AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

Following the Man of Sorrows: A Theology of Suffering for Spiritual Formation

by David R Beach

Institution: George Fox Universty
Department: Portland Seminary
Degree: Doctorate Degree
Year: 2018
Keywords: Spiritual Formation, Theology of Suffering, Man of Sorrows
Posted: 09/12/2019
Record ID: 2222196
Full text PDF: https://digitalcommons.georgefox.edu/dmin/281/


Suffering. Salvation’s conduit. People are often reluctant to talk about suffering, unable to find words. This reluctance usually lasts until, in the midst of crisis, the only way ahead is through suffering. In these crises, people typically reach out to caregivers— pastors and priests, counselors and social workers. But what if the same reluctance affects these caregivers? What if they, too, are often unable to find adequate words? Jesus—Man of Sorrows—makes plain the imperative of taking up our cross. How is this accomplished? This dissertation offers an answer, a theology of suffering focused on spiritual formation—formation into the image of a suffering God. Emerging from lived experiences in valleys of adversity, this formational theology offers conceptual and practical ways to narrate biographies of adversity, then help others give sorrow words and grow, thus taking up our cross. Chapter one introduces the challenges of approaching suffering in theological and formational language, and deciding what is both relevant and necessary. Chapter two provides a brief survey of suffering as formative in the biblical narratives, where it emerges as a formative theme and a prerequisite to glory. A five-type taxonomy in chapter three facilitates an examination of various views of suffering in Christian faith as relational postures to Jesus—Man of Sorrows. These perspectives offer a kaleidoscope of multiple postures, each insufficient by itself to give a full picture of suffering’s role in formation. Chapter four utilizes trauma psychology as a paradigm for constructs of growth through suffering. xiii Chapter five considers language, culture, and the arts—universal lenses mediating the perception of suffering and caregiving. Finally, chapter six offers a new survey tool to assess relational postures, a graphic illustration of posttraumatic growth, a story arc approach to suffering, and a list of biblical parallels suggesting formative metaphors.