How to Build Your Library for Free

Here are a list of some of the free online resources I use on a regular basis in addition to Bibleworks on my PC.

Online Libraries:

http://www.puritanlibrary.com/

http://digitalpuritan.net/

http://www.gracegems.org/

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/books/onlinebooks.html

http://www.godrules.net/authors-index.html

https://openlibrary.org/

The works of Thomas Brooks and Thomas Watson are the best.

Almost all writings from the 17th to 19th century are available online in one form or another.

Google Books:

Go to search tools and change it to the 19th century to download books for free.

The “International Critical Commentary” is one example of a great resource.

Always preview books as much as you can through Amazon and Google before you buy them.

Commentaries:

The commentaries of John Calvin, John Gill, Matthew Henry, Albert Barnes, Matthew Poole, John Lightfoot, A. T. Robertson, and the sermons of Charles Spurgeon are all available online for free.

http://biblehub.com/commentaries/

http://biblehub.com/sermons/

Bible Study Tools:

https://www.blueletterbible.org/

http://biblehub.com/interlinear/

http://tsk-online.com/ – The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge which is a great reference tool.

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Sunday Meditation – Christ Is All We Have

“This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”

“Oh, this was the great ploy of Satan in that kingdom of his: to display such blatant evil one could almost believe one’s own secret sin didn’t matter.”

“If the Gospels were truly the pattern of God’s activity, then defeat was only the beginning.”

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

“You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”

“Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.”

Corrie Ten Boom

Thoughts on the Trinity and the Autotheocity of Christ

The divine nature of the Son is not derived from or communicated from the Father either temporally or atemporally, but is eternally existent in himself as God from all eternity (autotheos – God of himself). The divine nature of the Holy Spirit is not derived from the Father or the Son, but exists eternally in himself as God. Divine simplicity and perichoresis prevent us from falling into the error of tritheism (John 10:38; 14:10-11). The three persons are not three different “parts” of God, but three persons who cannot be separated from one other (but must be distinguished) and exist as one God. Each of the three persons share equally the one divine nature and all of the attributes of God so there are not three gods, but one God who exists eternally as three persons in eternal fellowship with one another (John 17:5, 23).

I would be in agreement with John Calvin that the Son of God possesses the divine nature in himself as God from all eternity and therefore it is unnecessary to have it eternally communicated to him from the Father. While Calvin still continued to use the language of the Nicene Creed, he redefined it to not include any concept of derivation of essence:

“But how will the Creator, who gives being to all, not have being from himself, but borrow his essence from elsewhere? For whoever says that the Son has been given his essence from the Father denies that he has being from himself. But the Holy Spirit gives the lie to this, naming him ‘Jehovah.’ Now if we concede that all essence is in the Father alone, either it will become divisible or be taken away from the Son. And thus deprived of his essence, he will be God in name only. The essence of God, if these babblers are to be believed, belongs to the Father only, inasmuch as he alone is, and is the essence giver of the Son. Thus the divinity of the Son will be something abstracted from God’s essence, or a part derived from the whole. . . . For what is the point in disputing whether the Father always begets? Indeed, it is foolish to imagine a continuous act of begetting, since it is clear that three persons have subsisted in God from eternity” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Battles translation, 1:150, 159).

B. B. Warfield explains Calvin’s doctrine of the Trinity this way:

“The point of view which adjusted everything to the conception of ‘generation’ and ‘procession’ as worked out by the Nicene Fathers was entirely alien to him. The conception itself he found difficult, if not unthinkable; and although he admitted the facts of ‘generation’ and ‘procession’, he treated them as bare facts, and refused to make them constitutive of the doctrine of the Trinity. . . . He was ready not only to subordinate, but even to sacrifice, if need be, the entire body of Nicene speculations” (Calvin and Calvinism, 257).

