Thursday, March 28, 2013

Did God Die on the Cross?

I read a troubling sentence in an otherwise good book this week, Raised With Christ by Adrian Warnock.

Although his divine nature shared in the experience of the agony of death and separation from the Father, only his body was placed in the tomb (p. 33)

If he is saying that God or the divine nature of Christ died when Jesus died on the cross then that means the eternal Tri-une God experienced death and separation and disruption of perfect fellowship.  In other words, in my mind the very nature of God is destroyed.  I quickly did an internet search to confirm my suspicions.  Here is what I found from RC Sproul:

We also believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross. If we say that God died on the cross, and if by that we mean that the divine nature perished, we have stepped over the edge into serious heresy. In fact, two such heresies related to this problem arose in the early centuries of the church: theopassianism and patripassianism. The first of these, theopassianism, teaches that God Himself suffered death on the cross. Patripassianism indicates that the Father suffered vicariously through the suffering of His Son. Both of these heresies were roundly rejected by the church for the very reason that they categorically deny the very character and nature of God, including His immutability. There is no change in the substantive nature or character of God at any time.

You can see the whole article by Sproul here.  The article is a short excerpt from his book, The Truth of the Cross, which is a free download until April 30. 


  1. The problem is that you haven;t engaged fully with the issue that the church council of Chalcedon worked through. That is that Jesus is fully human and fully God. He has two nature, in one essence.

    To argue the disunity of the divine nature and human nature in the suffering of Christ, embraces the Nestorian heresy that Christ had 2 losely united natures. To argue if the divine nature of Christ died, then the father must die (or the God head dies) is the heresy of Modalism - which says that the Father, Son and Spirit are the same person.

    Sproul is wrong in his definition of theopassianism - the actual heresy is that "The Father himself died on the cross. He is also wrong in bringing Patripassianism into this argument, as Patripassianism is the heresy that Jesus only had a divine nature and not a human nature which suffered on the cross.

    However, back to Chalcedon. Christ has 2 natures in one essence. That means whatever the essence of Christ experienced- both natures experienced. John Stott, explains it beautifully. It was God's plan to take upon himself the punishment for our sins. The wages of sin is death. Within his majestic plan, the 2nd person of the Trinity, was always his plan to be the bearer of of our sins.

  2. Craig, thank you for your comment.

    Here is part of the Chalcedon statement, “Our Lord Jesus Christ is one and the same God, perfect in divinity, and perfect in humanity, true God and true human...Christ, Son, Lord, Only- begotten, manifested in two natures without any confusion, change, division or separation. The union does not destroy the difference of the two natures, but on the contrary the properties of each are kept, and both are joined in one person”

    As I understand the trinity, the Godhead is a tri-unity that exists from all eternity. In the incarnation, the eternal Son of God assumed a human nature so that there was one person in two natures, divine and human. At death, the person of Jesus died but neither his human nature nor his divine nature died. For his divine nature to die means the nature of the eternal Son of God changed and that destroys the very nature of God and the trinity. He is immortal in respect to his divine nature so how God can die and hence change? So I conclude that Jesus did die in respect to his humanity but not in respect to his divinity. I hope this clarifies your assertion that I embrace Nestorianism and a modalism.

    Grace and Peace, David