Martin W. Bender
One of the disagreements Justin and I have is the nature of God’s love for people. Justin is synergistic while I am monergistic. I find God’s love, both for himself and for his creation, to be necessary rather than contingent, while Justin seems to hold that God’s love is contingent upon man’s reaction to God. At least that’s how I interpret the differences between us (I may hear about it later). I think he would benefit from reading the chapter on divine affections as it shows the difference between the God’s love and man’s love.
A Theology of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (II) Impassibility and the Divine Affections by Charles J. Rennie
The doctrine of impassibility states that God does not experience changes in his emotions. How does such a doctrine deal with the notion of God being love? The human understanding of love is unequivocally passible. We talk about falling in and out of love, being in love or not, and loving as a state of progression. God, however, if he is impassible, must be understood to love differently than man. God is love. No person can make such a claim. God’s self-identification as being love reflects the love he has for himself within the Trinity. This love, by nature, is eternal and immutable as it is perfectly held by a perfectly eternal being. What is fascinating is that he also loves his creation.
The love humanity experiences is both like God’s love (in that it is deeply felt affection) and is infinitely different (in that it is based upon an ever deepening relationship). God’s love as an indivisible part of his being cannot be understood fully by the finite mind. Man’s love is like God’s, but God’s love is not like man’s. This is important for the believer to understand because it helps them to maintain their understanding of the difference between God and man. There is a huge difference between our natures that must always be at the forefront of our minds when thinking about our relationship to one another.
A Theology of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (III) Impassibility and Christology by Charles J. Rennie and Stefan T. Lindblad
Impassibility is most thoroughly discussed when one seeks to understand the nature of Christ in relation to his sufferings. I must admit, it is in the incarnation the doctrine of impassibility is most difficult to understand. We know Christ suffered. He is called the suffering servant, in Hebrews, it is made clear Jesus suffers as a man, the crucifixion in its beautiful horror is clearly an example of suffering. But how can Christ suffer and be a person of the Godhead? The answer lies in the Formula of Chalcedon.
Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the Godbearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures, being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.
That’s certainly a mouthful, but it shows how Christ, as both fully God and fully man, can suffer in his humanity, yet remain impassible in his divinity. It was this challenge, the challenge of the incarnation, that made me wonder about the viability of the doctrine of impassibility, but linking the issue to the hypostatic union sweeps away all the seeming disparities.
The trouble we have in trying to understand God is that we want to imagine him as a superman rather than a completely different being. All our language forces us to demystify God and make him lower than what he is. This is done by necessity as he is so far over us there is no way for us to speak of him as he truly is. We simply do not have the language, senses, or intellect to give him his due. So, when we look at the text of the Bible we see God as he has made himself known and not God in his fullness. Moses wanted to see God but was only allowed a muted glimpse of his glory. He glowed afterward. Because he is so different from us we cannot make the mistake of limiting his affections to those of man. Man changes in his demeanor and feelings, but God does not. His emotions are static and he perfectly experiences them. Our emotions are a mere shadow of his own.
Baines, Ronald S., Richard C. Barcellos, James P. Butler, Stefan T. Lindblad, James M. Renihan eds. Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility. (Palmdale, CA: RBAP, 2015).