The Irony Of Denying Divine Impassibility: A Greek God

This is why most of the theologians who espouse a suffering God intentionally advocate a panentheistic notion of God”that is, that while God is potentially more than the cosmos, the cosmos is constitutive of His very being. (Those theologians who espouse a suffering God but deny panentheism fail to grasp the logic of their own position.) Being ensconced within the cosmic order God must necessarily assume all that pertains to that order, including sin and the suffering it causes. However, if His very nature is constituted by His being a member of the cosmic order, then He can no longer be its all-loving Creator. He becomes merely the one who attempts to bring order to the cosmic process after the manner of the Platonic Demiurge. Equally, since evil, which causes suffering, is the privation of some good, it would mean that a suffering God was deprived of some good and thus He would no longer be perfectly good. Moreover, if God, having lost His singular transcendence, is now infected by evil and suffering, then He too is immanently enmeshed in an evil cosmic process from which He, like all else, cannot escape.

—Thomas Weinandy, “Does God Suffer?” (HT: Rich Barcellos)

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  1. I am by no means a panentheist or pantheist (and I doubt Zwingli ever was, although some accused him of being one), and I can see where attributing passions to God may detract from his goodness and perfection. But I do have a question about the divine apathy (apatheia being Greek for “without passions”).

    If God is grieved over the sins of his people (I appeal to the prophets, especially Hosea), is this not a “passion”? He seems to have a husband’s passion for his spouse. What of the Word/Son’s mourning over unbelieving Jerusalem? Was it only in the human nature that the Word/Son suffered? What does Paul mean when he warns us not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God?

    I am not trying to poke at the Westminster Divines, for whom I tend to have the highest respect. Nor am I trying to scoff at the Bible, which I haveread with reverence since young manood (and one thing of which I have repented bitterly many times was the high regard in which the “seat of the scornful” was held by the endarkened culture in which I was raised, for I am a convert from the “modern” worldview). I am simply confessing that on biblical grounds I have a question about the “without passions” attribute of God.

    One reason why I come to a place like this is because I would like some serious discussion.

    As for the anti-pantheist part of the argument for the divine apatheia, I’m not absolutely sure I “get it”. Could we not see the passions of the creature (the human one at least) as a reflection or analogue of God’s own deep love and “passion” for his elect, whom he foreknew? I honestly do not see how accepting at least what seem to be biblically described “passions” of God implies that I must be a pantheist who sees the snow and flowers and trees and stars as extensions or aspects of the divine being (I have no quarrel with creatio ex nihilo).

    Take this as a question from someone who honestly respects this blog, its author, and fellow “fans” (?).

  2. Why is it that

    “theologians who espouse a suffering God but deny panentheism fail to grasp the logic of their own position”

    Surely a rejection of Aristotelian monadism does not per se lead to panentheism?

    Am I missing something?

  3. Did Horton wrongly group Weinandy with panentheists in his recent review of Giles’ The Eternal Generation of the Son (Modern Reformation, vol. 23 No. 6, Nov-Dec 2014, p.48)?

    Or did I read Horton wrongly?

    I’ve read both Did God Suffer? (book) and Does God Change? and thought Weinandy presented an orthodox case.

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