The Great Omission (Dallas Willard)

Thesis: Discipleship is the modern omission from the Great Commission.

He has a beautiful chapter on “solitude” and “silence.” My only concern is that it is completely unworkable to anyone who has kids, a job with pressing demands, or both.  (I remember I first read this when I was trying to get my 3 year old to sleep).

Towards a Christian Anthropology

In technical language, Willard is a soul-substance dualist, which is generally the Christian position. “The soul is a substance in that it is an individual entity that has properties and dispositions natural to it, endures through time and change, and receives and exercises causal influence on other things” (Willard 139).

“We have knowledge of a subject matter when we are able to represent it as it in fact is, on an appropriate basis of thought and experience” (140).

It is the source of life (143). The spirit is a central part of the soul, the part of determination (is this what Dabney called connative powers?). It is the heart or will. This isn’t trichotomism, though. Trichotomism sees the spirit as a separate entity. This view sees it as a subdivision of the soul.

The Good in the book

Logic as a spiritual discipline. This was a wonderful chapter, “Jesus the Logician.”

It requires the will to be logical (182).  It is freedom from distraction and willingness to follow truth wherever it takes

We are Committed to logic as a “fundamental value” (183). Jesus uses enthymemes. He understates logical points which require the hearer to draw the conclusion–psychologically, this was a very effective move.

As noted previously, his take on anthropology and its suggestions for a Christian psychology was wonderful.


Per Laubach: language of ascent to God (200). This is chain-of-being ontology. Note how the Christian “logic” works. We do not ascend to God. Christ descends to us. I understand that “inner” language has Augustinian precedents.

Nota Bene: I am more appreciative of Laubach now than when I first read this.

This theme is heavier in Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle. The “rooms” are ways of living in relation to God. Interestingly, Willard notes that this book has become an interfaith manual. Ironically, or perhaps precisely because when the spiritual life becomes “mystical absorption into the One,” then why does it really matter which “One” it is?

Richard Swinburne on the Soul

Swinburne, Richard.  Evolution of the Soul.  Oxford.


person: anyone who has the facets of consciousness which men possess, whether human or not (Swinburne 4).

substance: a component of the world which interacts causally with other components (5). They have properties (whether monadic, relating to themselves, or polyadic, relating to others).

event: states of substances.  They are tokens, particular occurrences.

properties: universals that are instantiated in many different substances in many different occasions.  Properties can be either mental or physical. Physical properties are publically accessible. There is no privileged access to them (6). 

mental properties: only the subject has privileged access to them.  Someone can look at me and see a cut and deduce that I am cut, but not necessarily that I am feeling pain. Or, they can’t know what I think about the pain.  

mental events: events which involve  instantiation of mental properties (John was in pain yesterday).  

Different Views on the Mind-Body Problem

  1. Hard Materialism; mind-brain identity theory.  
  2. Soft Materialism: property dualism.  Mental properties are different from physical properties.  
  3. Soft dualism: distinct from Plato and Descartes.  Makes no assumption on soul’s structure or immortality (10).  


A thought is not the same thing as a belief.  I can have a belief without being conscious of having a belief.  Not so with thoughts (63).


criterion of belief:  Have a lively (as opposed to faint) idea of it (Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, 1.3.7).  It seems Hume confuses “belief” and “thought.” I can have a belief without being aware of it.

To believe p s to believe p is more probable (greater than ½ ) than ~p.

Summary of the Five States

These five states interact with brain-events but are not reducible to brain events.

Structure of the Soul

If we say the person can continue if the body is destroyed, we mean it is logically possible (146). 

basic argument: knowledge of what happens to bodies and their parts will not necessarily give you knowledge of the persons within them (147).   Cf., B. Williams, “Mad Surgeon Story.” Further, a man’s mental properties are not necessarily the same as his physical properties (155). At least, we have no reason for thinking so and those who hold to materialism have far more to prove.  

sub-argument: these claims for the soul should be verifiable.  Continuity of brain and apparent memory do not constitute personal identity, but they can provide evidence for it (155).  

The Evidence for Personal Identity

memory.  Fallible but reliable.  A source of belief-justification, if not the strongest form.

Origin and Life of the Soul

problem: can the soul function when it is not having conscious episodes (sleep, etc)? Swinburne makes the distinction that the soul cannot “function” without a properly functioning brain, but it can exist without the brain (176).   

I am not so sure Swinburne’s evolutionary narrative accounts for morality. He asserts with Darwin that those who evolved have well-marked social instincts which would eventually acquire morality (224).  The only evidence he offers is that animals demonstrate altruism towards their kin (except for those animals who eat their young and eat their mates, no doubt). The universality of morality, therefore, can be attributed to some “core principles” (226).

