Category Archives: Divine Suffering

Two problems with saying God does not suffer

All the criticisms that maintain that God does not suffer – there seem to me two problems. i) On any view of the Incarnation, the second Person of the Trinity suffers. Assuming one adopts a two natures Christology, the suffering of the second Person is not negated by the fact that it only occurs in his human nature, for he has a human nature just as fully as a divine nature. ii) Suffering, insofar as it is a conscious experience, is still a modality of being – of existence. It is incomprehensible to me that such a thing could exist and be existentially “unknown” to God. It would be like saying that God doesn’t know what the color blue looks like. Blue only exists because God made it so. But surely if God makes a mode of being he must know it perfectly – indeed it must come absolutely from him and him alone. The same holds, I would argue, with suffering.

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The Cross as Revelation

I have been recently very puzzled about how to reconcile the notion of God’s impassibility with the suffering of the Word made flesh. More classic theologians have told me that God in his being does not suffer in any sense. But if that is so, I don’t know what the crucifixion – the self-sacrifice of Christ for the other – tells us about God. As such it seems not a revelation but rather a lie.
Yet I have been reading Balthasar on God’s suffering. In particular I find this line of thought very compelling: the idea that God, since he is Love itself, and since he is a self-existent being which cannot gain in perfection, must therefore possess all the modalities of Love itself. One of the forms or modalities of love is obviously voluntary suffering – or “suffering for the sake of the other.” Therefore this reality must exist in God’s very being and nature. Therefore the persons of the Trinity must in some sense suffer and empty themselves for the sake of each other, and thus find fulfillment and perfection in so doing.