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).

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What is the Gospel?

By Dr. Lorraine Boettner

The Gospel is the good news about the great salvation purchased by Jesus Christ, by which He reconciled sinful men to a holy God. The purpose of this booklet is to set forth, in plain language and in terms easily understood, the basic differences between the Calvinistic (Reformed) and Arminian understanding of the Gospel, and to show what the Bible teaches concerning these subjects. An accurate understanding is crucial; the harmony that exists between the various doctrines of the Christian faith is such that error in regard to any one of them produces more or less distortion in all the others.

There are in reality only two types of religious thought: the religion of faith, and the religion of works. The author is convinced that what has been known in church history as Calvinism is the purest and most consistent embodiment of the religion of faith, while that which has been known as Arminianism has been diluted to a dangerous degree by the religion of works and is therefore an inconsistent and unstable form of Christianity. In other words, Christianity comes to its fullest and purest expression in the Reformed faith.

In the early part of the fifth century these two types of religious thought came into direct conflict in a remarkably clear contrast in the teaching of two theologians, Augustine and Pelagius. Augustine pointed men to God as the source of all true spiritual wisdom and strength, while Pelagius threw men back on themselves and said that they were able in their own strength to do all that God commanded (otherwise God would not command it). Arminianism is a compromise between these two systems; while in its more evangelical form (as in early Wesleyanism) it approaches the religion of faith, it nevertheless does contain serious elements of error.

At present, practically all the historic churches are being attacked from within by unbelief. Many of them have already succumbed, and almost invariably the line of descent has been from Calvinism to Arminianism, from Arminianism to liberalism, and then to Unitarianism. The history of liberalism and Unitarianism shows that they deteriorate into a social gospel that is too weak to sustain itself. The author is convinced that the future of Christianity is bound up with that system of theology historically called Calvinism. Where the God-centered principles of Calvinism have been abandoned, there has been a strong tendency downward into the depths of man-centered naturalism or secularism. Some have argued convincingly that there is no consistent stopping place between Calvinism and atheism.

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Quotes (18)

“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.” – 2 Timothy 4:13

We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them. Even an apostle must read. Some of our very ultra Calvinistic brethren think that a minister who reads books and studies his sermon must be a very deplorable specimen of a preacher. A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot, and talks any quantity of nonsense, is the idol of many. If he will speak without pre-meditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men’s brains – oh! that is the preacher.

How rebuked are they by the apostle! He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!

The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, “Give thyself unto reading”. The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritan writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service. Paul cries, “Bring the books” – join in the cry.

-C.H. Spurgeon

1834-1892

Particular Redemption

Reposted in whole from “A Puritan’s Mind

Limited Atonement

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is not limited in its power to save, but in the extent to which it reaches and will save certain individuals.

Limited atonement is a theological term that has been used for centuries to define a very important aspect of the Gospel. It is a fundamental Christian doctrine which states that Jesus Christ came and died for a limited number of people. He did not die, or redeem, every individual for all of time, but for some individuals, i.e. His sheep and His church. This does not mean that the power of His death could not have saved all men if He wanted to. The power and efficacy of His death in and through one drop of His blood could have saved a million-billion worlds. That was not what God intended. The Scripture does not dabble in “possibilities.” It does, however, state that the scope of His death is limited.

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