The Son as God has all of the attributes of God which include aseity, self-sufficiency, and self-existence which Christ possesses equally with the Father (Exod 3:14; John 1:18; 8:58). Since Jesus is God, he shares with the Father all of his attributes. The one divine nature of God is underived and shared equally and completely by the three divine persons. If self-existence is an attribute of God, eternal generation would imply that Christ does not possess self-existence or aseity of himself. He would then owe his existence to the action of another, even if that action is eternally occurring. But Jesus is not a demiurge or emanation. He is the eternal Son of God who is God equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Eternal generation implies that the Son is not God in the same way the Father is God. Whereas the Father exists as God of himself or a se in Latin (where the word aseity comes from), the Son does not exist as God of himself, but exists a pater because the divine nature is communicated to him from the Father so that the Father is the fountain of divinity from whom the Son derives his divine nature. Thus, the deity of the Son in eternal generation is a derived or communicated deity that is not inherent in himself, but comes from the Father to whom he owes his eternal existence. Since the Son is not God in the same way that the Father is God, this results in a hypostatic subordination where the person of the Son is subordinated to the person of the Father. This is a relic of the subordinationism of Origen who was the first to teach eternal generation. Christ as autotheos and Christ as eternally generated or produced by the Father are mutually exclusive to each other in Origen’s theology (Origen, Commentary on John 2.2). But if the Son is God in the same way the Father is God, then he is not subordinate to the Father, but equal with the Father in nature and person while distinguished from him by means of the personal property of sonship which the Father does not possess.

Gerald Bray further elaborates on Origen’s doctrine of the Father alone as autotheos and how this relates to eternal generation:

“Origen believed that the Father was true God, or God in himself (autotheos), and taught that the Son was begotten in his image. This meant that he was like the Father in every respect, except that he had a beginning, or at least a source of some kind, which the Father did not have. The Holy Spirit was in turn made in the image of the Son, divine in every respect except that of ‘anarchy’ (‘unbeginningness’). For Origen the idea that God the Father could reproduce himself in this way was no surprise: it was a belief which he shared with his fellow Platonists, who spoke of emanations from the one. In deriving the Son and (indirectly) the Holy Spirit from the being of the Father, Origen in no way intended to minimize their power or authority” (The Doctrine of God, 126-27).

We distinguish between the persons of the Trinity on the basis of their redemptive work in history: the Father sends the Son, the Son dies on the cross, and the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit who regenerates, indwells, and applies the benefits of the work of Christ to those who believe (John 15:26). The Father elects and gives a people to Christ in eternity past, the Son dies for them, and the Spirit applies the work of redemption to Christ’s Bride. Yet all three persons are involved in each of these acts in accordance with their ordering within the Trinity (Heb 9:14). The economic Trinity is a reflection of the immanent Trinity, but the immanent Trinity is more than the economic Trinity. We can only know the immanent Trinity because of the economic Trinity. This is seen most clearly in the reformed doctrine of the covenant of redemption or eternal plan of salvation.

There is therefore a taxis, or ordering of roles within the Trinity. And this ordering is never reversed. The Son became incarnate rather than the Father because it is the duty of a Son to willingly submit to his Father and not the other way around. 1 Corinthians 11:3 teaches that the Father and the Son each have different roles with the Father as head over Christ while they are equal to each other. When Paul speaks of the Son as Christ in this verse, he is thinking of the Son with respect to both his humanity and his divinity. In the previous chapter, Paul speaks of the pre-incarnate Son as Christ before he assumed humanity which means that the term “Christ” cannot be limited to the Son’s role as human mediator (1 Cor 10:9). Similarly, husbands and wives have different roles in marriage but are nevertheless equal in Christ (Gal 3:28). The husband has authority over his wife in a way that is analogous to the authority of the Father over the Son. Role differentiation and equality are not mutually exclusive to each other. The Father has authority over Christ and the Son is eternally obedient to his Father. The human relationships of fatherhood and sonship were created to reflect the eternal relationship of the Father and the Son. As a true Son, he submits willingly to the Father in accordance with his unique personal properties as Son. Therefore, submission is proper and not improper for the Son. And this is eternally true since the Son has always existed as the Son and the Father has always existed as the Father. The Son displays his love for the Father by his obedience to him (John 14:31). Because the Son eternally loves the Father, the Son is eternally disposed to obeying the Father. He always obeys his Father and there was never a time when the Son did not obey the Father because he has always existed as the Son. When we submit, we are imitating God the Son in his love for the Father. Micahel J. Ovey explains the relationship between the Son’s love for the Father and his obedience:

“The Son’s love is filial in that he loves the Father and reveals this by his obedience to his Father and his will. . . . The Son’s love is shown in his obedience. To remove the Son’s obedience is to remove the revelation of his love. Further, to remove the Son’s obedience eliminates the way by which Jesus himself refutes the charge that his claim to deity undoes monotheism [John 5:18-19]” (Your Will Be Done, 77).

