Divine Impassibility: Section 5
5. Affirmations and Denials
The discussion above enables us to make the following affirmations and denials concerning the confessional DDI.
1. We affirm the unity and analogy of Scripture, which states that unclear, difficult, or ambiguous passages are to be interpreted with clear and unambiguous passages that touch upon the same teaching or event (2LCF 1.9). We deny that the purported meaning of any text may be pressed in isolation or contradiction to other passages of Scripture.
2. We affirm the unity of Scripture and the analogy of faith, which states, “the true and full sense of any Scripture” (2LCF 1.9) must be interpreted in a manner consistent with the system of doctrine “necessarily contained” (2LCF 1.6) in the whole of Scripture. We deny that the purported meaning of any text may be pressed in isolation or contradiction to systematic theological considerations and that which is necessarily contained in the whole of Scripture.
3. We affirm that passages which speak of God’s being and essence must be given interpretive priority, not only because they are the less difficult and ambiguous, but also because what God is precedes what he is like toward us. The latter must be interpreted in a manner consistent with the former. We deny that passages which posit divine passions (i.e., what he is like toward us) take priority over passages which speak of God’s being and essence (i.e., what he is).
4. We affirm that the foundation for language about God is the reality of creation ex nihilo. This principle grounds the way of causality, which states that we may know something about the cause (i.e., God) from the effect (i.e., creation). We deny that scriptural language about God is equivocal, that is, for example, that love is predicated of God and man in a completely unrelated sense.
5. We affirm, in all scriptural language about God, both the way of negation, which states that he is that being who is infinitely unlike all other beings, and the way of eminence, which states that he is infinitely greater than the language and analogies used to reveal him, so that divine love is as different from human love as God is from man. We deny that scriptural language about God is univocal, that is, for example, that love stands in relation to God in the same way it does to man, albeit more perfect.
6. We affirm that all scriptural language about God is analogical, which states that divine love stands in relation to the divine nature in a mode proportionately similar (and proportionately different) to the way human love stands in relation to human nature. We deny that scriptural language about God must be either univocal or equivocal.
7. We affirm that some scriptural analogies with respect to the affections of God are anthropopathisms, wherein the thing attributed to God exists in him figuratively. We deny that every scriptural analogy with respect to the affections of God refers to something proper to God, wherein the thing attributed exists in both the Creator and the creature formally.
8. We affirm that biblical anthropopathisms signify that which is in God truly but figuratively. Anthropopathisms signify something that is in God, not according to the letter, but according to the design of the analogy, and in a manner consistent with the whole of Scripture and suitable to the divine perfections. We deny that anthropopathisms empty the scriptural analogies of meaning or fail to reveal something about the God who is.
9. We affirm that God is pure being without becoming. We deny that there is any becoming in God.
10. We affirm that, given what God actually is, infinite, simple, and immutable in perfection, we must also confess that God is infinite, simple, and immutable love. We deny that God has the potential to be other than infinite, simple, and immutable love.
11. We affirm that God is his essence and existence, and therefore cannot but exist as he eternally and essentially is. We deny emotional change in God, for that would involve a new manner of God’s existing, which would compromise God’s aseity (i.e., his necessary and independent existence).
12. We affirm that love (and all other affections proper to God) is not an accidental or relational property that God has, but what he is. Therefore, an emotional change in God of any kind would necessarily entail a change in the essence and existence of God. We deny that God has any accidental or relational properties, that is, properties that are distinct from his essence.
13. We affirm that only an impassible God is truly and fully “most loving” (2LCF 2.1). We deny that the confessional understanding of divine impassibility leads to a view of God that is cold and impersonal.
14. We affirm that God is impassible without qualification. We deny that God can, in any sense, undergo inner emotional changes of state, and that God is without passions merely in the sense that he is incapable of suffering, surprise, or being overwhelmed.
15. We affirm that God, who is his essence and existence, has no cause; his existence is necessary and therefore unchangeable. We deny that God can be his own cause, and that he is capable of sovereignly affecting his own emotional change of state.
16. We affirm that passages which speak of the arousal or pacification of God’s affections imply a change only in God’s external (ad extra) works. We deny that passages which speak of the arousal or pacification of God’s affections imply an internal (ad intra) change in God.
17. We affirm that all of God’s affections are infinite in perfection. Therefore, if God were to undergo an emotional change, that change would be either for the better or the worse. If for the better, then he must not have been infinite in perfection prior to the change, and therefore was not God. If for the worse, then he would no longer be infinite in perfection after the change, and therefore no longer God. We deny that it is an imperfection in God to be incapable of emotional change.
18. We affirm that God loves his creation, particularly his elect (John 17:23-24), with a view to himself (Rom. 11:36). His affection is therefore as immutable, fixed, and constant as his love for himself, however varied our experience of its effects may be. We deny that the triune God’s infinite delight in his own infinite perfection (i.e., his blessedness) undermines his ability genuinely to love his creation.
19. We affirm a real distinction among creatures, and the degree to which each is made to experience God’s love and participate in his goodness. We deny that the inequality among the external objects of God’s love (i.e., creation, humanity, the elect) implies a change or variation in God whose love is as immutable as his being.
20. We affirm that the confessional DDI supports and necessitates the free offer of the gospel and Christian missions (2LCF 7.2). We deny that the confessional DDI in any way hinders the free offer of the gospel or Christian missions.
21. We affirm that God has freely chosen to relate every creature to himself, that a creature may change in his relation to God, and that by virtue of Christ God graciously effects such a change in the elect without any change of relation in himself. We deny that a change in the creature can bring about any change of relation in God.
22. We affirm, in agreement with Chalcedonian Christology and the communication of properties, that “Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature” (2LCF 8.7). We deny that the divine nature underwent suffering or change in the passion of Christ.
23. We affirm that the classical DDI as expressed by the 2LCF 2.1 is founded in the Scripture, “necessarily contained” (2LCF 1.6) therein, and therefore consistent with and essential to the system of doctrine delivered to us through special revelation. We deny that the classical DDI as expressed by the 2LCF 2.1 is a scholastic dogma founded in philosophical and metaphysical speculation based on natural theology.
24. We affirm emphatically, therefore, that the classical DDI as expressed by the 2LCF 2.1 is the teaching of Scripture. This is our Association’s confessional commitment.
ARBCA Theology Committee