Sanders on Impassibility

John Sanders I posted this on the Facebook page Open Theism but thought I would post it here for those who won’t see it:

In 1994 when we wrote OOG we had only one meaning of impassibility in mind. When I revised GWR I was aware that Gavrilyuk noted several definitions of the term in the fathers. Creel analyzed several definitions in contemporary analytic philosophy of religion. Hence, a distinction has been made recently between strong and weak versions of both impassibility and immutability. In the revised edition of GWR pages 194, 197 I say that classical theism which developed from Augustine affirmed strong versions of both while freewill theism, which was the view of most of the early fathers, affirmed weak versions of both. Strong impassibility is that God cannot be affected by creatures in any respect and has no changing dispositions. Strong immutability is that God cannot change in any respect. Weak impassibility is that God can have changing emotional states but is not overcome by emotions, etc. Weak immutability is that the divine character does not change but God can have changing mental states. In OOG we definitely affirmed what is now called weak immutability. It seems that the strong version of impassibility develops in the middle Ages, sometime after augustiine. it became standard and latter Middle Ages and in Protestant scholasticism. Hence, when we used the term in OOG it was that definition we had in mind. That is what puzzeled me in the fathers since they talk about changing states in God alongside impassibility. Gavrilyuk’s book helped me see that they were not affirming strong impassibility. For shorthand, I prefer not to use the term weak impassibility and simply say that God is passible. But if someone wants a more precise definition then I would affirm weak impasibility. I don’t see how an open theist can affirm strong impassibility. Have a great rest of Easter!

open theism

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