De Moor IV:26: The Impassibility of God

Johannes Crellius

Hence also the Affections and Passions of the Soul are not to be attributed to God; as it is done by the Socinians, among whom Crellius, libro de Deo ejusque Attributis, chapter XXIX-XXXI, everywhere ascribes Affections to God, which in chapter XXIX, opera, tome 4, page 98a, he describes as being “the Passions of the divine Will, especially the more vehement; or the acts of this sort, whereby the will is brought more vehemently to its object, or flees from and abhors it; although perhaps the matter, unto which the affection incites, be not yet firmly concluded.” That in these Affections also the divine Will is affected by its Objects, he acknowledges, page 98b. And, although Crellius also writes that Affections are attributed to God Anthropopathically, in such a way that they are not altogether in the same manner in God and in men, nevertheless he maintains that in God are Affections analogous to human Affections, page 99a, in such a way that the Deity is in one and another way animated and affected concerning diverse objects, chapter XXXI, page 106 at the end: he esteems these Affections, because they are contrary passions, for example, Mercy and Wrath, not to be the Essence of God, nor natural qualities in God, chapter XXX, page 104b. He thinks that in God natural joy is one thing, which God has of Himself perpetually; external and accidental joy is another thing, which God could be without, and the contrary of which in a certain measure is able to fall upon Him, chapter XXXI, pages 105b, etc. Thus Vorstius also attributed to God true mistrust, love, hatred, expectation, hope, and fear; see TRIGLAND in Kerckelycke Geschiedenissen, part IV, pages 580a, 586a, 603a, 609a.

But, 1. since in view of the Simplicity of God previously proved nothing is in God that is not God Himself, neither are motions of the Will able to be found in God, which are not God Himself, but are able promiscuously to be present to Him, or to be absent from Him, without Him entering into Composition with the greatest possible frequency. But, if those commotions of Will pertain to God’s Essence, then the Immutable Essence of God must necessarily be thought mutable, and what moment-by-moment might be changed into infinitely various forms; as God by the almost limitlessly diverse actions of innumerable creatures, and the completely opposite actions of others, is most diversely affected and moved moment-by-moment. 3. The Independence of God would also fall in this manner, and His Blessedness would be disturbed. Indeed, His Will, agitated by external objects, to such an extent depends upon those objects, which things greatly upset tranquility of mind. By those slight motions the human will is tossed, because it is not able of itself to promise stability to itself, but is obliged to fetch what would fulfill its need and wishes from something external, and commonly fastens on those very matters that it does not have within its power, and that, even if it actually does have them, since these are unstable, are not able to furnish for them firmer foundations of peace to the soul. But the account of the Will ought to be far otherwise, and in God altogether removed from those mutations and imperfections; God admits no causes of His Will outside of Himself by which He might be impelled, but rather subordinates all things to the very government of His own Will. The Passions of the Soul are perfections in those, in which it is a perfection to seek what is lacking, and to flee what is hurtful: they are not perfections in Him, whose Will is satisfied only with His own Sufficiency; and who is not able to receive from another source any good that He might desire, and whom no evil is able to threaten, that He should fear; therefore, nothing is able to be presented to Him, by the impulse of which His Will might be moved from its immovable state. Of God AUGUSTINE rightly writes, with VRIESIUS’ recommendation, Exercitatione Rationali XIX, § 6, “He loves, and yet is not agitated; He is jealous, and yet is untroubled; it repents Him, and yet He is not grieved; He is angry, and yet is tranquil: that is, He changes His works, but not His counsel:” similar to which things occur in AUGUSTINE’S City of God, book IX, chapter V near the end. CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, Stromata, book V, page 557, has, Οὐ θέμις ἐμπαθῆ νοεῖν τὸν Θεόν, it is wrong to think of God as subject to passions. BASIL the GREAT on Psalm 37 (rather Psalm 38), opera, tome I, page 203, Πολλάκις εἴρηται, ὡς ὀργὴ καὶ θυμὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ λεγόμενα ἐν τοῖς θεοπνεύστοις γραφαῖς, οὐ πάθη σημαινει [παντὸς γὰρ πάθους ἀλλότριον τὸ θεῖον] κατὰ μεταφορὰν δὲ τὰ τοιαῦτα εἴωθεν ὀνομάζειν ὁ τῆς γραφῆς λόγος, ὡς καὶ ὀφθαλμοὺς Θεοῦ, καὶ ὧτα, καὶ χεῖρας, καὶ δακτύλους, καὶ πόδας, καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ μέλη· ἅπερ ὡς πρὸς ἀνθρώπους χρησίμως οἰκονομεῖται, συγκατιὼν τῇ τῶν ἀκροωμένων ποιότητι, etc., It is often asked, how the wrath and spirit of God mentioned in the God-breathed Scriptures does not indicate passions [for the Deity is free of all passion], but by metaphor the word of Scripture is wont to specify such things, as God’s eyes, ears, hands, fingers, feet, and the remaining members: which things as they usefully order with respect to men, being accommodated to the quality of the hearers, etc. RABBI SHELOMOH BEN MELECH[1] also rightly observes upon this matter in Michlol Jophi on Genesis 6:6, folio 4, column 3, on the word וַיִּנָּחֶם, and it repented, that the Law speaks בלשון בני אדם, in the tongue of man, that is, ἀνθρωποπαθῶς/ anthropopathically: for על דרך האמת, according to the way of truth, that is, properly speaking, He is not a man that He should repent;[2] for in Him there is no mutation will, a will worthy to be praised and extolled. And thus, It grieved His heart: this also is spoken על דרך משל, according to the way of a proverb, that is, improperly: for, properly speaking, there is in Him neither joy, nor grief, and He is not changed from one affection to another. And the contrary of this, And He grieved, is, Jehovah shall rejoice in all His works:[3] and all this is spoken על דרך משל, according to the way of a proverb, that is, improperly: for, as a man rejoices over a matter that is right in his eyes, and is saddened over a matter that is evil in his eyes; thus is this narration concerning God, who is worthy to be extolled, and this is done concerning Him על דרך העברה, according to the way of passing from one thing to another, that is, by metaphor. PLATO, in his Epinomis,[4] page 1011, edition Francof., Θεὸν μὲν γὰρ δὴ τὸν τέλος ἔχοντα τῆς θείας μοίρας ἔξω τούτων εἶναι, λυπῆς τε καὶ ἠδονῆς, τοῦ δὲ φρονεῖν καὶ τοῦ γινώσκειν κατὰ πάντα μετειληφέναι, indeed, God, having the fullness of the divine portion, as it were, is beyond these things, namely, grief and pleasure, but fully enjoys the knowledge and acquaintance of all things.

