God is… impassible (without passions)

In this fifth part of the Get to know God series, we’re looking at something called God’s impassibility. This is a really important aspect of God, and yet out of all of them this is probably the least popular. Part of the problem is that people don’t understand what ‘passions’ means! But this is important for understanding who God is: do we want a God who is actually able to help us in our suffering? For that, we need a God who is impassible.

What does impassible even mean?

A few years ago, a friend of mine wrote an article defending God’s impassibility. He started out with a brief definition of impassibility:

Divine impassibility refers to the belief that God can neither be acted on from without, nor experience ‘emotional’ change within, and that, more specifically, God can thus neither be caused to suffer, nor choose to suffer, in his divine nature.

This is a good definition to be going on with. Impassibility, or being ‘without passions’, means that God doesn’t have emotions in the same way that we do. (This is especially true about suffering – God does not suffer). Emotions, as it says, are about change: we human beings generally can’t go through a day without experiencing a number of emotional changes. An emotion is a change. But – as we have already thought about – God does not change. God is constant. That’s good news for us!

It’s good news because it means that God is not changeable like us, but is above our ways. Let’s take a look at the Bible to see what it says.

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What does Christ’s suffering mean? (Heidelberg 15)

In this session of the Heidelberg, we look into the suffering of Christ. There are three questions:

  • What does it mean that Christ suffered?
  • Why did he suffer under Pontius Pilate as a judge?
  • Does it have a special meaning that Christ died by crucifixion and not in some other way?

The point of the session is to say that Christ’s suffering was not random or pointless, but there was a particular meaning for it. It’s important for Christians to spend some time thinking about.

If you enjoy this, you can do the whole series right here on the website, or on the app (see links on the right hand side of the page). Alternatively, I am uploading them regularly to YouTube and Facebook. All sessions on YouTube are available on this playlist.

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