Saturday, January 27, 2024

Post #33 The Doctrine of God: P1 Divine Omnipresence and Immensity Within the Trinity.


    In today's post I want to begin by quoting a prayer from the early church father, Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390 A.D.) that I heard Dr. Carl Trueman mention in the closing of his recent lecture "Classical Theology and the Modern Mind", 

“Oh all-transcendent God, what words can sing your praises? No word does you justice. What mind can probe your secret? No mind can encompass you. You are alone, beyond the power of speech, yet all that we speak stems from you. You are alone beyond the power of thought, yet all that we can seek conceive springs from you. All things proclaim you, those endowed with reason and those bereft of it. All the expectation and pain of the world coalesces in you. All things utter a prayer to you a silent hymn, composed by you. You sustain everything that exists and all things that move together. You are the goal of all that exists. You are the one and you are the all, yet you are none of the things that exist - neither apart nor the whole. You can avail yourself of any name. How shall I call you, the only unnamable, all transcendent God?” 

    That prayer touches upon the two attributes of God that are of interest in today's post - omnipresence and immensity. To say God is "omni-present" means He is everywhere ("omni") present at every point in all of creation, wholly and completely. To say God is "immense" describes His relationship to all of creation, whether visible or invisible, in how nothing can contain God. Together, the attributes of immensity and omnipresence confront us with the very nature of God Himself who is Father, Son, and Spirit. What I want to specifically consider today is how we can speak of God's omnipresence and immensity within His own nature as He is as Father, Son, and Spirit. In other words, how do we talk of God as omnipresent and immense before there was a creation? These explorations will serve to show that these attributes are intregal to our overall understanding of the doctrine of God.

A word on how God's Divine nature and attributes work in relationship to the Persons of the Trinity

    In our continuing study of "Theology Proper" or the doctrine of God, we once again remind ourselves that the goal of this overall study is to understand what the Bible teaches about the being, attributes, and identity of God. As we will focus today upon God's omnipresence and immensity in more detail, I felt it necessary to remind us of how the Divine nature operates within and among the three persons of the Godhead. 

    God's being and attributes summarize His nature, essence, or being. I often use the phrase "what God is" to refer to His essence; and the phrase "how God is" to talk about the attributes or perfections of God. As for God's identity, I use the phrase "who God is" to point us to the Biblical truth of the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

    We can never make God's being and attributes something like a "fourth" piece of God on the one side, and the Triune persons as somehow "parts" of God on another side. Rather, the Biblical and historical doctrine of the Trinity asserts that God's being is equivalent to His attributes (what theologians call "Divine simplicity"). The term "simplicity" derives from the Latin "simplex", meaning "unmixed, uncompounded, and uncomposed". 

    Thus, God's attributes aren't like a cake recipe that has eggs, flour, salt, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and water to make a cake. Those said ingredients are not cake, but instead their own respective substances, composing together the said cake. When we say "God, by nature, is His attributes", we're meaning that all that is in God is God. In reference to the "stuff" or substance of Divine being (eternal, unchangeable, omnipresent, omniscient, and all the rest), each perfection is an active expression of the Divine nature. In this classical, historical understanding of Theology proper, each attribute operates as an action of the Divine nature. 

    Consequently, the Divine nature or essence of God resides entirely and wholly in each of the Divine persons, with each distinguished only by their eternal relationship to one another - what theologians call "eternal relations of origin". How is this spelled out historically and Biblically? 

    The Father begets or communicates the Divine nature to the Son. In a portion of the historic Athanasian creed we are reminded, "The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten".  Sometimes early theologians, such as Gregory Nazianzus (cited above) and later John Calvin called the Father "the fountain of the Divine nature within the Trinity". The Father and Son's co-equality, co-eternality are affirmed in these statements, with the idea of designating the Father as "unbegotten, not made" for the purpose of distinguishing Him from the person of the Son. 

    The Son is defined historically and Scripturally as "the only-begotten" from the Father (John 1:14,18; 3:16; 1 John 4:19). What this means is that the Son is truly God by nature. All the divine attributes of the Divine essence which the Father has maps point-by-point, quality-by-quality in the Son. Biblically, the entire Divine nature resides in the Son as much as it resides entirely within the Father (see Colossians 2:9). Both Father and Son share the undivided, simple, Divine essense (John 10:30; 1 Corinthians 8:6-7). 

