Confessing the Impassible God

New RBAP title coming this fall


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



RBAP currently has two books on divine impassibility, God without Passions: a Reader and God without Passions: a Primer. What is divine impassibility? Sam Renihan, in his newest book (God without Passions: a Primer), defines it as follows: “God does not experience emotional changes either from within or effected by his relationship to creation” (19). That definition might startle you. It sounds as if God were a cold, indifferent divine rock or robot. Notice the words just used to describe God: “cold,” “indifferent,” “rock,” and “robot.” Each of these terms are creaturely; they are borrowed from the created realm. Of course God is not “cold,” “indifferent,” a “rock,” or a “robot”; He is not creature. This is exactly what the Second London Confession of 1677/89 asserts, when it says, “[God is] without body, parts, or passions” (2.1). Each of these terms – “body,” “parts,” “passions” – are indicative of creatures not the eternal Creator. “Passions” are creaturely actions which need a creaturely “body” and creaturely “parts” (i.e., faculties of the soul) in order to exist. “Passions” come into being; God is (Exod. 3:14).  Since God has neither “body” nor “parts” of which He is comprised or compounded, and due to divine immutability and eternity, He is impassible (i.e., “without…passions”).


But, someone might be thinking, does divine impassibility mean that God is not love? Of course not, for we are told that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The love of God is a divine perfection, co-extensive with the divine essence and, therefore, eternal. It is not a divine passion (a contradiction). Love is what God is (i.e., actually), not what God can become (i.e., potentially). God can and does reveal His love to creatures but He does not and cannot manufacture more love or deplete Himself of previous love. For to become more or less loving, for example, implies the imperfection of a previous state of existence. God’s perfections are immutable.


This leads to RBAP’s next book on divine impassibility, Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility. This book will cover hermeneutics, exegesis, historical theology, systematic theology, the Confession, and practical theology. It will contain a Foreword by Paul Helm and has been endorsed by Earl Blackburn, Walter Chantry, James Dolezal, J. V. Fesko, Ryan McGraw, Fred Sanders, David VanDrunen, Jeffrey Waddington, and Sam Waldron.



Here is the table of contents:




Paul Helm


The Editors




An Introduction to the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: Why is this Doctrine Important?………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

James M. Renihan


Part I: Theological and Hermeneutical Prolegomena


  1. Analogy and the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility……………………………………………………..

Charles J.  Rennie

  1. Hermeneutics: Analogia Scripturae and Analogia Fidei………………………………………………….

Ronald S. Baines


Part II: Biblical Foundations


  1. The Old Testament on Divine Impassibility: (I) Texts on the Nature of God………………

Steve Garrick with Ronald S. Baines

  1. The Old Testament on Divine Impassibility: (II) Texts on Immutability and Impassibility………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Ronald S. Baines and Steve Garrick

  1. The Old Testament on Divine Impassibility: (III) Texts on Apparent Passibilism and Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Steve Garrick, James P. Butler, and Charles J. Rennie

  1. The New Testament on Divine Impassibility: (I) Texts on the Nature of God, Immutability, and Impassibility…………………………………………………………………………………

Richard C. Barcellos and James P. Butler

  1. The New Testament on the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (II) Creation, the Incarnation and Sufferings of Christ, and Conclusion………………………………………………..

Richard C. Barcellos


Part III: Historical Theology


  1. Historical Theology Survey of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: Pre-Reformation through Seventeenth-Century ……………………………………………………………………..

Michael T. Renihan, James M. Renihan, and Samuel Renihan

  1. Historical Theology Survey of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: The Modern Era……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Brandon Smith and James M. Renihan


Part IV: Systematic Theology


  1. A Theology of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (I) Impassibility and the Essence and Attributes of God…………………………………………………………………………………………………

Charles J. Rennie

  1. A Theology of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (II) Impassibility and the Divine Affections…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Charles J. Rennie

  1. A Theology of the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility: (III) Impassibility and Christology…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Charles J. Rennie and Stefan T. Lindblad


Part V: Confessional Theology


  1. Confessional Theology and the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility……………………………….

James M. Renihan


Part VI: Practical Theology


  1. Practical Theology and the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility……………………………………..

James P. Butler


Part VII: Conclusion


  1. Closing Comments and Affirmations and Denials……………………………………………………..

Ronald S. Baines and Charles J. Rennie




  1. Review of God with Us: Divine Condescension and the Attributes of God, K. Scott Oliphint……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Charles J. Rennie

  1. Review of God is Impassible and Impassioned: Toward a Theology of Divine Emotion,

Rob Lister…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

James E. Dolezal


Scripture Index………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Name and Subject Index………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Glossary of Technical Terms and Theological Phrases…………………………………………………….

Bibliography of Works Cited……………………………………………………………………………………………



Here are some brief excerpts from Paul Helm’s Foreword:


. . . This book can be said to present an interdisciplinary exposition and so a cumulative defense of divine impassibility and of the doctrine of God of which that is an aspect. Each line of argument strengthens and supports the other. Its foundation in Scripture, and the hermeneutics employed, show the doctrine to be not speculative or abstract but to have its foundation in the varied data of the both Testaments of the Bible. The chapters on history show that divine impassibility is not a recent whimsy or the peculiar invention of a Christian sect, but the historic catholic faith. Those on the confession and the doctrine of God set out its Baptist pedigree, and the connectedness of impassibility with other distinctions made in the doctrine of God, and their overall coherence. Each line of enquiry sensitizes the palate to taste the others. There is a polemical strand throughout the book, contrasting this view with those of Open Theism and aberrant statements from contemporary Calvinists and others. But these arguments are used not to score points but to set forth and make even clearer the positive, historic teaching on divine impassibility, by contrasting it with other currently-held views.

I am honored to have been asked to write this Foreword, and delighted with what I have read. Confessing the Impassible God is heartily recommended.


