Christianity’s Foundation Under Attack
“If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalms 11:3)
The Sonship of Christ is the foundation of the gospel and of Christianity. This is the foundation of which Christ said, “upon this rock I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18)
One day, when Jesus and His disciples came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, 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.
Inspiration warns us 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 (110-165 AD), 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, Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 129)
Novatian (210-280 AD) wrote, “God the Father, the Founder and Creator of all things, who only knows no beginning, invisible, infinite, immortal, eternal, is one God;… of whom, when He willed it, the Son, the Word, was born… the Father also precedes Him,… Because it is essential that He who knows no beginning must go before Him who has a beginning;… [The Son has] 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, 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. “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 theory of eternal generation 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.
One Catholic publication has this to say about eternal generation: “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 in the beginning. Nearly a hundred years passed before his views of eternal generation were regarded by even a noticeable minority to be truth. His view of eternal generation 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 Constantine. 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. Referring to this Council, and to the controversy which surrounded it, one historian wrote: “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)
The reason this controversy is referred to as the Arian controversy is because a presbyter by the name of Arius openly disagreed with a sermon delivered by the bishop, Alexander, in which he proclaimed that the Father and the Son are the same age; that neither had a beginning. Arius maintained that if the Son is really a Son He must have had a beginning, yet he carelessly referred to this beginning as creation and said that Christ was “begotten, or created… from nothing.” (Arius as quoted in Alonzo T. Jones’ The Two Republics, page 333) The controversy spread rapidly with many people choosing sides. The vast majority still accepted the words of Scripture as they read that Christ was literally begotten of His Father, having a beginning, not by creation out of nothing, but by being begotten of His Father. Thus there were three groups in this controversy: 1) those who believed that Christ had a beginning by being literally begotten of His Father, 2) those who believed that Christ had a beginning by being created out of nothing, 3) those who believed that Christ had no beginning whatsoever, being the same age as God, the Father. In reality, the Arian controversy was between two extreme views of Christ, neither of which are taught in the Scriptures. According to the Bible, Christ is neither created out of nothing, nor is He without beginning but, rather, He was begotten “in the express image” of His Father before anything was created. (Hebrews 1:1-6; Colossians 1:15, etc.)
While this controversy raged, the Roman Emperor Constantine was seeking to have a united Christian church, so he called for a council to be held in 325 AD in a city called Nicaea. 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… 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)
Schaff refers to a group he calls “the orthodox party.” He is referring to the party that maintained that Christ is the same age as His Father, without having a beginning of any kind. Schaff points out that this group was at first in the minority. Since this was the case, they were not, at that time, the orthodox party, because ‘orthodox’ means, “Adhering to what is commonly accepted, customary, or traditional.” (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language) As we shall see, the group Schaff refers to as the orthodox party did not adhere to what was commonly accepted at their time. Today that party is called “the orthodox party,” because those who believe like they did are now in the majority, but at the time of the Council of Nicaea, they were definitely not the orthodox party because they were in the minority.
As the Council of Nicaea began, 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) was the Arian group, who maintained that Christ was “begotten, or created… from nothing.” (Jones, loc. cit.) The vast majority, being led by Eusebius of Caesarea (at least 279), maintained that Christ was literally “begotten… the first and only offspring of God.” (Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, page 15) This middle group, led by Eusebius of Caesarea, represented the beliefs of the large majority of Christians prior to the Council of Nicaea, all the way back to Christ and His apostles. They were truly the orthodox party of their day, even though, today, they are usually called the Semi-Arian group, as if they arose sometime after the “Arian heresy.” But the facts of history demonstrate that their beliefs were in existence long before Arius was born, and they were in the vast majority.
