The Aseity of the Son

Scott Oliphint speaks about the aseity of the Son of God, following up on a review of Brannon Ellis’ book Calvin, Classical Trinitarianism, and the Aseity of the Son. The thesis of the book, which Dr. Oliphint takes up, is that Calvin’s teaching on the Son’s aseity was a way of maintaining orthodoxy but also of advancing and clarifying orthodoxy. The question was, if God the Son is “God of God,” as the Nicene Creed teaches, is he therefore not God of himself? Listen and hear how Calvin answered that question.

Dr. Oliphint’s full-length review of Ellis’ book is in the Spring 2013 issue of the Westminster Theological Journal. For more on the doctrine of God, see Dr. Oliphint’s book God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God

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CM

4 years ago

Aquired a copy through the local library, believe it or not. Looking forward to reading it soon.

Adithia

4 years ago

I’ve read Divine Condescension but I still have some confusion. if Calvin denied communication of essence, why then he wrote,

“If it is in the essence, let them tell whether or not he communicated essence to the Son (annon cum essentia Filio eam comunicaverit). This he could not do in part merely, for it were impious to think of a divided God. And besides, on this supposition, there would be a rending of the Divine essence. The whole entire essence must therefore be common to the Father and the Son; and if so, in respect of essence there is no distinction between them.” Calvin, Institutes 1.13.23.

K. Scott Oliphint

4 years ago

In the section to which you refer, Calvin is arguing against Valentine Gentilis’ heresy of “essentiation.” Calvin makes his own view clear earlier in this section:

(“And there is no value in the subtle distinction that what is proper to God is transferred to Christ, because he is the splendor of his glory [Heb. 1:3]. For, since the name of Jehovah is set forth everywhere, it follows that with respect to his deity his being is from himself. For if he is Jehovah, it cannot be denied that he is that same God who elsewhere proclaims through Isaiah, “I, I am, and apart from me there is no God” [Isa. 44:6 p.].”),

then shows how Gentilis’ view denies that God is One.

Adithia

4 years ago

Thank you Dr. Oliphint for your response. It’s true that these passages are dealing with the Valentinus Gentilis’s tritheistic interpretation of eternal generation, in which a part of the Father’s essence is essentiated upon the Son. I don’t see Calvin has in view the idea that the Son’s nature is not communicated (communicatio), his rejection is whether the Father essentiates (essentiatum) the Son’s essence. He doesn’t deny that the Son has his essence from the Father, but he deny that the essence is begotten. He vigorously against the view that the Father is the essentiator of the Son. Please correct me if I misread him, it seems to me that the doctrines of the Aseity of the Son and communication of essence is complimentary rather than contradictory.

I noticed this distinction, first through Dr. Richard Muller, “…definitions that speak of the communication of essence are not necessarily opposed to the notion of the Son’s aseitas,” The Triunity of God (2003), 327. Second from, “The essence of the Father doth not beget the essence of the Son; but the person of the Father begetteth the person of the Son, by communicating his whole essence to the person begotten from eternity.” The Irish Articles of Religion (1615) IX. And later from Benjamin Swinburnson, “John Calvin, Eternal Generation, and Communication of Essence: A Reexamination of His Views.” K:NWTS 25/1 (May 2010) 26-49 http://www.kerux.com/doc/2501A4.asp

Scott Oliphint

4 years ago

Adithia (on your second post),

I never continue conversations like this because there is no efficient way to do this on a response/reply blog. But…one more time.

Read Brannon Ellis’ book; it is utterly convincing on Calvin’s view. Then read Warfield’s essay, which is itself a masterpiece. If you are not convinced by those, you won’t be. On Muller’s quote – as I have said, no one who is orthodox opposes the aseity of the Son. The question is *how* we are to think of that. Muller notes that the affirmation of the Son is consistent with communication, and so it is. But aseity, in that case, is only affirmed adjectivally. Calvin’s view is that we must affirm it adverbally, to be consistent with historic Trinitarian theology. On the second quote, Calvin and the orthodox agree that the Father communicates to the Son *with respect to His person.*

VRH

4 years ago

Thank you, Dr Oliphint, for this clear discussion and for your good work in explaining these matters. Would it be accurate to say that you are largely in agreement with Dr Robert Reymond’s view on this subject presented in his systematic theology [Robert L. Reymond, _A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith_ (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1998) pp. 323-335]. I recall hearing discussions in the past on the Reformed Forum suggesting that Dr Reymond’s systematic theology could not be recommended because he was weak on the Nicene Creed. I hope the clear thinking you’ve presented here signals a change in the prevalence of that opinion.

Scott Oliphint

4 years ago

I’m sorry I can’t help. I have not read Reymond’s ST.

Donald Bryant

4 years ago

I found this discussion very helpful, particularly concerning Christ in the Old Testament and the portion discussing covenantal ontology. Thanks for posting.

Scott Oliphint

4 years ago

Thank you.

MikeD

4 years ago

Anybody,
Forgive my blazing ignorance here, but isn’t it the case that “communication” (in regards to essence) is simply used (e.g. by Turretinin) in an older sense than we think of it today? For example, when I communicate this post to you there is something new from me to you. In a way, I bestow something upon you. But in terms of sharing/participation/communication (an older view) doesn’t this just mean sameness are commonality?
Thanks

Scott Oliphint

4 years ago

Turretin uses the exact language of Thomas. You will see in Thomas’ discussion what it means.

Tony

4 years ago

I think this is the Warfield piece referenced by Dr. Oliphint, in case others are interested in reading it: Calvin’s Doctrine of the Trinity

CM

4 years ago

Wow, it’s a 100 page pdf file: http://journals.ptsem.edu/id/BR190974/dmd003

Ralph Allan Smith

4 years ago

Just for the record, I wanted to make clear that in my book Paradox and Truth, I am trying to set forth Van Til’s view and extend it. The idea that the Triune Persons relate in covenant is, according to Herman Hoeksema, what Kuyper taught. When I read Van Til, it seemed to me that his views were the same as Kuyper’s. But at the time I wrote Paradox and Truth, I had not found an explicit statement of that view in Van Til. It just seemed an inevitable conclusion from what he wrote.

Later, however, I found a reference in Mark Karlberg to an article Van Til wrote on “Covenant Theology,” published in The New Shaff-Herzog 20th Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. I was able to buy the volumes and read Van Til’s whole article. In it, he wrote, “The three persons of the Trinity have exhaustively personal relationship with one another. And the idea of exhaustively personal relationship is the idea of the covenant”

He then writes, “Since the internal relationships of the triune God are covenantal, God’s relation to mankind is also covenantal.”

Part of the key here, I think, is that Van Til, following Kuyper, sees the covenant not as an “agreement,” but as an “exhaustively personal relationship.” If the fundamental idea of a covenant were “agreement,” then perhaps we would faces some of the problems Dr. Oliphint mentions. But if Van Til’s definition of the covenant is correct, then we discover the roots of God’s covenantal act of creation and God’s covenantal relationship with man in God’s own Triune nature.

That view may not be correct, but I just wanted to make clear that it is not a view for which I am responsible. I am simply trying to think Van Til’s thoughts after him.

God bless,
Ralph Allan Smith
Tokyo, Japan

Harry

1 year ago

What is the term used at 43:15? “___________centric”. Not familiar with the word and cannot make it out. Thank you

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