Does God suffer with us?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Axel Kazadi [MTS 2015], a Tyndale Seminary student and a member of the Tyndale Hip Hop Movement, is passionate about theology. Born into a Christian family, Axel was exposed to Christianity from an early age but it wasn’t until after a tragic experience in Grade 12 that he began to take God seriously. During that difficult time, he experienced depression and a fear of death, but God was with him. “I thank God for rescuing me from that state of mind, from that depressive state. Christ helped me overcome that situation and gave me a sense of peace that I was looking for.” The experience encouraged him to explore theology and Christology.

Axel came to Tyndale Seminary to do just that. Currently in his final year, he is working on his Major Research Paper, hoping to be admitted into the PhD program at the University of Toronto. Working with Dr. Dennis Ngien, Professor of Systematic Theology at Tyndale Seminary, Axel has chosen to research and write about the divine passibility of God. This topic, introduced to him by Dr. Ngien, deals with the question of whether God is able to suffer relationally with us. It is “a salvific motif rather than an ontological one,” Axel explains. “It looks at how He relates to us and how He takes suffering upon Himself.”

For his research paper, Axel is focusing on German Reformed theologian Jürgen Moltmann and his writings on suffering and hope. Moltmann served in the German army during the Second World War and spent three years in prisoner of war camps from 1945 to 1948.  While in these camps, Christ found him. He later wrote The Crucified God (SCM Press Ltd., 1974), in which he advances the idea that before we understand Christ's passion at the cross as a salvific work, we should first understand what Christ's passion, or suffering, says about the doctrine of God and His Personhood. Axel was immediately drawn to Moltmann’s amazing story and theological writings. “His treatment of the divine passibility in The Crucified God is very profound.”

Axel is passionate about the divine passibility of God because of the difficult experiences he has had. “I’m interested in understanding whether God is able to suffer relationally with us or whether our human suffering affects Him.” He hopes to take what he finds and use it to aid the church. “I want to do my PhD because I feel like there is more that I need to learn and I want to teach theology.” With his experiences and his studies, he wants to provide a good theological teaching that people and the church can benefit from. 

You can read more about Jürgen Moltmann and his writings in Tyndale Seminary’s Jürgen Moltmann Reading Room.


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