is God impassible?

One of the articles of orthodox faith is the impassibility of God. It’s the idea that “God does not experience pain or pleasure from the actions of another being.” I think it is included in the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles of faith.

It all depends on what is meant by that. If it’s the idea that God is completely satisfied in God’s Self as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in that eternal, blessed Communion, then it’s correct. But as I read so well put recently (here), God has chosen to bring other beings not only into his creation, but into his fellowship. Angels may occupy some place there, but through creation and the incarnation of God as a human in Jesus, humans occupy the special place.

God in Jesus has chosen to enter into our sufferings, and through those sufferings to make the way of communion with us. Yes, through Jesus’ death, God takes care of sin and its result, death and brings life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Timothy 1).

And from scripture we derive the idea that God interacts seriously with us as humans. That God can be grieved by our actions (or inaction). That what we do in some way does make a difference to God. So that when we receive a sense of delight and joy, it is not just something given to us, or only our joy and delight in God, but it is also a sharing in God’s joy and delight over us in and through his Son, Jesus. So that our response to God does matter to him. That God is a Person (even as Three Persons) who is personal even in an individual sense, to us as individuals, with the emphasis being on the communal sense, that in Jesus we are a community through redemption taken into the love of the Communal God, the Blessed Trinity.

God is not without emotions. But is Other than us. And yet in Jesus has entered fully into our existence and indeed, experience. And delights in us as his children, and even longs for our presence and fellowship in his love, in and through Jesus.

2 comments on “is God impassible?

  1. nmpreach says:

    Thanks for the article and also posting the comments from Dr. Olson. How one defines certain terms such as impassibility and sovereignty makes a tremendous difference. That said, I will attempt to keep my comments somewhat short.

    1) As you point out, God chooses to enter our suffering through Jesus. I’m not sure we can understand that type of love, at least in the present.

    2) Throughout Scripture, we are provided examples of God experiencing grief as well as joy. I wonder if being created in the image of God is just one part of that very gift.

    3) Finally, fellowship and community seem to be what God had in mind from the “beginning.” In other words, anything less than a God who interacts with creation (as sinful as they might be) and continually invites him into relationship cannot be the God of the Bible. Gospel language always includes the concepts of liberty, redemption, and eventually peace in the presence of God.

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