Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Impassibility of God - a Review of Thomas Weinandy's Does God Suffer?

By Thomas G. Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap. (Notre Dame: 2000).

The classical view of God defended for most of church history by
thinkers such as the early church fathers, later theologians like Aquinas, and reformers like Calvin and Arminius, was that God is impassible. This means that God does not experience changes of emotional states. But in recent times, this doctrine has come under sharp criticism by theologians of varied backgrounds.

Catholic theologian Thomas G. Weinandy’s book, Does God Suffer?, is a robust defense of the classical doctrine of impassibility. As he explains in the preface, his desire is to refute erroneous arguments made against the doctrine, and to present a positive view of God in light of this teaching. I think he succeeds on both counts.

In this review I will survey each chapter of Weinandy’s book and summarize his arguments. But before I do that, since the concept of impassibility may be foreign to many readers, I want to take just a moment to clarify what exactly this teaching means. But first, we need to understand some more basic ideas about God and language.