De Moor V:8: The Proper Generation of the Son

3.Nevertheless, it is Proper, and not Metaphorical; seeing that, α.the Filiation hence flowing is true and proper, Romans 8:32.β.That which constitutes an essential of Generation and its definition is applicable to the Son of God; together with natural consequences, which are wont to be proper to true Filiation through Generation.For, as Generation is the Communication of the Life of one subsisting to another, through which these obtain a mutual relation to each other, the former of Father, the other of Son; so the Lord testifies of Himself, John 5:26, ὥσπερ γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ ἔχε ιζωὴν ἐν ἑαυτῷ, οὕτως ἔδωκε καὶ τῷ υἱῷ ζωὴν ἔχειν ἐν ἑαυτῷ, for as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.And hence it is not strange, if He as Son is said to enjoy the paternal Image, expressing the Father because of the Essence communicated by Him; just as thence an Image renders its archetype, but thence also it is borrowed, Colossians 1:15.He is ἀπαύγασματῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως, the brightness of the glory and the express image of the person, of the Father, because, just as pure light radiates from the Sun, and a figure impressed in way most faithfully represents the form and outline of its exemplar; so, by a delicate assimilation to be explained θεοπρεπῶς,in a manner suitable for God, the Son possesses with the Father the same divine perfections, uncreated light, equal form, but communicated by the Father, light of light, as the ancient Symbols say; see the Dissertation of TRIGLAND the Younger in his Dissertationum Sylloge, pages 233-292.Equal with the Father, on account of the same Essence and Perfections with Him, Philippians 2:6, on which text thoroughly peruse our AUTHOR, Exercitations XLI, XLII, Part II, Exercitationibus Textualibus, John 5:18.A partaker of the fullness of the Godhead, Colossians 2:9.All which texts the Catechesis Racoviana attempts to enervate to the best of its ability, chapter I de Cognitione Personæ Christi, questions 80, 81, pages 109-111, and likewise questions 51, 54-56, 70, 71, pages 89, 92-94, 103:thus the Most Illustrious ARNOLDI restores to the same their genuine sense and native emphasis, with the artifices of the Socinians overthrown, in his refutatione Catecheseos Racovianæ, on the places cited, pages 315-319, 279-283, 298, 299; compare in addition the same Catechesin Racovianam, on question 4 de Prophetico Christi munere, pages 129, 130, where it turns those most splendid titles and descriptions regarding His Deity and divine Filiation to the Prophetic office of Christ, and weakly explains it of the Will of God perfectly manifested through Him.With respect to Christ’s divine Filiation properly so called through that Proper Generation, the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day XIII, Question XXXIII, calls Christ the Natural Son of the Father;[1] which epithet was incorrectly omitted from a certain edition of the Catechism, since it is not only found in the Latin Translation, but was already found in the German version in the first edition in the year 1563; neither was any change observed here in the translation published by Dathenus in the year 1566,[2] and thereafter:see ISAAC Le LONG’S[3]van den Oorsprong der Gereformeerden Nederlandschen onder ‘t Kruys en derzelver Dienstboeken, § LXXXVIII, C, CI, pages 112, 131, 132, 157.Concerning this Generation, whether it is to be called Proper or Improper, consult the Judicium Ecclesiasticum laudatum contra Röellius, chapter III, § 7; and LEYDEKKER’S Præfationem ante Ludovici de Dieu[4] Aphorismos theologicos, section II, C. 2.The Theological Professors of Leiden, in their Judicio de Dissertatione Röellii de Generatione Filii, etc., given in the year 1692, speak thus concerning this Generation, whether it is to be called Proper or Improper:“With Communication affirmed, it is additionally asked, whether this Generation of the Son by the Father is and is able to be called Proper?Röellius denies this, and assails the same, especially (in our judgment) from the error everywhere exercising influence in his book, as if no Generation were able to be called Proper, that was not corporeal and material, and liable to all the defects that accompany matter; on which hinge turns all his reasoning.But, although we willingly confess that this Mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ, is one of the most sublime mysteries, which sort the Christian Church ever held to by hyperphysical, incomprehensible, and ineffable; nevertheless, with holy veneration, we, resting upon the Word of God, are able to affirm that this Generation has always, altogether, and with good reason been held by the Christian Church as true and Proper:which will soon appear to those diligently attending to the formal and proper nature of Generation in the abstract and in general, and not of this or that particular human Generation, unto which Röellius always appeals.But on this foundation it could also be denied that God properly is, thinks, wills, works; since these things do not obtain in God in