A Suffering God

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A Suffering God

Most people in this world have an idea of who or what God is. Whether they believe in God or not, they have certain conceptions that they use to define God. Traditionally, due in large part to classical theism, people define God mostly by His omnipotence. A lot of people have an image of God being an all-powerful ruler over the entire universe. These ideas come out of a mindset that affirms the greatest being must be the one with all the power. They imagine a being that is so far above the world, that He cannot be affected by what humans do. They want to continually affirm that He is completely unchanged, unmoving, and compassionless. To uphold this belief denies a good portion of Scripture as well as liturgical tradition within the church. For example, Hosea 11 describes God’s compassion and concern growing for the Israelites in a way that assumes God’s changing emotions (Inbody 145).

This power-based concept of God essentially leads to some of the biggest problems in accepting faith. For example, if God is all-powerful, why does he allow evil to exist in the world? Furthermore, if God is all-powerful, then how can humans or any creatures have real freedom (Placher xiii)? It seems impossible to answer these questions by denying that evil and freedom exist. It can be clearly seen and argued that bad things occur in this world, just as every person can understand they have freedom when they act. Classical theism puts an extreme emphasis on God’s omnipotence and seems to make God responsible for the pain and suffering in the world. As a result, God ends up getting the blame for the mistakes found in His creation. It becomes necessary, then, to propose a scheme in which God is not so powerful that He is incapable of relating and in which He also remains God.

The best way to do this is to change the way one perceives God. This does not mean people are forced to abandon the biblical witness of God, but instead to come up with a better way to understand the Bible’s language concerning God. Too often people, especially Christians, jump to conclusions in defining God in terms of power. They overlook one of the main themes of the Bible that is summed up in 1 John 4:8: God is love. Once people understand that love is the key characteristic of God’s nature, it becomes much easier to produce meaningful conceptions of God.
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