The eternal distinction of roles and relationships which the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have which distinguish them from each other are demonstrated in the work of redemption. The Father demonstrates his authority over the Son before the incarnation by sending him into the world and the Son willingly submits to the Father. This eternal relationship of authority and submission is demonstrated in eternity past, in time, and in eternity future (Ps 110:4; Isa 42:1; 48:16; Matt 20:23; 28:19; Luke 20:13; 22:29; John 3:16-17; 4:34; 5:19-22, 30, 36, 43; 6:37-39; 7:28; 8:26-28, 42; 10:18, 36; 12:49-50; 14:31; 17:4, 8, 18; 18:11; 20:11; Rom 8:34; 1 Cor 3:23; 8:6; 11:3; 15:28; Gal 4:4; Eph 1:3-5, 9-10; Phil 2:11; 2 Tim 1:9; Heb 1:2; 10:7; 1 Pet 1:20; 1 John 4:9, 14; Rev 1:1; 5:7). It is often objected to this view that all of the passages which speak of the obedience of the Son to the Father are only with respect to the Son’s human nature and could not be applied to the Son before the incarnation. But remember, the Holy Spirit never became incarnate as the Son did and therefore this response could never be used to explain those passages which teach the authority of the Father and the Son over the Spirit in the work of creation and redemption (Ps 104:30; Isa 48:16; John 3:34; 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:13-15; Acts 2:33; Gal 4:6; 1 Pet 1:12). Many of these passages are speaking of a time before the incarnation as well. But even if these verses are only speaking with respect to the Son’s human nature, that still would not answer the question of why it is that the Son rather than the Father became incarnate. These distinctions I have listed are differentiations of role or function, not of nature or attributes. The Son’s obedience to the Father is with respect to his person, not his divine nature which is the same as that of the Father. All three persons of the Trinity are equal in power and authority since all three persons are fully God and God’s authority is infinite. When Scripture speaks of one person receiving authority from another, it is with regard to the inner-trinitarian economy of roles and relationships which reflect the personal distinctions that eternally exist between the persons.

Submission and obedience are not incompatible with ontological equality, otherwise, wives would be ontologically inferior to their husbands since they are called to submit to and obey them. The false assumption that is being made by both egalitarians and those who object to an eternal relationship of authority and submission in the Trinity is that obedience implies inferiority or subordination. Submission and obedience are not dirty words which imply that the one who obeys is inferior to the one who commands. Obedience in the Trinity is always voluntary and willing without any coercion or sin. It is only our godless culture which despises authority, submission, and obedience that have put this idea into our mind. The Son and the Spirit demonstrate the goodness of obedience by fulfilling the work of creation and redemption given to them by the Father.

The entire Trinity acts when any of the three persons act since they are in one another and perfectly reflect one another. Each person exists eternally in communion with one another and each person is fully and completely God sharing equally the divine attributes. A will is defined as the desires that spring from the attributes of a nature. Because God has one divine nature which is undivided, there can only be one will in God. That one will expresses itself in the obedience and submission of the Son to the Father. Each person wills with respect to the relationships and roles that exist between each person in time and in eternity past. Each person of the Trinity expresses that one will with respect to his ordering within the Trinity (Rom 8:27).

Ignatius, in his letter to the Ephesians, declares that Christ with respect to his divine nature is unbegotten in contrast to being begotten as a man with respect to his human nature by Mary (7:2). Therefore, according to Ignatius, unbegotteness is an attribute of God rather than a personal property of the Father. To be unbegotten is to affirm an attribute of deity. If unbegotteness is an attribute of God, then in Ignatius’ mind, to say that the Son is not unbegotten with respect to his divine nature would be to deny an attribute of God to him, making him less than fully God. He is said to be “from God” and “from Mary” meaning that he was sent from God before he was born from Mary. Ignatius is here describing the sending of the Son into the world (John 1:14; 16:28). When Jesus says, “I came from the Father,” he is describing the missio Dei or incarnation of himself, not his ontological origin.

