Sanders on Weak and Strong Immutability

This quote comes from John Sanders (in Facebook group a while ago):

Let me attempt to clarify some points. First, words such as predestination, election, and salvation have more than one meaning. So when students ask me if I affirm predestination and I reply “yes” they are typically shocked. I then inform them I reject what they likely mean by the term—theological determinism. However, there are different understandings of the term though I may not want to use it due to how it is typically understood. In the OOG we distinguished between strong and weak understandings of immutability and claimed that the divine nature does not change but that God does have changing mental states (e.g strategies and emotions). At that time I don’t recall anyone distinguishing between different forms of impassibility. We took the term to have only one meaning, what has come to be known as strong impassibility—God is never affected by creatures in any respect. As the dialogue ensued we were asked whether God is ever overwhelmed by emotions as humans are apt to be such that God becomes incapacitated to act. We denied that this was the case. The distinction between strong and weak versions of impassibility arose in the literature and in discussions with Hasker, Rice, and Pinnock I decided to use both strong and weak immutability and strong and weak impassibility in the revised edition of GWR to distinguish between Classical Theism and Traditional Freewill Thesim (I placed Open Theism as a version of Freewill Theism). Our position had not changed from what we wrote in OOG. We simply became more precise about what we affirmed and rejected. We rejected strong impassibility and still do. This move was similar to the discussion about the “openness” of the future. People asked if we were saying that every aspect of the future was open and so we said no, some of the future may be closed. Getting more precise on these matters was acting responsibly. One is welcome to disagree with us about the meaning of the terms or the distinctions and suggest a more helpful way of understanding the issue. What I reject is the claim that “After much brow-beating, Sanders is now conceding qualified impassibility” My use of weak impassibility was in conference papers around 2002 and in GWR by 2006 so it had nothing to do with Tom Belt’s reasoning. I’m not in agreement with Belt on this issue by the way. But the point is that my motivation for making this distinction long preceded any conversations on Facebook. If weak impassibility as I defined it in GWR is inconsistent with open theism then I suppose that would mean I was an open theist until 2002 (as were Pinnock, Hasker and Rice). However, since my view has not changed, only become more clearly defined, I feel confident in asserting that I affirm open theism.

Facebook Sanders Immutability


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