Re: impassibility (Was Re: Vienna cardinal draws lines in Intelligent Design row)

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Tue Nov 22 2005 - 15:14:15 EST

2 replies & then I'm afraid I'm done for the day:

To Dave S: I apologize for misrepresenting your views. I'm quite aware that you hold the Chalcedonian view that the person of the Son suffers because it is the person of the assumed human nature. Perhaps you had not seen my later post in which I corrected my original inept wording. But then, as I indicated, you have the strange result that the divine person suffers but the divine nature of which that person is one hypostasis doesn't. It's hard for me to make sense of that.

I am not, as I've said several times, a "patripassian" in the traditional sense - i.e., I don't think that the Father was crucified. My views can - with those of Luther & some of the modern theologians I mentioned in my later & longer post - be described as "deipassian." A refusal to accept such a view ends up meaning, among other things, that the cross did not have any effect on the Father. You cannot say, as with the Son, that the person of the Father suffered because of a communication from an assumed passible nature to the divine because the Father assumed no human nature. So the crucifixion literally made no difference to the Father. & this is not helped by considerations about divine foreknowledge. On this view God would have eternally been just the same if humanity had not sinned & Christ had never been crucified.

When you speak about "the passages indicating that he doesn't change" you might mention that there are to my knowledge just two of them, Malachi 3:6 and James 1:17. & since I've had to confess to misrepresenting your view, you might note that I do not "reject" these verses. They can be understood quite adequately in terms of the constancy of God's character, God's "steadfast love" and faithfulness. (No serious Christian theologian imagines that God is just kind of whimsical, changing his mind & attitude from day to day.) On the other hand there are numerous passages that speak about God loving, repenting, &c. & no, I don't insist on reading all of these literally as YECs do with Gen.1. But what is critical isn't these verses - or your philosophical presuppositions - but understanding the cross-resurrection event adequately.

To Janice M: What is the relevance to my post, & in particular to the statement of the 5th Council, of your material on panentheism, ?

I don't describe myself as a panentheist, in part because it's often taken to mean that one is a process theologian (which I'm not) & in part because some who describe themselves in that way (e.g., Matthew Fox) let the "en" drop out & are hard to distinguish from pantheists. But as far as the etymology of the word goes, "all in God," there is nothing inherently heretical about it. Paul was willing to quote a pagan author to the effect that "in him we live and move & have our being."

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: D. F. Siemens, Jr.
  Sent: Tuesday, November 22, 2005 2:16 PM
  Subject: Re: impassibility (Was Re: Vienna cardinal draws lines in Intelligent Design row)

  Where did I say that the Son did not feel the crucifixion? The one who is fully human could not help but feel the full agony, compounded by being forsaken as he bore our sin. If I apply George's reasoning in the same grossly inappropriate way as he interprets my statement, I would say he subscribes to patripassionism or some similar heresy. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are of the same nature, but in the mystery of the Trinity do not share the same experience, for the Father did not become flesh. The creed does not say of the Father, "very God of very God." It would be a silly tautology. It cannot say of the Father, "very man of very man."

  I find it interesting that George wants to read all scriptures that indicate a change in God's action as demanding change in him, rejecting the passages indicating that he doesn't change. If he read the first chapters of Genesis in the same way, he'd have to be YEC. He will allow a human approach to Genesis, but not in temporal references to the deity. I would like to know how a temporal deity can be the Creator. He could only be the time-matter entangled panentheistic entity of process theology or something equally unorthodox.

  On Tue, 22 Nov 2005 07:58:56 -0500 "George Murphy" <> writes:
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: D. F. Siemens, Jr.
      Cc: ; ;
      Sent: Monday, November 21, 2005 11:28 PM
      Subject: Re: Vienna cardinal draws lines in Intelligent Design row

      Ted Davis wrote, in small part:

      Finally, for Denyse: we both know some folks, Denyse, who think that the classical doctrine of divine impassibility just won't wash, that a God who loves must also be a God who suffers and who is genuinely moved by suffering. Even some YECs I know believe that. It isn't "classical" but it's biblical and very likely true. Some of the questions about "omniscience" in the classical sense are similar to those about impassibility. One might or might not be sympathetic with approaches that challenge impassibility, such as Moltmann's theology of the cross (to identify just one example that has been discussed here), but surely it is hard not to be at least sympathetic with the kinds of questions that motivate the formulations of such theologies. We agree that Fr Coyne takes this too far, but IMO there are others who don't take this far enough.

      The main problem with the impassibility of the deity is that the notion is misunderstood. If a human is impassible, he is not emotional, totally unmoved by that which excites a clear reaction in most persons. This is not the philosophical notion. Matter is passive, for it receives action and may pass it along, but it starts nothing truly new. The human intellect is active, for it initiates. God is /actus purus/, the ultimate source. As such he is impassive. This does not mean that he is without feelings, but that he can't be pushed around, very different notions.

      Now, if we don't go for process theology, which ties god to the world necessarily, we recognize God as the Creator of the space-time universe. But this means that he is outside of the universe, and therefore outside of time. In the incarnation, the Second Person of the Trinity entered time as a human infant, but the Father did not enter time. So for God the Father to feel things when they occur is to place him in time. So I contend that he eternally feels on the basis of being aware of all time from without. It may be described as a sort of eternal empathy. This is possible because knowing is not causing, though many philosophers and others equate the two, at least in connection with the deity. The denial of omniscience also springs from placing God in time.

      This is a brief restatement of a discussion with George Murphy, Don Winterstein and others a while back. George still wants the Father to feel the crucifixion when it happened, which I hold to be incompatible with his eternity.

      I hesitate to say what Dave "wants" but a clear implication of his claim is that the Son does not feel the crucifixion. I.e., the Second Person of the Trinity does not suffer & only the assumed human nature (which by itself is non-personal, anhypoststic) feels the crucifixion. Once we take seriously the belief that the Son of God suffered, it's not so surprising to say that the Father actually suffered the loss of the Son in the event of the cross. The Son and the Father are, as the creed says, of the same nature. (Of course this doesn't mean that the Father was crucified.)

      Impassibility in the sense that Dave describes it means that nothing that happens in the world affects God - i.e., makes any difference to God. There are far more texts in scripture that indicate that things do affect God than there are that say that God is actus purus. (In fact the number of verses of the latter type is zero.)


Received on Tue Nov 22 15:15:40 2005

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