Defining the Trinity matters because it is God’s very self.
The Eternal Generation of the Son: Maintaining Orthodoxy in Trinitarian Theology
Author: Kevin Giles
Publisher: IVP Academic (www.ivpress.com)
In reviewing The Eternal Generation of the Son by Kevin Giles, F. W. Boreham’s end-of-life observation comes to mind, “If I could have my ministry over again, I would talk more about God. Not about God’s works or God’s ways, God’s power or God’s bounty. But about God’s very self—God’s omnipresence, God’s omniscience, God’s omnipotence; God’s unutterable goodness, God’s ineffable holiness, God’s splendor, God’s glory, God’s love. For if I could make people very sure of God, they would soon hurry to that divine Savior who is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by Him.” Two phrases in particular are applicable to what Giles has done and what makes this work valuable.
In seeking to answer if Jesus Christ, the son of God, is eternally begotten of the Father, Giles is examining “God’s very self.” Secondly, by examining whether this doctrine is scriptural, Giles is making us more “sure of God.” Throughout this book, God’s person in the Trinity is examined in detail. Regardless of where one might stand on these issues, the book is worth reading for the excellent scrutiny that Giles provides both doctrinally and historically. With regard to the latter, a significant portion of the book traces what the earliest Christians on up to the present believe to be true.
One reason why this matters is that some in our day question and even reject a doctrine that has been viewed as orthodoxy since the time of the early church. In one section, Giles summarizes this accepted teaching: “God is triune for all eternity. In the inner life of God, outside of time, divine threefold self-differentiation takes place in a way that is beyond human understanding or description. Following biblical language, this eternal divine self-differentiation is best designated as the eternal begetting, or generation, of the Son and the procession of the Spirit. God’s self-revelation in the economy (history) as Father, Son and Spirit reveals and confirms what is true apart from history—namely, that God is eternally triune. In other words, his triunity is not constituted by anything that takes place in this world; God himself constitutes his triunity by his own free and eternal decision. This is the view that triumphed and became orthodoxy” (19).
Giles focus is the eternal generation of the Son because it is this teaching rather than the procession of the Spirit that has come under attack.
Is it just a matter of semantics between theologians? I think not. Are there practical implications? Yes, and I will let Giles address this in his own words, “This book is a defense of the historic creedal faith of the church, which reflects the teaching of Scripture that the one God is Father, Son and Spirit. In other words, to deny that the Son is eternally generated by the Father is to undermine the very doctrine of the Trinity, which was developed to safe guard the full divinity of the Son. If the Son is not fully God for all eternity, then our salvation is in jeopardy. Only God can reveal God, only God can save, and only God should be worshipped” (21).
One surprising discovery is to learn of the connection between the idea that the Son is eternally subordinated to the Father (not an orthodox view) and the debate surrounding the subordination of women. Giles writes, “Virtually every evangelical who argues theologically for the Son’s eternal subordination in authority is committed to the permanent subordination of women. It is believed that just as the Father is ‘head over’ the Son, husbands are ‘head over’ their wives in the home and men ‘head over’ women in the church” (226). This subject is covered in a chapter near the end.
Giles grasp of historical and scholarly debate is impressive. He convincingly refutes those who pervert the orthodox view. In doing so, he presents truth about the person of God.
Christians talk frequently about knowing God. It’s puzzling then why there is so little teaching about this subject. How can we rightly and more fully know God apart from understanding His person? This is an excellent guide toward that end, which may even leave readers with a bit of wonder as they consider God’s unfathomable nature. As the apostle Paul exclaimed, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom. 11:33 ESV).
Even though our finite minds cannot fully grasp an infinite God, it does not follow that we should not seek to grow in our understanding of Him. It’s beautiful seeing the many facets of the Trinity.