Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
CAJ 09:2 (Fall 2011) p. 103
Divine Impassibility and the Mystery of Human Suffering. James F. Keating and Thomas Joseph White, eds. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2009. 400 pp. $45 (paperback). ISBN: 978– 0– 8028– 6347– 8.
For centuries impassibility has been viewed as a classical attribute of God. In the orthodox view this has been rooted in a certain view of metaphysics. This metaphysical system taught that God is pure act, eternal, immutable, and thus, impassible. In this sense, impassible has been understood to mean that God cannot be affected by his creation or suffer in any way. However, the notion that God is impassible has been criticized from many philosophers and theologians in the past few decades. The critics of divine impassibility assert that if God cannot be affected, then he would seem to be apathetic towards his creation. Further, they argue, the Bible clearly teaches that God is affected by human actions. Divine Impassibility and the Mystery of Human Suffering examines the issue of God’s impassibility and how it relates to the suffering of his creatures. It is a compilation of work and research from Catholic, Protestant, and Greek Orthodox scholars.
In Divine Impassibility, the authors examine how this doctrine relates to church history, particularly patristic thought. Several of the chapters center on major figures in historical theology, such as Cyril of Alexandria, Hilary of Poitiers, Thomas Aquinas, and Karl Barth. The authors of the text are careful to examine how such major figures of Christian history have viewed the doctrine of impassibility and how the doctrine has changed over the years. It also does an excellent job giving the reader an introduction to some major thinkers on this topic on the contemporary scene, such as Jürgen Moltmann.
The book’s chapters primarily come from presentations that were made at a theological conference in 2007 on the topic that the book covers (ix). Thus, the book is probably not best suited for newcomers to theology. It tends to assume at least a basic knowledge of philosophy and theology (particularly Christology). However, readers of any level will benefit from reading what the authors have written. It is well documented and points the readers to the major works in the field, especially from contemporaries.
CAJ 09:2 (Fall 2011) p. 104
The book has many strengths. Perhaps the greatest is its broad background concerning its authors. Being from many points of view, the readers is exposed to different traditions and be able to see how various schools of philosophy and theology view this issue. These various points of view examine how the doctrine of impassibility should be understood and how it relates to human suffering as we...
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