I am not persuaded and neither was T. H. Huxley.  Swinburne admits with Huxley that the “practice of what is ethically best…is opposed to that which leads to success in the cosmic system” (quoted in Swinburne, 227).  

His argument for free will is along the lines that Quantum Mechanics has ruled out a universal physical determinism, which would be our wills aren’t determined by our brain-states.  So far, so good. The rest of the chapter consisted of mathematical formulas before which even the mightiest reader would quail.

The Structure of the Soul

Agents have belief-desire sets.  Per Quine, our beliefs “form a net which impinges on experience only at its edges” (see Quine, From a Logical Point of View, 42-46).  Our beliefs have to “mesh” with other beliefs (though there can be inconsistencies that aren’t obvious).  Swinburne takes Quine’s correct thesis and adds to it: desires interact with our belief network (Swinburne 263-264).  

Desires require beliefs.  If a man desire heroin and knows the effects of heroin, and you inject him with heroin, then as the effects wear off he will desire more heroin.  If you inject a sleeping man with heroin, as the effects wear off he will feel uneasy but won’t desire heroin (not knowing what to desire).

 There are three ways to change desires: bodily change, a belief change, and a change of other desires (270-271).  Swinburne gives an extended and fascinating account of how our beliefs and desires function. The upshot of this is our beliefs can’t always be “changed” by neural procedures.  If one did succeed in “switching” beliefs, my other beliefs in the “web,” themselves not changed, would “conspire to restore” that former belief which gave unity (281). Granted, this isn’t a powerful stand-alone argument for the existence of the soul, but it is a difficulty for materialist views.  

The person tempted to suicide might go to counseling.  This reveals conflicted desires within his psyche. He is exhibiting a desire not to have a desire to commit suicide.  

an argument against determinism: insofar as our beliefs which require reasons for their justification do not have acceptance of those reasons among their causes, they are unjusified (290). 


Super-ego (conscience)

Ego: person which performs public actions

Id: system of conative impulses).  These impules exist side by side with each other without neutralizing each other.  

Similarly, the soul has a structure of internconnected beliefs and desires which are more or less integrated with each other (295).  

Future of the soul: 

Can the brain be reactivated? 

Will the soul function without the brain’s functioning?  Three arguments

  1. parapsychology.  Swinburne rejects mediums talking with the dead and opts for the clairvoyance argument.  He gives more weight to near-death experiences (NDE) since those can be verified. However, he rejects them because in most cases there is no evidence the brain stopped functioning even though the heart did.  (???)
  2. natural survival.  

HIs conclusion: the soul cannot survive the body simply on its own powers.  I suppose that’s true, but Swinburne comes dangerously close to (if not actually affirming) “soul sleep.”

Excellent discussions on supervenience.




*Swinburne offers lots of penetrating suggestions on the mind-body problem and how hard materialism really can’t account for it.  

*Excellent, if incomplete section on beliefs and belief-formation.


Descartes (Meditations)

We don’t read Descartes so we can find out if we exist, or what the mind is.  His methods in those areas border on bizarre. Descartes, however, did do a fine job in clarifying the issues under discussion.  He mainstreamed several powerful philosophical concepts and tools.

First Meditation: the things that are doubtable

How do I know an evil genius or a demon isn’t deceiving my senses about the external world, my existence, etc.? Or to put it in modern parlance: how do I know I am not a “brain in a vat” with memories that were pre-programmed five minutes ago?

Second Meditation: The Nature of the Human Mind

Descartes’ initial answer to the problem: in order for me to doubt, I have to first exist in order to doubt.

What am I?  I am a thinking thing.  What is a thinking thing?  It is a thing that doubts, understands, affirms, etc.  While my senses may deceive me that I am seeing red et al, it is quite certain that I seem to be seeing red et al.  In other words, I am being appeared to redly.

Third Meditation: Of God, that he exists

Descartes advances Anselm’s ontological argument.  It’s not as profound as Anselm’s nor as powerful as Plantinga’s.  I have ideas imprinted on my mind which are not in the senses (and so Descartes rightly rejects the old scholastic dictum).  Therefore, a greater, yet immaterial, reality must exist.

Meditation Six: Of the existence of material things; mind and body

Bodies are divisible.  Minds aren’t. I can’t cut up the mind into will, faculty, reason, etc.

Outline of Calvin’s Institutes, Book 1

Outline and Notes.

Knowledge of God

Calvin placed intuitive knowledge on a more direct footing.  We have direct knowledge of an actually present object:  Intuitive knowledge arises under the direct impact of the divine Being.

