Can God feel pain?


#1

I was mowing the lawn and thought to myself that I have forgotten God a bit lately in my life. I don’t mean that I literally forgot, but that other things were taking priority. I thought to myself, does God miss me like a father would his own child who seemingly just has no time for dad? Well, then I thought, maybe the relationship with God isn’t as real as it could be because I don’t believe God can hurt. I mean, if God can’t be hurt than my forgetting about him isn’t a big deal. So the relationship feels altogether fake. Is it possible to have true friendship where hurt cannot occur? Can it be authentic?

I think maybe it is bad theology to believe God is so above us that he has no feelings… No, I think I reject this. I cannot have an authentic relationship with a being that is so unlike my own…

I don’t believe we can truly fit God in a box or have him figured out, but I do think that treating him as non human has a very high likelihood of seeing God merely as a cosmic being who is a magistrate… God must be viewed and understood through human eyes… Just was curious to open discussion on this topic.


#2

Gabe - you could give this a read. It is rather rigorous.

plato.stanford.edu/search/r?entr … simplicity


#3

The Orthodox Church’s answer to this is as follows:

God the Father cannot feel pain.

God the Son in His human nature could feel pain.

God the Holy Spirit cannot feel pain.

The 4th Ecumenical Council held in A. D. 451 in Chalcedon near New Rome really hammered this out.


#4

Well, grief is a form of pain, and we read:

(Genesis 6:6 ESV) And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

Of course, if we begin with the presupposition, (imported into Christendom from Greek philosophy) that God is impassible, we will dismiss this Scriptural statement as “figurative language.”

Man was created in the image of God. It cannot be His physical image in which we were created since God is not physical; He is spirit. So man must have been created in God’s mental image or spiritual image. So this would include emotions. God grieves; God gets angry; God is sometimes sorry for what He did, etc.

If God is wholly other, as many believe, then it seems that He must be unapproachable. Such a “God” would not change His mind about anything just because we prayed about it. Our prayer may change us, but it wouldn’t change God. However, James wrote that you do not have because you do not ask (James 4:2). This implies that God gives us things that He would not have given us had we not asked Him for them.


#5

Paidion is correct. God not only feels pain but rejoices. According to the Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga:

Now a widely shared traditional view of God has been that he is impassible, without desire or feeling or passion, unable to feel sorrow at the sad condition of his world and the suffering of his children, and equally unable to feel joy, delight, longing, or yearning. The reason for so thinking, roughly, is that in the tradition originating in Greek philosophy, passions were thought of (naturally enough) as passive, something that happens to you, something you undergo, rather than something you actively do. You are subject to anger, love, joy, and all the rest. God, however, is pure act; he doesn’t ‘undergo’ anything at all; he acts, and is never merely passive; and he isn’t subject to anything. As far as eros is concerned, furthermore, there is an additional reason for thinking that it isn’t part of God’s life: longing and yearning signify need and incompleteness. One who yearns for something doesn’t yet have it, and needs it, or at any rate thinks he needs it; God is of course paradigmatically complete and needs nothing beyond himself. How, then, could he be subject to eros? God’s love, according to this tradition, is exclusively agape, benevolence, a completely other-regarding, magnanimous love in which there is mercy but no element of desire. God loves us, but there is nothing we can do for him; he wishes nothing from us.

On this particular point I think we must take leave of the tradition; this is one of those places where it has paid too much attention to Greek philosophy and too little to the Bible. I believe God can and does suffer; his capacity for suffering exceeds ours in the same measure that his knowledge exceeds ours. Christ’s suffering was no charade; he was prepared to endure the agonies of the cross and of hell itself (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). God the Father was prepared to endure the anguish of seeing his Son, the second person of the trinity, consigned to the bitterly cruel and shameful death of the cross. And isn’t the same true for other passions? “There is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7); is God himself to be excluded from this rejoicing?

Similarly for eros: “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5). The bridegroom rejoicing over his bride doesn’t love her with a merely agapeic love. He isn’t like her benevolent elder brother (although Christ is also said to be our elder brother). He desires and longs for something outside himself, namely union with his beloved. The church is the bride of Christ, not his little sister. He is not her benevolent elder brother, but her husband, lover. These scriptural images imply that God isn’t impassive, and that his love for us is not exclusively agapeic. They suggest that God’s love for his people involves an erotic element of desire: he desires the right kind of response from us, and union with us, just as we desire union with him. ~~ Warranted Christian Belief (online)


#6

If God the Father suffers, wouldn’t the blessed souls in Heaven suffer as well? If so, what has happened to Heaven? We go from one vale of sorrows to another?

Shifting gears…

Suppose I myself suffer (whether from injury, illness, financial ruin, or whatnot). Do I want my loved ones to also suffer? Do I want sadness to invade their souls? Do I want my wife, mother, and daughter to basically say, “Well, Geof is suffering, and we love Geof. Therefore we will suffer, too.” Heaven forfend. I want them to be utterly joyful. Their suffering does not help me. I want their help, as far as they can give it; not their suffering. In fact, their suffering would probably make them less capable to help me. And would it not be a doubtful thing to hope that one’s loved ones suffer simply because one was himself suffering?

