Re: impassibility

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. <>
Date: Fri Nov 25 2005 - 17:51:57 EST

I sympathize with your problems, but I will not give you a resolution
until you present a clear explanation of the communication between the
eternal Father and the incarnate Son, and among the Trinity. The problem
of the Incarnation is such that nonChristian philosophers often say it is
impossible because it leads to self-contradiction. They also say this of
the Trinity, for one is not three. The simplest attempt to deal with the
problem seems to be modalism, which is not adequate. More sophisticated
approaches are not, as I see them, totally without problems. Being finite
and temporal, we cannot imagine the infinite and eternal. Indeed, when we
try. the eternal becomes extended time rather than timelessness, as in
your fourth paragraph. There are, in any kind of temporality, a cyclical
and a linear option. Hinduism adopts the former, but it does not fit the
notion of creation. The linear option may be limited in extent or
unlimited. The former fits the notion of a beginning to space-time.
However, we cannot have a new Genesis with "In the beginning God was
created," though Plotinus and Gnostics would go back through several
generations of deities. So, from any Christian view, if there is some
kind of temporality with the deity, it must be open at both ends,
unconditionally infinite. So one is faced with the question, "What was
God doing before he created the heavens and the earth?" Augustine
recognized this as a nonsense question. Craig (if I recall correctly)
tries to bridge the gap by positing that God became temporal with
creating the world, something I find incoherent unless one denies
omniscience and produces a strange kind of deity as well. I don't see how
a time switch makes any kind of sense.

These considerations seem to me to demand a nontemporal deity, eternal
without time. Further, as a minimum requirement, change demands time. So
redemption is the eternal approach of the Father, not something he
scratched his head over when Adam fell. This much fits your insistence
that the staurocentric approach involves evolution from the time of
creation. So this is the Father's eternal state. Jesus, the Son of God,
lived and died in time, so he felt the nails and abandonment in time. Our
Lord said that there were things he did not know, so omniscience must be
part of what was left behind as he emptied himself. So I infer that he
had temporal restrictions like the ones we face in what he know. Put
together, I do not know how the temporal knowledge of the Son and the
eternal knowledge of the Father jibed. I think it incomprehensible to us,
part of the mystery of the Trinity. I'll revise this when you give the
clear explanation I indicated at the start.

On Thu, 24 Nov 2005 21:34:53 -0500 "George Murphy" <>
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.)

Received on Fri Nov 25 17:59:48 2005

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