God Is Father, So What?

Alvin Plantinga defines God as a necessary being; Benedict portrays God as the supreme logos; Aristotle talks about the Unmovable Mover; Hermetic calls him “The All;” and the Bible calls him differently in several places. To call the Godhead of God “Father” is not only to ascribe a name to someone. This is done in order for we to recognize who God is.

“God has many names, yet God has no name” is a common phrase among theologians. This is a useful and simple way to introduce us to the idea that God can not be fully grasped by human senses. God, since he is spirit (John 4:24), can never be grasped by our material senses. Created things can not experience uncreated things (and that is one of the reasons, I believe, of why God gives us a spirt, so that we may experience Him). Because of this, Wayne Grudem rightly asserts that “God has many names in that we know many true descriptions of his character from Scripture, but God has no name in that we will never be able to describe or understand all of his character” (Systematic Theology, p. 160).

“There is no one better than God to tell us who he is”

A reliable way to know God is not by what we think God is, nor is by trying to understand who he is by modal logic or Greek philosophy. Plantiga’s definition might be great for apologetics (and I am a huge fan of the second ontological argument proposed by him), but it lacks the relational side of who God is. The same can be said about different definitions of God made by philosophers and thinkers.[1] There is no one better than God to tell us who he is. Now that we get this point, we might ask ourselves: “what does it mean that God is Father?”[2]

It would be scary to see Jesus saying “Pray then like this: God who is in heaven,” in the Sermon on the Mount. Why? Because we would be talking about a distinct, transcendent, and distant God. The relational aspect of prayer would be lost, maybe all of the objectives of praying would be lost.[3]    When we pray for a God in heaven, reverence comes into the game. But when we pray for a God who abides in heaven and we recognize that he is our Father, everything changes. We can now, with confidence, “draw near to the throne of Grace” (Hebrews 4:16 [ESV]). Seeing who God is in Systematic Theology might scare us, for his holiness is way above ours. However, seeing his holiness in light of Christ will lead us to have confidence in Him. A holy God who is our Father would never sin against us. If we, bad parents who sin all the time, can treat our sons well, then knowing that God considers us His sons will give us great confidence (Matthew 7:11).

“Seeing His holiness in light of Christ will lead us to have confidence in Him”

“From whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,” is what Ephesians 3:15 tells us. God being the Father also connotes the idea of the Creator. God’s love for his creatures and his lordship over creation are explicit in this verse.[4] While ancient Near Eastern cultures would portray goddess giving birth to creation from themselves, and therefore, making creation an extension of that goddess, Christianity portrays God as the Father in order to help us with our doctrine of creation.

Christians should seek to understand who God is in light of Scripture, not by themselves. If God had not revealed himself to us we would have been left in a dark place seeking for a hidden light that was dim. God’s revelation is a safe way to know who God is. If we are not defining God in the same way the Bible does, are we even talking about the same God at all?


 

[1] “The Supreme Logos” of Benedict is useful to define Jesus, since John uses the same language and John’s writings are revelational. Aristotle’s definition came from his answer to Thales’ question, and I believe it lacks Biblical support for non(radical)-determinists like me. “The All” misses the point of Paul’s speech in the Areopagus, since Paul quotes Epimenides to explain that there are two types of things: created things and God. To say that He is “The All” might miss Paul’s point although I might grant that Hermetic’s point was a different one and that he did not intend the definition that I am going against. Anyway, I do address his result, not merely his intentions, for no dish is tasted and appreciated because of the cookers intention in fabricating, but for the taste (the result) itself.

[2] It is necessary to say that God being the Father does not imply that this characteristic is not present in the Son or in the Holy Spirit. The Father is called God (Phil. 1:2), the Son is called God (John 1:1, 14), and the Holy Spirit is called God (Acts 5:3-4). It would be foolish to conclude that what is present in the Son is not present in the Holy Spirit, since all three are defined in quite similar ways (compare Isaiah 64:8, John 1:3, and Job 33:4 for “Creator,” for example).

[3] If there is no relationship in prayer, prayer would be nothing more than addressing a pagan god who is interested in created things for mere selfish interest.

[4] To see a more in-depth study of this see http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/july-august/why-we-call-god-father.html

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