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Two Bearded Preachers

Listen as Justin Larkin and Martin Bender talk about everything without researching anything! We discuss life, ministry, and family from a uniquely Christian perspective without getting all preachy. Like the Two Bearded Preachers facebook page and follow us on Instagram @twobeardedpreachers.
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Now displaying: October, 2016

Welcome to the Two Bearded Preachers home. Here you'll find our podcast and blogs as well as a few extras you won't see anywhere else.

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Oct 31, 2016

Justin and Martin tell a spooky story that lacks consistency. Even narrative can be comforting which is why it is removed leaving only terror, turtles, and Dana playing the guitar. Enjoy.

Oct 27, 2016

What could be more terrifying than a new Green Day album? Episode 56 of the Two Bearded Preachers! Justin and Martin discuss the implications of Ecclesiastes and how reading it is an awful lot like living in Seattle. Justin admits that he likes wonky preaching (something you already knew), but still goes off on Andy Stanley a few weeks after the whole issue has died down. The inevitability of death is also talked about at length which is certain to keep everyone glued to their earbuds. Listen all the way to the end for an O Brother Where Art Thou reference that's sure to please. As always, PODCAST GOLD!

Oct 23, 2016

Martin W. Bender

The impassibility of God was never taught to me growing up. Even in Bible college and seminary, there was little talk about how an eternal God experiences emotions. It’s a little surprising to me that such an important doctrine for the defense of Classical Theism was largely ignored in my preparation for ministry. Granted, I do not come from a church tradition that places much value in clearly defined theological systems. Now that I am responsible for the care and feeding of a congregation, I take having a consistent theology very seriously. That’s why it’s so important to me that I gain a greater understanding of the current debate surrounding the doctrine of impassibility.

Historical Theology Survey of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: The Modern Era by Brandon F. Smith and James M. Renihan

In reviewing the modern era, the authors note that the 18th century maintained most of the doctrinal positions received from their forbearers. Gill, Tennent, and Edwards are all used as examples to prove this point. Shifts begin to take place in the 19th century and following as Enlightenment thought begins impacting the Church. Hodge and Warfield are identified as Princeton thinkers who defended the classical understanding of God during this time, but who had some difficulties with impassibility and developed modifications. In the 20th and 21st centuries, more and more theologians followed in Princeton’s footsteps, eroding the traditional view and opting for positions where God sovereignly governs his emotions.

Many of today’s Reformed thinkers have struggled to reconcile Barthian categories with their confessions. Feinberg, Frame, Packer, and Oliphint are all identified as having altered the traditional understanding of impassibility in favor of frameworks that allow for emotional change in the Godhead. Each of their positions is described briefly and shown to be alternatives to how God’s impassibility is described in several confessional statements.

A Theology of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (I) Impassibility and the Essence and Attributes of God by Charles J. Rennie

Impassibility is an important doctrine because any change in God allows for all his attributes to be diminished. In Classical Theism, God is so profoundly simple change is not even possible for him. God’s infinite nature means there is no limit to his perfection. If there was the possibility for change, the only change possible would be to become less as he is already perfect. This is part of the argument supporting his immutability.

Clark Pinnock, an Open Theist, points out the fundamental flaw with the altered views of impassibility. Any alternative position that rules out divine impassibility as it has been classically defined undermines God’s immutability. Whether described as covenant condescension or God-in-time/God-in-eternity distinction, there is simply no getting past the fact that his attributes are undermined by any occurrence of change, even a shift in emotion.

Thoughts

One of the major problems I see with the theological system I was raised in is that it is inconsistent in what it teaches about God’s relationship with creation. God has always been described to me in classical terms, but his relationship with creation (particularly humanity), seems to make him and his actions contingent. God in no way can be contingent upon creation if his infinity is to be taken seriously. As I read through this book I am reminded of these challenges as they seem to hinge upon one’s understanding of God and his relationship with time. If God is truly timeless, as he seems to be described in scripture, then change is impossible for him. As I work through the implications of this idea books like this one are very helpful in raising issues I have yet to consider.

 

Baines, Ronald S., Richard C. Barcellos, James P. Butler, Stefan T. Lindblad, James M. Renihan eds. Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility. (Palmdale, CA: RBAP, 2015).

Oct 21, 2016

Did you watch the third presidential debate and find yourself falling asleep? If so we don't blame you. Listening to Donald and Hillary talk about policy is not nearly as interesting as the news about the Nintendo Switch. Since Justin and Martin didn't hear about the new system before Wednesday, they decided to watch the Clinton/Trump debate together and make comments while it played. Surely you want to listen to the Two Bearded Preachers' take on all things political, right? Well, today is your lucky day.

Oct 18, 2016

Martin W. Bender

So after a mini vacation and a natural disaster, I return to writing about the heavier theological book I’m currently reading (I’m also reading Alister McGrath’s Why God Won’t Go Away: Is the New Atheism Running on Empty but it doesn’t require as frequent posting). It’s been over two weeks since I finished this chapter so hopefully, I can remember the gist of it. Here we go.

Historical Theology Survey of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: Pre-Reformation through Seventeenth-Century England by Michael T. Renihan, James M. Renihan, and Samuel Renihan

“History is not normative.” This is perhaps the best statement in the chapter, although it doesn’t figure prominently in the authors’ argument. Instead, it is a simple reminder that just because the ancients believed something doesn’t mean it must be maintained in perpetuity (there’s a whole other series of posts that can be written about how this idea should be applied to the church). When discussing the doctrine of impassibility in the history of the church the fathers clearly define the simplicity and unity of God, eliminating the possibility of emotional change. Athanasius perhaps best argues for divine impassibility in his arguments against the Arians, who understood Jesus as less than divine.

