Our Cries in His Cry: Suffering and The Crucified God

By Mick Stringer

“For while the great majority of Christians would undoubtedly affirm the reality of Christian orthodoxy’s God, they recognise that God so rarely seems to accomplish his will in the world. So often God’s purpose, if it can be discerned, seems to be defeated. The actual redemptive presence of God in the world is discerned less in God’s taking the sovereign lead in events and more in God’s picking up the pieces after history has misfired (Goetz 1986:386). Nevertheless, it is Christian belief that God is neither absent nor disinterested in the affairs of the world. For two millennia Christianity has proclaimed Christ’s glorious victory over the powers of evil at the crucifixion and resurrection as the
central tenet of God’s redemptive provision (e.g., Acts 2:23f; 3:15; 1 Cor 1:23).” Accordingly, the Christian response to the questions raised by the suffering of the innocent must be centrally Christological inasmuch as God was reconciling all things
in Christ (2 Cor 5:19). Christianity, moreover, proclaims a risen Christ who is no less present in the world today than at the crucifixion, and no less involved in the redemption of all things now than he always was (2 Cor 5:18f). His immediacy to the world’s problems is no more clearly expressed than in Godfrey Rust’s exposition of
the events of the eleventh of September 2001. Together with Wiesel, Rust asks, ‘Where is God?’ His answer:

… He was begging
in old clothes in the subway
beneath the World Trade Center.
He was homeless in Gaza,
imprisoned in Afghanistan,
starving in Somalia,
dying of Aids in an Angolan slum,
suffering everywhere in this fast-shrinking world;
and boarding a plane unwittingly in Boston,
heading for a meeting on the 110th floor.
When the time came
he stretched his arms out once again to take
the dreadful impact that would pierce his side,
his last message on his fading cellphone
once more to ask forgiveness for them all, before
his body fell under the weight of so much evil (Rust 2001:15).

How, then, is Christian theology to proceed? Throughout the course of the
twentieth century increasing numbers of theologians have been drawn to the
conclusion that Christian theology must re-consider the question of theopaschitism. Bonhoeffer (1971:361), for example, maintained that “only the suffering God can help.” Later, Moltmann (1972b:28) claimed that “a God who reigns in a state of
impartial blessedness in heaven cannot be accepted today”, which inevitably led him to reflect upon the “unsolved problem of the suffering God” (Moltmann 1974a:11).”

“It would appear that the Christian church will only maintain relevance if what it has to say about the Christ that it proclaims addresses the questions arising in peoples’ every-day lives. Among others, those questions have to do with the mystery of evil and the suffering of the innocent. If Christianity has nothing to say about such things then the church will indeed be irrelevant. And since Christ is the centre of its proclamation, the church and indeed Christianity would face nothing short of a Christological crisis. For many, this is precisely the situation which confronts the church today. Thus, Moltmann (1974a:6) asks, “Who is Jesus Christ, really, for us today?” If, as Christians maintain, God was reconciling the world through Christ, then Jesus, as the one sent from God, is the one to whom the Christian church must look for answers to these deeply perplexing questions (Moltmann 1972b:32).”

“Moltmann (1991b:166) maintains that even though these prisoner of war
camp experiences initially caused a disintegration of the certainties in his life, nevertheless in the midst of such uncertainty he found hope through Christianity. It was this hope that rescued him from spiritual and psychological despair… ‘My biography was shaped, interrupted and radically changed, in a very painful way, by the collective biography of the German people in the last years of the Second World War and by a lengthy imprisonment after it. The
‘individual approach’ of my faith and thought and therefore also of ‘my
theology’ is embedded in the collective experiences of guilt and suffering in
my generation (Moltmann 1991b:166).'”

“… theology after Auschwitz would be impossible, were not the sch’ma Israel
and the Lord’s prayer prayed in Auschwitz itself, were not God himself in Auschwitz, suffering with the martyred and the murdered. Every other answer would be blasphemy (Moltmann 1974a:10 ).”

“His point is that the omnipotent God is revealed in the impotency of the crucified one, and the love and provision of the Father is known by
his resurrection of the one who was abandoned. The Son’s experience of godlessness and godforsakenness in abandonment is nothing other than his identification with all of those who are also victims of violence – the ‘godless’ ones. For Moltmann, the adoption of a dialectical method is important, for insofar as God is revealed in his
opposite, he can thereby be known in and by the godless and those who are
abandoned by God, a knowledge which brings them into correspondence with God… ‘It is the dialectical knowledge of God in his opposite which first brings heaven down to earth of those who are abandoned by God, and opens heaven to the godless'”.  (Moltmann 1974b:28).

“Thus, when the Scripture affirms that Jesus is the image of the invisible God,
this means, according to Moltmann (1974b:205), nothing other than:
this is God, and God is like this.”

“Moltmann connects the suffering that is embraced by God in the cross of Jesus with that experienced by all the human victims of exploitation, intimidation, manipulation, and

“God allows himself to be forced out. God suffers, God allows himself to be
crucified and is crucified, and in this consummates his unconditional love
that is so full of hope. But that means that in the cross he becomes himself
the condition of this love. The loving Father has a parallel in the loving Son
and in the Spirit creates similar patterns of love in man in revolt. The fact of this love can be contradicted. It can be crucified, but in crucifixion it finds its fulfilment and becomes love of the enemy (Moltmann 1974b:248f).”

“Moltmann’s theology is unashamedly political as evidenced in the claim that
the God “of the poor, the peasant and the slave has always been the poor, suffering, unprotected Christ, whereas the God of empires and rulers has usually been the Pantocrator, Christ enthroned in heaven” (Moltmann 1974b:45f)”

“Why and in what way did the suffering crucified God become the
God of the poor and abandoned?”

From Our Cries in His Cry:
Suffering and The Crucified God
By Mick Stringer | A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Theology The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle, Western Australia 2002


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