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Posts Tagged ‘Divine Impassibility’

So You Want to Understand Impassibility

ImpassibilityMany of my readers will be aware that during the last few years a theological controversy has arisen over the doctrine of divine impassibility. Impassibility is the teaching that God, being perfect and immutable, cannot be moved. The idea is expressed within many of the Reformed confessions by the assertion that God is “without passions.” The idea is that God, who in his essence is perfectly blessed, can never suffer any loss. Therefore the experience of suffering is contrary to the divine nature; God cannot suffer. It is imprecise to say that God has no emotions; what in us may be called an emotion (such as love) is a virtue in God. However, whereas in us emotion involves fluctuation and change in our disposition, God is changeless. His love is like his power, his wisdom, and indeed his very being; it is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.

In the Spring of 2014 the question of impassibility became the focus of an open debate within the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America when that association’s Theology Committee reported that one of the member churches evidently did not hold to the 1689 Confession’s teaching on impassibility. This was the result of an ongoing process in which the committee had been assigned to investigate the writings of one officer of that church. They had earlier found his writing contrary to the confession at two points (although he and his church had by 2014 come to a mutual agreement with the committee on the proper confessional expression of the other point). Rejection of the confession is grounds for exclusion of a church from ARBCA, and the association found itself at an impasse while some – but not all – argued that associational documents required that this action be taken.

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

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SCRBPC 2015 Panel Discussion on Divine Impassibility

HERMENEUTICS: Analogia Scripturae and Analogia Fidei

By Bill Hier

This is the title of chapter two of CONFESSING THE IMPASSIBLE GOD: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility (CIG). The purpose of this chapter is to highlight the two most necessary hermeneutical principles that are required when doing theology – not only theology proper, as is the concern of CIG, but all theology. As the title states, these are the hermeneutical principles of Analogia Scripturae and Analogia Fidei, which are the Latin phrases for The Analogy of Scripture and The Analogy of the Faith.

Before going forward, defining these most important hermeneutical principles, and stating where they come from, is necessary.

To put it simply, these principles are not formulated and then imposed upon Scripture, but rather, and drawn from the way that the Biblical writers themselves did theology. Thus, they come from Scripture, and so, from God – they are principles of understanding Scripture which the Author of Scripture imbedded in His Special Revelation to us, that we might not make the mistake of pitting Scripture against Scripture, but could rather understand it, and all the doctrines which it teaches us, by a synthesis of the whole.

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

Confessing The Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional

by Bill Hier

Doctrine of Divine Impassibility[1] – A Review of Section One, Chapter 1

It has been my pleasure, and a great aid to learning this most important doctrine of our great and glorious God, to read through this volume over a period of time. Just the Introduction by Paul Helm is worth obtaining the book, but each section of the book builds upon and is foundational to the next section. It is my opinion that this is the most important theological work to come out within the last fifty years – perhaps longer – as this doctrine has been under attack in evangelical and even Reformed circles recently.

The editors, in the Preface, note the importance of the doctrine under consideration:

The book is structured as follows. The Introduction presses home the importance of the doctrine of divine impassibility. Readers will be challenged to recognize that tinkering with divine impassibility as classically…

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

God Exists Outside of Creation

by Bill Hier

Our Title is somewhat misleading, but this will become apparent within the context of our article (note that the article is from the manuscript of a sermon that was preached at our church).

Note also, these articles from sermons are largely based in what I have learned by reading various classical works regarding Classical Theism, as well as various contemporary works treating of this most foundational doctrine. Of all these works, the one I recommend to our readers of this blog would be Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility, available here: (Reformed Baptist Academic Press) – to my mind, this is at least the most important theological book to come out in the last 50 years, if not longer.


