The Suffering of the Impassible God: The Dialectics of Patristic Thought

By Paul L. Gavrilyuk | Go to book overview

3: Docetism Resisted: Christ's Suffering is Real

He who believes that God was born and suffered (Qui natum passumque Deum…credit) and sought again His Father's throne, and that He will come again from the skies, that on His return He may judge the living and the dead, sees, if he follows the rewards of Christ, that the inner court of heaven lies open to the holy martyrs. 1

Having provided a preliminary assessment of the divine impassibility remoto Christo, we are now in a position to look more closely at how both divine impassibility and divine suffering interplayed in the major christological debates of the early church. To remind the reader, the view that dominates the current assessment of this issue splits the Fathers into two camps: the impassibilist majority and the passibilist minority, the former having fallen prey to the philosophical thought of their age, the latter being the harbingers of modern theological achievements. Quite often surprisingly meagre evidence is adduced to qualify a theologian as either impassibilist or passibilist.

In the Introduction I have argued that the approach that sees (im)passibility as an either/or issue is misleading. Contrary to the view held by the proponents of the Theory of Theology's Fall into Hellenistic Philosophy, boldly theopaschite declarations (found in abundance in second- and third-century 2 and later patristic writings) do not by

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