Is God's Heart Broken?

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by heartoflesh, Oct 29, 2007.

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  1. heartoflesh

    heartoflesh Puritan Board Junior

    Someone made the comment recently that "our hearts should be broken the way God's heart is broken" in relation to the lost (spiritually) and also in relation to the poor and hungry (this person runs a children's food ministry in Minneapolis). I've been pondering this, trying to tie it together Biblically. I'm not so opposed to a conception of God as showing pity and compassion toward the lost, and while I'm quite certain he meant his statement in a most Arminian sense, I'm just wondering how this statement could be compatible with Calvinistic thinking.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2007
  2. clstamper

    clstamper Puritan Board Freshman

    This is sanctimony and is thus unbiblical. I don't think God's heart "breaks" in that sense. As for us, our hearts should be turned to Christ and the duties before us. If there are things that can be fixed, fix them.

    On the other hand, abstractions like poverty, inequality and hunger are by nature unfixable. We can fix specific instances of crisis, but we cannot reverse the fall.
  3. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    Jesus grieved over Jerusalem.

    When Jesus met the rich young ruler whom went away sad, it was said of that man that loved riche more than Christ that Jesus loved him.

    God's general love for His Creation is not sanctimony, nor is it unbiblical.

    Though God loves only some with all love (God''s electing love); He loves all with some love (the general love He shows creation).

    BTW: Poverty, inequality and hunger are, by nature, fixable in large part. Programs of aid and charity have saved thousands in Third World Countries...perhaps millions.
  4. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Christ said that we would always have the poor with us.
  5. heartoflesh

    heartoflesh Puritan Board Junior

    My main question, more to the point, is whether speaking of God as sorrowing over the condition of lost and sinful humanity is compatible with Calvinistic thought.
  6. sotzo

    sotzo Puritan Board Sophomore

  7. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    We always have the poor with us...but that verse does not say, "Forget about them..they're always around anyway."

    Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

    Deut. 26:12. When you have finished paying the complete tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and the widow, that they may eat in your towns, and be satisfied.

    Lev. 19:19ff. Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God.

    Prov. 31:8ff. [Commandment to kings.] Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.

    Is. 58:66ff. Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

    Jer. 22:3. Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

    Luke 12:33. "Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys."

    Luke 3:11. And [John the Baptist] would answer and say to them, "Let the man with two tunics share with him who has none, and let him who has food do likewise."

    Mt. 5:42. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

    I am sure it is time for someone on the PB to post a link to Prodcutive Christians in the Age of the Guilt Manipulators, or whatever that anti-Ron Sider book is anyway....
  8. D. Paul

    D. Paul Puritan Board Sophomore

    Does not the Confession teach the eternal and perfect felicity of the Godhead?

    Ussher states "What is the Felicity of God? It is the Property of God whereby he hath all fullness of delight and contentment in Himself."

    This does not sound like a sorrowing God to me. I have frequently heard it spoken that God was, oh, so distraught at the death of His Son. I find that notion incompatible with the Scriptures as well. (Heb 9:16 -10:10) The COnfession VIII.1 states it pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus...

    Truly, if God were at the mercy of the free will and choice of men, He may be so grieved at their condition. We understand the passages that speak of his displeasure over sin etc but I find no reason to view Him as some pitiful king weeping and mourning in the dark shadows of his room over the fact that all is not as he wishes. There are major implications here.

    I await the words of those better prepared...
  9. clstamper

    clstamper Puritan Board Freshman

    Jesus did not do the "broken heart" thing. That is a romantic concept that was unknown at the time. Jesus grieved over something concrete, not an abstraction.

    These are only temporary fixes. The big problems are systemic and ingrained. An honest discussion of them would be too politically incorrect for polite company.
  10. clstamper

    clstamper Puritan Board Freshman

    I don't deny that. I deny the term and concept of God having a "broken heart" as used above.
  11. Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace Puritan Board Junior

    Rick, you are entering a land that is very vast. Divine Impassibility. I have drank a few lines of this study, but it is well beyond my understanding. Prematurely, the Stoic immovable God of Platonic influence is present in the writ, but also the feeling God who tabernacles with His creation showing emotion or feelings also appears present. Paul Helm does a very good job in a post on Triablogue

    Triablogue: What does God feel?

    But to answer your question, no, God is not disappointed one bit in the sense of wishing more would be saved.
  12. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I think the reason the statement is incompatible with Christian thinking is that it tries to distill God's nature down into a manner that is just like man's. The appeal to have broken hearts like God assumes that our ability to understand and grieve over sin is just like God's.

    One of the problems with these strands of Christianity is that they get certain aspects of the kind of passion we ought to have over certain injustices and sin in this world but do so by destroying the nature of God in the process. It is the problem of evil (Theodicy) that has led to many heretical views of the nature of God. Open Theism is a good one.

    I remember reading a theologian who was interviewed by Modern Ref about 8 years ago. He denied the impassibility of God. He described that the reason he came to that position is that his son had died and he just couldn't imagine that God was not affected by such horrible events like he was. That's usually how it works: start with the way we view the world, make God a much smarter version of us, and create Him in our image.

    I have not studied the impassibility of God to give a really good explanation of it. I will say that we have to be careful, however, not to either fashion God as so transcendent that He is blissfully unaware of suffering nor make Him so immanent that He is surprised by it and is overcome. I heard Piper once note that God's emotional life is much more complex than ours. We're told that rejoicing occurs whenever men come to salvation. God is also said to be angered by things that we see going on all the time. Certainly, we cannot view God in some simplistic way and assume that He's constantly in mood swings as, in rapid succession, 5 billion men, women, and children perform acts that would cause us to rejoice, mourn, or be angered.

