‘A God Who Cannot Suffer Is Poorer Than Any Man’

‘I rebel therefore we exist,’ says Camus. As those who suffer and are revolted at injustice, ‘we are,’ and we are even more than the gods and the God of theism. For these gods ‘walk above in light’ as ‘blessed spirits’ (Holderin). They are immortal and omnipotent. What kind of a poor being is a God who cannot suffer and cannot even die? He is certainly superior to mortal man so long as this man allows suffering and death  to come together as a doom over his head. But he is inferior to man if man grasps this suffering and death as his own possibilities and chooses them himself. Where a man accepts and chooses his own death, he raises himself to a freedom which no animal and no god can have. This was already said by Greek tragedy. For to accept death and to choose it for oneself is a human possibility and only a human possibility. ‘The experience of death is the extra and the advantage that he has over all divine wisdom.’ The peak of metaphysical rebellion against the God who cannot die is therefore freely-chosen death, which is called suicide. It is the extreme possibility of protest atheism, because it is only this that makes man his own god, so that the gods become dispensable. But even apaart from this extreme position, which Dostoevsky worked through again and again in The Demons,a God who cannot suffer is poorer than any man. For a God who is incapable of suffering is a being who cannot be involved. Suffering and injustice do no affect him. And because he is so completely insensitive, he cannot be affected or shaken by anything. He cannot weep, for he has no tears. But the one who cannot suffer cannot love either. So he is also a loveless being. Aristotle’s God cannot love; he can only be loved by all non-divine beings by virtue of his perfection and beauty, and in this way draw them to him. The ‘unmoved Mover’ is a ‘loveless Beloved’. If he is the ground of the love (eros) of all things for him (causa prima), and at the same time his own cause (causa sui), he is the beloved who is in love with himself; a Narcissus in a metaphysical degree: Deus incurvatus in se. But a man can suffer because he can love, even as a Narcissus, and he always suffers only to the degree that he loves. If he kills all love in himself, he no longer suffers. He becomes apathic. But in that case is he a God? Is he not rather a stone?

Finally, a God who is only omnipotent is in himself an incomplete being, for he cannot experience helplessness and powerlessness. Omnipotence can indeed be longed for and worshipped by helpless men, but omnipotence is never loved; it is only feared. What sort of being, then, would be a God who is only ‘almighty’? He would be a being without experience, a being without destiny and a being who is loved by no one. A man who experiences helplessness, a man who suffers because he loves, a man who can die, is therefore a richer being than an omnipotent God who cannot suffer, cannot love and cannot die. Therefore for a man who is aware of the riches of his own nature in his love, his suffering, his protest and his freedom, such a God is not a necessary and supreme being, but a highly dispensable and superfluous being. 

-Jurgen Moltmann, The Crucified God

All emphasis’ mine, all gendered language for the Divine from the original.


One thought on “‘A God Who Cannot Suffer Is Poorer Than Any Man’

  1. Pingback: Political Theology and Theological Politics – Justin DaMetz

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