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)
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”.]
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
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
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:
has affectional postures;
on the roller coaster of time and can change.