Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Saturday, September 24, 2011

God's suffering

One thing that distinguishes Christianity from other religions is that in Christianity God is supposed to have experienced the evil and suffering that humanity experiences in everyday life. Jesus is supposed to be God in the same way that you are you, and I am myself (John 10:30, Mark 2:5-12, John 14:9). This means that although God hasn't taken away evil and suffering in this life, God has experienced a pretty broad range of evils and sufferings, which, I suppose, is more comforting than if it wasn't the case.

The fact that God has suffered from the things that we go through means that God can more easily have empathy for what it's like, having been in our situation. God knows exactly what we're going through. God's ability to emphathise with our situation reminds me of John 11:33-5: "When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who were crying with her, he was deeply moved and troubled. So Jesus asked, "Where did you put Lazarus?" They answered him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus cried."

An interesting aspect to God's suffering is whether Jesus on the cross experienced more than purely anguish at his situation and physical pain. When Jesus "bore our sins in his body on the tree" (1 Pe 2:24), did this involve more than being crucified? One analogy I have heard about this is that you can imagine humanity's sins like a big pool of black sludge, and then this is somehow collected and poured onto Jesus on the cross.

If so, then Jesus' crucifixion involved much more than the anguish of his situation and physical pain. It also involved the pain of carrying humanity's sins, which could be quite horrible. Carrying all of humanity's sins would be an act on a massive scale. It is also an act with a terrible nature - we don't know what it feels like to carry someone's sins, but it could be really horrible. Perhaps it is the most painful experience anyone can go through. And maybe Jesus was also spiritually separated from the first member of the trinity in some way while it happened (Mark 15:34), which could be quite awful for God to undergo.

Suppose this is correct, then perhaps God is the one who has suffered the most in the history of the world.

This is a very surprising idea. Normally when we think of suffering we don't see God as an example of the miseries in the world. We might imagine a starving child in Africa, or someone with terrible chronic pain, or a victim of horrible evil. But, actually, according to this reasoning God is actually the person who has suffered the most in history. God's story is a good example of what it means to live in a world of pain and evil.

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