Since Sentient Synth seemingly suffered some scratches, I am here to remedy the situation! And a splendid post it is...
Sentient Synth said:It's seems there some confusion in the house tonight. That's cool. It happens. But I'm here to straighten it out, like I'm paid to do. Boo yah!
[Some confusion about rhetorical points is then cleared up - then the post continues...]
I said: Rather, the Bible teaches that the Living God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, impassible, and immutable
To which Lighthouse replied:
Originally Posted by Lighthouse
That is a lie. The Bible does not teach, anywhere, that God is completely immutable, or impassible. If God were impassible then He would not get angry, or grieve. But He does. And it is recorded in Scripture, numerous times.
Lighthouse, I'm not sure where you learned that definition of immutability or impassibility (another rhetorical device.) Here is the true definition of impassibility that is as old as the hills, as old as the dirt under the hills, and maybe even older. This quotation is somewhat long, but, Lighthouse, please do yourself a favor and educate yourself. Lighthouse, hear me out. I'd like to sincerely talk with you about this. You have been misinformed on a great many things. Do you realize that if I were so inclined, I would simply mock and deride you? Why don't I do this? I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt, young man. Please don't let me down.
God isn't like a stone or an iceberg. His immutability is not inertia. The fact that He doesn't change His mind certainly doesn't mean He is devoid of thought. Likewise, the fact that He isn't subject to involuntary passions doesn't mean He is devoid of true affections. What it does mean is that God's mind and God's affections are not like human thoughts and passions. There's never anything involuntary, irrational, or out of control about the divine affections. Here's how J. I. Packer describes the doctrine of impassibility:
This means, not that God is impassive and unfeeling (a frequent misunderstanding), but that no created beings can inflict pain, suffering and distress on him at their own will. In so far as God enters into suffering and grief (which Scripture's many anthropopathisms, plus the fact of the cross, show that he does), it is by his own deliberate decision; he is never his creatures' hapless victim. The Christian mainstream has construed impassibility as meaning not that God is a stranger to joy and delight, but rather that his joy is permanent, clouded by no involuntary pain.
Notice Packer's emphasis: God's affections are never passive and involuntary, but rather always active and deliberate. Elsewhere, Packer writes,
[Impassibility is] not impassivity, unconcern, and impersonal detachment in face of the creation; not insensitivity and indifference to the distresses of a fallen world; not inability or unwillingness to empathize with human pain and grief; but simply that God's experiences do not come upon him as ours come upon us, for his are foreknown, willed and chosen by himself, and are not involuntary surprises forced on him from outside, apart from his own decision, in the way that ours regularly are.
R. L. Dabney saw the doctrine in a similar light. He described God's affections as "active principles"—to distinguish them from mere passive emotions. He wrote,
These are not passions, in the sense of fluctuations or agitations, but none the less they are affections of his will, actively distinguished from the cognitions in his intelligence. They are true optative functions of the divine Spirit [expressions of God's spiritual desires and wishes]. However anthropopathic may be the statements regarding God's repentings, wrath, pity, pleasure, love, jealousy, hatred, in the Scriptures, we should do violence to them if we denied that he here meant to ascribe to Himself active affections in some mode suitable to his nature.
Note that both Packer and Dabney insist, and do not deny, that God has true affections. Both, however, see the divine affections as always active, never passive. God is the sovereign initiator and instigator of all His own affections—which are never uncontrolled or arbitrary. He cannot be made to emote against His will, but is always the source and author of all His affective dispositions.
Edwards made another helpful distinction. He wrote,
The affections and passions are frequently spoken of as the same; and yet, in the more common use of speech, there is in some respect a difference. Affection is a word that, in its ordinary signification, seems to be something more extensive than passion, being used for all vigorous lively actings of the will or inclination; but passion for those that are more sudden, and whose effects on the animal spirits are more violent, and the mind more overpowered, and less in its own command.
Edwards was suggesting that passions are involuntary and non-rational; whereas affections are volitions and dispositions that are under the control of the rational senses.
Given such a distinction, it seems perfectly appropriate to say that whereas God is "without passions," He is surely not "without affections." In fact, His joy, His wrath, His sorrow, His pity, His compassion, His delight, His love, his hatred—and all the other divine affections—epitomize the very perfection of all the heartfelt affections we know (albeit imperfectly) as humans. His affections are absent the ebb and flow of changeableness that we experience with human emotions, but they are real and powerful feelings nonetheless. To suggest that God is unfeeling is to mangle the intent of the doctrine of impassibility.
So a proper understanding of impassibility should not lead us to think God is unfeeling. But His "feelings" are never passive. They don't come and go or change and fluctuate. They are active, sovereignly-directed dispositions rather than passive reactions to external stimuli. They differ in this way from human passions.