New Book: ‘God Without Passions: A Reader’ edited by Samuel Renihan

The book that Sam Renihan filled us in on, just days ago, is now available from Amazon (“hopefully on sale at RBAP site by Jan 28” which will be where you can get it for less, but for those who can’t wait):

Blank bookcover with clipping path

God without Passions: A Reader
Edited by Samuel Renihan
[ $21.84 | £14.91 ]


The primary purpose of the material presented in this book is to familiarize the reader with sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English language sources pertinent to the doctrine of divine impassibility, particularly for those who confess with the Reformed confessions that God is “without body, parts, or passions.” If this material is studied carefully, the reader will encounter an excellent and diverse array of writings that touch on this subject.

Here is a portion of the foreword by Carl R. Trueman:

In our own day, the battle for the Bible continues. Yet there is another debate which is also happening: that over the doctrine of God. This second debate, while less obviously significant for the church, is likely just as important in the long run. If history can be a guide to how things will develop, then that of revisionists in this area is not a happy one. And thus it behooves all churches to pay careful attention both to their confessional standards, the rationale for the same, and the revisions which are being proposed. I myself reviewed positively a revisionist work a few years ago; subsequent reading and reflection has led me to believe I should have been far more critical.

In this context, this reader fulfills a most useful purpose because it presents an overview of relevant thought on the doctrine of God. Given that the classical Reformed understanding of God took centuries to fine-tune, it is most helpful to have key texts gathered in one volume as this will help both inform pastors and lay-people of the tradition and also point towards the rationale for that tradition and hint at the problems involved in the alternatives.

It will hopefully also serve those who are tempted by the revisions or are themselves engaged in such. Peter Taylor Forsyth once commented that every theological teacher should reflect on what his teaching would look like, or where it would lead, in two generations’ time. When it comes to modifying the doctrine of God, the story thus far would indicate that minor revisions at one point in time become major heterodoxies a few decades later. Let us hope and pray that such is not proven to be the case in our grandchildren’s day.


Paperback: 234 pages
Publisher: RBAP (January 16, 2015)
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches

Also see the Table of ContentsEndorsements &  Seventeenth-Century Dictionary Entries Related to Impassibility

9 Replies to “New Book: ‘God Without Passions: A Reader’ edited by Samuel Renihan”

  1. A listened to the interview about this book..

    The subject makes my head spin.

    Here’s a quote from Morton Smith ( I believe he was a mentor to Joseph Pipa )

    “With the creation of the world [God] sustains new relations to it. With the entrance of sin, the new relations of wrath and displeasure are displayed, whereas in the Gospel God reveals grace and mercy to the sinner. Our best understanding of these apparent changes in God is that they are changes in relations, but are not changes in his nature or purposes. It may be shown that the same attribute of his nature, which on the one hand demands goodness be displayed to the good, demands wrath be shown to the sinner, and in turn pours out mercy on the objects of his grace” (Systematic Theology, 1:132-22).

    Would it be accurate to say (in the view of Sam and/or the Reader) that God’s nature and purposes do not change, but he enters into new relations and thus changes affections in connection to those new relations?

    I’m probably not going to read this book any time soon, so I figured maybe someone here can answer this curiosity (it is not a gotcha.. I simply don’t know). This is really not a subject I have studied much or ready anything specifically one way or another.

    1. I am not familiar with the author or the context. And the context would matter as to whether or not Morton Smith is speaking about God in an absolute sense or objectively. That is, there is change in God or to us it appears as change. All in the reader would reject that as objective, but would say with Morton Smith they are “apparent changes in God”. See the most recent post I linked to by D. Scott Meadows on this

      “Any change from doing one thing to another was decreed from all eternity and brings about a change external to God (i.e., a change in the effect, but not in the cause).” – Sam Renihan (Intro to the Reader)

      Here is one example from the Reader, William Ames:

      “The will of God is single and only one in God.

      The will of God is unchangeable: because he always willeth the same, and in the same manner. Psal. 33.1. The counsel of the Lord remaineth forever.

      The will of God is eternal; because he doth not begin to will what before he would not, nor ceaseth to will that which before he willed. Mala 3.6. I Jehovah change not.

      The will of God may be said to be infinite: because it hath no outward limitation.

      The affections which are given to God in Scripture, as love, hatred, and the like, do either set forth acts of the will, or do agree to God only figuratively.”

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