The Fatherhood of God.

Dave Black makes some excellent points in his latest blog post about how Systematic Theologies rarely if ever talk about the Fatherhood of God. They emphasize Jesus and his two natures, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity and God – but, never concentrate on him being a father. It’s a great observation as so much of the Scriptures talk about this aspect of God.

This morning I want to talk with you about systematic theology and why I probably could never be a systematic theologian. As I understand things, the goal of systematic theology is to induce from the verses of Scripture certain facts about God and then arrange these facts into an organized and balanced whole. I see at least two areas of systematic theology that seem to be glaringly inadequate by this definition. The first has to do with the very Godhead. For a long time I have had a concern that our theology has been sorely imbalanced in this area. There simply seems to be a lack of balance. The area of doctrine to which I am referring is the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God. It is significant that many of our leading theology textbooks seem to preserve the status quo in this regard rather than the propagation of a balanced faith.

  • Grudem has a section on the doctrine of God and on the doctrines of Christ and the Holy Spirit but nothing on the doctrine of the Father.
  • Erickson has four chapters on “God,” two on “Christ,” and one on the “Holy Spirit.”
  • McGrath has chapters on “God” and “the Person of Christ” but nothing per se on the Holy Spirit.
  • Ryrie has sections on “God,” “Jesus Christ Our Lord,” and “The Holy Spirit.”

Its incredibly important that Christians today have a revelation of God being their father.A kind father. A listening father. A seeing father. A accessible father. A longing father. A yearning father. A searching father. A rejoicing father. A kind father. A giving father. A loving father. A forgiving father. A father who dares train us up in the ways we should go. A hearing father. A healing father. An encouraging father. A inspiring father.
I don’t believe that there is any section of scripture that nails this more than Luke does in the chapters of Luke 15:1 – 16:31. Though all of Scripture points towards God’s character and nature. The story of the prodigal son, is an example of God’s fathering kindness.

In 2001, we were walking renting a house on a few acres, and I was walking through the back paddock holding my young son’s left hand with my right. We were talking about the grass, the clouds, the grass hoppers and the other bugs and insects we could see. I became aware of how much I loved my son. Suddenly, I had a vision, my own left arm lifted up and I felt God holding my hand as we walked through that paddock. I felt God say, “Craig, just as you love your son, I love you – only more so!” Wow, is an understatement. While the moment probably only lasted a few seconds, the encounter seemed to last much longer.

Fast forward to 2009. The doo doo had hit the fan. I was separated from my family. I was in a joyless and virtually friendless situation. I had been blackbanned by my previous church. I had been told I was back slidden and perhaps had lost my salvation. A friend rings me. He says to me, “Craig, I feel I have a word from God for you. I am sorry its such a simple word. I have been fighting the Lord, thinking its not really from him. But, after 3 days, I have to share it with you.” He then said, “Craig, the Lord would say to you, he still has you by the hand, walking down the paddock of life with you!” I instantly started to cry, told Steve I would call him back, hung up and just cried before the Lord. Such is the kindness of the Lord.

God the father tenderly cares for his children. He nurtures us. He strengthens us. And he is for us and not against us. I believe the reason why systematic theologians leave the fathering aspects of God alone, is because the sheer nature of the fathering of God, is a real, tangible and experiential experience – one that we cannot relegate soley within an academic understanding.

About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
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17 Responses to The Fatherhood of God.

  1. Dave Black says:

    Thank you for this encouraging word.

  2. Kathy B says:

    Craig — I truly appreciate the heart of your post — but I don’t think I can agree with some of it. I’ve studied systematic theology (and other theological perspectives) and the topic of the Father is absolutely an important part of a properly discerned systematic process. Every kind of theological perspective is important: biblical theology, historical theology, systematic theology, covenant theology, etc — all are important for the balance we need to see in scripture. Each reveals aspects we need to understand. (Good ole’ Graeme Goldsworthy in Aussieland is great for biblical theology). 🙂

    Dr. Horton’s systematic theology book is very balanced, imo. (The Christian Faith). Each member of the Trinity is treated as important — and the nature of each is thoroughly discussed. Each role of each person in the Trinity is given complete coverage and defined, as best as is possible with our limited view into eternity. It is essential to understand each role and they cannot be separated from each other. They do not exist apart from each other.

