In October Joe was preaching at a conference in Wellington, NZ with Dr. Jim Renihan. Jim is the Dean and Professor of Historical Theology at the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, California. He is a theological beast and an author whom you need to be well acquainted with. Today, Jim talks with Joe about the possibility of a new seminary launching in Texas, the doctrine of divine Impassibility, and of course, Neil Young. Plus, Jimmy interrupts the interview from the other side of the world.
Check out Dr. Renihan and his work online on Twitter: @IRBS_1689, on Facebook, and at the IRBS website. His new book, Faith and Life for Baptists: The Documents of the London Particular Baptist Assemblies, 1689-1694 is an important work for all baptists who want a better grasp on where we came from and what our forefathers were working through in during our early days.
Also, be sure to pick up the new series through RBAP, Recovering Our Confessional Heritage. This is a series of short books on issues related to the 1689 Second London Confession.
This week on Theology on the Go the topic will be the impassibility of God [Dr. Jonathan Master interviews Dr. Richard C. Barcellos]. This podcast is the third in a series focusing on the doctrine of the Trinity. In light of the recent Trinitarian controversy, Theology on the Go believes that a series like this is an important service to the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, grab that cup of coffee and meet us at the table!
Though the 2016 Southern California Reformed Baptist Pastors’ Conference main session audio and video have already been posted, the Q&A and some interviews from the occasion were posted earlier today.
James Dolezal – Q&A [25 min. vid]:
Panel Q&A feat. James Dolezal, James Renihan, Ron Baines, and Sam Renihan [55 min. vid.]:
Sam Renihan interview about his books on Divine Impassibility [14 min. vid.]:
Interview with Dr. James Dolezal [16 min. vid.]:
SoCal RB Pastor’s Conf. ’16 preview with the next speaker, Stefan Lindblad [15 min. vid.]:
Since we didn’t post the 2015 conference audio and video yet, allow us to do that now:
- Lecture 1: Foundation of all our Communion with God and Comfortable Dependence… Dr. James M. Renihan
- Lecture 2: The State of Theology Proper in Calvinistic Evangelicalism James Dolezal
- Lecture 3: Divine Simplicity – The Theological Grammar of Orthodoxy James Dolezal
- Lecture 4: Divine Simplicity and its Modern Detractors James Dolezal
- Lecture 5: Divine Eternity James Dolezal
- Lecture 6: The Trinity James Dolezal
Click playlist button in top left corner to see all the videos, including interviews.
Confessing the Impassible God:
The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility,
eds. Ronald S. Baines, Richard C. Barcellos, James P. Butler, Stefan T. Lindblad, and James M. Renihan.
RBAP [Reformed Baptist Academic Press] currently has two books on divine impassibility, God without Passions: a Reader and God without Passions: a Primer. What is divine impassibility? Sam Renihan, in his newest book (God without Passions: a Primer), defines it as follows: “God does not experience emotional changes either from within or effected by his relationship to creation” (19). That definition might startle you. It sounds as if God were a cold, indifferent divine rock or robot. Notice the words just used to describe God: “cold,” “indifferent,” “rock,” and “robot.” Each of these terms are creaturely; they are borrowed from the created realm. Of course God is not “cold,” “indifferent,” a “rock,” or a “robot”; He is not creature. This is exactly what the Second London Confession of 1677/89 asserts, when it says, “[God is] without body, parts, or passions” (2.1). Each of these terms – “body,” “parts,” “passions” – are indicative of creatures not the eternal Creator. “Passions” are creaturely actions which need a creaturely “body” and creaturely “parts” (i.e., faculties of the soul) in order to exist. “Passions” come into being; God is (Exod. 3:14). Since God has neither “body” nor “parts” of which He is comprised or compounded, and due to divine immutability and eternity, He is impassible (i.e., “without…passions”).
