God without passions

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Mr. Bultitude

Puritan Board Freshman
There have already been some good PB threads on this topic:


But I wanted to add to the conversation a quick little quote by C. S. Lewis, who puts it in his inimitable way:

The passion of love is something that happens to us, as "getting wet" happens to a body: and God is exempt from that "passion" in the same way that water is exempt from "getting wet." He cannot be affected with love, because He is love. To imagine that love as something less torrential or less sharp than our own temporary and derivative "passions" is a most disastrous fantasy.

From Miracles, chapter 11, Christianity and "Religion"
 

Leslie

Puritan Board Junior
How anyone can accept the book of Hosea as the word of God and still believe that God is without passions is beyond me.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
How anyone can accept the book of Hosea as the word of God and still believe that God is without passions is beyond me.

I understand where you are coming from. Now stand back and try to think of this in an objective way. ALL the great reformed theologians said and believed God is without passions. There is a reason for this and it is tied into the incarnation (In other words, a very important reason). For without the incarnation God could not say He empathizes with us.
:)
 

Mr. Bultitude

Puritan Board Freshman
[-]Another good resource: God Without Mood Swings

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.

Furthermore, God's hatred and His love, His pleasure and his grief over sin—are as fixed and immutable as any other aspect of the divine character (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). If God appears to change moods in the biblical narrative—or in the outworking of His Providence—it is only because from time to time in His dealings with His people, He brings these various dispositions more or less to the forefront, showing us all the aspects of His character. But His love is never overwhelmed by His wrath, or vice versa. In fact, there is no real change in Him at all.
[/-]

Edit: I've been convinced by Rev. Winzer in subsequent posts that this is not, in fact, a "good resource" and is off the mark. Read on to find out why.
 
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Matthew1344

Puritan Board Freshman
Ok! I am in on this convo! Love it.

I have never seen this question. Because of this, if you would have asked me before I read this question "Does god have passions?"

I would have said "Yes, and his passions are infinitely greater than all of ours ever combined."

So now...I got a couple questions
1. What exactly in Hosea are you referring to, Mary?
2. Exactly which theologians are you talking about, Earl?
3. And what does the incarnation have to do with this? I do not understand the connection?

Sorry for not understanding what you guys are saying, and I am ready to learn!
 

Hamalas

whippersnapper
How anyone can accept the book of Hosea as the word of God and still believe that God is without passions is beyond me.

Mary, much like the language of "Limited Atonement" this issue is often misunderstood. It may not mean what you think it means. :) One of our elders was dead set against this language when he first came across it but after reading this book saw that he really didn't have a problem with it (properly understood). Amazon.com: God without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God's Absoluteness eBook: James E. Dolezal, Paul Helm: Kindle Store if you're not wanting to wade through all of that here is an interview that would also introduce the topic: http://reformedforum.org/podcasts/ctc237/
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
2. Exactly which theologians are you talking about, Earl?
3. And what does the incarnation have to do with this? I do not understand the connection?

The reformers who framed the WCF were the theologians, and the incarnation was essential for Jesus to be able to say He was tempted like us, though without sin. His temptation was all that came about from outside Himself when He identified with our weakness when He took on human flesh. Do search on God and emotions or passions here. Some very good threads.
 
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Matthew1344

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for your input Ben and Deo! And does anyone know what Earl meant by paralleling the incarnation?
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
2. Exactly which theologians are you talking about, Earl?
3. And what does the incarnation have to do with this? I do not understand the connection?

The reformers who framed the WCF and the incarnation was essential for Jesus to be able to say He was tempted like us, though without sin. His temptation was all that came about from outside Himself when He identified with our weakness when He took on human flesh. Do search on God and emotions or passions here. Some very good threads.

But didn't Jesus take our manhood into his Godhood? What implications would that have for the doctrine of impassibility?
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
How anyone can accept the book of Hosea as the word of God and still believe that God is without passions is beyond me.

It's quite simple, really; it requires taking all of Scripture so seriously that you attempt to understand it as an harmonious whole, instead of as a conflicting jumble of incoherent statements.
 

Matthew1344

Puritan Board Freshman
So does this doctrine mean that at all times that the Godhead is infinitely angry, peaceful, loving, patient, kind, hateful, etc...?
If so does this have anything to do with God's secret will and his moral will?