    1. Calvin: We know God through his speaking to us in his Word (Word, being Logos, inheres in the divine being).
      1. There is a compulsion of Veritas on our minds.
      2. Knowledge of God, like all true knowledge, is determined by the nature of what is known (86).
        1. arises out of our obedience.
        2. evidence: evidence of ultimate reality, which means it is self-evident.
      3. Our intuitive knowledge is in and through God’s Word.
        1. it is reached by hearing, not seeing.
        2. The Word of God we hear in Scripture reposes in the divine Being. That is the objective ground in our knowledge of God.
  1. Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self, since God is the standard of knowledge.
    1. Knowledge of God involves trust and reverence (1.2.2).
      1. Knowledge of God, hence, involves obedience.
      2. The object of knowledge, in this case, partially determines how we know God.
    2. Implanted in the minds of men (1.3-4)
    3. Scripture is needed if we are to have true knowledge (1.6-8)
      1. The church itself is grounded in Scripture. Eph. 2.20.
      2. Witness of the Holy Spirit..  God is a fit witness of himself. Isaiah 59.20-21.
    4. Contra fanatical knowledge (1.9).
      1. The Holy Spirit agrees with Scripture.
      2. Word and Spirit belong together.
    5. Contra superstition (1.10-11).
      1. No visible form of God.
      2. Dulia/latria collapses.
        1. It is harder to serve a being than to reverence it (1.11.11).
        2. Scripture itself blurs this distinction (1.12.2). Gal. 4.8.
  2. The Being of God and the Trinity
    1. The Father has made his hypostasis visible in the Son (1.13.2).

Book I.V.13-15

“No pure and approved religion founded on common understanding alone.” 1 Cor. 2.8.

Chapter VI: Scripture Necessary

Knowledge of God in Scripture

True understanding emerges when we reverently embrace what pleases God (I.VI.2). This might be what Torrance has in mind when he says true scientific knowledge is when the knower submits to the structures of the object known.  “Right knowledge of God is born of obedience” (Omnis recta cognito Dei ab obedientia nascitur)

Chapter VII: Scripture must be confirmed by the Spirit

(Chapters 7-9 form an excursus on biblical authority)

“Scriptures obtain full authority among believers only when men regard them as having sprung from heaven, as if there the were living words of God were heard (7.1).  Is Calvin saying the bible becomes authoritative as we assent to its authority?  Maybe.  This is very close to what Barth says about Scripture’s becoming the Word of God in us when we submit to it.

*The highest proof of Scripture comes from God, since Scripture comes from God.  God himself is a “fit witness” for his Word.

Inward testimony of the Spirit

The Spirit must penetrate into our hearts to persuade us of Scripture (VII.4).  Is. 59.21.

Hilary of Poitiers: “For he whom we can know only through his utterances is a fitting witness concerning himself” (De Trin. I.18).

Calvin: “It is not right to subject Scripture to proof and reasoning.”  Proofs only work when the Spirit seals them on our hearts. The only true faith is that which the Spirit seals on our hearts.

Chapter 10.2

Uses language of God in himself, but goes on to say that “Experiences teaches us to find God as he is in his Word.”

Chapter 11: Impropriety of Images

section 1.  “God himself is the sole and proper witness of himself” (cf. Hilary, De Trin. I.8).

sect. 2: How can spirit be analogous to a material object?

Epistemology and Icons

The problem with the dulia/latria distinction.

  • Scripture doesn’t use that distinction (Mt. 4:10; Rev. 19:10, Acts 10:25).
  • Common sense logic says that one who is enslaved/under service to a greater necessarily gives honor to the greater (pp. 118-119).


Chapter 13

Divine simplicity on p. 122.

  • The Father’s hypostasis is visible in Jesus (p. 123).

Definition of Person (p.128).

  • better spoken of as “subsistence.”
  • Persons are distinguished by an incommunicable quality
  • John 1:1–Word could not be God without residing in the Father, hence the idea of subsistence emerges.

Distribution or economy in God has no effect on the unity of the essence.


Calvin summarizes the basic arguments for the deity of Christ.  Not much new here.  However, some points:

  • If apart from God there is no salvation, no righteousness et al, yet Christ contains all of these.  Then Christ is God.
  • The name of a Jehovah is a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are safe.  Yet the name of Christ is invoked for salvation.  Therefore, Christ is on the same level as Jehovah.

Deity of the Holy Spirit (I.XIII.14-15)

*The Spirit is author of regeneration by his very own energy.

*Through him we come into communion with God, so that in a way we feel his life-giving power toward us.

Distinction and Unity of the Three Persons (I.XIII.16-20).

Fairly standard stuff.  Includes Calvin’s famous quote of Gregory of Nazianzus (p.141).

*Father is attributed the beginning of the activity and the fountain of all things; the Son, wisdom, counsel, and the ordered disposition of all things; but to the spirit is assigned the power and efficacy of all that activity (sec. 18).