the same manner as in men.But thus the matter itself will instruct us, and the definition of the ancient orthodox Church will declare, this is truly to be the Son, that is, to reflect the verity of the form of the Father, in a perfect similitude of the nature co-imagined in Himself, Hilary de Synodis (chapter XV, column 1160):with which Röellius himself agrees, when, in his Dissertatione, § XXIII, page 21, he writes, “The Idea of Generation Properly so called is the idea of the bringing forth of a similar thing, or of the communication of the same nature.But, since such a Communication was made by the Father to the Son, why would we hesitate with the ancient, orthodox Church to call this GenerationProper? and why would we seek another reason, and the same forced and novel, than what is supplied for us by the Father, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee, Psalm 2:7?Indeed, since we see that Generation properly consists in this, that something similar to the one generating is posited; and in addition it is generally acknowledge that this similitude by internal operation is communicated from one to the other:at the same time, it follows from this, that, the more internal this communicating operation may be, and the more perfect and adequate the similitude may be, the more Proper a Generation is able to called.Whence it appears more clearly than the noonday sun that the divine Generation of the Son by the Father is not only Proper, but the most Proper of all that are able to be or to be thought, far above the Generation of creatures; since the operation here is as internal as possible, John 14:11, and the similitude between the one generating and the one generated is altogether perfect and there is true equality, John 5:18, and it is not only a similitude of species, but a sharing of one and the same divine essence and form, Philippians 2:6.To this the repeated denominations of Father and Son in Sacred Scripture have regard, which one may not presume to be continually used there in a sense improper and foreign to the usual signification without any indication of this thing.At least it occurred to no one before this Author, that the simple Coexistence of the Son with the Father is denoted; which sort of Coexistence in the same nature also obtains in men that never in any respect bear the name of Father and Son relatively to one another.Neither is it proper for us to make ourselves wiser and more prudent than God Himself and His Son, who do not hesitate to declare Christ the Son of God, not metaphorical, nor improper, but proper, Romans 8:32, and God the proper Father of the Son, John 5:18, an account of which matter Christ gives to the Jews ignorantly hating this, John 5:26.Apart from the fact that the denial of the proper Filiation and Generation of Christ from the Father, and the explanation of this concerning the Coexistence of the Son with the Father, it draws after itself more absurdities not to be reconciled with the simplicity of the Christian faith:among which it is not at all the least, that thus the Father is no less able to be called the second person in the Deity and generated by this, as that is now affirmed of the second Person:for the Father coexists with the Son no less than than the Son with the Father; the Son declares and manifest the Father, John 1:18; 17:6, no less than the Father does the Son; which is foreign to all Scripture, and overturns the eternal Mediatorial covenant and the economy of the Trinity in the business of our salvation.So that he might respond to these things, while our Author completes frees himself from this, so that he might add in his Dissertatione, § XXXIX, page 40, That I might speak frankly, I do not see what could be the difficulty in this, if we should say that perhaps it was possible:for I am ignorant of this and one may judge only of things perceived and known:perhaps, I say, it was possible, if thus it had seemed good to God, to have been, that what person is now called the Father, had been called the Son:he fails to remove the absurdity, but greatly increases the same:for thus the divine Paternity and Filiation is not posited to be natural, but rather depending upon the free Decree, and is hence mutable and accidental; which ought to be considered as a sufficiently harsh and paradoxical hypothesis, not at all agreeable to the modesty commended by Paul, Colossians 2:18, nor to be reconciled with the Heidelberg Catechism, which teaches from the divine Word that the First person is the Eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Question XXVI,[5] that the Second is the Eternal and Natural Son of God, Question XXXIII; but what in God is eternal and natural is in no way able to be mutable; the Father was never without His Son and His Holy Spirit, Belgic Confession, article VIII.