Introduction to St. Hilary of Poitiers)
Of this council, Philip Schaff wrote, “In reference to the theological question the council was divided in the beginning into three parties. The orthodox party, which held firmly to the deity of Christ, was at first in the minority… The Arians or Eusebians numbered perhaps twenty bishops… The majority, whose organ was the renowned historian Eusebius of Caesarea, took middle ground between the right and the left…” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 3, pages 627, 628)
The so-called “orthodox party,” or those who maintained that Christ was not literally begotten of the Father, was in the minority (less than 20), while the next larger group (around 20) were the Arians who maintained that Christ was “begotten, or created… from nothing,” with the vast majority being led by Eusebius of Caesarea (at least 279) who maintained that Christ was literally “begotten… the first and only offspring of God.” This middle group, led by Eusebius, is an embarrassment to Trinitarians, because the group led by Eusebius comprised the large majority of the council and they maintained that Christ was truly begotten of God the Father rather than created or eternally generated. Therefore, many historians completely ignore this group.
“The ancient and the Roman Catholic historians (and A. de Broglie, l.c. vol. ii. p. 21) generally assume only two parties, an orthodox majority and a heretical minority. But the position of Eusebius of Caesarea, the character of his confession, and the subsequent history of the controversy, prove the existence of a middle, Semi-Arian party. Athanasius, too, who usually puts all shades of opponents together, accuses Eusebius of Caesarea and others repeatedly of insincerity in their subscription of the Nicene creed, and yet these were not proper Arians, but Semi-Arians.” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 3, Footnote on page 627)
Through the power and influence of the Roman Emperor Constantine, the minority “orthodox party” succeeded in compelling all to sign their creed or be banished. Thus the new view that Christ was not literally begotten of the Father arose and was accepted as truth in 325 AD at the Council of Nicaea. Shortly after this council, one astonished Christian wrote,
“We have never heard, my Lord, of two beings unbegotten, nor of one divided into two; nor have we learnt or believed that He could suffer any thing corporeal, but that there is one unbegotten, and another truly from Him,… We believe not only that His origin cannot be explained in words, but that it cannot be comprehended,…” (Letter written by Eusebius of Nicomedia—A Historical View of the Council of Nice, by Isaac Boyle, page 41)
Arians maintained that Christ was “begotten, or created… from nothing.” (Arius as quoted in Alonzo T. Jones’ The Two Republics, page 333) Semi-Arians maintained that Christ was literally “begotten… the first and only offspring of God.” (Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, pages 15-17)
Sonship of Christ Becomes Orthodox
After the Council of Nicaea the Arians and Semi-Arians united in their struggle against the Nicene doctrine. For many years after the Council of Nicaea the majority of Christians were Semi-Arians, who maintained that Christ was truly a born Son of God, the Father. In fact, 34 years after the Council of Nicaea this view became the official teaching of the church at the Council of Rimini in 359 AD. The Arians and Semi-Arians drew up a creed that they could all agree upon. The Rimini creed said that Christ “was begotten of the Father without change before all ages.” The Arians accepted the creed because they were comfortable with saying Christ was begotten, and the Semi-Arians accepted it because it did not mention that Christ was created. If the number of bishops in council who decide on a doctrine indicates orthodoxy, this creed was even more orthodox than the Nicene or the Constantinople creeds because there were more than 400 bishops in attendance at the Council of Rimini, as compared to the 318 who attended the Council of Nicaea and the 150 who attended the Council of Constantinople in 381.
The Council of Rimini is so embarrassing to Trinitarians that most historians completely ignore this ecumenical council. Philip Schaff says, “the first two ecumenical councils” were “Nicaea [325 AD] and Constantinople [381 AD].” (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume 3, page 618)
For those who regard ecumenical councils as authoritative to determine doctrine, there is no legitimate reason for ignoring the Council of Rimini, and the only reason it is ignored is because its conclusions disagree with the chosen doctrines of those who ignore them.
(For a more thorough study on the Council of Nicaea and the events that followed, please contact us and request the booklet entitled, The Formulation of the Doctrine of the Trinity.)