*For in each hypostasis is the whole divine nature understood

Chapter 14: Creation

Standard textbook material.  Rebuts Pseudo-Dionysius on angels.  Calvin is aware of the dearth of evidence for some conclusions and refuses to go beyond it.

Chapter 15: Creation of Man

Basic substance dualism, though Calvin is heavier on the Platonic line.  Rebuts the idea that there is a difference between image and likeness.

Human soul consists of two faculties–understanding and will (sec. 7).  Calvin places himself in the intellectualist tradition by seeing that the will follows the understanding.  He is not a voluntarist.

Chapter 16: Providence

“Fortune and chance are pagan terms” (quoting Basil, Homilies on the Psalms).

Chapter 17: How We May apply this doctrine to our greatest benefit

(1) God’s providence sometimes works through an intermediary (p.210).

(2) God’s Hidden Will: Calvin isn’t actually positing two wills in God, bu notes that it appears manifold to us (sec. 3)


Do Properties Think?

In Plantinga’s fine chapter “Materialism and Christian Belief” (ed. Peter Van Inwagen, Persons: Human and Divine) he notes a difficulty in Thomism where it tries to defend dualism.  Dualism is the standard Christian belief that man cannot be reduced to a merely physical being.  Aquinas, with dualism, acknowledges that the soul is a thinking part of the body.  But he also says the soul is the *form* of the body, and Plantinga argues that makes it a property.  And properties can’t think (Plantinga 101).

What is a property?  Peter Van Inwagen defines it as “something that can be said of something.”  I guess that’s good enough.  Let’s look at Plantinga’s argument more closely:

P1: Aquinas–soul is a thinking part of the body (so far, so good).
P2: Soul is the form of the body (standard Aristotle and Aquinas)
P3: (P2) makes the soul a property.
C1: Yet it seems odd to say that properties can “think.”

If Plantinga’s argument holds, then this puts considerable strain on Thomism, and I do reject Thomism, but I am not so sure of (P3).  Let’s see if we can make it work.

P3*: The soul is the principle by which the body lives.
P4:  The soul is the property that gives the body life.
C2: The soul is a property.

Person =/= Soul

Key to the definition of person is that it can’t be defined in terms of any of the soul’s or nature’s functions.  As part of what it means to be human is to have a soul (however you want to gloss that), this means that person can’t be defined as the sum total of will, memory (Augustine), consciousness, etc.

A patristic ordo theologiae

The following summary comes from years of studying and interacting with Joseph Farrell’s theological works.  I had a breakthrough yesterday on the nature of the soul. Many substance dualists see the soul as the person, yet Christologically this is impermissible, as Christ has two souls yet is one person. Farrell’s definition of the person, as seen below, shows that the person is more than the soul.  This is why animals have souls but they aren’t persons.ghd

Def. Person = an absolutely undefinable concrete uniqueness without analogy to any other person, save in that very uniqueness.  It is important to remember that we are not defining person in terms of the functions of soul or nature.

Leontius refined it to mean “being-for-oneself.”  It is what distinguishes a concrete being from others of the same genus (HuvB 223). It is the ontological subject of the ascription of an essence, not the consciousness of such a subject.

Some terms:

  1. soul: the animating principle.  Not to be confused with the idea of “person.”
  2. nature: the whatness of a thing. Nature exists in a “mode of existence,” which is the hypostasis (Loudonikos 93ff). Essence, substance, being, genus, or nature.  The actual concrete reality of a thing, the underlying essence, (in earlier Christian thought the synonym of physis.)
  3. attribute: the static quality which something possesses (I prefer the term property).
  4. operations: the dynamic quality which something does by virtue of being what it is.
  5. Agency: surprisingly, a nature can function as an agent, in that natures have operations.  This doesn’t confuse person and nature, though, since the doing of a nature is seen more in the category of capacity.
    1. If an individual person acts, then it is the mode of his operation and such mode is exclusively personal.

The ordo:

Persons –> operations –> essence

Who is doing it? What are they doing? What are they that are doing these things? Heresies in the early church arose by confusing the essence with some operation (Eunomianism–seeing the nature in terms of the operation of unbegottenness).



Review: God Incarnate

I’ve gotten to the point that if someone asks me for a basic book on Christology, I point them to Oliver Crisp. Any of his works. I learned more Christology from this book than in my week long Christology course in seminary. Crisp’s stated goal is to use to the tools of analytic theology to focus on key areas in Christology. Show problems and point to solution. He succeeds magnificently.


try to find the picture where he has a beard

The Election of Jesus Christ

Standard received Reformed view: the sole cause of election is the good pleasure and will of God (Crisp 36). Turretin and others want to deny the claim that Christ’s foreseen merit is the ground of predestination.

