After months in which Mel Gibson's film The
Passion of The Christ has been breaking box office
records and hitting the headlines in both secular and
Christian papers, it seems almost impertinent to
pose the question: 'Does God suffer?' The Christian
wants to shout out 'Of course! What gospel would
there be if he did not?'
Such a response is more readily given today and with fewer qualifications
than in previous generations. The doctrine of divine
impassibility, which is often taken to be the
antithesis of the idea that God suffers, has taken a
dreadful battering in the last century or so. Yet
many Christians who have no desire whatsoever to
create an unfeeling, impersonal God in what
J.I.Packer calls an 'eternally frozen pose'(l) will
nonetheless feel the need to protect God from the
instability attendant on being able to suffer. We
want a God who loves and relates - this is the drive behind much of the attack on impassibility - yet we
are not convinced that the suffering God is entirely
- well, God.
Does God suffer? And if so, does it make sense to
describe him as 'impassible'?
For more of this article see the 'Foundations Archive' for Autumn 2004 at