God Is Impassible and Impassioned

James Dolezal, part-time professor of Theology and Church History at Cairn University in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, reviews God Is Impassible and Impassioned: Toward a Theology of Divine Emotion by Rob Lister. The book explores the significance of God’s emotional experience and most especially the question of divine suffering.

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Divine Impassibility

The Christ the Center panel meets with Rev. Dr. James Dolezal to discuss the much maligned doctrine of divine impassibility. Beginning with a look at Westminster Confession of Faith 2.1, that “There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions…” the panel looks at the biblical basis and importance of understanding, affirming, and developing a proper use of this doctrine that God does not have passions. Often taken to be a denial of, for instance, God’s love, it is shown that the truth is to the contrary. As simple and as pure act, God is love in the fullest sense without fluctuation or change which is the human lot. This discussion offers much food for thought.

Dr. Dolezal is the author of God Without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God’s Absoluteness, which he spoke about on Christ the Center episode 185.

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God without Parts: The Doctrine of Divine Simplicity

Recent trends in evangelical theology have called into question the traditional understanding of God’s being. For centuries, theologians have maintained that God is immutable and simple, that is, not composed of parts. Yet many recent philosophers of religion have found the doctrine to be untenable. Dr. James Dolezal argues for the importance of retaining divine simplicity while he discusses his dissertation in this fascinating look at the classic doctrine.

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Natural Theology and the Immediate Knowledge of God

The idea of natural theology has been much debated. One’s understanding regarding the project of natural theology will inevitably impact substantially one’s apologetic methodology and epistemology.

K. Scott Oliphint and James Dolezal visit the Reformed Forum studio to discuss natural theology. Michael Sudduth’s book The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology (Burlington: Ashgate, 2009) will act as the foil of the discussion. The book is in the Ashgate “Philosophy of Religion” series edited by Paul Helm and Linda Zagzebski.

In The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology Sudduth identifies three main categories in the world of Reformed objections to natural theology: objections from the immediacy of our knowledge of God, the noetic effects of sin, and the logic of theistic arguments. While recognizing various forms of natural theology, Sudduth argues that none of the main Reformed objections are successful against the project of natural theology itself.

The foundation for Sudduth’s book was laid in his 1996 D.Phil. dissertation at the University of Oxford. In that work, Sudduth attempted “to synthesize the Reformed epistemology of Alvin Plantinga and features of the evidentialist tradition with its emphasis on natural theology – rational arguments for the existence and nature of God.” (Sudduth, Preface) The book is even titled after Plantinga’s 1980 paper of the same title.

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Natural Theology

The idea of natural theology has been much debated. One’s understanding regarding the project of natural theology will inevitably impact substantially one’s apologetic methodology and epistemology.

K. Scott Oliphint and James Dolezal visit the Reformed Forum studio to discuss natural theology. Michael Sudduth’s book The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology (Burlington: Ashgate, 2009) will act as the foil of the discussion. The book is in the Ashgate “Philosophy of Religion” series edited by Paul Helm and Linda Zagzebski.

In The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology Sudduth identifies three main categories in the world of Reformed objections to natural theology: objections from the immediacy of our knowledge of God, the noetic effects of sin, and the logic of theistic arguments. While recognizing various forms of natural theology, Sudduth argues that none of the main Reformed objections are successful against the project of natural theology itself.

The foundation for Sudduth’s book was laid in his 1996 D.Phil. dissertation at the University of Oxford. In that work, Sudduth attempted “to synthesize the Reformed epistemology of Alvin Plantinga and features of the evidentialist tradition with its emphasis on natural theology – rational arguments for the existence and nature of God.” (Sudduth, Preface) The book is even titled after Plantinga’s 1980 paper of the same title.

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Apologetics and Systematic Theology in the Thought of Van Til

The Christ the Center panelists engage Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, in a wide-ranging discussion about Cornelius Van Til and the recent publication of th fourth edition of his The Defense of the Faith . Dr. Oliphint, who is arguably the most authoritative expert on Van Til, shares about the historical context which gave rise to this book, including disputes with individuals connected with Calvin College, Calvin Theological Seminary, and what is now Kuyper College, in the 1950s concerning common grace and philosophical idealism. Much of the material in the original edition of the book that evinced this debate was removed in subsequent editions and has now been restored and amply expanded with a helpful introduction and explanatory notes. Of special interest is the discussion of Van Til’s connection with Reformed Scholasticism and Herman Bavinck through his doctrine of analogy. When all is said and done, it comes down to this: Van Til was simply applying orthodox Reformed theology to apologetics. (more…)

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