Did Jesus and the Father go through a separation at the cross?

Monday Musings for October 14, 2019

Good morning, Musers,

For years I suffered from separation anxiety… but it had nothing to do with my mother. It had to do with Jesus. Why did people insist that God — the immanent and omnipresent God of the universe — had to separate himself from his Son during that moment when Jesus bore our sins on the cross?

The premise of those who subscribe to this theory is that, since God is holy, he cannot be in the presence of sin… and to this I say, who says? Does it say that in the Bible? Or somewhere out in creation? How about in Philosophy or Natural Theology? I’m open to all the data… but I just don’t see the justification for this anywhere.

There is this one (weak) citation that is often used to support the idea that God “can’t” be where sin is… but this idea flies in the face of the biblical God who is quite often up to his elbows in sin and sinners, meting out justice or applying his mercy — but here’s the thing: he does all that without getting a holiness wedgie. So, was there something different going on at the cross?

Well… there was. At the cross, God the Father was (arguably) more acutely a stake-holder than he was at any other time and place. After all, he was in the Trinity with the one who would bear all that sin — and that’s close quarters! But consider carefully what the separation theorists are asking of us: if God left Jesus, then the Trinity changed into a Duality.

 “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” (Malachi 3:6, NIV)

True… it might have only been for a moment… and then the Duality would have slid back into a Trinity again, but no matter how I parse these ideas, they still give me theological disquiet. But do you know what I find to be the worst thing about this issue? The separation postulation is an unnecessary construct.

I get it that God is holy. But as of today, no one has given me a satisfactory answer as to why that attribute makes it so God “can’t” be in the presence of sin. Besides, the price of believing that is just too high.

For instance, I believe that our God is holy and omnipresent — and both at the same time. But separation theorists believe that there’s at least one time and place where God can’t be… and my prior commitments to his omnipresence and the nature of the Trinity won’t allow me to go there.

So, let me end where I began. Since I don’t see warrant for this separation in Scripture, nature, philosophy or Theology Proper, I do not subscribe to the separation construct at this time. But as always, I’m open to new data… although I’m at a loss to understand where it might come from.

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