 

-God as a part of creation is seen in various man-made religions:

Pantheism – God is synonymous with the creation

Panentheism – The Creation is God becoming or manifesting Himself

Panentheism differentiates itself from pantheism, which holds that the divine is synonymous with the universe. In panentheism, the universe in the first formulation is practically the whole itself. In the second formulation, the universe and the divine are not ontologically equivalent. In panentheism, God is viewed as the eternal animating force behind the universe. Some versions suggest that the universe is nothing more than the manifest part of God. In some forms of panentheism, the cosmos exists within God, who in turn “transcends”, “pervades” or is “in” the cosmos. While pantheism asserts that ‘All is God’, panentheism goes further to claim that God is greater than the universe. In addition, some forms indicate that the universe is contained within God, like in the concept of Tzimtzum. Much Hindu thought is highly characterized by panentheism and pantheism. Hasidic Judaism merges the elite ideal of nullification to paradoxical transcendent Divine Panentheism, through intellectual articulation of inner dimensions of Kabbalah, with the populist emphasis on the panentheistic Divine immanence in everything and deeds of kindness (This definition was taken from online, however, I did not record the source – I had thought it was Wikepedia, but I could not again find it).

Deism holds God is outside of creation, and does not now interact with it; agnosticism holds we cannot know God, while atheism holds God does not exist.

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

Is God Faithful According To His Character?

By Bill Hier

For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. (Malachi 3:6)

This is one of the texts set forth in the Introduction of CONFESSING THE IMPASSIBLE GOD, The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility.

Since I will be mentioning this book and its editors often in the upcoming months, I will not bother to do so at this time (you will hear about these faithful servants of our God enough in future posts).

However, it would be most remiss of me to not mention the author of this Introduction, our esteemed and well used of the Lord brother, James M. Renihan. Although his credentials speak well of him, let our Lord estimate that acquiescence to His glory which our dear brother has been blessed to be used of Him withal.

I am not plugging the book (which I will, and which you MUST read)…..

 

 

 

Read the entire article here.

Book Review of Samuel Renihan, God Without Passions: a Primer

passions1Note: I have not read this book yet. This is a book review by Tom Chantry. This book is definitely on my wish list.

 

By Tom Chantry

During the last year I have written a number of times on the doctrine of divine impassibility. This is the doctrine that God, being immutable, does not experience emotional fluctuation as do we. The Scriptures speak of God’s anger burning or of his compassion rising up, but this is analogous to it speaking of his arm or his ear: it is a communication to us of truths about God in human terms which we will understand. Still, God is not a man, and we must not think of him as having “ups” and “downs.”

My interest in this topic of course reflects the conversation which has taken place among Reformed Baptists, particularly within ARBCA, about the nature of God. However, it is a matter of great importance to all Christians. If we think of God wrongly (which almost always means imagining him as being one of us!), then we will neither serve nor worship him as we ought.

In the course of two years’ discussion, I have heard it said with increasing frequency that the doctrine of impassibility is simply too complex to be stated, affirmed, believed, and taught in the churches. In part this is because the very word “impassibility” is alien; in part it is because the subject itself has been forgotten over the years. The recovery of the doctrine has required careful investigation of old theological and philosophical language, as well as a careful examination of our biblical exegesis at many points.

I, however, have questioned whether the concept is actually as difficult to grasp as some have pretended. After the ARBCA General Assembly in April, when I gave a report to my church, I was approached by an older woman, new to our church and without any experience of Reformed theology, who wanted a simple statement of what the issue of impassibility is all about. “Well,” I answered, “the question is: does God experience any emotional change due to his interaction with us?” “Of course not!” she snapped. “He’s God!”

So much for the supposed incomprehensibility of this subject. Now we have a new book to point to which could have been written precisely to address the question of whether or not the doctrine of divine impassibility can be simply taught. It is the second product of Pastor Samuel Renihan’s pen on the question before us. Earlier this year I reviewed God Without Passions: a Reader, which is a summary of the teaching of Reformed and Particular Baptist thought on the question of impassibility during the 16th and 17th centuries. That book was provided as a backdrop to the confessional statement that God is “without body, parts, or passions,” and was intended for pastors and theologians to see how the understanding of impassibility was interlinked with a broader understanding of the nature and character of God. God Without Passions: a Primer, on the other hand, is written with a broader audience in view. The intent is to give a basic introduction to a subject which, while intrinsically complicated, is nonetheless very explainable.

 

 

 

Read the entire review here.