Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Dr. Bob Gonzales' interesting review of Confessing the Impassible God

Dr Robert Gonzales is a qualified (im)passibilist, and I have had prior disagreements with him concerning the framing of the Well-Meant Offer quite a few years back. But as a self-proclaimed Reformed Baptist, he was obviously one of the most high-profile targets of the movement within American Reformed Baptist circles when the impassibility controversy began. In this light, I was curious as to how he would deal with the publishing of the book by his critics on the topic of impassibility, and I wasn't disappointed in this regard.

For some reason, Gonzales' website was down (perhaps he quit blogging?), despite the fact that his review of the book was in Google search results. I decided then to see if there was an archived version of the page, and voila, here it is.

An excerpt:

Confessing the Impassible God is mainly a polemic against a more moderate form of classic theism. In particular, the book argues that God cannot be affected or affect himself in any way whatsoever and, therefore, cannot have anything analogous to human affections or emotions. Thus, when the Scripture writers describe God as angry or compassionate or grieved, they intend the reader to interpret those ascriptions as mere figures of speech that do not reveal God’s inner attitudes but that simply stand for the outward manifestations of God’s temporal judgments or blessings. Funny that Moses, Isaiah, Jesus, or Paul never let us in on this secret!


Were the reviewer unaware of the book’s “backstory,” he might have given it a slightly higher rating. The book does provide the reader with some helpful history of doctrine, and it may appear to uninformed readers as nothing more than a gentlemanly attempt to commend a more austere version of impassibility. But unlike larger conservative Reformed denominations, like the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and Presbyterian Church of America (PCA), that allow both the stricter and more moderate views of impassibility, the authors of the book reject that this is an “in house” debate. In fact the essays in the book are the fruits of an effort to remove pastors and churches from a Reformed Baptist association who could not in good conscience affirm the more philosophical entailments of the thesis.

While I would certainly disagree with how Gonzales or Ware would modify divine impassibility, I find myself sympathizing with them somewhat, since I have seen how those attack dogs come after Grudem and Ware on the topic of Eternal Functional Submission (EFS). But the posting of this review is not about me having sympathy with Gonzales' position on the topic, but rather just to note the thoughts from one of those whom the book is castigating.

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