But, someone might be thinking, does divine impassibility mean that God is not love? Of course not, for we are told that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The love of God is a divine perfection, co-extensive with the divine essence and, therefore, eternal. It is not a divine passion (a contradiction). Love is what God is (i.e., actually), not what God can become (i.e., potentially). God can and does reveal His love to creatures but He does not and cannot manufacture more love or deplete Himself of previous love. For to become more or less loving, for example, implies the imperfection of a previous state of existence. God’s perfections are immutable.
This leads to RBAP’s next book on divine impassibility, Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility. This book will cover hermeneutics, exegesis, historical theology, systematic theology, the Confession, and practical theology. It will contain a Foreword by Paul Helm and has been endorsed by Earl Blackburn, Walter Chantry, James Dolezal, J. V. Fesko, Ryan McGraw, Fred Sanders, David VanDrunen, Jeffrey Waddington, and Sam Waldron.
Table of Contents:
Foreword | Paul Helm
Preface | The Editors
An Introduction to the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: Why is this Doctrine Important? | James M. Renihan
Part I: Theological and Hermeneutical Prolegomena
- Analogy and the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility | Charles J. Rennie
- Hermeneutics: Analogia Scripturae and Analogia Fidei | Ronald S. Baines
Part II: Biblical Foundations
- The Old Testament on Divine Impassibility: (I) Texts on the Nature of God | Steve Garrick with Ronald S. Baines
- The Old Testament on Divine Impassibility: (II) Texts on Immutability and Impassibility | Ronald S. Baines and Steve Garrick
- The Old Testament on Divine Impassibility: (III) Texts on Apparent Passibilism and Conclusion | Steve Garrick, James P. Butler, and Charles J. Rennie
- The New Testament on Divine Impassibility: (I) Texts on the Nature of God, Immutability, and Impassibility | Richard C. Barcellos and James P. Butler
- The New Testament on the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (II) Creation, the Incarnation and Sufferings of Christ, and Conclusion | Richard C. Barcellos
Part III: Historical Theology
- Historical Theology Survey of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: Pre-Reformation through Seventeenth-Century | Michael T. Renihan, James M. Renihan, and Samuel Renihan
- Historical Theology Survey of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: The Modern Era | Brandon Smith and James M. Renihan
Part IV: Systematic Theology
- A Theology of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (I) Impassibility and the Essence and Attributes of God | Charles J. Rennie
- A Theology of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (II) Impassibility and the Divine Affections | Charles J. Rennie
- A Theology of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (III) Impassibility and Christology | Charles J. Rennie and Stefan T. Lindblad
Part V: Confessional Theology
- Confessional Theology and the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility | James M. Renihan
Part VI: Practical Theology
- Practical Theology and the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility | James P. Butler
Part VII: Conclusion
- Closing Comments and Affirmations and Denials | Ronald S. Baines and Charles J. Rennie
- Review of God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God, K. Scott Oliphint | Charles J. Rennie
- Review of God is Impassible and Impassioned: Toward a Theology of Divine Emotion, Rob Lister | James E. Dolezal
Name and Subject Index
Glossary of Technical Terms and Theological Phrases
Bibliography of Works Cited
Excerpts from Paul Helm’s Foreword:
. . . This book can be said to present an interdisciplinary exposition and so a cumulative defense of divine impassibility and of the doctrine of God of which that is an aspect. Each line of argument strengthens and supports the other. Its foundation in Scripture, and the hermeneutics employed, show the doctrine to be not speculative or abstract but to have its foundation in the varied data of the both Testaments of the Bible. The chapters on history show that divine impassibility is not a recent whimsy or the peculiar invention of a Christian sect, but the historic catholic faith. Those on the confession and the doctrine of God set out its Baptist pedigree, and the connectedness of impassibility with other distinctions made in the doctrine of God, and their overall coherence. Each line of enquiry sensitizes the palate to taste the others. There is a polemical strand throughout the book, contrasting this view with those of Open Theism and aberrant statements from contemporary Calvinists and others. But these arguments are used not to score points but to set forth and make even clearer the positive, historic teaching on divine impassibility, by contrasting it with other currently-held views.