Moderate Reformed view: Christ is the ground of election in just one important sense. God decrees election, and he decrees that Christ be one of the ends. Here is where the MRP view points out a tension in the standard treatment: if all of the ad extra works of the Trinity are one, Logos must also be a cause of election, and not just a means.

This section could have done more. I think he pointed out a key insight of the Moderate Reformed group, but he didn’t deal with Bruce McCormack’s reading of Karl Barth (he acknowledged it, though). There is still blood on the ground from the “Companion Controversy.”

Christ and the Embryo

This is where the money is. Chalcedonian Christology demands a pro-life position. If you aren’t willing to use your theology to fight a war to the death against Moloch, then go sit down. This honor isn’t for you. And it gives sometimes strange (yet welcome) implications. For example, human personhood and human nature aren’t the same thing. Christ is fully human, but not a human person.

We need to be clear on this, otherwise we fall prey to Apollinarianism. All humans are created with something like a built-in God-shaped port that the Word can upload himself at the moment of conception. Where this divine upload takes place, the Word prevents the human nature from becoming a human person (107). In other words, if God the Son doesn’t “upload/download” himself into human nature’s hard drive, then personhood begins at conception.

While the demons at Planned Parenthood probably don’t care about Apollinarianism, that line can work well against those who claim a high church conciliar Christology, yet are scared to fight this war. I have in mind the Rachel Held Evans and Calvin College faculty.  If you don’t believe personhood is live at conception (be it divine or human), then you are an Apollinarian.  Now, that should bother the “ancient/liturgy/conciliar” crowd. If you are in that group and you reject the Apollinarian implication, then you probably don’t need to be voting Democrat.  I am not saying you should be Alt Right and posting Crusader memes, but you need to move in that direction.

Materialist Christology

The upshot: not all alternatives to substance dualism are physicalist. Global materialism: the idea that all existing things are essentially material things; there are no immaterial entities. Christian materialists do not necessarily hold this view, as they would acknowledge at least two existing immaterial entities: God and angels.

Global substance dualism: all existing things are composed of matter or spirit (mind), or both matter and spirit. This position can include Christian materialists-about-the-human-person.

The problem in question: can a Christian materialist about the human person hold to Chalcedonian Christology? It initially appears not, as Christ’s has a rational soul? If Christ’s divine mind/soul were to substitute, then Apollinarianism would follow.

Reductive materialists: a human’s mental life can be reduced to some corporeal function.
Non-reductive materialism: the human’s mental life cannot be reduced to some corporeal function.
Property Dualism: a substance that has some properties that are mental and some that are physical.
Substance: a thing of a certain sort that can exist independently of other things of the same sort, has certain causal relations with other substances, and is the bearer of properties (145). A property is an abstract object that either is a universal or functions like one.

Crisp probably should have said why property dualism is false while he was at it.  Nevertheless, a simply grand book.

Analytical Outline of American Augustinian

While the title appears to limit the book’s scope, this treatise is nothing less than a masterpiece in explaining key loci in Reformed theology.  Oliver Crisp outlines how William G.T. Shedd’s “Augustinian Realism” shapes his theology–and he makes us love Augustine even more in the process.  Augustinian realism, in whatever variety, is the claim there is a real metaphysical connection between Adam and his descendants. See my earlier pieces on Shedd.

In Defense of Traducianism

For Shedd (and Augustine) human souls are not created individually by divine fiat, but are propogated from one generation to another (Crisp 17).  We were all seminally in Adam, or at least in some unformed lump of human nature.  This unique position allows Shedd to affirm the imputation of original sin without falling prey to the charges of injustice on God’s part.

  1. The problem with Creationism (i.e., God creates each soul brand new).
    1. It cannot account for the transmission of what is purely mental.  If there is no metaphysical link between me and Adam, then exactly how is the nonphysical parts of my being “tainted” by Adam’s sin?
    2. Logically, this must mean that each soul apostasized from God by itself.
  2. Soul-Fission
    1. Shedd gives a good critique of the creationist view, but his position, while probably the biblical one, still has difficulties.
    2. Souls are immaterial substances, so how can a soul “split” from the original lump?  Most of Christian reflection viewed souls as indivisible. We will come back to this problem.
  3. Human nature
    1. Human nature (for Shedd) is a substance in its own right.  It is not a property of a substance (which he says Hodge holds).
      1. Human nature consists of body + soul.
      2. It is a concrete particular that exemplifies certain properties.  Human nature is not itself exemplified by other entities (35).
  4. Critique of Shedd
    1. Crisp: Are species-natures (Thomas Morris’ ‘kind-natures’) concrete particulars or are they abstract objects?  It seems they must be the latter, for this is no concrete entity called “humanity.”
    2. Are souls fissiparous?  This is the only objection to Shedd that has any weight.  Simple substances like souls just aren’t divisible.
      1. But maybe there is a way out.  Souls aren’t physical objects, so we aren’t talking about a physical separation.
      2. Other creationists’ objections are that souls are incorruptible, hence indivisible.  But this isn’t a strong objection.  Must incorruptibility entail indivisibility?  Maybe, but we Crisp doesn’t list any arguments.
    3. Another objection: if souls are fissile, then how can souls be what anchor’s a substance identity across time?  This is a good objection, but maybe there is a way around it.
      1. The individual soul itself isn’t being divided.  What is being divided is the soul from the original Adamic lump.  
  5. Creationism and Imputed Sin
    1. He returns to problems with the creationist view. Shedd’s argument is that there is no metaphysical link between the newly created souls and Adam’s soul.