    The Holy Spirit, in His co-equality and co-eternality with Father and Son, is said to "proceed" from them both. In other words, the same divine essence is communicated to the Spirit by way of "spiration" or breathing forth from the Father through the Son (see John 15:26). To quote the Athanasian Creed once more, 

"Now this is the catholic (i.e. 'universal') faith: We worship one God in Trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being."

The nature of God, the Trinity, and the Divine attributes of omnipresence and immensity

    Again, the whole divine nature resides in the Spirit as much as it does in the Son and the Father. The Three Persons, in turn, mutually indwell one another, thus enabling us to say that the one undivided essence of God truly is in the Three Persons (see John 14:21-23). When we consider the Divine nature in the Trinity, we include of course the attributes of omnipresence and immensity. Since the eternal relations between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constitutes their sharing of the Divine nature, the nature itself necessarily includes omnipresence and immensity. 

    God cannot be contained by any created thing. Before there was a creation, God as a Trinity was self-sufficiently existing. With no such things as time and space coordinate with God's existence, we can say that God has existed from all eternity without boundaries, "inhabiting eternity" and persisting, world without end, from eternity to eternity (Psalm 90:1-2; Isaiah 57:15; Hebrews 1:10-12). 

    These truths are at the very heart of what we talk about when referring to God's "immensity".

    On the same token, the Divine nature is wholly and completely in the Divine persons of the Trinity. The nature and attributes of the Divine essence, being forever truly in the Father without beginning, is communicated by the Father's eternal begetting of the Son. Within the Trinity itself, the whole eternal essence truly and wholly fills each person - as one author notes, "three times over". 

    Jesus Himself affirms this point of the "Father indwelling Him and He indwelling the Father" (John 10:38; John 14:10-11). Thus, before God created the heavens and the earth, the attributes of Divine omnipresence and immensity were being expressed by His very nature among the Father, Son, and Spirit.

    In our next post we will continue discovering further truths about God's omnipresence and immensity, noting how they work in relationship to all that God has made.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Post #32 The Doctrine of God - P5 Divine Impassibility, Human Passibility, And How They Illuminate Our Understanding Of Jesus Christ And His Cross


    In our current doctrine of God series, we've spent some extra time exploring that particular perfection of God that pertains to His constant, unchanging emotional affections - the doctrine of Divine Impassibility (DDI). As a reminder, the term "impassible" refers to not being happened or affected upon from the outside. God's emotional life flows from what He is as the unchanging God and who He is as the Triune God. He is forever merciful towards the pitiable, wrathful towards sin, and just toward what is right. Impassibility tells me that God is never more loving nor was ever less loving, since that affection emerges from what He is as a loving God. For review, we can note what was looked at in the last four postings,

1. An introduction to DDI here

2. How Divine impassibility is related to God's unchanging nature or immutability here

3. How DDI explains why God not suffering reveals Him to be far more in-tune with our sufferings than if He suffered in His Divine nature here

4. Then in our last post, we discussed how an impassible God still has affections, and how the Bible speaks of God's emotional life here 

    As we draw our exploration of the doctrine of Divine impassibility (DDI) to an end in this overall series on "The Doctrine of God", we need to understand how the Divine and human natures of the Son of God operate in how He expresses His emotions, and why that sheds light upon the meaning of the cross.  

 Understanding how the Son was Divinely impassible and human passible at the cross.

    We first need to understand the historic Christian confession of the Son's two natures. We can begin with the Chalecedonian Creed of 451 A.D. I'll cite its opening statements,

"We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [that is, sharing in the same nature] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial (sharing in the same nature) with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin."

    We note the opening line of how Jesus Christ is "truly God" and "truly man". In affirming the two natures of Christ, we acknowledge the Son having two ways of expressing His existence. His Divine nature is how He expresses Himself Divinely - without beginning, eternal, and unchanging. As we've argued in these last several posts, God by nature has a constant emotional life, with affections expressed from within himself and not imposed upon from the outside.  God always hates sin. He always loves those upon whom He set His affection and foreknew (Romans 8:29-31, Baptist faith and Message 2000 Article 5). He is always willing to show mercy, compassion, and pity. These expressions arise from the kind of God, God is. The Son, as truly God, was impassible.

    When the Son became incarnated as the man Christ Jesus, He expressed Himself humanly. To say "humanly" means being finite in knowledge, strength, and not possessing characteristics such as omnipresence. For our discussion here, the incarnate Son would express His affections in a passible way - just like ourselves - with the exception of sin. He ever remained the One Person, the Son, having two natures of which He partook, each with their own respective qualities. 

