A reader recently sent in the following questions about the death of Jesus as the Son of God and how it affected God the Father. Specifically, they wanted to know if God knew what it was like to lose a son. Here is the question:
I am a believer, but I am troubled by an atheist’s questions. I was talking to an atheist the other day, and he said that God doesn’t know what it’s like to lose a son because he knew all along that Jesus would rise in three days, so he only lost him for the weekend! He also questioned that if God is Jesus, why did he beg to be saved from the cross when he was in the garden? Also, shouldn’t Jesus already have known he would rise again in three days? Why did he ask God, “Why have you forsaken me?” Wouldn’t he know that he’s only going to be dead three days?
I began to answer these questions in a post about the existence of God by looking at the basic approach I use when answering questions from atheists (or anyone with whom I disagree about anything). Actually answering the questions (or attempting to do so) will require several posts. Here is the order I will answer these questions:
- How to Answer Questions of Atheists
- 2 Traditional Explanations for How God knows what it is Like to Lose a Son (both of which I reject)
- 2 Ways God Knows What it is like to lose a Son
- Why did Jesus say, “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?”
So in this post, I will look at two traditional explanations for how God knows what it is like to lose a son, and I will also explain why I reject both explanations (which might also be why atheists and other people reject these explanations as well).
Does God Know What it is Like to Lose a Son? (Traditional Answers)
Sometimes this question is asked this way: “How could God know what it is like to lose a son if He knew Jesus was just going to rise from the dead three days later?” Or “How could the death of Jesus be a sacrifice for God if God knew that Jesus was just going to rise again from the dead?”
These are all very good questions, which are not so easily answered! Nevertheless, there are two popular answers I have heard which attempt to explain how God knows what it is like to lose a son.
1. Christians Know Their Children Will Rise Too
It is sometimes suggested that God knew Jesus would rise from the dead just as all Christian parents know that their dead children will rise from the dead.
This, I believe, is a weak answer.
God knew with absolute certainty that the death of Jesus would end in the resurrection of Jesus; but not all parents have this same certainty. Not even all Christian parents have this certainty.
Furthermore, even when parents know they will be reunited with lost loved ones in the future, Jesus was only in the grave for three days, while parents who lose a son or daughter have to wait the rest of their life.
While nobody wants to lose a son or daughter (or any family member for that matter), the pain of it would be significantly lessened, it seems, if we knew that we would receive our lost loved ones back within three days, and they would be fully healthy and whole and would never suffer or die again.
So when viewed from this perspective, the claim that God knows what it is like to lose a son seems rather hollow, does it not?
2. God lives in an Eternal Now
The second way some people try to explain how God knows what it is like to lose a son is through the view that God exists outside of time, that God is timeless. If this is true, rather than experiencing a sequence of events (as we do), God experiences all events as an eternal now. It is argued then, that the crushing, heart-wrenching pain of watching a child die, and the sense of deep loss that lingers afterwards for days, months, and even years in the hearts of parents, is the pain that God experiences for an eternity over the death of His Son.
Though I was taught in Bible college and Seminary that God is timeless, that He exists outside of time in a constant, eternal now, I don’t believe it. There are numerous reasons why, which I won’t get into here. I believe that God is relational and is capable of reacting to our needs and prayers in a way that would not be possible if He were outside of time.
But even if this view is true, it still doesn’t allow God to experience what it is like to lose a son. For even if He eternally experiences the crushing sorrow of losing a child, He also eternally experiences the joy of being with His Son for eternity, and the even more thrilling experience of His Son rising from the dead. Neither of these eternal experiences can be shared by humans, and so even in this view, God does not know what it is like to lose a son in the same way that humans do.
So where do we go from here?
In a future post, I will look at the two reasons I think God does know what it is like to lose a son, and in so doing, will see that God may actually know better than we what it is like. Interested to hear more? Check back tomorrow. (Edit: The links are listed above).
What do you think of the two explanations above? Are you aware of any other explanations that Christians sometimes give for whether or not God knows what it is like to lose a son? Weigh in by sharing below!