Paul Helm

Former Professor of the History and Philosophy of Religion

King’s College




Here are some excerpts from the endorsements:


How is the confessional phrase God is  “without . . . passions” to be understood? Is God really without passions? Isn’t he like us or rather aren’t we like God, made in his image? We have passions and emotions, therefore, God must have the same; or so the argument goes. Can God become emotionally hurt or distraught? Does God actually and emotionally change with varying circumstances and situations in human history? After all, doesn’t the Bible say that God repented? These are some questions that have been raised in the past century, but with renewed vigor in the last ten years.

The above questions are skillfully answered in this book Confessing the Impassible God. . . .


Earl M. Blackburn

Heritage Baptist Church, Senior Pastor

Shreveport, Louisiana




. . . You will find within these covers profound thought that is not all easy to grasp but well-worth the effort.

I am pleased to commend this volume. May it bring much praise to “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).


Walter J. Chantry

Author of Today’s Gospel, Authentic or Synthetic?,

Signs of the Apostles, and Call the Sabbath a Delight




The essays in this volume constitute a wonderful blend of biblical, historical, contemplative, and practical theology all in defense of the doctrine of divine impassibility. The defense mounted is not primarily against the usual cast of detractors—Open Theists and process theologians—but against those evangelicals who imagine that abandoning or reconceiving impassibility can be done with little or no detriment to the edifice of a classical theology proper. The authors are convinced that once one begins to chip away at this crucial piece of the foundation the whole house of orthodox Christian conviction about God and his attributes begins to falter. And they are right.

. . . The result is a richly rewarding study that magnifies our unchanging God.


James E. Dolezal

Assistant Professor of Theology

Cairn University




Truth sometimes sounds stranger than fiction, which is why Confessing the Impassible God is a welcomed, rigorous defense of the traditional and confessional doctrine of divine impassibility. . . . The contributors provide a significant exegetical, theological, historical, and practical engagement of the issues, which makes this eminently useful for pastors, scholars, seminarians, and even people in the pews.


  1. V. Fesko

Academic Dean

Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology

Westminster Seminary California




Theology is not static. The church has made progress in its understanding of the Trinity, Christology, Soteriology, and Ecclesiology. However, theological development ordinarily comes through the church combating error rather than choosing a research topic for a new book. In responding to error, the church must build upon and enrich her understanding of Scripture, in dialogue with church history, with an eye toward a new generation, rather than jettison the past in the name of theological progress. This book presents the old view of divine impassibility, using old arguments, against new critics.


Ryan M. McGraw

Associate Professor of Systematic Theology

Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary




A spirited reclaiming of the doctrine of divine impassibility, this coherent, well-edited, multi-author project is unique in several commendable aspects. It is decisively Baptist, but advances its argument in ways that recent generations have stopped expecting from Baptist theologians. These authors are committed to the final authority of Scripture in doctrinal matters, but mastery of their tradition’s confessional resources gives them uncommon access to depths of theological understanding. In particular, they have chased the doctrine that God is “without passions” all the way down metaphysically, relating it meaningfully to the theology of the divine being as pure act, and steadfastly refusing mere voluntarism, the persistent Scotist reductionist temptation to make everything depend on God’s will rather than his nature. Evangelical projects of retrieval are becoming more common as theologians appropriate patristic and medieval resources. Confessing the Impassible God stands out for its commitment to a retrieval of the middle distance, the Baptist confessions of early modernity as the nearby trailhead to the great tradition of Christian theology. Good fences make good neighbors, and I think that, paradoxically, the decisively Baptist focus of this project is what will make it useful beyond its own Reformed Baptist confessional borders.


Fred Sanders

Professor of Theology

Torrey Honors Institute

Biola University




Confessing the Impassible God addresses a topic that gets to matters at the heart of our understanding of the living God. Exploring the doctrine of divine impassibility through thorough historical, confessional, systematic, and exegetical studies, the authors make a compelling case that maintaining a robust affirmation of impassibility not only secures our continuity with the long patristic, medieval, and Reformation tradition of theology proper but also guards against falling into a range of errors that entail portraying God as something fundamentally other than the God of classical, biblical Christianity.

. . . I recommend this volume to all thoughtful Christians who wish to know and worship God truly, and I expect they will find here great encouragement to embrace impassibility not as a sterile idea of Greek metaphysics but as profound biblical teaching meant to bolster our faith, hope, love, joy, and confidence in the Triune God.


David VanDrunen

Robert B. Strimple Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics

Westminster Seminary California




Classical theism is under attack in our day. Specifically such doctrines as divine simplicity and impassibility are deconstructed in an effort to achieve a more believable and accessible God. Unfortunately this more believable and accessible God is not the God of the Bible. It would be bad enough if the enemies of Christ led the attack against classical theism, but it is so-called friends who undermine the classical biblical witness to our great and glorious self-contained triune God. The broader church and Reformed community owe a debt of gratitude to our Reformed Baptist brothers for producing Confessing the Impassible God. In this fine book, the classically biblical doctrine of divine impassibility is defined and defended, explored and exposited. . . . This volume covers the whole spectrum of the theological encyclopedia on divine impassibility. I salute the men who have been involved in the publication of this fine book.


Rev. Jeffrey C. Waddington
Stated Supply & Ministerial Adviser—Knox Orthodox Presbyterian Church Lansdowne, PA
Ministerial Adviser—Calvary Church of Amwell (OPC) Ringoes, NJ
Panelist & Secretary of the Board—The Reformed Forum
Articles Editor—The Confessional Presbyterian Journal
Book Series Editor & Fellow—Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals




There was a time when it was my opinion that the Doctrine of God or Theology Proper was settled. It seemed to me that, except for the debates over God’s eternal decree between Reformed and Arminian Christians, the Doctrine of God was of little polemic interest. If that was ever really the case, it is surely not the case now. The onslaught of Process and Open Theism, the claims that the classical Christian doctrine of God was seriously infected with Greek philosophical ideas, and the consequent and widespread proposals to modify the traditional Theology Proper of classical Christian theism are provoking widening discussion. Confessing the Impassible God provides an important, deep, and thoughtful response to the proposed revisions to the doctrine of divine impassibility—one of the hot-spots in the polemic furor among Reformed evangelicals over the Doctrine of God. I am grateful for the theologically careful and historically informed hermeneutics and exegesis of the present volume. I am grateful especially for the reminder that this book contains of the importance of recognizing the revelation of Scripture as analogical, and sometimes anthropopathic, and the importance of recognizing this in our teaching. Confessing the Impassible God deserves close study and appreciative discussion among Reformed Christians.


