Did Jesus experience a separation from God on the cross?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by JonC δοῦλος, Dec 9, 2015.

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  1. JonC

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    There is an ongoing thread (at least one) which has brought up implications that I believe are worth exploring. For my part, working through the issue of penal substitution with Martin Marprelate has help solidify my position and increase my understanding of my old view (Reformed PST) and my new view (not-Reformed PST). Part of this is that while Martin has answered many questions that I have asked, the answers have not proved persuasive. They have not added a depth to the presuppositions that I am trying to work through and either anchor down biblically or let loose from my theology. There are several questions, and I think that perhaps some deserve a venue of their own.

    Many penal substitution adherents have concluded that at the cross the Son was spiritually separated from the Father. On another thread I was accused of denying Matthew 27:46 when I questioned this conclusion. Martin also offered this passage as proof that the Father and Son were separated. So I am going to, in advance, provide my views, listen to yours, and perhaps learn through dialogue.

    Was what Jesus experienced on the cross a separation from God?

    Matthew 27:46 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

    My first observation is that the passage does not necessarily indicate that the Father and Son are spiritually separated. Certainly ἐγκαταλείπω can mean to leave behind (as in a separation). But it also can mean to forsake or desert in the context of refraining to come to one’s rescue – in this case, to forsake in terms of not rendering aid. I believe the context demands the latter interpretation. Here is why:

    First, on the cross Jesus is quoting the Scripture he is fulfilling (Psalm 22). The Psalm begins “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” and defines this condition as God being far from saving him. Yet God is holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. Then the psalmist speaks of his suffering, and through his sufferings he glorifies God. Verse 19 is a cry that God be not far off, to come quickly and deliver his life. Verse 22 forward praises God as Deliverer.

    Why is this important? Nothing in the quote or the Psalm in its entirety speaks of a spiritual abandonment. Nothing speaks of literal separation, but instead of an anticipation of deliverance. On the cross Jesus is fulfilling this Psalm, and he will be delivered for God will not abandon his soul to Sheol, or let his Holy One see corruption (Psalm 16:10).

    Second, the witnesses did not interpret Jesus’ cry to mean that God had forsaken him. Instead they said, “This man is calling Elijah,” and “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” There was an anticipation generated from Jesus’ quote, not an affirmation of abandonment. Verses 47-48 deny the implication that Jesus was questioning or affirming that God had abandoned him.

    When we interpret Matthew 27:46 strictly within the context of the NT passage as well as in terms of the OT reference, it does not support the idea that on the cross Jesus experienced the spiritual abandonment of the Father. That said, I know it does not deny that interpretation either. John 10:30-33 does that well enough.

    Theological issues with the view that God separated himself from Jesus at the cross include the insistence of Jesus that he and the Father were one. If God is immutable, and if Jesus is God, then Jesus cannot be un-God for a time. It diminishes the doctrine of the Trinity and ignores the deity of Christ. Throughout his ministry, Jesus spoke of his deity, of him being God, as this oneness with the Father. If we lose that then we lose the Atonement all together.

    Is there any biblical evidence that on the cross Jesus experienced a separation from God, or is this a product of our own reasoning? If there are no passages saying such, then why have people built so much upon this doctrine? If there are passages that prove this, then what are they?
     
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  2. JonShaff

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    This is subjective, but the thought of God abandoning me (now that I'm saved) would totally ruin me and it would be hell. The times I find myself drifting just a little bit wrecks me. To be separated from His presence...His love, His peace, His kindness...is an unimaginable thing and would be torture in and of itself.

    I know this doesn't contribute in the way the OP wanted me to, but these are just some thoughts I've had on how horrible it may have been for Christ if there was a separation from His Father.

    And if this was Christ's cup...tasting the second death for all of us...it makes me Love Him even more.
     
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  3. JonC

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    I understand the sentiment, although for me having Christ experience the second death is a misunderstanding. But just thinking of God, our Creator, becoming man and experiencing our joy, our sorrow, our pain and our death to reconcile humanity, to redeem man, to save me .... The love of a Father to sacrifice his only Son...the love of the Son to lay down his own life. It is unimaginable.

