Orthodox theologians were able to maintain these distinctions by stressing two points: 1) Christians should use the language of “begotten” and “generation” because it reflects the teaching of the Bible, and 2) Divine generation must be sharply distinguished as radically different from human generation. When these points are carefully articulated, it allows for distinction between the members of the Trinity without division or derivation. Eternal generation does not produce subordinationism, rather it guards against it.
As we saw last time, William Lane Craig argues against the eternal begotteness of the Son and proposes an alternative understanding of the Trinity. We will respond to Craig’s proposal in another post; today, we will assess Craig’s critique.
Craig considers the doctrine of eternal generation a philosophical intrusion into Christian theology, and not a teaching which is drawn from the Bible itself. This critique falls into three categories:
Each of these must be taken up in turn.
Craig’s Exegetical Critique
Craig argues that there is, “virtually no warrant in the biblical text” for the doctrine of eternal generation. He centers this critique around one Greek word: μονογενής. Although historic translations such as the King James Version have often rendered this word as “only begotten” Craig follows the modern scholars who argue that this word is better translated as “unique” or “one and only.” If the latter rendering is correct, then Craig argues that there is no biblical basis for speaking of generation (which is a concept wrapped up in the language of “begottenness”) in defining and distinguishing the relations of the Father and the Son. Further, Craig argues that when μονογενής is used in the New Testament, it is not telling us something about the Son as He exists in the ontological Trinity, but only about the role of Sonship which He took upon Himself in His incarnation.
However, Craig ignores significant scholarship which argues for the traditional rendering of μονογενής as “only begotten.” Crucially, Craig tries to reduce the biblical argument for eternal generation to the etymology and translation of a single word when the biblical and theological case neither stands nor falls with μονογενής alone. Space will not permit a full consideration of the biblical and exegetical evidence, but two brief arguments can be advanced at this point.
First, the doctrine of eternal generation is inherent in the pervasive biblical language of “Father” and “Son.” Contrary to Craig’s claims that Sonship only applies to the incarnation, there are many Scriptures which speak of Jesus as “Son” prior to His being sent. If Christ is the Son prior to His incarnation then the language of generation and begottenness actually tells us something about the ontological Trinity, not just the economic Trinity. Second, the specific title “Son of God” always refers to Christ’s eternal deity – not just to His economic role or activity. Other arguments could be advanced, but even this brief discussion is sufficient to demonstrate that the biblical case for eternal generation is not nearly as weak as Craig claims.
 Craig, Is God the Son Begotten in His Divine Nature?, 26.
 Craig, Is God the Son Begotten in His Divine Nature?, 26-27.
 As Letham argues: “the older idea of monogenes has never been eclipsed. Although B.F. Westcott, B.B. Warfield, and most other twentieth-century exegetes abandoned it, the idea that it means ‘only-begotten’ has continued support from, inter alia, F. Büchsel, J.V. Dahms, C.H. Dodd, M.-J. Lagrange, F.F. Bruce, John Frame, and Roger Beckwith.” Letham, The Holy Trinity, 194. Of particular interest is the extensive argument advanced in Charles Lee Irons, “A Lexical Defense of the Johannine ‘Only Begotten,’” in Retrieving Eternal Generation, ed. Fred Sanders and Scott R. Swain (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017), 98-116.
 Letham, The Holy Trinity, 193-194
 Fred Sanders offers a helpful list of texts (and captures the proper meaning of those texts well) in discussing the second person of the Trinity: “who was this person before he took on the nature of humanity, the name of Jesus, and the title of Christ? He was the Son of God. When the biblical authors say that God sent his Son into the world (John 20:21; Galatians 4:4; 1 John 4:14), gave his Son for the world’s salvation (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10), or spoke definitively through his Son (Heb. 1:1), they are presupposing that the Son was already in existence as the Son, a person present with God the Father from eternity. He did not become the Son when he became incarnate; God did not so love the world that he gave somebody who became his Son in the act of being given. God, already having a Son, sent him into the world to become incarnate and to be a propitiation for our sins.” Fred Sanders, The Deep things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, 2nd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 91-92. (Emphasis added.)
 This argument is ably summarized in John MacArthur, “Reexamining the Eternal Sonship of Christ,” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 6, no. 1 (2001): 21-23, and extensively discussed in D.A. Carson, Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), and Michael F. Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son: Answering Adoptionist Christology, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2017). The title of “Son of God” appears 43 times in the New Testament as a whole and 26 times in the Gospels alone. One scholar captures its meaning this way: “With the use of ‘Son of God’ we thus encounter a title in which the relation of Jesus to God is especially prominent and in which the concept of deity is present.” I. Howard Marshall, The Origins of New Testament Christology, (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1990), 123.
 For a broad ranging defense of the doctrine of eternal generation on exegetical and Scriptural grounds, see the