Divine Emotion -- By: George E. Meisinger
CTSJ 4:2 (April 1998) p. 11
Chafer Theological Seminary
[*Editor’s note: George E. Meisinger is dean of Chafer Theological Seminary, as well as teaching in the Old and New Testament departments. He received his B.A. from Biola University, a Th.M. in Old Testament Literature and Exegesis from Dallas Theological Seminary, and a D.Min. in Biblical Studies from Western Seminary, and presently pursues a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology. He also pastors Grace Church in Orange, California.]
What does Scripture teach about God’s feelings, or emotions? The question is: “Does God have feeling as we humans experience emotion?” Some theologians teach the impassibility of God, which if true means that God does not have emotion, or passion.1
A Figure of Speech: Anthropomorphism
Let us back up a moment. It will help us understand what goes on here to recall the notion of anthropomorphism. An anthropomorphism holds that the Bible ascribes to God human, physical characteristics, which God does not in fact have.”2 Anthropomorphisms seek to “humanize” God so that we may better understand what the Lord is like. For example, Scripture says God has:
- A finger (Deuteronomy 9:10);
- A hand (Exodus 3:20; Isaiah 66:2);
- An arm (Exodus 6:6; Deuteronomy 4:34; 5:15);
- An ear (Isaiah 37:17; Psalm 11:4).
Scripture also says that God comes and goes, though He is omnipresent, being everywhere at once. “Coming” and “going” are anthropomorphisms to communicate something of God’s activity (Genesis 11:5; Isaiah 64:1–2).
Such anthropomorphisms as these are unnumbered in the Bible. We should note that where Scripture ascribes physical members to God, it is not an assertion that God possesses these members, or a corporal body with its parts. Instead, these indications of physical members show that God is able to do precisely those things that are the functions of man’s physical parts. He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see (Psalm 94:9)?
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