Shedd’s blasphemy concerning the Incarnation

Now I will make some comments on Shedd‘s bizarre and blasphemous views concerning the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

On Sat, Nov 1, 2008 at 7:54 PM, Chris Duncan <> wrote:

Chris: Here is Shedd:

==”The following are the principle objections urged against the theory of Traducianism:

1. It is said that it conflicts with the doctrine of Christ’s sinlessness. It does not, if the doctrine of the miraculous conception is held. The Scriptures teach that the human nature of our Lord was perfectly sanctified, in and by his conception by the Holy Ghost. Sanctification implies that the nature needed sanctification. Had Christ been born of Mary’s substance in the ordinary manner, he would have been a sinful man. His humanity prior to conception was an undividualized [sic] part of the common human nature.==

Chris: Death comes through Adam’s transgression (sin) and God imputes the sin of Adam to all whom Adam represented upon conception in their mother’s womb. Adam represented all humans except for Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is descended from Adam since He is also the seed of Abraham, the son of David. So while Jesus Christ DID descend from Adam, Adam DID NOT represent Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is Himself a representative of His people and is referred to in Scripture as the Last Adam. The Holy Spirit sanctifies the human nature of Christ by means of the miraculous Virgin Birth. The Virgin Birth bypasses the man and it is through the ordinary relations between a man and a woman that sin is imputed by God to every human (apart from Christ) that is conceived. BUT Christ is conceived in a miraculous way of the Virgin Birth by virtue of the Holy Spirit’s work. Because Christ is virgin born, sin is NOT imputed to Him.

==He was the “seed of the woman,” the “seed of David.” As such simply, his human nature was like that of Mary and of David, fallen and sinful. It is denominated “sinful flesh,” in Rom. 8:3.==

Chris: “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3). NOT in sinful flesh, but in the LIKENESS of sinful flesh. Shedd is a damnable blasphemer who assumes that Christ, in taking upon human nature in the Incarnation, must necessarily take the imputation of sin and sinful flesh along with it.

==It required perfect sanctification before it could be assumed into union with the second trinitarian person, and it obtained it through the miraculous conception….Theologians have confined their attention mainly to the sanctification of Christ’s human nature, saying little about its justification. But a complete Christology must include the latter as well as the former. Any nature that requires sanctification requires justification; because sin is guilt as well as pollution. The Logos could not unite with a human nature taken from the Virgin Mary, and transmitted from Adam, unless it had previously been delivered from both the condemnation and the corruption of sin.==

Chris: Non-imputation of sin, biblically, should necessarily accompany the Virgin Birth of Christ. But for Shedd, IN SPITE of the Virgin Birth sin is STILL imputed and so in order for Christ to be able to unite the human nature to Himself has to die for it and remove the condemnation and corruption. So if Shedd ever said that Christ was sinless, now you know that Shedd believes that Christ was sinless only because He first had to die for His own human nature. Again, this is as bizarre as it is blasphemous.

==The idea of redemption, also, includes both justification and sanctification; and it is conceded that that portion of human nature which the Logos assumed into union with himself was redeemed. His own humanity was the “first fruits” of his redemptive work. “Christ the first fruits, afterwards they that are Christ’s,” 1 Cor. 15:23. Consequently, the doctrine is not fully constructed, unless this side of it is presented. ==

Chris: Part of Shedd‘s bizarre blasphemy stems from his Calvinistic view of universal atonement which asserts (among other things) that since all men without exception partake of flesh and blood, Christ partook of the same and so represents all without exception in His death. This of course, is a perversion of Hebrews 2:14 which speaks of “the children,” and not all men without exception. Then we see Shedd further twist and pervert 1 Corinthians 15:23 to his own destruction by making the asinine assertion that said text shows that the first fruits of Christ’s own redemptive work is His own human nature.

