Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Can God Suffers?

In this Lenten period as we meditate on the sufferings of Christ, let me ask you a simple question, "Can God Suffers?"

In answering the question,Can God Suffers ?, Gerald Bray, Director of Research for the Latimer Trust, Research Professor at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, explains the change in understanding of the theology of the “impassibility” (apathea-the divine nature cannot suffer) and the redefining of that theology. He highlights that we have changed in our understanding of God in the last one hundred years. Yes, God does suffer, he replies.

Ronald Goetz, holder of the Niebuhr distinguished chair of theology and ethics at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Illinois, in his article The Suffering God: The Rise of a New Orthodoxy, ask an interesting question:
“The mere fact of God’s suffering doesn’t solve the question; it exacerbates it. For there can no longer be a retreat into the hidden decrees of the eternal, all-wise, changeless and unaffected God. The suffering God is with us in the here and now. God must answer in the here and now before one can make any sense of the by and by. God, the fellow sufferer, is inexcusable if all that he can do is suffer. But if God is ultimately redeemer, how dare he hold out on redemption here and now in the face of real evil?”

Goetz's answer is even more interesting.

Richard Bauckham, Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of St. Andrews, offers a deep theological reflection on why God suffers. His discussion centres on the context of suffering in the twentieth century, our expanded understanding of God of the prophets, a God of personal love, and the crucified God in 'Only the Suffering God Can help': divine passibility in modern theology.

Father Thomas G. Weinandy, Oxford don, Capuchin priest offers a contrary view in Does God Suffer? He writes convincingly that God in transcendence and immanence cannot suffer, and it is bad theology and philosophy to imply that he does. He questions the wisdom that the theology of the impassibility of God that has been understood for two thousand years has been overturned in a hundred years.

What do you think?


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