Origen’s concept of eternal generation, as employed by Athanasius, was a “quick and dirty” response to Arianism: every verse which the Arians used to argue that the Son is a creature became eternalized into never-ending timeless actions. The problem with the definition of Nicaea was that the common man could not distinguish between generation and creation, even if the generation was described as being eternal in nature. To say that the Son was “begotten of the Father before all ages” was the same in their mind as saying that the Son was created before all ages. The phrase is not even an expression of eternal generation, but of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Logos Christology. It was only after Eusebius that the “before all ages” clause associated with the Son’s begetting was interpreted in accordance with eternal generation rather than Logos Christology. The distinction between univocal language and analogical language seems to have been lost on every early reader of Proverbs 8:22-36 in attempting to draw a one-to-one correspondence between Lady Wisdom and Christ. The assumption by both sides that the Father alone is unbegotten made the debate more difficult for the orthodox to maintain that the Son is God equally with the Father and never had a beginning.

Both sides assumed that the Son owes his existence to the Father, but they disagreed on whether this generative act was completed before the foundation of the world or if it is eternally ongoing so that the Son never had a beginning. But it is this very assumption derived from Logos Christology and reinforced through combating modalism that led to the rise of Arianism to begin with. I would like to suggest that we cut the Gordian knot of this problem by asserting that the entire concept of generation, whether it be temporal, timeless, or eternal, is based on a misinterpretation of Scripture. We should instead say that the Father is self-existent, God of himself, unbegotten, and without origin, the Son is self-existent, God of himself, unbegotten, and without origin, and the Holy Spirit is self-existent, God of himself, unbegotten, and without origin. But there are not three unbegottens, but only one unbegotten God who exists as three persons each sharing equally the attribute of unbegotteness being without origin or beginning. The Son is the eternally unbegotten Son of God who was begotten as a man in time by Mary. His being unbegotten is with respect to his divine nature since he is eternal and without origin or beginning, and his being begotten is with respect to his human nature which did have a beginning.

In order to distinguish between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in eternity past, I would retain the personal properties of paternity, filiation, and spiration, but would drop generation and procession. Eternal relations of origin is not how the Bible itself distinguishes between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the economic Trinity, the Father sends the Son and the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit for the purpose of creation and redemption. This temporal sending reflects the eternal distinction of personal subsisting relations within the life of the Trinity. But these relations are ones of relationship in fatherhood and sonship, not ones of origin in generation or procession since God by nature is eternal and has no origin or beginning.

Trying to explain how God can be one in nature and three in person at the same time can be dangerous if we ever move beyond Scripture into speculative theology or make the temporal human father-son relationship the basis upon which we understand the eternal divine relationship between the Father and the Son. This was the mistake the Arians made by asserting that the Father must exist before the Son because human fathers exist before their sons. Eternal generation makes a similar mistake by asserting that the Son is the eternal product of the Father because human sons are the product of their father. The similarity between human fathers and sons and the Father and the Son that is certain is that the Son shares the same nature as the Father as human sons genetically reflect the nature of their father. But this is only because this truth is revealed to us in Scripture (Col 2:9; Heb 1:3).

The undue exaltation of the councils and creeds of the early church in attempting to replicate the apostolic authority of the Jerusalem church in Acts 15 laid the foundation for the Roman Catholic concept of Sacred Tradition where the traditions of the church became equal to the authority of Scripture. Scripture was interpreted through the lens of church tradition rather than interpreting Scripture with Scripture. Widespread biblical illiteracy and lack of access to the entirety of the biblical canon did not help the situation. Those who did not have access to the Bible simply believed whatever they were taught by the church authorities of the day, even when it led them into the idolatry of praying to the saints. Even Protestants who have a high regard for church tradition do not accept the Seventh Ecumenical Council which approves of prayers to deceased saints and the veneration of icons. Other examples of error in the creeds of the church include the Fifth Ecumenical Council’s teaching that Mary was a perpetual virgin, the Nicene-Constantinople Creed’s teaching of baptismal regeneration when it says, “We confess one baptism for the remission of sins,” Chalcedon’s teaching that monks are not allowed to marry, and the teaching that Christ descended into hell in the Apostle’s Creed and Athanasian Creed. All tradition must be judged by Scripture alone, no matter how sacred that tradition is. We must speak where Scripture speaks and be silent where Scripture is silent. This is not because I am anti-creedal, but anti-false doctrine and a good Berean (Acts 17:11).

