C. S. Lewis & the Begetting of God’s Son

By Anthony Buzzard

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Theology Has Had to Indulge in Much “Waffly” Language to Avoid the Obvious

As for “the eternal begetting of the Son,” in our own time theology has had to indulge in much “waffly” language to avoid the obvious fact that in the Bible the Son is begotten by a miracle in Mary. “Imagine,” says C.S. Lewis, “two books lying on a table one on top of the other…for ever and ever.”[1]  Such, he says, is the “eternal begetting” of the Son. There has been an everlasting relationship between the two. By this learned “spin” Lewis avoided the word “beget”:

Lewis also tackled an explanation of what is commonly called “the eternal generation of the Son.” He wrote: “One of the creeds says that Christ is the Son of God ‘begotten, not created’…[which] has nothing to do with the fact that when Christ was born on earth as a man, that man was the son of a virgin.” Rather, “what God begets is God.” This negative explanation clarifies somewhat but is not overly helpful. Elsewhere he penned that “the one begets and the other is begotten. The Father’s relation to the Son is not the same as the Son’s relation to the Father.” Christ as “Son,” Lewis observed, “cannot mean that he stands to God [the Father] in the very same physical and temporal relation which exists between offspring and male parent in the animal world”; this doctrine involves “a harmonious relation involving homogeneity.” The normally ingenious and down-to-earth Lewis left his readers in the complicated and heady realms of theological disquisition on this doctrine, but (let’s face it) who has ever heard a clearly illustrated exposition of it from the pulpit? In one more attempt Lewis declared: “The Son exists because the Father exists; but there never was a time before the Father produced the Son.” Lewis would probably have done better to steer clear of this subject altogether.[2]

Lewis would probably have done better to steer clear of this subject altogether.

The Church would have done immeasurably better to leave all this anti-biblical speculation alone and stay with Matthew and Luke as a basis for their definition of God and Jesus. Lewis was surely out of his depth, gallantly trying to defend his “orthodoxy,” but having abandoned the New Testament creed of Jesus and the accounts of the origin of the Son of God. To beget does not mean just to have “a harmonious relation involving homogeneity”!

One book resting on another has nothing to do with one book begetting the other. The analogy fails to convince. To beget is much more than having a relationship; it means to cause someone to come into being. Begetting initiates a new person. The Bible in Basic English captures the sense of Psalm 2:7 well: “You are My Son; this day I have given you being.” That verse lies behind the accounts of Jesus’ origin in Mary in Matthew and Luke and Paul applies it to the beginning of the Son’s life in Acts 13:33.[3]  Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5 likewise explain the begetting of the Son as the fulfillment of the promise that God would be Father of the son of David (Heb. 1:5, combining Ps. 2:7 and 2 Sam. 7:14 to make the same point).[4]

John who is supposed to be the chief witness of an eternal Son of God speaks of Jesus as the “the one who was begotten” (1 John 5:18): “He who was begotten preserves [the believer].” As we saw in some manuscripts attempts were made to get rid of this embarrassing verse, by avoiding the word “begotten” as descriptive of Jesus, but the reference to the Son who was begotten survives clearly in modern translations based on a more secure manuscript reading.

Prodigious displays of verbal dexterity characterize the attempts of writers seeking to justify the non-biblical creed which includes an “eternally begotten” Son. Once the plain meaning of words is jettisoned, the Bible could be made to say almost anything. In the case of God begetting His Son Jesus, the plain sense had to be replaced, if the Son was to be made coeternal with the Father. Luke was lucidly clear. His nativity account explains the begetting of the Son, how this happened by a divine biological miracle. Equally obvious is Luke’s mention of the holy spirit as the instrument of God’s creative miracle performed in Mary. The holy spirit causes the reader to think immediately of the creative activity of the spirit in Genesis, excluding any thought of an uncreated Son!

Buzzard, Anthony (2007).  C. S. Lewis and the Eternal Begetting of the Son. In, Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian (pp. 270-272). Restoration Fellowship.

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[1] Mere Christianity, 172.

[2] James Townsend, “C.S. Lewis’s Theology: Somewhere Between Ransom and Reepicheep,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, 13:24, spring 2000.

[3] Note F.F. Bruce’s important comment: “The promise of Acts 13:23 finds fulfillment in v. 33…It has to do with the sending of the Messiah, not his resurrection (for which see v. 34)” (The Acts of the Apostles, 269).

[4] And confirming the event as the birth of Jesus by adding a third supporting quotation: “When he brings the firstborn into the world…” (Heb. 1:6). Wilhelm Michaelis finds “brings the firstborn into the world” as suitable for the birth of the Son (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 6:880, n. 58). In earlier writings I had favored a reference to the second coming, but on balance I think that the three OT quotations make the same point, as in Heb. 2:12, 13.

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2018-12-28T14:56:54+00:00

About the Author:

Anthony Buzzard
Sir Anthony Buzzard was born in Surrey, England and educated at Oxford University and later at Bethany Theological Seminary. He holds master degrees in theology and modern languages, Hon. Ph.D. Sir Anthony F. Buzzard is one of the most persuasive and energetic voices of our day calling for Christians to pursue reformation and restoration in our time. He is the author of numerous books including: Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian: A Call to Return to the Creed of Jesus; and The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound. Anthony is the author of many theological articles and papers. He is the editor of Focus on the Kingdom and was co-editor of A Journal from the Radical Reformation. Retiring after 24 years on the staff of Atlanta Bible College, he continues to write, teach and travel, fulfilling a life-long desire to make the best of Bible scholarship available to the wider church-going public.