Yesterday was Father’s Day. I can’t help but think that in a society increasingly hostile to men, fathers matter more than ever. Even though it’s now Monday, I, for one, want to keep the celebration of fathers going.
After all, in the beginning, God made a man. That first man, Adam, would become the father of all humankind. Fatherhood is inescapably woven into the deep fabric of the world. To put it rather bluntly, none of us would be here today if it weren’t for our fathers.
For thousands of years, cultures across the world and down through time recognized this creation order as good and honored the men — the fathers — of their people. One has to assume that this was due to the fact that we all owe our life to a father. This was crystal clear, once upon a time.
Before the gender-bending madness of modern feminism, the goodness of masculinity, of men, and of fathers, was more readily apparent. Consider this: If the fathers of a pre-industrial culture didn’t grow crops, hunt meat, and defend their borders, their families would starve or be conquered and taken into captivity.
Having a good father meant that you survived the winter. Being a good father meant that you saw to it that your family survived the winter. One has to wonder how much the industrial and technological revolutions have contributed to the rise and exaltation of androgyny in the modern era? No one hated men like we do when their survival depended on fathers striving and fighting for the well-being of their families at the most basic level of food on the table and firewood in the furnace.
To be a man is to be a father or a potential father — biologically or figuratively. Philosopher J. Budziszewski in his work On the Meaning of Sex explains it like so:
“A potentiality is something like a calling. It wants, so to speak, to develop; it demands, so to speak, a response. Of course this is figurative language, because a potentiality has no will of its own. Yet it really is directed to fruition. The potentiality for [fatherhood] is like an arrow, cocked in the string and aimed at the target, even if it never takes flight. It intimates an inbuilt meaning, and expresses an inbuilt purpose, which cannot help but influence the mind and will of every person imbued with them.”
In other words, the arc of nature for men bends towards fatherhood, whether in the home, through marriage and offspring (biological or adopted), or in the community and the church, as men “father” young men who aren’t their children, per se. Bobby Jamieson, in his review of On the Meaning of Sex, puts it like this: “All men are ‘called to fatherhood in a larger sense.’” Bottom line: Steak and cigars notwithstanding, manhood and fatherhood are good things. They are moral goods. It’s good to be a man, as Michael Foster reminds us. It’s also good to be a father. No if, ands, or buts about it.
I’ll say it again: As we find ourselves in a society increasingly hostile to men, fathers matter more than ever.
This is because, at the most fundamental level, fathers teach us something about God. They are images — representations — of God the Father here on earth. This cuts both ways. Good fathers tell the truth about God. Bad fathers spread lies about the true Father.
There are any number of different ways in which fatherhood teaches us about God. But I want to focus on three key ways that good, and godly, earthly fathers are called to image and reflect the Heavenly Father as they discharge their duties here on earth.
To be a father is to be one who has played an irreplaceable role in the creation of another life. In Genesis 2:7 we learn that “the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Then God gave to man (and woman) the task of creating yet even more humans in what’s known as the “Dominion Mandate.” God told them to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Gen. 1:28). How does Adam lead Eve in obedience to this command? By becoming a father, by creating life. Of course, men are not the ones with a womb (no matter what crazy headline you might see today), but I make this point because it’s one that is vastly underappreciated in our times. To be a father is to be a creator of life — precious, valuable, image-bearing life.
Consider how amazing it is that God entrusted mankind — in fact, commanded us — to make more humans? Humanity is the pinnacle of God’s creation, the most valuable being He brought into existence. At the end of creation, God didn’t command us to make more plants or animals. He didn’t say “be fruitful” in planting more fruit trees or to help multiply the fishes. He didn’t say, “Man is the most important thing here — my image-bearers — so please leave the man-making to me so I can make sure to get it right.” No, He commanded Adam and Eve to “fill the earth” with more men and women. And Adam was to lead in this effort.
Men must rise to this challenge. Christian men must accept their God-given role as creators, and particularly creators of life, by pursuing marriage and parenthood. I know that many men desire these good goals and God hasn’t seen fit to bring either into their lives yet. But at the same time, many men, even Christian men, are content being consumers, not creators. I’m not here to chastise those men, but I am here to help them lift their eyes to the glorious calling of fatherhood — the calling of being a creator of life. Trust me, once you hold that little life in your arms in the delivery room for the first time, there’s no turning back.