==So far, then, as the guilt of Adam’s sin rested upon that unindividualized portion of the common fallen nature of Adam assumed by the Logos, it was expiated by the one sacrifice on Calvary. The human nature of Christ was prepared for the personal union with the Logos, by being justified, as well as sanctified. “God was manifested in the flesh, was justified [Shedd puts the Greek in parenthesis here–CD] by [same for the English word “by”–CD] the Spirit,” 1 Tim. 3:16. Here, the “flesh” denotes the entire humanity, psychical and physical, and it was “justified.” The justification in this instance, like that of the Old Testament believers, was proleptical, in view of the future atoning death of Christ. ==

Chris: 1 Timothy 3:16 speaks of the justification or VINDICATION of Christ by the Holy Spirit of God. Christ is vindicated/justified by the Spirit in His resurrection to have completely satisfied the justice of God for the sins of His people. The sins of Christ’s people were imputed to Him and the Spirit testifies by virtue of the resurrection that not only was God satisfied by His Son’s work, but also that it was NOT for any sin of Christ that He was dying. Shedd violently wrests the Scripture to make it say that part of the reason why He was resurrected was to show that He was vindicated since He allegedly satisfied for His own sin-stained human nature.

==The gracious redemption of the humanity which the Logos assumed into union with himself, is a familiar point in the patristic Christology…Athanasius (Contra Arianos, II. lxi.) says that Christ’s human nature was “first saved and redeemed [Greek for “saved and redeemed” here–CD], and so became the means of our salvation and redemption” (W.G.T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Vol 2,  pp. 81-83, Third Edition, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891).==

Chris: I don’t trust Shedd‘s citation of Athanasius, but if Athanasius held to what Shedd holds to, then Shedd‘s bizarre blasphemy of the Person of Christ dying for one of His two natures is no novelty, but has at least a little bit of historical and “patristical” precedence.

Chris: And now here is David Shedden on Shedd:

==This paper has been a survey of Shedd‘s discussion of the atonement in his Dogmatic Theology. An intriguing aspect of that work is Shedd‘s defence of traducianism in the context of his christology, and, by implication, in relation to his doctrine of atonement. Shedd describes human nature as a substance which can be either individualized or not. As such the whole of human nature was somehow contained within Adam and Eve, including the non-individualized human nature of Christ. Given this, the incarnation of Christ involves taking from the human nature of Mary that part which was destined to be Christ’s. But that human nature was sinful before the incarnation. The work of the Holy Spirit was a sanctifying work, but Shedd suggests that it had to be a justifying work too. Jesus Christ had to be justified and sanctified because his human nature had been part of fallen humanity. (Shedd 2003: 475)==

Chris: This author, Mr. Shedden, who is a fan of Shedd, accurately represents Shedd‘s pestilent views concerning Jesus Christ. What need is there of a miraculous Virgin Birth if it is no different than a regular birth in regards to imputation of sin and the sinful corruption of human nature? Shedd appears woefully and abysmally ignorant of WHY God chose a Virgin Birth.

On the question concerning the Virgin Birth, Ursinus says that modern heretics have denied, and who now deny that the flesh (nature) of Christ was taken from the substance of the Virgin Mary. Among some, the reason for this denial was that they assumed (like Shedd) that Jesus would be taking upon Himself a sinful and corrupt nature. Some heretics would deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh by saying that Christ’s body was a phantom or something. Shedd does not deny that Christ came in flesh as the Docetists did. But Shedd denies that Christ comes in the likeness of sinful flesh, for he affirms that Christ was to come, or would have come in sinful flesh if He had not first died for this sinful flesh that He was to partake of. Shedd believes that not only does the work of Christ reach back to the justification of the Old Testament saints, but it also reaches back and is applied to His own human nature.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone forth into the world. By this know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. And every spirit which does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not from God; and this is the antichrist which you heard is coming, and now is already in the world” (1 John 4:1-3).

Chris: Shedd is a false prophet who has gone forth into the world, speaking bizarre blasphemies concerning Jesus Christ and His coming in the flesh. Not only does Shedd deny that Christ came in the flesh to save all whom He represented at the cross, but he further denies the kind of flesh that Christ came in. Christ came in undefiled flesh and was separate from sinners. Shedd‘s demonic doctrine teaches that Christ’s flesh was only undefiled and Himself separate from sinners because He had to die for Himself.

“For such a High Priest was fitting for us: holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners, and having become higher than the heavens; who has no need, as do the high priests, to offer sacrifices day by day, first for His own sins, then for those of the people. For He did this once for all, offering up Himself. For the Law makes men high priests who have infirmity, but the word of the oath-taking after the Law appoints the Son to the age, having been perfected” (Hebrews 7:26-28).

