Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Begotten Not Created (Against Arius)

"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known" (John 1:18).

One of the problems the early church faced was how to interpret Biblical religion, which existed in Hebrew thoughtforms, in a Greek context. The categories of Greek philosophy continually threatened to overwhelm the Biblical doctrines of creation and of the triunity of God. One of the most important controversies of the early church that arose out of this was the Arian controversy, which was settled at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. The Council condemned Arius as a heretic because he taught that only God the Father is eternal, and that God has created all things voluntarily. Beyond this, he taught that only God is unbegotten, and that begetting and creating are the same thing.

Now, the Bible speaks of Christ as begotten of the Father, but never as created by the Father. Thus, what Arius was saying is that the Son of God is a creature. He argued that anything that is begotten must have a beginning. There was a time when the Son did not exist.

This viewpoint has a number of implications. First, it means that if we worship this “Son,” and he is merely the best of creatures, we are worshiping a creature and thus committing idolatry. Second, it means that whatever kind of divinity this “Son” possesses is also possessed in a lesser degree by everything else in creation, which leads straight to pantheism. Third, it puts our salvation in jeopardy, since only God can totally assure us of salvation, and in Arianism it is not God but the creature “Christ the Son” who guarantees our salvation.

How did the church reply? The two theologians who took on Arius were Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, and his disciple Athanasius. They stated that begetting is not the same thing as creating, and that the Son was begotten but not created. The Father begets the Son in eternity, so that there is no process of creation involved.

The most prominent Arian group today is the Jehovah’s Witnesses, consider Jesus Christ merely the best of creatures. Today pray that God would impede the work of false teachers.