    One more creed, the Athanasian Creed, describes the two natures of Christ in the following excerpt that is relevant to our discussion in this post,

"Although he is God and man, he is not divided, but is one Christ. He is united because God has taken humanity into himself; he does not transform deity into humanity. He is completely one in the unity of his person, without confusing his natures. For as the rational soul and body are one person, so the one Christ is God and man. He suffered death for our salvation. He descended into hell and rose again from the dead."

How the Son's impassible Divine nature and passible human nature can help us better understand the cross 

   The cross is the place we go to see how well any understanding of the person of Christ holds water. It is at this juncture that we see the relevance of our whole discussion on impassibility (and its opposite "passibility"). 

    The Son, as truly God by nature, approached going to the cross impassively (that is, with constant emotions of mercy, justice, and love). Hebrews 10:5-7 tells us of what the Son was doing prior to His entrypoint into history via the incarnation. 

    As the Divine Person of the Son took unto Himself a truly human nature, He would suffer or be "passible" as a man. As man, the incarnate Son would experience what it was like to have pain, sorrow, and rejection happen to Him. As the man Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son would become "passible", undergoing His "passion", His "suffering", and having Divine wrath inflicted upon Himself. (see Isaiah 53:4-5). The sufferings of the Son of God would fulfill all the Old Testament predictions of He being "the Lamb of God" and "being a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief". He as God by nature would ensure that as the impassible God, He could always be the Savior who is always merciful, pardoning sin and forgiving the transgressions of His people (see Exodus 34:6-7; Psalm 136). 

    In short, the Son of God, as truly man, did indeed suffer for our sins. As truly God, He Divinely remained merciful, loving, and just. By Divinely offering Himself as the believer's High Priest and humanly as the Lamb of God, the ncarnate Son could fulfill both roles.  

Why affirming an impassible Divine nature and passible human nature in the Incarnate Son guards against heresy.

    Some may argue that the Father must have had a bad day when Jesus died on the cross. Yet whenever we look at the Trinity, and Divine impassibility, we must understand that God was in complete control of what all occured at the cross.  

    It was not that the Trinity was disconnected from the cross, since as we've already noted, the cross was pre-planned by the Trinity from all eternity. If for anything, the Father's sending of the Son was a constant expression of mercy and love, while also being an unchanging expression of His justice (see Romans 3:21-24).

    The Son, experiencing and undergoing the events of the cross as a man, did indeed suffer as a man. As the incarnate Son of God, his emotions as man would had been "passible" or subject to undergoing suffering. This understanding prevents us from succoming to an ancient heresy that suggested it was the Father who suffered on the cross (called "patripassionism"). The Father, Son, and Spirit were involved inseperably in the outpouring of wrath at Calvary. 

    As I noted earlier, the Son was both Priest and sacrifice. He as a Divine Person would had experienced the wrath of God, which includes feeling the sense of absence of God's blessing and favor. Mysteriously, in ways we do not comprehend, the incarnate Son would be both ever beloved and the very object of wrath all at once. Hebrews 7:26-27 perfectly captures my otherwise feeble attempts to grab hold of this point,

"For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself."

Bringing home some applications 

    By noting the two natures of the Son (truly Divine and truly human), we can preserve the Divine impassibility of the Son in His deity, while recognizing that as man, it was the Son alone who endured the suffering in the cross. I agree with R.C. Sproul who once noted about the hymn "And can it be", that rather than singing,

"Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me".

We ought to sing a change in lyrics which rightly focus upon the Son bearing our sins, suffering in His humanity,

"Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my LORD should die for me."

    Author Samuel Renihan, writing in a 2016 article for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, gives this pastoral application of Divine impassibility, and God's love shown at the cross,

"God cannot be moved to be anything other than what he is, he cannot be acted upon in that highest of metaphysical senses, nor is his existence time-bound like ours in which we interpret and react to objects. Furthermore, God’s love is immutably set upon his Son, Jesus Christ. Thus, those who are in the Son by faith cannot be separated from the infinite, eternal, immutable, and impassible love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:39)."

Closing thoughts:

    In today's post we attempted to further our understanding the doctrine of Divine impassibility (DDI) by seeing how it functions in three major areas. We first distinguished God's affections by how He expresses such impassibly. Again, to go back to author James Dolezal's descriptions in an earlier post, we can say God truly cares, and that He does so constantly or impassibly. 

    We secondly were reminded of how the Bible speaks of God in two ways, figuratively or analogically and directly as He truly is. Divine impassibility speaks of God as He truly is. In His relating to His creatures, their experience of God changing emotions shows the changes occuring with them as they transfer from being exposed to one emotional perfection to the next (from, say, wrath to mercy). 

