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The Creative Suffering of God (Clarendon Paperbacks) [Paperback]

Paul S. Fiddes

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Book Description

1 Aug 1992 Clarendon Paperbacks
The theme that God suffers with his world has become a familiar one in recent years, but a careful examination is needed of what it means to talk about the suffering of God, avoiding the danger of a merely sentimental belief. This book offers a consistent way of thinking about a God who suffers supremely and yet is still the kind of God to whom the Christian tradition has witnessed, and also about a God who suffers universally and yet is still present uniquely in the cross of Christ. It is at once both a survey of recent thought about the suffering of God and a proposal for a way forward in this important area of Christian theology.
The author surveys four main trends of recent thought: the 'theology of the cross' in modern German theology (as represented particularly in the work of Karl Barth, Jürgen Moltmann, and Eberhard Jüngel); American process theology; 'the death of God' theology; and finally, the rejection of the whole idea of divine passibility by modern followers of classical theism. He draws upon these schools of thought in the course of reflecting upon various aspects of the main theme of the study.

This thematic structure enables an idea of divine suffering to be developed throughout the book, affirming that God freely chooses to limit himself, to suffer change, to journey through time and even to experience death while remaining the living God.

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Creation, fall, incarnation, and atonement are ... interwoven with the theme of suffering in a profoundly original way. (Theological Book Review)

Paul S. Fiddes has now provided the most comprehensive and thorough study of the issues yet to emerge. His treatment of the sources is accurate and probing ... this is a valuable and thought-provoking book. (Daniel W. Hardy, Expository Times)

this important survey illuminatingly explains how human suffering can be understood in the light of God's response to creation (Dan Cohn-Sherbok, University of Kent, Theology)

the lasting impression of the book is of one of the livelier minds of British theology opening up, with courage and rational persuasiveness, one of the critical contemporary theological topics (David F. Ford, Journal of Theological Studies)

About the Author

Paul S. Fiddes is at Regent's Park College, Oxford.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Analyzing Divine Love 25 Mar 2005
By Thomas J. Oord - Published on
The author surveys recent thought about the suffering of God and, along the way, develops his own ideas of divine suffering. Fiddes notes at the outset that theological statements throughout the history of the church have tended to support a view of God as unmoving, unchanging and unsuffering.

Today, however, at least academic theologians emphasize their strong conviction that God does suffer. The author attempts to offer a coherent notion of a God who both suffers and yet can fulfill divine purposes. The view he offers understands God as freely choosing to be self-limited, to suffer change, to be affected by time, and experience death, while remaining the living God. The author is especially influenced by process theological conceptions, but, in the end, the position he takes is his own; it is not in line with "orthodox" process thought.

Four major contributions have been made to the present debate about whether God suffers. The first, represented by Jurgen Moltmann, understands the suffering of God as being derived from the theology of the cross. The nature of God is revealed in the cross of Jesus as God participates in human history. A second major contribution comes from American process philosophy. In this vision, every participant, including God, is bound in a network of mutual influences with others. This means that divine suffering becomes central to divine action.

The third dominant contribution to the present debate on the suffering of God comes from the mid-20th century "Death of God" theological movement. Finally, those whose sympathies remain with classical theism continue to exert some influence in the debate. "A theology of a suffering God needs to weave all four of these strands into a pattern, or to use another image, it must stand where four ways cross" (15). The chapters in the book explore the four major contributors to the current debate upon divine suffering.

In a chapter Fiddes titles, Why Believe in a Suffering God, he proposes four reasons why this theme is especially important in contemporary theology. First, it is difficult to understand what it means to say that God is a loving God if God does not suffer. Second, if the cross of Jesus Christ is central to Christian theology, this implies a notion of a God who is affected by the world and its experiences. Third, the problem of human suffering, itself, calls for a Creator who suffers along with creatures in pain. Finally, the scientific and natural view of existence supports the idea of an interactive deity.

I recommend this book.

Thomas Jay Oord
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