Tag Archives: St. Andrews

Some Reflections on “Divine Impassibility and the Uninfluenced Love of God”

On Wednesday March 8th the Analytic Theology Seminar had the pleasure of hosting Ryan Mullins, the Director of Communications and Research Fellow at the Logos Institute for Analytic and Exegetical Theology at the University of St. Andrews. Mullins endured an unbearably long flight across the pond, yet he managed to deliver a stimulating paperfb_img_1483804409430-169x300 that generated much discussion during the second portion of our seminar. In his paper, titled, “Divine Impassibility and the Uninfluenced Love of God,” Mullins made a case for a passible God. He argued that even while granting impassibilists their favored definition of love as benevolence + union, this definition pushes the impassibilist towards a passibilist God. In order to make a case for this thesis he engaged in several moves.

The first move he made was to articulate the doctrine of divine impassibility in a charitable manner. He noted that there are three common themes that make up the core of this doctrine: 1) God cannot suffer, 2) God cannot be moved, nor acted upon, by anything ad extra to the divine nature, and 3) God lacks passions. This last core component of the doctrine draws most of Mullins’s attention. He was primarily concerned with how impassibilists treat “love.” William Shedd, for instance, concludes that God lacks passions, yet God has the emotion of love. Mullins then made his way through various historical examples to explain how impassibilists attempted to attribute love to an impassible God. His survey of how this has been done historically lead him to modify the third core theme of the doctrine to “it is metaphysically impossible for God to have an emotion that is irrational, immoral, or that disrupts His perfect happiness.”

You can read the rest of the blog over at Fuller’s Analytic Theology Webpage.


I’ve Decided Where I’m Doing My PhD

Although both schools are fantastic, I have finally decided where I will be doing my PhD. I will be going to….

Fuller Theological Seminary!

Although St. Andrews has a lot of things going for it: 1) amazing Faculty (Torrance, Webster, Holmes, N.T. Wright), 2) awesome visiting fellows (Rae, Evans, van Inwagen), and 3) the fact that its Scotland (scotch, the highlands, golf, monarchy) – I have decided that the best place for me and my family is right here in Pasadena.


Here at Fuller I’ll be able to be a part of a top notch team that is trying to make a case for Analytic Theology.

Prayer, Love, and Human Nature: Analytic Theology for Theological Formation is a multi-million dollar initiative funded by the John Templeton Foundation at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. We are a team of theologians working on deepening and thickening out Analytic Theology, as well as applying it to the practice of Christian churches.

The team is a top-notch team. Led by Oliver Crisp, it includes two post-docs (Jordan Wessling and James Arcadi), an administrator and a 2 PhD Students (one of which is me!).

Here in L.A. I will have access to may resources, including UCLA, USC, and Biola. All of which are top-notch resources for philosophy and theology.

I will be able to continue serving in my current ministry.

I will be close to family, and my family will not have to move.

I will be in the city I love – LA!

I will be able to focus on my studies instead of having to worry about how I’m going to support a family in a foreign country. (I.e. Fuller offered a living stipend whereas St. Andrews did not).

I will be able to focus more on publishing articles.

Most importantly, its where I feel the Lord was calling us to stay.

So having said that…. I will be at Fuller for the next 3-4 years!



I’m Doing a PhD!

So in the last 2 days I got some HUGE news…

I have been accepted into both Fuller Seminary and the University of St. Andrews for their newly formed programs in Analytic Theology. Both schools received very large grants from the Templeton Foundation in order to see how Analytic Theology may help us make sense of prayer, love, and human nature. As a part of those grants, both schools made some space for new PhD Students. Fuller created 2 new positions and St. Andrews created 6. Both schools are among the best schools in theology. Both are cutting edge when it comes to Analytic theology. It is such a blessing to be accepted into both of these great schools.

I’ll be announcing which school I’ve decided to go to really soon!

