The Doctrine of God's Impassibility

Excerpted from “God Without Mood Swings”, by Phil Johnson

Perhaps the most difficult biblical dilemma for those of us who affirm the classic view of an utterly sovereign and immutable God is the problem of how to make sense of the various divine affections spoken of in Scripture. If God is eternally unchanging—if His will and His mind are as fixed and constant as His character—how could He ever experience the rising and falling passions we associate with love, joy, exasperation, or anger?

Classic theism teaches that God is impassible—not subject to suffering, pain, or the ebb and flow of involuntary passions. In the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, God is “without body, parts, or passions, immutable” (2.1).

God without passions? Can such a view be reconciled with the biblical data? Consider Genesis 5:6-7: “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (emphasis added). In fact, Scripture frequently ascribes changing emotions to God. At various times He is said to be grieved (Psalm 78:40), angry (Deuteronomy 1:37), pleased (1 Kings 3:10), joyful (Zephaniah 3:17), and moved by pity (Judges 2:18).

Continue reading here.

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