Fall 2003

The Utmost: On the Possibilities and Limits of a Trinitarian Theology of the Cross

Jan-Heiner Tück

"But before Jesus we become the questioned: Are we ready to be responsible for our freedom and its price, and to consent to what God does—beyond the alternative between immature dependence and indignant revolt?”

But God is greater than we think . . . . He knows how to meet the utmost that can happen with another utmost of his own.1

The suffering of God is a highly controversial topic in contemporary theology. For some, the idea that God suffers is indispensable for an adequate appreciation of the saving and redeeming power of the Cross. For others, it is a way of prematurely quieting the complaint that rises like a question to God out of the abyss of the world’s history of suffering. When theology speaks of God’s unconditional engagement of himself in the person and history of Jesus Christ, it does in fact appear to take some of the edge off of the theodicy question. For if, out of love for man, God has exposed himself to the conditions of history in order to turn it into a history of salvation; if, therefore, the Crucified has taken upon himself the curse of sin in order to open a new perspective for sinners, while at the same time identifying himself with the suffering in order to draw close to them—if all this is true, then, it would seem, there are no grounds for protesting against God on account of suffering. One cannot help suspecting that a theology of accusation [Anklage] that insists one-sidedly on sensational experiences of injustice does so because it has a priori pushed God’s unconditional commitment of himself in Jesus Christ into the background.


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1. F. W. J. Schelling, Philosophie der Offenbarung, vol. 2 (Darmstadt, 1966), 1.