Ungenerate and Unoriginate

Gregory freely admits that ungenerate is simply a way to say Father (Against Eunomius 1.37) He prefers the revealed terms of Father, Son, and Spirit to any systematic terms like ungenerate and generate, but he understands the necessity of the latter given the heresies of his day.

He is concerned with guarding the eternality and uncreatedness of the Son, however, and so he grants this admission when it comes to the use of “generate”:

In our view, the ‘native dignity’ of God consists in godhead itself, wisdom, power, goodness, judgment, justice, strength, mercy, truth, creativeness, domination, invisibility, everlastingness, and every other quality named in the inspired writings to magnify his glory; and we affirm that every one of them is properly and inalienably found in the Son, recognizing difference only in respect of unoriginateness; and even that we do not exclude the Son from, according to all its meanings. But let no carping critic attack this statement as if we were attempting to exhibit the Very Son as ungenerate; for we hold that one who maintains that is no less impious than an Anomoean. But since the meanings of ‘origin’ are various, and suggest many ideas, there are some of them in which the title ‘unoriginate’ is not inapplicable to the Son. When, for instance, this word has the meaning of ‘deriving existence from no cause whatever,’ then we confess that it is peculiar to the Father; but when the question is about ‘origin’ in its other meanings (since any creature or time or order has an origin), then we attribute the being superior to origin to the Son as well, and we believe that that whereby all thins were made is beyond the origin of creation, and the idea of time, and the sequence of order. So He, Who on the ground of His subsistence is not without an origin, possessed in every other view an undoubted unoriginatedness; and while the Father is unoriginate and Ungenerate, the Son is unoriginate in the way we have said, though not ungenerate.

~ Against Eunomius 1.33

Notice that the Son is without origin when it comes to our concept of time and coming into being. The Son is superior to all such concepts of origin. His generation from the Father is purely within the transcendent and simple essence. When it comes to relations with the creation, the Son is without origin. When it comes to the relations within the godhead, His cause is the Father’s own essence, which is His own essence as well.

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This entry was posted in doctrine of God, gregory of nyssa by Steven Wedgeworth. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the pastor of Christ Church in Lakeland, FL. He is also a founder and general editor of The Calvinist International. A graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson, MS), a full-time minister, and occasional classical school teacher, Steven lives in Lakeland, FL with his wife, son, and daughter.

6 thoughts on “Ungenerate and Unoriginate

  1. Wedge,

    “When it comes to the relations within the godhead, His cause is the Father’s own essence, which is His own essence as well.”

    If the divine essence is the cause/source of the Son, then the whole Trinity must be the source of the Son, the Son must be his own cause or the Son and creation must be both divine.

  2. I’d be open to constructs which said each person can serve as source, but I agree that the Father is the controlling principium.

    I also believe that saying that the Father is the cause of the Son and saying that the Father’s essence is the cause of the Son is to say the same thing.

  3. “I’d be open to constructs which said each person can serve as source, but I agree that the Father is the controlling principium.”

    Only the Father is personal source in the Trinity. The Son is not the cause of the Father, Spirit or himself; the Spirit is not the personal source of the Father, Son or himself. This is the teaching of the Apostles & Holy Fathers.

    “I also believe that saying that the Father is the cause of the Son and saying that the Father’s essence is the cause of the Son is to say the same thing.”

    Person & Essence are identical categories? The Person of the Father and the Essence of the Divinity are one and the same?

  4. Person & Essence are identical categories?

    No. Slow it down for a bit.

    The Person of the Father and the Essence of the Divinity are one and the same?

    No, but for something to be generated from the Father is for it to be generated from His essence. The person is a subsistence of the essence, after all, and the essence is infinite.

    20th cent. disputes, especially post De Regnon, are all using terms in ways foreign to the earlier tradition.

  5. “No. Slow it down for a bit.”

    Alright.

    “for something to be generated from the Father is for it to be generated from His essence.”

    This can be interpreted charitably but when you talk about ‘constructs [in] which each said person can serve as source’ my options are limited. If the Son is generated and the Spirit spirated from the Father’s person, then how could there be room for each Person to serve as cause of the others?

    “20th cent. disputes, especially post De Regnon, are all using terms in ways foreign to the earlier tradition.”

    I’m not sure who or what you’re talking about here.

  6. If the Son is generated and the Spirit spirated from the Father’s person, then how could there be room for each Person to serve as cause of the others?

    Because the Father needs a Son to be Father. In a sense, it is the begetting that “causes” Paternity.

    “20th cent. disputes, especially post De Regnon, are all using terms in ways foreign to the earlier tradition.”

    I’m not sure who or what you’re talking about here.

    You need to be. In short all of this talk of persons vs. substance, particularly the aversion to speaking of substance, that has arisen in the last century is highly flawed and has come under serious critique within the last decade.

    The East vs. West divide, when retrojected into the 4th century, is wholly unsustainable.

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