Review of “Retrieving Eternal Generation” edited by Fred Sanders and Scott Swain (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017)
The doctrine of eternal generation is absolutely vital to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Without it, we are left not with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit… but with three nameless, faceless, and relationless divine persons. However, in recent years this doctrine has come under attack.
On the other side of the equation, some have taken the eternal sonship of the Son, and turned it into an eternal role of submission. This too will not stand.
In Retrieving Eternal Generation, Fred Sanders and Scott Swain have assembled a forceful chorus in support of this doctrine. With scholars from a wide range of traditions, this book seeks to bring back to the front of the Christian mind this ancient doctrine.
As most edited collections of essays of this sort do, this book starts with the Biblical data, proceeds to the historical testimony, and finishes with essays regarding modern constructive and systematic theology. Also like most edited collections of this sort, it suffers from a general lack of cohesion. The essays are disparate and essentially unrelated apart from the central theme. However, as each essay stands on its own this is not too great of a concern.
Particularly useful, in my estimation, were the exegetical essays by Matthew Emerson (Ch 2 – Wisdom in Proverbs 8), Charles Lee Irons (Ch 5 – A defense of Monogenes as “Only Begotten), and Madison Pierce (Ch 6 – The enigmatic citation of Psalm 2 in Hebrews 1).
Unfortunately, I found that the historical essays in part 2 lacked the same impact that the exegetical essays in part 1 possessed, and the Philosophical and Theological essays in part 3 seemed almost to be an afterthought.
Overall, this is a solid entry on an important topic in our modern theological landscape. It is worth the read, however, I don’t see this being a volume that has any long-standing impact. I hope it prompts further discussion and research but lacks any substantive academic punch necessary for significant theological dialog.