Emotions?

Is the Westminster Confession of Faith correct when it says that God has neither “parts nor passions?” The word “passions” is an older term used for what today we call “emotions.”

Absolutely.

To have emotions, God would have to have a body, because emotions are bodily states. They have to do with adrenalin running through the veins or not, and so forth. But God is a Spirit, that is, a Person without a body. As Jesus put it in Luke 24, a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones (i.e., a body).

“But, the Bible says God gets angry, the Spirit is grieved, and so forth. That sounds like emotions.”

The Bible also talks about God’s arm not being shortened so that He can’t save. It talks about His eye. He is called a “rock, a fortress, a shield.” We are told that “under His wings we are come to trust.” He isn’t a cosmic chicken! All of these are figures of speech designed to help us understand something about God by setting them forth in human terms.

The Bible says God “isn’t a man that He should repent.” But before the flood, we read that God says, “It repenteth Me that I have made man.”

Does He, or doesn’t He repent? No. God doesn’t change His mind (James makes that clear). Well is there a contradiction? Of course not.

He is speaking on two levels. When the writer says God doesn’t repent because He isn’t a man, he is talking about the very nature of God Himself. When God says He repents, He’s speaking anthropomorphically i.e., in terms that express what could not be made clear to us in any other way than by using terminology that we apply to human beings.

Now, when emotional terms are used of God, in one sense, they are saying more about us than about God. To say that God is angry with the wicked every day means that if He were a man, he would be angry over their wickedness. In other words, what they think and do is so heinous that it would make a righteous man angry. That’s how bad what they do is.

We are not to picture God all upset, snorting out anger (as one Hebrew word for wrath and anger means). No, when He sends His wrath upon someone it is some form of punishment that he dearly deserves. Take another emotional term: grief. It isn’t that God is actually feeling pain when it says the Spirit is grieved (the word for grief is a word that means “pain”)—a spirit has no body to become pained.

So, the Westminster Confession of Faith is correct in its definition of God: He has neither parts nor passions. Why? Because He is a spirit-i.e., a Person without a body.

feedback@nouthetic.org

Comments are closed.