Is God Passible?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by a SATS prof, Jan 4, 2016.

  1. a SATS prof

    a SATS prof
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    By this I mean: can the divine nature be caused to suffer by any external cause?
     
  2. Deacon

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    This might be one of those South African terms that need a bit more explanation.

    I can't change God but I can change how God deals with me.
    I can cause the Holy Spirit to grieve.

    Rob
     
  3. Van

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    Sometimes people use "technical terms" with a special meaning. When I respond using a dictionary general definition, I get insulted. First your title may be "passable" like a mountain pass before blockage by snow, or possible, as in if all things are possible with God, does that include His suffering because of something He created?

    The God of the Bible is possible but we may not like His actions which go against our desires.
     
  4. preachinjesus

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    God cannot be made to suffer in His divine nature.

    Jesus did suffer, in the flesh, whilst incarnated.
     
  5. a SATS prof

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  6. colejones

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    Interesting analysis taking all 'passible' possibilities of the title before coming to a conclusion..i liked the analysis. Thanks :)
     
  7. a SATS prof

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    Van. I don't mean any insult. I do mean "passible" as in impassibility - not passable or possible. Yes you are right about our may not liking God's actions. But I don't see how that relates to this topic.
     
  8. a SATS prof

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    A+ oops I don't teach here, so EXCELLENT DISTINCTION-IMO
    Thus another reason to proffer two distinct, experiencing & acting natures in our good LORD.

    As Augustine writes,

    As God, Christ is greater than Himself as Man.
     
    #8 a SATS prof, Jan 4, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2016
  9. JonC

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    I believe so. (Not in terms of being controlled externally, but in terms of Divine response ). In other words, yes but not as men - and not apart from his own sovereignty.

    My short thesis in seminary was defending divine passibility with immutability. It had all the answers we would ever need on the subject....but I don't know where it is and can barely remember writing the thing.
     
    #9 JonC, Jan 4, 2016
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  10. Deacon

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    Teach me a bit here... What does it mean that he cannot suffer in his divine nature?
    I've recently taught the passage in 1 Samuel re: 'God repenting' and may have touched on this without a full understanding.
    And how does it relate to the Holy Spirit's grieving?

    Rob
     
  11. a SATS prof

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    jON, HOw IS IMMUTABILITY A DEFENSE OF PASSIBILITY?-scuse my shouting. Son puts caps lock on.
     
  12. preachinjesus

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    God cannot be affected emotionally by his creation. This is one of the challenges of the hypostatic union (the union of Christ's divine and human natures) in the incarnation. Jesus clearly weeps for loss and is affected by emotion, his fleshly side. Yet Jesus also understands his higher purpose in his life and death. It isn't the the nature of impassibility (or immutability) is suspended when the divine and human natures exist in Jesus' incarnation. Yet there are limitations on them. For instance, one of the divine attributes we certainly would agree on is omnipresence. God has casual access to all places at all times at any moment. Jesus would not be able to fulfill that complete attribute while incarnated. Some of this is resolved in the kenosis theory of the incarnation Philippians 2:7, though I suspect Paul (in adopting a preformed tradition) is leveraging the concept of pouring the divine into the human flesh but that's not what we're talking about.

    Let's not confuse impassibility with immutability. Immutability deals with God being unchanging. (These are the technical terms used in theological discussions.) All of this is rooted in God's aseity and necessity. That is, God exists in and of himself and in necessary for all creation to exist (we, humans, are not) and God doesn't need, nor does he seek out, input from his creation to sustain himself.

    My position on the OT verses talking about God "repenting" of some action, and you'll see this below about the Holy Spirit, is they are better understood as God regretting something or God renouncing something before his people. The reference in 1 Samuel 15:35 is likely along these lines, God regretted how Saul acted. This is not God having changed himself or his plans, but instead how we might understand God operating in relation to humanity and how we perceive him operating. It could well be God's plan all along is to accomplish "X" and by going before God we accomplish our part of his plan. It doesn't allow God to accomplish X, but rather it allows us to participate with God plans in accomplishing X. (Confusing enough I suppose)

    Anyways, this isn't an emotional reaction nor to be understood as a reaction against his previous will. God doesn't operate according to our behavior but has his own expression. Context helps in translation. If you survey some of the major translations on these passages you'll see there is marked variation in how they approach these phrases and concepts.

    Passages like Numbers 23:19 come to mind here: God is not man to be capricious, Or mortal to change His mind. Would He speak and not act, Promise and not fulfill?

    God's divine nature is entirely separate from humanity and is not impacted by humanity that causes him to change his will. Of course there are legitimate discussions to get into about these issues, particularly whether this is an overly Platonic understanding of God's relationship to man and why we bother praying. Of course prayer is not to be asking God to change his plans but more for our understanding of how we best fit into that will. (I do believe there are different expressions and degrees of God's "will.")

    Grieving here is, again, not emotional in nature but it has to do with offense or insult. If we look at the context and consider other passages, this translation seems to arise. "Do not offend the Holy Spirit" or "Do not insult the Holy Spirit" are, perhaps, the best translations.

    Keep in mind, that in the translation process, editors often try to communicate complicated concepts as concisely as possible. This means for such a heady theological discussion as this is, confining it to one or two words is extraordinarily hard to do. (This doesn't mean our English translations are bad or in error, its just a constraint of the method.)

    Hope that moves the convo along. :)
     
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  13. JonC

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    It depends on how you view the nature of God. I believe divine nature to be descriptive as opposed to prescriptive (it describes God's basic characteristics). Gods ontological characteristics are "internal", so his exhibited nature must be responsive to external occurrences. Not controlled by (these occurrences do not come about independent of God). If God is immutable then he responds appropriately in accord with his unchangeable nature to changing situations. Perhaps relational mutability would be a better term?

