Many of the more respected bloggers give much thought to the Fall of Fatherhood in the so-called Modern Age. I would not argue with them that there certainly does seem to be some cultural rejection of the idea of a Father, christianly considered. In fact, I am not here to discuss that point at all, except in that it could be a result of what I am concerned about in this short reflection. It is a paradox, of course, that the culture seems to be obsessed with fatherhood even as it seems to want to trample all over it. I can almost state with certainty that this phenomenon is indeed the result of what I am here to discuss.
I occasionally like to give Richard Dawkins a friendly hard time for either his inconsistencies or his undisciplined way of approaching philosophy. However, he and others like him seem to be obsessed with the question of God while trying to trample all over him in a similar way to the cultural response to fatherhood. It seems that God isn’t quite as dead as Nietzsche would have us believe, or if He is, there must be some existence beyond death, something the materialist tends to deny.
Our approach to God and to fatherhood as Christians is as related as the modern materialist’s response to both. See, the thing we often forget is that God is Father. I’m not talking about the fact that we have forgotten what Fatherhood means and thus can’t imagine what God as Father really means (though how we ever can understand the mystery is…a mystery to me.) It’s more that we tend to forget God the Father in our exuberance for the other two Persons of the Trinity.
According to some historical interpretations, the Jewish people knew God revealed as Father and were waiting for the coming of the Son and the Holy Spirit. When Christ was on Earth, his disciples knew God revealed as Son. After his Ascension with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the people of God knew God revealed as Holy Spirit. It was at this time, at the time of the Incarnation that the revelation of the Trinity was most obvious. During the next couple of centuries, a lot was said and debated about the relationship between the Three Persons. There were even splits in the Church over a single Greek letter (ok, so that one letter completely changed the meaning of the Trinity, so it was kind of a big deal). Since then, there has been a lot of focus on Church structure and the work of the Church in the world and not as much delving into Trinitarian theology.
The focus of the Church’s life is on the Sacrifice of the Son and His Second Coming (as ad orientem worship recalls). This ecclesial life is initiated and strengthened by the outpouring of the Spirit. In recent years, the Spirit especially has been the focus of the attention of many in the Church in the Charismatic movements among other places. This focus on the Spirit is good and healthy for the faithful, but some, in their haste to embrace this new Age of the Spirit have forgotten Our Father who art in heaven from whom this Spirit proceeds.
This accidental separation of the Triune God is understandable and perhaps unavoidable. After all, there is a distinction between the persons of the Blessed Trinity. However, when we speak, can we forget about the thought with begets the words we speak and produces the breath by which our words enter the world? So it is with God, the Co-eternal Thought, Word, and Breath which communicate Love, Himself, to His creation.
God the Father, contrary to certain Deist doctrines, has us constantly in His loving gaze. His Providence is an active care for our well-being. His “plan is perfect, born of perfect Love” to quote one prayer to God the Father. Why else would He send His Son to die for our sins? Why else would He send the Spirit to strengthen His people? Why else would He send saints to continually act as hope for a troubled world? He is even willing to set up the world so that miracles abound. Those natural laws that our intellects see as set in stone are nothing to the Love of God set in our hearts. At a moments notice, when the tendencies of the natural world cease to amaze us (I’m thinking sunsets, the song of a nightingale on a summer night, the smell of lilacs), God interrupts them with The Exception to the Rule. Can His Love know no bounds?
It seems that trust is one thing particularly lacking in our nation and world. Whom can we trust? Can we trust our governments? Our banks? Our employers? Our friends? Our families? Ourselves? Can we trust ourselves to understand the movement of the Spirit? When relativism is the philosophy of the day, the only person you can depend on is yourself. Yet, more and more we find we can not trust our instincts and intellects to save us. We must reclaim a trust in Divine Providence, for there really is One Who is looking out for us if we look outside ourselves. Does our nature say “Damnation”? He says “Behold, I make all things new” and recreates our nature to say instead “Salvation!” Does our world scream out in agony over injustice? God sent his Son to live that agony and re-establish justice so that He might recreate our world where “there shall be no more tears.”
In a world where fatherhood is perhaps demeaned and scorned or forgotten but so strongly desired, let us look to Our Father for guidance. He continually sends His Son and Spirit to strengthen us in our return to him. He will not fail us.