Re: impassibility

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Thu Nov 24 2005 - 21:34:53 EST

Dave -

The full statement that I made, which you say you don't hold, was, "you have the strange result that the divine person suffers but the divine nature of which that person is one hypostasis doesn't." Do I understand you to be saying below that the the divine nature suffers eternally - i.e., timelessly? If so, this seems like a strange claim. One common objection to the idea of a genuine suffering of God is that it would require God to be mutable. & while with your view it's reasonable to say that the eternal God y takes into account things that happen in the world (e.g., prayer) without himself changing, to say that God in any sense suffers seems to have no connection with the sense of the word that we use when we say, e.g., "Jesus suffered."

& if the divine nature can suffer in some way in your view, why the objection to the idea that the Father suffers?

Or am I misunderstanding you?

In any case, you seem to hold that the only choices are that God is utterly timeless or that God is subject to the temporality of creration. But this is not true. There are certainly ways of speaking about an eternity which is temporal & which includes but transcends the world's time, as a number of modern theologians have argued. Just as one crude analogy from my own physics background, one can imagine a world with two temporal dimensions (e.g., with a line element having the signature + + + - -
instead of the + + + - of Minkowski space-time.) Saying that there is divine temporality then need not have the terrible consequences you suggest of essentially making God into a creature.

The critical question again, however, is christological. Is the Incarnation a merely "external work of the Trinity," like all the ordinary things God does in the world, or is it something "internal," having to do with God's own life? If the latter then the earthly history of Jesus of Nazareth, from ~4 B.C. to ~30 A.D., is part of God's experience as history. It is not simply as something God is eternally aware of on the "outside." & this only makes sense if God has a history of which that earthly history is part.

(Note to Janice: Please note my quote marks around "internal" & "external" above. Of course these are spatial metaphors but they are well established in the theological tradition, as in the phrase operara trinitatis ad extra indivisa sunt.)

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: D. F. Siemens, Jr.
  Cc: ;
  Sent: Tuesday, November 22, 2005 4:44 PM
  Subject: Re: impassibility (Was Re: Vienna cardinal draws lines in Intelligent Design row)

  I do not hold that "the divine nature of which that person is one hypostasis doesn't." This translates the notion of the eternal Trinity into a temporal one that doesn't feel until the temporal event occurs. If God is eternal in the sense of being outside of time except through the unique Incarnation, this is impossible, contradictory. So the view has to be that God is eternally staurocentric, unchangingly knows the cost of sin and redemption, infinitely reacts (though that term has totally wrong connotations). He is impassive because nothing from temporal history is added to what he eternally knows, not because he is not involved. There may be different hermeneutical approaches, but I contend that no viable interpretive principle can support a contradiction. This allows some things to be true within Lutheran theology that cannot be incorporated into Reformed doctrine, and vice versa. But the divine eternity is basic to all orthodoxy, though often misunderstood..

  As for scriptural foundations, besides the express statements I consider the requirements of such passages as Romans 8:29f. To what extent you find such persuasive, Luther held to predestination as strongly as Calvin. But Lutherans generally have changed. Hermeneutics again.

  On Tue, 22 Nov 2005 15:14:15 -0500 "George Murphy" <> writes:
    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.
Received on Thu Nov 24 21:37:40 2005

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