Just as God didn’t create mankind and leave them alone in a silent world to try and reason themselves to their purpose and ends, but rather revealed Himself in speech, teaching them how to live, so too must fathers assume the role of “teacher” in the life of their families. And here’s a sobering truth: Fathers do teach whether they mean to or not. With everything they do, in speech and deed, fathers teach their family something about God. Remember, no matter the twisted culture we live in, fathers will always be seen as an example to their children. This should cause good men to feel equal parts proud and fearful.
Beyond the teaching of their lived example, fathers are tasked to directly teach children the truths and commands contained in God’s Word. This begins by teaching children to obey God’s good commands, like the one to “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).
Throughout the Bible, it is the man’s duty to serve as a prophet, as the “mouthpiece” of God, teaching those around him and under his care how God desires men to live in faithful obedience. The man, the father, is the mediator of God’s Word to his family. Men should teach their children any number of things, like how to ride a bike, tie a tie, fix the car, how to have honor and courage, and to live a virtuous life, but most importantly, good fathers teach their children the Bible. Paul reminds fathers of this in Ephesians 6:4, saying “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
Fathers must also teach their children to have wisdom. In our secular age, it is critical that good fathers don’t just teach children “abstract” truths but also how to apply those truths in the nitty-gritty reality of the real world.
1 Timothy 5:8 tells us that “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” That provision begins with the man, the father. Just as our Heavenly Father provides everything we need (not everything we want) so, too, good earthly fathers will work hard to provide for those entrusted under their care.
One immediate application of this, from a biblical worldview, is that men must take responsibility for any children they father, whether in or out of wedlock. The greatest systemic issue in America right now is “systemic fatherlessness.” Good fathers see to it that their families have what they need, both physically and spiritually. One pastor, Brian Sauvé, recently remarked that “the reason we are to care for orphans and widows is that fatherlessness puts women and children in a terrible position. It exposes them.”
He’s right. Remove a father from a family, and you remove the main, God-intended means of provision and protection. While tragedy and unforeseen circumstances can sometimes remove a father from his family, heaven forbid any father willingly removes himself, through divorce, abandonment, or abuse.
It takes work to provide, to put dinner on the table and a roof over your children’s heads. It takes sacrifices and countless hours of hard work, most of which will slip by unremarked and unrecognized. But fathers don’t provide for their families in order to get applause. They do it because they know God has provided for them everything they need for life and godliness in His Word, and in turn, they honor Him by loving their wife and children, their extended families, their churches, and their communities.
The older I get, the more convinced I am that the greatest “privilege” out there isn’t “white privilege” or “class privilege” — it’s “father privilege.” The Institute for Family Studies agrees, writing in a recent publication, “‘Life Without Father’: Less College, Less Work, and More Prison for Young Men Growing Up Without Their Biological Father,” that “the decline of marriage and the rise of fatherlessness in America remain at the center of some of the biggest problems facing the nation: crime and violence, school failure, deaths of despair, and children in poverty.”
Growing up with a good and godly father is by far the biggest leg-up I’ve been given that I had nothing to do with. Not everyone gets that privilege — I know that. But while not everyone has a good earthly father, all those who repent of their sins and put their trust in Christ can have a good, a perfect, Heavenly Father. Jesus promised this to His disciples in John 20:17 when he assured them that “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
If we are in Christ, His Father is our Father. And that is a good Father indeed.
Our world needs more godly men to display this good Father. Our world needs more fathers — and it needs all the men who are fathers to cheerfully and courageously embrace the calling to lead. Men, we were made by God for this very task. Let’s ignore the feminists, ignore the mockers, ignore the companies that try to lecture us about “toxic masculinity.” Instead, let us chart a course due north by aiming to image God the Father here on earth by being a good father who creates, teaches, and provides.
As theologian Owen Strachan summarized it in a Father’s Day reflection, “In human terms, we need fathers more than anything else—redeemed men who hold fast to their wife, men who love their children, men who protect and provide and lead, men who by God’s grace stand between the devil and their loved ones and say, ‘Not today and not ever, Satan.’”
That’s a good word. Satan wants nothing more than to destroy the cornerstone of society in God’s world. And fathers are the cornerstone of society — for good or for ill. Strong, engaged, present fathers will yield a strong, secure, and good society. Weak, distracted, absent fathers will yield a weak, crumbling, and confused society. Let us honor and build up fathers today — and every day. Much more than we can imagine is counting on it.
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