Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

17 Apr 2019

Neither Forsaken nor Estranged from God

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Not long ago, I was able to attend a conference, where Dr. Mark Snoeberger presented on the question of what may rightly be said about the death of God in the death of Christ. This paper, published in The Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry, is a written form of that presentation. I heartily encourage you to read it, for its application of originalist hermeneutical principles creates some push-back on long-held interpretations.

5 Responses

  1. Benjamin

    Fascinating article. Thank you Dr. Snoeberger but also to you, Dr. Miller, for sharing it here.

    In thinking about the songs that reflect “startling Moltmannian specificity,” I notice that the specific songs referenced in the footnote all date within the last 25 years. I have grown up singing How Deep The Father’s Love For Us, and in the early 2010s learned His Robes for Mine, and never paused to consider the lines “The Father turns His face away” and “God estranged from God.” Dr. Snoeberger, I appreciate your thoughtful research and presentation here, which have caused me to think about it for the first time. I have in my head believed in the occurrence of some (unspecific) type of estrangement/turning away between Father and Son on the cross and I wonder whether I was explicitly taught this or if the songs trained it into me.

    I wonder if someone more knowledgeable than I in the topic of Church Music knows whether many (or any) songs exist from before Moltmann’s writing that contain lines like these.

  2. Mark Snoeberger

    The classical hymn most famous for “death of God” language is Wesley’s “And Can It Be,” so it’s not strictly a contemporary thing. But it does seem that the specificity of expression (abandonment, estrangement, face turned away, etc.) is seeing something of an uptick.

    Thanks for reading.

  3. Andy Efting

    This is a good paper and I’m largely in agreement. However, it raised a question in my mind that I don’t recall being addressed. Namely, if it is wrong to think in terms of God forsaking God, or estrangement, or turning away, or suspended fellowship, or the like, how then is it proper to think of God’s wrath abiding on Christ? It seems to me that God would not pour out his wrath in judgment on one with whom he was in perfect fellowship. Those two things seam incongruous to me. The way I would answer that question is that the Father poured out his wrath on the human Jesus who, because he is the 2nd person of the Godhead, could bear the sins of the world. But, as Mark says, Christ is a singular person, so I’m left a bit puzzled, still. Maybe this was answered in the paper and I just glossed over it.

  4. Mark Snoeberger

    Andy, good thoughts. I offer in the article a possible answer on pp. 51–52, viz., a “judicial” forsaking or legal estrangement (so McCune, Walvoord, and poss. Carson), which, were I convinced that forsaking language is definitely used in Scripture, is where I would land. The difficulty in most discussions of the topic (at least post-Moltmann ones) is the prominence of the experiential in the proposed “forsaking”–filial abandonment, contempt, withdrawal of love, suspension of perichoresis, Trinitarian breach, and the like. I find this very alarming, especially as Moltmannian approaches to atonement begin to show up in evangelical discussion.

    The language seems too aggressive to me. Say, for instance, I need to punish my son for something he does wrong. Would you describe me as forsaking my son? abandoning him? turning my face away from him? holding him in contempt? It seems that all of these are too strong to describe the imposition of a legal penalty.

    But your point is well made. Thanks Andy,


  5. Jeff

    Mark, could you interact with this statement from Nick Batzig: “First, the divine nature of the Son of God sustained and kept the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God while he was the object of the infinite wrath of God. The infinite wrath of God was poured out on the finite human nature of Jesus, while the infinite divine nature of Jesus was upholding his person. Second, the infinite and eternal divine nature of the Son “gave worth and efficacy to his sufferings…to satisfy God’s justice.” It was not the amount of time that Jesus endured the infinite and eternal wrath of God when he hung on the cross, but the fact that an infinite and eternal being was giving worth to his human soul as Jesus bore the wrath of God in his body on the tree.

    If Jesus wasn’t truly forsaken–if he didn’t really endure the equivalent of eternal punishment on the cross–then substitutionary atonement is a legal fiction.” (

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