Shedd on divine consciousness and the Trinity

Status
Not open for further replies.

Solparvus

Puritan Board Senior
The attached is from "Dogmatic Theology." My interest is in the the section beginning with "The biblical doctrine of three distinctions" through the paragraph ending in "complete the circle of self-consciousness."

I don't understand how he is making a Trinitarian argument from the concept of consciousness.

Below is my rough scatter-sheet of principles that seem to work into Shedd's ideas:

  • A person is capable of self-consciousness, and knowing that they are self-conscious
  • Consciousness presupposes an object; that is, something of which a person can be conscious (including the person himself)
  • There can be no self-consciousness without something else to be conscious of
  • In eternity there was no creation for which God to be conscious of, thus God would be conscious of an internal divine second person (morphe); so there is subject and object of consciousness
  • However, the object (the Son) of which the Father is conscious is also conscious; and it seems from Shedd that the object (the Son) must necessarily be conscious
  • To complete the circle of self-consciousness, there must be three things: the conscious one, the object, and the knowledge one is self-conscious; somehow in that third part the Holy Spirit comes in
How do you get to this from the necessity of the Holy Spirit to complete this circle of consciousness?

Also, why must the object of consciousness necessarily be a divine person?
 

Attachments

  • IMG_1813-1 resize.jpg
    IMG_1813-1 resize.jpg
    199 KB · Views: 4
  • IMG_1814-2 resize.jpg
    IMG_1814-2 resize.jpg
    186.9 KB · Views: 3
Last edited:
Apologies to anyone who saw only a half-completed post when you clicked. I hit "post" by accident before I was ready. OP fixed now.
 
Consciousness is always consciousness of something. Shedd is borrowing from Augustine's Love, Lover, Beloved triad. I don't think either formulation is particularly persuasive.
 
Consciousness is always consciousness of something. Shedd is borrowing from Augustine's Love, Lover, Beloved triad. I don't think either formulation is particularly persuasive.

I feel about this like I do Anselm's ontological argument: it might work so long as you're sophisticated enough to grasp it.

I can see consciousness being a thing only if there is something/someone to be conscious of; and prior to creation, there is only self and distinguished persons in the Godhead for the Father to be conscious of. I still don't get the logic that self-consciousness necessitates the Holy Spirit (if I even understand him).

Does Shedd assert the three stages of consciousness, and then just try to fit the three persons into it? Father = subject, conscious one, Son = object of consciousness, Spirit = self-consciousness?

Is this in the same yard as Jonathan Edwards' idea of the Son's eternal generation? Where the Son's begottenness is a result of the Father's self-knowledge?
 
I feel about this like I do Anselm's ontological argument: it might work so long as you're sophisticated enough to grasp it.

I can see consciousness being a thing only if there is something/someone to be conscious of; and prior to creation, there is only self and distinguished persons in the Godhead for the Father to be conscious of. I still don't get the logic that self-consciousness necessitates the Holy Spirit (if I even understand him).

Does Shedd assert the three stages of consciousness, and then just try to fit the three persons into it? Father = subject, conscious one, Son = object of consciousness, Spirit = self-consciousness?

Is this in the same yard as Jonathan Edwards' idea of the Son's eternal generation? Where the Son's begottenness is a result of the Father's self-knowledge?

The same problems in Edwards' argument apply here: there is no reason why later acts of consciousness in the divine mind cannot generate yet another person.
 
The unpersuasiveness of this argument is partly why the church has always denied the Trinity is revealed in nature.
Van Mastricht asks, based on a similar argument by Descartes, why a similar argument could not posit four, or five, or more persons in the godhead, based on an endless progression.
Person 1: self.
Person 2: object of consciousness.
Person 3: awareness of consciousness. ("I am conscious")
Person 4: awareness of one's being aware of one's own consciousness. ("I am aware of my consciousness")
Etc.
The other problem is, even if this argument were logically sound (it's not), would one arrive at this argument without a preexisting Trinitarian belief?
 
Last edited:
The same problems in Edwards' argument apply here: there is no reason why later acts of consciousness in the divine mind cannot generate yet another person.

Question: Are successive thoughts or "later acts of consciousness" consistent with divine simplicity? Or do you mean "later" in logical sequence?

The unpersuasiveness of this argument is partly why the church has always denied the Trinity is revealed in nature.
Van Mastricht asks, based on a similar argument by Descartes, why a similar argument could not posit four, or five, or more persons in the godhead, based on an endless progression.
Person 1: self.
Person 2: object of consciousness.
Person 3: awareness of consciousness. ("I am conscious")
Person 4: awareness of one's being aware of one's own consciousness. ("I am aware of my consciousness")
Etc.
The other problem is, even if this argument were logically sounds (it's not), would one arrive at this argument without a preexisting Trinitarian belief?

I did wonder if this argument began with a presumption that you can find reflections of the Trinity in nature.
 
It's probably a matter where we should just apply Deuteronomy 29:29 and move on.

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law."
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Back
Top