Sam Waldron

Dean of Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary

Pastor of Grace Reformed Baptist Church

Owensboro, KY




Confessing the Impassible God: The Biblical, Classical, & Confessional Doctrine of Divine Impassibility, eds. Ronald S. Baines, Richard C. Barcellos, James P. Butler, Stefan T. Lindblad, and James M. Renihan, coming soon from RBAP!



“It’s another boy” – Abortion in the News

There are a few things happening in the news that Christians should be aware of.

1. Health Canada has just approved the use of RU-486. (

2. In the US, the Center for Medical Progress has released  four videos (more are forthcoming) that demonstrate the goulish practices of Planned Parenthood. The fact that PP murders babies is goulish in itself; but these recent videos show that PP then sells the organs and tissues from these little ones for profit. Please do not miss the logic of some pro-choice advocates: abortion is acceptable because the product of conception is a lump of tissue; however, this “lump of tissue” is then referred to as hearts, kidneys, and other organs/extremities. On the fourth video, one of the PP workers even exclaims, “It’s another boy” while sifting through the remains of a baby that had been aborted. The abortion industry has out Molech-ed Molech.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to know what the Bible says concerning this topic. Additionally, we ought to be able to defend this position when we speak to others. Finally, we ought to pray that God Almighty would intervene. While we should certainly use the political process at our disposal, we must remember that God alone is able to stop this. Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” It takes omnipotent power to overturn the malice of Satan and his servants. 

Below is a brief overview of the Bible and abortion which has appeared on this blog before.

The late John Murray said, “Nothing shows the moral bankruptcy of a people or of a generation more than disregard for the sanctity of life.”[1] Abortion is an indicator of the moral bankruptcy of people in this generation and demonstrates the exceeding wickedness of sin. The Bible reveals that man is created in the image of God, and therefore to murder man is to assault the divine majesty.[2] The fact that man is created in the image of God is not true only of healthy adults, but is true of man in every phase of his life. Man is the image of God before the fall into sin (Gen 1:26-28), after the fall into sin (Jas 3:9), in the womb (see below), as a child (Lev 18:21; Eph 6:4), as one physically handicapped (Lev 19:14; Mk 10:46-52), as an elderly person (Lev 19:32; Prov 16:31; 1 Tim 5:1), and as having dominion over the animals (Gen 1:28; Ps 8:6-8).

With specific reference to the preborn, the Bible speaks of nations coming from the womb (Gen 25:18-23). Job highlights the providence of God in his life which began in the womb (Job 10:8-12; cf. also 31:13-15). When David confessed his sin before God and traced his native depravity, he did so to his mother’s womb (Ps 51:5).  David was not suggesting that marital intercourse was sinful, but that at the moment of conception he (David, not a product of conception) was a sinner.  The Psalmist marvels at the omniscience and omnipresence of God in Ps 139 and in verses 13-16 he rehearses God’s power in creating man in the womb.  The Prophet Jeremiah was called from his mother’s womb (Jer 1:5) as was the Apostle Paul (Gal 1:15).  In the birth narrative concerning Christ recorded in Luke’s gospel, John the Baptist was called “the babe” in verse 41 which is the same word used in Lk 18:15 for “out-of-the-womb” children.  In Lk 1:44, Christ is referred to as “Lord” while in the womb! If the modern proponents of abortion had their way and successfully influenced Rebekah, Job’s mother, David’s mother, Jeremiah’s mother, Mary, and Paul’s mother with the propaganda of “choice,” nations would not have been, Job, David, Jeremiah, and Paul would not have been, and all of us would have died in our sins.

The Bible does not only reveal the dignity of man; it also regulates conduct with reference to man. When we understand the personhood of man as summarized above, we must understand that every prohibition given regarding murder, applies equally to babies in the womb. In addition to this, there was a specific case law given in Ex 21:22-25 that demanded punishment for those who would inadvertently murder a baby in the womb. The law specified that if two men got into a fight and during the fight a pregnant woman was struck, if she went into premature labor and her children (the word is plural) came out (the OT language for birth) but were not harmed, then the guilty man had to pay a fine. If however, the children came out and there was harm to mother or children, then the guilty man was subject to the lex talionis (the law of retaliation) up to and including death for the guilty man. Before our modern sensitivities are violated by such a proposal, remember that most nations operate according to the lex talionis principle today; it is the basis upon which we say “the punishment must fit the crime.”

In light of this particular passage, it is interesting to note that the Bible demands increased protection for the preborn.  If men engaged in a fight were held legally accountable and punished for accidentally causing an abortion, how much more are state-licensed, government subsidized abortion “clinics” guilty of this horrendous crime?  John Calvin rightly commented, If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light.”[3] Solomon records what God hates in Prov 6:16-19 and one of them is applicable to the abortion situation:  “hands that shed innocent blood.”

Finally, abortion should be criminalized by the state. Not all sin is necessarily crime (covetousness), nor is all crime necessarily sin (preaching Christ in a Muslim nation), but abortion is both sinful and criminal. The modern state rightly applies the 6th word, “You shall not murder,” in most situations. In order to be consistent, abortion must be a criminal offense which is punishable by the governing authorities; not paid for by the governing authorities.

[1] John Murray, Principles of Conduct (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans Publishing, [1957] 1984), 122.

[2] Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology:  Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans Publishing, re. 1991), 54.