    Anyway, here's an illustration. The Reformed position rejected the idea that God is angry in terms wrath, otherwise he is controlled. Calvin explained that "anger" is a term of explanation as God acts in wrath. I disagree as I believe God has emotion (not controlled by emotion but responds to external events with genuine emotion). In terms of sin, God responds in genuine anger, perhaps grief as well, as an expression of his immutable nature.

    So if God acts in accord with his immutable nature in response to something (even if he is the cause of that something) then he is passable.
     
    #13 JonC, Jan 4, 2016
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  14. Iconoclast

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    No....in no way.
     
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  15. Deacon

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    In the Sunday morning bible study class we have been noting contrasts between the characters in 1 Samuel. Samuel's mourning/grieving was an intense emotional response to Saul's fearful disobedience. We noted the contrasts between Samuel's mourning/grieving and the LORD's regretting (15:35). There seems to be some sort of parallelism between grieving and regretting, and perhaps a connection with immutability, particularly in light of vss. 29…“He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” (NIV)

    Rob
     
  16. JonC

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    I think that God changing his mind may be mutability.

    An impassable God is a God who is not affected by anything outside of Himself. Emotions such as love, hate, anger, grief, joy, etc., are anthropomorphic illustrations that we use to deal with God’s actions. God did not “love” the world, instead His work of sending His Son is interpreted by us as “love” because it results in our wellbeing. Likewise, God never angers. Terms like these are meant to describe God’s actions to us in a meaningful way, but they are in reality foreign to God Himself. The reason is these terms describe a response to something outside of God, and God is unaffected by external causes.
     
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  17. preachinjesus

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    The danger is admitting to mutability of God is that it, to an extreme, leaves us with a God who does not seem aware of our future and is unable to secure his will. The danger of admitting to passability, again to an extreme, is that it leaves God dependent on humanity for his actions and direction.

    To the other end, in both immutability and impassability, at the extreme, leaves us with a God who is not here and not accessible. In the end, we lose one the primary distinctives of Christianity...that God came in our midst and redeemed our sin.

    The question, then, is the balance. It is difficult to find grounds, biblically, systematically, and philosophically, for mutability or passability. Yet, it is difficult to find grounds for a God who is distant and uncaring of his creation.

    I support both immutability and impassability, but do so, hopefully, gracefully.
     
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  18. JonC

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    I agree, both extremes lead to error. I am not sure, however, that the view God is unaffected by anything external to himself can but lead to an erroneous position. Personally, I believe God himself is immutable, but this means he is relationally mutable in that he chooses to create and relate to Creation. Passability in terms of God genuinely having love or compassion for creatures (or a sense of divine anger in wrath) is not IMHO an encroachment on immutability.

    The problem with the traditional view of impassibility is its reliance on philosophy against Scripture as it views instances of God revealing himself as relational to be concession to our mind. We are to love as God has loved...but what does this really mean if love is merely a façade or explanation? What does it mean to hate evil if this hate is only an act without inner conviction of something external?

    I do believe that God truly loves, angers, has compassion, etc., but these things do not control him. Rather than affecting his nature these are relational expressions of his nature. I will add that much of our disagreement here may be philosophical (I don't agree with some of the philosophy upon which the doctrine of immutability was built...e.g., that the capacity of emotion - to love, show compassion, etc. - necessitates a state of imperfection, incompleteness, and dependency in term of Divine attribute). It becomes a biblical argument when the philosophy is determined to detract from Scripture (which is what is determined on both sides of the argument).
     
    #18 JonC, Jan 5, 2016
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  19. Martin Marprelate

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    From the Baptist 1689 Confession (2:1):
    'The Lord our God is but one only living and true God, whose substance is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; who is immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will for his own glory.......'

    My understanding of impassiblity is that God does not suffer from tense, nervous headaches or liver complaints, does not have mood swings and does not get into what my great aunt used to call a 'tizzy.' His compassion for all He has made, His hatred of sin and His love for His people are not subject to change. He cannot change because if He did He would not be God because He would be changing from worse to better or from better to worse. He is never shocked or surprised by events, nor do they force Him to change His plans because all His plans were laid in eternity.
     
    #19 Martin Marprelate, Jan 5, 2016
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  20. Deacon

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    Well Martin brought up the Baptist Confession of 1689.
    I’ve searched many of my Systematic Theology texts and find it odd that only Grudem notes Impassibility.

    Of it he states: “This attribute, if true, would mean that God does not have passions or emotions, but is “impassible,” not subject to passions. In fact chapter 2 of the Westminster Confession of Faith says that God is “without … passion.” This statement goes beyond what we have affirmed in our definition aboue about God’s unchageableness, and affirms more than that God does not change in his being, perfections, purposes, or promises—it also affirms that God does not even feel emotions or “passions.”
    The Scripture proof given by the Westminster Confession of Faith is Acts 14:15, which in the King James Version reports Barnabas and Paul as rejecting worship from the people at Lystra, protesting that they are not gods but “men of like passions with you.” The implication of the KJV translation might be that someone who is truly God would not have “like passions” as men do, or it might simply show that the apostles were responding to the false view of passionless gods assumed by the men of Lystra (see vv. 10-11). But if the verse is rightly translated, it certainly does not prove that God has no passions or emotions at all, for the Greek term here (homoiopathes) can simply mean having similar circumstances or experiences, or being of a similar nature to someone else.

    Are there any other texts anyone can direct me to?

    Rob
     
    #20 Deacon, Jan 5, 2016
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