When I first heard about the impassibility controversy, I thought this was about splitting hairs by entering the highly speculative enterprise of talking about God’s emotions. Not so much so now that I have delved into this book and familiarized myself more with the doctrine of God in general and his impassibility more specifically.
It is no secret that this book is controversial because of the ecclesiastical matter from which it emerged. I am personally an outsider looking at this crisis among Reformed Baptist brothers that I love and respect. I understand the heartache that brothers went through (are going through) and I feel compassionate about it. However, I didn’t come at this book in order to judge hearts and intentions in this matter, but in order to understand what it means to confess the impassible God. I now put down this volume, extremely thankful for the authors who wrote it. I not only learned what it means to confess the impassible God, but also what it doesn’t mean.
One can be in disagreement with the classical doctrine of divine impassibility (and its corollaries), but one cannot disagree that there is a historic meaning tied to the affirmation that God is “without body, parts, or passions.” An honest reader will have to admit that this work attains its aim of presenting the classical Christian doctrine of God and distinguishes it from old and modern deviations.
Not only have I discovered the depth of classical theism, I have been convinced of the necessity to maintain it strongly as the robust foundation of all our theology and practice. Don’t we confess that the doctrine of God and the “doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him” (2.3)? More than once, while I was reading this work, did I burst into praises to the Most High. I feel that I have added a stronger foundation to my Calvinism and also that I have widened and refined my catholicity.
Confessing the Impassible God might be too technical for some readers and the Reformed Scholastic can be intimidating at time. But for the reader who is looking for a nuanced and very well-articulated presentation of the God Who Is, as the Christian church confessed him, this book will feed your mind and soul. No angle has been neglected to assess the doctrine at stake: metaphysical and philosophical theology, biblical and exegetical theology, historical and pastoral theology.
I am not a specialist of theology proper, just an ordinary pastor and worshipper; but this book has proven to be highly useful to my ministry and me personally. I would go so far as to place it among the top ten books that most shaped my mind and theology. I pray that it won’t be a tool that divides but unites brothers; at the very least by clarifying distinct doctrinal understandings and, hopefully, by bringing more believers to the conviction that it attempts to defend.