God Is Not Impassive

, posted by drwayman

It is sometimes said of God, that, being infinite and perfect, he is beyond the reach of emotionality; in other words, is an “impassive” existence, a being without feeling. The truth seems to us to be directly the opposite. God, so far from being the negation, is the perfection of feeling; that is to say, he feels, and cannot help feeling, just as he ought to feel, on all possible occasions.

This remark we proceed now to illustrate in some particulars. And, accordingly, it may be said, in the first place, that God, instead of being impassive and without sensibility, is a being of desires and aversions. Can it be supposed, for instance, that any good takes place in the universe, without God’s desiring it to take place? And if such a supposition is impossible, it is equally so that any evil can take place without causing in him feelings of dissatisfaction and aversion. And this is not all. He not only desires good to take place, but he rejoices in it, when it has taken place. And he cannot do otherwise. And, on the other hand, he not only disapproves of wrong-doing, and desires that it may not take place, but it cannot take place without exciting grief in him.

It is a great and affecting truth, that the infinite God, in the true sense of the terms, is grieved with sinners. To be indifferent to sin in any of its forms or degrees, which is the same thing as being “impassive” in view of sin, is not in his nature. Such a supposition, namely, the sight of sin without experiencing any emotions, would imply, at least, a great imperfection of character. And if it is impossible for him to be indifferent to sin, it is certainly impossible for him to be pleased with it. To be grieved with sin, therefore, to be grieved with an infinite grief, is the necessary result of the infinity and perfection of his nature.

And it is the same with other feelings. It is prob­ably not necessary to go through with them in detail It is sufficient to say that God has, and necessarily must have, all those feelings which are appropriate to a perfectly wise, benevolent, and holy being. They correspond to things as they take place; and they vary exactly with the changing incidents of those things; every shade of alteration in the facts causing a shade of alteration in the corresponding feelings. So that it is true of the divine mind, that it is constantly in motion and constantly at rest at the same time; — the rest, or rather the perfect tranquility, being the result of the perfection of its movement. It is not the rest of inaction, but of perfect adjustment; not the rest of impassive stagnation, but of emotional and moral harmony.

— edited from A Treatise on Divine Union (1851) Part 7, Chapter 11 by Thomas Cogswell Upham. You can find more of his work at the blog, The Hidden Life, managed by Craig L Adams at: http://thomascupham.blogspot.com​