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  4. JonShaff

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    Even tasting death physically is still something completely unfathomable as He is the innocent Son of God. And in my first post I'm meant to have a tone implying "IF Jesus did experience separation or a second death type thing,"... I'm not entirely sure myself.
     
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  5. agedman

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    I have never found anything substantial to suggest God "abandoned" the Son. It would not fit the character, nor the expressed relationship.

    This is one reason why I thought the thread in which you and Martin were discussing the thinking of Penal (forensic) substitution so extremely edifying.

    One must not forget that Christ "gave up His Spirit" (John 19:30). He did not have it taken from Him. He alone gave it up, and He alone took it back up. (John 10:17).

    There is also a matter of logic. Had Christ been abandoned or separated from the Father, then He would also most certainly have experienced a rending of his own nature. That union of God and Man would be shattered, like humpty dumpty, unable to be restored. Removing Him as the Son of God from being able to accomplish the very obligation that He choose to accomplish and most certainly blotting Him from eternal life.




    I will give my opinion. For I just don't find passages that would carry the authority of proof.

    Picture the scene of the Cross and hear the preacher. (you will need to expand the quote to read it)

    It is called bait and switch. Every good sales man knows how to use it effectively.

    A successful salesman demonstrating the worthiness of a product before a couple will look for which person in a married couple displays the emotional hook first. They will then sell to that person, knowing that the other partner will agree for peace sake, or because they want to please.

    Everyone wants to please Mother.



     
    #5 agedman, Dec 10, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2015
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  6. JonC

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    I think that if we honestly compare our beliefs to Scripture that we will be in a constant state of refinement. We will always be growing, not only in Christ but also in our understanding of Scripture and of God as through lifetime discipleship and study God unveils more and more of what has been revealed in Scripture. There is a part of me that wants to simply attribute our acceptance of extra-biblical doctrines as scripture to be laziness on our part. In a way, I think that this is true. We have been given explanation as to what one thing means, and that explanation bares fruit by becoming foundational to other conclusions. This is what, IMHO, we call “leaning on our own understanding.” If at all possible, it is probably best to keep our explanations shallow and our reliance on scripture deep. Sometimes it is best to simply preach the Word of God without focusing on commentary.

    I like listening to Paul Washer’s sermons. I agree with most of what he says of the gospel, but more than that I agree with many of the observations he has made concerning contemporary Christianity. But he once explained that in the garden Jesus was not concerned with physical death, but instead was praying that the wrath to come, our punishment, the “second death”, could be avoided. Washer’s reasoning was that the cross was not a unique death. What he missed is that it isn’t the cross but the Christ that made this event unique.

    When we read Psalm 22 it seems apparent to me that we are dealing with the reconciliation of humanity, of the flesh, and of suffering in the physical sense. This is also supported by the psalmist pleading not to leave his soul in Sheol, or let his Holy One see corruption. We lose sight, IMHO, of the fact that on the cross Jesus was completing his earthly mission – he was completing that reconciliation that began with the Incarnation, that began in the womb. In my view, “It is finished” does not mean that Jesus had completed a purchase as it is not so narrow a statement. Jesus is speaking of the entire work of reconciliation and redemption. So much of Paul’s writings focus on this fact. So much emphasis is placed on our hope of a bodily resurrection. I am not certain why we focus so much on spiritual death here as we have been given spiritual life in the present. Our hope is in the resurrection (the physical resurrection) and the Kingdom.

