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Home » Science and theology » “The Groaning of Creation” – Chapter 4: “An Adventure in the Theology of Creation” – Part I

“The Groaning of Creation” – Chapter 4: “An Adventure in the Theology of Creation” – Part I


Did God the Father grieve when Jesus suffered and died?  If so, then did God change?  Does God change if he suffers?  Can God experience new things?  Grünewald, Matthias “The Crucifixion”, 1515; Detail from the Isenheim altarpiece



We will cover the first three sections of Chapter 4 of Southgate’s The Groaning of Creation.


  1. In 4.1 “Introduction”, Southgate mentions a “theology of creation that allows for a God who creates an ambiguous world, a biosphere based on an inherent coupling of values and disvalues.” Do you agree with him that God has created an “ambiguous world”?  What do you think he means by it?  Or do you believe that creation is clear-cut and unambiguous?  If so, why do you believe this and disagree with Southgate?  State your reasons.
  2. In 4.2 “The Suffering of God”, do you believe that belief in a God who is omniscient, omnipotent, impassible, etc. (i.e. the classical philosophical attributes of God) is compatible with the notion of a God who suffers? Why or why not?  Do you agree with Thomas Weinandy’s view of Jesus and of God who “does not suffer change, because what we see in the Incarnation is God’s eternal nature”?  Did God not go through or experience some sort of change at Christ’s crucifixion?  Or do you agree with Paul Fiddes’s point that God “adapts the divine being to the actions of our world… God freely chooses to be open to the hurt that will befall, with its unpredictability”?
  3. In 4.2 “The Suffering of God”, is God’s suffering different from the way humans experience suffering in that “God does not suffer in any way corresponding to the suffering we know about as humans”? Why or why not?  If God does suffer (either like humans or not), can God experience “new levels of empathy with creatures” and attain “new levels of self-realization”?  Can God experience new things?  Or is it impossible in his nature because he is omniscient?  Or does that mean that he not omniscient?  Explain your views.
  4. In 4.3 “Divine Self-Emptying”, describe the “kenotic theology of creation” and its relationship with Philippians 2:7. Do you agree with Southgate’s assessment that “the language of divine withdrawal to allow creation to be itself as largely unnecessary to express the theological motivation underlying its use”?  Why or why not?  Or do you see kenosis as a viable model for creation?  What are its strengths and weaknesses?
  5. In 4.3 “Divine Self-Emptying”, describe Southgate’s alternative view of kenotic creation which he calls “deep intratrinitarian kenosis.” How does Hans Urs von Balthasar’s model differ from Jurgen Moltmann’s?  What is Moltmann’s view of “divine withdrawal” and divine ontological space?  What is Von Balthasar’s view on the relationship between the God the Father and God the Son in relation with the creation?  How do both theologians view the Trinity?
  6. In 4.3 “Divine Self-Emptying”, Southgate writes, “Outside living organisms there are no selves, no discrete entities with interests to which ‘evils’ can occur.” Does God’s concern over creation involve only living or biological entities or can his love and care extend toward non-biological creation such as rocks, mountains, planets, stars, and galaxies?  In regards to biological entities, do you agree with his assessment that “The character of created selves is typically not that of self-giving but of self-assertion, for that, in a Darwinian world, is the only way biological selves can survive and flourish”?  Do values arise only through this self-assertion?  Is all of biology driven by self-interested needs?  Is it ever altruistic?


We will share our essays by the end of the week.





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