11.05.2006

Not Sure How I Feel About...

The impassibility of God.

It's a classical doctrine that basically says that God the Father is unaffected by passion* (in the old-fashioned way, i.e., suffering), because passion indicates a lack of something -- the church fathers called this a privation. That's just dandy, since Scripture gives us no indication that God needs or lacks anything.

But is God emotionless? People who hold firmly to this doctrine say that when Scripture talks about God as having extremes of emotion -- regret, sorrow, vengefulness, etc. -- it does so metaphorically. But we can't really get around God's wrath at sinners, can we? Or His hatred of evil? So why would we want to get around His sorrow?

I may write more about this as I read farther (or is it further, Dave?) in the book I'm slowly working through -- too slowly, alas, since I have to finish it and 4 or 5 other books by the end of the semester. Argh.

Any thoughts or brilliant insights?




*obviously, when Christ was on earth, He suffered. Duh. But we're talking about the Father, here. Which makes me think of another question: if the Holy Spirit "intercedes for us with groans," does that mean that He suffers or feels sorrow with us? Scripture also speaks of the Holy Spirit as being "grieved" by our sins. Huh. More thought required on this topic, evidently.

5 comments:

Laura's Dad said...

Jesus said to His disciples in John 14:9, "Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father." I take that to mean that the Father is as long-suffering and passionate (suffering) as the Son. The deeper issue is whether anything can be said to AFFECT the Father, since He is the prime mover of all that is. Does anything happen TO Him? No. That being the case, how can it be said that anything happens IN Him?

It's a great question, and raises a lot of considerations about the extent and implications of His sovereignty. Perhaps this is another case that proves we are not able to comprehend Him.

Phil said...

trippy stuff!

I'm not really sure either, but I'm glad the Bible presents God in a way that we can relate to.

Will have to think more on this too. Thanks for raising the topic.

By the way I am a friend of Mike's (just so you know how I found your blog...)

Dave said...

From Dictionary.com:
"Although some usage guides insist that only farther should be used for physical distance (We walked farther than we planned), farther and further have been used interchangeably throughout much of their histories. However, only further is used in the adverbial sense “moreover” (Further, you hurt my feelings) and in the adjectival senses “more extended” (no further comment) and “additional” (Further bulletins came in).The expression all the farther (or further) in place of as far as occurs chiefly in informal speech: This is all the farther the train goes. See also all."

CraigS said...

It's not that God can't suffer - it's just that He can't suffer against His will.

We read in scripture of God being grieved etc. God can experience suffering, but only because He, in His sovereignty, has chosen to do so.

The supreme example is the suffering of Christ, the God-Man.

John Dekker said...

Yeah, I don't think the impassability of God is saying that he is emotionless - just that he isn't changed by circumstances.

Since emotions always imply a change for us, this can be hard to understand.