I am honored to have been asked to write this Foreword, and delighted with what I have read. Confessing the Impassible God is heartily recommended.
Former Professor of the History and Philosophy of Religion
How is the confessional phrase God is “without . . . passions” to be understood? Is God really without passions? Isn’t he like us or rather aren’t we like God, made in his image? We have passions and emotions, therefore, God must have the same; or so the argument goes. Can God become emotionally hurt or distraught? Does God actually and emotionally change with varying circumstances and situations in human history? After all, doesn’t the Bible say that God repented? These are some questions that have been raised in the past century, but with renewed vigor in the last ten years.
The above questions are skillfully answered in this book Confessing the Impassible God. . . .
Earl M. Blackburn
Heritage Baptist Church, Senior Pastor
. . . You will find within these covers profound thought that is not all easy to grasp but well-worth the effort.
I am pleased to commend this volume. May it bring much praise to “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).
Walter J. Chantry
Author of Today’s Gospel, Authentic or Synthetic?,
Signs of the Apostles, and Call the Sabbath a Delight
The essays in this volume constitute a wonderful blend of biblical, historical, contemplative, and practical theology all in defense of the doctrine of divine impassibility. The defense mounted is not primarily against the usual cast of detractors—Open Theists and process theologians—but against those evangelicals who imagine that abandoning or reconceiving impassibility can be done with little or no detriment to the edifice of a classical theology proper. The authors are convinced that once one begins to chip away at this crucial piece of the foundation the whole house of orthodox Christian conviction about God and his attributes begins to falter. And they are right.
. . . The result is a richly rewarding study that magnifies our unchanging God.
James E. Dolezal
Assistant Professor of Theology
Truth sometimes sounds stranger than fiction, which is why Confessing the Impassible God is a welcomed, rigorous defense of the traditional and confessional doctrine of divine impassibility. . . . The contributors provide a significant exegetical, theological, historical, and practical engagement of the issues, which makes this eminently useful for pastors, scholars, seminarians, and even people in the pews.
J. V. Fesko
Academic Dean Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology
Westminster Seminary California
Theology is not static. The church has made progress in its understanding of the Trinity, Christology, Soteriology, and Ecclesiology. However, theological development ordinarily comes through the church combating error rather than choosing a research topic for a new book. In responding to error, the church must build upon and enrich her understanding of Scripture, in dialogue with church history, with an eye toward a new generation, rather than jettison the past in the name of theological progress. This book presents the old view of divine impassibility, using old arguments, against new critics.
Ryan M. McGraw
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology
Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
A spirited reclaiming of the doctrine of divine impassibility, this coherent, well-edited, multi-author project is unique in several commendable aspects. It is decisively Baptist, but advances its argument in ways that recent generations have stopped expecting from Baptist theologians. These authors are committed to the final authority of Scripture in doctrinal matters, but mastery of their tradition’s confessional resources gives them uncommon access to depths of theological understanding. In particular, they have chased the doctrine that God is “without passions” all the way down metaphysically, relating it meaningfully to the theology of the divine being as pure act, and steadfastly refusing mere voluntarism, the persistent Scotist reductionist temptation to make everything depend on God’s will rather than his nature. Evangelical projects of retrieval are becoming more common as theologians appropriate patristic and medieval resources. Confessing the Impassible God stands out for its commitment to a retrieval of the middle distance, the Baptist confessions of early modernity as the nearby trailhead to the great tradition of Christian theology. Good fences make good neighbors, and I think that, paradoxically, the decisively Baptist focus of this project is what will make it useful beyond its own Reformed Baptist confessional borders.
Professor of Theology
Torrey Honors Institute
Confessing the Impassible God addresses a topic that gets to matters at the heart of our understanding of the living God. Exploring the doctrine of divine impassibility through thorough historical, confessional, systematic, and exegetical studies, the authors make a compelling case that maintaining a robust affirmation of impassibility not only secures our continuity with the long patristic, medieval, and Reformation tradition of theology proper but also guards against falling into a range of errors that entail portraying God as something fundamentally other than the God of classical, biblical Christianity.