    Sometimes the circles we run in affect how we see any given topic — and this affects our view. The books mentioned above are not the only ones available, so I feel like the person/article you quoted didn’t do his homework or is unaware of the other resources. Of course Grudem’s book is heavy on the Holy Spirit — he is charismatic. Ryrie is going to be dispensational to the core, etc.

    My next comment has to do with how we should view the Father. First, I am sorry that you had to experience the ignorance of others calling you *backslidden.* They obviously don’t understand theology at all. You are either a Christian or you are not….there is no such thing as a carnal Christian who sometimes chooses to believe when it is convenient. It doesn’t work that way. You are either God’s child or you are not.

    Yes, we all continue to sin — but we have a merciful Father who continues to forgive — not based on anything we have done, but based on the finished work of Christ alone, who atoned for the sins of all of God’s beloved. Ignorance feeds so many lies that are pushed in our direction.

    Thankfully, we don’t have to believe “words” from anyone. We believe The Word — because all that we need for life and breath is contained in scripture, not in any *words from the Lord* coming from human lips. God doesn’t work that way today. (I’m sure you disagree with me — so we can agree to disagree). The sovereign Father works today through Word and Spirit. Jesus is the Word that accomplished our salvation. It is the Holy Spirit who works in each of us to sanctify us as believers so that our eternity will be found with God. The road can be very bumpy because we won’t be perfected on this planet — but what happens to us is always for our good. And the very Father who chose to save us is the very one who will complete what He started in us with regard to our salvation, sanctification, and our glorification. It’s all him — and none of us.

    All of the things you mentioned about the Father are true — we are to see God as our loving Father, and like you, I believe that believers should focus on that aspect most of all. But neither can we forget that there is also a wrathful side of God. God cannot stand in the presence of sin. But He made a way to overcome this through Jesus Christ. Without this perspective we can never be fully appreciative of what God has done on our behalf for our salvation.

    To know that his wrath against mankind is just (because of sin) — and yet, He chose to save his beloved people (those he ordained from before the foundation of the world — Ephesians) — gives us a more complete understanding of his great mercy. It drops us to our knees before a sovereign God. He didn’t have to save any of us — none. But He did. And His wrath will be showered on those who will not believe. This should make our hearts mourn for those who will never see our Father in eternity. This should also make us rejoice in God more richly — and see everything in our lives as to the glory of God. All that we do is for His glory, not our own. We love others and our neighbors out of sheer gratitude for such a rich salvation — given by a Father whose wrath deserved to condemn us for eternity.

    Since this is the first time I’ve been to your blog — I still have yet to get the gist of it — so that will take time. However, just reading the header about the Trinity, I guess I would say that we need to be careful about adding anything to the Trinity. In a way, it feels idolatrous when I read what you wrote. (I say this with sincerity rather than criticism). There is no 4th dimension to the Triune God. He is God — we are not. He is the Creator — we are the creature. We do not relate to God in this way. If you haven’t studied the Creator/Creature distinction, it’s worth the time.

    Have a great day, Craig!

    • Craig Benno says:

      Kathy. The injunction of the Apostles to the church was to eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially that we will prophecy. Why do you not believe and practice what Scripture commands us to do?

      • Kathy B says:

        Craig – I’m not sure your question has anything to do with your post but I will respond. The reformed mindset does eagerly desire spiritual gifts. We absolutely do practice what scripture commands in this area. Not everyone is called to have the same gifts, are they? A foot cannot be a head, etc. It is God that gives to each individual gifts — and we should seek to use these gifts to his glory to the best of our ability. Not all are called to be exactly like the other.

