Begotten Not Made

Back in May I attended the Regent Pastors Conference, which was on Science and Faith. Among many other excellent speakers and presentations, we were treated to an update on the state of bioethics and the Church's lack of involvement in this fast expanding arena of modern life. Then, more recently, I read Everyday Theology, and was treated to more thoughts on Christians in the public square. Even more recently, I started following this blog: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke/
Finally, and most importantly, we had our second child, Ethan.

This swirl of events and ideas has recently coalesced into the following thoughts.

Nicene Creed
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.


Begotten not made... there is an issue we ought to consider in our day. The early church made a distinction between those terms for a reason. A being which is begotten is a being of the same kind as its source, of the same nature. An object which is made is none of these things, but a creation of someone instead. For us, a being begotten is a gift in a profound sense. An individual to be loved, cared for, marveled, and wondered, at. And while made objects can come to hold our love, improperly but in actuality nonetheless, this is not expected or automatic (thus we properly marvel at God's love for us, His creation whom He made). Being's begotten are their own, objects made are not. Thus, the distinction in the creed: Christ is not part of creation, but very God of very God.

But what of us? Ethan, and Hannah, and you and I for that matter, are being's begotten, not made from a human view, though we are made by God. This distinction begins to fall away when we consider that we are made in the image of God and loved by Him. However, the more important distinction is in our own view of human beings: do we beget or make?

Increasingly western modernity is shifting towards 'made'. We quickly forget the lessons of Buber's I and Thou. We look forward, or some look forward, to designer babies. But, once we make other humans, will we quickly fall into using them? Will we be able to stop ourselves from crossing that line? I doubt it. In truth, in almost every way that counts, we have already crossed it. We consider people, individuals or groups, as things to be molded into the shape we desire. We can influence trends, change buying habits, create needs, etc. Or, we can remake ourselves, become different people, whether through counseling or surgery or diets, we are clay in our own hands, and thus clay in the hands of others as well.

C.S. Lewis saw this trend a long time ago, and wrote of it in The Abolition of Man. In chapter 3 he explores man's 'power over nature' and concludes that "what we call Man's power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument." (pg. 17)

In other words, technology has always been, in some ways, about manipulating people. The problem of course is that it is very difficult to know when one has gone to far. When are we rightly focusing on humanity, our own or others, as a malleable entity which can be changed for the better (which is, after all, a fact all Christians should thank God for) and when are we wrongly focusing on humanity as a malleable entity which can be made to leap through hoops and meet our every desire?

I don't know the answers to my own questions, but this I know: if we get to the point we view our children as made then we will be in trouble.

1 comment:

Adam Pastor said...

Greetings Andrew

Unfortunately, this creed is not the creed of Jesus, nor of his disciples.

In contrast to the Nicene Creed:
Jesus solely identified the Father
as the only true GOD.
[John 17.3]
Paul & the early church concurred:
(1 Cor 8:4) ... that there is none other God but one.
(1 Cor 8:6) But to us there is but one God, the Father, ...

There is simply no talk of another who is God from God, true God from true God, begotten, not made, etc.

Rather, the creed of Jesus is the Shema, Deut 6.4ff

(Mark 12:28-32) And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is,
Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. 32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:

It ought to be obvious then, that neither Jesus nor the scribe, subscribed to the notions of
a God from God, true God from true God spoken of in the Nicene creed!

Therefore, I recommend this video:
The Human Jesus

Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you in your quest for truth.

Yours In Messiah
Adam Pastor