Japanese Theologian on the Pain of God

Suffering as Part of the Landscape

       "The pain of the mind is worse than the pain of the body." --Publilius Syrus

Most all the world's religions delve into pain and suffering, especially Asian ones; one kind of religion provides incentives to continue bearing up under life's bad circumstances: possibly begetting fatalism, and another is taught to find liberation in life's journey with the ensuing displeasures and this very likely will give birth to dolorism. This oriental philosophical preclevity when mixed with a Christian perspective, especially one that is only at most two percent in this region, and usually under intense persecution without a large support group, it achieves a new personality (analogia dolores). This is most evident in the post World War II theology of Kazoh Kitamori and his unique Japanese view as explained in his book, Theology of the Pain of God. This was the first true Japanese originated Christian theology, and was the first upon publication to be widely distributed in Occidental Christian academic circles. Other Asian thinkers in this genre followed, one being Korean Jung Young Lee with his God Suffers for Us who developed a different Christian angle on this subject introducing elements of the I Ching (Book of Changes) and the interactions of Godly and human conditions.

Atomic Age Annihilation

The atomic devastation had a profound effect on philosophers and especially Christian thinkers (e.g. Endo Shusaki) were faced with a new kind of anguish, putting their faith to the test. Besides understanding martyr-like suffering at the hands of the majority population, Kitamori contemplated the pain of people, still his people, in the wrong place at the wrong time, namely citizens feeling the wrath from an enemy pouring out bowls of retribution; and he also thought and wrote about all of mankinds' misery. Theologians try to explain the dilemma of a Good God Sovereign over a pitiful planet, in more useful and comprehensible ways than merely writing off humanity's anguish as merely the result of sin. But, for Kazoh, who was an instructor at the Tokyo Theological Seminary, his proof text that summed up all of the Gospel was Jeremiah Chapter 31, verse 20,

Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a darling child and beloved? For as often as I speak against him. I do earnestly remember him still. Therefore My affection is stirred and My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy, pity, and loving-kindness for him says the Lord. Amplified Bible

 

Theological Context

This was put into context with God's role in individuals, culture, and history. Interestingly, Hebrew has eight words for pain, however Kitamori concentrated on hama "My heart yearns" or as KJV translates: "My bowels are troubled...".

Culturally, the Japanese were ready to understand woeful trials, as Buddhism teaches the need to lessen this phenomenon (dukka), and the concept of tsurasa, (Japanese for pain) now, a comparison -- a discussion of the suffering of a number one Son can bring some healing out of a horrific situation. Kitamori went further to exposit that only the Japanese could understand this empathetic pain of the Almighty. They comprehend the terminology of divine pain as real, although different from human pain.

Four Points of the Pain of God Theology

  1. Man's Sin That Causes God's Anger Also Causes God's Pain
    We find a theological solution where this deserved wrath of God against disobedience to His perfection becomes superceded by His love and the resulting empathy in agony. We see God's nature in this way instead of an invisible Deity.
  2. There Is Human Suffering, Of Which Christ the Man Shared
    Our hunger, thirst, fear, and of course, our most excruciating experiences were all experienced by Jesus culminating in an innocent accepting the guilty's punishment on the Roman's tortuous instrument of death, the cross. God specifically sent His Son to cause the unification of all this pain at one moment -- for all time.
  3. God the Father Suffered When His Only Son Was Tortured and Killed
    Since there is a togetherness of the Trinity, a special pain was felt by the Father when He had to cut himself off from the Lamb Who took on the sins of the world. This pain of separation is the worst. This is described by Jesus as what we will experience if we use our will to go our own way (our perogative with free will, a gift that can become a curse) -- a place of darkness, "gnashing of teeth," and likened to pain of eternal fire. (The continually burning trashpiles at Gehenna.)
  4. Jesus Represents the Ones Whom We Help In Their Suffering
    Jesus said, "Whatever you did to the least of these, you did for Me." (Matt. 25:31-) This sacrificial servanthood is the disciple's call. It is how all suffering humanity is the potential Jesus that we can interact with. The Spirit of Truth and Love is within us, born anew, just from a simple act of belief, not feelings. We can be like so many who risked their own lives to feed and cloth the needy. It is supposed to be a complete nutrient package: physical and Spiritual.

Unification of Man and God's Pain -- The "Three Orders of Love"

  1. The Love of God
  2. This is the immediate agape strong and nurturing to His children.
  3. The Pain of God
    The rebellion, disobedience, waywardness (sin) causes a severing of this love relationship, and thus causes the injury and suffering of the Father God.
  4. Love Rooted in the Pain of God
  5. The ultimated combination of the love and pain of God, fulfilled in the Son's sacrifice, and the term is used almost three dozen times in Kitamori's treatise.

Why the West Missed the Point

One of the most profound and controversial conclusions that Kozah purposed: the intellectual inablility in the West to understand these concepts of God's love through pain. This was inevitable because of its roots in classical Greek philosophy, continued with a Latin mindset and further developed by others, especially German philosophers, dooming them to be sidetracked from what was already present in the Japanese cognizance of tsurai (pain).

We are blessed to have the Body of Christ, the Church with many Parts, Kizoh Kitamori, a very special one, and they are all crucial to getting to the truth, circumventing human frailty magnified with social learning biases, as many points that make a circle.

Sources:
http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/apr1974/v31-1-article1.htm 6; Kazoh Kitamori, The Pain of God; Richmond, VA, 1965.
http://www.gospelcom.net/rec/TF-Mar95-yewangoe.html
http://www.ul.ie/~philos/vol1/paper2.html; Santiago Sia, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA.
Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter A. Elwll, ed.; Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1990.

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