This method was, in my opinion, cogently argued in the first two chapters of Confessing the Impassible God. Those chapters were written by Charles J. Rennie and Ronald S. Baines. I highly commend them for your consideration. For example, Baines says, “To suggest that giving precedence to the texts which speak of God ontologically . . . is methodologically flawed, as Carson does, simply does not follow.”(fn.1.) Baines’ statement is in response to these words by D. A. Carson:
The methodological problem with the argument for divine impassibility is that it selects certain texts of Scripture, namely those that insist on God’s sovereignty and changelessness, constructs a theological grid on the basis of those selected texts, and then uses this grid to filter out all other texts, in particular those that speak of God’s emotions. These latter texts, nicely filtered out, are then labeled “anthropomorphisms” and are written off. (fn.2.)
Baines responds as follows:
What is perplexing with Carson’s objections to both classical impassibility and present day versions of passibility is that he fails to provide a hermeneutical framework for dealing with the biblical material. (fn.3.)
The issue is method, as Baines implies; and method is the very reason why I bring this up at this point. How do we account for the biblical material that at face value seems contradictory? For when considering divine creation, we must account for “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers” (Psalm 8:3), and for the fact that God is “the King eternal, immortal, invisible” (1 Tim. 1:17). Divine fingers and divine invisibility, at face value, seem contradictory. A hermeneutical framework for dealing with the biblical material must be in place or one is bound to confess that God has literal wings, for example. For in Psalm 17:8 we read, “Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.” Either God actually does have wings or this must be some sort of ornithomorphism (i.e., the attribution of birdly traits to God). Surely no one wants to assert that God has eternal wings and “[s]urely [no one wants to] believe that God temporarily or permanently assumed the intermediary properties of feathered appendages.” (fn.4.)
This very issue of privileging the ontological scriptural assertions of God over the metaphorical has received push-back from men who should know better. Our confession itself, however, is an illustration of this very method. Let me prove this assertion.
- Ronald S. Baines, “Hermeneutics: Analogia Scripturae and Analogia Fidei,” in Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility, eds. Ronald S. Baines, Richard C. Barcellos, James P. Butler, Stefan T. Lindblad, and James M. Renihan (Palmdale, CA: RBAP, 2015), 86.
- D. A. Carson, How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2006), 165. Elsewhere, responding to classical impassibilists, Carson says: “You may then rest in God’s sovereignty, but you can no longer rejoice in his love. You may rejoice only in a linguistic expression that is an accommodationof some reality of which we cannot conceive, couched in the anthropopathismof love. Give me a break. Paul did not pray that his readers might be able to grasp the height and depth and length and breadth of an anthropopathism and know this anthropopathism that surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:14–21).” See D. A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000), 59. Baines responds to this with these appropriate words: “While we will deal with this in greater detail below, no classical impassibilist that we have encountered reads Paul this way. Doesn’t Paul affirm that the love he wants the Ephesians to know is that which ‘surpasses knowledge’?” See Baines, “Hermeneutics: Analogia Scripturae and Analogia Fidei,” 84.
- Baines, “Hermeneutics: Analogia Scripturae and Analogia Fidei,” 83.
- Cameron G. Porter, “’The Majesty of Mystery’: A Review Article”, JIRBS (2017): TBD.