When the leader of the so-called Semi-Arian group presented a statement of his beliefs, he claimed that it was “a creed that had been largely in use before this dispute ever arose. He stated that this confession of faith was one which he had learned in his childhood, from the bishop of Caesarea, and one which he accepted at his baptism, and which he had taught through his whole career, both as a presbyter and as a bishop.” (The Two Republics, by Alonzo T. Jones, pages 347, 348)
This group, led by Eusebius of Caesarea, is an embarrassment to Trinitarians because it comprised the vast majority of the council and they maintained that Christ was truly begotten of God, rather than created or eternally generated. Therefore, many Trinitarian historians completely ignore this group as if it did not exist, and when it is mentioned it is called the Semi-Arian group, as if it were a group that came after, and sprang out of, the “Arian heresy.” However, the facts reveal that the belief that is called Semi-Arianism existed long before Arius was born.
As evidence of the widespread denial of this middle group, notice what one historian has to say:
“The ancient and the Roman Catholic historians… 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, Constan- tine, 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 [or bodily], but that there is one unbegotten, and another truly from Him,… We believe not only that [the Son’s] origin cannot be explained in words, but that it cannot be comprehended,…” (Letter written by Eusebius of Nicomedia as found in An Historical View of the Council of Nice, by Isaac Boyle, page 41. This book was included in Baker Book House’s edition of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History.)
Sonship of Christ Becomes Orthodox
After the Council of Nicaea the Arians and Semi-Arians united in their struggle against the Nicene doctrine. Even though the Nicene doctrine achieved, through threat of banishment, a favorable vote at the Council of Nicaea, it was not the most commonly held belief among Christians, and could only be considered the orthodox belief because it had been voted upon in council. For something to be orthodox it must be the commonly accepted view held by the majority. However, this was not the case immediately following the Council of Nicaea. In opposition to the Nicene doctrine, for many years after the Council of Nicaea the majority of Christians believed that Christ was truly a born Son of God. In fact, 34 years after the Council of Nicaea this view became the official teaching of the Catholic 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 AD, where the Trinity doctrine was accepted as truth.
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 it.
(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 [past tense] 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. (John 15:26) This is not a begetting process but, rather the Spirit continually emanates from its source, the Father, for it is His Spirit. 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 there.
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 paved the way for the formulation of the Trinity doctrine, and it is this theory upon which the Trinity is based.
“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 can be found 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, instead, a mysterious “person” who is of one substance, or being, with God; 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.” If Origen and the early Catholic councils understood monogenes to have no reference to begotten, they would have used this argument in their attempt to discard the literal Sonship of Christ, 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 in the New Testament. 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.
In recent years certain theologians have attempted 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 nearly 2,000 years later and put a meaning on the word that was never thought of nor intended by Bible writers?
Today, many Christians have completely discarded the idea of Christ being the begotten Son of God. 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 should not be. I find it ironic that a booklet like the one you are reading is required to help Christians understand that Jesus truly is the Son of God. This should be common knowledge among Christians, for it is the foundation of Christ’s church.
Solid Rock or Shifting Sand
Jesus said that He would build His church on the truth that He is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (See Matthew 16:13-18.) The Catholic Church has united itself with two well-known religions in the world, the Jews and the Muslims, to proclaim that Jesus is not truly the Son of God. The Catholic Church 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. There are two churches, with 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 that Jesus is not the Son of God. The Trinity doctrine claims 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)
The rise of the Trinity doctrine was predicted in the Bible many years before the Council of Nicaea. Speaking of the rise of the papacy, the angel Gabriel told Daniel, “And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.” (Daniel 11:36, 37)
This description of the papacy is almost identical to Paul’s description in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4. Notice, Gabriel said that when the papacy comes to power it will disregard the God of his fathers. In other words, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Peter, Paul, and the other apostles, would be disregarded by the papacy. Gabriel continued, “But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain.” (Daniel 11:38, 39)
Just as prophesied in the Bible, when the papacy came to power, the “God of [their] fathers” was disregarded, and a “strange god” emerged whom their “fathers knew not.” This prophecy was fulfilled to the letter when Satan inspired the papacy to invent and adopt the Trinity doctrine in the fourth century.
As we shall see, 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 of Christ, 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, by role playing, or by being begotten by Mary in Bethlehem.
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.