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DIVINE PASSIBILITY AND THE PROBLEM OF RADICAL PARTICULARITY: DOES GOD FEEL YOUR PAIN?

  • HENRY SIMONI (a1)

Abstract

Divine passibility refers to the hypothesis that God feels the suffering and joy of the world. Passibility implies that God not only knows all propositions that are true of the world (if such a list is logically possible) but that God subjectively experiences, either partially or entirely, what is experienced within the world. The question of God's passibility is related to a surprising number of areas important to contemporary theology. For example, omniscience is thought to be impossible unless passibility is assumed, for to know something fully implies a certain level of experiential knowledge. But it seems that any being open to experience would also have to be passible, or so it is argued. Additionally, the precise character of God's passibility or impassibility has ramifications for issues in Christology and theodicy. Not surprisingly, therefore, the question of whether or not God is immanently involved with the processes of a changing world has become a matter of great debate in this century. Recently Charles Hartshorne (1984 relying on 1941, 1948), Marcel Sarot (1992, 1995), Paul Fiddes (1988), Charles Taliaferro (1989) and George Shields (1992) have argued that God does in fact feel, either emotionally or physically, the vicissitudes, happiness and anguish of the world. Others, such as Richard Creel (1986) and Paul Helm (1988, 1990) argue that God cannot possibly be implicated in or, even worse, identified with a created, contingent and imperfect world. Although the question of whether or not God is passible relates to important aspects of God's nature such as omniscience, omnipresence and immutability, this paper will focus on the question of whether divine passibility is metaphysically possible.

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