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Analytic Theology at St. Andrews

Recently it was announced that St. Andrews University (thanks to the Templeteon Foundation) would be joining Fuller Seminary in kicking off a program in Analytic Theology….

Some of the biggest issues facing humanity will form the basis of study at a new international institute to be based at the University of St Andrews.

The Logos Institute, which takes its name from the Greek meaning ‘word’ or ‘study’ but which is also used in John’s Gospel with reference to the incarnation, will be a centre for excellence in the study of analytic and exegetical theology.

The range of questions it will consider concern the existence and nature of God, God’s relationship to time, the nature of the person and the conceptual and social challenges confronting religious belief. The latter will include interdisciplinary analysis of the challenges of religious hostility, sectarianism and, indeed, terrorism.

The institute is being launched by a £1.6 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation which supports research relating to the major questions of human purpose and ultimate reality.

The work of the institute is founded in the collaboration of father and son academics Alan Torrance (pictured), professor of systematic theology at St Mary’s College of the University of St Andrews, and Dr Andrew Torrance of the University’s School of Divinity.

Alan applied to the Templeton Foundation for funding to launch an institute for analytic and exegetical theology to be based at St Andrews and, separately, Andrew applied for funding to expand his work on communication with schools and churches, for which he had earlier received a grant of over £500,000.

The Foundation decided to roll the two applications together to launch the Logos Institute.

The new institute, which will open in the summer of 2016, builds on existing resources at the University of St Andrews.

These resources will be complemented by the appointment to part-time positions of four leading international thinkers and a further full-time, senior appointment. In addition, there will be research fellowships, six PhD scholarships and a new Masters programme as well as a series of public lectures, a blog, a website, podcasts etc.

Professor Alan Torrance said:

“The impetus for the new institute is the remarkable sea-change that has taken place in philosophy. Over the last three decades, a sizeable proportion of academic research in philosophy has been directed toward questions bearing on the existence of God. This renewed interest has resulted in major advances in the field and a wealth of published research. It is in the light of these significant developments that ‘analytic theology’ has emerged. The Institute will bring this new generation of theological research into conversation with the world-class expertise we have here in biblical studies, philosophy, psychology and international relations.

“Our primary concern will be to explore the immense explanatory power of Christian theism and its relevance for how we understand the ultimate significance of human life. We shall be doing this in dialogue with exciting, new developments in contemporary Biblical scholarship.

“One of the key research topics will be the nature of forgiveness and what this central Christian notion might mean for how we approach religious enmity, sectarianism and, indeed, terrorism.”

Dr Andrew Torrance said:

“At its best, the task of theology gathers together and engages a diverse range of perspectives. Not only does it draw on the insights of biblical scholarship and philosophy, it also draws on the insights of the natural and social sciences. Further, it seeks to be attentive to the religious communities that have devoted themselves to pursuing a knowledge of God.
“Such a diverse conversation is not easy, however. For constructive conversation to take place, those at the table need to share the same language, and this requires conceptual clarity and discipline. Theology’s task in this regard stands to be resourced richly by analytic philosophy and the clarity it generates.”

Professor N.T. Wright, School of Divinity at St Andrews, added:

“There are few places in the world where a project this daring and creative could even be imagined; fewer still where it could be brought to birth. St Andrews is just the place for this remarkable venture, and I look forward eagerly to sharing in it.”

Among those who will be lecturing at the institute as part-time faculty are the US-based British theologian Oliver Crisp, American, analytic philosophers Michael Rea and Peter Van Inwagen and American philosopher and theologian, C Stephen Evans.

Other aspects of the Institute’s work will involve programmes for schools and churches, lectures and a UK-wide competition resulting in a full scholarship.

You can find more information on the St. Andrews Divinity website.

Galatians and Christian Theology

In 2012 a large group of scholars gathered at St. Andrews for the fourth in a series of triennial Scripture and Theology conferences. This particular year’s focus was upon Galatians and Christian Theology. The results of this conference were published in this extensive collection of essays.

