Why is understanding God as Father important?

11 February, 2015

Chapters 3 through 5 of The Answer To Our Cry get at the importance of  viewing God as a relational and loving God. A triune God who has existed in a relationship of love for one another throughout eternity. The Trinity is not just some dusty old dogma that the church believes but can’t understand or define. Instead God reveals himself as Father, Son, and Spirit, and it has a huge impact upon our understanding of the God we are in relationship with.

Michael Reeves in his book Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith does an amazing job of describing the importance of a trinitarian view of God.

Here is an excerpt from his book on the importance of viewing God as Father within the Trinity.

“Well, just the fact that Jesus is “the Son” really says it all. Being a Son means he has a Father. The God he reveals is, first and foremost, a Father. “I am the way and the truth and the life,” he says. “No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). That is who God has revealed himself to be: not first and foremost Creator or Ruler, but Father. Perhaps the way to appreciate this best is to ask what God was doing before creation. . . Jesus tells us explicitly in John 17:24. “Father,” he says, “you loved me before the creation of the world.” And that is the God revealed by Jesus Christ. Before he ever created, before he ever ruled the world, before anything else, this God was a Father loving his Son.

4th Century Theologian Athanasius

4th Century Theologian Athanasius

At the beginning of the fourth century, in Alexandria in the north of Egypt, a theologian named Arius began teaching that the Son was a created being, and not truly God. He did so because he believed that God is the origin and cause of everything, but is not caused to exist by anything else. “Uncaused” or “Unoriginate,” he therefore held, was the best basic definition of what God is like. But since the Son, being a son, must have received his being from the Father, he could not, by Arius’s definition, be God. The argument persuaded many; it did not persuade Arius’s brilliant young contemporary, Athanasius.

Believing that Arius had started in the wrong place with his basic definition of God, Athanasius dedicated the rest of his life to proving how catastrophic Arius’s thinking was for healthy Christian living. Actually, I’ve put it much too mildly: Athanasius simply boggled at Arius’s presumption. How could he possibly know what God is like other than as he has revealed himself? “It is,” he said, “more pious and more accurate to signify God from the Son and call Him Father, than to name Him from His works only and call Him Unoriginate.” That is to say, the right way to think about God is to start with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, not some abstract definition we have made up like “Uncaused” or “Unoriginate.” In fact, we should not even set out in our understanding of God by thinking of God primarily as Creator (naming him “from His works only”)—that, as we have seen, would make him dependent on his creation.

Our definition of God must be built on the Son who reveals him. And when we do that, starting with the Son, we find that the first thing to say about God is, as it says in the creed, “We believe in one God, the Father.” That different starting point and basic understanding of God would mean that the gospel Athanasius preached simply felt and tasted very different from the one preached by Arius. Arius would have to pray to “Unoriginate.” But would “Unoriginate” listen? Athanasius could pray “Our Father.” With “The Unoriginate” we are left scrambling for a dictionary in a philosophy lecture; with a Father things are familial. And if God is a Father, then he must be relational and life-giving, and that is the sort of God we could love.

Since God is, before all things, a Father, and not primarily Creator or Ruler, all his ways are beautifully fatherly. It is not that this God “does” being Father as a day job, only to kick back in the evenings as plain old “God.” It is not that he has a nice blob of fatherly icing on top. He is Father. All the way down. Thus all that he does he does as Father. That is who he is. He creates as a Father and he rules as a Father; and that means the way he rules over creation is most unlike the way any other God would rule over creation.


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