Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Impassibility and the Single Divine Decree


The following is a consideration of an area of systematic theology. I believe that it is spiritually profitable for believers to consider such things. This type of consideration keeps us from forming idols of God according to our own imaginations. For those who love God, this type of consideration is profitable in allowing us to grow in knowledge concerning the One we love.

According to classical orthodoxy—the belief of the church through the ages—God is impassible. “Impassible” indicates “unchanging in one’s emotional state”. God—who is eternal, immutable (meaning: unchangeable), and perfect in His affections—does not change in regard to His emotions. Without exception, this was the univocal view of the Church until quite recently, as Samuel Renihan demonstrates in God Without Passions: A Reader.

If a Christian has not thought through the doctrine of divine impassibility, then an immediate objection may come to his mind.

OBJECTION: Since believers used to be children of wrath, and are not children of wrath as believers, this necessarily implies that God has changed His affectional posture toward believers and gone from a God of wrath from a God of peace in relation to believers. [The position in this objection is sometimes referred to as “relational mutability”.]

The following answers to this objection are from James Dolezal and Samuel Renihan, two contributors to Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, and Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility. At the end of this post, you can view the video from which these answers came.

James Dolezal

God is infinitely perfect in His hatred of my sin. That’s not a state of feeling that comes upon God. God is not a little more angry with sin than He was before. In other words, these are not states of emotion through which God is passing. God is not a little more or a little less angry with sin. It is His nature to detest it. It’s an insult to God’s holiness to say His wrath against sin rises and falls. It is His nature to detest sin.

It is also His nature to love. He is a God full of compassion. When He passes by Moses, He says, “The LORD God, full of compassion, showing mercy to generations and generations.”

Love is His nature. Holiness and justice are His nature. With respect to time, though, God does not manifest Himself or deal with me according to the fullness of His wrath or the fullness of His grace at one and the same moment. He can disclose Himself or administrate His dealings with me according to His wrath at one moment and according to His grace at another. It’s not that something changes in God… God has eternally and unchangeably decreed to deal with me in space and in time….

The change is on the side of revelation/manifestation, not on the side of being and perfection in God. But God is the one who wills that alteration. God wills to frown upon me—that is to say, to deal with me as One who is frowning upon my sin—and in the same act of will, to alter that manifestation—not alter His being, but alter that manifestation—by subsequently smiling upon me as I am united to His Son by faith through the work of His Spirit.

Samuel Renihan 


As God is simple [meaning: “without parts”], so His decree is simple. And His decree is of His will, which is one with His essence. So you have a simple, unchangeable decree with an unfathomable multitude of effects in time and space. So you can’t take those multitude of effects and assume some kind of complexity in the decree, when—in fact—it was simple in a simple God, whose will is one with His essence.

And so this question [the objection that God must undergo changing emotions when people are saved] assumes that:
  1. God has affectional postures;
  2. God is on the roller coaster of time and can change.

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