Quote of the Weekend

“The irony is that a certain modern approaches that portend to exult God’s perfections end up domesticating his transcendence.”

“He came to know God in the darkness, so that what he discovered was God shrouded in mystery.”

– Charles J. Rennie ‘Analogy and the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility’ from Confessing the Impassible God.

I love the sharpness of truth in the first quote. The second one struck me because often people claim to find God, but never talk about the creator/ creature difference.

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Sunday Thoughts: Divine Impassibility

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As you all know, I’ve been struggling with my health this year. I’ve been making slow but steady progress for the last few months, until about a two weeks ago when I regressed terribly. Back to the doctor! Guess what? I’m anemic. In fact, I have a severe case of anemia. Now, thankfully this is something easily fixed with a diet change, some supplements, and patience. More meat for me!

Within less than a day, I was feeling much better.

Here’s the interesting part: prior to the diagnosis, I not only felt drained physically, I also had no stress threshold of any kind. I had zero emotional control. Every little thing became a point of high anxiety for me. Mole hills became mountains. I cried over things I normally am able to shrug off. I explained all this to my doctor and she said that was totally normal for an anemic person.

Iron. Iron, or the lack there of, affected my emotions.

We live in a day and age when we encourage everyone to follow their heart except my heart was way off point because I didn’t have enough iron in my blood. My emotions are once again proven to be untrustworthy because they can be affected by such a small thing, like diet. My Mom likes to quote Dickens from The Christmas Carol:

“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are.”

All this to say, guard your heart. Your emotions are not the most trustworthy way to divine truth. They can be manipulated by something as straightforward as a low iron intake.

After learning all this and feeling better after some meat, I realized yet again how thankful I am for the doctrine of Divine Impassibility. My emotions get yanked around. God is without emotions. He loves me now as he has always loved me and will always love me and nothing great or small can change that. God can’t suffer from a low iron count that makes him cry over the smallest thing or seize up in terror at some perceived fear. God is not like me and for that I am truly thankful because I can trust him. His love will not change. He will not suddenly fear for me. He holds me safely in his might. He will never lose me, or be annoyed by me. He is unchanging. His love will never change. I am the creature. My emotions affect things like my love. They misguide me. I can’t trust them. But, I can trust an impassible God. My God.

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God without Passions by Samuel Renihan.

This book was probably one of the most theologically rich books, or deep books that I have ever read. I tend to go for books which are heavy on life application as opposed to books that are rich in doctrine. This is a trait that I’m working on changing thanks to my husband’s teaching on Systematic Theology and Amy Byrd’s book Housewife Theologian. I’m slowly learning that Systematic Theology and doctrine are completely applicable to life, and rich in head and heart knowledge.

It took me a while to get through this book. I took it in small chunks. Some of it was hard to read and follow based on the English language at the time of the writer. Some of it was just really deep requiring a logical following of the argument to gain the point.

All in all, it was a very encouraging read and mostly for this point: reading the work of other Christian brothers over the last several hundred years gives you a sense of connection. We are not an isolated bubble in history. No. We stand united with many many other dear saints who have gone before us and have held to the traditions as dearly as we do and should. We are not alone in this river of time. We are joined in one great battle against the darkness with our fellow saints. You want proof? Here are men going back and back writing about the same issues we so recently dealt with in our association and still continue to wrestle with. We are not alone in this. Our older brothers also thought through and examined this doctrine. Our older brothers stood their ground and upheld the doctrine of Divine Impassibility and we may count ourselves in their number now. God is good.

My favorite quote from the book was from John Tillotson and his book The Remaining Discourses, on the Attributes of God:

“If God be pleased to stoop to our weakness, we must not therefore level him to our infirmities.”

Amen!

God’s gracious mercy to us to come to us the creature and make himself known to us, doesn’t mean we can turn around and subject him to our creaturely way of looking at the world.

My other favorite quote was by Benedict Pictet and his book Christian Theology:

“. . . thus he did at the same time decree to create men, and to destroy them by a deluge some ages after.”

God’s repentance at the flood wasn’t a changing of his character but a stooping down to us to help us understand. God decreed the flood from the beginning. He doesn’t change, but he does gently stoop down to his children.

I found this quote interesting as a storyteller because we plan the suffering, change, and growth of our characters without, on a human level, changing ourselves. Everything may change in the character’s life, including death, and I’m the same me. I had a character who was the worst of reprobates, a betrayer of friends, who was forgiven and redeemed. He changed, not me. I planned his salvation from the beginning. (Obviously, this analogy breaks down because I change and I change my mind, and sometimes out of the blue, I’ll think of something for my story, but it still helps me to grasp the idea of Impassibility.)

The more I contemplate Divine Impassibility the more beautiful it becomes. One, I’m secure in a God who doesn’t change and can’t be change. Two, I have Christ. Oh, the beauty of God who became man with all that we are, without sin, and died for me. Christ suffered. Christ felt. Christ died. He did all that we long to have in a Savior. Why try to change the very nature of God, making him passible, when we have Christ? What more do we need? We have divine God, who is impassible, and Christ, who in his human nature, is passible.

Christ is our mediator. He bridged the gap between God and Man, and in him, in the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility I find heart. I find great love beyond understanding. I find all the emotion I could ever want because God became Man and dwelt amongst us.

If you wish to have a better, historical sense of Divine Impassibility I suggest God without Passions. It may be weighty, but it is good and worth the work.

Just A Random Quote and Thought

While reading God Without Passions: A Reader Edited by Samuel Renihan I came across this line  from John Tillotson:

“If God be pleased to stoop to our weakness,  we must not therefore level him to our infirmities.”

We do this so readily as corrupt beings. I think I’m seeing this more and more in myself as God uses the teaching through  systematic theology at our church to shine a light on the places in my heart that are still dark. Little by little he weeds out the places where I try to make him more like me.  For if God is like me then he is less awe inspiring and I may have a share of glory. If he is all together different and must stoop down to me, I’m in a frightening position. I am a creature and he is the creator. And we are not the same.
But God!! In all humility stoops down,  bears with our infirmity and creature-ness. He forgives even when it takes years into our Christian walk for us to begin to understand him correctly. And he sent Christ,  who became a man like me,  suffered and died. The God I can’t comprehend became like me to cover my sins and make a way to God.  When we “level him to our infirmities” we no longer need Christ.  We rob Christ of his glory when we do that. But if God is I Am that I Am. Unchanging. Fully and far different from us, outside of time, then Christ, our mediator,  only grows in beauty and preciousness.
So, that’s my random musings for the day.