Screwing for Virginity

Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Was Christ Hellbound?

On the cross, Jesus cries out "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" which is a quote from Psalm 22. There are lots of prophecies that we take from this same Psalm that we relate directly to Christ (cast lots for my garments and what not). David is talking in the first person in this Psalm, and people relate his words in this passage to that of the promised deliver, Jesus.
I've been told that Jesus was crying out because God had actually forsaken him. When I finish the passage, it goes on to say that in the end, God had never left Him and was always listening.
I've been told that Jesus "became sin" and therefore was banished from God's sight and sent to hell. This is such a loaded concept that it raises questions on a few different levels. The most difficult for me to understand is the separation of the trinity if it is even possible to divide them or for one to forsake the other. That's just hard for me to understand, but I'd accept it as true if I felt that was definitely what happened here. It might have, there are other scriptures like in Peter that suggest that Jesus was ministering to people in hell after He died. I suppose that I would have 2 questions. Did Jesus go to hell? And did God forsake Him?
My answer to the first question would be a hazy yes, since I'm not sure how this happened or why, but scripture seems to lean that way. My arguments against it would be that Jesus died as a sin sacrifice, He himself was not a sinner that needed to suffer the eternal separation from God as a result. Or is that what the Bible means that He "became sin" or took away the sins of the world? Many people believe that while He was dying on the cross He actually physically took on our sins, which to me would mean that He became a liar, murderer, thief, etc. Others hold to Christ paying our sin debt, and having to suffer the consequences of God's justice. To those who claim this, wouldn't Jesus' rising from hell and going to heaven sort of negate God's justice in that scenario?
As to God forsaking Him, I would love to know what you all think about it, but I would say that He didn't. Mostly because of the Psalm itself that He's quoting, but also because of hell and our views concerning it. Some claim that it's separation from God. Yet David writes that if he makes his bed in hell, God is there. There's so much here to think about, I realize that the comments could go in any direction, and that's cool. I just want to know if anybody else has thought about this and would like to share their thoughts.


  • At 10:23 PM, July 06, 2005, Anonymous Jeff said…

    Interesting questions. I've wondered about these myself. Regarding the first question, I'm not exactly sure what I think. I wonder, though, if an equivocation may occur when we talk about this question. It's true that the Scriptures talk about Christ ministering to the "spirits in prison." But I wonder if this "hell" is exactly the same as the what is usually meant by the word hell. So, when and if Christ ministered to those "in prison," I'm not sure he was witnessing to those persons who were in a place of damnation. In the end, though, I doubt whether we have enough information to make a firm decision one way or the other.

    Has anyone on the blog read Brian McLaren's most recent book, The Last Word and the Word After That? I finished it a couple of weeks ago. The central theme (target?) of the book is the traditional doctrine of hell. He's always an interesting read.

    The second question is much more important as it has implications for the rest of one's theology, not the least of which, as you pointed out, is the doctrine of the Trinity. Unfortunately, I'm so uncertain of my beliefs about the nature of the atonement that I don't know if I can contribute much to the discussion. I do, however, have two points to offer.

    First, I'm not sure how relevant the context of the Psalm is to Christ's statement on the cross. The reason I say this is simply because the NT authors are not known for their consistent respect for the context of the OT passages they used.

    Second, it seems to me that the question is not whether God forsook Christ on the cross. After all, Christ's question (Why have you forsaken me?) indicates that he had indeed been forsaken. The question, then, is How do we make sense of the fact that the Father forsook the Son?

    That may be the question, but in all honesty, I have no idea how to go about answering it.

    Let me know what you think.

    Side note: Buddy, I started reading Richard Kearney's The God Who May Be. I recommend you read it if you get a chance. He offers a philosophical compliment to many of your theological convictions.

  • At 3:10 PM, July 08, 2005, Blogger Ryan said…

    Jeff, thank you for your comments. I really appreciate your angle. I totally agree with you regarding Christ going to "prison." I think people take it for granted that he was in hell (damnation) for 3 days, without much thought. i know that i did. the apostle's creed says it matter of factly, which i think is dangerous for those who don't think about what they are talking about there.
    As to the context of the Psalm, Christ who said it was not a NT author who ignores context. so the NT author was only responsible for writing what Christ said. It also should be noted that when Rabbi's spoke, they were known for only saying the very first line of a passage in scripture (as Christ does here) and the listeners would recite the rest of the passage from memory. so those listening knew the reference to this Psalm, most likely.
    therefore, if Jesus was saying it in context, we should try to understand it in context, correct? Which, understanding it in context seems to indicate that God had not forsaken Jesus. I don't want to ask a question that might be unnecessary (how do we make sense of the father forsaking the son) if it didn't happen.
    if we ignore the context, you're right and I totally agree with you. Maybe you could explain to me better why you think the context is not important. that would help me.

  • At 9:11 AM, July 10, 2005, Anonymous Jeff said…


    I didn't mean to suggest that context is unimportant for understanding a passage. Indeed, context (textual, historical, cultural, etc.) is usually essential for properly interpretting Scripture. What I meant to suggest was simply that the context of the Psalm is, in my view, not determinative for the meaning of the Christ's statements on the cross. There are a couple of reasons for this, but I think there's a more important point I can make.

