From being generally regarded as a philosophical and theological impossibility, since the late nineteenth century the idea that God suffers has become popular and attractive among a vast array of Christian theologians. Due to this shift, many theologians no longer see the need to argue for it and divine passibility has even been called the ‘new orthodoxy.’ The matter has not yet been laid to rest and is made more complex because the terms ‘suffering’ and ‘impassibility’ are used with a variety of connotations.

At the heart of the debate is the desire to assert God’s personalised love for all human beings. If suffering is intrinsic to love, as some ‘passibilists’ state, only a suffering God can also be a God who loves humankind absolutely and unconditionally. Also at stake is the salvation of human beings. For some, a suffering God necessarily implies His lack of transcendence and thus His impotence. From their perspective, Jesus suffers only in His humanity. The divine attributes of omnipotence and immutability are wholly unaffected by the crucifixion. For others, the intimacy of the hypostatic union makes it possible to attribute suffering to the Son in His divinity. Furthermore, by deciding to grant free will to humankind, God makes Himself vulnerable; the eternal knowledge of the divine permission for evil establishes an ‘eternal wound’ in God. This essay will examine the contrasting positions of Thomas Weinandy and Gary Culpepper to assess how it can be said that God must or must not suffer.