Nicholas Wolterstorff on Grief and God

‘My little book Lament for a Son is not a book about grief. It is a cry of grief. After the death of our son, I dipped into a number of books about grief. I could not read them. It was impossible for me to reflect on grief in the abstract. I was in grief. My book is a grieving cry.

In the course of my cry I hold out the vision of God as with me in my grief, of God as grieving with me; God is with me on the mourning bench. I know that one of the attributes traditionally ascribed to God is impassibility–the inability to suffer. I think the traditional theologians were mistaken on this point. I find the scriptures saying that God is disturbed by what transpires in this world and is working to redeem us from evil and suffering. I do not see how a redeeming God can be impassible.

The traditional question of theodicy is, Why does God permit moral evil and permit suffering that serves no discernible good? If we hold that God is not impassible, then in addition to that question we have another: Why does God permit what disturbs God? Why does God allow what God endures in tears?

I do not know the answer. In faith I live the question.’

– Nicholas Wolterstorff

Taken from ‘Rights and Wrongs, an Interview with Nicholas Wolterstorff’


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