In previous discussions on Helm's Deep we have noticed a strong tendency to think of God ‘dualistically’. In the work of Rob Lister God is both impassible and impassioned. This builds on what Bruce Ware says of God, that we must understand
God's relation to time as comprising both his atemporal existence in himself (in se) apart from creation, and his "omnitemporal" existence in relation to the created order that he has made.)....Since God chose to become immanent within the creation he had made, he chose, then, to "enter" fully into both the spatial and temporal dimensions of creation. In so doing the same God who in himself is intrinsically and eternally both nonspatial and atemporal chose to "fill" all of the space and time he chose to "fill" all of the space and time he created. Amazingly, then, at creation God became both omnipresent and omnitemporal while remaining, in himself and apart from creation, fully nonspatial and timelessly eternal. (God's Greater Glory, 136)[I am unsure how the inverted commas function. They are Ware's, not mine. What is clear however is that he teaches that at creation God became both omnipresent and omnitemporal while remaining, in himself and apart from creation, fully nonspatial and timelessly eternal. God remains timelessly while being (at the same time?) omnitemporal, present at all times, or perhaps present time after time.]
This is modified classical theism, as it is called. The motive, in Lister at least, is to safeguard the reality of divine emotion. In Ware, to facilitate the ascribing of real change to God who nevertheless remains timeless. God is really in time, he really changes, and is able to do this while remaining the God of classical theism because he is both timelessly eternal and temporal. Here we note the tendency to want to have one's cake and eat it too with the help of expressions in inverted commas - "enter", "fill" - on another occasion we may look at the incoherence of this 'amazing' state of affairs
The answer is: neither of these. The Lord is angry, right enough, but that anger is not the outcome of a change in God, but is manifested to us (out of the fullness of God’s being) as the result of God eternally decreeing (and so changelessly decreeing) to be angry with us at that time. And we may change in time by responding to that anger with fear, or penitence, or indifference, or some other response. Perhaps the problem is that Oliphint is thinking of God’s anger, say, in an abstract way. It is not simply God being angry, but manifesting anger on a certain occasion, and for so long. This is what is eternally decreed.
The problem (in case you've not twigged it) is that once, besides eternal God, there is a God who has entered time, and can change and have fits of passion and so on. The question very naturally rises, which of the two Gods is God? Or are both Gods God? In which case God is both eternal and in time, both aspatial and yet in space, and so on. That is certainly amazing, but is it coherent?
This is not my saying so, but the Reformed faith, in her Confessions, and through her doctors. Doctors such as John Owen. In his book the The Doctrine of the Saints' Perseverance Explained and Confirmed Owen has a wonderful chapter (III) on the immutability of the divine purposes. This is how Owen describes the positions he goes on to defend, biblically and polemically, in the course of the chapter.
It is, then, of the decrees and purposes of God, with respect to the matters about which they are, whereof I speak: in which regard, also, they are absolute and immutable; - not that they work any essential change in the things themselves concerning which they are, making that to be immutable from thence which in its own nature is mutable; but only that themselves as acts of the infinite wisdom and will of God, are not liable to nor suspended on any condition whatever foreign to themselves, nor subject to any change or alteration....That the determining purposes or decrees of God's will concerning any thing or things by him to be done or effected do not depend, as to their accomplishment, on any conditions that may be supposed in or about the things themselves whereof they are, and therefore are unchangeable, and shall certainly be brought forth unto the appointed issue, is that which we are to prove. (Works, XI 144).And the Westminster Confession:
God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeable ordain whatsoever comes to pass. (III.I )A somewhat different world from that of Ware, Lister and Oliphint. Next time we shall set out the differences more explicitly.