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The Truth of Divine Impassibility: A New Look at an Old Argument

Silcock, Jeff (2011) The Truth of Divine Impassibility: A New Look at an Old Argument. Lutheran Theological Journal, 45 (3). pp. 198-207. ISSN 0024-7553


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From his Nazi prison cell in 1944, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his friend Eberhard Bethge that 'only the suffering God can help'. Just after the war, the Japanese Lutheran theologian Kazoh Kitamori published his ground-breaking book, Theology of the pain of God, based around Jeremiah 31:20, where he developed a similar theology of the cross: the pain of God heals our pain. In the suffering of Christ, God himself suffers. In 1973 Jurgen Moltmann came out with his classic, The crucified God, where he takes this further and develops a critical theology of the cross. He holds that a 'theology after Auschwitz' has to revise completely the traditional doctrine of God that teaches divine impassibility. Moltmann at the outset reflects on his own experience: 'Shattered and broken, the survivors of my generation were then returning from camps and hospitals to the lecture room. A theology which did not speak of God in the sight of the one who was abandoned and crucified would have had nothing to say to us then'. The old teaching of classical theism that God is beyond suffering died in the death camps of WWII and was no longer tenable. Moltmann wrote his book, which had an enormous impact in its day, with the conviction that only if God is not detached from human suffering, but willingly enters into it with compassion, is there any hope for the future.

Item Type: Published Articles
Repository Version: Published Version
Keywords: Pain - Religious aspects, Christianity, Lutheran Church, Theologians, Christian life
Fields of Research: 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2204 Religion and Religious Studies > 220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History)
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
Type of Activity: Strategic Basic Research
Subjects: B - Biblical Studies, general
College/Association with University of Divinity: Other University of Divinity
Depositing User: Dr Suman Kashyap
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2012 00:39
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2014 00:18
URI: http://repository.divinity.edu.au/id/eprint/1041

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