Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Apatheia, for those who care

Gaunilo has posted an excellent set of theses on divine (non-)suffering, and I think they are generally excellent. But it raised some questions for me as well, and so I thought I would post them here. This is copied more or less right from the comment I left for him. (I blogged a little something along these lines before, myself, right here.)

I love this stuff! And I think you know me well enough (here and IRL) to know that I am deeply sympathetic (no joke intended) with the position you espouse here.

That sympathy allows me to ask the following questions, hoping we can explore them together, rather than raising them as flaws in what you say: (Which is to say, I do not believe or endorse these notions I raise, but they seem worth raising nonetheless. This is an exploration, and hopefully a goad for us to go deeper, rather than a confession or creed.)

1) Why does patripassionism -- its heretical nature aside -- actually imply that (so Rogers) God has nothing more to offer than solidarity? Why does allowing that the Father may suffer restrict the Father's agency? I see this connection made particularly in Rogers' quote, but I don't quite see the connection; it seems a fallacy.

2) Might God suffer perfectly and unjustly and truly, and our suffering only be imperfect, (partially) unjustly, and derivatively? That is, might we consider suffering in the same relation that we consider personhood (as you mention), that our suffering is only by analogy to God's?(I realise that there is no direct parallel betw. personhood and suffering; I am merely suggesting an analogy.)

3) If God suffers perfectly, that need not (seemingly) negate God's acting, or God's love, and so forth -- or does it? Our experience of suffering and loss always seems partial and distracted, yet we are also consumed by suffering (or can be): what would it be for suffering to be experienced entirely, but not be apart from perfect love, omnipotence, etc.

4) Or is suffering best considered as an imperfection (along the lines of meontic evil), a negation, and so as an imperfection, it cannot be found in God?

5) If we endorse point 4, then does that mean that only the human nature of Jesus Christ suffered?

6) Finally, in thinking about the political consequences of this, it seems important how apatheia (God's non-suffering) is expressed: God does not avoid suffering. So as the church, we are not to simply be hedonists who seek to avoid suffering -- rather, following the example of Christ, we 'take up our cross', willingly embracing a certain kind of suffering for the Kingdom, which Kingdom is the drawing of Creation into the trinitarian perichoresis.

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Blogger D.W. Congdon said...

I've posted a set of seven theses in response to Gaunilo at my site. I would be very interested to hear what you think about them. I disagree with Gaunilo on some of the same points that you bring up. I think he has taken far too much from D. B. Hart and not nearly enough from more careful theologians (e.g., Karl Barth).

Thursday, August 10, 2006 5:51:00 PM  

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