Chris: In contradiction to Hebrews 7:27, Shedd teaches that Christ has to offer up a sacrifice first for Himself (i.e., His human nature) that can be applied back to the time right before His Incarnation in Mary’s womb. For Shedd, part of the “all” in “He did this once for all,” is Christ Himself. One implication of this demonic reasoning is that IF Christ had not died for His own human nature, THEN He would have been a sinner. In a weird and roundabout way, Shedd‘s heresy puts Christ in the same position as the Hypercalvinist heretics who say that they would have been under wrath, just as the others had not Christ delivered them. And so, just as the Hypercalvinist falsely thinks that he was delivered from hypothetical wrath, so Shedd falsely thinks that Christ delivers Himself from a hypothetical sinful nature.

==The implication of this cannot be avoided. While the God-man, Jesus Christ, was sinless, Shedd‘s mention of the justification of Jesus in his incarnation suggests that the atoning work of Christ was applied to his own human nature. Christ died for his own human nature, as well as for the sins of the world. ==

Chris: This above, is an accurate representation by one (Mr. Shedden) who while he may not agree with Shedd here, he nevertheless thinks Shedd is a very good theologian. So yes, while Shedd will SAY that Christ is sinless, the WHY concerning Christ’s sinlessness is not the WHY of Scripture.

The WHY Christ is sinless according to Scripture is that while Christ has Adam as His descendant, Adam is NOT His representative. Adam’s sin is imputed to all whom Adam represented. Christ is not one whom Adam represented. Thus, Adam’s sin is not imputed to Christ. I am not here speaking of whether or not Adam’s sin was imputed to Christ at Calvary, but only here denying that Adam’s sin was imputed to the human nature He was to partake of at His incarnation that began at birth.

Shedd wrongly assumes that Adam represented Christ, contrary to Romans 5:12-21. Adam did NOT represent Christ; and since Adam did not represent Christ sin is not imputed to the human nature Christ was to partake of; and since sin is not and would not and did not get imputed to the human nature Christ was to partake of, then Christ did not die for and did not need to die for His own human nature. Furthermore, when sin is imputed to all Adam’s posterity, there is a human father involved. In the Incarnation and Virgin Birth with the sanctifying work of the Spirit, there is no human father involved. Shedd‘s view implies that Adam represented Christ, and explicitly teaches that a Virgin Birth has NO advantage over an ordinary birth as far as sin-defiled flesh is concerned.

==The obvious differences in methodology, sophistication, and cultural context between Shedd and theologians like Barth and Torrance should not hide from us the similarities, perhaps unintended, between his christology and anthropology and their development of these topics. One example might be Torrance’s discussion of the sinful human nature of Christ, alluded to in his discussion of the incarnation in The Trinitarian Faith.==

Chris: Torrance is a theologian from Scotland whom I have never heard of. Mr. Shedden notes the similarities between Shedd and Barth and Torrance. I assume that Charles Hodge does not hold to the bizarre blasphemy of Shedd, but Hodge did deny the impeccability of Christ due to wrong-headed assumptions about Christ partaking of human flesh. Shedd‘s erroneous view is that Christ had to die for His own human nature in order to remove the defilement He would have partaken of had He not died for it. Hodge’s erroneous view is that Christ in partaking of a human nature must have a possibility of sinning in order to be considered truly human.

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the unspotted Lamb of God. Shedd‘s bizarre and ludicrous blasphemy is that Christ is the unspotted Lamb only because His own death removed the spots. Hodge has a similar stench that emits that it had to at least be possible for Christ to have become spotted.

==The Mediator between God and man must be sinless. Under the law the victim offered on the altar must be without blemish. Christ, who was to offer Himself unto God as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, must be Himself free from sin. The High Priest, therefore, who becomes us, He whom our necessities demand, must be holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. (Hebrews vii. 26.) He was, therefore, “without sin.” (Hebrews iv. 15; 1 Peter ii. 22.) A sinful Saviour from sin is an impossibility. He could not have access to God. He could not be a sacrifice for sins; and He could not be the source of holiness and eternal life to his people. This sinlessness of our Lord, however, does not amount to absolute impeccability. It was not a non potest peccare. If He was a true man He must have been capable of sinning. That He did not sin under the greatest provocation; that when He was reviled He blessed; when He suffered He threatened not; that He was dumb, as a sheep before its shearers, is held up to us as an example. Temptation implies the possibility of sin. If from the constitution of his person it was impossible for Christ to sin, then his temptation was unreal and without effect, and He cannot sympathize with his people” (Charles Hodge, Systematic theology, Volume 2, p. 457) ==

Chris: Shedd denies the absolute purity and holiness of Christ by saying that Christ had to die for His own human nature. Hodge denies the absolute purity and holiness of Christ by saying that it was possible for Christ to sin.

