« AnteriorContinuar »
Some difficulties present themselves, in regard to this definition.
1. If the same numerical essence without division, is imparted by the Father to the Son, which he himself possesses, it follows, that the essential power or virtue of the Father, by which he produces or generates the Son, (a power which you, with Turretine, hold to be necessarily not voluntarily exercised,) must also be communicated to him ; consequently, by virtue of this communication, the Son must produce another person of the same condition, or homoousian with him; this third
person, a fourth; and so on, without end. If this be denied ; then it follows, that one essential power or virtue of the Father is not communicated to the Son, viz, the power of necessary eternal generation. The definition, then, seems either to be inconsistent with itself, or to imply an infinite number of generations in the Godhead. In either case, it must be untenable.
I see no way of avoiding this conclusion, unless it be said, that Turretine has affirmed a communication of the essence of the Father to the Son, but not of his attributes. Should
any one take refuge here, to defend the views of Turretine, he may be asked, What is known of the essence of God, when his attributes are subtracted ? Did Turretine, or any one else, in reality ever attach any other idea to the term divine essence, than that which is the result of a union of those qualities, attributes, or predicates which are necessary to constitute the Godhead? Or did the Father communicate bis essence to the Son, and not communicate his attributes ? And if the generating power or attribute of the Father be, as Turretine and most who speculate with him maintain, necessarily exercised, it falls, of course, under the category of the essential predicates of the Deity ? Must the Father, in communicating his whole essence to the Son, communicate his essential predicates, or not? The answer to this question, leaves the definition of Turretine liable to all the objections that bave been suggested.
2. The definition asserts, that the same numerical essence is communicated to the same numerical essence, (for Father and Son have, as Turretine avers, the same numerical essence ;) which, after all the efforts I can make to understand it, is, as yet, absolutely unintelligible to me. To understand how the same numerical essence can be said to COMMUNICATE the whole of itself to the same numerical essence, I must give over in despair, to intellects of a different order from that which I
possess. To change the terms, and to say that the same numerical essence generates the same numerical essence ; or emanates from it; is equally impossible for me to understand. I do not complain of it because the subject may be obscure, and above my comprehension as to the manner in which the communication may take place; but I complain that the proposition itself is, to my mind, unmeaning and unintelligible. I can easily admit, that while the numerical essence of the Godhead is one and the
be a distinction in it, the nature of which is above my comprehension, (for numerical unity of essence by no means precludes the idea of distinction in some respects ;) but that one distinction in the Godhead should communicate the whole essence of the Godhead to another, and yet retain the whole, without division and without alienation, if it be not a contradiction of terms, is, at least, a use of language, which I have no capacity to decipher. If there be any intelligible meaning, which Turretine
designed to convey, I think it must be, that the Son is eternally derived from the Father in an inscrutable manner, while he is still of the same numerical essence with him. Of this general idea of derived existence or subsistence, in respect to the Son, I shall say more, in another place.
After all, Turretine limits the generation of the Son to the production of his personality, and does not extend it to his essence ; " for this,” says he, “ would prepare the way for tritheism."* This view of the subject, however, does not relieve the difficulties. Generation by the Father he has defined to be, the communication of the same numerical essence which he possesses to the Son, and the communication of the whole of it without division. But surely the whole essence of the Father does not consist merely in his personality. At any rate, Turretine himself has denied this; as he makes an important distinction, in the place just cited, between person and essence. How then can the generation of the Son consist in the communication of the whole essence of the Father to bim; and yet the generation be limited to the production of mere personality ? “Generatio,” says he, “ut a persona fit originaliter, ita ad personam terminatur. It would not be decorous in me to aver, that Turretine has “darkened words by counsel without knowledge." But if his words are really light, or have a meaning that is not contradictory, it must, I think, be a transcendental one, altogether too elevated for me to think of aspiring to reach it.
Turn we now from this excellent divine, (who generally shines with lustre not enfeebled because he now and then passes through an atmosphere somewhat nebu
* Ibid. § 6.
lous,) to one of the noblest representatives of the Evangelical or Lutheran Churches ; I mean Gerhard, whose Loci Theologici are comprised in above twenty quarto volumes. In discussing the question Whether the Father begat the Son of his own essence, he has developed his view of the doctrine before us.
• Observe,” says he, “ that the Father is said to have begotten the Son from his substance, not from any alienation or division of his essence ; (for neither did he deprive himself of his essence, nor give a part of it to the Son ;) but by the communication of his whole essence, because by generation he communicated his whole and perfect essence to the Son, and retained the whole of it to himself, because it is infinite."*
This definition agrees entirely, as to substance, with that of Turretine ; and therefore the same objections may be made to it. What idea can be conveyed to the human mind, by saying that the Father “ communicated his whole and perfect essence to the Son, and retained the whole of it to himself, I am not competent to understand. I will not aver, that when the venerable author in question wrote this, he had no idea in his mind which he meant to communicate ; but I am obliged with pain to confess, that after repeated efforts te viicit an intelligible idea from his language, I have utterly failed to effect it.
Let us now come down to more recent divines, and select some of the most acute and metaphysical among them, who have been taught by the reiterated objections of opponents, to be much more cautious in their definitions than the older divines.
“ Generation,” says Brettschneider, “is that rela
* Gerhard, Tom. III. Loc. IV. Cap. V. § 75.
tion of the Father to the Son, by which the Father contains the reason of the subsistence (not the existence) of the Son."*
According to this definition, the Son exists of himself; but does not subsist, except by the Father. I have difficulties as great in understanding this definition, as that of Turretine or Gerhard. Of subsistence, I cannot form any definite idea, in reference to this subject, except that of continued existence. Are we then to understand, that the Son exists of himself or is selfexistent, but continues to exist only by and through the Father? Can we form an idea of a self-existent being, which continues to exist in and by another ?
But perhaps Brettschneider means, that the Son subsists as Son, i. e. his filiation, or hypostatical subsistence as Son, is only through or by the Father. If this be his meaning, there is yet so much obscurity, that I am not able to comprehend it. For the question is, What is generation, as applied to this subject ? What is it which makes the Logos Son? If the answer be, It is that he derives his filiation from the Father; the question must still be put, Wherein does this filiation consist? --If the answer be, It consists in derivatro.. from the Father ; then we may still inquire, In what respects does derivation apply to the Logos ? And to this question, Brettschneider has already answered, In respect to subsistence. This of course involves the difficulties already stated.
Let us hear the celebrated Reinhard, late court preacher of the king of Saxony, and an admirable scholar as well as very acute reasoner and theologian. “The Father generates the Son,” says he, “ means that he is
* Systemat. Entwickelung der Dogmatik, $ 68.