Augustinian Realism and the Imputation of Adam’s Sin

  1. Original Sin contains two parts: the lack of original righteousness and the vitiated moral nature.
    1. Original sin comprises a reatus, or liability.
    2. The loss of original righteousness leads to macula (blemished nature).
  2. Legal fiction: Crisp advances the old line that imputation (whether of sin or righteousness) is a legal fiction.
    1. There is no real transference of properties (61).
    2. God constitutes these things in an “as if” relation.
    3. Hodge, for example, denies that the guilty involved in original sin is grounded in Adam’s guit (ST II:94).  Thus for Hodge there must be an immediate imputation of original sin to me, and then, and only then, can I be held guilty because of original sin (Crisp 79).
  3. Augustinian Realism
    1. Because all of humanity is somehow present in Adam at the moment of his first sin, the original sin can be applied to all of his posterity with no legal fiction.
      1. This is a forceful and clean response to the legal fiction charge, yet Crisp has problems with it.  
      2. If Shedd is right, then evolution is wrong!
      3. Crisp wants a “strong metaphysical union” between Adam and us (66), buit it’s not clear how he can get it.

The Theanthropic Person of Christ

  1. Shedding the Classical Doctrine
    1. Shedd argues that the Word assumed a body-soul composite, which themselves can loosely be called “natures.”
      1. These are unpersonalized natures (87).
      2. Crisp argues that Shedd must hold that Christ’s unpersonalized human nature must exist prior to the Incarnation.  Maybe, though it’s not clear on the mode of that nature’s existence.  That’s not a problem.  The problem is that this nature must be tainted by sin when the Word assumes it.
    2. Many of Shedd’s Christological conclusions are standard anhypostatic/enhypostatic terms, so I won’t belabor the point.
  2. Realism and Christ’s Human Nature
    1. Shedd’s main problem is the nature the Word assumed was tainted by sin.  Thus, the Holy Spirit must have immediately sanctified it.
    2. But that leads to another problem: sanctification is a work of redemption, which is applied apart from Christ, yet to Christ!
    3. Concrete particulars. If my soul is unique, then my human nature isn’t a universal.  This means that Christ didn’t assume the universal of human nature, but only a concrete particular (because he assumed body + soul).

The Impeccability of Christ

  1. Christ can be tempted to do certain things, but not all sorts of things (some temptations require the person to be in a prior state of sin). Shedd’s main argument is Hebrew 13:8.  This applies to the whole character of Christ (116).
  2. If I can fall prey to sin, this means I am deceived into thinking that the sin is a perceived good, yet we wouldn’t apply this to Christ.

Sin, Atonement, and Representationalism

  1. Shedd’s take on the atonement is standard, except perhaps his analysis of the word “extent.”  Rather, we will focus on sin and imputation.
  2. The problem Shedd has to overcome is how his correct analysis of creationism and immediate imputation do not backfire when he wants to apply representationalism to the atonement.
    1. His first way around the problem is that the two are asymmetrical because Christ opts to represent us.  True enough.
    2. On a realist gloss, how can I metaphysically have the benefits of Christ’s work without Christ having the metaphysical realities of my sin?  I think there are rebuttals to this.


Notes on Berkouwer’s anthropology

From his Man: The Image of God

On the broader/narrower distinction: man, despite his fall, was not beastialized (38).  By narrower man lost his communion with God.

  • the broader sense reminds us of what was not lost in the fall.
  • Perhaps better to speak of a duality between Old and New.

Should image of God be read as “active” (conformitas) or ontic (essence)?

Berkouwer on Eastern Orthodoxy

  • He doesn’t give the best discussion of EO, either in what they believe or in how to critique it.  Though he does hint that EO thinkers aren’t always able to clearly state the connection between inheriting Adam’s curse of death and why we always do sinful things, but yet refusing to call it Original Sin.