Im sorry if I mixing thoughts, I am new into reformed theology.
Thank you for your patience.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
2. Exactly which theologians are you talking about, Earl?
3. And what does the incarnation have to do with this? I do not understand the connection?

The reformers who framed the WCF and the incarnation was essential for Jesus to be able to say He was tempted like us, though without sin. His temptation was all that came about from outside Himself when He identified with our weakness when He took on human flesh. Do search on God and emotions or passions here. Some very good threads.

But didn't Jesus take our manhood into his Godhood? What implications would that have for the doctrine of impassibility?

Jesus while here on earth in His humanity did not suffer in His divine essence. He being both God and man retains both natures then and forevermore.

Not sure what exactly you mean when you said "Jesus take our manhood into his Godhood".
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
So does this doctrine mean that at all times that the Godhead is infinitely angry, peaceful, loving, patient, kind, hateful, etc...?
If so does this have anything to do with God's secret will and his moral will?

Im sorry if I mixing thoughts, I am new into reformed theology.
Thank you for your patience.

You will find it is only in reformed theology will you learn what this is all about. Now just as a quick note, this is a very difficult area that many (if not most) reformed believers believe in an unreformed way on the doctrine of impassibility. :)

Read this sticky thread (sticky for a good reason) and see what these great teachers believed about The Lord God Almighty.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Another good resource: God Without Mood Swings

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.

This is not a good resource.

Feelings are by nature passive. The word "feeling" is initially derived from sentient modes of life and comes by extension to apply to emotional states which are susceptible of change and impressions from without. By definition it cannot be applied to the nature of God who is revealed to us as "I AM THAT I AM." Any application to God must be regarded as an anthropomorphism.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
And does anyone know what Earl meant by paralleling the incarnation?

The Larger Catechism, answer 39, reflecting traditional orthodox Christology, states: "It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow-feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace."
 

Mr. Bultitude

Puritan Board Freshman
Another good resource: God Without Mood Swings

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.

This is not a good resource.

Feelings are by nature passive. The word "feeling" is initially derived from sentient modes of life and comes by extension to apply to emotional states which are susceptible of change and impressions from without. By definition it cannot be applied to the nature of God who is revealed to us as "I AM THAT I AM." Any application to God must be regarded as an anthropomorphism.

I think that's why he put the quotes around it. Many people, though, reject the doctrine out of hand because they see such anthropomorphisms in Scripture. And that's what he's getting at: impassibility does not mean that God has no wrath, no love, etc. It's just that what we think of as feelings are different with man than with God. Is this off-base?
 

Mr. Bultitude

Puritan Board Freshman
2. Exactly which theologians are you talking about, Earl?
3. And what does the incarnation have to do with this? I do not understand the connection?

The reformers who framed the WCF and the incarnation was essential for Jesus to be able to say He was tempted like us, though without sin. His temptation was all that came about from outside Himself when He identified with our weakness when He took on human flesh. Do search on God and emotions or passions here. Some very good threads.

But didn't Jesus take our manhood into his Godhood? What implications would that have for the doctrine of impassibility?

Jesus while here on earth in His humanity did not suffer in His divine essence. He being both God and man retains both natures then and forevermore.

Not sure what exactly you mean when you said "Jesus take our manhood into his Godhood".

He's referring to the Athanasian Creed: "Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God."
 

Matthew1344

Puritan Board Freshman
He's referring to the Athanasian Creed: "Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God."

Ok... help me out. What is the difference between what is in bold. And why does it matter?

many (if not most) reformed believers believe in an unreformed way

Earl, is this kind of like the saying "you know it, you just dont know you know it yet."?

Read this sticky thread (sticky for a good reason) and see what these great teachers believed about The Lord God Almighty.

Earl, what are you talking about here?

So does this doctrine mean that at all times that the Godhead is infinitely angry, peaceful, loving, patient, kind, hateful, etc...?
If so does this have anything to do with God's secret will and his moral will?

Im sorry if I mixing thoughts, I am new into reformed theology.
Thank you for your patience.

And unless I do not understand you or I overlooked it, I dont think anyone answered this. It this what he means when he says God does not have passions?
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
2. Exactly which theologians are you talking about, Earl?
3. And what does the incarnation have to do with this? I do not understand the connection?