In the Reformation period, divine impassibility was maintained as the orthodox position regarding God’s nature. This carried over from Roman Catholic thought (as did so many doctrines) and helped to support the Creator/creature distinction so prevalent in Reformed theology. Calvin and others held tightly to this understanding of God as the biblical and traditional understanding of God’s nature.

Thoughts

I’m not a traditionalist by any stretch of the imagination. I was raised and trained by a group of religious deconstructionists who could only agree on the idea of stripping the church of the traditions and divisions that had built up over time. Oddly enough, from this rather dismissive perspective on the history of the church, I have come to develop a great love for those ancient writers too often ignored by today’s churchmen. I can see how old arguments are repeated through the ages even though errors were corrected hundreds of years ago (I’m looking at you, JWs. For some reason they won’t visit me anymore…). Since the doctrine of impassibility is so widely held throughout the history of the church modern Christians do well to seriously consider the position.

So far we’ve seen impassibility to be both biblical and classical, 100 more pages and I imagine they’ll knock out confessional too. I’m giddy with anticipation.

 

Baines, Ronald S., Richard C. Barcellos, James P. Butler, Stefan T. Lindblad, James M. Renihan eds. Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility. (Palmdale, CA: RBAP, 2015).

Oct 13, 2016

Better call 500 because this episode is straight fire. Justin and Martin talk about how preaching might be influenced by Ted Talks, discuss why Martin hasn't watched Daredevil, and tell of Justin's terrible experience with hurricane Matthew. You hear wisdom like "don't wiz on the electric fence" and how to best level your Hammerdin in Diablo 2. Of course, you'll also learn why Kingpin is the biggest Dad Fail of all and the best way to deal with an electrical fire in your back yard. Don't forget to comment on the Facebook page if you want Martin to watch all the Marvel Netflix series. Enjoy.

Oct 6, 2016

The Two Bearded Preachers talk about the challenges of bad weather, the new fascination with clowns, and the perils of aging. Justin laments the fact he is getting older and rotting from the inside out. Martin thinks clowns in the woods are funny even though they're a nonindigenous species in the woods. Neither believe the clown fad is a lasting societal development. That's right folks, they talk about all the issues pressing on the American psyche. Be sure to listen, share, and repeat.

Oct 4, 2016

Martin W. Bender

The New Testament takes the Old Testament as a given. This is why it is so important to understand the Old Testament’s take on impassibility and bring those ideas forward into the New Testament. In the history of Israel, we see a particular world view established over the ages as God interacts with his people. Each interaction builds upon the previous to demonstrate God’s covenantal love for his people as well as his personal character. The two previous chapters make a strong case for the impassibility of God as one of the definitive attributes from the Old Testament. The present two chapters do the same from the New Testament.

The New Testament on the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (I) Texts on the Nature of God, Immutability, and Impassibility by Richard C. Barcellos and James P. Butler

The nature of God as described in the New Testament mirrors the Old Testament. This isn’t surprising in the least. In various texts God is said to be invisible, spirit, other, eternal, immortal, and above all creation. These ideas are directly in line with the scriptures received by the New Testament writers. The creator/creation distinction is shown to be as much in effect in the Christian era.

God’s immutability is also evident in the New Testament. Immutability creates the necessity for impassibility. James 1:17 describes the Father as existing without variation or shadow. If this is taken didactically, it paints a picture of God in concert with Old Testament passages used to demonstrate immutability. He is utterly different from man in whom there is much variation and turning. As such, the Father’s love also is without variation and passages that seem to indicate otherwise must be understood as figures of speech.

The New Testament on the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (II) Creation, the Incarnation and Sufferings of Christ, and Conclusion by Richard C. Barcellos

The doctrines of creation and the incarnation are difficult when one attempts to reconcile them with the immutability and impassibility of God. Oliphint is used as an example of a modified view of impassibility to ease the tension inherent in this reconciliation. His position is that God eternally decrees his own emotional changes just as any of his other eternal decrees. This does not solve the issue of whether or not God reacts to actions of creatures. Impassibility is not off-putting because of the nature of God’s decree’s, but because the Bible uses language that on the surface indicates a sense of contingency on the part of God. It doesn’t seem Oliphint’s argument overcomes this discrepancy as his alternative view maintains contingency on the part of God. Without reading God with Us I can’t give an appropriate response, but maybe I’ll read it in the future (probably not unless it gets another printing).

The other challenge addressed in this chapter is the problem of the incarnation. The very notion of incarnation is difficult, but when you add to it the presuppositions of immutability, impassibility, and eternity it’s enough to boil your brain without removing it first. There are issues of logical vs. temporal primacy in trying to see how the Son can come into flesh (change?) while remaining immutable in eternity. The classical answer lies in the hypostatic union. “In the incarnation of the Son of God, a human nature was inseparably united forever with the divine nature in the one person of Jesus Christ, yet with the two natures remaining distinct, whole, and unchanged, without mixture or confusion, so that the one person Jesus Christ, is truly God and truly man” (Council of Chalcedon, 451). Christ’s human nature is created, but his divine nature is eternal. Christ’s immutability is maintained by understanding the difference between his two natures.

Thoughts

This book is very tricky. It took two readings of chapter seven and cracking open my Elwell to get a passable understanding what the author was trying to say. There is a lot of interaction with dissenting opinions which makes for more difficult reading. The reasonableness of divine impassibility shines through despite some nit picking theological jargon. So come for the nit picking if that’s your thing, but stick around for the thoughtful consideration of the classical doctrine of divine impassibility.  

 

Baines, Ronald S., Richard C. Barcellos, James P. Butler, Stefan T. Lindblad, James M. Renihan eds. Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility. (Palmdale, CA: RBAP, 2015).

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