My whole life, I’ve heard the message of the cross presented from pulpits and platforms, mostly by well-meaning preachers and teachers, as a moment in time when a good Father abandoned His Son.

You’re likely familiar with it, too. It often sounded like, “The Father looked away. He turned His face. He could not look upon sin.” If you Google the phrase, “God turned His face,” you’ll find endless books and teachings on God’s abandoning, sin-counting, cruel, and punishing nature.

My wife, Karen, as a children’s pastor, paid especially close attention to our children’s curriculum and constantly searched for a children’s Bible that she didn’t have to redact. In one of the best Bibles she found, she still had to black out the grossly misinterpreted interaction between a Father and His beloved Son.

“’Papa,’ Jesus cried frantically, searching the sky. ‘Papa? Where are you? Don’t leave me!’…Nothing happened. Just a horrible, endless silence. Papa turned away from His Boy…”

Do you wonder why we have a Deconstruction movement today? I think it’s partly because many Christians have been forced to build their faith upon the shaky foundation of an oscillating “Papa who turned away from His Boy.”

We have been taught, and then passed along to our kids in their formative years, a “good” God with kindness in one hand and a Skill Saw in the other. We read “Papa turned away from His Boy” to our kids and then wonder why they don’t trust God later in life.

It’s pretty simple. You can’t trust a Father who turns His back on His Son in His most desperate hour of need, but this teaching is woven into our Western Evangelical approach to God. A “Papa who turned away from His Boy” is preached from pulpits, taught in our Sunday schools, found in our discipleship books, and has infiltrated our worship songs.

“The Father looked away” is a lyrical trope employed by many sincere worship songwriters. The song How Deep the Father’s Love contradicts its title with the unsettling lyric, “How great the pain of searing loss—the Father turns His face away.” Apparently, though the Father’s love is deep, it’s not quite deep enough to stay with His Son in His most desperate hour. And that’s a trust-compromising problem.

In the song, God of Calvary, “The sky went dark, the Angels wept,” and “the Father looked away.”

No, He didn’t!

The idea that “Papa turned away from His Boy” is heretical bullshit!

He does not oscillate; nothing separates us from His love…

This article is excerpted from my book, Leaving and Finding Jesus
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Jason Clark is a bestselling storyteller who writes to reveal the transforming kindness of the love of God. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children, Madeleine, Ethan, and Eva.

6 Comments

  1. Stephen C Osborn

    Man!!! I found you 5 days ago from your interview with Face2Face. I have been in the closet so to speak for decades, ever since I gave up in seminary. My joke among friends had been “ I am glad the words of Jesus are in red, because red means danger, warning, stop!” And it seemed when I quoted Jesus in a pleasant discussion with other students or professors, the discussion became volatile, and I was often dismissed as a radical, or heretic, or communist… this being during the Viet Nam war. I desperately tried to hang in there but finally decided something was terribly wrong, it was probably me, but reading the bible made me feel out of sync with my church. And the other churches I tried to fellowship with. I even read all the sacred scriptures of the world, and came to the discouraging conclusion that the old testament was do raw, and not scripted as the others were, that it had to be the real deal. Therefor I must not be one of the elect. Because if anyone tried harder than me to comprehend God, I had not met them. I cant wait to read “LAFJ” and am sure it will be a familiar story. I have told you the bad part. I used to say “bad part of the gospel). No. The bad part was all me and my many sincere friends and theological fathers. The gospel came to me after what i call my 5 years in hell. Top of the world as far as success and accolades. But convinced that there is a God. And for some reason He hates me. Then He revealed Himself to me. It wasn’t in a church.

    Reply
    • Jason Clark

      Hey, Stephen; sorry for the delayed response!

      So glad to connect through Cathy and Melinda’s podcast – love them and that conversation!

      I spent two years just reading the gospels and the “red words” – they are dangerous, haha! I, too, have been labeled and, for many years, felt very alone.

      Stephen, you’re story resonates. And the good news, in the last several years, I’ve found like-hearted people who left the angry, punishing God and are daily awakening to His kind, reconciling ways, His love.

      Glad you found this site and our podcast. We are hosting Zoom at the end of August, haven’t announced a date/time yet, but if you sign up for our mailing list, we’ll send out a link. It’d be great to connect in person.

      Blessings!

      Reply
      • Stephen C Osborn

        Hey Jason. I was just listening to your sex podcast with the Canadians when I noticed your response. It really has been great to see how well how rethinking God affects all aspects of our humanIty. And as I listen to these podcasts and hear you and Derik and your guests, I realize that I’ve been living in a closet with so many of my beliefs that it’s an area of cognitive distortion. Well, I know with my head, but I still fear with my heart I think. I will sign up. I think I did sign up for the newsletter to make sure I am notified because I really feel the need of connecting.

        God bless you man!

        Reply
        • Jason Clark

          Man! I know well the unraveling journey of the goodness of God. The more convinced I am in His great affection, the more rethinking, repenting, and reimagining I do. Reconciling Love has a beautiful way of setting us free from cognitive distortions!

          Glad you signed up for the mailing list – we’ll send out info and a link in the coming weeks. Looking forward to connecting!

          Reply
  2. Steve Osborn

    Hi Jason. Not sure if this is the best way to communicate with you, but it may make things easier on your end. I’m really enjoying the podcast and resonating very much on the guest list. You’ve been having lately.

    It’s funny how our stories seem to have thematic similarities. Just today listening to John Chaffee. I realized that my leaving Jesus also included personal heartbreak as well as theological dissonance at the seminary level. And losing hope in God yet wanting to be a fully alive human being. I also ended up being an atheist. Then later, after the father, showed himself to me. And I realized his mercies endure forever, and his love is never ending, and as John pointed out, Paul use the word all all the time so to speak. People would accuse me of being a Universalist and I answered by saying well I can’t speak for Guard for sure, but I know that he’s commanded me to be a universal lover.

    Much of my last 30 years was spent in central America, and in so many ways when I visit Churchesthere I think of the verse in Matthew 23:15

    And so I say to you, I think, “rethinking God with tacos” really needs to go south of the border. And not just for great Taco stories!

    The serious point to my rambling is I wonder if you’ve thought about translating your books. I think you have connections in the publishing world, but I would be willing to offer to get together for doing some translating and maybe even seeing how we can unmess some of the Missionary field in Latin America

    And yes, I do have a problem with judging! Do you know the Pharisees judge people. Well, I am a Pharisee of the Pharisees. Have been my whole life. When God told me I had to love pastors who are hurting people I felt like he was asking me to love pedophiles. Which also he asked me to love. And I wouldn’t have done it! If he didn’t love me so much.

    Reply
    • Jason Clark

      Hey, Steve

      I responded via email 🙂 If you didn’t get it, let me know.

      Reply

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