Impassibility Unto Passion

I don’t think it is contentious to say that the doctrine of God’s impassibility is falling on hard times these days. According to WCF II.1 states that God is “a most pure spirit, without body, parts or passions; immutable, immense, eternal…” Some level a charge of “Hellenistic” (read: Greek/pagan/gnostic) tones on these ideas, but I think they are eminently biblical.

I love how Roman Catholic (gulp) scholar Thomas Weinandy talks about the doctrine of immutability, and I think these words apply also to impassibility as well:

One should not be misled into thinking that God’s immutability is like the immutability of a rock only more so. What God and rocks appear to have in common is only the fact that they do not change. The reason for their unchangeableness is for polar-opposite reasons. The Rock of Gibraltar does not change or changes very little because it is hardly in act at all, and the change that it does undergo is mainly from outside causes—wind and rain. God is unchangeable not because he is inert or static like a rock, but for just the opposite reason. He is so dynamic, so active that no change can make him more active. He is act pure and simple . . .

What the critics consistently fail to grasp is that God’s immutability is not opposed to his vitality. Nor need one hold together in some dialectical fashion his immutability and his vibrancy, as if in spite of being immutable he is nonetheless dynamic. Rather, it is precisely God’s immutability as actus purus that guarantees and authenticates his pure vitality and absolute dynamism. Thus, when the critics assert that because Aquinas and the tradition believe God to be immutable they espouse a static and inert conception of God, they but demonstrate their own lack of understanding.

(Thomas Weinandy, Does God Suffer? 78–79, 124)

Some day, I would love to do a deeper study on this view of immutability/impassibility, and the sacred words of Luke 9:51:

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face (πρόσωπον ἐστήρισεν) to go to Jerusalem.

I know these texts bring the Incarnation into play, but there is still relevance here, I argue. Jesus was unable to be moved from going to His passion, His mission to die for His elect on the cross in Jerusalem. He wasn’t unmovable because he was like the Rock of Gibraltar, but rather because – like a laser – He pursued His Father’s will to the end. I also think of John 13:1 and other texts in this context as well.

With all His sufferings, full in view,
And woes to us! unknown –
Toward the task, His spirit flew,
‘Twas love that urged Him on.

(William Cowper “Savior! What A Noble Name!”)

The divine flame of love (SoS 8) is too strong to be moved or muted. Hallelujah!

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