Anna SolomonGES246 Western Humanities IVTheology Paper 12/8/17Suffering and Love: Moltmann’s The Crucified GodTime after time theology is always being reinterpreted to fit with newly lived faith. Topics such as “The Impassibility of God” or Theopaschitism have been debates with which the church has been concerned. After the devastations of World War Two, which brought untold suffering to mankind, Jurgen Moltmann wrote his book The Crucified God. Moltmann proposes that suffering is not a problem to be solved but instead that suffering is an aspect of God’s very being, God is love, and love invariably involves suffering. In this view, the crucifixion of Jesus is an event that affects the entirety of the Trinity. This new perspective has proposed new insights and challenges to the past and the present. Before Humanities IV and reading Moltmann I had never thought about a suffering God.
Suffering is something so universal to mankind.Everyone can think of suffering in their life and the lives of others, but it wasn’t an attribute I could easily attach to God. After reading Moltmann’s work I now a new outlook on God in relation to my suffering, but even more profound than God taking on my suffering on the cross is the restoration of all things that comes with resurrection.”The consensus of Christian belief about God has always been that God is both transcendent in the sense of possessing a superior quality of being such that everything depends on God for its existence, and immanent in the sense of being graciously present in love with his creation” (Olson 119). Denial of either side of God’s nature is usually considered heresy, but neglecting one side in favor of the other is common and leads to many problems. God is both perfectly good and great. Impassibility is one of the common attributes of God’s transcendence.
The discussion of Theopaschitism is one response to the problem of suffering and evil. Is it possible for God to be loving and Impassible?Ward suggests, that “He is loving because he is impassible” (Ward 64-5). God is love so because he never change this is good news for us because God will always be perfect love.
God suffers through the incarnation “God suffers not in his divinity but in his humanity” (Ward 68). God the impassible suffers as a man. God can suffer like us because we are human and we suffer.
He cannot suffer like himself. “To Moltmann, the cross is not just where mankind is saved from sin; it is where God is saved from being a demon. By suffering in his divine nature God shows his love for us. An impassible God would be distant and aloof and unloving” (Ward 64).
Many people think that a God who is unaffected by the actions of his own creation? If God is unmoving then why during the course of human history did he send his Jesus. Why the incarnation? We know that there are two natures of Christ; He is both fully God and fully man. Many people feel a stronger connection to Christ because of his human-ness being something with which we can identify. Such as in Matthew 4 when Christ is tempted in the wilderness by the devil, He is hungry. This lends itself to understanding that Christ incarnate suffers on the cross just as we would. Something that has often confused me is the how God acts in the Old Testament versus the New Testament. The Old Testament speaks often of the wrath of God while the New Testament focuses on God as love. The apathetic God neither loves nor hates, so how can He then be wrathful? “The stormily emotional God of the Old Testament does not sit well with the notion of a God who cannot change or be changed” (Ward 62).
His wrath therefore could be seen an expression of enduring interest in mankind. God takes us seriously to the point that he suffers from our actions and can be injured through them. To begin processing Moltmann’s concept of a suffering God I wanted to interpret the full meaning of suffering. In the reading I was presented with the idea of suffering as separation from God.
“Whoever suffers without reason always feels at first that he is abandoned by God and all good things”(16). Suffering seems like God couldn’t possibly be in its midst because it is something bad and He is all good. People experiencing great suffering always wonder just where God could be because things are so bad, just as Moltmann quotes from Elie Wiesel reports in his book Night.
“Two Jewish men and a child were hanged. The prisoners were forced to watch. The men died quickly. The boy lived on in torture for a long while. “Then someone behind me said: “Where is God?’ and I was silent. After half an hour he cried out again: ‘Where is God? Where is he?’ And a voice in me answered: ‘Where is God? .
. he hangs there from the gallows….'”(9). This powerful passage and in particular the last line gives me shivers every time I read it.
I have yet to read Endo Shusaku’s Silence, but I did see the recent film adaptation directed by Martin Scorsese. The brutal torture, heaviness, and depictions of suffering in the film certainly made an impression on me. As well as the quote when God seems to speak to Rodriguez, “When you suffer, I suffer with you. To the end I am close to you”. It reminds me that the crucifixion is truly an ugly image “The old rugged cross” is something that growing up in the church we are constantly reminded of, but the repetition has somewhat desensitized me to its ugliness. I remember from a lecture earlier in Humanities that likened that to the early Christians wearing a cross around your neck nowadays would be like wearing an electric chair. This feeling of suffering as abandonment from God stems from the Mark 15:34, when Jesus is on the cross cries out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Moltmann notes how the centurion answers, “Truly this man was the Son of God.
” The centurion did not speak these words after witnessing a triumphal God but after hearing Jesus cry out because of separation from God. Up until recently I would often pray inviting God to enter into a place, but recently I’ve been struck that that is something I don’t have to say because He already there. The incarnate God is present and accessible to the humanity of everyone.
No one needs to play a role or to transform himself in order to come to his humanity through Christ. Moltmann says that to recognize the new God-situation in the cross of Christ, however, also means to recognize that the cross, our inescapable suffering, and our hopeless despair exist in God. God not only participates in our suffering but also makes our suffering into his own, and takes our death into his life. God takes on our suffering but that is not where he leaves it. Christ dies, but then he rises from the dead. He is resurrected. God takes on our pain, but he goes one step further giving us hope and a promise of new life.
The earth and all things will be restored. Someday there will be a new heaven and a new earth. There is something comforting in the idea of a God who is not overwhelmed by the trials and tribulations of life, who does not threaten to become unhinged in face of so much unimaginable suffering. At the same time, however, it is difficult to relate to an apathetic or impassible God who is incapable of experiencing the depths of our pain and sorrows, or the heights of our joy and triumphs.
Divine apatheia is pure activity, pure self-giving charity, pure agape. It is only in this sense that God can in any sense be said to “suffer” (and then only in Christ’s human nature). To suggest anything else is to give up the possibility of redemption. Apathetic, impassible love, he suggests, is the only condition for the possibility of redemption and the only ground of our hope. Without it we don’t have salvation; with it we have the promise of the fullness of life (Hart). These are not simple questions with which I can find comfort in answers.
Why does impassible have to mean not loving? Why can’t he be impassible and loving? If God is perfect love then can He never change? The Impassibility of God is a complicated question. God is usually seen as being immanent and transcendent, to suggest otherwise is considered heresy. Some think an apathetic God seems cold and distant while others argue that His apatheia is in the form of perfect agape so it is the best of news that He is never changed. Jurgen Moltmann who lived through atrocities of the World Wars, wrote The Crucified God as a response and study of God suffering with us. Moltmann presents suffering as separation from God.
I think it’s true that God is with us and takes on our suffering, but then the key is that He doesn’t leave us to suffer forever. Christ suffers and dies, as we all do and will, but then He rises again.