God as Father

Not so long ago, a group of people sparked a lengthy discussion in the comments section to one of my posts, “Attacks on God from Within.” Our differing views served as the catalyst for at least three additional posts.

Our basic point of disagreement was on the authority of the Bible and our understanding of God. Their contention (though I realize they were not in accord on all points) was that Jesus actually reveals who God is whereas the Old Testament is sadly out of step, painting him as wrathful and judgmental.

So it dawned on me today. I think I understand where this view of God is coming from. I think of God as my Heavenly Father, and they might too, but our idea of “father” may be colored by our cultural experiences.

Could it be that a generation of Americans who have been raised to think that a parent should not spank; who rarely hear the word “no”; who have, in essence, been spoiled into a worldview of entitlement cannot grasp the concept of a loving Heavenly Father who disciplines and even punishes?

But here’s what the Bible says:

And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.”

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness.

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

– Hebrews 12:5-11

Discipline yields the fruit of righteousness. I wonder what spoiled entitlement yields. Anger toward God, perhaps? Denial of His right to judge? Rejection of His Word as authoritative?

I should have seem the connection sooner, I think.

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Published in: on June 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 Comments

  1. You make an excellent point. America has embraced the “new parenting” movement to the extent that the kid now has the final say. The problem with that is kids have no idea what’s best for them. Apart from that, most men have no real idea what a father is supposed to be because he’s absent from the family. The Old and New Testaments both present different aspects of our father God’s character and personality. It’s only in combining the them that we see Him as He is. He’s a disciplinarian when I need it, but He also picks me up and kisses my boo boos. I love my Daddy and He loves me. ❤

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  2. and besides that cultural bias which you mention, there’s also the fact that God is exceedingly gracious, loving and long-suffering throughout the OT. Yes, he does display his judgment. And he does so also in the NT – at the Cross.

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  3. Amen to what you’ve said, Becky, and what Dana and Chris have said too.

    Spoiled entitlement yields a hardened heart, a spirit of rebellion, a soul easily shattered and warped by adversity, and a body that is damaged and ultimately destroyed by physical excess. It’s so sad. Here we’re to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, (and bodies too) which is very life-affirming on every level, and instead we destroy ourselves.

    As I tell my kids, “Discipline yourselves, or you WILL be disciplined (even if it’s not your parents dishing it out).”

    I tell them this because I love them, because I wish them to have long, healthy and happy lives. Not because I’m cruel and unreasonable toward them. And I know God is even more loving than I. Of course He disciplines.

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  4. I think one of the main reasons this problem arises is because people misunderstand what the transition between OT and NT entailed.

    As far as I can tell, God is equally wrathful in the OT and NT. The difference is that in the OT the Kingdom of God was a physical Kingdom. In the NT, Jesus moves the Kingdom to the spiritual realm. God’s wrath and judgment is now mostly exercised in the spiritual world, and while less readily visible to us, it is the same now, as it was another time.

    God does not change. Neither does His plan.

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  5. God’s revelation of himself cannot be self-contradicting, if it is truly His revelation. His character is no different today than it was from the beginning. His anger against Sodom and Gomorrah revealed in the OT, has not lost its fervor in the NT (Romans 1:18) and is equally hot against the growing wickedness of the present evil age.

    If we believe that the OT and NT are both the inscripturated body of that revelation, and that they are the product of the superintending work of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21), then the same God is revealed in both without contradiction. The love that was demonstrated in the death of Christ for his people in the NT was anticipated and prophesied in the OT. The OT was the schoolmaster that brought us to the NT and the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ for his church.

    Today’s pulpit for the most part has lost the exegetical, expository treatment of that body of revelation we call the Bible, either because the men in the pulpit are incompetent, or they think that a theological education hurts the work of the Spirit, or because they disparage a conscientious effort to labor in their study. As a result, the church is suffering a dearth of members sound in the faith, solidly built on the Holy Scriptures which is able to make us wise unto salvation. That the Bible’s authority is questioned, or that the OT and NT do not reveal God harmoniously is a by-product of the travesty of today’s pulpit.

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  6. People who focus on the wrathful part of God in the OT have totally missed the places where God pleads again and again for his people to return to him. He says he will take their sin away, wash them white as snow, make them whole. The pages of the OT drip with God’s heart.

    What we fail to recognize is many of the “wrathful” events of the OT are the choices people made and the consequences thereof. They were warned, pleaded with, but in the end, God followed through with what he said he would do (and many times it took years before God finally followed through).

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  7. Mhm..Could be..Though actually I think the problem stems more from all the people that are in teaching that present a lopsided view of God in the OT. Not “The God of the OT” No, God never changes. But God in the OT, and his expression of himself is different. Many people grow up without challenging the idea of a hard God in the OT and a warm fuzzy one in the NT.

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  8. Great discussion. I agree with much of what you all have added. Very insightful.

    Sam, I guess I’m suggesting that one reason people don’t challenge these erroneous views of God is because they’ve never experienced balance. Consequently, they think it’s all or nothing—if God loves me, he’ll let me do what I want. So the mean god of the Old Testament who give a bunch of stupid rules can’t be about love.

    Of course, as Thomas pointed out, this attitude is coupled with ignorance of Scripture, though I’m not sure it’s all the fault of pastors. It seems to me if any thinking person simply reads the Bible, it will be apparent that God expressed His love lavishly in the Old Testament.

    Likewise, any thinking person who reads the New Testament will find Jesus to be anything but the soft doormat some paint him as. But I won’t reiterate what I wrote in the comments to those discussing my earlier post who found me to be re-imaging Jesus because of my literalistic interpretation of the Bible. 😆

    Becky

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