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.



About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
This entry was posted in American Theology, theology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Analytical Outline of American Augustinian

  1. cal says:

    Does Shedd’s doctrine of original sin require an ontological original guilt? Can’t you posit Adam’s covenantal failure launching his offspring into the state of ancient corruption, where the juridical and the ontological are separate questions?


    • J. B. Aitken says:

      Good question. From my reading of Shedd (just his Dogmatic Theology), he requires an ontological metaphysical guilt. Crisp is quick to point out, though, that there are several varieties. I didn’t list those for space reasons (but I might bring them up later).

      On the covenantal positing. I don’t know. That’s one thing I wrestle with and originally bothered by Shedd: he isn’t as strong on the covenant as other Reformed scholars are.


  2. Pingback: Review: The Biblical Doctrine of Man (Gordon Clark) – Outlaw Huguenot

  3. Pingback: Saving Calvinism (Oliver Crisp) | Theological Geometry

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