[3] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Volume III (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, re. 1996), 42


Book Review: The Question of Canon

The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate

Michael J. Kruger

(Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013, 256pp.)

The Question of Canon (QC) is the latest book by Dr. Michael J. Kruger, President and Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Like Dr. Kruger’s previous book Canon Revisited (CR), QC is essential reading for pastors and theological students.

In the Introduction, Kruger sets forth the focus of the book. Unlike CR which demonstrated the criteria used in specifying which books are considered canonical, QC deals with the very “existence” of canon. According to Kruger, while the validity of the canon’s boundaries is still an area of concern, the attention has shifted to the validity of the canon’s very existence. The question now is, why is there a New Testament at all?”(17) He introduces two approaches to the question of canon, the extrinsic model and the intrinsic model. The extrinsic model assumes that “the idea of canon was, to some degree, imposed upon the Christian faith” (18). The preferred model and that which is defended in the remainder of the book, is the “intrinsic model.” He explains, “This model suggests that the idea of canon is not something imposed from the outside but develops more organically from within the early Christian religion itself” (21). He ends the Introduction by stating the purpose for the book: it is not to prove the intrinsic model but to show the problems with the five tenets employed by the extrinsic model. The five tenets are: one, there is a sharp distinction between Scripture and canon; two, there was nothing in earliest Christianity that might have led to a canon; three, early Christians were averse to written documents; four, the NT authors were unaware of their own authority; and five, the NT books were first regarded as Scripture at the end of the second century (23-24). The five tenets are each dealt with in subsequent chapters by Kruger and in each instance, he shows the problematic nature of the extrinsic model.

The first chapter is concerned with the definition of canon. Kruger says there are three ways to look at the definition. In the first place, the exclusive definition describes canon as a fixed, final and closed list of books. Secondly, the functional definition of the canon refers to “the entire process by which the formation of the church’s sacred writings took place” (34, quoting Brevard Childs). This means that the term canon can be used as soon as a book is regarded as Scripture (35). Thirdly, the ontological definition focuses on what the canon is “in and of itself, namely the authoritative books that God gave his corporate church” (40). Kruger highlights the benefits of definitions one and two, but also indicates the shortcomings. Kruger favors the third definition and argues persuasively for its adoption.

In chapter 2, the origins of canon are discussed. He asks the question as to the theological matrix of first-century Christianity and whether or not there was a favorable climate to the growth of a new revelational deposit (48). In the remainder of chapter 2 he answers in the affirmative. Firstly, the eschatological nature of the early Christianity argues for the growth of such a deposit. First-century Christians viewed the OT as incomplete; the promises were to find fulfillment and they did so in the coming of the Lord Jesus. Secondly, the concept of covenant in early Christianity argues for the growth of such a deposit. The people of God have always been a people of the book. The Old Covenant was accompanied by written texts; so was the New Covenant. Kruger highlights some of the similarities between the written texts of the Old and New Covenants; a very helpful section for those committed to covenant theology. Thirdly, the role of the apostles in early Christianity argues for the growth of such a deposit. The apostles were invested with the authority of Christ himself, and as a result, they were his “authorized agents to deliver and transmit the new message of redemption” (77).

In chapter 3, the writing of canon is discussed. He quotes several scholars who argue that early Christians were so inclined to an “oral” form of religion, that they would have been hesitant to “place value on written documents” (79). Kruger deals with the three arguments proffered by such proponents. First, the argument from the socio-historical background: early Christianity was an oral culture. He shows that orality and textuality are not mutually exclusive. He then proves that early Christianity was in fact textual in nature. Secondly, the argument from testimony: early Christians expressly stated their aversion to writing. Kruger discusses Papias and Paul and shows that this second objection does not stand muster. Thirdly, the argument from eschatology: early Christians expected the imminent return of Christ. Kruger shows that this objection is also without foundation: even if the early Christians expected an imminent return, it does not necessarily inhibit literary production.

In chapter 4, the authors of canon are discussed. Those who challenge the question of canon assert that the apostles did not have an awareness of their role in the revelational process. Kruger states the thesis of chapter 4, “the New Testament authors, generally speaking, demonstrate awareness that their writings passed down authentic apostolic tradition and therefore bore supreme authority in the life of the church” (121). He then briefly discusses key passages in the Pauline letters, the Gospels, and other New Testament writings. He demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the NT authors had a conscious awareness of their role in the revelational process. He ends the chapter by stating, “Thus, the existence of a new covenantal deposit of books was not due simply to Marcion’s heresies or to later church politics [theories propounded in the extrinsic model], but to the intentional activities of the New Testament writers themselves” (154).

In chapter 5, the date of the canon is addressed. The proponents of the extrinsic model point specifically to statements made by Irenaeus. Kruger explains, “The reason for this focus on the end of the second century is not hard to find. It is at this point that the major figure Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, offers some of the clearest and most comprehensive statements on the canon to date” (156-157). Kruger discusses the particular statements of Irenaeus and then looks at other key evidence, contemporaries of Irenaeus. Here, Kruger appeals to the Muratorian fragment, Theophilus of Antioch, and Clement of Alexandria. Kruger states,

 Thus, we see a clear pattern emerging. At the end of the second century, it appears that Irenaeus is not alone. According to the Muratorian fragment, Theophilus of Antioch and Clement of Alexandria (not to mention Tatian) – influential and geographically diverse sources at the end of the second century – there was a core collection of scriptural books in place that the church fathers themselves did not view as newly established. (169)

He then cites from Justin Martyr, the apostolic fathers, and the NT documents themselves to show that predecessors to Irenaeus recognized canonical Scriptures, early in the second century and even in the middle to late first century. In the conclusion to chapter 5, Kruger reminds the reader, “One should also not forget that the evidence above is not just from a single church father, but from a variety of sources spread over a number of different regions. While any individual piece of evidence might be contested or questioned, it is the extent of the evidence that proves to be the compelling factor” (203).