This collection of essays is comprised of three sections: Justification, Gospel, and Ethics. The actual conference was not arranged according to these three topics, but as the publisher edited the collection, it became clear that all the presentations fit quite neatly (in most cases) into one of these artificial categories.

On interesting aspect of this collection is the cross-disciplinary nature of many of the papers. Naturally some papers are written by specialists who stick to their particular area of knowledge (i.e. Wright on Messiahship in Galatians), but many of the biblical scholars and theologians ventured on to the other side of their academic divide. Systematicians dove into exegesis and exegetes dove into systematics. All this makes for some really interesting essays!

On of the most interesting sections in the book was the Gospel section. I probably found this to be the case since I have more of a bent towards systematic theology… When considering the gospel in Galatians, the editors write, one is “lead to the meaty matters of the ordo salutis, as well as to issues of time, eternity, election , and God’s very being as Trinity.”

One final aspect of this collection that I really appreciated was the sensitivity of (most of) the authors in paying attention to the history of theology and biblical interpretation. Rather than simply sticking to “brand spanking new” insights, most essays interacted in significant ways with the history of the church’s interpretation of this letter.


This collection contains a total of 23 essays; 10 devoted to the issue of justification, 7 devoted to the gospel, and 6 devoted to ethics. To address each of these essays is beyond the scope of this brief review, but I will give some personal highlights.

Ch 1- Messiaship in Galatians? N.T. Wright. Typical Wright, talking about exile and justification. He argues for the importance of Messiahship in “christos-based incorporative language.” He also argues that Messiah as true Israel is at the heart of Paul’s participatory soteriology. In other words, God’s people are summed up in the Messiah.

Ch. 11 – The Singularity of the Gospel Revisited – Beverly Roberts Gaventa. The Gospel’s singularity deals not only with the fact that there is only one gospel, but also with its “singular, all-encompassing action in the lives of human beings.” The gospel makes claims upon all things.

Ch. 12 – Apocalyptic Poiesis in Galatians – Richard Hays. He tries to move past the redemptive-historical vs. apocalyptic dichotomy often presented in readings of Paul’s letters. In this essay he argues that “Paul is seeking to reshape the imagination of his readers, seeking to narrate them into a symbolic world where God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son of God, and the Spirit are powerfully at work to bring a new world into being.”

Ch. 17 – Heirs Through God: Galatians 4:4-7 and the Doctrine of the Trinity – Scott R. Swain. He defends the need for theological interpretation of scripture because scripture is the “seat of doctrine.” He shows how Galatians 4:4-7 is a “seat of doctrine” for the doctrine of the Trinity. He analyses the grammar of divine agency in this passage and shows the God’s action in Christ and the Spirit is not “mediated” action – it is immediate. Hence showing the rational behind the Trinity.

Ch. 19 – “Indicative Imperative” as the substructure of Paul’s theology and Ethics in Galatians? – Volker Rabens. Many of us who preach have learned about the importance of the indicative-imperative distinction in Paul’s letters. Well this distinction is being challenged. Rabens interacts with one of this model’s primary critics – Zimmermann – and shows that although the indicative-imperative distinction is not the be-all-end-all mode of ethics for Paul, it is certainly an important aspect. In fact if we want to be faithful to Paul’s words and he particular grammar he actually uses, we ought to see Paul’s ethics as implicit indicatives and implicit imperatives. Paul doesn’t always explicitly talk about indicatives-imperatives, but he certainly thinks this way.

All in all, I recommend this book. It offers some of the most up to date discussion of important topics in Galatians. It also provides a window into contemporary Pauline studies (which according to this book revolves around apocalyptic readings of Paul). Every reader will be able to find something that interests them in this book; for some that might be exegesis, for others it might be biblical theology, and even for others it might be historical or systematic theology. Its all here!


(Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.)