Saturday, January 21, 2017

Divine Impassability

I'd be the first to admit there is no easy answer. If you affirm or deny it there will be significant implications in your theology. Let's begin with a common argument in its favor:

(1) If God is not impassible then God is not timeless nor immutable.
(2) God is timeless and immutable
(3) Therefore, God is impassable.


There are two interpretations of divine eternity, namely timelessness and everlastingness:

Timeless: God is outside of time. God does not possess temporal duration nor temporal location. For God, all of time exists in one eternal present.

Everlasting: God exists at all moments in time. Time is an attribute of God, however, God created intrinsic metric time with creation.

Both interpretations are underdetermined from scripture thus one must weigh the Pros & Cons.

Timelessness entails the B-theory of time, hence the universe is both contingent and eternal yet dependent on God. Everlastingness entails there is some change, although neither for the better nor worst, in God's life.

Whichever interpretation you affirm both agree: God has neither a beginning nor end; God is the Lord of time. He is forever!

 Psalm 90:2
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

Isaiah 57:15
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

 Jude 1:25
To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

There are two interpretations of Immutability: Maximal vs. Minimal Immutability. The maximal sense of immutability interprets this attribute as it is impossible for God to change in any and all senses: in all state of affairs. Simply, God cannot change. The minimal sense of immutability concedes God can and does exhibit some change-- that is neither for the better nor worse-- yet remains unchanging in His essential nature and character.

John Feinberg provides a summary that both interpretations affirm:
"At the heart of Christian theology is the belief that God does not change in his person (being and attributes), will (decree), or purposes."

Impassability is logically entailed from timelessness and maximal immutability:

Impassibility: God is unaffected by anything outside Himself.

Richard E Creel writes,

"Some critics object that even if this is possible [God as maximally immutable and impassible], it is a cold, impersonal conception of God. But what could be more intimate than to think of oneself as and to feel oneself to be wrapped in the eternal, all-sufficient providence of a loving God who wants the best for us, who is and always has been willing the best for us, and who continually accom- panies, surrounds, and embraces us in our actuality?
Perhaps we can save what is most important on each side of this dispute [of impassible vs passible] by distinguishing between God being emotionally “touched” and emotionally “crushed” by the experiences and actions of God’s creatures. What we should save from the impassibilist position is that God is not emotionally “crushed” by what goes on in the world. God is perfectly, imperturbably happy through enjoyment of God’s own perfection, through knowledge of the goodness of God’s creation, through enjoyment of the creation, and through knowledge of God’s ultimate control over history.

What should be saved from the passibilist position is that God is emotionally touched by the joys and the sufferings and the good and the evil actions of God’s creatures. .. an adequate conception of God must include the notion that God is touched by our sufferings and joys, victories and defeats – though not necessarily in the same ways as we are."

Malachi 3:6
6 For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

Psalm 102:26-27

26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:

27 But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.

Hebrews 6:17-18
17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:
18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

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