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Tuesday
Jul082008

Theological Term of the Week

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anthropopathism
A figure of speech in which human feeling or emotions are ascribed to God. Sometimes anthropopathism is contrasted with anthropomorphism, with the term anthropomorphism defined narrowly as the attribution of human form to God; but when anthropomorphism is defined more broadly as any language that speaks of God in human terms, then anthropopathism is seen as a special kind of anthropomorphism.
  • An example of anthropopathism from 1 Samuel 15:35:
    And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel. (ESV)
  • Phil Johnson in God Without Mood Swings:
    While it is true that [anthropopathisms] are figures of speech, we must nonetheless acknowledge that such expressions mean something. Specifically, they are reassurances to us that God is not uninvolved and indifferent to His creation.

    However, because we recognize them as metaphorical, we must also confess that there is something they do not mean. They do not mean that God is literally subject to mood swings or melancholy, spasms of passion or temper tantrums. And in order to make this very clear, Scripture often stresses the constancy of God’s love, the infiniteness of his mercies, the certainty of His promises, the unchangeableness of His mind, and the lack of any fluctuation in His perfections. “With [God there] is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). This absolute immutability is one of God’s transcendent characteristics, and we must resist the tendency to bring it in line with our finite human understanding.
Learn more:
  1. Provocations and Pantings: ‘Constrained Impassibility’ and Anthropopathisms
  2. New Link! Paul Helm: Divine Impassibility: Why Is It Suffering?
  3. Phil Johnson: Does God Have Mood Swings? (mp3)
Related term:
This week’s theological term was suggested by David Kjos of The Thirsty Theologian.
 
Have you come across a theological term that you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.
 
Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.

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Reader Comments (2)

You've selected one that I've never heard. It's not even in my Grudem book. I've used the word "anthropomorphism" when discussing God as being angry, repenting, pleased, etc...

But according to your definition, that's not incorrect; it's just more precise to say "anthropopathisms."

Thanks for the new word. My friends will think I made it up.

July 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Nope, it's not incorrect to call those anthropomorphisms.

I have to give credit to David the Thirsty Theologian for selecting this rather obscure term. :)

July 13, 2008 | Registered Commenterrebecca

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