John T. Willis

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Impassibility of God

The word "impassibility" means "incapable of suffering, inaccessible to harm," "not to be emotionally moved or touched, unfeeling." This is very similar to the concept of Stoicism. Originally a Stoic was a member of the school of philosophy founded by Zeno in 308 BCE. The Stoics taught that the wise man should be free from passion, unsubdued by joy or grief, willingly submissive to natural law. A Stoic is someone who apparently or professionally is indifferent to pleasure or pain. In the history of the Christian church, groups of people have adopted the beliefs of Stoic philosophy and the belief that our God is impassible. The idea is that human beings clearly have emotions of all kinds, but God is "transcendent" and therefore "above and beyond" all human feelings and emotions. Throughout my life, I have interacted with people who assume that if I cry or demonstrate emotions of different kinds, automatically I am a "weak," "ungodly" individual. As a background, many people in the British Isles adopted this fa├žade, and their descendants often continue this mode or front.

The Bible very clearly blatantly opposes this concept. God is VERY EMOTIONAL in every way. In subsequent blogs, we will go into more depth into various feelings or emotions of God. Just to begin, I invite YOU to study carefully Jeremiah 4:19-22. At first, one might assume the speaker is Jeremiah, BUT verse 22 makes it VERY CLEAR that the speaker is Yahweh--our Heavenly Father. Here is the text:

    "My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
          Oh, the walls of my heart!
      My heart is beating wildly.
          I cannot keep silent,
      for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
          the alarm of war.
      Disaster overtakes disaster,
          the whole land is laid waste.
      Suddenly MY TENTS are destroyed,
          MY CURTAINS in a moment.
      How long must I see the standard,
          to hear the sound of the trumpet?
      For MY PEOPLE are foolish,
          they do not KNOW ME;
      they are stupid children,
          they have no understanding.
      They are skilled in doing evil,
          but do not know how to do good."

Of course, some scholars will cut up this text and try to remove God from his feelings. But the text stands solid. God is in anguish and in pain. He is emotionally upset because of the sins of his stupid people and because of the consequences that they inevitably must suffer.

When God the Father sent Jesus on earth to live among human beings, God demonstrated the Father's true nature through his Son Jesus Christ. If anyone studies the accounts of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, it is crystal clear that Jesus is very emotional, and his heavenly Father is very emotional. These emotions tumble out and are very evident, emotions like disappointment, love, hatred, anger, wrath, longing, joy, pleasure, pain, sympathy, tenderheartedness, vehemence, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, etc.

God unabashedly enters into all of our needs and problems. He knows who we are and he shares in our feelings and emotions. The author of Hebrews addresses this truth in Hebrews 4:15-16:

     "For we do not have a high priest who is UNABLE TO SYMPATHIZE WITH OUR WEAKNESSES, but we have one who IN EVERY RESPECT HAS BEEN TESTED AS WE ARE, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace TO HELP IN TIME OF NEED."

Share YOUR thoughts and failures and problems and fears and successes with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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