Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Last night, we wrapped up our study of God’s omnipresence and today, we’re going to be starting a look at God’s immutability. Our guide is the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas which can also be read at newadvent.org. Along with this, I will be discussing God’s impassibility. Aquinas does not have a section on it, but I consider it a part of the study of his immutability. Before that, I wish to present my prayer requests. First off, I ask for prayer for my Christlikeness and meeting with a good counselor today I think helped a long way towards that. Second, I ask for prayer for my financial situations. Third, I ask for prayer for a third related area in my life. For now, let’s get to the question.
Is God Immutable? Thomas answers by stating as has been said earlier that God is pure actuality. He thus has no potential in him and is in that way incapable of change. He also has no parts as he is simple and because he has no parts, he cannot undergo change as having part of him go from being A to being B.
He is also infinite which means that he can take on any new perfections for to be infinite would mean he contains the perfection of all being. Therefore, since he contains all perfection, he will not take on anything new.
But what about impassibility? What does that mean. It means that God does not have emotions.
This sounds bad to so many of us. Doesn’t God love us deeply. Yes he does, but love is not an emotion. It can produce emotions, but emotions are a trait of bodily beings as they are a reaction to something. Since God does not have a body, then he does not have emotions.
Emotions are also reactions to something. In order to have an emotion, there must be something God is reacting to, but for that to be the case, then it would have to be that God is in time. If God is in time however, then he is a changing being and as has been shown, he is immutable.
Does that mean God doesn’t love you? No. In fact, he loves you with the deepest love of all. It is a love that is not altered by the passions of a body. He is constantly seeking your greater good. We can be thankful that we cannot blackmail God by appealing to emotion. He will love us regardless. Consider the case of being in the hospital. Do you want the doctor who is operating on you caught in his passion, or the one who is not emotional and is giving you what you need best. Of course, I realize the analogy isn’t perfect. Still, we do know emotions can keep us from loving as we ought at times.
Doesn’t the Bible speak of God being angry? It does, but this is also metaphorical language just like the language of him having a body is. Hence, my hermeneutic is consistent. I treat the language of God’s passions as metaphors while treating the language of him having a body as a metaphor as well. It’s up to those who think he’s passible to tell me why one should be seen as a metaphor and the other shouldn’t.
Of course, if you believe the anger is literal, then let me ask this. Is God eternally angry? Will God throughout all eternity be angry because there will be people in Hell? Now you might say “Well no. He won’t be angry. He’ll be sad though.” Really? You think God will be eternally sad about people? You think the suffering of someone is enough to overpower the very joy of the Trinity?
If the fellowship of the Trinity cannot keep someone happy, then no one can ever be happy. The suffering of the lost cannot overcome the joy of the Trinity. That doesn’t mean their loss is something to celebrate and God does not celebrate that, but it does mean he’s aware of their mistake but knows that the joy he has in being God is far greater.
That same triune joy is what we will partake of. We will see him and be eternally happy in knowing him. No suffering at all can overcome that, be it the suffering of those in Hell or the thought of our past sins. Seeing God will make it impossible for us to dwell in sadness on anything.
God’s impassibility does not make him cold. It makes him ever near. It means he has joy and love that cannot be altered in anyway. His attitude towards us does not change. He always loves us. I say he even loves the people in Hell. He loves them so much he gives them what they’ve wanted. They want to be away from him and live life without him and he gives them that.
Impassibility is a blessed doctrine from my perspective and one the church held for centuries. May we return to it.
We shall continue tomorrow.