Wednesdays with Words: Impassibility

I’ve been reading Matthew Barrett’s None Greater and enjoying it immensely. It has given much to chew on. I’m reading the chapter on impassibility right now and new ideas keep connecting with some of my other reading.

Impassibility seems to me to be not being tossed on the passions and emotions. It isn’t that God doesn’t love or have passions, but He cannot be swerved and tossed about by his feelings. He isn’t using his emotions to propel his actions; he acts because he’s the prime actor.

No, God is maximally alive. … Impassibility, then does not mean that God is inert or static, as if he cannot love, for example. Instead, it means his love is so maximally alive, so fully and completely in act, that he cannot become ore loving than he already is eternally. Far from undermining love, impassibility actually safeguards God’s love, guaranteeing that his love is and remains perfect. Only an impassible love can ensure that our God does not need to be more loving than he already is.

None Greater, pg 123 (bold mine)
Matthew Barrett

But, that’s not all. I’m also reading Aristotle and Charlotte Mason. Man’s passibility, our actions because of emotion and feeling are shown clearly – and in these examples in the negative, is a liability. In the Oxford World’s Classics Aristotle Poetics translated and introduced by Anthony Kenny, I came across this:

Pity and fear, Aristotle continues, are most easily aroused if the tragedy exhibits people as the victims of hatred and murder where they could most expect to be loved and cherished. That is why so many tragedies concern feuds within a Single Family

Aristotle: Poetics, pg xxvi
Anthony Kenny


It is worth while to look to the springs of conduct in human nature for the source of this common cause of the mismanagement of children. There must be some unsuspected reason for the fact that persons of weak and of strong nature should err in the same direction.

Formation of Character, pg 70
Charlotte Mason

God is simply different. He is not capricious. He is not moved as we are. He is perpetually loving and acting on that love because God is love. And, I have argued in the past, that the transitive is not necessarily true: love is not God. That is idolatry. But now I understand a little why the transitive cannot be: because God is so much greater than the created order and cannot be equated to anything in that order. Our conception of “love” is much too small and much too passible, too swayed by the tide. Miss Mason goes on to say we are between Charybdis and Scylla in our travails and we make decisions trying to avoid them, but God is above such dilemmas. Therefore we can, and must, trust him.


  1. Praise God that He is above such dilemmas indeed! Trusting His Sovereignty above our fluctuating passions and emotions has been a stabilizing force in my life. Beautiful words, thank you for sharing!

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