The acceptance of the doctrine of eternal generation by the Catholic Church was an attempt to reconcile the plain statements of the Bible, that declare Jesus Christ to be “the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18), with the new view that He did not have an origin. This doctrine declares that Christ is now, always has been, and always will be in a process of being begotten by His Father in some eternal begetting process that never began and will never end. This is a re-definition of the word “begotten” to make it have some spiritualistic, incomprehensible meaning. The Bible says that Christ “proceeded forth and came from God.” (John 8:42) Christ is not proceeding (present tense), but He proceeded (past tense) from His Father. The Holy Spirit is said to be proceeding from the Father. Jesus said, “The Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father.” (John 15:26) There is a big difference between proceeded and proceeding, yet the Catholic Church accepted the theory that Christ will always be in the process of being begotten of His Father. As ridiculous as this sounds, it is the official teaching of the Catholic Church and is accepted by a surprising number of Protestant theologians.
The truth is, the people who formulated these theories did not find them in the Bible, but invented them to add to, and seek to make sense of, the chain of lies that began with the new view that Christ was the same age as His Father and not truly the begotten Son of God. Once this false theory is accepted as truth, one is compelled to continue inventing new lies in an attempt to harmonize the first lies that were accepted as truth. Thus, the Roman Catholic system is truly the result of one lie invented and placed upon another lie, until the final product is so far removed from the truth of the Bible that it can hardly be recognized as having any origin in Bible truth.
The Foundation of the the Man of Sin
On page 11 of the book, Handbook for Today’s Catholic, the Roman Catholic Church admits, “The mystery of the Trinity is the central doctrine of the Catholic Faith. Upon it are based all the other teachings of the Church.”
To be even more precise, the Catholic Church is founded upon the false theory that Christ is not truly the begotten Son of God, because it is this theory that the Trinity is based upon.
“In the formation of the doctrine of the Trinity, the concept of the eternal generation of the Son was one of the essential and major factors… The doctrine of the Trinity was discussed, shaped, and confessed around the concept of the eternal generation.” (A History of the Doctrine of Eternal Generation of the Son and its Significance in the Trinitarianism, by Jung S. Rhee, Dr. of Theology and the Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at the multi-denominational Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. This document is on the Internet at http://jsrhee.hihome.com/thesis1.htm.)
The Council of Nicaea in 325 AD said nothing about three persons in one God, but rather they debated upon and concluded, that Christ is not truly the begotten Son of God, but rather a mysterious “person” who is of one substance, or Being, with God the Father; who is continuously begotten of the Father. It was not until 56 years later, at the Council of Constantinople, that the idea that God consists of three persons became the official orthodox teaching of the Catholic Church.
Reviewing the history of “eternal generation” does not reveal deeply devoted Christians studying the Bible for more truth, but rather, Satan bringing new theories into Christianity to purposely distort our view of God’s love by insinuating that Christ is not truly the Son of God. He has been so successful in this deceptive work that nearly all of the official teachings of Catholic and Protestant churches reject Christ as the literal begotten Son of God.
“Begotten” Deleted From Newer Translations
Satan is so dedicated to eradicating the wonderful truth that God really gave up His only begotten Son, that he has convinced the translators of most of the new translations, including the NIV, RSV, NASB (1995 Edition), NLT, etc., to delete the word begotten from John 3:16. Check it out for yourself!
The translators of the Bible excuse this deletion by their supposed discovery that the Greek word monogenhV (monogenes) that was translated “only begotten” really means “unique” or “one of a kind” and has nothing to do with begotten. This theory falls quickly when we study the Bible and history. In all of the nine places where monogenes is used in the New Testament, it always refers to born children. And the people who lived during the time the New Testament was written, along with the early church writers, also understood monogenes to refer to begotten (born) children.
The theory of “eternal generation” is specifically designed to do away with the literal sonship of Christ, while seeking to harmonize the Bible statements that Christ is the “begotten Son of God.” In their attempt to discard the literal sonship of Christ, if Origen and the early Catholic councils understood monogenes to have no reference to begotten, they would have used this argument rather than inventing and accepting the confusing theory of “eternal generation.”