. . . I recommend this volume to all thoughtful Christians who wish to know and worship God truly, and I expect they will find here great encouragement to embrace impassibility not as a sterile idea of Greek metaphysics but as profound biblical teaching meant to bolster our faith, hope, love, joy, and confidence in the Triune God.
Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics
Westminster Seminary California
Classical theism is under attack in our day. Specifically such doctrines as divine simplicity and impassibility are deconstructed in an effort to achieve a more believable and accessible God. Unfortunately this more believable and accessible God is not the God of the Bible. It would be bad enough if the enemies of Christ led the attack against classical theism, but it is so-called friends who undermine the classical biblical witness to our great and glorious self-contained triune God. The broader church and Reformed community owe a debt of gratitude to our Reformed Baptist brothers for producing Confessing the Impassible God. In this fine book, the classically biblical doctrine of divine impassibility is defined and defended, explored and exposited. . . . This volume covers the whole spectrum of the theological encyclopedia on divine impassibility. I salute the men who have been involved in the publication of this fine book.
Rev. Jeffrey C. Waddington
Stated Supply & Ministerial Adviser—Knox Orthodox Presbyterian Church Lansdowne, PA
Ministerial Adviser—Calvary Church of Amwell (OPC) Ringoes, NJ
Panelist & Secretary of the Board—The Reformed Forum
Articles Editor—The Confessional Presbyterian Journal
Book Series Editor & Fellow—Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
There was a time when it was my opinion that the Doctrine of God or Theology Proper was settled. It seemed to me that, except for the debates over God’s eternal decree between Reformed and Arminian Christians, the Doctrine of God was of little polemic interest. If that was ever really the case, it is surely not the case now. The onslaught of Process and Open Theism, the claims that the classical Christian doctrine of God was seriously infected with Greek philosophical ideas, and the consequent and widespread proposals to modify the traditional Theology Proper of classical Christian theism are provoking widening discussion. Confessing the Impassible God provides an important, deep, and thoughtful response to the proposed revisions to the doctrine of divine impassibility—one of the hot-spots in the polemic furor among Reformed evangelicals over the Doctrine of God. I am grateful for the theologically careful and historically informed hermeneutics and exegesis of the present volume. I am grateful especially for the reminder that this book contains of the importance of recognizing the revelation of Scripture as analogical, and sometimes anthropopathic, and the importance of recognizing this in our teaching. Confessing the Impassible God deserves close study and appreciative discussion among Reformed Christians.
Dean of Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary
Pastor of Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Due to the overwhelmingly positive response from the last giveaway we have decided to do it again. However, this time we are going to give you more chances to enter to increase your chances of winning. But first, to the books!
We are giving away a copy of:
The new book God without Passions: a Primer – A Practical and Pastoral Study of Divine Impassibility by Samuel Renihan, that we’ve previously announced, is now available from the publisher, Reformed Baptist Academic Press (RBAP), at a lower price:
This book deals with something that you may have never even heard of, the doctrine of divine impassibility. Impassibility is not a word often used in sermons. Even when people are studying systematic theology, impassibility tends to receive a small amount of attention. So what is it? And why is this important? Divine impassibility is defined as follows: God does not experience emotional changes either from within or effected by his relationship to creation. This is a scriptural truth, and a very important part of our system of theology. In chapter two of our Confession, “Of God and the Holy Trinity,” we read the following in paragraph 1: The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions. But is this doctrine important? Yes. This is the doctrine of God. If there is a part of theology about which we should be especially careful and sensitive, it should be the doctrine of God. God is “without . . . passions”? If you are thinking, “I’m not really sure what that phrase means,” then you are not alone. It has become increasingly clear that many in our day are lacking study and knowledge in this area. Given these factors, we can conclude that we need teaching on this subject. It would be a mistake to jump straight into asserting the doctrine of divine impassibility and defending it. It is one piece in a system of doctrine. It stands upon and connects to many other facets of the doctrine of God. So what we need to do in our study is to build up to it. By doing so, we will appreciate not only the doctrine itself, but also just why it cannot be tampered with. So, to start from the ground up, we need to go where the doctrines grow, the Holy Scriptures.