Sunday Meditation – Throwing Away Our Life

“I can easily see why the folks at home want to eliminate Hell from their theology, preaching and thought. Hell is indeed awful unless its preaching is joined to a life laid down by the preacher. How can a man believe in Hell unless he throws away his life to rescue others from its torment? If there is no Hell, the Bible is a lie. If we are not willing to go to Hell on earth for others, we cannot preach it.”

“Let us not glide through this world and then slip quietly into heaven, without having blown the trumpet loud and long for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Let us see to it that the devil will hold a thanksgiving service in hell, when he gets the news of our departure from the field of battle.”

“I am getting desperately afraid of going to heaven for I have had the vision of the shame I shall suffer as I get my first glimpse of the Lord Jesus; His majesty, power and marvellous love for me, who treated Him so meanly and shabbily on earth, and acted as though I did Him a favour in serving Him! No wonder God shall have to wipe away the tears off all faces, for we shall be broken-hearted when we see the depth of His love and the shallowness of ours.”

“We Christians too often substitute prayer for playing the game. Prayer is good; but when used as a substitute for obedience, it is nothing but a blatant hypocrisy, a despicable Pharisaism. . . . To your knees, man! and to your Bible! Decide at once! Don’t hedge! Time flies! Cease your insults to God, quit consulting flesh and blood. Stop your lame, lying, and cowardly excuses. Enlist!”

“I cannot tell you what joy it gave me to bring the first soul to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have tasted almost all the pleasures that this world can give . . . but those pleasures were as nothing compared to the joy that the saving of that one soul gave me.”

“Funds are low again, hallelujah! That means God trusts us and is willing to leave His reputation in our hands.”

“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”

“Had I cared for the comments of people, I should never have been a missionary.”

“Don’t go into the study to prepare a sermon – that’s nonsense. Go into your study to God and get so fiery that your tongue is like a burning coal and you have got to speak.”

“Only one life: will soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

“Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”

“How could I spend the best years of my life in living for the honours of this world, when thousands of souls are perishing every day?”

C. T. Studd

The Simplicity of God

When theologians speak of the simplicity of God, they are not saying that God is easy to understand or denying that God is an infinitely complex being who transcends our human reasoning. When speaking of God as simple, the term is being used in contrast to being composite or made up of many parts. The simplicity of God means that God is his attributes, not that God is made up of his attributes. That means the attributes of God are his perfections and are therefore not subject to change. God is infinite and perfect in all his attributes. His attributes do not exist outside himself, but he is his attributes. The love of God is not one part of God or something that he has, but defines who he intrinsically and eternally is. God defines love because love is essential to his nature.  Love is who he is but love is not all that he is. Kevin DeYoung defines simplicity this way: “Simple, as a divine attribute, is the opposite of compound. The simplicity of God means God is not made up of his attributes. He does not consist of goodness, mercy, justice, and power.  He is goodness, mercy, justice, and power. Every attribute of God is identical with his essence.” James Dolezal defines simplicity as “nothing that is not God can account for the being of God, and so all that is in God must be God.”