Klaas Schilder

Schilder sees man’s creation as the pre-condition for the image, but not the image itself (Berkouwer 54).  The actual image lies in the officium created man receives (I don’t think this is the full picture, but there is some truth to this, especially if we connect the imago dei with man’s dominion, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism hints at).

  • Thus, the image is dynamic and is rooted in the Covenantal God’s Relation with man.
  • the word “image” implies “making visible.”
  • Schilder resists any abstracting the image.
  • The glory of the image shines forth in service to God (56).

The danger with Schilder’s approach is that it makes the image too “dynamic” with an emphasis on conformitas.

What is the relationship between man’s humanness and God’s Image?  Berkouwer wants to deny that fallen man images God (57).  He says he can do this without rejecting what it means for man to be man.

  • Passages like Genesis 9:6 are not proof-texts for some abstract view of the image analogia entis.  They deal with a humanness in the context of God’s plan of salvation.
  • The truth of the matter is Scripture doesn’t focus that much on the distinction between wider and narrow, important though it is.
    • traditional discussions have always focused on image as defined by person, will, reason, and freedom.  Scripture, on the other hand, is concerned with man-in-relation-to-God.
  • A synthesis between the ontic and active aspects of the image is impossible when using concepts like “nature” and “essence” (61).

Analogia Fides

  • The danger in abstracting the imago dei is that the body is usually not included in what it means to be God’s image.  This means that only part of man is creted in the image of God.
  • Such discussions lose focus of the humanness of man.  They forget that man is man-in-his-apostasy.

The Meaning of the Image

Origen expounded the view that man was created in God’s image but grows into God’s likeness (De Principiis, 3.4.1; Bavinck calls this the naturalistic view).

Calvin, on the other hand, sees the two terms as an example of Hebrew parallelism.  Berkouwer gives the best critique:  “And if God’s plan for man (that man should have both image and likeness) was only partially realized by man’s creation in his Image (As Origen and others claimed), then it is difficult to explain Genesis 5, which speaks of man’s creation in God’s likeness (demuth) and after his image, tselem (Berkouwer, 69).

The image-concept and the Second Commandment

2Comm. deals with a prohibition against arbitrariness which man tries to have God at his beck and call (79).  The 2C is not primarily trying to protect the “spirituality” of God but to show that God is not at man’s beck and call (though, of course, God is spiritual).

The creation of man is directly related to the prohibition of images:  “For in worshiping images, man completely misunderstands God’s intentions and no longer realizes the meaning of his humanity (84).

Biblical usage:  The NT speaks of humanity as whether it is the “New man in Christ” or not.  To the degree it speaks of conformitas, it speaks of the new conformitas in Christ.

While the analogia entis is certainly wrong, we need to be careful of speaking of an analogia relationis, pace Barth and Dooyeweerd.   Berkouwer wisely notes that Scripture doesn’t speak of a “relation” in the abstract, but of a “relation as it becomes visible in the salvation of Christ” (101).

Even if one were to speak of an analogia entis, the biblical presentation of “being like God” has nothing to do with the natural state of affairs but rather shows forth the wonder of the new birth (1 John 3:9).  The “imitation of God” forms the pendant of our witness to the world, in which word and deed are joined in an unbreakable unity (102).

The Corruption of the Image

How do we reconcile language of corruption with hints of “remnants?”  There is a difficulty in saying that sin is “accidental” to man.  It cannot mean that sin is merely peripheral to man’s existence.  Rather, it affects all that he does.  The Formula of Concord says that sin is an accident, but one that produces man’s spiritual death (133).  When Flacius Illyrius saw the term “accident,” he interpreted it as meaning that sin is relative and external.

The problem is that substance/accidents language cannot do justice to the NT reality of sin. Berkouwer suggests we can rise above the dilemma “only when we see man’s nature, his being man, in his inescapable relation to God” (135).

We also need to be aware of positing “any remnant in man which can escape divine indictment” (135).  Whatever else we may think of substance/accidents, “Scripture constantly makes it clear that sin is not something which corrupts relatively or partially, but a corruption which full affects the radix, the root, of man’s existence, and therefore man himself” (104-141).

  • Gen. 6:11-12; the sin is referred to as “great.”
  • Gen. 6:5; man’s heart is evil
  • Gen. 8.21 (man’s imagination is evil from his youth)
  • Life outside of Christ is pictured as “under God’s wrath” (

“The power of sin since the fall is like an avalanche, and it results in the intervening judgment of God” (141).  The Old testament gives us a picture of total corruption but a limited curse (God doesn’t wipe us out completely).

“The jubilation of salvation corresponds to the real condition of lostness” (144).

Humanness and Corruption

Discussion about common grace.  When Calvin says man has “no worth” he means no merit before God’s judgment.

