Divine Impassibility and the Passion of the Christ

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I have been reading with profit an article by Kevin DeYoung in the Spring 2006 issue of Westminster Theological Journal entitled "Divine Impassibility and the Passion of Christ in the Book of Hebrews."  DeYoung seeks to refute the argument that the sufferings of Jesus show the true suffering nature of God himself.  In trying to show that the passibility of God cannot be assumed from the passibility of Christ, DeYoung has four main lines of argument, all of them persuasive.  First, the very nature of the incarnation entails a change for the Son of God.  It is clear from Hebrews 2 and elsewhere in Scripture that he took on human flesh and blood in order to do what what he could not do as God, namely, suffer. 

Second, according to the theological principle of the communication of idioms, the suffering that Jesus experienced cannot be predicated to his divine nature, but only to his human nature.

Third, the sufferings of Christ were not revelational but eschatological.  That is to say, they were not intended to show us something about the divine nature that we could not otherwise see, but to accomplish the work of redemption unto eternal life.  DeYoung writes: "His sufferings tell us nothing about the eternal suffering heart of God and everything about the completion of the plan of salvation."

Finally, as someone acquainted with human suffering, Jesus Christ can sympathize with us in our own sufferings.  This properly satisfies one impulse of those who deny impassibility, which is to find comfort in God.  God offers us this comfort in Christ.
Posted October 16, 2006 @ 9:30 AM by Phil Ryken
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