[6]This declaration of the Generation of the Son is all the more dangerous, because, with it admitted, we do not see with what foundation and in what manner the distinction between the three divine Persons from all eternity (which Röellius nevertheless acknowledges as necessary) could be preserved, demonstrated, and defended.While Röellius repudiates the eternal Generation of the Son and the ἐκπόρευσιν/procession of the Holy Spirit, in which the reformed Church has hitherto posited that distinction, nothing is left to it in eternity except the Coexistence of those three in the divine Essence.But (as has been said) that Coexistence is applicable to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (according to the hypothesis of that Author) in the same manner, that is, of itself, and is common to those three:but what is now common to all and in the same manner is not able verily to distinguish one from another.Neither is it a suitable remedy for the removal of this absurdity, that Röellius, in his Dissertatione, §XL, page 40, to this Coexistence joins the Mode, in which the most Holy Trinity willed to manifest the communion of the same nature, through that wonderful Economy of the persons, especially in the works of the redemption of mankind.For this manifestation had been able not to bee, and is made only in time; it is not possible from this to make a distinction from eternity, which sort of distinction is required.Nor does it suffice to say with Röellius, Dissertatione, §XXXIX, page 39, that the divine Persons are distinguished in number numbering and numbered:since number does not make, but rather supposes and follows, a distinction.Finally, it does not suffice that in § XXXIX, page 40, he posits:Therefore, the very names (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are characters of persons, and to that extent characteristic properties of them.Because those Names are taken either for the thing signified by them, that is, for that mode and relation of subsistence that obtains between the Father and the Son by Generation; which the reformed Church holds, but Röellius rejects:or for the very names; but these are external and not in God, these according to Röellius pertain to the economy and dispensation of our salvation, these, he supposed, could have be changed, and hence are not able to constitute the foundation of a distinction eternal, necessary, and natural between the three divine Persons; neither does Sabellius refuse to admit a nominal distinction of this sort.”Thus far SPANHEIM, TRIGLAND, and MARCKIUS in their Judicio on the Röellius’ opinion concerning the Generation of the Son.

[1] Heidelberg Catechism 33: “Why is Christ called the only begotten Son of God, since we are also the children of God? Because Christ alone is the eternal and natural Son of God; but we are children adopted of God, by grace, for His sake.” [2] The Heidelberg Catechism was translated into Dutch by Petrus Dathenus (c. 1531-1588), a Dutch Reformed theologian, who did much to advance the cause of the Reformation in the Netherlands. [3] Isaac Le Long (1683-1762) was a historian and bibliographer. Although of French descent, his family fled to the Netherlands for religious reasons. He wrote a history of the Dutch Reformation. [4] Louis de Dieu (1590-1642) was a Dutch Reformed minister, linguist, and orientalist. He brought his considerable learning to bear upon the interpretation of the Scripture. [5] Heidelberg Catechism 26: “What believest thou when thou sayest, ‘I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth?’ That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them; who likewise upholds and governs the same by His eternal counsel and providence) is for the sake of Christ His Son, my God and my Father; on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt, but He will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body: and further, that He will make whatever evils He sends upon me, in this valley of tears turn out to my advantage; for He is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.” [6] Belgic Confession 8: “According to this truth and this Word of God, we believe in one only God, who is one single essence, in which are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct, according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Father is the cause, origin, and beginning of all things, visible and invisible; the Son is the word, wisdom, and image of the Father; the Holy Ghost is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son. Nevertheless God is not by this distinction divided into three, since the Holy Scriptures teach us that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost have each His personality, distinguished by their properties; but in such wise that these three persons are but one only God. Hence then, it is evident that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and likewise the Holy Ghost is neither the Father nor the Son. Nevertheless these persons thus distinguished are not divided nor intermixed; for the Father hath not assumed the flesh, nor hath the Holy Ghost, but the Son only. The Father hath never been without His Son, or without His Holy Ghost. For they are all three coeternal and coessential. There is neither first nor last; for they are all three one, in truth, in power, in goodness, and in mercy.”


Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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