The Suffering of the Impassible God: The Dialectics of Patristic Thought

By Paul L. Gavrilyuk | Go to book overview

APPENDIX Additional Evidence for the Prevalence of the Theory of Theology's Fall into Hellenistic Philosophy
I pointed out in the introduction that the issue of the divine impassibility in patristic theology was most often treated within the framework of what I had called 'the Theory of Theology's Fall into Hellenistic Philosophy'. To remind the reader, I have identified five main points of this theory:
1 divine impassibility is an attribute of God in Greek and Hellenistic philosophy;
2 divine impassibility was adopted by the early Fathers uncritically from the philosophers;
3 divine impassibility does not leave room for any sound account of divine emotions and divine involvement in history, as attested in the Bible;
4 divine impassibility is incompatible with the revelation of the suffering God in Jesus Christ;
5 the latter fact was recognized by a minority group of theologians who affirmed that God is passible, going against the majority opinion.

Since the Theory itself has been discussed in the Introduction and Chapter 1 , it will be sufficient to cite here only the most articulate proponents of this influential trend in modern scholarship.

The contrast between the mutable and passible God of 'biblical religion' and the immutable and impassible God of Greek philosophy has been drawn sharply in many studies. A groundbreaking work in this arena is A. J. Hetchel's The Prophets. Less known is T. Boman's Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek. In addition to the opinions of W. Temple, T. E. Pollard, and J. M. Hallman quoted in the Introduction, consider, for example, the following general statement made by R. S. Franks back in 1917: 'The Biblical idea of God is religious, not philosophical, and as such is, especially in the Old Testament, frankly anthropomorphic. Hence God is represented as both mutable and passible.' For the Greek philosophers, on the contrary, 'one of the chief features of this idea [of

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