    Let me ask a few questions to muddy the water a bit. If the Psalm provides the hermeneutical key to understanding Christ's words on the cross, how do you make sense of Christ's despair? If the Father had in reality not forsaken the Son, was the Son simply mistaken when he (seemingly) believed this to have taken place? I think we'd affirm that the psalmist was wrong to believe that God had turned away, but would we want ot say the same of Christ?

    Clearly, how one answers these questions has implications for his or her Christology (not to mention the doctrine of the Trinity and atonement). Again, I'm not really sure how to think through all of this yet but these are some of the questions that arise when I think about what you're suggesting.

  • At 5:00 PM, July 11, 2005, Blogger Ryan said…

    I've definitely wrestled with these same questions myself, so I completely see where you're coming from. First of all, it should be noted that we have decided that He said the line in desperation based on how we interpreted its meaning. My point being, you don't know that Christ was despairing. We depict it in this light because of how we've chosen to understand it, not that it is invalid to do that.
    but if we change our perspective on what was happening on the cross a bit, it opens up the possibility for Christ quoting the scripture to show all people there (who knew the scripture and context) that even now when it seems He is most defeated, that God has still not forsaken Him (which is what happens in the Psalm). That of course is an insight based on my assumption that God didn't forsake Him, which I don't just base on the Psalm. Nowhere else in scripture does it suggest that a person like Jesus could ever be forsaken by the Father, it says that He will never leave nor forsake.
    it could also be said that Christ's humanity was being revealed in this statement, not that I necessarily hold to that thought.
    even if i can't fully understand why He said it, the context for me is very compelling at this point in my thinking.

  • At 8:47 PM, July 11, 2005, Anonymous Jeff said…

    Does not the Christ's question (Why have you forsaken me?) imply that God has indeed, in some sense, forsaken him?

    When you say that this statement could reveal Christ's humanity, what do you mean?

    Of course, I agree with you that there is a powerful statement in Scripture that the Father has not abandoned the Son. I find this statement not in Christ's question on the cross but, rather, in the resurrection.


    Ryan, obviously, we've never met. As such, I'd be very interested to learn some of the authors who have influenced you. I'd just like to understand a bit better what angle you're coming from.

  • At 5:06 PM, July 13, 2005, Blogger Ryan said…

    Hmm, honestly I wouldn't know what to tell you on that front. Let me think about it and I'll get back to you. I hesitate to use names like Calvin or C.S. Lewis, mainly because I don't ascribe to all that they do. But I guess that would give a start. I would much rather be thought of as a Christian brother than a "Calvinist," even if I am one.
    The question implies that if Christ is indeed asking God honestly why He had forsaken Him... but, if He is merely quoting the passage, referring to a question that had been asked (and indeed, felt) by David, it's not necessary that Christ believed He had been forsaken. In fact, I would argue that because of the context of the Psalm, it seems that Christ knew the opposite to be true.
    As far as Christ saying it to reveal His humanity, like I said, I don't agree with this, although I've heard some argue somewhat persuasively. I think what they mean by this line of thinking is that Christ felt the way that we do sometimes, when we feel that God has abandoned us, yet we realize later that He hasn't. I don't believe that what happened on the cross was a big picture of the "footprints in the sand" thing. Holding to that makes you have to conclude that Christ was indeed mistaken in His feeling of being forsaken, referring back to what you asked earlier. I don't believe that distinction is necessary though.

    please, if you have any books that you think would be beneficial for the study of this particular question, by all means let me know.

    as a side note, a friend of mine told me the other day that he believes that those in "prison" were those who died before Jesus came. So Jesus went to minister to them since they weren't able to be sanctified before His sacrifice. I've often wondered how salvation occurred before Christ's atonement, but then again I'm not sure this explanation is completely satisfactory either.

  • At 9:33 PM, July 13, 2005, Anonymous Jeff has said…

    I'm not completely sure what I can recommend in the way of books on these questions. As I said, I haven't read much of anything here so I'm not sure what I think. Of course, behind this queestion is the broader, more complicated question of the atonement itself: What actually happened on the cross? Here I've just started to develop my thoughts. I'm working through (albeit slowly) Hans Boersma's book, Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross.

    Your side-note brought up a point I'd be interested in pursuing for a while. I often get the sense on this blog that we regularly use key theological words differently. This is especially clear from the interaction between you and Buddy in the last post. From your last statement, I'm thinking we too may use the word "salvation" somewhat differently. Because I think this would be an interesting and worthwhile discussion, let me throw it out there.

    I'm very interested to hear and interact with your view, Ryan. What is salvation? How does it relate to the concepts of sin and heaven/hell? Additionally, how is it related to the concrete problems and suffering of this present age? Perhaps you could start a new thread since it's a new topic and I'm unable to begin threads.

    By the way, I recognize that the question is very broad so feel free to answer and point us in whatever direction you see fit.


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