Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Every so often, on Sunday nights, we do a live question and answer time that entails people submitting questions they have about the Bible. Recently I received one question that was a very good question about God's emotional life. I thought I would reproduce both the question and response given. For those interested in watching the video segment to which this question is related, you can click on the link here to our church's You Tube channel that features the "Q&A service" from April 5, 2020 and forward to time segment 30:15-43:30 in which the question is addressed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbH84ZEGlR0&t=2607s
The Question: How do we Biblically make sense of God's emotional life?
We're going to begin tonight with a question that is addressed in this way. This is the question.
"Please address the emotions of our creator including the Trinity he is perfect and yet scripturally contains all the emotions of a frail and sinful man. It doesn't compute. Yet many of our emotions are sinful. So the question is: how can we account for the emotional life of God and how does that compare with our emotions and is it right to talk about God having an emotional life? We have emotions. We have an emotional life and yet, so often, we express our emotions in sinful ways. Is it right to talk about God having emotions?"
Answer from the Bible about God's emotional life
1. Let's first realize, God has an
Well that's a good question! I begin at Exodus 34. Exodus 34, and I'm going to pick up at verse 6. Here we see God. He's talking to Moses on top of Mount Sinai and God is revealing some things about Himself to Moses and so we read in verse six of Exodus 34 -
"Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed: 'the Lord the Lord God compassionate and gracious slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness and truth who keeps loving kindness for thousands who forgives iniquity transgression and sin, yet, He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. Visiting the iniquity of father's on the children on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation."'
That is from Exodus 34:6-7. So we understand that God indeed does have an emotional life. Let me just give you some scriptures that speaks love the emotional life of the God of the Bible.
We see here in Exodus 34:6 how God is described as being "slow to anger, abounding in love and mercy." As matter of fact, throughout the Old Testament, we see several times where God is expressed in these words in terms of His emotional life. Nehemiah writes in Nehemiah 9:17 -
"but you are a God of forgiveness gracious and compassionate slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness and you did not forsake them."
Nehemiah is talking there about the people of God. We read in Psalm 108:4 of the emotional life of God -
"for your loving kindness is great above the heavens and your truth reaches to the sky."
So there in Psalm 108:4 we see reference there to God's loving kindness and how it is his truth reaches to the skies. So no doubt about it God, has an emotional life.
2. Let's compare God's emotional life to our own.
Now we understand that in terms of the nature of God's emotions, His emotions are not subject to change. Sometimes theologians will use a term called "impassibility". When we describe God as "impassible", that doesn't mean that God is aloof or somehow separated from the plight of humanity. Also, impassibility doesn't mean that God is some sort of sterile being that has no emotions.
Instead, when we talk about Divine impassibility, this simply means that God's emotions are constant. In other words, God's emotions are not caused by anything outside of himself. Our human emotions are "passible", meaning that they react to whatever is coming to them "passively" from the outside. All human emotions, even ones which are expressed as a result of intentions on our part, are prompted. I can be happy one moment but then, if something goes wrong, I change to sadness, gloom or frustration. I am passible with respect to my emotional life. My emotions, we could say, are "reactionary." God's emotions, on the other hand, are regulated by his attributes. Numbers 23:19 for example says:
"God is not a man that He should lie down or a son of man that He should repent. Has he said and will he not do it or has he spoken an will he not make it good."
So there we see God is not a man, rather, His emotions are constant. They're not affected by anything outside of Himself. God's emotions are always "on". Then we read then in 1 Samuel 15:29 similar terms -
"The Glory of Israel will not repentant he is not a like a man who changes his mind ."
Malachi 3:6 reminds us -
"Oh Lord you do not change so that Jacob would not be consumed."
God described himself in this way. He says: "I am the Lord who does not change so that Jacob is not consumed." So God by nature, with respect to his emotional life, expresses emotions that never change. They are constant. To cite further examples, we read in Zechariah 8:17 that God is constantly angry sin. God has always known that there would be sin in our world. God ever opposes anything that would get in the way between the creature and Himself (especially those things that will hurt us or cause us to harm others). God hates sin.
So, we understand that God hates sin. We understand that God is a constantly loving God. John 3:16 is a familiar verse in the Bible. There we see how God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. Again, God by nature is unchanging in his emotional life, which is to say He's impassible. Impassibility tells us that His emotions are not passive. He does not change his emotions due to outside circumstances. Rather his emotions are regulated by what is within himself.
In the next post we will continue answering this question by grasping how God is unchanging in His emotional life and yet is often described in the Bible as "changing His mind" or emotions.