Tag Archives: Divine Impassibility

“He is unchangeable in His grace” by Herman Bavinck

“He is who He is, the same yesterday, today, and forever. This meaning is further explained in Exodus 3:15: YHWH—the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—sends Moses, and that is His name forever.

God does not simply call Himself “the One who is” and offer no explanation of His aseity, but states expressly what and how He is.

Then how and what will He be? That is not something one can say in a word or describe in an additional phrase, but “He will be what He will be.”

That sums up everything. This addition is still general and indefinite, but for that reason also rich and full of deep meaning.

He will be what He was for the patriarchs, what He is now and will remain: He will be everything to and for His people.

It is not a new and strange God who comes to them by Moses, but the God of the fathers, the Unchangeable One, the Faithful One, the eternally Self-consistent One, who never leaves or forsakes His people but always again seeks out and saves His own.

He is unchangeable in His grace, in His love, in His assistance, who will be what He is because He is always Himself.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, Vol. 2 (Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 2: 143.

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“Theology by its nature is a mystery discerning enterprise” by Thomas Weinandy

“I believe that a distinction between problem and mystery is relevant to how theologians ought to approach issues of faith and theology.

Marcel and Maritain were well aware that, arising out of the Enlightenment, there grew the mentality that intellectual advancement consisted in solving problems that had hitherto not been solved. The former ‘mysteries’ of the physical universe were being resolved by approaching them as scientific problems to be decoded and unraveled.

The scientific and physical laws of nature became transparent and unmistakable. The new enthusiasm and success of the scientific method was the major contributing factor to this mentality.

Science became the means of resolving all kinds of problems and issues concerning nature and how nature worked. All this was done in a concise, rational, mathematical, and experiential fashion.

It was equally eminently practical. Scientific knowledge could solve a host of practical problems, and everyone gloried in its success. This mentality is illustrated in the contemporary belief that technology, one of the fruits of science, can solve almost any problem.

In the realm of science and technology this mentality, that intellectual advancement consists in solving theoretical and practical problems, may be legitimate. However, I want to argue that this mentality, to disastrous effect, has coloured how many philosophers and theologians approach questions of faith and theology.

Many theologians today, having embraced the Enlightenment presuppositions and the scientific method that it fostered, approach theological issues as if they were scientific problems to be solved rather than mysteries to be discerned and clarified.

However, the true goal of theological inquiry is not the resolution of theological problems, but the discernment of what the mystery of faith is.

Because God, who can never be fully comprehended, lies at the heart of all theological enquiry, theology by its nature is not a problem solving enterprise, but rather a mystery discerning enterprise.

This can bee seen already in the early stages of God’s revelation of Himself to the Jewish people. God manifested Himself to Moses in the burning bush (see Exod. 3).

Moses, in the course of the conversation, asked God: ‘What is Your name?’ Since names, for the Israelites, both revealed the character of the person so named and allowed for the knower of the name to call upon the person so named, Moses in asking God to tell him His name, wanted to know God as well as have the power to call upon Him.

God must have chuckled (It was obviously an ‘impassible’ chuckle!) to Himself as He replied to Moses: “I Am Who I Am’ or “I Am He Who Is.’

God did reveal to Moses His name and so Moses now knew more about God than he knew before. He now knew that God is ‘He who is.’

However, Moses must have quickly realized that, in knowing God more fully, God had become an even greater mystery than He was before. Previously Moses in calling God, for example, El Shaddai— God of the Mountain– may not have known a great deal about God, but the little he did know was at least somewhat comprehensible. God was He who dwelt on the mountain, which was the home of the gods.

However, Moses now knew much more about God. He actually knew that God is ‘I Am Who I Am,’ but what it means for God to be ‘He Who Is’ is completely incomprehensible. Moses, nor we today, can comprehend that God’s very nature is ‘to be,’ that He is the One who is the fullness of life and existence.

Here we learn a primary lesson concerning the nature of revelation and theology. The more God reveals who He is and the more we come to a true and authentic knowledge of who He is, the more mysterious He becomes.

Theology, as faith seeking understanding, helps us come to a deeper and fuller understanding of the nature of God and His revelation, but this growth is in coming to know what the mystery of God is and not the comprehension of the mystery.”

–Thomas G. Weinandy, Does God Suffer? (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2000), 31-33.

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“The simple triune Creator is the self-efficacious and ultimate origin of all that exists” by Steven Duby

“This formulation of divine simplicity has proceeded on the conviction that this attribute is an implicate of God’s singularity, aseity, immutability, infinity, and act of creatio ex nihilo.

It has been maintained throughout that a dogmatic approach to the doctrine is in order, and this has involved attending to the biblical teaching on the various attributes that imply God’s simplicity and supplying elaborative clarification and examining the ways in which each of these divine perfections conduct the theologian to a recognition of simplicity.

After delineating the central claims of the doctrine of divine simplicity, the proposed exegetico-dogmatic approach was carried out, following the manner in which each of the attributes distinctly considered addresses and vouchsafes certain of the constituent claims of the teaching of God’s simplicity.

God’s singularity implies that He is Himself the fullness of His deity subsisting, that He transcends the categories of genus and species, that He is really identical with each of His perfections and is therefore not composed of substance and accidents, and that He is without composition altogether in the uniqueness with which He is God.

God’s aseity implies that He is actus purus, ipsa deitas subsistens, ipsum esse subsistens, really identical with each of His own perfections, and free from all composition with nothing back of Him governing or actualizing His being.

Likewise, God’s immutability implies again that He is wholly in act, without potentia passiva whereby He might be altered or enhanced.

In His selfsameness and indivisibility, He is each of His perfections subsisting, without accidents and without any composition whatsoever.

God’s infinity too implies that He is actus purus. In His boundless perfection, each of God’s attributes is really identical with His essence, and each of the divine persons is really identical with His essence subsisting in a certain manner.

Finally, the act of creatio ex nihilo implies that God is actus purus and ipsum esse subsistens without any eternal co-existents.

Just so, the simple triune Creator is the self-efficacious and ultimate origin of all that exists.”

–Steven J. Duby, Divine Simplicity: A Dogmatic Account (T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018), 235.

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“He is unchangeably the same eternal God” by Herman Bavinck

“As living, thinking beings in time, we stand before the mystery of eternal uncreated being and marvel.

On the one hand, it is certain that God is the Eternal One: in Him there is neither past or future, neither becoming or change.

All that He is is eternal: His thought, His will, His decree.

Eternal in Him is the idea of the world that He thinks and utters in the Son; eternal in Him is also the decision to create the world; eternal in Him is the will that created the world in time; eternal is also the act of creating as an act of God, an action both internal and immanent.

For God did not become Creator, so that first for a long time He did not create and then afterward He did create.

Rather, He is the eternal Creator, and as Creator He was the Eternal One, and as the Eternal One He created. The creation therefore brought about no change in God; it did not emanate from Him and is no part of His being.

He is unchangeably the same eternal God.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, Vol. 2 (Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 429.

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