Monogenes is a compound word taken from the two Greek words monoV (monos) and genoV (genos). Monos means “only” and genos means “offspring.” If any of the Greek writers wished to convey the idea of “unique” or “one of a kind,” they did not use monogenes, but merely monos or monon (monon). This would not be true if monogenes really meant “unique.” If it did, we would find people using it for “only city,” or “only house,” etc., but we never find such usage. Even today, those who use Greek as their main language would never use monogenes to mean “unique” because they know it only refers to born children.
It is only recently (within the last 125 years) that an attempt has been made to redefine monogenes to mean “unique” or “one of a kind.” Yet, this cannot be accepted! If monogenes meant “only begotten” at the time the Bible was written, who has the right to redefine it 2000 years later and put a meaning on the word that was never thought of or intended by Bible writers?
Today, many Christians have completely discarded the idea of Christ being a begotten or generated Son of God the Father. As an example of this, let us read what one prominent Bible Commentary has to say about it. “The Sonship of Christ is in no proper sense a born relationship to the Father, as some, otherwise sound divines, conceive of it.” (Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary on Romans 1:4)
I am saddened to think that Satan has been so successful in removing Christ as the Son of God in the minds of so many Christians. This ought not to be. Jesus said He would build His church upon the truth that He is the Son of God. Jesus asked His disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:13-18)
Notice that the subject of this conversation was who Jesus is. When Jesus said, “upon this rock I will build my church” He didn’t change the subject and refer to Peter as the rock, but He was referring to the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. Upon this truth, Jesus said, “I will build my church.” This is obviously a very important truth, the truth upon which God’s church is built.
Solid Rock or Shifting Sand
Jesus said that He would build His church on the truth that He is “the Christ, the Son of living God.” The Catholic Church comes along and says that they have built their church on the Trinity doctrine, which was founded upon the idea that Christ is not literally the Son of God. Two churches, two foundations—one founded on the truth that Christ is the literal Son of God, and the other founded on the lie that He is not the literal Son of God. Satan has a plan in this. He knows that if He can remove the knowledge of Christ being the Son of God, he has successfully removed the power that can transform the sinner and bring continual victory to the Christian.
John declared, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5) My brethren, let us diligently consider the biblical statements concerning the Son of God, and refuse to accept teachings which are not founded upon Scripture. Paul feared that Christians would be deceived into receiving another Jesus, one who is not the Son of God. “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him [or hold yourself erect and firm—Thayer’s Greek Lexicon].” (2 Corinthians 11:3, 4)
Paul exhorted us not to accept another Jesus, or another gospel, because he knew that there would be men who would come and try to convince us to accept another Jesus than the one who is taught of in the Scriptures. My friends, Paul’s concerns have been fulfilled through the teaching known as the Trinity doctrine. With this teaching, they claim that the Son of God is not really God’s Son, but that He is merely some sort of mysteriously and eternally generated person. This idea denies the Father and Son relationship, which is so vital to our Christian experience. “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” (1 John 2:22)
Satan’s counterfeit god includes, inherent in it, a denial of the death of Christ. This, together with its denial of the sonship of Christ, effectively removes from its adherents any clear picture of God’s love, making it Satan’s masterpiece of deception. It is no wonder that he exerts all his power and influence to preserve, promote and protect this doctrine and to continually invent new angles that supply the same results, to ensnare as many as possible before his time runs out. We can look at the primary religions in the world and see that all of them deny the sonship, the death of Christ, or both. The Jewish and pagan religions reject Christ altogether, the Muslim religion believes Christ to be a noble and good prophet, but nothing more than a man, and certainly not the Son of God. The Catholic religion claims Christ to be a mysterious person continuously generating from the Father, and not literally the Son of God, and most Protestant religions follow in the same path or believe Christ to be a Son only by proclamation or by role playing.
Thank God that He is calling His people back to the plain truth of the Bible so that we can appreciate His love in giving His only begotten Son to die for our sins.