That means God has no accidental properties. An accidental property is something that is unessential to the nature of a being. Every attribute is essential to and defines who God is. That means God is not sovereign over his own nature as if he could change it, but rather, his nature is who he is and he is not subject to the possibility of change. To speak of God as having parts would indicate dependence and finitude as opposed to independence and infinity. When the Westminster Confession of Faith speaks of God as “without parts or passions” it is respectively affirming God’s simplicity and impassibility. There is a correlation between the aseity or independence of God, impassibility, simplicity, eternality, immutability, and transcendence. Because God is transcendent and independent of time and creation, he cannot be acted upon and therefore cannot suffer and must be impassible. To suffer is to be acted upon by an outside agent who inflicts a change in our state of being. But God is most absolute, most loving, and most holy. That means God is a pure actuality who is not coming into being or undergoing change, but eternally exists as an unchanging being (Exo 3:14). God is not constantly taking in new knowledge because he transcends time and space as one who is perfect in knowledge. God’s knowledge of us is productive rather than receptive. His will for us to have existence is the basis for his knowledge of us.

Divine simplicity also proves monotheism or the belief that there is only one God. God is not a species of divinity as if God or deity could be divided into parts or subcategories. God is without spatial or temporal parts. God is good in virtue of himself and defines what good is because all that is good is rooted in God’s nature. The basis for what is right and what is wrong is the holy unchanging character of God. That is why the moral law cannot be subject to change. It is always wrong to lie because God is truth and his nature cannot change. His love defines what true love is and his righteousness defines how we are to live. Without God, we have no basis for universal objective morality that is binding on all men at all times in all places. God is not partly love and partly holy or is more loving than holy, but is infinitely loving and infinitely holy. That is why his perfect law had to be satisfied through the passive and active obedience of Christ which is imputed to us in justification. The glory and holiness of God describe and summarize all of God’s attributes which is the essence of his infinite worth and uniqueness.

When we look at the biblical basis for divine simplicity, every verse which speaks of God with a verb of being lends support for the doctrine. Remember that the name Yahweh is etymologically related to the Hebrew verb hayah or “to be.”  God is the one who was, who is, and who is to come (Rev 1:4). Scripture says, “the Lord is slow to anger” (Num 14:18), “the Lord is righteous” (2 Chron 12:6), “our God is holy” (Psa 99:9), “the Lord is good” (Psa 100:5), “the Lord is merciful and gracious” (Psa 103:8), “God is spirit” (John 4:24), “the Lord is faithful” (2 Thess 3:3), “the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11), “God is light” (1 John 1:5), “he is righteous” (1 John 2:29), “God is love” (1 John 4:8), God “is true” (1 John 5:20). For a useful discussion of divine simplicity, I recommend this talk by James Dolezal.

Sunday Meditation – A Masculine Holiness

“Too long have we been waiting for one another to begin! The time of waiting is past! The hour of God has struck! War is declared! In God’s Holy Name let us arise and build! ‘The God of Heaven, He will fight for us’, as we for Him. We will not build on the sand, but on the bedrock of the sayings of Christ, and the gates and minions of hell shall not prevail against us. Should such men as we fear? Before the world, aye, before the sleepy, lukewarm, faithless, namby-pamby Christian world, we will dare to trust our God, we will venture our all for Him, we will live and we will die for Him, and we will do it with His joy unspeakable singing aloud in our hearts. We will a thousand times sooner die trusting only our God, than live trusting in man. And when we come to this position the battle is already won, and the end of the glorious campaign in sight. We will have the real Holiness of God, not the sickly stuff of talk and dainty words and pretty thoughts; we will have a Masculine Holiness, one of daring faith and works for Jesus Christ.”

“The ‘romance’ of a missionary is often made up of monotony and drudgery; there often is no glamour in it; it doesn’t stir a man’s spirit or blood. So don’t come out to be a missionary as an experiment, it is useless and dangerous. Only come if you feel you would rather die than not come. Lord Wolsey was right: ‘A missionary ought to be a fanatic or he encumbers the ground.’ There are many trials and hardships. Disappointments are numerous and the time of learning the language is especially trying. Don’t come if you want to make a great name or want to live long. Come if you feel there is no greater honour, after living for Christ, than to die for Him. That does the trick in the end. It’s not the flash in the pan but the steady giving forth of light, it’s shining on and on that we need out here. Our job is to make all hear the Word. God’s job is to give penetration to His Word.”

