Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Friday, April 3, 2015


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©

“This is our God. Not a distant God nor a sadist, but a God who weeps. A God who suffers, not only for us, but with us. Nowhere is the suffering of God more salient than on the cross. Therefore what can I do but confess that this is not a God that causes suffering. This is a God who bears suffering. I need to believe that God does not initiate suffering; God transforms it.” Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, page 128 [Jericho Books, 2013].

Patripassionism. The suffering of God. A heresy. Only the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, suffers. If theology has God suffering, too, then all hell breaks loose, or something like that. But Bolz-Weber talks about it like it’s just common-place stuff that everybody believes. Because it is.

This is what happens to heresies; they become orthodoxies. Patripassionism, the suffering of God, was a heresy for the first 2000 years of Christian faith, or at least since Augustine came up with the concept of the Trinity. In the last 50 years, it has become the most universally accepted theological concept.

Fifty years ago I started claiming I was the world’s leading authority on patripassionism. It was an easy claim. No one knew what it was or how to say it or even spell it. [Sphelzchek doesn’t even have patripassionism in its vocabulary.] I thought it would be neat to be called as an expert witness in a trial, when some theological renegade was brought up on heresy charges, having claimed, Unitarian [1] fashion, that God suffers along with us. Alas, now that will never happen.

I must confess my hypocrisy. All this time I have claimed to be an expert on the patripassionism heresy, I have preached that heresy. Nothing else about suffering makes much sense.

“God is good all the time; all the time God is good.” Really? I think that is the heresy. But “All the time God is with us; God is with us all the time?” Not just with us in our suffering, but suffering with us. Call me a heretic, but yes.

John Robert McFarland

1] Sphelczhek also insists that I capitalize Unitarian even though I use it as a common rather than proper noun.

The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]

I tweet as yooper1721.

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