About the Author
Rob Lister (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is associate professor of biblical and theological studies at the Talbot School of Theology.
The classic doctrine of impassibility, in which God’s will is not determined from outside but is self- determined, is well-founded, biblical, historically sensitive, and compatible with a strong theology of divine emotion. The initial articulation of the doctrine among the Church Fathers did not result from unexamined entanglements with Greek philosophy; rather, in the main, biblical norms and boundaries were observed while the Fathers put Greek philosophical categories to use in navigating theology proper and the incarnation. This pattern continued in the main through the medieval and reformation periods.
As a matter of constructive theology, impassibility and divine emotion must be affirmed as attributes of God because of the theological method and hermeneutic most appropriate to the Christian faith. This involves reading one part of Scripture with other parts in a “spiral” until balance is attained. Thus divine invulnerability passages must always be read with divine emotion passages, and so on. When one employs this method comprehensively across the Bible, it leads to the dual affirmation in the title of the book. Moreover, the church has profound resources from which to draw in understanding the relationship between God’s a se character and his immanent, covenantal life with his people.
Table of Contents
- Impassibility: What’s in a Name?
Part 1: The Doctrine of Divine Impassibility in Historical Context
- Contextualizing Patristic Thought on Divine Impassibility: The Hellenization Hypothesis
- Patristic Models of Divine Impassibility
- Medieval and Reformational Reflections on Divine Impassibility
- Assessing the Widespread Rejection of Divine Impassibility in Modern Theology
- Contemporary Impassibilist Thought and Evangelical Reflection on Divine Impassibility
Part 2: A Contemporary Case for Understanding God as Both Impassible and Impassioned
- Impassible and Impassioned: Toward a Theological Hermeneutic
- Impassible and Impassioned: Interpretive Prospects
- Impassible and Impassioned: A Theological Model
- Impassibility and Incarnation: A Concluding Christological Reflection
Chapter 1 Impassibility: What’s in a Name?
One powerful starting point for reflecting on the turbulent reception of the doctrine of impassibility in modern theology is the holocaust. Jurgen Moltmann, reflecting on this issue, has heavily influenced modern theology with his famous portrayal of the suffering God. The suffering of God – to the point of total empathy with its suffering as exemplified in the incarnation – forms a crux against which the classic doctrine of impassibility falls away for many modern theologians. A second major explanation for this recent abandonment is the misperception on the part of some modern theologians that, historically, impassibility meant that God completely lacked emotion. What orthodox thinkers must recognize, however, is that the apparent conflict between divine impassibility and impassionedness is only just that: neither side can be sacrificed for the sake of a more hearty affirmation of the other.
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God Is Impassible And Impassioned