W.G.T. Shedd on WCF 10:3

The following is from the WCF Chapter 10, section 3 (“Of effectual calling”):

III. Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who works when, and where, and how He pleases: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

Section 3 above teaches regeneration without means — just like C.C. Morris from Marc’s “Irrelevant Gospel” review.

Here is W.G.T. Shedd commenting on the aforementioned WCF Chapter 10, section 3:

“In the third place, the Scriptures and the Confession teach that the Divine Spirit exerts his regenerating grace, to some extent, within adult heathendom, making use of conscience, or ‘the law written on the heart’, as the means of convicting of sin preparatory to imparting the new divine life; and that in the last day a part of God’s elect ‘shall come from the east and from the west, and from the north and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God’ (Luke 13:29). These are all regenerated in this life. And since regeneration in the instance of the adult immediately produces faith and repentance, a regenerate heathen is both a believer and a penitent. He feels sorrow for sin, and the need of mercy. This felt need of mercy and desire for it is potentially and virtually faith in the Redeemer. For although the Redeemer has not been presented to him historically and personally as the object of faith, yet the Divine Spirit by the new birth has wrought in him the sincere and longing disposition to believe in him. With the penitent and believing man in the Gospel, he says, ‘Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?’ (John 9:36). Such a man is ‘regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit’, and belongs to that class of ‘elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word’ (Conf. x. 3)” (Shedd, Calvinism: Pure and Mixed, pp. 128-129).

Shedd says that the elect heathen who have never even heard the gospel of Christ, are nevertheless regenerate believers in Christ. Well, actually, since he uses words such as “potentially” and “virtually” to qualify this so-called “faith”, one would think that Shedd would call them potential believers in Christ, or virtual believers in Christ. He does not do this. For he ends the quote like this:

“Such a man is ‘regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit’, and belongs to that class of ‘elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word’ (Conf. x. 3).”

Shedd also says that the supposedly regenerate heathen elect have the “disposition” to believe in Christ. You would think that a “disposition to believe in Christ”, is NOT actually believing in Christ at all. But I suppose that Shedd thinks that a mystical felt need of some undefined amorphous concept of mercy and deadly ignorance of the sole grounds of mercy is close enough (contra Romans 10:1-4). What exactly is a “disposition to believe in Christ” anyway? Is this like that “preparationism” that says mercy can at times ride on the black horse of affliction? In other words, if some severe trial comes to an elect unregenerate heathen, is that trial supposed to ‘soften him up’ and thus put him in such a position that he is in a “disposition” to believe?

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone believing, both to Jew first, and to Greek; for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; even as it has been written, “But the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17).

Shedd and the WCF Satanically denies that the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to EVERYONE BELIEVING. For they make exceptions to this Biblical rule. Shedd and the WCF say that those regenerate heathen elect who are ‘incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word’, are nevertheless ‘regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit.’

“For everyone, whoever may call on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then may they call on One into whom they have not believed? And how may they believe One of whom they have not heard? And how may they hear without preaching? And how may they preach if they are not sent? Even as it has been written, How beautiful the feet of those preaching the gospel of peace, of those preaching the gospel of good things. But not all obeyed the gospel, for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our report? Then faith is of hearing, and hearing through the Word of God” (Romans 10:13-17).

And how may they believe One of whom they have not heard? Good question. Shedd and the WCF answer it by saying:

“Well, there are at least some who can sorta believe in One whom they have not heard. You see, those sun-worshipping, animal-sacrificing heathens feel a need of an ambiguous mystical mercy, and this is virtually faith in the Redeemer.”

The WCF Chapter 10, section 4 says the following regarding what has been referred to as “inclusivism”:

“…much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess. And to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested.”

Well, what does Shedd’s elect regenerate heathen profess to believe? What is the religion that the elect regenerate heathen professes to believe? Christianity? No. For this heathen cannot believe in the One of whom he has not heard. Does this heathen believe the report of the good news that God promises to save His people conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone? No. How can he? For faith is of hearing, and hearing through the Word of God. This heathen that Shedd calls “saved,” has heard nothing (though he has experienced some sort of mystical “felt need”).

So, what’s the difference between the type of “inclusivism” that Shedd and the WCF endorse in section 3, and the kind of “inclusivism” they are rebuking in section 4?

III. “Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who works when, and where, and how He pleases: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.”

IV. “…much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the laws of that religion they do profess. And to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested.”

Shedd and the WCF would deny that they teach that a man can “be saved in any other way whatsoever.” But their exception put forth in section 3 regarding the elect regenerate heathen who is “saved by Christ” despite his not knowing who Christ is, shows that they are in fact the ones who ought to labeled as detestable and pernicious.

[After posting the above to discussion group, I received the following response:]

“You know, I never even thought about the WCF’s phrase ‘who are incapable of being outwardly called’! I should have picked up on that one! I sure can be dense sometimes! So what this is strongly implying is that elect infants, as well as others who are ‘incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word’ NEVER believe the gospel before they die, yet they go to heaven anyway. This opens the door to Shedd’s ‘regenerate heathen’ heresy (which I’d never seen before). That’s prime Heterodoxy Hall of Shame material. I wonder how many of the other ‘Reformed pillars’ believed this. ‘Regenerate heathen,’ eh?  Well, why not ‘regenerate Muslims’or ‘regenerate Buddhists’ or ‘regenerate Hindus’?  After all, according to Shedd, ‘For although the Redeemer has not been presented to him historically and personally as the object of faith, yet the Divine Spirit by the new birth has wrought in him the sincere and longing disposition to believe in him.’ Could not some Muslims, Buddhists, or Hindus be given a ‘sincere and longing disposition to believe in’ Jesus Christ without actually knowing who Christ is? Wow.”

Here is some further commentary by me on this issue:

“And all the multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right of the altar of incense. And seeing this, Zacharias was troubled, and fear fell on him. But the angel said to him, Do not fear, Zacharias, because your prayer was heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear a son to you, and you shall call his name John. And he will be joy and exultation to you, and many will rejoice over his birth.  For he shall be great in the eyes of the Lord, and he shall not drink wine or strong drink. And he will be filled of the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go out before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and disobedient ones to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people having been prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:10-17).

But this being filled with the Holy Spirit from infancy did not include the deadly ignorance put forth by Shedd and the WCF. In other words, John the Baptist as a Spirit-filled infant was NOT void of the knowledge Jesus Christ as Shedd and the WCF asserts.

“And rising up in these days, Mary went into the hill country with haste to a city of Judah. And she entered into the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it happened, as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the babe in her womb leaped, and Elizabeth was filled of the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, You are being blessed among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this to me that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For behold, as the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped in exultation” (Luke 1:39-44).

Now, is the babe in Elizabeth’s womb leaping in exultation because he is “virtually ignorant” of who Christ is? Or, is the babe leaping in exultation for an altogether more virtuous reason? It is abundantly clear that a passage like Luke 1:39-44 refutes the damnable heresy of W.G.T. Shedd and the wicked Westminster Confession of Faith.

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