    Then finally, we looked at the Son's two natures as God and man. We noted the differences between Him as Divinely impassible God and a truly passible man. As impassible deity, the Son constantly looked forward to accomplishing redemption, since He and the Father and Spirit, with one will, as one God, agreed upon the provision of salvation. The Son, as was appropriate to Him being the Eternal redeemer of sinners, would come be man for our sakes. By becoming a passible man, the incarnate Son could suffer and die in fulfillment of Scripture. 


Sunday, January 14, 2024

Post #31 The Doctrine of God - P4 Divine Impassibility, How An Impassible God Can Have Affections, And The Two Ways The Bible Talks About God


    For the last three posts, I've dwelled on the subject of God's constant emotional life, otherwise known as "the doctrine of Divine impassibility". In today's post, I want to further our discussion of Divine impassibility. First, we will look at an important distinction about God having affections and He being impassible. Then, we will revisit an area we've talked about before in this overall series, namely the two-fold way the Bible speaks of God, and how that can shed even more light on the doctrine of Divine impassibility. 

God's affections and impassibility

    How we understand the Bible's teaching on God's emotional expression is tied to how we understand His very nature. If God is immutable (i.e. unchangeable), and yet we posit that He can change His emotional response to somehow fit with circumstances, then we have an inherent contradition. Alternatively, if we propose that the Bible teaches God having some sort of change in His very being (whether limited omniscience, a limitation of power, or a limitation upon His presence), then by default we have to conclude God's emotions are as fickle as our own. 

    What I've noticed about objections to DDI is they assume Divine impassibility denies God any affections. I've read opposing viewpoints that think an impassible God is devoid of emotions, or that He is somehow detached from the plight of His creatures. As I've observed these discussions over the years, it has occurred to me (and no doubt others) that a distinction must be made between "affections" and "passions". As I'll explain below, classical, Trinitarian theism affirms God having affections, while denying Him having passions. 

What are affections? How do we distinguish "affections" from "passions"? Why can an impassible God have affections?

    As in any discussion, definitions are important. I get confirmation of this point from noting author James Dolezal's teachings on Divine impassibility. In his work, he gives a careful distinction between "passions" and "caring", noting that God can certainly care, even though He would not do so as a passible being. As a constantly caring God, Dolezal shows that Divine impassibility is what makes God's caring a constant reality.  

    At issue in this discussion is not about whether God has affections (which I'll define momentarily), but more to do with "how" those affections are expressed. 

    It is in terms "passibility" and "impassibility" that we talk about the manner in which God exercises His Divine affections (such as mercy, love, long-suffering, wrath, etc). So lets lay out some definitions.

    The first is what we call God's "affections". An affection is an older term that is synonymous with our term "emotion". An affection refers to how the deepest part of someone is stirred or inclined in preparation toward a specific act. 

    The second set of distinctions are words we ought to have become more familiar ("passiblility" and "impassibility"). These have to do with "how" or "in what way" the affections are stirred. For us creatures, our affections are activated when something happens to us is a "passive way" - i.e. "passible affections". 

    When I as a creature observe a moving scene in a film or hear a touching story from someone who is undergoing great difficulty, my affections are stirred to sorrow, get angry, or motivated to want to do something to allviate the pain. That describes human "passibility" and the accompanying affections. 

    God has given human beings passible affections that mimic His impassible affections. God constantly loves, shows mercy, is angry with sin, injustice, and unrighteousness. As God's image-bearers, we too express those affections, except in a passible way. We can get angry about injustice and show love and mercy when stirred to do so.  

    God's affections (such as mercy or justice) are constantly in motion as a result of His impassibility. In other words, God doesn't need to be moved to pity or mercy, since He is by nature always merciful. 

    God doesn't require an event or another creature to convince him or motivate him to anger over injustice, since He by nature is holy, and thus is always hating sin. Divine impassibility explains "how" God expresses the Divine affections which are His very nature (love, holiness, wrath, long-suffering, just, merciful, and so-forth). 

Keep in mind the two ways God is spoken of in the Bible

    Now that we have expounded a little on "affections" and the terms "passible" and "impassible", how can we understand the Bible's way of speaking of His emotions? 

    Let me remind the reader of the two ways the Bible speaks of God. He is spoken of "directly" in "being language" or what theologians refer to as God communicating Himself ontologically (the term "ontos" speaks of "being"). This first method used by the Bible means we will see God revealed "as He is". For example Malachi 3:6 "I the Lord do not change", or Hebrews 13:6 "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever". 

