Recently, I wrote an article on divine impassibility. In the article, I tried to show how only the suffering God can help us during times of crises. It was not an article “proving” the doctrine since divine impassibility is both creedal and confessional, although at some point I would like to write a scriptural-theological argument for the doctrine.
One possible confusion with divine impassibility involves the cross since Christ suffers on the cross. I should note that the same problem exists for divine simplicity, immutability, and so on. The answers to these possible problems generally involve reflecting deeper on the doctrine of God and the Trinity as well as Christology.
Six Statements on God
1. Christ suffered as the person of Christ—which means that in Christ, God can be said to suffer, yes. But he can suffer only because he added to himself humanity. And it is only the person of Christ who suffers.
2. Any doctrine of penal substitution that says God suffers in himself as God has problems. This is why some Christians accuse penal substitution of heresy.
3. The cross is a triune work of salvation. It is the Father’s love, the Son’s satisfaction, and the Spirit’s perfecting of the work. It’s not that God is far away at the cross, or that God hates himself. God judged Christ with the just condemnation of sin.
4. The divine mystery of Christ’s incarnation means that the Son, while remaining what he was, add
Because of the virgin birth:
The immortal became mortal
The incorrupt become corrupt
The sinless bore our sins
The powerful became weak
The rich became poor
The unsuffering became suffering
The uncreated became created
And so on.
5. Yet the Father and the Spirit did not suffer at the cross as the Son did. Only the person of the Son, Christ, the Logos suffered on the cross because only the second person of the Trinity became flesh.
6. Like any other doctrine of God (omniscience, Providence, immutability), when Christ assumed humanity, he does not forsake these things. Why would God forsake impassibility? Instead, Christ assumes humanity—he adds passibility to himself.
Three Statements on Christology
7. Chalcedon defines the union of divinity and humanity with four key phrases: without confusion, change, division, or separation. Hence, Chalcedonian Christology requires divine impassibility to be maintained alongside of human frailty without any confusion between the two natures.
8. This means that Christ did not become a third thing. Nor did he become two entities. He was one Christ through two natures: fully God and fully human.
9. At the cross then, his human nature allowed him to suffer death. And the divine Logos in some great mystery experiences human death through his human nature. This is because when Christ acts, the *person* of Christ acts—not the nature.
Mark Matthias says
So well put — theology at its best. A very good job of showing why the Son of God in all stages was yet impassible. Adding the flesh could not change the divinity as nothing could assume authority over absolute perfection — “the second person of the Trinity became flesh” which is real and therefore capable of pain in and of itself, yet objectively inferior and unable to compete with the Spirit…the Perfector, John 16. I should print this report and read it a few times.
Anthony Mankodi (Tony) says
WOW! Truth of God: Expressed with simplicity, touching depths of profundity, retaining elements of unfathomable mystery! How awesome is God!