Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Does God Suffer? No!

Today Fr. Thomas Weinandy lectured at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. He was the culminating speaker for the Forum for Evangelical Theology’s series on the question of God’s Sovereignty.

During last year’s presentations God’s sovereignty was critiqued through the lens of a number of traditions: Patristic, Calvinist, Moltmannian, Open Theist, Process, and Thomist.

Fr. Weinandy’s lecture was not especially surprising, but was “illustrating” – as he seems to hold a penchant for drawing diagrams of the divine. Nevertheless, God’s impassability was defended, evil was stopped before it could become ontologized, and the distinction between Creator and creation was upheld.

It would be unduly discursive if I were to simply describe the lecture in total, so I will simply touch on two – while scourging the theological and rhetorical power of three – issues in his lecture: 1) God’s immanent workings pointed to God’s wholly Otherness, and 2) God’s love is in absolute action, constantly.

First, God's transcendence can be found in how God immanently related to the world. As Weinandy stated, "Thus, while he is intimately present o and dynamically active within the created historical order, God has revealed, through his very presence and activity, that he exists in a manner that differs in kind and not merely in degree to that of everything else within the created historical order." The biblical theophanies and the sanctification of God's peoples are examples of such immanent workings of God that distinguish God the creator form creation.

Second, God's immutability supports God's ability to be love. Usually the contrary is argued that only a suffering God can love. However, Weinandy noted, "God is immutable or unchangeable in his love and goodness not because his love and goodness are static or inert. That would be a contradiction of terms. Love and goodness are, by their very nature, dynamic and active. To say that God's love is immutable is to say that God's love and goodness are eternally perfectly in act and no further act of love could make his love and goodness more perfectly in act.... the divine attribute of impassibility specifies that God's love and compassion are so ardent that no change could enhance the ardor of his love or compassion." He unfortunately went on to use the metaphor of God as the eternally perfect kisser who is always ready to lay a wet one on you; as I said unfortunate.

During the question and answer session Dr. Vaux asked if this wasn't 'whole-sale Greek metaphysics.' The Fr. responded, "This is whole-sale revelation! If I thought I started out with Greek philosophy and just added revelation, I would give up."

A good friend of mine noted that he loved how the whole lecture seemed to be a doxology, not an opportunity for the Fr. to show his knowledge per se, but a time to preach the truth of God: that God is all loving, all knowing, eternal and unchanging. And appropriately the lecture ended with, AMEN.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah--ah no. I didnt understand this one either.