Nita,

Thanks for writing. No I'm not a theology student or teacher. I'm an engineer, but have been doing Christian ministry on my own for many years. Concerning your attachment, you've hit upon a significant distinction between a Christian's attitude towards God and that of a Muslim. I talk about three attitudes towards God which are relatively unique to Christianity in a recent web page I wrote at http://www.bcbsr.com/topics/crelgod.html, one of which is our attitude towards God as Father. In Islam God is never spoken of as Father. They're attitude is more limited to God as Creator and Master. In many way's Islam's Allah does not reflect God as revealed in the Bible.

Their rejection of the fatherhood of God not only causes them to question statements of Jesus' Sonship but more generally of any sonship of God, including our own. But this is a clear case showing Islam to be inherently contradictory. For Muslims claim to accept Jesus as God's prophet. But Jesus himself speaks not only of his own sonship such as in John 3:16 and I often give John 5:17-27 or more explicitly John 10:36 Jesus said, "Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, íI am Godís Soní?", but also he speaks of others being God's children, through in a different sense as I'll elaborate upon further. But the point is that while they claim to accept Jesus as a prophet, they don't accept what he said. And as I point out on the web page on Islam, the Koran itself states that Jesus is not the Son of God.

The Son of God and the sons of God

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJV)

"only begotten" is the word "monogenes" (the Strongs#3439). It's used 9 times in the New Testament as the following:

With respect to Christ as the Son of God:

John 1:14  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten <3439> of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
John 1:18  No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten <3439> Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten <3439> Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:18  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten <3439> Son of God.
1 John 4:9  In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten <3439> Son into the world, that we might live through him.
The interpretation and relevance of "only begotten" in John 3:16-18  is most clearly revealed if we correlate it with its usage in John 1. Consider the context of John 1:
John 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:3  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
John 1:14  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
John 1:18  No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
And of course if we read the rest of the context of John 1 we see these are all referring to Jesus Christ. The Word being made flesh is referred to as the incarnation of Christ. There is some debate in the Christian community as to whether it was at that point he took on the title "Son of God", or whether he was eternally begotten, or whether both are true in a similar sense as Revelation 13:8 speaks of Jesus being "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" and yet he was actually slain about 33 AD.

In any case it is clear the he preexisted his birth into the world as verse 1 indicates and which I would interpret to mean that he was with God the Father, being God the Son. For a person cannot both be with someone and be that someone at the same time unless referring "someone" in different respects. I deal with this is the first study guide in the gospel of John series at http://www.bcbsr.com/books/john1a.html and I've discussed Trinity concepts elsewhere at http://www.bcbsr.com/topics/trinit.html. And it is clear from verse 3 that all things created were created through him, thus indicating also that he was not himself a part of the creation.

Born of A Virgin

Concerning the details of the process of incarnation I would just refer to Gabriel's response to Mary in Luke 1:35 explaining the process. The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." Muslims also acknowledge the virgin birth of Christ. But if they're going to have sexual objections, then logically they'll have to ask the same of their Koran. For if Jesus the man was a product of a sexual union then who was his father if Mary was a virgin? In fact Christian can use the virgin birth as proof that Jesus had to have been more than just a man and that he was literally the Son of God. The Muslims may claim that their god can't do this or can't do that, but then again then again the God of the Bible is not the god of Islam, and He is quite capable of doing many things which their "Allah" can't do.

Continuing on with other usages of "only begotten":
With respect to others as sons of their father.

Luke 7:12  Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only <3439> son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.
Luke 8:42  For he had one only <3439> daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went the people thronged him.
Luke 9:38  And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child <3439>.
Hebrews 11:17  By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten <3439> son,
In these cases we see that the word is always used with respect to the parent child relationship and in particular it means that such a person is the only child of their parents. Yet though Jesus declares himself as the only begotten Son of God, nonetheless he often speaks of God as "your Father" in his teachings, such as for example: Matthew 5:48 "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." But how does this reconcile with the fact that Jesus is called the only begotten of God, while he speaks also of others as having God as their Father? Because while Christians are adopted into the family of God through spiritual rebirth, Christ preexisted his birth as the Word which was with God and which was God and was born the Son of God. The Word was made flesh. His incarnation reveals him as uniquely the Son of God compared to those who are being called into the family of God. And yet we are all reckon siblings as it is written, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." Rom 8:29

Thus while Jesus was uniquely begotten as God becoming incarnate in the flesh, God also begets other children, namely Christians as Jesus speaks to Nicodemus of being born of the Spirit. And we see this concept even incorporated in John chapter 1 again in verse 12,13 "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of Godó children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husbandís will, but born of God." And in his letter in 1John the apostle also says, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." 1John 5:1

Steve Amato
1/30/02