    Then there is that second way Scripture speaks of God, namely in figurative or analogical language. Thus, God can be described as having arms, eyes, and feet, even though we know that He by nature is not some physical humanoid in the sky, but rather is non-physical or spirit by nature (see John 4:24). Instead, we understand such language is using human expressions (called  "anthropomorphisms") to convey how God is relating to His created world. 

    The figure of speech that uses human emotional expressions to convey God's relating to His creatures is what we call "anthropapathism". By nature, God is impassible, constant in His emotional life. In His relating to us, the Bible uses anthropapathism to show the change brought about in the creature's experience of God. The experiences of God's people in regards to how they perceive His emotional expressions are legitimate situations, viewed from their vantage point. 

    If we keep in mind the two-ways the Bible speaks of God, we will avoid faulty interpretations of His emotional expressions, just as we saw in understanding how He shows forth His will, actions, and attributes to accomodate our understanding versus the kind of unchanging, impassible God He truly is.

Closing thoughts for today

    We've attempted to shed further light on the meaning of Divine impassibility by distinguishing "affections" from the terms "passibility" and "impassibility". We noted that God and humans have affections. God expresses His affections impassibily or constantly. Human beings demonstrate their affections passibly or as occassions come upon them. 

    We then reviewed how the Bible speaks of God in two ways - directly revealing God as He is in His being or "ontologically" and indirectly through figures of speech or "analogically" when describing people's experiences of Him. By observing the Bible's two ways of talking about God, we avoid the mistake of viewing God as passible in His emotional life, and thus running into the error of introducing some sort of change in God. In the next post, we will see how the discussion of Divine emotional impassibility and human emotional passibility is relevant to understanding Jesus Christ as God and man at the cross.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Post #30 The Doctrine of God P3 Divine Impassibility And The Question About Divine Suffering


    Does God ever suffer? As we further explore the Biblical doctrine of Divine impassibility in our current series "The Doctrine of God", we will endeavor to answer this most practical question. But first, review. 

    In the two prior posts, I've written on God's unchanging emotional life, otherwise known as "The Doctrine of Divine Impassibility" (DDI). Readers who want to review those posts may look here and here

    Divine impassibility is closely related to the doctrine of God's unchangeability or "immutability". In an illuminating quote, the 19th century Baptist theologian J.P. Boice summarizes God's immutability (and its related doctrine Divine impassibility) in chapter seven of his work "Abstracts of Systematic Theology",

"It (Divine immutability) is expressly taught by the Scriptures in the following as well as in other particulars. A few passages out of many are referred to in support of each."

    Boice's entire section speaks in detail of God's unchangeable nature with respect to His Divine life, nature, and will (interested readers may read the endnote at the end of today's post that features Boice's entire discussion.)1 To keep on point, I'll cite what Boice states concerning Divine impassibility. Boice continues under "point '(d)'" of His discussion....

"(d) His character is also said to be immutable, as for example his justice: Gen. 18:25; Job 8:3; Rom. 2:2; his mercy: Ex. 34:7; Deut. 4:31; Ps. 107:1; Lam. 3:22, 23; Mal. 3:6; his truth: Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Mic. 7:20; Rom. 3:3; 11:2, 29; 2 Tim. 2:13; Titus 1:2; his holiness: Job 34:10; Hab. 1:13; James 1:13; and his knowledge: Isa. 40:13, 14, 27, 28."  

    The reader will note I underlined J.P. Boice's mention of God's mercy and justice as emotional, impassible attributes in his discussion of Divine immutability. For here we will focus mainly on God's mercy and justice (with passing comments about God's love) as we make our way to the question about God's suffering. 

The unchanging mercy, justice, and love of God.

    These two attributes, along with God's love, are found at the cross. They also involve God's divine work and action in how brought about creation and redemption through the Son. The issue of Divine impassibility, suffering, mercy, and justice attempt to deal with whether a Divinely passible deity or the impassible God of Scripture is superior. 

Why a Divinely impassible God is superior to a passible deity when it comes to mercy, justice, and love.

    Divine mercy and justice are but a sample of God's emotional perfections. With God's unchanging justice, we have the expression of Divine wrath. Put another way, God always hates sin. In His omniscience, God always knew the Fall of Adam and Eve would occur. God's eternal justice would demand the punishment of the sin brought forth in history by the Fall. God as Trinity had eternally preplanned the cross as a consequence of the love of the Father for the Son in giving to Him redeemed sinners from the mass of fallen humanity (Acts 2:23-24; 4:27-28; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2). The choice to send the Son to become incarnate was a consequence of the Father's unchanging, impassible mercy, shared with the Son and Spirit.