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God “lost” his son for three days is a nonsensical statement. “Lost”? Huh?
Also the three days part of that statement and the “eternal now” of the other statement are both based on our totally inadequate understanding of “time”. It is not all all what we suppose it to be.
I’m eagerly anticipating your two answers to the question.
Jake Yaniak says
For reasons that would lead us far away from the subject, I prefer something ‘like’ the second option. For my part, I am just glad we got Jesus in the first place. I don’t know that it cost God anything, or anything permanently; but it is the world to me, a sinner, that God chose to show his grace through Jesus Christ. Maybe God knew all along that Jesus would rise, and maybe he was just yawning on this throne, waiting the three days before he rose again, maybe it wasn’t such a big deal to him at all. But it is everything to me. My gratitude is apportioned to my need, not his wealth. You can always ask for more from an omnipotent God, but to get so much, even if it is so little to him, is more than I can ever repay, and much more than I deserve.
An atheist is just like the pharisees, they ask questions to try and trick us up with our own answers in an attempt to undermine our faith, they are not interested in searching for The Truth so they might move on from a circular life of bondage.
Deep inside they know something is missing and they know we have the truth but to accept it would be to much for them to receive. Lost forever, a slave to their own arrogance and selfengrossment.
The more we brush away their questions with truth the harder their heart becomes as it was with the Pharaoh in Moses time.
Jesus had a way to answer these questions. In Matthew 27 v 11 He answered “so you say”. Nichodemus also did not get an answer because his mind was closed to the truth, John 3 v 1 to 21 verses 10 to 12 exposes the learnered mans ignorance ans his inability to hear the truth. Jesus put it like this in Matthew 7 v 6 “do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not cast pearls to swine”.
How then do we respond to accusational jib’s from an unbeliever
Sorry pressed the wrong button. How do we respond to accusational jibe’s from an unbeliever. Maybe to say “that is a good question but I cant give you a satisfactory answer” maybe put the ball back into his/her court by offerring an invitation to the Alpha course or to come along to a small Bible study group st your home or an invitation to a non Church tyoe activity with other Christians, walk, bike ride, five a side football or other sporting things, befriend them and truly love them without an agenda. Is belief not caught rather than taught. Love Clive x
If I was answering a believer about how Jesus heavenly father felt about the loss of His one and only son I would say devastated, unmitigated grief that his 33 year old not only had his earthly life cut short but the horrendous pain in all ways, he had to suffer. And to Jesus himself the very real depths of despair when he really believed that his dad had left him terribly alone.
I find it hard to believe that anyone could think otherwise about how God the Father and God the Son felt about the consequences they would have to pay for our sin as somehow being a rather jolly thing to do.
Not only was Gods heart broken then but every time mankind hurts, and hurts another. He loved and we must love a broken world for there is nothing else we can do.
Our Church took 25 older teens to a Christian camp three of them are non believers, they came to the worship and seminars and laughed and soed with us all. Did we try to convert them, were they converted, no, were they effected at all, yes. Coming to faith is a choice, will they catch it? I pray so.
love came down and rescued me, why not them.
Usha Borde says
J, D Myers,
In your article ,, Does God know,, few asked questions were baseless,, as ‘ Lord only giveth wisdom’ _Pro 2: 6,and He said ,’ I and my Father are one’ John 10 :30
Jesus was knowing everything , even the minds of the desciple s, He is perfect , His suffering must have affected Father,, as He is kind , lovely and holy minded,,
Jesus was willing to give His life , He said to Father before coming, _:” ” sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou prepared me,, lo I come to do thy will, ”
Hebrew s 12: 5’9
He anticipated in feeings ,, to remove the cup ,,
and we cant ask why He anticipated,, and why He expresses His feelings that
is also before Father,,
In His last prayer an angel appeared unto Him, and strengthend Him , Luke 22: 43
but as the sins of the whole world was put on Him , making Him cursed , He cried to Father ,, why thou has forsaken me ! ”
Father also must have felt separated spiritually,,
as He is Alfa abd Omega, how can He only die , and not raise ,,? after all He is God,