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Suffering and Christ

  • Michael Stoeber
Chapter
Part of the Library of Philosophy and Religion book series

Abstract

Before responding directly to the questions about the significance of the suffering of Jesus for present human suffering, which I raised towards the end of Chapter 2, I will continue to develop ideas pertaining to compassion in relation to suffering and spiritual transformation, as these are modelled in the New Testament accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus. This analysis involves an exploration of the nature of apathy and various forms of distorted passion or emotion in relation to suffering. I will also explore briefly some basic principles of compassion, towards the development of a politics of compassion.

Keywords

Human Suffering Spiritual Experience Christian Tradition Spiritual Transformation Divine Life 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
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    Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, the Garnett translation, revised by Ralph E. Matlaw (New York: W. W. Norton, 1976), p. 222.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., Martha Nussbaum also calls for a politics of compassion, stressing the possible significance of compassion in contemporary public life. Moral critics of compassion, such as the ancient Stoics, Immanuel Kant, and Friedrich Nietzsche, depict it as a narrowing and biased subjective emotion that is irrational and alien to a healthy ethical orientation grounded in objective reason. Against that view, Nussbaum shows how compassion involves a certain kind of rational ‘thought about the well being of others’ (p. 28). In its connection with and concern for the suffering of others, com-passion functions rationally as a social emotion that motivates people ethically. From this basis Professor Nussbaum goes on to argue that compassion ought to play a significant role in economic planning, legal reasoning and the structure of public institutions, such as welfare and taxation systems. She advocates that ‘public education at every level should cultivate the ability to imagine the experiences of others and to participate in their sufferings’ (p. 50) and that one ‘should demand political leaders who display the abilities involved in compassion’ (p. 51). Martha Nussbaum, ‘Compassion: The Basic Social Emotion’, Social Philosophy and Policy, Vol. 13 (1996), 27–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Soelle, Suffering, pp. 139–40. On this theme Dermot Lane writes: ‘I submit that the God revealed in the life and death of Jesus is analogically speaking “a suffering God” and that this same God continues to suffer in the world until God comes again. The God revealed in Jesus is a God who affects the world and continues to be affected by the suffering of the world. The proposal of “a suffering God” of course does not eliminate the problem of human suffering but it does give us a way of facing suffering in the knowledge that we do not suffer alone but with God as the fellow-sufferer who understands.’ Keeping Hope Alive, p. 71. This theme is also developed in his book Christ at the Centre: Selected Issues in Christology (Dublin: Veritas, 1990), pp. 53–79. Also, for context surrounding the ‘modern refusal to take the route of merely humanizing the sufferings of Christ’, see Paul S. Fiddes, The Creative Suffering of God (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), especially pp. 25–31.Google Scholar
  28. The point I wish to stress here is that for some Christians it is not merely the idea of a suffering God that heals and consoles but the actual presence of the compassionate Christ that is felt by the believer. Henri Le Saux (Abhishiktānanda), a modern Benedictine monk and theologian who was involved in Hindu-Christian dialogue, stresses both the present significance of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection and the human experience of His real presence: ‘Jesus is at the same time the one who is seated in peace and glory at the Father’s right hand, and the one whose Passion is continued in his members until the end of the world. Good Friday is the remembrance, together with the Passion of Jesus, of all the poor (anāwvīm) of all times and places, crushed by their fellow men, and culminating in the Passion of Jesus.’ ‘Jesus lived and died. That belongs to the past. What is Real is that he lives as “risen”. It is as risen that we must meet him, not in memory. Risen and having recovered the glory that was his in the beginning; the one in whom, for whom, by whom, everything was made, the one in whom everything is established.’ Abhishiktānanda, Ascent to the Depth of the Heart: The Spiritual Diary (1948–1973) of Swāmī Abhishiktānanda (Dom H. Le Saux), A selection, edited with introduction and notes, by Raimon Panikkar, translated by David Fleming and James Stuart (Delhi: ISPCK, 1998), pp. 241, 257. For a good overview of Henri Le Saux’s life and teaching see James A. Wiseman, ‘“Enveloped by Mystery”: The Spiritual Journey of Henri Le Saux/Abhishiktānanda,’ Êglise et Théologie, Vol. 23 (1992), 241–60.Google Scholar
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    Julian of Norwich, Revelation of Love, trans. John Skinner (New York: Image Books, 1996), pp. 39, 42. See also especially pp. 38–9.Google Scholar
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    See Grace Jantzen, Julian of Norwich: Mystic and Theologian (New York: Paulist Press, 1988), pp. 149–61.Google Scholar
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    Evelyn Underhill, Fragments from an Inner Life, ed. Dana Greene (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse, 1993), p. 63.Google Scholar
  43. 65.
    See also Michael Stoeber, Evil and the Mystics’ God: Towards a Mystical Theodicy (London: Macmillan, 1992) for an exploration of the significance of mystical experience in support of teleological theodicy. See especially Chapters 7 and 8, and an interpretative account of Dostoevsky’s critique of theodicy in Chapter 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Michael Stoeber 2005

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  • Michael Stoeber

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