« Μονογενής in the Church Fathers: A Response to Kevin Giles, Part 2 | Main | Μονογενής in the Church Fathers: A Response to Kevin Giles, Part 4 »

12/31/2016

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Kevin Giles

Hi Lee, when I read your first blog and discovered you had tracked down most of the uses of monogenes in the Greek fathers with the help of the TLG data base I was most impressed. I had not done this. I thought to myself this is going to be a high level exchange. I am going to be extended and may need to revise or even change my mind on some points. To my disappointment, blogs 2 and 3 have left me cold. I am not sure what we are debating, often you get me completely wrong and so far all the quotes from the Fathers you have given me do not support what you are saying - in my humble opinion. At this point I do not think I am engaged in serious scholarship.
I employ your readers to read my book on the eternal generation of the Son. It has sold very well, it has had almost entirely positive reviews by competent scholars some of whom are complementarians and it has led to an almost universal reaffirmation by evangelicals of this hugely important and poorly understood doctrine that was widely rejected by evangelicals as having no biblical support, most notably by Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware. Because of the huge pressure my book imposed on these two men – their brothers accused them of heresy for rejecting what the Creeds and confessions teach - they capitulated and in front of several hundred evangelical scholars at the Evangelical Theological Society annual conference in San Antonia November 2016. They both stood up and repented of their error. After leading the opposition to this doctrine and thereby contradicting the Nicene creed and all the Reformation confessions, they said they now accepted this doctrine. Praise God.
They said they had repented because now that they had discovered with the help of Lee Irons that monogenes meant “only begotten” they could now see a biblical basis for holding this doctrine. I could only smile. I had read all the sources and I knew the word monogenes , however translated into English, is not the biblical basis for the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son. If you read my book, chapter 3, pages 62-90 you will see what is. So far Lee you have offered not one word to refute this my most basic and primary point, namely that the word monogenes, however translated into English, is not in the Greek fathers (or any other theologian as far as I can see) the basis for their doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son. I still think the PRIMARY meaning of mongenes is unique, one of a kind. Nevertheless, I agree that to be a monogenes son you need to be begotten and the Greek church fathers repeatedly argue that that the Son is rightly called monogenes because he is eternally begotten. What this means is it is possible and acceptable to give a theological interpretation of this word in the Greek fathers as “only begotten”. If this is only what we are disputing, how best to translate monogenes, we are spending a huge amount of time on a micky mouse issue where we are not far apart.
Readers of you blogs could easily think you are attacking my book, The Eternal Generation of the Son. You see some great flaw in my work. From what you have told me in personal emails this is not the case. I gather you learnt a lot from reading it, you are convinced by the overall argument of my book, you now accept the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son and can see its importance and you agree that the divine persons are not differentiated by differing authority as your personal friends, Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware, argue. Am I right in saying this?
Now to blog 3.
First, let me say what I find really unhelpful is that that you quote from the church fathers time and time again to prove something about the word monogenes and you give the English translation “only begotten”, not the Greek. To make a rational argument you need to give only the Greek and then argue what it means in this context. You cannot presuppose it means “only begotten” when this is the very question in dispute.
Paragraph one I find very opaque and confusing. I take it you main point is in the last sentence. You want to correct me, arguing that “the church fathers did indeed apply the term [monogenes] to the Son with the understanding that it positively affirms the Son is “only begotten”. How many times need I say it? In arguing that the Son is eternally begotten (gennao) of the Father the Greek theologians constantly make the point that what makes him monogenes is that he alone is eternally begotten. What mistake have I made? I just cannot see what you are on about.
The next paragraph is equally if not more confusing and confused. You simply make the assertion “This usage suggests they interpreted the word to mean “only begotten”. First of all they did not “interpret” the word. They were Greek speakers. They were not using the King James Bible! “Interpret” Greek words is what we do as English speakers. Why could not the word monogenes used absolutely carried the meaning for them “the unique one”, as we might expect from the etymology and common usage of the word? You say nothing that in any substantial way excludes this very reasonable interpretation/translation of this word. And let’s be honest, very often how best to translate a word in one language into another is contentious.
Then you quote Mark DelCogliano and Andrew Radde-Gallwitz, not from some source you have found, but from my book. I had many emails back and forth with these two classical scholars when I was writing my book. I found them very helpful and sympathetic. As the quote makes clear they found deciding how best to translate in to English monogenes, used of the Son, not self-evident, and for the reasons cited decided on “only begotten”. I do not agree this i the best translation but I quoted them to make the point clear that I accepted how best to translate monogenes into English is difficult. If you or others can make a good case for this translation its not a big issue for me and in no way undermines anything I say in my book.
Yes, Basil very frequently speaks of the Son as the monogenes. And yes, I agree with you the monogenes is Basil’s preferred way to speak of the second person of the Trinity. You however fudge you conclusion by using the English translation of this word “only begotten” in your quote from Basil. Basil certainly calls the Son many times the monogenes but what he means by this is the question. You assert it means “the only begotten”; I reply, I am not convinced. Every one of the uses in Basil I looked at, the note of uniqueness seemed to me to be to the fore.
Indeed, you seem to me to admit this yourself. You say DelCogliano and Rade-Gallwitz take these uses in Basil in the mean something like “the only offspring” [of the Father] or “only child” [of the Father]. Since Basil is speaking of the Son you are agreeing Basil is speaking of Jesus as “the only Son or offspring” of the Father. His uniqueness is what is being stressed.
Now you quote from Athanasius. To think clearly and rationally we must first remove the English term “only-begotten” from your quote – once again. Athanasius concludes, “the Son is called monogenes because he alone is from him”. He “alone”, he uniquely, only he is “from him”. Surely in this sentence monogenes speaks about what is unique about the Son, NOT that he is begotten, although this of course is true.
Basil’s point likewise is that the Son is rightly called monogenes because he alone is begotten of the Father. This is what makes him unique.
The texts make the very point you dispute. Can’t you see this?
Cyril of Jerusalem again makes the same point, the Son is monogenes because he has no brother. He is the ONLY Son of the Father.
I would need to work on the quote from Gregory of Nazianzen. What he is saying in his first sentence is not at all clear to me on first reading. However I note in his second sentence he says the Son is called monogenes because “he alone is begotten of the Father” Amen, Amen. He is the unique or only Son by eternal generation.
Now the paragraph beginning “Additionally”. Let me say again, I have never argued that monogenes “excludes any notion of begetting”. You are arguing against a straw man of your own imagination.
Of course the church fathers do not call the Spirit monogenes because the Bible does not. I could even add that they do not call him Christ! This observation would be just as irrelevant to our discussion.
Your digression into trinitarian theology that follows in your quotes from the two Gregories and Basil indicates you are not fully conversant with their understanding of the Trinity. For them, what eternally and indelibly differentiates the Father and the Son is that the Father alone is unbegotten God and the Son alone is begotten God. And what distinguishes the Spirit from the Father and the Son is that he alone proceeds from the Father or the Father and the Son. You simply assert that to translate the use of monogenes in any of the three quotes you give makes no sense. To me it makes great sense; the differing origination of the three divine persons makes each one of them unique.
Kevin Giles
2-1-2-17

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)