        I would say that many Christians, esp those who desire *prophecy* today (defined as charismatics would define it), are reading into scripture what it does not say we are to do — and indeed what Jesus himself discouraged. Heb. 1:1-2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

        We are in the last days now. “In these days” is now — *long ago*, God spoke through prophets*. *Now*, he has spoken to us *through His Son* — through the Word. All we need in this generation is His Word and the Spirit. Further, Jesus spoke to a crowd and to the Pharisees once — and reminded us that an evil generation seeks for signs — but Jonah had already revealed what needed to be known. He did not like the fact at all — that what God had given to us (himself in human flesh) was not enough.

        Our definitions of prophecy are quite different. We just aren’t going to agree on this one either 🙂

      • Craig Benno says:

        Our definitions of prophecy, have to be what Scripture gives as its definition. So when Paul tells the Corinthian church to desire to prophesy, our definition has to be that of what Paul meant.

        Regarding Scripture, can you tell me which prophets wrote the NT?

  3. Kathy B says:

    Your line of reasoning leaves a bit to be desired, Craig. It’s like you didn’t even read what I wrote.

    • Craig Benno says:

      Kathy I did read what you wrote. It seems you want to redefine what prophesy is and what Paul meant by prophesy.

      It’s important to note that none of the NT prophets wrote Scripture. Well perhaps Jude could be considered a prophet. Apart from him, no prophet wrote Scripture.
      Yet, the gift of prophesy was to be desired by the authors of the NT. If the authors of the NT desired prophecy, why do you think we shouldn’t?

      • Kathy B says:

        Craig — I am speaking of my first comment about Hebrews. If you had read this scripture and understood its intent, it would explain that in the OT God used prophets for a specific purpose. NOW we have Christ. In other words, there are no NT prophets today of the kind of which you are thinking. Today, the office of prophet is fulfilled in Christ. Jesus did not only fulfill the promises of the OT, he is the final and the fullest revelation of what the promises are really about. The very act of fulfilling the OT promise is the most important revelation of all.

        (Another definition of prophet is teacher — so the other NT references are speaking in this regard. This isn’t something I have made up — scholars back me up on this one. This is based on the intent of the original language.)

        In the OT, the key offices that represented the people were prophet, priest, king and wise man. In reading the NT, it becomes obvious that the various writers understood the person and work of Jesus fulfilled these rolls. He is our prophet, priest and king — (after the order of Melchizedek — as Hebrews would explain.) Hebrews 1 is not the only place that explains this. 2 Cor. 1 — “For all of the promises of God find their *Yes* and Amen in Him. Acts 13, Luke 24 — also give glimmers into this understanding — and there are many other passages to support this theological view, which is the orthodox, protestant view.

        For an easy read about this — Graeme Goldsworthy’s book called “According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible (An Introduction to Biblical Theology.” – is a great place to start on one form of theological understanding — Biblical Theology. His writing is very accessible.

        My guess is that you are a charismatic — and as such, you aren’t going to understand the nuances of this view because your preacher is not going to preach it. I believe it is the most accurate view and the most faithful to scripture. I will be honest with you – I spent a few days in charismania — thankfully, God opened my eyes to the dissonance and lack of a theological clarity in that movement. Much in that movement is hurtful to an accurate understanding of the story of redemption from start to finish. But I am compassionate because of this — having stopped into its grasp for a very short time…..quite awhile ago now. I am even more grateful for God’s deliverance from it.

        So yes, today — desire to be a teacher, as Paul declares is wonderful! But study well, less you be led astray or mislead others because the foundation is shaky. There is no way to do this without a solid seminary education at the right kind of seminary (so many are not so good…sigh.)

        So, as Graeme says: “Jesus Christ is the new temple an embodies the new created order. He is the regeneration of all things in himself.” Graeme teaches at Moore Theological College in Sydney. His specialties are the Old Testament, biblical theology and hermeneutics (so he understands how to interpret languages well, also). He has also written several books.

        Hopefully, that cleared it up for you.

  4. Craig Benno says:

    Kathy. Who was Agabus?

  5. Kathy B says:

    Craig – I know who both of them are. Because Fee is ordained by the AOG — he will hold no credibility in my eyes. The question of Agabus is a good one — and there are various positions on this (not just 2). The cessationist view is still is able to stand well against the charismatic position — even with Agabus thrown in the mix as a supposed splinter.