Kruger ends with a helpful conclusion that summarizes the preceding chapters very well. He rehearses the five tenets that were given in the introduction and discussed in chapters 1-5. He gives in brief compass a helpful summary of why these tenets of the extrinsic model are problematic.

The church is indebted to Dr. Kruger. Pastors especially should avail themselves of both QC and CR (in that order in my opinion) as the question of canon “is at the very center of how biblical authority is established.” (CR, 16) The church will continue to be challenged concerning their sacred writings and it is certainly the responsibility of those pastors who serve on the front lines to be able to give a defense to whoever asks, whether questions come from the atheist professor at the local university, or the eight year old in Sunday School.

(This review was published in the 2015 Journal of the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies and used with permission. For more information about the Journal, go to Reformed Baptist Academic Press at

Confession-OldCOver Overlay

A Brief Statement on Divine Impassibility

A Statement of the Doctrine

A standard definition of the doctrine of divine impassibility (DDI) asserts that God does not experience emotional changes either from within or effected by his relationship to creation. He is not changed from within or without; he remains unchanged and unchanging both prior to and subsequent to creation. The doctrine of divine impassibility is generally treated under the doctrine of immutability in the standard books on systematic theology. Immutability means that God is without change. The Scripture is clear on the doctrine of immutability (see Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17) and the logic regarding impassibility should be clear: if God is unchangeable, then He is impassible. If God did in fact experience inner emotional changes, He would be mutable. To suggest otherwise would be to affirm that God was less than perfect to begin with: if He changes it is either for the better or for the worse, neither of which is consistent with the biblical data concerning God.

What the Doctrine Does Not Mean

The doctrine of divine impassibility does not mean that God is without affections. The Bible is clear: God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). The Bible consistently teaches that God does relate to His creatures in terms of love, goodness, mercy, kindness, justice and wrath. An affirmation of divine impassibility does not mean a denial of true affections in God. However, these descriptions of God’s character are not to be understood as changing or fluctuating things. For example, the 2 London Confession of Faith of 1677/1689 affirms impassibility (God is “without passions”) and then goes on to describe God as “most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute…most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth…” The affirmation of impassibility does not result in removing affections from God; rather, the affirmation of impassibility upholds the fact that God is most loving because He cannot decrease nor increase; He is love! The doctrine of divine impassibility actually stresses the absolute-ness of affections in God.

Objections to the Doctrine

Some modern authors have challenged the classical doctrine of impassibility. While there are several reasons for this, two of the most persuasive ones seem to be (1) the biblical descriptions of change occurring in God and (2) the fact that Jesus Christ suffered.

In the first place, when Scripture speaks of change occurring in God, these passages do not describe actual inner emotional changes in God, but rather these passages are a means whereby God communicates “in the manner of men” so that He can effectively reveal His unchanging character to man. For instance, when Scripture speaks of God “repenting” (Genesis 6:6; Judges 2:18; 10:16; etc.), these are called anthropopathic statements. An anthropopathism is when the biblical author ascribes human emotion to God. While this may be a new word to many, most Christians are familiar with the word anthropomorphism. An anthropomorphism is used by the biblical authors when they ascribe human characteristics to God; i.e. when the Scripture says God has eyes, or a mighty right arm, or that He comes down to dwell on Mount Sinai (2 Chronicles 16:9; Isaiah 62:8; Exodus 19:20). Such descriptions are accommodations to man that are designed to communicate certain truths to man. In the same way, anthropopathisms are not descriptions of actual change in God, but are a means to communicate something concerning the character of the infinite God to man in language designed to be comprehended by man who is limited by his finite capacities.

Secondly, the sufferings that Jesus Christ went through were real. He was despised and rejected by men, He was betrayed by Judas, delivered into the hands of the Romans, and at the request of the unbelieving Jews, He was crucified. It is important to remember that Jesus Christ was unique: He is one glorious Person with two natures, human and divine. Christianity from the New Testament period on always predicated the suffering of Christ to His human nature. In other words, Christ as God did not suffer and die, but Christ as Man. There are not two Christs, but one Christ who has two natures. To confine the suffering and death of Christ to His humanity protects divine impassibility. Conversely, impassibility protects from the notion of a God who suffers and dies.


In conclusion, there is much more that can be said. The goal with this post is simply to provide a basic definition, explanation, and to highlight why the doctrine is essential. It is crucial to understand that it is the doctrine of impassibility that secures God’s relational character to His creatures; it alone provides the foundation for the confession’s declaration that God is “most holy, most wise, most free, most absolute…most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth…”




Spurgeon on Creeds

To say that “a creed comes between a man and his God,” is to suppose that it is not true; for truth, however definitely stated, does not divide the believer from his Lord. So far as I am concerned, that which I believe I am not ashamed to state in the plainest possible language; and the truth I hold I embrace because I believe it to be the mind of God revealed in his infallible Word. How can it divide me from God who revealed it? It is one means of communion with my Lord, that I receive his words as well as himself, and submit my understanding to what I see to be taught by him. Say what he may, I accept it because he says it, and therein pay him the humble worship of my inmost soul. The objection to a creed is a very pleasant way of concealing objection to discipline, and a desire for latitudinarianism. What is wished for is a Union which will, like Noah’s Ark, afford shelter both for the clean and for the unclean, for creeping things and winged fowls.

C.H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 34 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1888), iii.


Book Review: Canon Revisited

Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books

Michael J. Kruger

(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2012, 362pp.)

Dr. Michael J. Kruger currently serves as President and Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. His book Canon Revisited (CR) is an excellent work that deserves attention by all Reformed Baptist pastors and theological students. The average reading layman in one of our churches would also richly benefit from this work.

