Archive for the ‘W.G.T. Shedd’ Category

Endless Punishment an Essential Doctrine of Christianity

October 16, 2010

Evangelical theology has disintegrated in the past 60 years to the extent that catholic doctrines (i.e. doctrines of the church universal) can be denied, and one can remain an evangelical statesman.

One doctrine to now be regarded an “unessential” to “evangelical faith” is the belief in hell, or the eternal conscious punishment of unbelievers.  It was not always so.  The great 19th century theologian W.G.T. Shedd said “there is no doctrine more necessary in order to the integrity of the evangelical system than that future punishment is eternal”.  Why would he say this?  Because he argues (correctly) that a denial of hell entails that “the whole scheme of redemption by the sufferings of Christ falls to the ground” and that “there can be no evangelical piety without it [hell].”

Shedd states: “The Scriptures represent the sufferings and death of the Son of God as taking the place of the suffering and death due to the sinner for his sin, and in this way delivering him from his desert.  But the sufferings of Christ, it is agreed by all Trinitarians … are infinite in their dignity and value.  They are the agony, not of a creature, but of the incarnate God …  But is it supposable that such an immense oblation would have been provided to redeem man from sin, if sin does not merit the immense penalty of eternal death, and is not to receive it? … We affirm therefore that the doctrine of Christ’s atonement stands or falls with that of endless punishment.  He who denies the latter must logically deny the former.  He who subtracts anything from the demerits of man’s sin, subtracts just so much from the merit of atoning blood…”

For more on this vital topic see Shedd’s The Doctrine of Eternal Punishment.

Hell is not an easy subject, it is not a topic that should be broached without tears in our eyes and a heart that burns with evangelistic zeal (2 Cor. 5:11).  But as it is not a topic that can be avoided, or denied, without grave consequences.

PS If you have never read Shedd’s “Orthodoxy and Hetrodoxy” you are missing a treat.  Think of a 19th century collection of essays in the style Carl Trueman’s little books.  Shedd’s essay “Liberal Bigotry” is priceless.

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Weekly Update 32 – WGT Shedd on WCF 7:3

December 8, 2007

W.G.T Shedd is one of my favourite theologians.  Of course, I don’t agree with everything he said but, taken as a whole, his Dogmatic Theology is a work of brilliance.

Among his many other works Shedd also has a small volume entitled: Calvinism: Pure and Mixed.  In this work Shedd has a chapter entitled The Westminster Standards and the Offer of Mercy.  What Shedd tries to do in this short chapter is clarify the teaching of the Westminster Standards on the free offer of the gospel.  The following are his comments on WCoF 7:3:

Confession vii. 3, declares that ‘man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that (legal) covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe’.  Two distinct and different things are mentioned here: (a) an offer of salvation; (b) a promise of the Holy Spirit to make the unwilling sinner willing to accept it.  The number of those to whom the offer of salvation is made is unlimited; [the number] of those to whom the promise of the Spirit to ‘make them willing’ is made, is limited by ‘ordination to life’ or election.  It is clear that God may desire that to be done by man under the influence of his common grace in the common call, which he may not decide and purpose to make him do by the operation of his special grace in the effectual call.  His desire that sinners would hear his universal call to repentance may be, and is unlimited; but his purpose to overcome their unwillingness and incline them to repentance may be, and is limited.  God offers Christ’s sacrifice to every man, without exception, and assures him that if he will trust in it he shall be saved, and gives him common grace to encourage him to believe.  This is proof that God loves his soul and desires its salvation.  But God does not, in addition to this universal offer of mercy, promise to overcome man’s aversion to believe and repent and his resistance of common grace.  Election and preterition have no reference to the offer of salvation or to common grace.  They relate only to special grace and the effectual application of Christ’s sacrifice.  The universal offer of mercy taught in this section evinces the universality of God’s compassion towards sinners.

W.G.T Shedd, Calvinism: Pure and Mixed Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1999, 26-27

Is Shedd being historically accurate in his description here?  Is that really what WCoF 7:3 means?  Coming to a thesis near you soon… (But if you are a regular reader here no doubt you will be able to guess my take on Shedd’s view!)