    I am sure you realize that this debate has gone on for centuries and will continue in future ones. So our debate isn’t going to change either of our minds. The result of this discussion? Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” So — the next time you hear someone *prophecy* –start making notes and follow through. If their words do not come true, then as Deut. reminds us, they are false prophets. (Should that even be possible in a biblical sense today). I daresay that the word false prophet would win every time.

    I actually met and talked deeply with someone who called himself a modern day prophet. This was 25 years ago – his name is Mike Bickle. Yes, he is head of an international organization today — and he is quite creepy and full of himself. Millions attach themselves to his organization — and sadly, if you knew his background and who he really is (a trickster), you’d get where I am coming from. He is friends with all of the contemporary *prophets* who travel from prophecy show to prophecy show — misleading those who are not grounded – those who seek signs. I will never forget Jesus reprimanding those who sought signs — and could not even accept that Jesus had come! They wanted more! But God can work — even in the midst of error, because He alone is the author of salvation — not our choices — not our wishes.

    So, as much as I know we could continue this debate for a lengthy time, I know where it ends up. To each his own. One day we will both know which was right — if we even care at that point. I don’t think we will. The difference is how it affects our understanding in the here and now. It affects those we speak to, and that is something we both need to discern carefully.

    I wouldn’t trade what I understand now, having left that world and having entered the reformed world a decade ago. Where there was confusion, today there is shining clarity — and I am grateful to God for that clarity. May God grant you grace on your journey! (I mean this sincerely) God is faithful to his beloved.

    • Craig Benno says:

      Satan can only counterfeit the real. I find it interesting that you place yourself above many brilliant scholars, throughout Christian academia, who hold Gordon Fee in extremely high esteem.

      The reason why I asked about Agabus is because you said that prophets / prophesy were not needed after Christ came. In one swoop of the pen, you have written off vast amounts of the NT – and have basically said, the Apostle Paul doesn’t know what he is on about.

  6. Kathy B says:

    Craig — I know why you asked about Agabus! I already said I was familiar with this particular issue between cessationism and continuationism. I also tried to end this conversation nicely, — but it appears you are not allowing this to occur amicably.

    It’s sad you read into my words that which is not there. I don’t put myself above Fee or you for that matter. Not all scholars are as enamored with Fee as you are. Yes, I am well-studied but I would never put myself above men I do respect in regard to sound theology, like Dr. Michael Horton, RC Sproul, Sinclair Ferguson and those theologians of the same theological persuasion whom I respect. Thankfully, I do think these men, as well as my own scholarly pastor, have taught me well. I make no apologies for this. I have worked hard to understand scripture — and my own journey has been less than easy in this regard.

    So, of course you like Fee — he supports what you want to believe – just as I respect my choices above yours, from what you have revealed thus far. (BTW — I used to read Fee quite a bit in my former life). My opinion? He doesn’t come close to those i mentioned. It’s my opinion.

    The bottom line is that we have a different perspective — a different foundation and thus, a different opinion. That is quite different than putting oneself above another. Iron does sharpen iron — but rarely is this allowed to happen the way it should happen.

    Your statement about Satan is not exactly in context either….. again, my opinion. Your opinion is obviously of a charismatic slant. Your opinion.

    Your accusation of writing off the entire NT has no merit, Craig. Rather, I feel I have put it into what I consider to be its proper context — based on what I read in your blog, of which I did not agree on this particular topic. You obviously disagree. Have at it! I am sure there are things we will agree on!

    Paul — how we love Paul as reformed people! The same person who reminds us that you do not get to choose God — but that God has known us from before the foundation of the world He created and has has predestined us be His children — and that Jesus only came for the elect! But I’m sure you wouldn’t agree with Paul’s view on election — yet Paul is the most firm adherent to this important historic doctrine. Do you see how long this conversation could go on? That is why I chose to stop.

    Doctrine must be seen in context with the entirety of scripture — rather than picking out this and that to make a singular point. The story of redemption doesn’t start with Jesus — it started in Genesis.

