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Question 9: The Question of God's
Question 9: I
was reading from Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. I was reading about
"The question of God's Impassibility". It's in ch 11 which is
about the "incommunicable attributes" of God. Impassibility
according to Grudem means that "if it's true" God wouldn't have
passions, He's "impassible".
interesting because he mentions that the Westminster Confession says in ch
2 that God is: "...without body, parts, or passions...". The
reference to that is Acts 14:15 which is about how Paul and Barnabus are
dealing with idolatry at Lystra. Paul says: "...We are men of like
passions with you..." This was in response to being referred to
as being Greek gods, Zeus and Hermes... So the implication according to
Grudem, which sounds right to me, is that because Paul is saying they're
"men of like passions" -and not gods- that gods wouldn't have
passions. Grudem then says that God does feel emotions and lists
references to show that He does from Isaiah 54:8, Ps 78:40, and several
It does seem
like a leap to say that God doesn't feel passions based on that verse from
Acts... What do you think?
That is a great question and one that is often asked about the Confession.
I think the
But having said that, God does indeed have that which corresponds to anger and joy and sadness in His divine being. In fact, He has the original of these things on a level that transcends our changing human passions that go up and down with changes of history. We have fluctuating emotions and passions, but He has these things in a permanent unchangeable way. What we have might be compared to a flash of light while what He has is a constant light. What we have is a true reflection of His anger or joy or sorrow, but it is only flashes and so ours are passions and emotions rather than unchanging, unshifting attributes.
We need to understand as
well that God responds to us in history with acts that reveal His
eternal attributes (that correspond to passions). For example, He
rained fire and brimstone on
As God's image, we reflect what is eternal in God by way of our emotional responses in time and history. For example, if I see a man abusing a woman, I get angry. That is a true reflection of God who is also opposed to a man who abuses a woman. But for me, the anger flares up and then I go to a wedding or something and am full of rejoicing the next day, not thinking about the abused woman I saw the day before. My joy is also a true reflection of God's joy, but His does not come and go.
This is tough to explain, so that is why I am going on and on trying to explain. I hope it makes some sense. I hope it causes you to come away and say, "Wow! God doesn't have passions like men. He has something that corresponds to passions, but something that is far greater, far more permanent, far more glorious and complete!"
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