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What Hath Parts To Do With Passions?

With a 65% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Queen Latifah’s 2006 film Last Holiday could fairly be considered, as the kids say, “mid.”[1] The storyline surrounds one terminally ill woman’s decision to spend the rest of her money and days pursuing the ‘happy life’ she’d always dreamed of in Central Europe. Despite the film’s forgettability, one scene often comes to mind, which has an apt word for contemporary evangelicals.

While dining at one of the finest restaurants in town, Latifah’s character orders the chef’s special with no alterations. Behind the scenes, we’ve seen the world-renown chef’s disgust with the “elites” in his restaurant, those customers with such pride as to think they can improve upon the chef’s culinary creations with their own modifications. Yet with Latifah, the chef is moved by the respect and honor he’s given with an order as is, nothing taken away, removed, or added.

What’s the point?

Our contemporary evangelicalism can often treat confessionalism like the “elites” in Latifah’s Last Holiday, removing those items that do not yet suit our appetites or might not be as easily palatable to modern sensibilities. In a spirit of “chronological snobbery,” some theologians can place themselves as the judge over theological history rather than the recipient of God’s grace in the great doctrines from the great tradition. God is happy because he is simple, and the simply happy God is without passion. Click To Tweet

Two doctrines that prove no exception are the doctrines of divine simplicity and divine impassibility.

In the great confessions of the 17th century, the Reformed penned these two denials of God so close together you might be tempted (rightly so, I might add) to think they are related: without parts or passions.

Today, we see modern theologians attempting to affirm divine simplicity while altering divine impassibility, and vice-versa. I would submit to you, however, that divine simplicity and impassibility are not merely consistent with each other but dependent on each other. If passions, then parts. The attributes of God’s simplicity and impassibility have such an inherent connection and consistency that one cannot be correctly understood apart from the other.

To make such a claim, one might simply point to the definition of divine simplicity. For, if simplicity proclaims that each of God’s perfections are what the others are, then we could rightly say that simplicity and impassibility are distinct refractions in our human understanding of the simple divine essence. Though this is true enough, there is more to be said and more beauty to behold. I will show below that simplicity and impassibility meet at the junction of divine blessedness. To demonstrate such an argument, let us first examine the connection between divine simplicity and divine blessedness.

Simplicity and Blessedness

In formative works in the Great Tradition, several theologians have placed divine simplicity and divine blessedness as bookends in their conversations surrounding the divine attributes. While these cases may be preferential or contextual, such an ordering of attributes beginning with simplicity and concluding with beatitude seems to be much more intentional than meets the eye.

Divine simplicity and divine blessedness encompass each of God’s attributes collectively.

As you’ve seen throughout this magazine, God’s simplicity proclaims that God is his attributes. His essence is his existence. He alone can say, “I am he who is.” Simplicity has a direct referent to all of God’s attributes together, so to speak. Simplicity is both prefatory and summative of each attribute to follow, aiming to display the unity and analogy of God’s manifold perfection.

Read the full article here.

Brett Fredenberg

Brett Fredenberg is the Director of Marketing and Content Strategy for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Managing Editor of For the Church. Brett is married to Katelyn and has three kids. His family are members of Trinity Church, KC.

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