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Last Updated on September 13, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 611

The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology by Jürgen Moltmann raises the question of God’s suffering. As the theologian approaches this controversial issue, he deals with the Greek concept of apatheia (impassibility) of God. He says,

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In the ancient world, early Christianity encountered apatheia as a metaphysical axiom and an ethical ideal with irresistible force.

Plato rejected the old Greek idea of the gods being capricious, vengeful, envious, and vindictive, contrasting the passions to catharsis—that is, the purification of emotions. He believed that the ability to suffer was inconsistent with God’s perfection. Although Christianity is all about God the Son’s sufferings (passion), it inherited this Platonic drift toward the idea of God being incapable of suffering. However, the question of God’s suffering has surfaced in theological polemic more than once during church history.

Patripassianism (the teaching about God the Father literally sacrificing himself on the cross) was rejected early on by both the Church, both in the east and in the west. Rather than resurrecting this disputable ancient teaching, Moltmann reaffirms God’s capability of suffering and sympathizing with sufferers. And yet the Son dying as the Father forsakes him is something different from the Father suffering at the Son’s death. The Son endures the dying, while the Father suffers because of the Son’s death.

As he develops his argument, Moltmann talks about the unique character of Christian faith—which finds its identity in the cross—among other religions and ideologies.

Faith in the cross distinguishes Christian faith from the world of religions and from secular ideologies and Utopias, in so far as they seek to replace these religions or to inherit their legacy and bring them to realization. But faith in the cross also distinguishes Christian faith from its own superstitious manifestions. The recollection of the crucified Christ obliges Christian faith permanently to distinguish itself from its own religious and secular forms.

Moltmann does not criticize other religions or atheism as such. He talks about protest atheism, for example, and rather than refuting it, he goes beyond it. On the other hand, he shows that traditional theism cannot be the answer to the question of suffering and of God’s righteousness. He explains that the church needs...

(The entire section contains 611 words.)

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