Louis McBride recently posted dueling opinions from Walter Martin and D. A. Carson the eternal generation/sonship of Christ. I’m in full agreement with Carson on the matter but wanted to highlight Martin’s error in the first point that Louis quotes. Martin said:
(a) “The doctrine of ‘eternal generation’ or the eternal Sonship of Christ which springs from the Roman Catholic doctrine first conceived by Origen in A.D. 230, is a theory which opened the door theologically to the Arian and Sabellian heresies which today still plague the Christian Church in the realms of Christology. (Kingdom of the Cults, rev. ed. [Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2003], 139)
I’ve never been the biggest fan of Martin’s work and this is a prime example of why. Contrary to his claim that eternal generation “opened the door theologically to the Arian and Sabellian heresies,” it actually guards against them both. The Sabellians on the one hand had the Son as the second of three successive manifestations of God. This is impossible if eternal generation is true since it posits an eternal distinction and relationship between Father and Son.
The Arians on other hand had the Son as coming into existence at some point. “There was [a time] when he was not,” they said. He was the highest order of creature, but still a creature. But this too is impossible if eternal generation is true since eternal generation says that the Son has always been; there was never a time when he was not. Being eternally begotten eliminates the possibility of coming into existence.
It’s disappointing that Martin’s weak case against eternal generation made it into the revised, updated, and expanded version of his work. One would think that Ravi Zacharias would have had enough sense to edit that bit out.