Does God Suffer?

Thomas Weinandy, O.F.M.

The immense suffering in the modern world, especially in the light of the Holocaust, has had a profound impact on the contemporary understanding of God and his relationship to human suffering. There has been a growing acceptance that God himself suffers in solidarity and love with those who suffer. Weinandy’s comprehensive presentation resolutely challenges this view of God and suffering, arguing from scripture and from the philosophical and theological tradition of the Fathers and Aquinas. He maintains that a God who is impassible is more loving and compassionate than a suffering God. He also argues that it is the Son of God’s experience of suffering as a man that is truly redemptive and life-giving.

“The idea of divine impassibility is often dismissed as being both immoral and unscriptural. Dr. Weinandy’s welcome new book is the first for many years to address the full range of philosophical and theological issues that divine impassibility raises. The author has much to teach us, and does so in a fresh, insightful and scholarly way.” —Paul Helm, King’s College, London

“A veritable tour de force—and all accomplished in a language accessible to anyone able to read English. A rare theologian who has taught us what it means to retrieve a tradition, and do so in a fruitful and exciting manner.” —David B. Burrell, University of Notre Dame

“This is Christian theology at its best—intellectually vivid, spiritually acute, alert to the intricacies of the tradition, alive with human realities. No one who reads this book will come away from it without being provoked to fresh thinking and renewed engagement with the gospel mystery.” —John Webster, Christ Church, Oxford

“The breadth of Weinandy’s learning and his concise style add to the persuasiveness of his argument. Whether one agrees with Weinandy or not, this book is required reading for all those concerned with the question of who God is in a world ravaged by suffering and pain.” —Dr. Gavin D’Costa, University of Bristol

“Does God suffer? We are indebted to Thomas Weinandy for so thoroughly addressing this question posed by many philosophers and theologians in our time. He accurately presents the arguments in favor of an affirmative answer, only to show how inadequate those arguments are in the presence of a deeper understanding of God’s love for humanity revealed in the Bible and meditated upon in Patristic traditions.” —Matthew L. Lamb, Boston College

Dr. Thomas G. Weinandy is the Warden of Greyfriars and lectures in History and Doctrine at the University of Oxford.

Reviews

“This theologically erudite and pastorally sensitive study is an essential work for any theologian concerned with the question of divine suffering.” — Theological Studies

“Weinandy’s book is such a compelling treatment of central Christian doctrines that one is eager to see his thesis formulated in a way that presents no temptation to those who might be inclined to repeat the sins of the anti-Jewish past.”— Commonweal

“Weinandy’s book is a strong statement of the grammar of orthodoxy with respect to the question of God’s impassibility and an extremely useful resource for study of the history of the question.” — The Journal of Religion

“This is theology as it should be done. Throughout, Weinandy imaginatively engages the Christian tradition in a way that respects the truths of faith as a ‘mystery’ to be explored rather than as ‘problems’ to be solved, thus giving to his entire work the character of intelligently believing humility. For those who are ready for a very thorough intellectual and spiritual workout, this book is warmly recommended. — First Things

“… Thomas Weinandy walks briskly and intelligently through … two extremes, showing how a perfect and immutable God can be said to suffer alongside and because of human sin, not out of any deficiency, but out of his fullness. [T]his represents the best of post-conciliar theology: rooted firmly in the tradition while drawing from the best of contemporary thought, sympathetic to diverse positions without ever forfeiting a critical gaze….” — Homiletic & Pastoral Review

“It is to the author’s credit that he has presented difficult philosophical and theological material in a manner that is easily accessible to a general readership and still quite useful to the advanced student.” — Modern Theology

“The only defense of God in the face of a suffering world must be a dogmatic one which asks who he is as he is made known through his Church in the midst of the earth and how He responds in this identity to our suffering. Weinandy’s book is a rare and strong example of a traditional dogmatic response to it, we would all do well, therefore, to follow his argument closely both in order to understand how the Church expressed the mystery of the cross in the past and in order to understand why another approach to the question of Christ’s cry might be needed now.” — St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly