Some More on Impassibility

Here’s a fantastic essay in favor of the impassibility of God by Thomas G. Weinandy:

http://www.mrrena.com/2004/suffer.shtml

‘I would acknowledge that the above arguments are, even in the brief summary form that I have presented them, intellectually and emotionally powerful, though often the emotional sentiment appears to far outweigh reasoned argument. Nonetheless, I believe that the entire project on behalf of a passible and so suffering God is utterly misconceived, philosophically and theologically. It wreaks total havoc upon the authentic Christian gospel.’

This is a concise and clearly written take on the idea that’s well worth reading.

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6 thoughts on “Some More on Impassibility

  1. mackman April 29, 2012 / 8:44 pm

    Thank you so much for that article. You’re right: it is well worth reading. I’m surprised, though, by the absence of what I believe to be a fairly strong objection.

    In “The Great Divorce,” Lewis notes that to enable the suffering of a sinner to affect God and the saints is to say that “Hell should be able to veto Heaven…to make a Dog in a Manger the tyrant of the universe.” While Lewis was specifically speaking of the self-imposed suffering of a damned soul, it can be applied equally to our suffering today.

    If God is grieved by our sins and by our suffering, then we, not God, are the ones who decide whether the Almighty is happy or sad. If God is pained by our suffering, then he has been in pain since the fall of Satan, and he will continue to be in pain forever, unless one takes the universalist or destructionist route. But even so, is it not strange to insist that the sinners in Hell can exercise such power over the happiness of God Himself?

    We then must take as false what Paul told the Athenians: That God is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything. This verse insists that we can give nothing to God, for he has everything: And yet others insist that we can, and do, take from God his very happiness and leave him suffering from the pain of our sins, suffering, and unrequited love.

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  2. whitefrozen April 29, 2012 / 9:09 pm

    A friend of mine shared with me this quote which I think has a lot of bearing on the matter:

    “Does our sin cause sorrow to the heart of God? Does He suffer when we suffer? In the OT, long before Christ’s Incarnation, we find it state of God: “His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel” (Judges 10:16). “How shall I abandon you, Israel? My heart is moved within Me” (Hosea 11:8). Our misery cause grief to God. However, a proper respect for the apophatic approach will make us wary of ascribing human feelings to God in a crude or unqualified way. Since God is love and He is personal and personhood implies sharing, God does not remain indifferent to the sorrows of this fallen world.’Where evil is at its most intense, there too must be the greatest good’ (Julia de Beausobre) (Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, p.82).

    I think this quote does a good job of describing where I’m at – I am not saying that God is up there wringing His hands, saying ‘golly, I wish they’d repent’, but in a sense God does seem to suffer, even if that’s only a crude way of putting it so we humans can understand it.

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  3. mackman April 29, 2012 / 11:14 pm

    I don’t think anyone, especially Weinandy, is disputing that the emotions ascribed to God are meant to literally describe something: “While such statements say something literally true about God, they are, I believe, not to be taken literally. Such statements do wish to inform us that God is truly compassionate and forgiving. He does grieve over sin and is angry with His people. However, such emotional states, firstly, are predicated not upon a change in God but upon a change within the others involved.”

    What I find strange is that when it comes to God in his essence–The immanent Trinity as opposed to the economic Trinity–you are the first to insist on God’s essential otherness and unknowableness. But when it comes to suffering, you extend it into God “as Himself.”

    The problem with that is that the act of creation then changes God. If emotions, with all the unwilling change that they imply, extend into God in all his transcendence and immanence, then the God who creates is not the same as the God who does not create.

    Also, I would like an answer: Is the happiness of God held ransom, even a tiny bit, by our suffering? Do we have the power to make God unhappy against his will? Is Satan successful in withholding from God some fullness of happiness that would have occurred had Satan not fallen?

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  4. whitefrozen April 29, 2012 / 11:34 pm

    Your criticism RE God’s essence is noted – I will be the first to say that I’m not being completely consistent here – but I am attempting to follow these arguments where they lead. I’m taking all these criticisms and thoughts on this topic very seriously. I will also admit that the terms ‘immanent’ and ‘economic’ trinity are new terms to me. Perhaps that is causing some confusion.

    ‘Is the happiness of God held ransom, even a tiny bit, by our suffering? Do we have the power to make God unhappy against his will? Is Satan successful in withholding from God some fullness of happiness that would have occurred had Satan not fallen?’

    Well, in a sense, that does seem to be the biblical witness – I do believe that things like suffering and death happen against God’s will. As the quote I provided above said, our misery causes grief to God.

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  5. mackman April 30, 2012 / 12:04 am

    Quick and dirty definition: economic = God as he deals with us/the created order. Immanent = God as he is in Himself, apart from anything else.

    “Well, in a sense, that does seem to be the biblical witness – I do believe that things like suffering and death happen against God’s will. As the quote I provided above said, our misery causes grief to God.”

    Really? To me, that seems terrible. So the happiness of God is forever marred, never to be the same? God, in himself, will never be happy in the same way that he was before the fall of Lucifer? That means that Satan (and all of us) have successfully derailed divine happiness and that it will never be fixed.

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  6. whitefrozen April 30, 2012 / 12:07 am

    Thanks for the definition. That helps.

    ‘Really? To me, that seems terrible. So the happiness of God is forever marred, never to be the same? God, in himself, will never be happy in the same way that he was before the fall of Lucifer? That means that Satan (and all of us) have successfully derailed divine happiness and that it will never be fixed.’

    Is happiness the most important thing for God to have?

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