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

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Tue Nov 22 2005 - 15:14:05 EST

I replied to the original post before seeing this. My response to this
correction is to say that it is easier to think what is always part of
OUR experience than to understand what has to be in spite of our
experience. We are so involved in time that timelessness is difficult to
express and impossible to experience.

On Tue, 22 Nov 2005 09:43:10 -0500 "George Murphy" <>
I see that in posting early in the morning I got sloppy in my remarks
below. Classical christology which assumes the impassibility of the
divine nature would in fact say that the suffering of the human nature is
communication to the divine person of the Son but not to the divine
nature. But then one has to say that a person can experience something
without the nature of which that person is an instantiation suffering.
It is difficult to make sense of that claim, & simpler, & more in accord
with the way scripture speaks of God, to say "God suffered in the event
of the cross" & then adapt our philosophy to that.

----- Original Message -----
From: George Murphy
Sent: Tuesday, November 22, 2005 7:58 AM
Subject: impassibility (Was Re: Vienna cardinal draws lines in
Intelligent Design row)

----- 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 15:17:48 2005

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