Impassibility of God in the Cappadocians

Roger Olson has a new book coming out in 2017 where he contends for a Christian metaphysic that goes against classical Christian theism fighting with the Cappadocians (allegedly). There is a mega-problem so I am interested in how Dr Olson handles it. Primarily that not only is the impassibility of God in-grained in Eastern Christian theology but also is heavily prominent in the Cappadocian theology and so it would be interesting to see how Olson gets around this obvious difficulty in presenting his odd theology.

For if, according to their statement, the Godhead of the Son suffers, while that of the Father is preserved in absolute impassibility, then the impassible Nature is essentially different from that which admits passion. Seeing, therefore, that the dictum before us, though, so far as it is limited by number of words, it is a short one, yet affords principles and hypotheses for every kind of doctrinal pravity, it would seem right that our readers should require in our reply not so much brevity as soundness. We, then, neither attribute our own salvation to a man, nor admit that the incorruptible and Divine Nature is capable of suffering and mortality: but since we must assuredly believe the Divine utterances which declare to us that the Word that was in the beginning was God752752    Cf. S. John i. 1, and that afterward the Word made flesh was seen upon the earth and conversed with men753753    Cf. Bar. iii. 37, we admit in our creed those conceptions which are consonant with the Divine utterance. (Gregory of Nyssa, Dogmatic Treatises, ch. VI)

We affirm and teach one and the same God and Son, at first not man but alone and pre-eternal, unmixed with body and all that belongs to the body, but finally human being too, assumed for our salvation, the same passible in flesh, impassible in Godhead, bounded in body, boundless in spirit, earthly and heavenly, visible and known spiritually, finite and infinite: so that by the same, whole man and God, the whole human being fallen under sin might be fashioned anew. … Two natures there are, God and man (since there are both soul and body), but not two “sons” or two “Gods.” … In sum: the constituents of our Savior are different things (since invisible and visible, timeless and temporal, are not the same), but not different people—God forbid! The pair is one by coalescence, God being “inhominized” and man “deified”—or however we want to put it. (Gregory the Theologian, Ep. 101.4-5–as cited by Fr Kimel)

Now if you want to say or hear something about God, break free from your body, break free from your sense perceptions, leave behind the earth, leave behind the sea, rise above the air, fly past the hours of day, the cycles of the seasons, the rhythms of the earth, climb above the aether, pass beyond the stars, their marvels, their harmonious order, their immense size, the benefits they supply to all, their good arrangement, their splendor, their position, their motion, their constellations and oppositions. Once you have passed beyond all things in your thoughts, transcended the heaven, and risen above it, behold the beauty there with your mind alone: the heavenly armies, the choirs of angels, the dignities or archangels, the glories of the dominions, the preeminence of the thrones, the powers, the principalities, the authorities. Once you have flown past all these things, transcended the entire created order in your thoughts, and raised your intellect far beyond these, contemplate the divine nature: permanent, immutable, inalterable, impassible, simple, incomposite, indivisible, unapproachable light, ineffable power, uncircumscribed greatness, supereminent glory, desirable goodness, extraordinary beauty that ravishes the soul pierced by it but that cannot be worthily expressed in speech. (Basil the Great, Fide 1–cited by Fr Kimel)

It seems that the Cappadocians, far from supporting Olson that impassibility of the Creatory is bad, are actually a trio against him…

I conclude with a snippit from Theodoret who connects impassibility with the incarnation.

So the Creator took a body and a soul, and keeping them clean from the stains of sin for men’s bodies gave His body and for their souls His soul. If this is true, and true it is, for these are words of truth itself, then wild and blasphemous are they who ascribe passion to the divine nature. (Demonstrations by Syllogisms, Proof that the Divine Savior is Impassible, 4)


About newenglandsun

A student. Male. Passionate. Easily offended. Child-like wonderer. Growing in faith, messing up daily.
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