    Like mercy, God's justice has forever operated unvarying. God has always hated sin, since He knew it would begin in our world, and since it is opposite of His holy character. If God were passible, He would require provocation from something outside of Himself to act just. Also too, He would require something outside of Himself to convince Him to act mercifully. Consequently, the ground of redemption would no longer be the Triune Creator, but the creation (see Ephesians 1:11). This would result in a passible deity needing a "plan B" as a panic response to the Fall. As Adrian Rogers once preached, "The Trinity never has to hold an emergency session" 

    If Divine impassibility is denied, then God's justice and mercy would become potential emotions added to and subtracted from God. It would mean that at some point in eternity, God may not have had the level of opposition to sin He has now. If we deny God's Divine impassibility, and rather affirm God as "passible", then we have a God who is not constantly, immutably just, which is contrary to the Biblical revelation of the always just God (See Genesis 18:25; Psalm 89:14; Romans 3:26).

    The same problems plague a passible view of God's mercy. In Scripture, God's mercy is what issues from His very nature. We've argued in a prior post of God being by nature eternally merciful here

    God's mercy is extended to whomever He pleases (Romans 9:14-15). How does affirming Divine impassibility reveal that God's mercy is superior to us who are passible creatures? If God were a passible God, He would only show His mercy when moved upon by His creatures or their dire need. Whereas a constantly merciful God is always ready to show mercy upon those who undergo moral and spiritual humility as a consequence of contact and response to His Divine activity in their lives.

A God that could suffer by nature ends up being far less emotionally connected to our sufferings.

    To deny Divine impassibility makes for a deity that may had been indifferent to the plight of creatures whom He knew about in His natural knowledge of all possible histories, as well as our actual world known from His decree to create it. This surprising observation shows that contrary to those opposing Divine impassibility, it is the denial of the doctrine that makes for a lesser, emotionally connected God!

    When we look at what it means to suffer, the term "suffer" derives from the Latin verb "patior", whence our words "patient" and "passion". To suffer involves something happening to me for which I did not anticipate, have control, nor the emotional resources to react. 

    As passible creatures, we in this world undergo various forms of suffering (emotional, psychological, spiritual, and physical). This is why we can have "bad days". Bad days happen to passible, emotionally unprepared, and varying creatures such as ourselves.

    The Divinely impassible God of the Bible, on the otherhand, is always merciful, since mercy flows from the kind of God that He is (see Exodus 34:6; Lamentations 3:23-27; Romans 5:6; Titus 3:5-6). 

    Contrary to what many claim, the doctrine of Divine impassibility (DDI) does not weaken, but instead strengthens one's understanding of God's revelation of attributes such as mercy. For God, there is never such thing as a "bad day", since He is ever involved and ever knowing, always expressing the whole range of Divine emotions. 

    This is why God always has the appropriate emotion on hand to befit people and their situations. God is always "in-tune" with my sorrows, pain, and despair, since His eternal, emotional attributes are included in His omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence (see Psalm 139). 

Closing thought for today

    Divine impassibility affirms emotional excellence in God, meaning God doesn't just have mercy and justice, He is such by nature (See for instance Exodus 34:6; Psalm 136; 1 John 4:8,16). To say "God does not suffer" means His mercy, justice, love, and other emotions are not "put upon" or "made to respond", but instead are constant, always ongoing expressions. God's emotions flow from the kind of God He is. I close with a quote from author Barry Cooper commenting on Divine impassibility from a Ligonier podcast here,inevitably%20from%20the%20fact%20that%20God%20is%20unchangeable.

"the fact that God cannot suffer or be swept away by changing passions means that He is able to rescue us."

    In the next post of this series, I'll deal with how Divine impassibility (Divinely constant emotions) and human passibility (human varying emotions) operated in the two natures of the incarnate Son of God when He went to the cross. 


1. "(a) They declare him to be unchangeable in duration and life: Gen. 21:33; Deut. 32:39, 40; Ps. 9:7; 55:19; 90:2; 102:12; Hab. 1:12; Rom. 16:26; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16.

(b) They affirm the unchangeableness of his nature: Ps. 104:31; Mal. 3:6; Rom. 1:23; James 1:17.

(c) They also assert that his will is without change: Job 23:13; Ps. 33:11; Prov. 19:21."