In the Introduction, Kruger highlights the necessity for his work on the canon. The issue he addresses in the book is how the Christian can know that the twenty-seven books that comprise the New Testament are in fact the right books. He rightly understands what is at stake in the discussion of canon: “The question of the canon, therefore, is at the very center of how biblical authority is established” (16). He alerts the reader to several factors that produce continued interest in the question of canon, and then indicates the strategy of the book. Kruger does not attempt to “prove” the truth of the canon that would be persuasive to the skeptic (21). Rather, the focus of the book is accounting for the knowledge of the canon that the church possesses (21). In my estimation, Kruger ably accomplishes his goal and provides a great deal of data that both encourages the reader and enables the reader to engage those who question the canon.

In Part I, Kruger surveys the different approaches to the question of canon in the history of the church. He rightly identifies that a study of canon occurs in a larger context. As he points out in the Introduction,

In particular, too little attention has been given to understanding overarching canonical models that often determine one’s definition of canon in the first place. A canonical model is just a way of describing a particular canonical system, if you will, which includes the broader methodological, epistemological, and yes, even theological frameworks for how canon is understood, and, most importantly, how canon is authenticated. (28)

In chapters 1 and 2, Kruger offers a description and evaluation of the community determined model and the historically determined model. He gives a general description of the community determined approaches to the canon “as something that is, in some sense, established or constituted by the people–either individually or corporately–who have received these books as Scripture” (29-30). Canonicity is not something inherent in the books, but rather it is something imposed on the books by the community. This position leads to the idea that the church determined, rather than recognized, the canonical books. The historically determined models “deny that the Christian community’s reception of the canon is definitive in establishing its authority and instead seek to establish it by critically investigating the historical merits of each of the canonical books.” (67)

Kruger includes the community and history models in his preferred model, but he points out the limits of each if considered in isolation from other considerations.

In chapter 3, Kruger deals with the canon as self-authenticated model. After describing what is and what is not involved in the concept of a self-authenticating model, he then discusses the components of it which include providential exposure of the New Testament books and the attributes of canonicity and the Holy Spirit. The attributes of canonicity that Kruger highlights are the divine qualities intrinsic in the canonical books, corporate reception of the books, and the apostolic origins of the books. He draws some implications and ends the chapter by considering some “potential defeaters” of the self-authenticating model. These potential defeaters are: first, the challenge to divine qualities (i.e., apparent disagreements and/or contradictions between Testament books); second, the challenge to apostolic origins (i.e., a number of New Testament books were not written by apostles); third, the challenge to corporate reception (i.e., there was widespread disagreement in the early church that lasted well into the fourth century and beyond). The remainder of the book explains and defends the self-authenticating model and highlights various inconsistent methods along the way.

In Part 2, chapter 4, Kruger begins his explanation and defense with a consideration of the divine qualities of the canon. He writes: “Of all the attributes of canonicity, the divine qualities of Scripture are the least discussed in modern canonical studies. Most scholars prefer to devote their energies to the corporate reception of the books, or perhaps to their apostolic origins, but attention is rarely given to their divine qualities.” (125)

The gist of the argument is simple: What qualities does the Bible possess which indicate its divine origin and how are these qualities considered with reference to the question of “which books are in the canon?” Appealing to WCF 1:5 (so too 2nd LCF 1:5), Kruger highlights these qualities, such as the beauty and excellency of Scripture, the power and efficacy of Scripture, and the unity and harmony of Scripture. The chapter reinforces the notion that ought to be obvious: one’s theological convictions will certainly factor in to the way one approaches the question of canon.

In chapter 5, Kruger turns his attention to the issue of the apostolic origins of the canon. The chapter is not only excellent in terms of the overarching discussion of canon, but it is a good primer on covenant theology. He sets forth three helpful categories for his discussion: the structural framework for canon is covenant; the rationale for canon is redemption; and the agents of canon are the apostles. Building on the work of Meredith G. Kline’s Structure of Biblical Authority and others, Kruger effectively proves that “the historical-theological matrix of the first century made it the ideal environment out of which a new scriptural deposit could emerge” (193).

In chapters 6-8, Kruger treats the corporate reception of the canon. He considers the emergence of a canonical core in chapter 6, the issue of manuscripts and Christian book production in chapter 7, and problem books and canonical boundaries in chapter 8. His survey of both the biblical data and the apostolic fathers in chapter 6 is extremely helpful in showing that “a number of New Testament writings, largely by virtue of their apostolic connections, were recognized and received as authoritative from a very early time, so that by the middle of the second century there appears to be a “core” of New Testament canon widely recognized by early Christians.” (231)

His discussion of manuscripts and Christian book production in chapter 7 is fascinating. His treatment of 2 Timothy 4:13 is most interesting when he concludes that “one of the most compelling possibilities” is that the notebooks Paul wanted Timothy to deliver to him, “contained (among other things) copies of Paul’s own letters” (253, emphasis his). The chapter furtherer strengthens his conclusion concerning the reception of the canonical books early on in the church. He effectively handles the problem books and canonical boundaries in chapter 8.

The book ends with a very helpful conclusion that summarizes the entire argument. As well, Kruger draws some very helpful implications as a result of the study. In the first place, he notes that there is a great deal of common ground between the various canonical models. He notes: “Canon has an ecclesiological dimension, a historical dimension, and an aesthetic/internal dimension. It is when a single aspect of canon is absolutized at the expense of the others that distortions inevitably arise.” (293)

Secondly, “the decisive issue in canonical studies is one’s ontology of canon” (293). He writes that “the canon is, at its core, a theological issue” (294). He admits that this tenet is unlikely to be welcomed by the broader world of critical scholarship, but as he argues in the book, it is inevitable that one’s theology will affect one’s study of canonicity. The final implication necessarily follows, “Christians have intellectually sufficient grounds for claiming that they know which books belong in the New Testament” (295).

