Impassibility

Does God Have Emotions?

The classical doctrine of God has fallen on hard times in some evangelical circles. In this article, I’m specifically thinking of the doctrine of impassibility.1 The Westminster Confession of Faith says God is without “passions.”2 Robert Reymond explains that doesn’t mean God is an immobile stone; he surely empathizes with human grief and suffering. But, Reymond cautions, the WCF does mean that humans can’t cause God any pain, anguish “or any sort of distress upon him against his will.”3

This is the classical position. Augustus Strong believed texts that suggest divine passibility were anthropomorphisms.4 So did Calvin.5 Berkhof noted that God’s “volitions remain forever the same,” which suggest He cannot be swayed or moved.6 A more recent theologian, Rolland McCune, observed that “any view which implies God does in fact suffer and is emotionally involved with creatures or that He undergoes constitutional/emotional change by these outside, created influences would contradict God’s immutability.”7

1844 reads