The Whole Man

Scripture doesn’t talk about man in the abstract, but man in his relation to God (195).

Biblical use of the word “soul.”

Sometimes it is “nefesh,” meaning life and can refer to man himself.  Berkouwer rejects that “soul” is a “localized religious part of man” (201).  The Bible’s interchangeable usage between soul and life should draw attention to the fact that the “heart” is of primary importance:  “The heart shows forth the deeper aspect of the whole humanness of man, not some functional localization in a part of man which would be the most important part” (202-203).

Concerning anthropological dualisms

Such a view sees the soul as the “higher” part, closer to God.  Leads to ascetism.  However, evil in the bible is never localized in a part of man.

Bavinck attacks trichotomy because Scripture knows of no original dualism between spirit and matter (209).    The trichotomist sees the soul as mediating between body and spirit (find Damascene’s comment that the soul is higher point, cf Bruce McCormack, Engaging the Doctrine of God).

Dualism and duality are not identical (211).  We can speak of a duality in God’s creation man and woman, without positing an ontological dualism between them (this is where Maximus and Jakob Boehme err).  “Duality within created reality does not exclude harmony and unity, but is exactly oriented towards it” (211).

Does soul and body involve a tension, and if so that would make it a dualism?  If it does involve a tension, we must reject not only trichotomy, but dichotomy.

Per the confessions and creeds, “there is a great difference between non-scientific references to a dual aspect of human nature and a thesis that man is composed of two substances, body and soul” (213-214).

The Dooyeweerdians

It opposes the idea that all the rich variation of humanness can be forced into two substantial categories.

Stoker defines substance as the “systatic core of man, that which functions in all spheres” (H.G. Stoker, Die nuwere Wijsbegeerte aan die Vrije Universiteit, 1933, 40ff.).

For the Dooyeweerdian critique, matter can never be an independent counter-pole to form.

Immortality of the Soul

Genuine and real life in Scripture is life in communion with God.  The philosophical notion of “immortality of the soul” calls death a lie and misunderstands the judgment of God (250).

The main contention of Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd whether there was a natural immortality based on an essence abstracted from its relation to God, from which we can draw further conclusions, such as the soul’s “indestructibility” (249).

Per Van der Leuw, there is no continued existence of the soul as such after death, “but a continuation of the contact point by God even though death” (Onsterfelijkheid of Opstanding, 25 quoted in Berkouwer 252).

  • The problem of what happens when we die does not involve a purely spiritual salvation but can only be answered in the context of death and the Day of Judgment (Althaus).

Is immortality of the soul correlative with the substantial dualism of mind-body?  This dichotomy raises substantial (pun?) problems and questions (255):

  • When the “soul” is separated from the body, what activities is it still able to carry out?
  • If the body is the organ of the soul (as in Aquinas), and the soul needs the body to carry out its functions, how can the soul know or do anything after death?
    • Dooyeweerd notes that the psychic functions are indissolubly connected with the total temporal-cosmic relationship of all modal functions and cannot be abstracted from this relationship.
    • Thus, we have a “living soul” which does not live.
    • Rather, with Dooyeweerd we should speak of a duality which is supra-temporal in the religious center of man (heart) and the whole temporal-functional complex.
    • Dooyeweerd does say that the soul continues as a form of existence with an individuality structure (Berkouwer 257n. 33).

Does Dooyeweerd’s school give us a “psychology without a soul?”

  • No, for Dooyeweerd says we cannot view man’s essence “in itself” and then tack it onto a relation with God.

The Reformed confessions’ use of soul and body is not to give a systematic anthropology but to show that expectation of salvation surpasses death (271).

Creationism and Traducianism

Berkouwer sees the problems with Creationism:

  • it finds the soul’s origin in another dimension than the “other” part of man, which finds its origin…from its parents (294).

Human Freedom

Freedom in the New Testament is not a “possibility,” but an actuality, the actuality of being free (Gal. 3:13, 4:4). Defining freedom as “double possibility,” as freedom of choice, arises from an abstract and irreligious and neutral anthropological analysis of human freedom (334).

irony and tension: if freedom is defined as choice, then we see that the choice for sin becomes a manifestation of human freedom–though we (and the Bible!) then go on to speak of sin as actually being slavery (335)!

Choosing Ba’al is not an ontological freedom of the will, but an endangering of freedom and the acceptance of an enslaved will (Deut. 30:18). How can we speak of a neutral and autonomous freedom of will when Jesus commands us to accept his yoke and his burden? (348)

Man of God

In the Old Testament it refers to a relationship with God (349).  Such a term can never be one of an abstract and neutral man.  It is man drawn out of darkness and into light.

“The magnalia Dei does not exclude true greatness, but calls it forth” (352).  [Think Stonewall Jackson]