Objection α: Affections are often attributed to God in Sacred Scripture. I Respond: 1. With Crellius himself, who does not deny, in de Deo ejusque Attributis, chapter XXIX, opera, tome 4, pages 98b, 99a, ταῦτα ἀνθρωποπαθῶς μὲν λέγεται, θεοπρεπῶς δὲ νοεῖται, that these things are said anthropopathically, but are understood in a manner suitable for God. 2. On account of human Affections ἀνθρωποπαθῶς/anthropopathically attributed to God, it is no more needful to acknowledge something analogous to them in God; than, on account of human Members ἀνθρωπομορφῶς/anthropomorphically ascribed to God, one ought to conceive of something analogous or similar to bodily members in God. 3. But it is to be said that those things are attributed to God in a human manner of speaking, only on account of the similarity of Effect, which things exist in us in accordance with the peculiar quality of Affections. For example, by Repentance we are brought off from any deed, a. we grieve over the past deed, which we wish that we had not done; then, b. we change our intention, and, c. our behavior with our intention. The first and the second have no place in God, but the third certainly does: and so it is said that God repents of whatever matter, when He pulls down what He had done, although no change of will occurs. Those things sufficiently agree in their external operation to establish a like manner of speech concerning matters dissimilar. Obviously, created things stand in a diverse manner toward God, in the sphere and circumference of their alterations, with God in the meantime, after the likeness of a center, by the force of His immutable nature, unmoved. God does not put on various Affections, so that He might bring to pass various things; but He is able to do and accomplishes all things by the same immutable perfection and act of His Nature. Because this is difficult, nay, impossible, for us to comprehend, God willed to represent that to us by συνκατάβασιν/condescension in a human manner of speech.

Johannes Hoornbeeck

Objection β: Stoicism thus appears to be ascribed to God. I Respond: 1. No Christian condemned the Stoic ἀπαθείαν/apathy/ impassibility otherwise than in men. Concerning God and His invariability no quarrel was moved with the Stoics. 2. If, in order to avoid Stoic ἀπαθείαν/impassibility, you judge it necessary to place Affections and passions in God, there will then be potency in God, if He be changed, and it will not conduce to His honor, which our AUTHOR refuted above out of Malachi 3:6 and James 1:17. 3. If from the diversity of things that come to pass, and to which various Affections are able to answer, it will be necessary to lay them out in God, the impetus of Affections will always occupy God and render Him most tempestuous; contrary motions will always exist in God, and will miserably drive Him in contrary directions. Indeed, 4. from this foundation, that various things render God diversely moved, it will be in the power of man to disturb and to change God, and that as often as he wills. 5. It is far better thus to interpret those things that happen most adversely, or most agreeably, to the divine Will; not that they in themselves truly and properly move and affect God first one way and then another; but that by many Affects God shows how some things are good and acceptable, or other things evil and abominable; with a variety observed in the matters themselves and in the divine Effects towards them, but not in any Affections in God. Concerning whether Affections and various agitations of Will are to be acknowledged in God, or not, consult HOORNBEECK’S Socinianismum confutatum, book II, chapter VI, pages 454-462.

δ. Finally, the Immutability of God also pertains to every Word revealed by Him, both of Promise, and of Threatening, etc., by His Veracity; concerning which see also below, § 45, and in Chapter XXII, § 14.

[1] Shelomoh ben Melech was a Spanish Jew, living in Constantinople, where he penned The Perfection of Beauty (1554), a detailed commentary upon the Hebrew Bible.

[2] Numbers 23:19.

[3] See Psalm 104:31.

[4] Many scholars think Epinomis to be incorrectly attributed to Plato.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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