This afternoon I listened to the first lecture in Steve Lawson’s teaching series on the attributes of God. I recommend it. (Ligonier Ministries is offering the first lecture free, but the others must be purchased.)
If God has love, compassion, and wrath, how can we say he is “without passions”? It’s because
[p]assion as passion is an undergoing, a “happening to,” so to speak. Emotional experience brings to its subject a new state of actuality that was not previously present. For example, the one who falls in love is said to experience love as a passion because a new affective state of love comes to exist in the subject where previously it did not. Some movement and alteration has taken place in the human lover.
“Passion” then, tells us about “the manner in which affections come upon creatures.” God, however,
does not undergo intrinsic change, yet he is truly loving, compassionate, angry at sin, and so forth. The perfection indicated by each of these terms is real in God. But this reality did not come into his possession by way of passion, that is, by way of unfolding emotive experiences to which he submits himself.
Read the whole piece, which is a sample of an article by Dr. James E. Dolezal in Journal of the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies. It’s one of the clearest explanations of impassibility that I’ve read.
Transcendence and Immanence
Justin Taylor uses a chart to illustrate the biblical definitions of these attributes.