The reformers who framed the WCF and the incarnation was essential for Jesus to be able to say He was tempted like us, though without sin. His temptation was all that came about from outside Himself when He identified with our weakness when He took on human flesh. Do search on God and emotions or passions here. Some very good threads.

But didn't Jesus take our manhood into his Godhood? What implications would that have for the doctrine of impassibility?

Jesus while here on earth in His humanity did not suffer in His divine essence. He being both God and man retains both natures then and forevermore.

Not sure what exactly you mean when you said "Jesus take our manhood into his Godhood".

He's referring to the Athanasian Creed: "Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God."

I suspected such though to use the word "into" sounds like a melding of the two natures.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
He's referring to the Athanasian Creed: "Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God. Ok... help me out. What is the difference between what is in bold. And why does it matter?
"
My concern was his use of the word "into". Jesus did not meld his divine nature "into" His human nature. The proper way to express this is to say He "took on" a human nature. So far as reformed christians not believng this doctrine (impassibility) they are simply not believing in the way the Magistorial Reformers Teach.
 
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MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
I think that's why he put the quotes around it. Many people, though, reject the doctrine out of hand because they see such anthropomorphisms in Scripture. And that's what he's getting at: impassibility does not mean that God has no wrath, no love, etc. It's just that what we think of as feelings are different with man than with God. Is this off-base?

Granted, there is a degree of anthropomorphism in everything we say about God; hence the need for a theological system to explain the way we use terms. But when we speak of "anthropomorphism" in a technical and definite sense we mean that the thing predicated cannot be understood as if it were literally in God. By accepting that "feelings" are an anthropomorphism we are denying that they can properly be predicated of God. The linked article makes them a part of God's nature, and does so on the basis of very weak argumentation.

The article follows J. I. Packer's view of divine affections. Regrettably Dr. Packer has had an unhealthy influence on evangelical thinking in this area. "Affection" and "emotion," as the prefixes -a and -e indicate, can only be understood in terms of response. Traditionally, however, God is regarded as "most pure act." He is never acted upon. The terms are as inappropriate as the word "feeling."

Wrath, love, etc., are not "feelings," "affections," or "dispositions" when predicated of God. They are decreed relations and actions.
 

InSlaveryToChrist

Puritan Board Junior

psycheives

Puritan Board Freshman
Rev Winzer, thank you for your comments. I would never have detected any error in the article on my own or seen a contradiction between the article and the Confessions. Will you please explain this a little more for us who have a hard time wrapping our heads around this?

Are you saying that feelings and affections are the same thing and can't be separated as Phil Johnson seems to do? And are you saying Johnson and Packer both somehow make feelings/affections part of God's nature? What about Dabney and Edwards? Are there any Reformed authors you might recommend on this topic for someone who wants to get a good grasp on these concepts?

Thank you so much again. I am so glad to have heard the truth on this.


I think that's why he put the quotes around it. Many people, though, reject the doctrine out of hand because they see such anthropomorphisms in Scripture. And that's what he's getting at: impassibility does not mean that God has no wrath, no love, etc. It's just that what we think of as feelings are different with man than with God. Is this off-base?

Granted, there is a degree of anthropomorphism in everything we say about God; hence the need for a theological system to explain the way we use terms. But when we speak of "anthropomorphism" in a technical and definite sense we mean that the thing predicated cannot be understood as if it were literally in God. By accepting that "feelings" are an anthropomorphism we are denying that they can properly be predicated of God. The linked article makes them a part of God's nature, and does so on the basis of very weak argumentation.

The article follows J. I. Packer's view of divine affections. Regrettably Dr. Packer has had an unhealthy influence on evangelical thinking in this area. "Affection" and "emotion," as the prefixes -a and -e indicate, can only be understood in terms of response. Traditionally, however, God is regarded as "most pure act." He is never acted upon. The terms are as inappropriate as the word "feeling."

Wrath, love, etc., are not "feelings," "affections," or "dispositions" when predicated of God. They are decreed relations and actions.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Are you saying that feelings and affections are the same thing and can't be separated as Phil Johnson seems to do? And are you saying Johnson and Packer both somehow make feelings/affections part of God's nature? What about Dabney and Edwards? Are there any Reformed authors you might recommend on this topic for someone who wants to get a good grasp on these concepts?

