Does God the Father Suffer?

Does God the Father Suffer? June 26, 2013

Fred thinks so, and I agree, in spite of the heresy of Patripassianism:

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the Trinity, in one God in three persons. This is a historically Christian way of talking and thinking about God. It’s a helpful and insightful metaphor. And it’s a metaphor that can be supported by several passages in the Bible. But it’s not actually a biblical metaphor. It’s something that Christians have, for many centuries, laid on top of the scriptures, but it was never something we found there in any explicit form.

Set aside all the whole Monster Manual of traditional heresies and heretical -isms, where theology often starts to get into trouble is when we elevate our metaphors about God and begin worshiping and serving those metaphors rather than worshiping and serving God.

That word — “metaphor” — tends to infuriate the defenders of doctrinal purity, but it’s a necessary word. Anything else leads to laughable overreach, to the claim that we can define or confine the infinite.

I believe in God. And I believe that God, being God, is more than I can comprehend, more than I can pin down, define, contain, master or bind into a formula.

And that’s OK. Because I also believe that everything I need to know about God has been revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. And that is not a metaphor.

As for my Patripassianist tendencies, if I go for a very long walk and think about it very hard, then I can almost imagine some way in which it might be marginally useful to clarify precise ways in which God did and did not suffer in the passion of Jesus Christ. Almost. Just as I can almost conceive of some way that something called “the classical theological doctrine of divine apathy” might be something other than slanderous blasphemy. But all of that still strikes me mainly as an elaborate exercise in evading some other, far more urgent business.

Read the rest: The doctrine of the Trinity … it’s a trap!.

That’s my heresy. What’s yours?

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  • mhelbert

    I had a little trouble following Fred when I read this a couple days ago. What I think about a suffering God really isn’t all that important. I DO believe that God learned something new thru the passion of Jesus Christ…forsakenness. If that caused suffering, ok. But, I also think that Christ followers have other things to exercise brain cells with. Like, following Christ.

  • AlanCK

    I thought “The Shack” had cleared this all up! 🙂

  • CurtisMSP

    The empathy of God toward humans is shown in the creation story: “It is not good that the man should be alone”.

  • Isn’t patripassianism about the Father not just suffering, but also dying? Did the Father die on the cross? Patripassianists say he did. If I remember right.

    In effect, it’s a form of modalism. If a guy dies, all his hats die with him.

    Whereas, good Trinitarian thought can, and probably shoudl, include a Father who suffers, experiencing the pain and loss. Only the Son dies. Which is still tricky, to be sure, but a different issue.

  • Hans Gustafson

    I just gave a talk at University of Notre Dame on the suffering of God. I suggested, with Heschel, that yes indeed the biblical God does suffer.


    I agree with the views in the post. I believe in GOD too. Christ’s suffering ­ and with it, the suffering of God the Father ­
    embraces the whole world and every particular life within it. I strongly believe that there is no
    true love without suffering. And God is and always will be the God of Love.