Paperback: 112 pages
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
Back in January, I announced God without Passions: A Reader. The intent of this book was to provide access to original source writings from the 16th and 17th centuries relevant to the classical confessional Reformed doctrine of divine impassibility. While that book included an introduction designed to help understanding and processing the authors’ arguments, there were no further comments on the content of the writers.
Coming out very soon from RBAP, God without Passions: A Primer is a new (and much shorter) book that explains the doctrine of divine impassibility as it is drawn from the Scriptures and understood in the contexts of the human and divine natures. God without Passions: A Primer has been peppered (and salted) with quotations from Reformed authors (their language updated), written with a personal and pastoral perspective, and it includes study questions at the end of each of the five chapters. The chapters are:
- Impassibility’s Foundation
- The Human Half of the Equation
- Eminence and Negation
- Perfections and Incarnation
- Personal Applications and Pastoral Implications
God without Passions: A Primer would be a great book for personal study, and even better for group study. I hope you enjoy it!…
Richard C. Barcellos:
“The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience to him as their creator, yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.” (Second London Confession of Faith 7.1)
I want to offer some brief thoughts on this paragraph of our confession, concentrating on the words, “voluntary condescension on God’s part.” I have not always understood the fine nuances and precise doctrinal intent of this very important part of our confession. I hope this brief study helps readers understand what is and is not being asserted here. These words are also contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) and are being used by some in our day in a manner of which I would like to offer some friendly push-back. Once I examine and explain the meaning of the words “voluntary condescension on God’s part,” I will interact with one contemporary theologian [K. Scott Oliphint] who uses them in a different way than I think intended by the confessional framers of the seventeenth century.
First, it is important to realize the context of this paragraph in the confession…
Second, it is important to understand how 7.2 relates to 7.1…
Third, the words “The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures [cf. 4.2] do owe obedience to him as their creator” refer to what man as creature owes to God as Creator…
Fourth, the words “yet they could never have attained the reward of life but by some voluntary condescension on God’s part” means that “the reward of life” is not based on the Creator/creature relationship…
Fifth, the words “which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant” tell us what God’s “voluntary condescension” refers to, which contains the promise of “the reward of life.”…
In this episode, we speak with Samuel Renihan about the doctrine of divine impassibility. Rev. Renihan is the pastor of Trinity Reformed Baptist Church in La Mirada, California and the editor of God without Passions: A Reader. Westminster Confession of Faith 2.1, that “There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions . . .” We explore the theological tradition behind that declaration as well as its implications.
If you would like to learn more about the doctrine of divine impassibility, listen to Rev. Renihan’s six-part audio series on the subject, which you can find at The Confessing Baptist. You can also listen to our interview with James Dolezal on Christ the Center episode 237…
…in my journey in impassibility, there was a time when I was not equipped to understand the issues in such a manner as to be able to make my way through various discussions on a properly informed level. In other words, I found myself in over my head quite often, at first not even realizing it. At one time, I was sympathetic to what men like Rob Lister, Donald Macleod, and K. Scott Oliphint are now advocating. However, I do not think I was able to read those views with the proper lens of the historic Christian doctrine of God, which I think is the biblical view, and that which was assumed and confessed by the framers of our confession. What I once thought was somewhat of a contemporary side issue I now believe to be a front-and-center issue. Impassibility, in its classical and pre-critical/Enlightenment form, is what we confess…
I could not have articulated a consistent view of divine impassibility at that time. It took further study, careful reflection, reading, thinking, reformulating, interaction with others, etc. There was a time when it was easier for me to say what I did not believe than what I did believe about this issue.
