Concupiscence in Shedd

With the PCA har forces of George Soros, and from a number of conversations I’ve had with the Revoice crowd, the question that keeps coming up: are sinful desires sinful?  The more you reflect on this, the harder a simple answer is.

Image result for wgt shedd

Someone will say, “But Jesus was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”  That’s true.  So there is a type of temptation which is not sinful.  But Jesus didn’t experience every type of temptation.  He didn’t experience the alcoholic’s desire for another drink, for example.  In any case, I wanted to look at what Shedd said on concupiscence.

Internal Part of sin

Voluntary, not volitional.  It was will as desire, not will as volition (Shedd 552).  The difference between Jesus and, say, Adam was that the former did not lust after the supposed good.  True, Satan tempted his externally, but Jesus did not secretly want to violate God’s will, even if he didn’t via actions (553).

This kind of desire is called epithumia, which St Paul labels as sin (hamartia) in Romans 7:7.

Shedd points out that concupiscence is different from natural desires such as eating and drinking.  Gluttony, by contrast, is something more.  It is not instinctive.  It involves the will.

Key point:  sin isn’t just in the act, but in the sinful inclination that precedes the act (557).

That raises another question: let’s say that someone lusts after a woman who isn’t his wife.  By the grace of God, though, he refrains from committing adultery.  Did he sin?  Well, he didn’t commit adultery and that is eternally in his favor (speaking humanly). But he did sin with the lust.  That’s why the Shorter Catechism rejects that all sins are equally heinous in God’s eyes.

Shedd continues: “Original sin as corruption of nature in each individual is only the continuation of the first inclining away from God” (571).

Summary: When temptation comes from without, it is innocent (or at least we are until we accede to it).  When it arises from within, it is already sin (though of course the sin could be compounded).

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.

2 Responses to Concupiscence in Shedd

  1. cal says:

    I don’t really understand where Revoice will ultimately end. There may be some warped, paranoid, homophobia that prevents same-sex friendships from being emotionally close, but that seems like a red herring. When I want to hang out with my friends, there’s never, in my mind, any confusing overlap between erotic desire and friendship. The fact that these have to be untangled means, to me, that there is clearly something else. It’s ok to say that one struggles with such-and-such desires, but to avoid calling it a sickness of the soul is soft-peddling.

    Liked by 1 person

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