Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Immutable/Impassible (PhD Edit)

Griesbach, Germany-trekearth















My Google Chrome version is looking best. Safari is good.


Professor van der Ven finds Moltmann’s discussion on the ancient view, that God is apathetic towards his creation, useful.[1]  Moltmann notes the related Greek term ‘apatheia’ which is the idea of an irresistible force that cannot be influenced by outside forces.[2]  Historically in early Greek times from Aristotle onwards, God was viewed as being without emotions.[3]  Brian Davies (1999) notes that the term ‘impassibility’ corresponds to ‘apatheia’[4] and defines impassibility as the traditional understanding that God, the divine nature, cannot experience pain or suffering.[5]  Davies believes it is incorrect to assume God’s impassibility should mean that the creator is indifferent or unconcerned about his creation.[6]  For Erickson, the idea of God’s divine nature as impassible is based upon the influence of ancient Greek thought rather than Scripture.[7]  Erickson points out that with the incarnation of Christ, God the Son did experience human suffering.[8]  He possessed a human nature that did suffer in life and in death, even though his divine nature coexisted with his human one.[9]  Kenneth Surin (1982) writes that God is considered by some within orthodox Christian theology to be unable to experience pain or sorrow.[10]  However, others concede that concluding God is impassible is a questionable view within traditional thought.[11]  Surin thinks that perhaps God limits his omnipotence by identifying with human suffering.[12]  Paul Helm (2006), Professor Emeritus of the University of London,[13] reasons impassibility has lost intellectual support,[14] even though throughout the ages many within the Church have accepted the doctrine.[15]  Helm suggests that the doctrine needs to be reconsidered as God is not indifferent to human suffering,[16] nor does God express emotions of anger and passion as humans do.[17] The concept of impassibility opens up a complex discussion beyond this thesis, but it seems reasonable God can be both all-powerful and feel negative emotions.  It should be concluded suffering does not alter his divine attributes. Thiessen describes the immutability of God as meaning his divine nature, attributes, consciousness, and will cannot change.[18]  Erickson explains that God does not grow or develop, as there are no variations in his nature at different points within his existence.[19]  R.C. Sproul and Robert Wolgemuth (2000) deduce that as God is eternal he has no beginning or no end.[20]  As God is understood to be eternal and beyond time without a progression in nature, his infinite being would make a change in nature and character impossible.[21]  My modest proposal reasons since God is infinite and considered immutable,[22] it is impossible for him to suffer in the exact way that human beings do.  David A Pailin (1999) explains that within some process theology[23] approaches, God’s existence may be viewed as absolute, necessary and unchanging.[24]  However, God’s character can change and is determined through interaction with his creation.[25]  Pailin postulates that God’s character can change, as he loves his creatures.[26]  In my view, the divine nature does not have a physical body that can be altered, changed or die, as in John 4:24 where Jesus stated that God is spirit.[27]  Christ could suffer because he was both true God and true man,[28] but God as spirit[29] cannot suffer in human terms.  Since God is immutable,[30] any type or amount of suffering cannot alter his essential nature or being, or divine character.[31]  In contrast, suffering can definitely change the essential nature of human beings as, for example, in the case of an amputated limb or death.  Suffering can also change the mental and spiritual well being of a person, but God would not be altered in the same way.[32]

Erickson explains that it does seem a rational possibility, however, to conclude God does have emotions, although they are controlled.[33]  He indicates anger is involved in the idea of God’s wrath in the Biblical example Romans 1:18.[34]  God also has ‘agape’ love for his creatures, which is a steadfast, unselfish concern for them.[35]  It is reasonable to deduce that God’s love for humanity is not only a decision to care for them, but also includes intense concern for his creation.[36]  An understanding, infinite God could comprehend the sufferings of his finite creatures,[37] but God’s essential nature and being would not be altered by the experience of these feelings.[38]  There is no need to conclude that the sufferings of finite creatures alter the nature of an infinite God who can comprehend and feel those sufferings.[39]  Therefore, even if, for the sake of argument, impassibility is a correct deduction concerning God’s nature,[40] Christ possessing the full nature of God[41] and a full human nature[42] enabled him to experience suffering and evil.[43]  God the Son can therefore relate to human suffering on a personal level.  I reason God’s immutable nature does not necessarily make him impassible.

BARTH, KARL (1932-1968) Church Dogmatics,  The Doctrine of the Word of God: Volume 1, Part One, Translated by J.W. Edwards, Rev. O. Bussey, and Rev. Harold Knight, Edinburgh, T. and T. Clark. 

BARTH, KARL (1932-1968) Church Dogmatics, The Doctrine of Creation: Volumes 1 and 3.  Translated by J.W. Edwards, Rev. O. Bussey, and Rev. Harold Knight, Edinburgh, T. and T. Clark. 

BARTH, KARL (1932-1968) Church Dogmatics, The Doctrine of God: Volume 2, First Half -Volume, Translated by J.W. Edwards, Rev. O. Bussey, and Rev. Harold Knight, Edinburgh, T. and T. Clark. 

BLOESCH, DONALD G. (1987) Freedom for Obedience, San Francisco, Harper and Rowe Publishers.

BLOESCH, DONALD G. (1996) ‘Sin, The Biblical Understanding of Sin’, in Walter A. Elwell (ed.), Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Grand Rapids, Baker Books.

DAVIES, BRIAN (1999) ‘Impassibility’, in Alan Richardson and John Bowden (eds.), A New Dictionary of Christian Theology, p. 288. Kent, SCM Press Ltd.