I am very glad to be of help but regrettably most of the material is prior to the 19th century. The statement in the Westminster Confession, "without body, parts, or passions," is carried over from the Thirty-Nine articles. One might begin with Robert Shaw's Exposition of the Confession (2.1-2), in which he quotes Gilbert Burnet approvingly, though the section is very brief. Gilbert Burnet's Exposition of the Articles is also brief. A fuller explanation can be found in Bishop William Beveridge on the Thirty-Nine Articles. All three works should be available on Google Books. For the average reader Beveridge would be the best place to begin. (Search under "without passions" to go to the relevant section.) There are some other 16-18th century works, but these will be very complicated for a reader who is not acquainted with philosophical terms.

"Feelings," affections," emotions," "dispositions," etc., are all psychologically charged terms. When using them of God there is no real difference in the terms because they all suggest a "responsiveness" to creation. Traditionally, such terms have been classified as a "condescension;" it was denied that these were really and properly in God Himself. E.g., repentance was understood to be a change in judicial procedure, not a change in God Himself. The 19th century theologians often sought to give more of a literal meaning to these "affections" by referring them to the nature of God Himself.
 

psycheives

Puritan Board Freshman
One might begin with Robert Shaw's Exposition of the Confession (2.1-2), in which he quotes Gilbert Burnet approvingly, though the section is very brief. Gilbert Burnet's Exposition of the Articles is also brief. A fuller explanation can be found in Bishop William Beveridge on the Thirty-Nine Articles.

"Feelings," affections," emotions," "dispositions," etc., are all psychologically charged terms. When using them of God there is no real difference in the terms because they all suggest a "responsiveness" to creation. Traditionally, such terms have been classified as a "condescension;" it was denied that these were really and properly in God Himself. E.g., repentance was understood to be a change in judicial procedure, not a change in God Himself. The 19th century theologians often sought to give more of a literal meaning to these "affections" by referring them to the nature of God Himself.

Thanks for the list of resources. I'll check the seminary library if I can't find it online. :)

So as Reformers, we see God as never changing and thus feelings/affections are anthropomorphisms? The language is God condescending to us to explain how we ought to interpret His pleasure/displeasure with our behavior? How are we to understand this as applying to scripture?

So how would we interpret these verses properly?
Genesis 5:6-7: "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart"
He is said to be grieved (Psalm 78:40), angry (Deuteronomy 1:37), pleased (1 Kings 3:10), joyful (Zephaniah 3:17), and moved by pity (Judges 2:18).
The Holy Spirit is grieved by our actions.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
So how would we interpret these verses properly?
Genesis 5:6-7: "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart"
He is said to be grieved (Psalm 78:40), angry (Deuteronomy 1:37), pleased (1 Kings 3:10), joyful (Zephaniah 3:17), and moved by pity (Judges 2:18).
The Holy Spirit is grieved by our actions.

It might be best to simply quote Shaw who quotes Burnet, and this will give a concrete idea of the traditional way to approach the subject.

That corporeal parts and bodily members – such as eyes, ears, hands, and face – are ascribed to God in the Scriptures is certain; but such language is used in accommodation to our capacities, and must be understood in a way suitable to a pure spirit. Were the great God to speak of his essence and perfections as he is in himself, instead of being informed, we would be confounded. He, therefore, employs human properties and actions as emblems of his own spiritual perfections and acts. We become acquainted with persons and things by seeing them or hearing of them; and to intimate the perfect knowledge which God has of his creatures, eyes and ears are ascribed to him. It is chiefly by our hands that we exert our bodily strength; and hands are ascribed to God to denote his irresistible power. We look with an air of complacency and satisfaction on those whom we love; and God’s face denotes the manifestation of his favour.
In the same manner must we explain the several passions that are ascribed to God; such as anger, fury, jealousy, revenge, bowels of mercy, &c. “Passion produces a vehemence of action; so when there is, in the providences of God, such a vehemence as, according to the manner of men, would import a passion, then that passion is ascribed to God. When he punishes men for sin, he is said to be angry; when he does that by severe and redoubled strokes, he is said to be full of fury and revenge; when he punishes for idolatry, or any dishonour done to himself, he is said to be jealous; when he changes the course of his proceedings, he is said to repent; when his dispensations of providence are very gentle, and his judgments come slowly from him, he is said to have bowels. And thus all the varieties of providence come to be expressed by all that variety of passions which, among men, might give occasion to such a variety of proceeding.”
 
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