1689:2.1. God and the Holy Trinity (Pt. 4 Without Parts and Passions)
The Lord our God is one, the only living and true God.1 He is self-existent2 and infinite in being and perfection. His essence cannot be understood by anyone but him.3 He is a perfectly pure spirit.4 He is invisible and has no body, parts, or changeable emotions.a He alone has immortality, dwelling in light that no one can approach.5 He is unchangeable,6immense,b,7 eternal,8 incomprehensible, almighty,9 in every way infinite, absolutely holy,10 perfectly wise, wholly free, completely absolute. He works all things according to the counsel of his own unchangeable and completely righteous will11 for his own glory.12 He is most loving, gracious, merciful, and patient. He overflows with goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. He rewards those who seek him diligently.13 At the same time, he is perfectly just and terrifying in his judgments.14 He hates all sin15 and will certainly not clear the guilty.16
btranscends all space
11 Corinthians 8:4, 6; Deuteronomy 6:4. 2Jeremiah 10:10; Isaiah 48:12. 3Exodus 3:14. 4John 4:24. 51 Timothy 1:17; Deuteronomy 4:15, 16. 6Malachi 3:6. 71 Kings 8:27; Jeremiah 23:23. 8Psalm 90:2. 9Genesis 17:1. 10Isaiah 6:3. 11Psalm 115:3; Isaiah 46:10. 12Proverbs 16:4; Romans 11:36. 13Exodus 34:6, 7; Hebrews 11:6. 14Nehemiah 9:32, 33. 15Psalm 5:5, 6. 16Exodus 34:7; Nahum 1:2, 3.
Yesterday I began to work through this language of God being invisible and without parts and if you haven't read that article, I'd encourage you to do so before you begin this one.
Today we are going to look at a doctrine that has long been neglected in contemporary evangelicalism: the doctrine of Divine impassibility or as the Confession says "He [God] ... has no changeable emotions (passions)".
First, feel the warmth of a passage that speaks to this doctrine: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:17)
Furthermore, hear the melody and lyrics of the wonderfully crafted Hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness" wash over you:
"Great is Thy faithfulness, " O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be."
The doctrine of Divine impassibility should not be for us a cold, clinical doctrine. Working through doctrines like this should warm our hearts, fuel our devotion, and lead us to declare along with the Apostle Paul:
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36 ESV)
This doctrine means something for us. And if working through doctrines like this doesn't lead us to that type of response, we are approaching our studies of our Triune God with the wrong heart posture. Repentance is the only way out in that case. So, with warm hearts let's press into the doctrine of Divine impassibility a bit. What is it exactly?
Divine impassibility means that "God does not experience emotional changes with from within or effected by his relationship to creation."
One of the reasons I suggested you read my article from yesterday is because I began to lay the groundwork for the hermeneutical (interpretation) approach we must take to understand this important and lost doctrine. There are passages in the Scripture that seem to indicate God experiences changes in His emotions and behavior. Passages such as Genesis 6:6-7:
"And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, 'I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them."
Regretted. Grieved. Sorry. Those words are used to communicate something about God to us. At face value, we could come to several dangerous conclusions if we do not do some work.
(a) God has emotions that are affected by what he sees man do.
(b) God did not know man would be so wicked. God must not be all-knowing.
(c) God regrets and is sorry. That must mean God makes mistakes.
(d) If God makes mistakes, God is not perfect. If He is not perfect, He is not much different than me and is not worthy of my worship or devotion. I am God.
Do you see some of the pitfalls you could run into?
Now, there are also passages that deny God has these types of emotions. Take Numbers 23:19 for example: "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? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?"
From this passage, we see that God is not fickle like us. He does not change His mind. He keeps His Word.
Here's the issue. I know you see it. Doesn't this passage contradict the Genesis 6 passage?
This is where we need to have good hermeneutics, which is just a fancy way of saying, we need to interpret the Bible well. Samuel Reninhan in his short and excellent book, "God Without Passions: A Primer" gives four clear, simple interpretation guidelines that help us harmonize passages like these, see there is no contradiction, and lead us to a correct, biblical view of God so that we may worship Him rightly.
Passages that tell us about God's being or nature take priority over passages that describe God's actions.
In Genesis 6 Moses is using anthropomorphic language so that we may understand that God is about to do something. To illustrate this, Reninhan uses an example in his book that's worth sharing. He talks about the book Pinocchio. If I were to tell you that your nose is growing like Pinocchio, you would not take that literally. Of course, your nose isn't growing. What you would takeaway is that I'm calling you a liar. The biblical writers employ this type of strategy when they speak of God sometimes. Moses in Genesis 6 is communicating the gravity of a situation.
Man is wicked and in rebellion and God is going to wipe out the wicked men from the earth. God was sustaining those wicked men. Now He would judge them with a global flood. Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wants you to feel the weight of that event. We shouldn't read the historical account of the flood in black and white. The story is written in color for us to taste and smell.
Our other text is Numbers 23:19. This passage is communicating something to us about God's character. Moses, the same author as Genesis is telling us that God does not change. So, in Genesis, our unchanging promise fulfilling God judges wicked man with a global flood. That is how we should harmonize those two passages.
Now, if that isn't clear enough Reninhan goes on and gives more interpretation principles:
2. Scripture uses the physical features and emotional experiences of mankind in order to teach us about God. But we must not equate the human language used to describe God with God Himself.
3. Human language and understanding cannot contain who and what God is. Revelation may be accommodated to our capacities, but it is not false.
Or to put number 3 another way, God used human authors to make Himself knowable to us in a way we can understand, but we must understand that we are using the created to speak about the Creator- the finite to describe the infinite.
The Puritan Thomas Hodges says it this way, "So if you read that he [God] is angry, jealous, or the like, then know, the Scripture... speaks in our dialect; and as the nurse in talking with her young one brings down her language to the child's conception, so God does his; hence comes such low expressions in holy writ, because in spiritual things we are very dull, but yet we must not think that passions or such things are really in God, but it is because his works are such as men's when passions do possess their minds; as to destroy, consume, confound, the work he has wrought, yet perturbations have no place in him." 
4. We need to distinguish between our eternal God in himself, and the outworking of his decree in time and space.
Puritan Hercules Collins explains, "God's will is not suspended unto time, to see the creatures will before he wills concerning them as if man's will were to determine his; as if God could not determine his own will until he saw man's. His counsels are called Counsels of old, to signify the eternity of them. We poor Creatures will in time, but there is no time with him, all is eternity with him." 
Why is All This Important?
Why wade through what seems to be tedious theology? Hopefully, if you read this blog you know the answer to that question already. First, as believers we should want to know the God we claim to cherish, love, and worship. Secondly, God has written a book to us about Him. We should care about what's in the book. Third, the Lord through the prophet Malachi says it best:
6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change;
Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. (Malachi 3:6 NKJV)
Our salvation hinges on our God being absolutely unchangeable. If our God changes based on our obedience/disobedience, then what's to say He won't disown us tomorrow? God's posture toward us is not based on us at all. It is based on His own good, unchanging character and this is good. We rest in the secure grasp of our immutable Triune God.
Samuel Reninhan, God Without Passions: A Primer (2015)
 Thomas Hodges, A Glimpse of Gods Glory (1642)
 Hercules Collins, Mountains of Brass, or A Discourse Upon the Decrees of God (1690)