ERICKSON, MILLARD (1994) Christian Theology, Grand Rapids, Baker Book House.

ERICKSON, MILLARD (2003) What Does God Know and When Does He Know It?  Grand Rapids, Zondervan. 

FEINBERG, JOHN.S. (1986) Predestination and Free Will, in David Basinger and Randall Basinger (eds.), Downers Grove, Illinois, InterVarsity Press.

FEINBERG, JOHN.S. (1994) The Many Faces of Evil, Grand Rapids,  Zondervan Publishing House.

FRANKE, JOHN R. (2005)  The Character of Theology, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids.

HELM, PAUL (2006) ‘Divine Impassibility: Why Is It Suffering?’ in Reformation 21, Philadelphia, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Inc.
http://www.reformation21.org/Past_Issues/2006_Issues_1_16_/2006_Issues_1_16_Articles/Divine_Impassibility/94/

MOLTMANN, JÜRGEN (1993) The Crucified God, Minneapolis, Fortress Press.

PAILIN, DAVID A. (1999) ‘Process Theology’, in Alan Richardson and John Bowden (eds.), A New Dictionary of Christian Theology, Kent, SCM Press Ltd.

SCHRECK, ALAN (1984) Catholic and Christian, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Servant Books.

SPROUL, R.C., AND ROBERT WOLGEMUTH (2000) What’s In the Bible, Word Publishing, Nashville.

SURIN, KENNETH (1986) Theology and the Problem of Evil, Oxford,  Basil Blackwell Ltd.

THIESSEN, HENRY C. (1956) Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

VAN DER VEN, JOHANNES (1993) Practical Theology, Translated by Barbara Schultz, AC Kampen, Netherlands, Kok Pharos Publishing House.

VAN DER VEN, JOHANNES (1998) God Reinvented?, Leiden, Brill.

VAN DER VEN, JOHANNES (2005) ‘Theodicy Items and Scheme’, in a personal email from Johannes van der Ven, Nijmegen, Radboud University, Nijmegen.

VAN DER VEN, JOHANNES (2006a) ‘Dates of Nijmegen authors’, in a personal email from Johannes van der Ven, Nijmegen, Radboud University, Nijmegen.

VAN DER VEN, JOHANNES (2006b) ‘Symbols versus Models’, in a personal email from Johannes van der Ven, Nijmegen, Radboud University, Nijmegen.

WILLIAMS, ROWAN (2000) On Christian Theology, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford 



[1] van der Ven (1993: 173).
[2] Moltmann (1993: 267).
[3] Moltmann (1993: 268).
[4] Davies (1999: 288).
[5] Davies (1999: 288).
[6] Davies (1999: 288).
[7] Erickson (1994: 737).
[8] Erickson (1994: 737).
[9] Erickson (1994: 737).
[10] Surin (1982: 97).
[11] Surin (1982: 97).
[12] Surin (1982: 97).
[13] Helm (2006: 1).
[14] Helm (2006: 1).
[15] Helm (2006: 1).
[16] Helm (2006: 1).
[17] Helm (2006: 1).
[18] Thiessen (1956: 127).
[19] Erickson (1994: 274).
[20] Sproul and Wolgemuth (2000: 2).
[21] Sproul and Wolgemuth (2000: 2).
[22] Sproul and Wolgemuth (2000: 2).  Thiessen (1956: 127).  Erickson (1994: 274).
[23] Process theology as discussed previously is a twentieth century approach based on the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead that presents a God that is involved in the continual process of world through two natures.  God has a transcendent nature which contains God’s perfect character and the consequent immanent nature by which God is part of the changing cosmic process.
[24] Pailin (1999: 469).
[25] Pailin (1999: 469).
[26] Pailin (1999: 469).
[27] The New American Standard Version Bible (1984: 1198).
[28] Schreck (1984:  16). 
[29] The New American Standard Version Bible (1984: 1198).
[30] Sproul and Wolgemuth (2000: 2).  Thiessen (1956: 127).  Erickson (1994: 274).
[31] Pailin (1999: 469).
[32] God has an infinite nature that cannot be changed, but finite human nature can be altered.
[33] Erickson (1994: 605).
[34] Erickson (1994: 605).
[35] Erickson (1994: 180).
[36] Erickson (1994: 180).
[37] Pailin (1999: 469).
[38] Thiessen (1956: 127).
[39] Thiessen (1956: 127).
[40] Surin (1982: 97). 
[41] Barth (1932-1968: 371). Williams (2007: 130).  Franke (2005: 72). 
[42] Williams (2007: 129).  Schreck (1984:  16).  Franke (2005: 72). 
[43] Bloesch (1987: 16).  He suffered as the reconciler between God and the world.  Williams (2007: 130).

Gary Habermas: Short clips

40 comments:

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Have a good days Dr!

Russell Norman Murray said...

Have a good rest of the week, Sarah.

Russ:)

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Russell Norman Murray said...

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Looney said...

I think Moltmann needs to actually sit down and read some Greek literature, beginning with Homer. Aristotle affirmed the importance of theology, but left us almost nothing on the subject. The Epicureans had an impassable god, but that was because they were theistic atheists.

Is the subject of impassability disjoint from that of predestination and freewill?

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Russell Norman Murray said...

'Is the subject of impassability disjoint from that of predestination and freewill?'

The subject was not so much directly related but rather foundational in the nature of God discussion.

Thank you, sir.

Russell Norman Murray said...

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These types of emails are rather a waste of time and may provide entertainment/humour for readers...

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Russell Norman Murray said...

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Blessings to you and family...

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