Having said all that, I am not claiming one needs to obtain a Ph.D. in historical theology to understand the classical doctrine of divine impassibility. I am simply trying to communicate the fact that for me this has been a journey. I suspect it has been (and I hope will be) for others as well. I encourage all to take the time to study the right sources in order to understand what the classical doctrine is and is not asserting.
Here are the resources he recommends:
The Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America commissioned its Theology Committee to provide a position paper on this issue, explaining the language and doctrinal intent of its confession (i.e., “without . . . passions”). You can download a copy of the paper here. This document advocates nothing new; it simply seeks to explicate what classical Christian theism taught and teaches on divine impassibility. [Our post on this]
The book edited by Pastor Samuel Renihan, God without Passions: a Reader, is extremely helpful. In this work you can read what Reformation and post-Reformation theologians said about divine impassibility. The Introduction by Sam is really helpful as well. You can order a copy here. [Our post on this]
The Confessing Baptists interviewed Sam, discussing the book and the doctrine of divine impassibility here.
Sermon Audio messages by Sam on divine impassibility can be found here. There were delivered to the church Sam pastors so they are very useful for all. [Our post on this]
Pastor Cam Porter has a Sunday School lecture on divine impassibility here. [Our post on this featuring the entire series]
The Reformed Forum has an extensive discussion about divine impassibility with Dr. James Dolezal here. If you are like me, you will have to listen to this more than once. This is almost like a semester-long course on divine impassibility in less than two hours. [Our post on this]
The Reformed Baptist Fellowship blog posted a brief, but very helpful, piece entitled, “A Brief Statement on Divine Impassibility,” written by Pastor Jim Butler. You can find it here. [Our post on this]
The position paper that was voted in during last week’s ARBCA General Assembly is now online.
Position Paper Intro:
A Position Paper Concerning the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility
Presented by the Theology Committee
of the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America
Our Confession unequivocally affirms that God is “without . . . passions”(2LCF 2.1). This is an affirmation of the classical doctrine of divine impassibility (DDI) consonant with the unified voice of historic confessional Reformed theology, particularly as articulated in the Westminster Confession of Faith (2.1), the Savoy Declaration (2.1), and the 42/39 Articles of the Church of England (Art. 1). The DDI asserts that God does not experience emotional changes either from within or effected by his relationship to creation. He is not changed from within or without; he remains unchanged and unchanging both prior and subsequent to creation.
In light of present-day attempts to modify the DDI, it is incumbent upon ARBCA to publish its position on this vital issue. This will ensure greater understanding and unity among its member churches. The position adopted by ARBCA will be used to inform and examine those churches seeking membership, to establish a standard in controversy (should it arise in member churches), to serve as a standard for materials published by ARBCA, and to examine home and foreign missionaries supported by ARBCA churches.
The DDI has come under attack within the last century in various theological traditions. Many who would be classified as mainstream evangelicals have jettisoned this doctrine. There are a number of evangelicals who wish to retain some form of divine impassibility while at the same time attempting to affirm that God is also passible. Instead of affirming divine impassibility as an attribute of God that is a necessary consequent of divine immutability, they postulate a God who displays a full array of emotions which are subject to change according to his sovereign will. Rather than saying God does not suffer or undergo any emotional change whatsoever, some wish to affirm that God undergoes change in relation to the created order, just not involuntarily. From this perspective, while God expresses an array of divine emotions, he is affirmed to be in some sense impassible.
This Position Paper contends that only the classical DDI is compatible with the doctrine of God revealed in Scripture and articulated in the 2LCF. It is presented as follows: 1. the importance of the DDI; 2. biblical and exegetical foundations of the DDI; 3. an overview of a systematic theology of the DDI; 4. an overview of the 2LCF on the DDI; and 5. affirmations and denials pertaining to the DDI.
Position Paper [HTML or 29-page PDF]:
Samuel Renihan, Pastor of Trinity Reformed Baptist Church of La Mirada, California has finished his six part series on Divine Impassibility or as our confessions states, “The Lord our God is… a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions…”
Renihan lays out his outline for each part of the series. Expect clear definitions, much clearing of the brush, what-to-do-with troublesome biblical language, a lot of Puritan quotations, and refreshing doxologies.
