Notes on Shedd, part 1

From Shedd’s Dogmatic Theology.


“If  all that can be said by the theologian respecting God is that he is not this or that, then the mind has in fact no object before it and no cognition whatever…The deity becomes the unknown and unknowable” (Shedd 71).


On Genesis 1-2: “As far as the text is concerned, there is full right to explain it (e.g., day) as a period” (107).

Theology: Doctrine of God

God’s Spirituality

Man knows the nature of a finite spirit by his own self-consciousness; he knows the nature of an infinite spirit analogically (153).

Divine spirit: God is the most real substance of all.

  1. God is a necessary essence
  2. God is ens, actual being (157).
  3. God is unextended and invisible substance (164).
  4. Without passions:  passion implies passivity

God’s Personality

  1. Personality is marked by two characteristics
    1. Self-consciousness
      1. Regarding the Trinity, “the media to self-consciousness are all within the divine essence” (173).
      2. God distinguishes himself from himself, thus two acts.  There is now a reciprocal object-ego, which then requires a third term, percipient between the two (174).
    2. Self-determination
  2. “The three distinctions in the one essence personalize it: God is personal because he is three persons” (171).

Innate Idea and Knowledge of God

Arguments for the Divine Existence

Trinity in Unity

Thesis:  God cannot be self-contemplating, self-cognitive, and self-communing unless he is trinal in  constitution (220).


  1. God is trinal, not triplex.  The latter connotes composition (229).
  2. Person denotes a mode of essence
  3. We prefer essence to substance, because the latter implies accidents.
  4. A divine person: the divine essence with a special property, subsisting in an especial manner (Owen, Trinity Vindicated, 10.504)

Nota Bene: The three persons/one essence doesn’t make the essence a fourth person.  Shedd explains by way of analogy: when the subject-ego posits the object-ego, it simultaneously posits the whole human spirit along with it; but this act doesn’t create a second human spirit (235).

Divine Attributes

Definition: “A Trinitarian person is a mode of the essence; a divine attribute is a phase of the essence” (275).


Omniscience: Divine knowledge is:

  1. Intuited, not discursive; direct vision (286).
  2. Simultaneous, not successive
  3. Complete and certain

God has a knowledge of all possible things (287).  This is his simple knowledge. Interestingly, Shedd denominates God’s conditional knowledge (e.g., Mt. 11.21-23) as middle knowledge (287).


God’s holiness is the perfect rectitude of his will (290).

  1. Rectoral justice: God is right in himself and all his actions
  2. Distributive justice: God’s rectitude in the execution of law.
  3. Remunerative justice: distribution of rewards

The Divine Decrees

“The divine decree relates only to God’s opera ad extra” (311).  There are sequences in the execution but not the formation.  

You must have the divine decree to have foreknowledge; otherwise, how will the event be certain?  It will then be contingent.  “An event must be made certain before it can be known as a certain event” (313).

Theses on the divine decree:

  1. It is founded in wisdom (Eph. 1:11).
  2. It is eternal (Acts 15:18)
  3. It is universal, including “whatsoever things come to pass.”
  4. It is immutable; there is no defect in God’s knowledge, power, and certainty (Isaiah 46.10).

Efficacious and Permissive Decrees

“The efficacious decree determines the event”

  1. By phsical and material causes (Job 28.26)
  2. By an immediate spiritual agency (2 Tim. 2:25)

The permissive decree relates only to moral evil.  If we deny God’s permissive decree, then we make evil independent and this leads to dualism and manicheanism (319).

On an Arminian scheme, a man may at any time fall from faith and therefore his fate can’t be determined until death. Therefore, he is elected after he is dead! (345)


Shedd holds to old-earth.  Day is not defined by the bible as 24 hour period; the following:

  1. Day means daylight in distinction from darkness (Gen. 1.5; 16, 18)
  2. Day means daylight and darkness together (1.5)
  3. Day means the six days together (2.4).
  4. The first day could not have been measured by solar revolutions.

Against Eternality of Matter

If matter is eternal then it must be the first cause, but matter cannot be the first cause because this is self-moving and perpetually moving.  Matter is marked by the force of inertia (380).


They aren’t unnatural events; they are natural to God (417). Miracles upon earth are nature in heaven.


Man’s Creation

Traducianisim: applies the idea of species to body and soul (431).  The key question: when God created Adam and Eve, did he create in and with them the invisible substance of all the succeeding generations of men?  And by this “invisible substance” Shedd simply means the “principle of life itself” (434).

  1. Key argument:  the whole female was produced out of the male (439).

Original Sin

In line with Shedd’s traducianism, he sins posterity sinned in Adam geminally and not covenantally (435).


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