Shedd: God's Blessedness allows Hate and Love

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Puritan Board Senior

Is Shedd correct? Does what he say fit in with the above thread? (He argues a little more than what I copied here) From his Dogmatic Theology:

"The Scriptures attribute feeling to God, and nearly all forms of feeling common to man. That all of these are not intended to be understood as belonging to the Divine nature is plain, because some of them are as incompatible with the idea of an infinite and perfect being as are the material instruments of hands and feet attributed to him in Scripture. Such an emotion as fear, for example, which God is represented as experiencing (Gen. 3:22, 23; Ex.13:17; Deut. 32:27), must be regarded as metaphorical. The same is true of jealousy (Deut. 32:21); of grieving and repenting (Gen. 6:6, 7; Ps. 95:10; Jer. 15:6).

The criterion for determining which form of feeling is literally, and which is metaphorically attributable to God, is the divine blessedness. God cannot be the subject of any emotion that is intrinsically and necessarily an unhappy one. If he literally feared his foes, or were literally jealous of a rival, he would so far forth be miserable. Literal fear and literal jealousy cannot therefore be attributed to him. Tried by this test, it will be found that there are only two fundamental forms of feeling that are literally attributable to the Divine essence. These are love, and wrath. Hatred is a phase of displeasure or wrath. These two emotions are real and essential in God; the one wakened by righteousness, and the other by sin. The existence of the one necessitates that of the other; so that if there be no love of righteousness, there is no anger at sin, and, conversely, if there be no anger at sin, there is no love of righteousness.

"He who loves the good," says Lactantius (De ira, 5), "by this very fact hates the evil; and he who does not hate the evil, does not love the good; because the love of goodness issues directly out of the hatred of evil, and the hatred of evil issues directly out of the love of goodness. No one can love life without abhorring death; and no one can have an appetency for light, without an antipathy to darkness." The necessary coexistence of these opposite feelings towards moral contraries like righteousness and sin, is continually taught in Scripture. "All they that hate me love death," Prov. 8:36. "Ye that love the Lord, hate evil," Ps. 97:10. Complacency towards righteousness and displacency towards sin are not contraries, but opposites, or antitheses. They are the action of one and the same moral attribute, viz., holiness, towards the two contraries right and wrong. Consequently they are homogeneous feelings.

The Divine wrath is the Divine holiness in one phase or mode of it; and the Divine love is the same Divine holiness in another phase or mode of it. One involves and supposes the other. But in the instance of contrary feelings, such for example as pleasure and pain, or contrary qualities like righteousness and sin, there is heterogeneity. Pain and pleasure are not two modes or phases of the same thing; and neither are righteousness and sin. These are not opposite antitheses which involve and imply each other. Each exists alone without the other. The one excludes the other, instead of supposing the other. The relation of opposites or antitheses is that of polarity. Moral love and moral wrath are like the two poles, north and south, of the same magnet, or the two manifestations, positive and negative, of the same electricity. Boreal magnetism is as really magnetism as austral; and positive electricity is as really electricity as negative. So, also, moral wrath is as truly holiness as moral love.

"He who leaveth Thee," says Augustine, "whither goeth or fleeth he, but from Thee pleased, to Thee displeased." Accordingly, the two feelings of love of holiness and hatred of evil coexist in the character of God, the most perfect of beings, and in that of angels and redeemed men. Human character is worthless, in proportion as abhorrence of sin is lacking in it. It is related of Charles the Second, that "he felt no gratitude for benefits, and no resentment for wrongs. He did not love anyone, and hated no one." He was indifferent towards right and wrong, and "the only feeling he had was contempt." Green: History of the English People, IX.1

These emotions of love and wrath are compatible with the Divine blessedness. To love righteousness is confessedly blessedness itself. To be displeased with and hate wickedness, at first sight, would seem to introduce commotion and unhappiness into the Divine mind. But this is because it is confounded with the passion of anger and hatred in the depraved human heart. This is an unlawful feeling; a man has no right to hate his fellow, or to be angry with him with this species of wrath. He is forbidden by the moral law to exercise such an emotion. It is the illegitimateness of the feeling that makes it a wretched one. But any emotion that is permitted, and still more that is commanded by the moral law, cannot cause mental distress. To suppose this, is to suppose that morality and misery are inseparably connected, and that to feel rightly and righteously is to be miserable."

A little later:

"Now when the emotion of anger in a most pure spirit like God comes into contact with moral evil, there is harmony between the feeling and its object. It is a righteous feeling spent upon a wicked thing. When God hates what is hateful, and is angry at that which merits wrath, the true nature and fitness of things is observed, and he feels in himself that inward satisfaction which is the substance of happiness. Anger and hatred are associated in our minds with unhappiness, because we behold their exercise only in a sinful sphere, and in an illegitimate manner. In an apostate world, the proper and fitting coincidence between emotions and their objects has been disturbed and destroyed by sin. A sinner hates the holiness which he ought to love, and loves the sin which he ought to hate. The anger in his heart is selfish and passionate, not legitimate and calm. The love in his heart is illicit; and hence in scripture it is denominated "lust," or "concupiscence". In a sinful world, the true relations and correlations are reversed. Love and hatred are expended upon exactly the wrong objects. But when these feelings are contemplated within the sphere of the Holy and the Eternal; when they are beheld in God, a most pure spirit, without body, parts, or passions, and exercised only upon their appropriate and deserving objects; when the wrath falls only upon the sin and uncleanness of hell, and burns up nothing but filth in its pure celestial flame; then the emotion is not merely right and legitimate, but it is beautiful with an august beauty, and no source of pain either to the Divine mind, or to any minds in sympathy with it."


Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
It seems to me that Shedd is not altogether correct here. I certainly agree that nothing should be predicated of God that is inconsistent with divine blessedness; but I would also say that nothing should be predicated of God that is inconsistent with simplicity, immutability, impassibility, or the fact that God is entirely self-actualized: there is no unrealized potential, no becoming. I realize that Shedd doesn't deny any of those concepts, but the language of feeling and emotion carries along an unfortunate baggage of passivity. Divine love and hate are not something that happens to God: they are dispositions of the will.
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