    So, like Princess Elsa sings, “Let it go…..” 🙂 Surely Christians can agree to disagree. And, we can still be friends in the process — because we share in our love of the gospel. I am completely comfortable leaving you in the hands of the Holy Spirit, who is the author of our sanctification. Sanctification is messy (as my pastor says.) But thank God for it.

    And for the record…there’s no rapture. OK, that was my evil side 🙂

  7. Kathy B says:

    ps — if you want to read an article on Prophet, Priest and King from our perspective, here’s an online one

    • Craig Benno says:

      Kathy. I was a long term member of a Sydney Anglican Church. I’m very well informed as to some of the variety of reformed theology that exists. I was a licensed lay preacher with the Anglicans for many years.

      If you really want to engage where I am at, read this first.

      • Kathy B says:

        Hi Craig — thank you for sharing the link about your story/journey. We actually share some commonalities in regard to our fathers. My father was a hardened man, also. His father worked him so hard on the family dairy that he ran away from home and joined the Marine Corps — lying about his age (16) in order to join. He was then thrown into WWII and the Korean War at such a young age. He spent his whole career in the military — in Vietnam (2x), Cuba and other engagements. He took care of us as best he could — but his version of caring for us was putting food on the table. Affection is not something I experienced as a child from my father — yet I loved him as only a daughter could.

        I learned later that he did show love — but it was in ways a child could not understand — providing for needs, not wants, etc. He did not put up with any nonsense. Even though he had this exterior — he was a good man deep down. As I grew into adulthood, I was able, with the help of God, to see my father through God’s eyes. It allowed me to forgive him for the missed band concerts — for never going to church with us — for never taking family vacations for us. Like the rest of us, he had had to suffer living in a tainted, broken world — and did his best to survive it. You can read my memorial to him here.

        You are lucky — in your story you get to see your father again one day. I cannot say the same about my father, though I pray I am wrong. He ran as far and as fast away from God as he could. I do not have the assurance I will see my father again. As I spent his last days on this earth together with him (just he and myself) — I pray he was able to see the love of Jesus shining through my actions of caring for him. He was deaf, so he could not hear my words — as I prayed and read scripture over him. But he could read lips to an extent — and during those moments he woke up, he was able to read my lips, “I love you, Daddy.” For a dad who never said those words to his daughter, it was my prayer that God’s *love* would reach through so he would embrace eternity as a gift from God. I think he had enough earthly info to do so. But I shall never know right now if he embraced the promises of God. One day I shall know. The reformed faith has given me comfort in this — because I know if I do not see my father in heaven, that God was still just in even this difficult thing.

        God uses means in our lives. In worship, he uses preaching, the sacraments, prayer and praise. In our personal lives, he uses people like our fathers — hardships — and so, so many things to shape our sanctification. Just understanding that the Holy Spirit has my sanctification under control is enough to give my heart tremendous peace. It removes any burden I might have to carry because I know I am not alone in the process.

        Having said that — please know that I am not trying to attack anything you may feel emotionally about your faith — or even anything you feel may be true in a doctrinal sense. It is obvious I will disagree with your theological take — and even with an Anglican background, you may not fully understand the depth of my particular reformed perspective because of the history of what has gone on in the Anglican church over the last couple of decades. The federation of churches I belong to formed as a reaction to liberalism, reduced theology, etc… creeping into the midst of various reformed denominations. The Anglican church has had its share of issues in this regard.

        So – please know that when I respond to anything you may write, I do not do so with an antagonistic heart. Here is what my heart says when it speaks. “I hate that I was mislead by pastors that never really knew what they believe — that preached error instead of sound doctrine. I hate that people, even those with good intentions, sent confusion my way in regard to sound theology. I hate that it was SO HARD to find a faithful church for most of my life. I do not want others to suffer the long journey I have taken. I will offer my words — but they will have to do the hard work of discernment.”

        I hope that makes sense — so that you will understand there is no debating gene in my body — only one that offers hope for and desires for others to have an easier way of it. In the end — God is faithful to his beloved. I rest in that promise. Have a good day, Craig.

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