If Christians confess that the Son proceeds from the Father, then is it proper to call this “generation?” Doesn’t this term imply the Son had a beginning, or at least owes His existence to the Father? Is the “eternal generation of the Son” a Biblical concept?
Many Christians assume the medieval period lacked original theological insight. Almost unconsciously, they often assume the church entered a dark age at the end of the patristic era; a darkness which was only pierced by the bright and shining rays of the Reformation 1000 years later. This is incorrect.
In this excerpt from his work Summa Theologica, the theologian Thomas Aquinas carefully discusses whether Christ’s procession from the Father can properly be termed “generation.” He follows the scholastic method, which means he (1) first introduces potential defeater objections, (2) then issues a crushing “on the contrary” statement which defines his own position, (3) followed by an extended discussion and defense of his position (“I answer that”), and (4) concludes with replies to the objections.
Having considered what belongs to the unity of the divine essence, it remains to treat of what belongs to the Trinity of the persons in God. And because the divine Persons are distinguished from each other according to the relations of origin, the order of the doctrine leads us to consider firstly, the question of origin or procession; secondly, the relations of origin; thirdly, the persons.