The canon as self-authenticating model he explains and defends provides a full-orbed treatment to the question of canon. As well, it provides a system of checks and balances which serves to protect the integrity of the canon. The book is well written, rigorously argued, stimulating and enjoyable to read, though it does demand careful attention by the reader. Above all, it honors the Scriptures as the God-breathed word. On a practical level, the Bible as the word of God is everything in Christianity. Questions concerning the Scriptures must be treated with care and precision. The question of canon is fundamental and an oft-recurring one. Kruger provides fodder for pastors who deal with questions concerning the canon of Scripture, whether those questions are asked by teenagers in the context of the local church, or atheists who are fundamentally opposed to the concept of canon at all. The self-authenticating model presented in CR will greatly assist the man of God in defending the word of God.

(This review was published in the 2014 Journal of the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies and used with permission. For more information about the Journal, go to Reformed Baptist Academic Press at


Documentary on C.H. Spurgeon

There is an excellent new documentary on Charles Haddon Spurgeon. From the website –

The lives of millions of Christians around the world have been changed through the ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. But how much do those of us who esteem him so highly really know about Charles Spurgeon, the man?

What were the events that shaped his life and made him the man who would be known as the Prince of Preachers? Through the Eyes of Spurgeon invites you to explore with us where and how Spurgeon lived, to follow his steps, to embrace the legacy he has left us.

Join us in seeing the world of Charles Spurgeon through his eyes.

The documentary can be viewed at




Thomas Brooks on Truth

“Ah souls, have you not found truth sweetening your spirits, and cheering your spirits, and warming your spirits, and raising your spirits, and corroborating your spirits?  Have not you found truth a guide to lead you, a staff to uphold you, a cordial to strengthen you, and a plaster to heal you?  And will you not hold fast the truth?  Has not truth been your best friend in your worst days?  Has not truth stood by you when friends have forsaken you?  Has not truth done more for you than all the world could do against you, and will you not hold fast the truth?  Is not truth your right eye, without which you cannot see for Christ?  And your right hand, without which you cannot do for Christ?  And your right foot, without which you cannot walk with Christ?  And will you not hold fast the truth?  Oh!  Hold fast the truth in your judgments and understandings, in your wills and affections, in your profession and conversation…You were better let go anything than truth; you were better let go your honors and riches, your friends and pleasures, and the world’s favors; yea, your nearest and dearest relations, yes, your very lives, than to let go truth.  Oh, keep the truth, and truth will make you safe and happy forever.  Blessed are those souls that are kept by truth.”  (Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, 1:59,60)


Did Hosea Really Marry a Harlot?

There are three main interpretative approaches to Hosea chapters 1-3. The first is the symbolic view which treats the marriage as a symbol or a vision utilized by God to teach Israel lessons about His marriage to them. This view is held by a lot of the older commentators. For instance, John Calvin says, “There is no doubt but that God describes here the favor He promises to the Israelites in a type or a vision: for they are too gross in their notions, who think that the prophet married a woman who had been a harlot.”[1] The commentators who take this position indicate that if Hosea had in fact married a harlot, his ministry would have been undermined.

The second position may be called the proleptic view. The idea here is that Gomer was chaste when Hosea married her and then she engaged in unfaithfulness. This doesn’t really solve the potential problem; it still sets forth a situation where God commands Hosea to marry a woman that He knew would be a harlot.

The third position is the literal view. I believe this is the correct interpretation for several reasons. First, the narrative reads as straightforward history. The LORD commanded Hosea, “Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry” (1:2a). The prophet then went and married Gomer the daughter of Diblaim and she bore him a son (v. 3). She conceived again and bore him a daughter (1:6) and “when she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, she conceived and bore a son” (1:8). Secondly, the “children of harlotry” spoken of in 1:2a were more than likely the children born to Gomer prior to her marriage with Hosea. The three children referenced in 1:3-9 are best understood as children born to Hosea and Gomer, and thus they would not have been children of harlotry. Verse 3 makes clear that Jezreel was a son born to Hosea. We have no reason from the text to suppose otherwise concerning Lo-Ruhamah and Lo-Ammi. Thirdly, the woman Hosea marries according to 1:2 is “a wife of harlotry” and the same woman he is called to recover in 3:1 is guilty of adultery.[2] Hosea married Gomer who had been guilty of harlotry. He had three children with her, each of which carried a particular message through their God-determined names to the northern kingdom, and subsequent to this, Gomer engaged in adultery and thus the prophet was commanded to recover her again (3:1-5). Fourthly, the priests of Israel were prohibited from marrying harlots (Lev 21:7, 13-14), but prophets were not subject to the same prohibition according to God’s law. Therefore, it is best to understand that this was in fact a literal marriage between the prophet and Gomer and it was contracted according to the command of God to serve as an acted parable of the LORD’s relationship with Israel.

Why is this literal view significant? In the first place, the reason given by God for Hosea’s marriage to Gomer is stated 1:2b, “For the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the LORD.” McComiskey comments,

The clause ‘because the land has committed great fornication [which has led them] away from the LORD’ (1:2) states the reason for Hosea’s marriage – it was because the people were guilty of spiritual fornication. They might have pointed the finger at Gomer and gossiped about the prophet who married her, but they were no better than she. The marriage of Hosea and Gomer was an eloquent depiction of Yahweh’s marriage to His errant people.[3]

Secondly, though the LORD condemned the conduct of the people of Israel and used the preaching of the prophet to call them to repentance, He also communicated a message of hope concerning the restoration of Israel. In 1:3-9, the names of Hosea’s three children indicate that the northern kingdom would come to an end (1:4), the people would be judged without pity (1:6), and they would be considered not God’s people (1:9). As if anticipating the possible objection, “what about the LORD’s promise to Abraham?” the prophet looks forward to the days of the New Covenant in 1:10-11. The latter half of chapter 2 (vv. 14-23) also looks forward to the New Covenant when the names of the three children would be reversed and the blessing of God would come upon the church.[4]

