Back in 1989, Lesléa Newman’s ground-breaking title of LGBT children’s literature, Heather Has Two Mommies, was published and pushed in schools to normalize family diversity. As soon as I saw this New Yorker cartoon and read its caption, I imagined an agnostic or atheist trying to grapple with a mystery that flummoxes even honest Christians: the parentage of Jesus. The clean-shaven disciple in the cartoon looks sideways at the bearded Jesus, wondering about “his complicated relationship with his father,” whether it be his invisible father, the Holy Spirit, who impregnated his mother; his heavenly father, Yahweh, who spoke audibly to him at his baptism (Mt. 3:16-17); or his earthly father, Joseph of Nazareth, who raised him and taught him the craft of carpentry. Of course, the theologically correct answer is that Jesus has no parentage. The Council of Nicea (325 AD) established the consubstantiality (homoousion) of Jesus, who is of the same substance as the Father and the Spirit, hence the affirmation of the Nicene Creed:
We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
C. S. Lewis explains the mystery of Jesus’ non-parentage better than anyone I know in a chapter of Mere Christianity called, “Making and Begetting”:
One of the creeds says that Christ is the Son of God “begotten, not created”; and it adds “begotten by his Father before all worlds.” Will you please get it quite clear that this has nothing to do with the fact that when Christ was born on earth as a man, that man was the son of a virgin? We are not now thinking about the Virgin Birth. We are thinking about something that happened before Nature was created at all, before time began. “Before all worlds” Christ is begotten, not created. What does it mean?
We don’t use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set—or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue. If he is a clever enough carver he may make a statue which is very like a man indeed. But, of course, it is not a real man; it only looks like one. It cannot breathe or think. It is not alive.
Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is. They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God.