Who died on the Cross?

Oberland's picture

Hi all,

At our mid week bible study the Pastor said that God (as in the second person of the Trinity) died on the Cross. Instinctively I believed that to be wrong, and so I checked it out, first from the Word and then from trusted sources, I ended up with R.C.Sproul saying that it was impossible for God (the second person of the Trinity) to die, and John Macarthur said that God did die on the cross.I'm hoping that someone could shed some light on the subject.

Thank you



I very much appreciate the need to balance CCEL-time and the rest of life's demands :). Things have lightened up for me (slightly) at school, and I had no classes this week, so I had a bit more free time to think and write--that is not a luxury I typically have or expect of others.

I don't feel like you sidestepped any main question; your thoughts are right in line with the problem I am grappling with.

I didn't finish my previous thought, which I will try to do briefly (it was time to serve dinner, and a guest showed up unexpectedly. BTW it turns out I can cook :)) I was trying to distinguish my approach to the Bible from people who treat the Bible like a living document but too casually. Not all "living-document"ers are cavalier about what the Bible meant originally when they dig for what the Bible means currently. But sometimes I feel like people who demand flexibility are really demanding the unquestioned right to use the words of scripture to make their own theologies, without regard for an author's original intentions or message. I try to avoid that particular sand trap.

I like to approach the Bible like an animated document, not one which I can reinterpret, but one I can reapply, not the sole medium of the Spirit's revelation, but certainly a primary avenue. I make this distinction in order to disassociate myself from cut-and-pasters, and to make it clear that I am not trying to dig up new meaning or revelation in the scriptures. My hope, when I study the Bible, is to discover what an author hoped to communicate to his audience, so that I might understand what he would communicate to me. There are many means and methods to extract this authorial intention from a text, and I suppose that none are inerrant--for me, that's where faith comes in; I don't trust my conclusions, but I do trust the Spirit of God to guide an honest heart, though even that declaration tends to unearth the cynicism lurking in my murky subconscious.

In my mind, "faith" doesn't mean "trust;" it is instead "that which we do based on that which we believe." When we say, for example, that "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen," I take it to mean that what we hope for directs and guides our current actions--because we hope for a heavenly reward, we act a particular way (though what we mean by "heavenly reward" varies; for some it means pearly gates, for others it means godliness or righteousness). The visible, measurable, evaluate-able actions people do evidence what they believe, a tangible gauge of their intangible quality. So when I say I have "faith" in Jesus, what I aim to say is that because I believe him, I act in accordance with his teaching. This isn't quite the same thing as accepting his teachings as unfathomable, mysterious, or impenetrable yet mandatory for his acceptance, approval, or salvation.

I suppose it comes down to this--I believe Jesus is the Messiah. And because Jesus' central teachings revolve around how and why he is the Messiah, to believe that he is the Messiah is to believe certain other things about the world. To my understanding, it is this question which determines whether or not one is a Christian. Because I believe Jesus is Messiah and Lord, I am saved; and why do I believe Jesus is Messiah and Lord? Because through him, I'm saved. This particular tautology is the heart of Christianity, and in parallel to your own perspective on faith, is something that must be accepted by a Christian; but in distinction from what I believe you've said, both aspects of this tautology can be further explained; my spiritual condition is not put in jeopardy by new or different or fresh understandings of what it means to be the Messiah, to be divine, etc--actually it was at the heart of Jesus' relationship with the apostles, right? And so to pursue this understanding of Jesus' character, and to seek the justification for his ministry, and to wrestle with the manner and definition of truth established by the gospel of the crucified and resurrected savior is what it means, in my mind, to have faith in Christ.

Because I have faith in Jesus, I follow him. But because I follow him, I must also seek to understand what he followed, wherever it might lead, whatever conflicts I have to face with the world and with the church, and especially with myself.

As specific to this topic: for me, it is not so much the nature of Jesus which determines the efficacy of his sacrifice. It is rather the nature of truth which determines the efficacy of his salvation. When Jesus says he is truth, I believe it, and because I believe it, I prove it true through my faith. From one perspective, Jesus was totally human in every way; from another perspective, Jesus was fully divine. I believe these two equally valid perspectives CAN and DO exist in harmonious tandem. But I believe that hypostasis reflects a lesser approach to establishing truth--hypostasis, it seems to me, seeks to establish the character of Jesus in order to validate the gospel claims about him, and our total devotion to him. But I wonder if this particular doctrine misses the point, because we are not saved through Jesus' "essential nature" or "natures." We are saved through the reality of his death and resurrection. It is a different approach to atonement and salvation, and one which does not require (and is perhaps hampered by hypostasis), but one I believe to be fully compatible with, and directly derived from, the gospel of a crucified Messiah.

Note for myself:
To follow up on:

The intangible, spiritual nature of truth vs. the codified definitions of reality which then define early christological doctrines; a true divinity and a true humanity means, by orthodoxy, an actual "essence" which reconciles the perceived contradictions of the two, whereas a subtler distinction between types of truth negates altogether the need to validate the facts of both natures by reconciling them on the same psuedo-material plane.

That sounds like more work than I want to write.