    I do agree that sensationalism in the pulpit is often the culprit, I also believe that we have taken an explanation – a theology – and we have built doctrine off of that theology creating a myth of the cross rather than depending on Scripture to dictate our belief. I think that we have done this because it is much easier to understand and explain the cross in these terms rather than try to examine the Atonement through the lens of an entirely different worldview, culture, and expectation. Religion is not, BTW, the only area where we make this error. We typically think in terms contemporary to ourselves because we are products of our own environment. Think of those who have lost loved ones, but take comfort in the fact that they are walking on the streets of gold in heaven, looking down on them (sometimes even making their presence slightly known) because that is what the bible says….when in reality that is far from the truth. We sometimes make our own “truth” out of explanation. Anyway, I think that his is why we as a whole have come to hold such strong conclusions that are in reality absent from Scripture. We create our own “truths” linked together so as to become foundational.
     
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  7. Internet Theologian

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    Did Jesus experience a separation from God on the cross?

    Of course He did. Note Matthew 27:46.

    On being forsaken, here is the definition:

    egkataleipō
    Thayer Definition:
    1) abandon, desert
    1a) leave in straits, leave helpless
    1b) totally abandoned, utterly forsaken
    2) to leave behind among, to leave surviving

    The OP seems to have a penchant for mitigation of the work of the cross. Wrath? No, Jesus did not suffer that, it's all been fabricated by others, but not the author of the OP. Separation? No, that was just reconciliation.

    Any other view, according to the OP is pulpit crimes, preaching of myths, and not allowing Scripture to dictate our beliefs. Seriously? That accusation is arrogant and condescending to put it bluntly. Obviously many have had it all wrong until jonc doulos came along to set the story straight, correct?

    Christ cried out to His Father 'Why have you forsaken me?' There it is. No myth. No fable. No pulpit crime. No violence of Scripture. Instead the Scriptures are clear and speak for themselves without the theological gymnastics of the OP.
     
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  8. JonC

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    Brother, none of us are denying that Jesus cried out "why have you forsaken me?" What we (both sides here) should be doing is looking at our interpretation of this passage within the context of Scripture to understand what this passage means. How is Jesus "forsaken"? Let's trust God's word and prayerfully enter this study together. We can argue our points as brothers in Christ.

    I will start by letting you know that this is not a new idea. J.I. Packer pointed out that forsaken does not mean "separated." Beeke also interprets the passage with forsaken meaning allowed to suffer. Clarke outright denies the Father separating from the Son as heresy. If you want to go back in history, Justin Martyr presents the verse "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me" to be a direct claim that he was Christ and for the benefit of man (knowing God would deliver him). So, brother, this is not a new view at all. But not being new does not make it right (and I am not claiming I am right because I'm in good company).

    We are called to work together, to study....iron sharpens iron. Come, brother, we can reason together. If you want to look at the topic honestly then I am willing to listen to you and your evidences. I only ask that you respond in kind. When we part, maybe we will still disagree but we will understand more of the others view. Ultimately Scripture is our authority, so we need to examine the commentaries of men here (I don't expect you to take J.I. Packer, Clarke, etc. as an authority....and I certainly don't expect you to take me as an authority). Lets look at Scripture and see what God reveals to us.
     
    #8 JonC, Dec 10, 2015
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  9. OldRegular

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    There can be no separation within the Godhead. Any separation that occurred had to be between GOD and the human nature of Jesus Christ. Note that the cry was "My GOD, my GOD".
     
  10. agedman

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    Would I assume that in your view of "forsaken" that in some manner the Father no longer considered the Son, His son? That the Son was deserted by God? That God had to abandon the Son as one might give up on, or quit a project?
    Perhaps you mean "forsaken" in terms of one left behind, discarded, or in some manner no longer usable?

    If such is true, then the question must attend, what happened to the trinity, did it become or is it now a duet?

    Perhaps you are not using the definition as "abandon" but as one who "deserts" and if so, does that not show the Father being weak and unreliable? Would a person be able to trust a father that "deserts" their one and only son?

    NONE of the above is the appropriate way to view "forsaken."

    Rather, it is, using your list of definitions, "to leave helpless, to leave in straits." It pleased God that the Son was to be helpless and in distress, just as any good father will allow at some time their own son to experience pain and sorrow.