    As for our response, though, we ought to hate sin and be grieved over it. Our concern should not be to try to spell out how a particular event is affecting God emotionally but whether or not we have a responsibility to help aid in that problem. Not all injustices can be addressed by us but neither ought we be indifferent to them and assume that, because God is impassible, that we are to be like Him in that regard as well. We are commanded to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. And there is also a time to get off our cans to help the downtrodden and even beat men down who are oppressing others.
  13. clstamper

    clstamper Puritan Board Freshman

    The Stoics were pantheists. They equated divine providence with the physical world. So to live by God's law, you were to act "in harmony with nature." What has this to do with the impassibility of God?
  14. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    The WCF says that God is immovable. Patripassianism has always been condemned. But, God is said to have wrath, anger and be greived. Jesus wept. But all of these "emotions" are perfectly tied into GOd's will and do not control His will like they do us.
  15. Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace Puritan Board Junior

    Chris: It has everything to do with the extreme version of Divine impassability. Platonic thought taken to the extreme is very dangerous. Resulting in the Clock winder all transcendant God.
  16. clstamper

    clstamper Puritan Board Freshman

    Where do the Stoics fit in? They didn't worship a clock winder. They worshiped the clock.

    That's the god of Deism. Who believes in that?
  17. Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace Puritan Board Junior

    Chris: I suggest you read the different views Stoics had. There were many schools of thought. Rick asked an important question. One I admitted to not having swum into the deep end. I suggest you read the article I posted fro Paul Helm. He explains my thoughts much better than I can.

    The four passions, Stoics say, are grief (lupe), fear (phobos), desire (epithumia), and pleasure (hedone). The essential flaw of these four emotions is, again, that they are irrational and lead one to act on impulse rather than reason.

    Three of these passions––fear, desire, and pleasure––have acceptable counterparts that are similar inclinations but are rational (eulogos): caution, wishing, and joy. The Stoics explicitly claim that God is rational, which clearly excludes the passions from God's experience. As for the positive emotions, though I'm pretty sure the Stoics would claim they do not apply to God, they are still affirmed as positive/rational. The implication is that Christians who wish to agree with the Stoics that the passions are irrational and bad can still attribute positive emotions to God without having to concede that God is irrational.

    The problem, and what strikes me as interesting, is that the Stoics describe no counterpart for grief which can be governed by reason in a person. Therefore if we want to hold to their view of the passions as bad, we would have to say God feels no grief.

    This leaves the Christian who wishes to affirm Stoic views of the passions with a contradiction:

    On the one hand, if we regard Jesus as the divine word (logos), we commit ourselves to the idea that God acts according to reason, and that Jesus does as well. In the case of caution, wishing, and joy, this presents no problem, as they are emotions governed by reason.

    But on the other hand, the cross is the ultimate expression of the passion of grief, which implies that Christ (and therefore perhaps God) indeed can be grieved.

    So the Stoic evaluation of passion clearly is inadequate from a Christian perspective; grief cannot be declared irrational if we believe the crucified Christ was also the divine logos.

    However, we could still affirm with the Stoics that passion uncontrolled by reason is indeed to be avoided (and therefore should not be ascribed to God or Jesus). A necessary stipulation, however, is that we must disagree with the Stoics' judgment as to which emotional experiences in fact lack reason (and thus are "passions") and which can be governed by reason and experienced by a rational God.

    Perhaps this idea that God's experience of emotion is always governed by reason (and therefore does not influence him to act irrationally or under impulse) could serve as an explanation of divine impassibility.

    Classic "impassibility" language is, after all, rooted in a Stoic understanding of the passions as those things which intemperately move us. In that sense absolutely God is impassible. But taking impassibility to mean the absolute imperviousness of God to humanity doesn't seem right either...For the Greeks, suffering implied deficiency of being, weakness, subjection, instability mutability. But the cross shows us a God who suffers out of the fullness of his being because he is love. He does not suffer against his will, but willingly undertakes to suffer with and for those he loves. His suffering does not deflect him from his purpose, but accomplishes his purpose. His transcendence does not keep him aloof from the world, but as transcendent love appears in the depth of his self-sacrificing involvement in the world. Finally, if Christians know anything about God from the cross, it is that 'the weakness of God is stronger than men' (1 Cor. 1:25). The cross does not make God a helpless victim of evil, but is the secret of his power and his triumph over evil.

    You ask about Diesm. Perhaps Calvinists are as guilty as Jefferson and the Constitutional writers were in regards to situating a diestic God. The Platonic and Stoic influence on the early church Fathers is implicit. Their development of God being immutable, self sufficient, imapssible and lastly static became the "orthodox" understanding. THis led to a distortion of God's nature. God appeared more and more like Aristotles unmoved mover, rather than the passionate God of orthodox faith.

    Chris, this subject is very very interesting, yet deep. Very deep. Starting with Stoic/Greek thought. Platonic indoctrination, the church has made impassibility equal to immutability to their error in some cases. Augustine spearheaded this thought which remained unquestioned until the 19th century except by Luther. Anthropopathic language was only used in scripture becasue of human limitations. It is a paradox. How can God be both loving and impassible.

    Anselm asked:

    How art thou at once compassionate and impassible? For if thou is impassible, thou canst suffer with others, if if thouh canst suffer, thy heart cannot be wrenched out of sympathy for sinners. But this is what comapssionate means. Yet if thouh are not compassionate, where does consolation come from the sinner....

    The reformers did not bring about any much change in this thought. It is in the 39 articles and the WCF ch 2. The scholastics upheld this without much discussion. But i believe it deserves another look.
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