Sam Renihan is also the editor of “God without Passions: a Reader“.
You can find our interview with him on the above book on episode 78 of our interview podcast.
Tom Chantry digs deeper into Spurgeon’s dismissal of the confessional language that, as Spurgeon put it, God is “…’without parts or passions’—I think was the definition.” :
Now this is curious indeed. In 1882 Spurgeon would say that he “often inwardly objected” to the confessional expression of impassibility. We can certainly take him at his word, but we now need to wonder whether he understood what that expression intended. For like it or not, Spurgeon in 1855 clearly articulated the very arguments which the confessional generation applied in favor of that doctrine. If what Spurgeon says in the above paragraph applies to the love of God – and clearly he intends it to so apply – then perhaps he did believe in divine impassibility. Is it possible that he held the view but did not understand the phrase?
Pastor Cameron Porter, of Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack, B.C. Canada, gave a seven part Study in Theology Proper [RSS]. That is, a study in Chapter 2: Of God and the Holy Trinity, from the Second London Baptist Confession (2LCF) 1677/1689:
Part 1… This session focuses on an introduction to theology proper, then moves into a look at Divine Singularity, and then the “Divine Omni-perfections“.
Part 2… This session finishes the look at Divine Omnipotence from the previous session, then continues with Divine Omnipresence, and omniscience.
Part 3… This session focuses paragraph 3 – the Doctrine of the Trinity. We went through some introductory material and then began looking at the doctrine summarily contained in the first statement, and the unity and equality upheld in the second. We began to look at the personal distinctions near the end of the study, and will continue with this next time.
Part 4 finishes looking at the personal distinctions in the Trinity.
Part 5 gets into the doctrine of Divine Simplicity.
Part 6 finished looking at the doctrine of Divine Simplicity.
The Doctrine of Divine Impassibility (that God is “without passions”), affirmed by the Christian church for almost two millennia, has in the last century been maligned, or in the least watered down, so as to conceive of a God who either suffers along with His people, or who, in some way, “has an emotional life” of ever-changing reactions and interactions with His people.
This brief study seeks to present and uphold the Classical (Biblical and confessional) view of Impassibility – that God does not properly have passions and/or emotions (if these are understood as “to suffer, or undergo”, “to be excited, disturbed, or moved”) since He is the infinite, eternal, and unchanging God “with whom there is no variation, nor shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Far from being a doctrine that presents God as cold, detached, and apathetic the classical view of divine impassibility upholds the God who has condescended to reveal Himself as the unchanging God who is “most absolute” and “most loving”, who is so purely actual in His love for His people that He can not be increased or diminished in the plenitude of His infinite love.
As sinful creatures, saved by amazing and victorious grace, we need the unchanging God of impassibility as the refuge for our weak and weary souls. God does not have “an emotional life”. We have emotional lives, and we need the God who doesn’t to be our ever-present help in time of need.
Cameron Porter was born in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada and raised in Abbotsford – a city just 45 kilometers away. After 26 years of living in unbelief – a stranger to the grace and knowledge of Christ – God saved him in the summer of 2002.
Immediately following conversion, and with a desire to get involved in gospel ministry, he began to read as much as he could about his newly granted faith. In 2005, after a few stops along the way, Cameron arrived at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack, bringing his family under the faithful preaching of Pastor Jim Butler. Cameron joined the ministerial training program, started by Pastor Butler, and became a member of FGBC in 2006.
After three years of studying various theological disciplines under Pastor Butler’s instruction and mentorship, Cameron was ordained an elder of Free Grace Baptist Church in January 0f 2008. He is currently enrolled in the distance learning program at Whitefield Theological Seminary, seeking to eventually complete the Master of Divinity program.
Cameron is happily married to his wife Tracy, and has been blessed with three children.