A Key Bit of Jargon



Let me offer a nice bit of theo-jargon here—“anthropopathism”—for anyone who doesn’t already know the term.  I’ll then comment on it and invite any responses.
An anthropopathism is the emotional and less-well-known cousin of anthropomorphism.
The latter term refers to human descriptions of God that use bodily terms—as in the Father having arms or legs despite texts that tell us he is a never-seen Spirit.  An anthropopathism makes a similar God-to-human parallel but instead denotes our use of the language of human emotions to describe God’s attitudes and activities when he—as immutable—is necessarily emotionless.
William Perkins, for one, promoted this.  He was among the most influential English Puritan theologians of the 16th century and his heritage is still lively among us.  In his Treatise of God’s Free Grace and Man’s Free Will he asked, rhetorically, “whether there be such an affection of love in God, as is in man and beast.”
He went on: “I answer that affections of the creature are not properly incident unto God, because they make many changes, and God is without change.  And therefore all affections, and the love that is in man and beast is ascribed to God by figure.”  [Perkins, Works, 1.723] Thus, God expresses his unchanging will so that he achieves “the same things that love makes the creature do” even though, in his essence, he has no feelings or affections.
Any biblical expressions of love, then, are simply figures of speech. God, we are told, does everything out of a sublime but dispassionate will: “Because his will is his essence or Godhead indeed.” [Perkins, Works, 1.703].
In summary, this priority of the divine will, along with a rejection of any divine affections because of divine changelessness, explain anthropopathisms.  With this insight we then learn that every biblical reference to God’s love, compassion, wrath, or joy are actually actions of his ever-determinative will.
So, too, we learn, God is just wearing a warm and winsome mask in Bible texts such as John 3:16 “For God so loved the world . . .”  In fact, he doesn’t really care about us but has a plan in mind to achieve good outcomes for us.  To suggest, in this view, that he is merely a calculating God may sound harsh, but we just need to suck up our distress and start to be more godlike and Stoic.
The problem, of course, is that this has to be a carefully guarded secret—shared only with those in the know.  Perkins, for instance, first offered this pivotal insight in his academic tomes that only theology students would read.  From the pulpit, by contrast, Perkins was famously affective—always presenting God’s love as a profoundly comforting reality for all the saints.
Was he lying to his non-Latin-reading parishioners when he did this?  Not in his view.  He was, like God, just using the proper—but not literal—terms that the Bible offers to produce proper obedience to God’s will.  If we need the appearance of emotions in God in order to respond to him, that’s just fine, but don’t look for affective authenticity in any of it.
But what if Perkins, and his current theological kin, are actually missing the reality that God does love us in emotional, affective terms?  Would that make a difference to us?  What if the Nicene-based doctrine of the Trinity as an eternal community of mutual love and shared glory were true?  And what if Perkin’s devotion to the Greek philosophical and monadic axiom that God must be an “unmoved mover” was wrong-headed in light of Trinitarian realities?
Would it make any difference to us?  Would it keep Bible College students from progressively losing their initial passion for God as they encounter the world of anthropopathisms?  Might we rediscover God’s attractiveness even at the highest levels of theology by dumping Perkins’ version of God?
I’m certain that is the case.  The Triune God, who “is love” according to 1 John 4, knows and directs the beginning from the end—so his stability is not threatened by love.  Instead his love is the real and winsome motive for all that he plans and does.  And the Bible can, indeed, be trusted for actually meaning what it says.
~ Ron
You are invited to comment on Ron’s article at Cor Deo
Dr. Ron Frost
Ron served on faculty for more than 20 years at Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary. At the seminary, from 1995-2007, he was professor of historical theology and ethics. He earned his PhD at King’s College of the University of London. His research featured Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). He now teaches internationally while serving as a pastoral care consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International. Ron authored Discover the Power of the Bible and writes on spreadinggoodness.org [See “Resources”].
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Amos: Called by God


Amos 7:10-16

Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said,

“‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
and Israel must go into exile
away from his land.’”

12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

14 Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. 15 But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ 16 Now therefore hear the word of the LORD.

