God and suffering : a study in the theology of Jurgen Moltmann.
Suffering will always remain one of the main challenges to the Christian faith since it calls into question the reality of God. Moltmann does not shy away from this challenge and although he limits his response to moral and political suffering he confronts the problem recognizing the moral force of the arguments of protest atheism. His initial reaction, however, is to offer a thorough critique of classical theism which, in his opinion, creates more problems for the Christian faith than it resolves. A revolution in our understanding of God is necessary before theology can meaningfully address the question of suffering. Taking the cross of Christ as his starting point Moltmann rebuilds his doctrine of God by asking how we are to understand the presence of God in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. The cross is a statement about God before it is an assurance of salvation addressed to man. Only by speaking in trinitarian terms can we make any sense of the cross-event. It is an inner-trinitarian event of suffering, abandonment and death in which the being of God is opened up to the history of the suffering of the world. God is a suffering God. He is present in suffering and suffering is present in God. In communion with him suffering man finds the divine solidarity and experiences, in turn, solidarity with God in his own suffering. This mutual solidarity in suffering thrusts man into practical actions designed to overcome suffering in the world. The suffering God is the decisive Christian argument against suffering. However, Moltmann's perspective is not without problems. In replacing Greek with Hegelian metaphysics, he steps beyond the limits of scripture. At points he appears to dissolve God into history. If not guilty of patripassionism in the classical sense, he comes close to it. He has been labelled "tritheistic" and in some instances leaves the impression of an inhuman God. Moltmann's suffering God is unable to sustain an adequate soteriology. Without a christology of pre-existence the incarnation and kenosis of the Son must be reinterpreted. God cannot, therefore, be said to be a God who has taken upon himself the suffering of humanity. Despite its inadequacies Moltmann's thought has pointed the way forward for future discussion of the relation between God and suffering. He has highlighted the importance of history, the centrality of christology and the challenge of discipleship. Much remains dark to the human mind, but he who is the Light of the world beckons us forward to think and walk in that Light.