To create is divine, to reproduce is human. —Man Ray, Originals Graphic Multiples
Christian laity have accepted the doctrines of Jesus being of divine sonship and
”begotten, not made” for so long that these doctrines have largely fallen from scrutiny.
Until three centuries ago, dissenting views were suppressed by means sufficiently horrific
to have driven intellectual challenges underground. Only in recent times have Western
societies been freed from religious oppression, allowing a free exchange of opinions. Not
so in Muslim lands, where these Christian doctrines have been freely opposed since the
revelation of the Holy Qur’an, 1,400 years ago.
The Islamic understanding is that “begetting,” which is defined in Merriam
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as “to procreate as the father,” is a physical act implying
the carnal element of sex—an animal trait lightyears below the majesty of the Creator.
So what does “begotten, not made” mean, anyway? Nearly 1,700 years of exegesis have
failed to provide an explanation more sensible than the original statement, as expressed in the Nicene Creed. Which is not to say that the Nicene Creed is sensible, but that
everything else seems even less so. The creed reads, “We believe in one Lord, Jesus
Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from
Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father …”
The question has been raised before, “What language is this?” If someone could
explain the above in terms a child could understand, and not just be forced to blindly
accept, then they will succeed where all others have failed. The oftrecited Athanasian
Creed, which was composed roughly a hundred years following the Nicene Creed, bears
such strikingly similar convolutions that Gennadius, the patriarch of Constantinople,
“was so much amazed by this extraordinary composition, that he frankly pronounced it to
be the work of a drunken man.”
More direct challenges arise. If Jesus is the “only begotten Son of God,” who is
David? Answer: Psalms 2:7—“The LORD has said to me, ‘You are My Son, Today I
have begotten you.” Jesus the “only begotten son of God,” with David “begotten” a scant
forty generations earlier? The label of “religious mystery” may not satisfy all free
In the face of such conflicts, a reasonable person might question whether God is
unreliable (an impossibility), or if the Bible contains errors (a serious possibility, and if
so, how does a person know which elements are true and which false?).* However, let us
consider a third possibility—that an incorrect creed has been constructed around a
nucleus of scriptural colloquialisms.