Metaphysics, Mutuality, and the Suffering of God: An Investigation into the Doctrine of Impassibility and its Implications for the Doctrine of God
The impetus for writing this paper is rooted in and ongoing interest in the historical development of the doctrine of God. More specifically, my interest is in the problem of metaphysics and its place within a proper construction of this doctrine. With this concern in mind, a specific problem, which arises from the presence of metaphysics within the Christian doctrine of God, is a commitment to divine impassibility. Thus, the purpose of this essay is to address problems surrounding the doctrine of divine impassibility in relation to the doctrine of God. Drawing from the theologies of Karl Barth, Eberhard Jüngel, and Robert Jenson I will suggest that the problem at hand is in direct relation to an improper metaphysical understanding of the Triune God. What I mean by this is that the Church’s adherence to a doctrine of divine impassibility is rooted in a prior—and historically ever present—commitment to Greek metaphysics over against the witness of the life of Jesus Christ. The first section of this essay will argue that the consequences of such a commitment are the development of a doctrine of God conceived in abstracto, the danger of arriving at a semi-Nestorian division within the person of Christ, and, as a result, the necessary commitment to a disjunction between the immanent and economic Trinity. The second section will argue that in order to formulate a proper doctrine of God one must develop a theological ontology, which incorporates the history of Christ into the very essence of God thereby establishing the suffering of Christ as fundamentally proper to the Triune life. Moreover, I will show that proclaiming Christ as the “Crucified God” is not incompatible with a conception of immutability provided that Christ’s suffering be understood as eternally incorporated into the Godhead. And in the final section I will address a recent article by David Bentley Hart on divine suffering.