“You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,
and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’

17 Therefore thus says the LORD:
“‘Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,
and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line;
you yourself shall die in an unclean land,
and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’”

Amos is reinforcing his message to Israel by presenting the visions that the Lord gave him. The Lord uses vivid pictures to get our attention. This is one reason we read so many stories and illustrations in the Bible.
After hearing three of these visions, Amaziah rebels against the message and attempts to cause problems for Amos. But this only provides Amos with an opportunity to reassert a message of judgment from the third vision, which Amaziah did not intend. In the ultimate sense, no one can do anything against the truth but only for the truth.
I. Though Amos was called by God, he had to endure opposition (7:10-13).
A. This opposition came from religious people (7:10a).

1. “Great pretenders to sanctity are commonly the worst enemies to those who are really sanctified.” [Henry] Think of what happened to Paul at Ephesus (Ac 19:23ff).

2. There are numerous examples of this point: the Lord Jesus was opposed by the priests, law experts and the Pharisees, Jeremiah was opposed by the religious leaders of his day, and Luther was opposed by the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

B. Amos was misrepresented (7:10-12).

1. His mission was misrepresented (7:10b). Amos was accused of treason. The same thing happened to Jeremiah (Jer 26:11; 37:11-15; 38:1-6).

Apply: Our loyalty to Christ may come in conflict with lesser loyalties. Are we ready to choose the Lord Jesus first? Lk 14:25-27

2. His message was misrepresented (7:11; cf. 7:9). It was incorrectly reported. Some things were left out. Lies were told claiming that he said things that he did not say. This could arouse the anger of Jeroboam II against Amos, or it might at least make Amos afraid of what Jeroboam II might do.

Illustration: Nimzovich’s remark about Alekhine’s cigar—“The threat is stronger than its execution.”

3. His motives were misrepresented (7:12b). Amaziah insinuated that Amos was only “in the prophet business” for money.

C. Amos was rejected (7:13).

1. He was threatened. “Never again prophesy at Bethel.” [NKJV]

Comment: Wicked people are glad to put a great distance between them and God’s word. Anytime people begin to slide away from the Bible they are in serious spiritual problems.

2. Underlying the threat was their rebellious way of life. Bethel had not been chosen by God. Jerusalem was his old covenant city! Amaziah was right that it was “the king’s sanctuary, because it wasn’t God’s!

II. Though Amos was opposed, his call from God steadied him during this time of opposition (7:14-15). Cf. Paul (1 Cor 9:16) and Jeremiah (Jer 1:4-10)
A. The knowledge of God’s call provided stability against insinuations about his ministry (7:14).

1. “You’re in it for the money.” Think about how Spurgeon countered this. “Ignorant beings they must be if they look for wealth in connection with the Baptist ministry.” What Amaziah is doing is evaluating Amos according to his own motives. He couldn’t conceive that Amos would serve God out of love for God and his people.

2. Amos counters that he had left two trades by which he was able to support himself. “I’m not doing this because I needed work.” God’s call motivated him.

B. It provided stability as he proclaimed the message (7:15). “But the Lord took me.” He was in God’s control and had to act accordingly.

1. He hadn’t invented the message. It came from God. So he had to prophesy (cf. Jer 20:9; 1 Cor 9:16).

2. God also told Amos where to prophesy. Amaziah was not his boss.

Comment: Biblically based churches recognize this principle. The Lord calls men into the ministry, and they minister where he wants them. Local churches support their pastors financially, but that doesn’t make the pastor the employee or the CEO of the church.

III. His call for God was the reason for his prophesying (7:16-17). Because of this call…
A. He would make the correct choice about whom to obey. “Now then, hear the word of the Lord….”

1. Should we obey God or man? Consider Ac 5:27-29.

2. Should a man disobey the Lord because people do not like what he says?

Illustration: Would you want your child to disobey you because his or her friends didn’t like your commands to your child?

B. He would deliver a message that was not “likeable” or “appealing” to human ears.

1. Since Amaziah opposed Amos, God had Amos deliver a very distasteful message to the priest of Bethel. Amos also reasserts what was the truth from Amaziah’s charge against Amos (7:11). Israel would go into captivity!

Apply: Stopping the mouths of God’s ministers will not stop the progress of God’s word, for it shall not return void.” [Henry]

2. Since we still sin, there will be times when the word of God will denounce our sins. Then we must listen in humility.

Apply: How do you respond to God’s word, especially when you don’t “like” or appreciate what you are hearing? Do you ask God for grace to continue to listen and then to believe and obey? Or do you strive to eliminate the unpleasant message from your thoughts?

~ Dave
Pastor Dave Frampton
When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.