Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
TrinJ 7:2 (Fall 1986) p. 97
Divine Impassibility: An Essay in Philosophical Theology, Richard E. Creel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986). 238 pages. $39.50.
Occasionally a book appears that one wishes that he had written. This is just such a book. From its title it might appear that it is a book dealing with a very specialized area in the doctrine of God. Such is not the case. This book covers a wide variety of theological topics: the doctrines of God, creation, man, and evil, to name a few. Its approach to these topics is philosophical rather than biblical or exegetical. It is, however, an extended argument in support of classical theism (roughly the view of God found in the Bible) over against process theology. Though it is a closely argued book, the effort to follow the argument is superbly rewarded.
Let me begin by summarizing the contents of the book. The work starts with a historical survey of various authors’ views on the subject of divine impassibility. Creel concludes that the term has been used in a number of different ways about a variety of things. Therefore, the first step in deciding for passibility or irnpassibility is to define the problem more precisely. The most common element in the diverse definitions is that impassibility refers to imperviousness to outside influence. However, there is the need to question further whether impassibility relates to every aspect in the divine being or simply to some specific aspect. Creel thinks that there are four respects in which an incorporeal personal being might be impassible: his nature, his will, his knowledge, or his feelings.
The least argument is offered in support of the impassibility of God’s nature. This is because there seems to be universal agreement that the divine nature is impassible. Were God’s nature passible he would not be omnipotent, trustworthy or an object worthy of unconditional worship.
Creel also thinks God is impassible in his will. The usual argument for the passibility of God’s will is that an impassible person would be unable to respond to others and thus would not be a loving person. Petitionary prayer would have no value. The passibilist argument finds its answer in God’s eternal knowledge of possibility. Through omniscience God has exhaustive and eternal knolwedge of all possibilities. Therefore, he knows eternally any state of affairs that might become actual and has willed his response, or better his presponse. God does not react in the normal sense to human action or inaction, but he has eternally willed his presponse to any possible state of affairs that might come to pass. Might not God want to change his will? The answer is no. Through omniscience he knows every possible state of affairs and has determined his (p)response to pass. Thus, while...
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