==A modified Reformed orthodox doctrine of the atonement could easily use aspects from these three theologians. It could retain a non-universal understanding of redemption, while identifying Christ fully with humanity and with the new creation. Another way to resolve the question of universalism is to consider the atonement in eschatological perspective. As far as I know Shedd never remotely considered this possibility, but hints of such a view can be found in a sermon of Benjamin B. Warfield on John 3:16. Akin to Pannenberg’s view of history and meaning, in this view all things need to be explained from the perspective of the future kingdom of God. In the new creation the atonement, and redemption, will be seen to be universal.

In conclusion, although Shedd‘s work, like so much Reformed orthodox dogmatic writing, is piecemeal, his best insights still provide useful material for constructing fuller accounts of Christ’s saving work. He illustrates the strengths and the weaknesses of the Reformed orthodox position in its recent forms.

Hill, C.E., & F.K. James III, (eds) 2004 The Glory of the Atonement: Biblical, Theological and Practical Perspectives. Essays in honor of Roger R. Nicole. Downers Grove, Ill.:InterVarsity Press

Shedd</span ,W.G.T.2003 DogmaticTheology.edA.W.Gomes. Phillipsburg,NJ:P&RPublishing ==

Chris: I’ll end with a quote by Calvin from his Institutes concerning the Incarnation of Jesus Christ:

==The absurdities which they wish to fasten upon us are mere puerile calumnies. They reckon it base and dishonouring to Christ to have derived his descent from men; because, in that case, he could not be exempted from the common law which includes the whole offspring of Adam, without exception, under sin. But this difficulty is easily solved by Paul’s antithesis, “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin”—”even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life,” (Rom. 5: 12, 18.) Corresponding to this is another passage, “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven,” (1 Cor. 15: 47.) Accordingly, the same apostle, in another passage, teaching that Christ was sent “in the likeness of sinful flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,” distinctly separates him from the common lot, as being true man, and yet without fault and corruption, (Rom. 8: 3.) It is childish trifling to maintain, that if Christ is free from all taint, and was begotten of the seed of Mary, by the secret operation of the Spirit, it is not therefore the seed of the woman that is impure, but only that of the man. We do not hold Christ to be free from all taint, merely because he was born of a woman unconnected with a man, but because he was sanctified by the Spirit, so that the generation was pure and spotless, such as it would have been before Adam’s fall.==

Chris: If by this “childish trifling,” Calvin only means to repudiate any Romish talk of the sinlessness of Mary, then fine.  Calvin contrasts the seed of man with the seed of woman, alleging that both are impure. Christ is conceived without sin, not because Mary is sinless, but because sin is not imputed to the baby Jesus. And so, Christ being of Mary’s substance is subject to the infirmities that accompany it. But since sin is NOT imputed, there is no depravity or enmity of spirit in the human mind of Christ which is infinitely obvious.

Pre-fall Adam did not have a body subject to death since there was not death as the wages of sin. According to Romans 8:3, Christ partook of the LIKENESS of sinful flesh since He experienced hunger, tiredness, pain, and ultimately death; and so I don’t know why Calvin says the flesh of Christ was like pre-fall Adam’s.

==Let us always bear in mind, that wherever Scripture adverts to the purity of Christ, it refers to his true human nature, since it were superfluous to say that God is pure. Moreover, the sanctification of which John speaks in his seventeenth chapter is inapplicable to the divine nature. This does not suggest the idea of a twofold seed in Adam, although no contamination extended to Christ, the generation of man not being in itself vicious or impure, but an accidental circumstance of the fall. Hence, it is not strange that Christ, by whom our integrity was to be restored, was exempted from the common corruption. ==