Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Robert Gonzales on Divine Impassibility and Passibility: Updated and Reposted

Back in 2009 I posted a notice recommending a series of articles by Bob Gonzales on the issue of divine impassibility and passibility. As I pointed out there, Bob is a solid, thoughtful, tenaciously Biblical theologian, and he is a good writer who communicates difficult matters clearly. He is good at putting the cookies on the bottom shelf, so to speak, where we can all get at them.

Anyway, Bob has recently updated and re-posted the series, expanding it from three to four articles. I still regard these as a must read. Here are the links to the individual posts:

“There Is No Pain, You Are Misreading”: Is God “Comfortably Numb”?

“Wanted a Good Man, Never Bargained for You”: Is God “Dazed and Confused”?

Some Reformed Reflection on God’s Emotional Life

God Is Impassible and Passionate: A Theology of Divine Emotion

Here is a quote that will give you a feel (no pun intended) for where the articles are heading:
Let me try to illustrate. Imagine God as the cosmic movie producer, scriptwriter, and director. God has also chosen, like many modern directors, to participate in the story as one of the main actors. Indeed, he’s given himself the leading role! He’s created a magnificent epic. It’s full of tragedy. But it has a happy ending. As the scriptwriter, producer, and director, God takes pride in his work and enjoys it with a sense of peace, calm, and gratification, knowing the plot has a glorious ending.
But as God actively participates in the various stages of the plot in the capacity of actor, he weeps at misfortune, grows angry at injustice, and rejoices in the triumph of good. Granted, this illustration fails to capture the full complexity of God’s heart. But we must embrace all the biblical descriptions of God even if we can’t fully conceptualize their relations. After all, isn't that a necessary ramification of the doctrine of God’s incomprehensibility?
So we affirm that God is self-contained, independent, and wholly satisfied with himself. He possesses a kind of joy that cannot be marred. Yet, we also affirm that within “the matrix” of time and space, God experiences grief, sorrow, anger, pleasure, love, hatred, jealousy, joy and peace in ways that are perfectly consistent with his unchanging “being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” Accordingly, God’s transcendent qualities—his sovereignty, immutability, and eternality—remain intact.
I personally agree with Bob's conclusions, and I was also impressed with the way that he interacted with both sides of the Reformed tradition on the issues involved. I encourage you to give these articles a thorough read, especially since this is one of the more crucial issues in modern theological debate.

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