Finally, the marriage of Hosea and Gomer is probably intended to shock us a bit. The literal view of the marriage may cause a degree of discomfort among New Covenant Christians. We are, after all, supposed to be equally yoked and a godly man should never marry a harlot. While I am certainly not condoning marrying harlots, we should appreciate that this was a unique command given by God in a specific redemptive historical situation. With this necessary qualification given, what is more shocking – Hosea’s marriage to Gomer or God’s marriage to Israel? As faithful as Hosea was, he was still a sinner. For God the LORD to take such a bride demonstrates His grace, mercy, and lovingkindness. The fact that He saves such people IS shocking. The first century Jews were scandalized by God’s redemptive plan (1 Co 1:23); no doubt 8th century B.C. Jews were shocked as are modern readers of this ancient love story. As McComiskey notes,

The prophecy of Hosea is a tapestry of grace. As the prophet loves a woman whose crudeness and brazenness must have hurt him deeply, so God’s grace comes to His people in their unloveliness. Our spiritual condition is never so low that God cannot woo and receive us back to Himself as Hosea received Gomer.[5]

So to answer the question posed in the title of this post, yes, Hosea did marry a harlot. The important thing to remember concerning this incident recorded in Hosea 1-3 is not that Hosea married a harlot, but that God did.

[1] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Volume XIII (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, re. 1996), 123.

[2] Some posit that there were two different women the prophet was commanded to love. I do not believe this is the case.

[3] Thomas Edward McComiskey, “Hosea,” An Exegetical and Expository Commentary on the Minor Prophets, ed. Thomas Edward McComiskey (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, re. 2006), 1:16.

[4] See Paul’s use of this passage in Ro 9:25-26. Cf. 1 Pe 2:10 also.

[5] Thomas Edward McComiskey, “Hosea,” An Exegetical and Expository Commentary on the Minor Prophets, ed. Thomas Edward McComiskey (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, re. 2006), 1:17.


The Good News

The word “gospel” simply means “good news.”  The gospel is the historic, revealed message concerning Jesus Christ. It is that record of events which focuses upon Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for sinners. It is important to understand this as some Christians with good intentions maintain that believers should “live the gospel.”  Technically, one cannot live the good news of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for sinners – it is a message, it is a declaration, it is good news. One can live in light of it or one can let his conduct be worthy of it or one can pursue holiness; but to live out the events of Christ’s redemptive work on behalf of sinners, is simply not our calling. J. Gresham Machen said,

 We can preach the gospel, they tell us, by our lives, and do not need to preach it by our words. But they are wrong. Men are not saved by the exhibition of our glorious Christian virtues; they are not saved by the contagion of our experiences. We cannot be the instruments of God in saving them if we preach to them thus only ourselves. Nay, we must preach to them the Lord Jesus Christ; for it is only through the gospel which sets Him forth that they can be saved.[1]

In 1 Cor 15, the Apostle Paul addresses the doctrine of the resurrection. In verses 1-4, he sets forth the gospel of Jesus Christ as the foundation for the argument that follows. We note several things concerning the gospel in this section of Scripture.

In the first place, the gospel is rooted in history. Before the foundation of the world, God decreed to save a people by His Son Jesus Christ. The gospel is the execution of that decree in history. Paul says that Christ died, was buried, and rose again. These are historic, dateable and non-repeatable events. In fulfillment of the Old Testament word of promise, Christ came in the fullness of the times, was born of a woman, and born under the law. He lived in obedience to the law of God, died to satisfy divine justice in the place of sinners, and rose again.

Secondly, the gospel is revealed by God. The Scripture speaks of two types of revelation, general and special. Ps 19 and Rom 1 set forth the truth that God reveals Himself to His image bearers through the created order. The heavens declare the glory of God (Ps 19:1) and what God has manifested of Himself to man leaves man without excuse for his sin and disobedience (Rom 1:19-20). However, general revelation does not communicate the necessity for blood atonement. It does not reveal the work of Christ on the cross for sinners. Special revelation is God’s having made Himself and His ways known through the Scriptures. Paul highlights this in 1 Cor 15:1-4 by indicating that Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection happened “according to the Scriptures” (vv.3,4). The work of Christ was not an after-thought or a reaction in the mind of God; the Old Testament conspicuously promised a coming Redeemer who would crush the head of Satan through His redemptive work which Christ carried out in His first coming.

Thirdly, the gospel is the record of Christ’s work for sinners. The Triune God is actively involved in salvation (Eph 1:3-14) and the gospel message is the outworking of the Father’s decree to save the elect. As well, it is the gospel that the Holy Spirit brings to bear upon the elect:  when sinners are born again by His power, they believe the gospel of Christ.  Because of this, the church and her preachers must set forth Christ in His person and in His work to all mankind. Paul determined to know nothing among the Corinthians “except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2); the modern church does well to imitate the Apostle.

Fourthly, the gospel is received by faith alone.  Christianity is not moralism; it is not a message of “try-harder” and you will be accepted by God.  The gospel addresses the root of the matter:  man before God is completely undone because of his sin.  There is no ability in the sinner to gain acceptance with God. The gospel is the revelation of the One who kept the law; who always did what pleased His Father; who died as a sacrifice and a substitute for His people.  The means by which His people are justified is through faith alone.  Paul highlights the role of faith in 1 Cor 15 — “which also you received [by faith] in which you stand” (v.1), “by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (v.2) and “so we preach and so you believe” (v.11).  Verse 2 also indicates the absolute necessity of the gospel for salvation, for if one does not believe and hold fast that word, one is not saved.[2]

The final observation is a very practical one:  the gospel is powerful to save the worst sinners.  In verse 9, Paul writes, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”  Paul declares in Rom 1:16 that the gospel “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”  He highlights his own sinfulness in Gal 1:13 and makes a wonderful declaration in 1 Tim 1:15, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”  In light of these observations, we should praise God Almighty for His wonderful gospel!


[1] J. Gresham Machen, Education, Christianity, and the State (Jefferson: MD, The Trinity Foundation, 1987), p.21.

[2] Other passages speak to the absolute necessity of Christ and His gospel for salvation.  See for example, Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12; Rom 1:16-17; Eph 1:13-14; Jas 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23.