by Dr. Jim Renihan

Our (1689 2nd London Baptist) Confession of Faith begins its chapter ‘Of God and of the Holy Trinity’ with this wonderful statement:

1. The Lord our God is but  one only living, and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself,  infinite in being, and perfection, whose Essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself;  a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light, which no man can approach unto, who is immutable,  immense, eternal, incomprehensible, Almighty, every way infinite, most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the councel of his own immutable, and most righteous will, for his own glory, most loving, gracious, merciful, long suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, the rewarder of them that diligently seek him, and withall most just, and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

When we read words like this, we ought to bow in worship before our great and majestic God. He is supreme and worthy of all praise. This is how Christians in the West have articulated the basic doctrine of God for centuries. All of the Reformed churches confessed this doctrine with great vigor.

It is surprising then, that in recent years some evangelical Calvinists have departed from this historic and universal doctrine by denying or severely modifying the doctrine of Divine Impassibility, expressed in the final term of the Confession’s phrase ‘without body, parts, or passions.’ Perhaps for a variety of reasons including unfamiliarity with the historical definition of the doctrine, or privileging Biblical Theology over Systematic Theology, they unwittingly undermine a crucial part of the doctrine of God, diminishing his glory and majesty.

In a recent episode of the ‘Reformed Forum,’ Dr. James Dolezal addresses this question at length, supporting the historic doctrine and the Confessional statement. Dr. Dolezal is eminently qualified to address this topic, having recently published an excellent book on the related matter of Divine Simplicity, God Without Parts. The discussion is not for the faint of mind as it addresses deep questions, so be prepared for a mind-stretching listen. But I hope that your response will be like mine, as I bowed my head in awe of the greatness of the God being described in the discussion. Deep theology ought to elicit worship, and this discussion does.

Our thanks to Dr. Dolezal for his faithfulness in addressing this question; in providing us with a well-considered explanation, and with upholding the truth of the universal Christian faith.