To anyone who has closely read the seven Harry Potter novels, I put forth this observation: Harry Potter suffered throughout the novels. He was like a lump of iron ore forged over seven years into God’s perfect sword to defeat Voldemort. In the last chapter we see Harry risen above all the anger, doubts, judgmentalism, and suffering that had afflicted him. All of that wasteful emotion had been purged out of him. He was serene, impassive. He calmly confronted Voldemort with truth and with an entreaty that he repent. (The movie is not faithful on this point, turning their final confrontation into the two of them blasting each other with special effects.) Precisely because Harry in this last chapter is no longer afflicted by sadness, anger, and all the rest, he was full of love and strong to save. If he had still been weepy, angry, etc., then Harry could not have defeated Voldemort.

In short, I do not think anything is to be gained by supposing God and the saints in Heaven weep, nor in hoping/expecting our loved ones to do so here on earth. Instead, much would be lost.

The Heavens are not heartless because they shout for joy. Rather, we are heartless because we do not join them.


#7

God is omnipresent. Moreover, God’s mysterious heart is infinitely complex and cannot be grasped by our finite and limited mind. He is paradox. Take for instance the evil murder of His Son. In one sense God wasn’t pleased when innocent Christ was murdered. God doesn’t delight in torture and evil in and of itself. What He was pleased in was what Christ accomplished on the cross is showing love and grace to sinners. He feels everything at once. In heaven in the presence of His glory there is no suffering.


#8

Geoffrey, I agree with you.


#9

If God is love, then yes, I would say that He feels pain. Love is vulnerable, but in it there is great strength. As St. Michael has mentioned, “God’s heart is infinitely complex.” How does the church know that the Father feels no pain?


#10

For all the riches the Church has taken from the Greeks, I dare say that contemporary western Christianity is far more beholden to the contemporary secular worldview than the Church ever was to poor old Plato.

The contemporary western world is obsessed with feelings. I do not know if I have ever read of a time or place more self-centered/solipsistic than our own. This world does not think, but feels. It has invaded epistemology, in which people feel that they can never achieve certitude, except for being certain about how they feel. It is of the utmost importance to exhaustively talk (and talk, and talk…) about our feelings. And to express them with crying, raging, sex, etc. Not to do so is supposedly “unhealthy”. If at all possible, bawl like a baby on national TV while blubbering about your feelings. The western world is awash in illicit drugs because people empty of facts seek for feelings. Western Christians divorce at the same rate as unbelievers because of their feelings. People fornicate and commit adultery because of feelings (ignoring the facts proclaimed by St. Paul that the husband is an icon of Christ, and the wife is an icon of the Church). A baby in the womb is not a baby unless her mother “feels” that she is. If the mother’s feelings are otherwise, then bad luck for the baby who isn’t a baby because of the way her mother feels. Men “marry” men and women “marry” women because they “feel” love. Love, after all, is a feeling. It has gotten so ridiculous and disgusting that now this world thinks that a grown man should use the little girls’ bathroom because he “feels” that he himself is a little girl. Etc, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. Facts, reason, and reality have all taken a far backseat to these amorphous feelings.

And THAT secular zeitgeist, I think, is the main temptation of the western Christian world to think that God must also have feelings. After all, as defined by the zeitgeist, with no feelings there can be no love and no value.

For me, I hold the Orthodox Church’s teachings as certain. But even if I were an unbeliever, I would hold with Plato rather than with the feelings zeitgeist, which I find both preposterous and nauseating in the extreme.

(EDIT: In re-reading this post, I think I should underscore that my disgust is not directed at any of my fellows here in the forum. It is directed solely at the contemporary world.)


#11

Another great post, G.


#12

Perhaps God - at times - needs a little humor :exclamation: :laughing:


#13

#14

#15

God designs for His higher creatures the happiness of being voluntarily united to Him and each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. ~~ C.S. Lewis


#16

http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m9hm6argtJ1qchgieo1_500.png


#17

As a young man marries a young woman,
so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you

Isaiah 62:5


#18

The Apostle Paul was:


#19

Uh oh! Looks like you’re going downhill, Geoffrey. Finding “feelings preposterous and nauseating in the extreme” sound a lot as if you’re feeling something!

YOU HAVE DISGUST? Another strong feeling!


#20

It’s not feelings I was posting against. It was “the feelings zeitgeist”, the “contemporary world”. In other words, the latest version of the thing Christ says will always hate the Church (John 15:18-19).

I find it amazing that no matter the world’s current intellectual fashions or styles, the world always hates the Church. The only question seems to be, “Will the world in this particular time and place actually murder us for being Christians, or will it oppress us in less extreme ways?” I do not think that the world (at any time or any place) actually has any beliefs. It is motivated by hatred of the Church. It merely selects different sticks at different times and places with which to beat the Church.

This makes sense. George MacDonald wrote somewhere (in one of his realistic novels, perhaps?) that a man cannot believe a false thing. He can believe only a true thing. He compared it to the fact that a man cannot eat a stone, but can eat only food. Sure, a man can put a stone in his mouth and go through the motions of eating it. He may even swallow it. But he is certainly not eating it in the same, full sense that he eats bread. Same with falsehoods. The mind can go through the motions of believing them, but it is never actual belief. I wish I had the actual quotation. How I love that man!