    "Forsake" could also be used in terms of "abandon" in the limited sense of a farmer may allow his field to lay fallow for a season. Not in a manner of disowning, or in a manner of shunning, or in desertion on the isle of pain and death.

    When Christ cried out, "Why have you forsaken me" the statement must be balanced by the Son's statement, "Into your hands I commend my spirit." Therefore, there was no desertion, no abandonment of the level of shunning, and definitely no manner of inattentiveness by the Father.

    God "forsook" in the terms that the Father left Christ HELPLESS and in DISTRESS. Such condition had never been the experience of the unique relationship of the Son and the Father, and only such could happen in the unique Trinity when the Son became flesh.
     
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  11. OldRegular

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    I repeat:
     
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  12. JonC

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    I agree with your comment here, OR. If one views this as a separation between the Father and Son in that Jesus stopped being God for the time he was on the Cross (if Christ lost his divinity) and there remained only the Father and Spirit as God, then there are many passages that need to be reexamined. When the discussion gets to the point (and I'm not saying that we are there at this time) that it is declared Jesus stopped being God then it has gone much too far.

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    #12 JonC, Dec 10, 2015
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  13. percho

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    Why was the Son, three days and three nights, dead? Why, three days, dead? Why not, six or seven? Why not, one and a half? Why three?

    Separated from My God; Father into your hands I commend the spirit of me. How long, unclean? What cleanses? Renewing of spirit Holy? washing of regeneration? Living water?

    The Father separated from the Son.

    And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. John 17:5
    Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 1 Peter 1:21

    Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. John 20:17
     
  14. agedman

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    You need to explain how that God can separate from God.

    Can God abandon, desert, and leave behind Himself?

    Or do you not hold to the hypostatic union?

    One cannot have it both ways.

    If you contend that God in some manner separated from the Son in any manner other than taking "forsake" to mean helpless and in distress, then it must follow that you also have to show the hypostatic union is false.
     
  15. JonShaff

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    Well, your question begs another question, How did Jesus Separate from His Father and Become Flesh?
     
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  16. percho

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    The spirit of one, from the God who gave it, is what makes the soul, living. Soul, being, as in, to be or not to be Gen 2:7 Lev. 17:11 The soul of the flesh. Ecc 12:7

    Jesus, the spirit of him returned to his Father, The God who had given it, his body of flesh hung upon the cross dead and his soul resided to Sheol/Hades. The state of all three for three days and three nights except for the body of flesh which was put in the tomb of another.
     
  17. JonC

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    You are right that the Father, Son, and Spirit are separate in persons. The Father sent the Son, the Son submitted to the will of the Father, and they Both sent the Spirit. This is not the separation I question. Christ's body was in the gave, but that body was not a dead God. Jesus commended his spirit into his Father's hands.

    We are talking spiritual separation. Was the Son no longer one with the Father? Did the Trinity become, as agedman noted, a Duo? Did Jesus die spiritually? Did Jesus cease for that moment to be God? That's all one "yes or no" question.



    BTW, and on a side note, Jewish custom held that the spirit hung around until the third day, remember why they thought it too late for Lazarus.




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  18. agedman

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    He didn't.

    As shown by such passages as:
    "I and the Father are one..."
    "If you have seen me you have seen the Father..."
    "This is my beloved Son ..."
    "Before Abraham was, I Am..."

    John states that "... the Word became flesh..." It does not imply a separation from the Father.

    Paul's statement, "... He humbled Himself..." does not imply a separation from the Father, either.

    It pleased God that the Son died upon the Cross (Philippians 2), and is why God exalts Christ above all.
     
  19. percho

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    But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

    Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

    Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

    Maybe by The God, sending forth Son, born of woman, born under the law?
     
  20. JonC

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    I think agedman is right. When the Word became flesh he never separated from God. What is being spoken of is nature, identity, ontological existence. Jesus defended his deity time and time again by leaning on the statement "I and my Father are One." Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. He is God. So in this manner, Jesus did not separate from the Father when he became flesh. He was walking on this earth when he said that he was one with the Father.


    Michah 5:2 "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity."
     
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