C. T. Studd

The Impassibility of God

The doctrine of divine impassibility has been much maligned in recent decades by both liberal theologians and more conservative ones who do not fully understand it.  Where it is not outright rejected, it is redefined.  Some have reformulated the traditional doctrine of divine immutability or unchangeableness to only refer to God’s attributes but not with respect to his relationship with his creatures.  They argue that God is relationally mutable and passible while still claiming to hold to a belief in divine immutability.  The doctrine of divine impassibility is a subset of the doctrine of divine immutability.  God’s immutability describes the impossibility of the potential for change in God.  Impassibility states that God does not change with respect to his affections which are his perfections and therefore are not subject to change.  God does not experience inner emotional change because he does not have emotions, rather, he is his attributes and his attributes do not change.  God’s impassibility not only flows from his immutability, but also from his eternality since he is above time and does not experience time.  God cannot be acted upon by any outside force.  God’s love is not an emotional state he finds himself in, rather, God himself is love.  God is defined by love and his other attributes; they are not things he possesses.  His love is not an accidental property that can come and go as we humans experience love.

That means God’s love does not change because love is who God is as one of his attributes and his attributes do not change.  God’s response to us based on our standing before him in time does change, but it is not God himself who changes.  God is not at one moment loving and then angry or angry and then loving.  Instead, he is always eternally loving and eternally opposed to all that is contrary to his holy and just nature.  When we are saved, our relationship with God changes, but God does not change.  Unlike a human being who has changeable emotions, God is unchangeable in every way.  God’s attributes are his perfections; they are not subject to change because they are perfect.  That means God cannot actualize a higher degree of love or grow in love for his people.  As the Westminster Confession of Faith states, God is most loving, most holy, and most just.  His love and other attributes cannot increase or decrease.  For God to experience inner emotional change would mean that his attributes change or increase or decrease and therefore are not perfect.  That means God is not becoming or constantly taking in new information, but rather, he is the great “I am” who eternally is who he is (Exo 3:14).  As one writer comments, “The affirmation of impassibility does not result in removing affections from God; rather, the affirmation of impassibility upholds the fact that God is most loving because He cannot decrease nor increase; He is love! The doctrine of divine impassibility actually stresses the absoluteness of affections in God.”

The language of Scripture concerning God is often analogical rather than univocal in nature.  That means Scripture often uses the language of analogy to describe God to accommodate to our human perceptions, explaining actions in terms that we might understand with respect to human actions.  Anthropomorphisms are one example of the analogical nature of language concerning God.  The authors of Scripture will use human-like language to describe God so that we can better grasp who he is as human beings.  An anthropopathism is where the authors of Scripture will use human-like emotions to describe God without intending to communicate a one to one correspondence between us and God.  We see an example of this in 1 Samuel 15:35 where God was grieved or regretted that he had made Saul king.  But in 1 Samuel 15:29 we read that “the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”  Numbers 23:19 expresses the same truth: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it?”  The same exact verb is used in both verses.  If we interpret both verses univocally, then we have a contradiction on our hands.  But in light of the teaching of the rest of Scripture on the immutability of God, verse 29 should be interpreted univocally and verse 35 should be interpreted analogically.  Another example of an anthropopathism in the Bible is Malachi 2:17 where the prophet says, “You have wearied the LORD with your words.”  But Isaiah 40:28 says, “He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”  If both verses are interpreted univocally, then we have a contradiction.  Some verses must therefore take precedence over others in defining who God is if we are to make sense of the Bible.

The one who is impassible became passible in the person of Jesus Christ while remaining impassible with respect to his deity.  Therefore, the one who is impassible dies with respect to his human nature (Acts 20:28).  Everything Jesus does is either with respect to one of his two natures.  He does not toggle between one nature and another.  As theologians put it, a nature does not subsist outside of a supposit.  He acts perfectly according to both natures at the same time.  The Son of God who suffered on the cross was at the same time eternally upholding the universe.  A divine person who is himself God dies with respect to his human nature.  The Father and the Spirit did not die on the cross or ever become incarnate, but were perfectly united with the Son in an inseparable operation when Christ died for our sins.  For more information on this topic, I recommend listening to this talk on the subject which has helped me to understand the doctrine of divine impassibility.  A recent position paper on the subject is also extremely informative.