Did the Father turn his face away in sorrow from the Cross?

This is another in the series, “The Songs we shouldn’t sing in church.”

Thomas Aquinas is purported to have said, “Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.” I describe what can happen when love, or anything, takes off, and knowledge takes a holiday.

Mother Teresa said the following in the ”Decree of Erection” for her congregation:

To quench the thirst of Our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls by the observance of the three Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience …” (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, the Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”, edited and with commentary by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M. C. (USA: Doubleday, 2007, p. 20). Where does Mother Teresa get the idea that Jesus is constantly “thirsting for souls?” I think the constant sacrifice of the Mass has much to do with it. In Roman Catholic theology the sacrifice is never over. This constant thirst idea is an aberration, because there is nothing in the Bible says that Jesus is thirsting in heaven. (See ”The constant thirst and constant sacrifice of Jesus Christ: The Charism of Mother Teresa”).

What about God from a Unitarian (non-Trinitarian) view. According to the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, “ Whenever God faced with anyone who appealed and prayed to Him with such a grieving heart, He related to that person with a sorrow welling up in His heart.” (Let Us Become the Ones Who Can Understand God’s Sorrow”).There is nothing about this in the Bible.

What about God the Father (from a Trinitarian point of view). Did the Father turn his face away in sorrow from the crucifixion of His Son? I examine this question here. There is a very moving song called “How deep the father’s love for us.”

How deep the Father’s love for us,

How vast beyond all measure

That He should give His only Son

To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,

The Father turns His face away

As wounds which mar the chosen One,

Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,

My sin upon His shoulders

Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,

Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there

Until it was accomplished

His dying breath has brought me life

I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything

No gifts, no power, no wisdom

But I will boast in Jesus Christ

His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?

I cannot give an answer

But this I know with all my heart

His wounds have paid my ransom


There are about two dozen comments on this song to be found here. The following two are representative:

1. What great inspiration!what a deep song on the love of God. again and again,i listen to this piece and i get broken in my spirit. this is one of the best xtian [sic] songs ever written in history to reveal the great love of a sinless Christ for a sinful human race.

2. The song is really amazing! It makes me feel as if we’ve just entered heaven and the song is played as we approach the face of God, getting to meet Jesus face to face. I love it!

The words are moving, but more important, mostly biblically on the button, except for this verse, (and perhaps “Why should I gain from His reward”) about the Father turning his face away in sorrow.

How great the pain of searing loss,

The Father turns His face away

As wounds which mar the chosen One,

Bring many sons to glory.

Before I speak of sorrow, I need to begin with wrath. Ben Trigg (“Did the Father turn His face away”) presents a good case that the Bible never talks of God turning his face away in wrath, or for any reason. “No doubt, says Trigg, the wrath of God is visible at the cross.” However, in spite of “My God my God why have you forsaken me” (Jesus voicing Psalm 22:1, this does not mean that the Father turned his face away, for we read in Psalm 22:24 : “He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.” Jesus’s cry in Psalm 22:1 should not be truncated from the rest of Psalm 22.

The problem I have with this verse of the song is not, as in Trigg, that the Father turns His face from the Son as a sign of his wrath against sinners. This is the problem: there is a strong allusion, I would say assertion, that the reason why the Father turned his face away was because of the great pain he felt at crucifying his son. But who knows that other than the Father?

(In Christian theology, patripassianism is the view that God the Father suffers (from Latin patri– “father” and passio “suffering”). Its adherents believe that God the Father was incarnate and suffered on the cross and that whatever happened to the Son happened to the Father and so the Father co-suffered with the human Jesus on the cross. This view is opposed to the classical theological doctrine of divine apathy. According to classical theology it is possible for Christ to suffer only in virtue of his human nature. The divine nature is incapable of suffering. There is no consensus that the early church considered this a heresy or not – Wikipedia).

What we do know – which we get from the Bible; that’s all we’ve got, and it’s sufficient – is that at the cross, the Father’s full wrath that should have fallen on sinners, He unleashed on His Son. But then, who wants to sing songs, or preach, on the wrath of God in church “worship” (the songs part of church). It makes a person feel bad, and makes God look really bad.

Except for the contentious patripassianism bit,  the song “How deep the Father’s love for us,” is, as someone said, “One of my favourite songs… Fantastic song, it truly speaks to me how truly deep our heavenly Father loves us, even when our voices are among the scoffers.” Here are the words put to music.