Pateriology: Study 1

15 10 2008

STUDY 1

I had very good parents! However, I recognise that many, many people have not had this privilege. 

At the core of the universe

C.S. Lewis says: ‘We have learned from Freud and others about the distortions in character and errors in thought which result from a man’s early conflicts with his father. Far the most important thing we can know about George MacDonald is that his whole life illustrates the opposite process. An almost perfect relationship with his father was the earthly root of all his wisdom. From his own father, he said, he first learned that Fatherhood must be at the core of the universe. He was thus prepared in an unusual way to teach that religion in which the relation of the Father and the Son is of all relations the most central’.

Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as in fact there are many gods and many lords– yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1Corinthians 8:5-6).

…the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him (John 4:23)

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord (Apostles Creed).

We sing the hymn: “O Come to the Father, through Jesus the Son, and give him the glory, great things he has done “(Fanny Crosby).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).

We can never arrive at a love for the Father, merely by reasoning. It takes our Elder Brother, to touch our hearts concerning the Father.

Our Lord Jesus, himself said: I love the Father (John 14:31). Do we? If so, do we say this, think this, study this way, minister this way? Is this reflected in our biblical, theological and pastoral studies?

 

A Strange Thing

Bible Colleges across the globe offer Christology, Pneumatology (even Trinitarian Theology), but not ‘Paterology’.

Googleit, and you get over 1,000,000 million articles on Christology; over 175,000 on Pneumatology, but a mere 17,000 on Paterology (the preferred word to ‘Pateriology’).

Observations from a Pentecostal Leader

In 1980, Thomas A. Smail wrote: ‘The Forgotten Father’. He said then:

The Father is in fact ‘forgotten’ today in pretty much the same way in which the Spirit was ‘forgotten’ twenty years ago. To ‘remember’ him is not so much to turn our intellectual interest in a new direction, but is much more like the remembering of the Lord’s Supper, where we are summoned to an opening of our hearts, a reorientation of our faith, a personal and corporate restoration of our relationship, so that we realise anew with praise and wonder that in Christ we have, not only forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit, but above all access to the Father.

Observations in Christian Libraries

Donald G. Bloesch: God the Almighty, in ‘Christian Foundations’ makes mention of God as Father, a mere 8 times – in 329 pages.

Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 12 major sections include, The Person of Christ, The Work of Christ, The Holy Spirit, (subsections of The Person and The Work of the Holy Spirit).  There is no place allotted to a study of, the Person and Work of the Father. Only a few quite useful, but brief mentions are made.

Bilquis Sheikh, former Muslim entitled her testimony: I Dared to Call him Father’. For Allah does not have a Son. Hear her witness to us!

Some Relevant Questions

Does the Father really come near to humanity? Do people have an experience of the Father?  If so, where, when and how? Who is the Father? And what does the Father actually do?  Is his work primarily hidden? If so, is it unavailable as a topic of study?  Is this Divine Person somewhat removed from us, as human beings, and so attracting of little attention from Christians?  Then again, is the person and work of the Holy Spirit any more visible or measurable, or knowable, than that of the Father? Is the current lack of discussion of the Father, a modern day by-product of feminist theology?  Or has feminist theology in part proceeded apace, and resonated with many, because, in part, there is a vacuum of a rich and adequate Pateriology, (or Paterology)?  Does the church in some way fail to proclaim … one third of the gospel? Can we proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) without giving due attention to the person and work of the Father?

Abba! Father! The Deepest Cry of the Human Heart

It is my growing conviction that the Scriptures are teaching us what the Lord Jesus Christ himself knew, with wonderful intimacy, namely that God is Father, that God is our Father, and that God is my Father and your Father (John 20:17). And that this knowledge is not a mere notion, or concept, or metaphor, or idea, or theological formulation, or even merely the correct Trinitarian grammar when speaking of God; rather, to know God as Father, is a very deep, very tender, very true cry.  It is a direct cry calling upon our Father.

Serenity and Profound Love

Not only is it a unified corporate invocation of true sons and daughters, calling upon the One who loves us through Christ Jesus, calling upon Our Father in prayer; it is also a very gentle cry of joy and serenity and profound love:

… God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba!* Father!’ (Galatians 4:6)

This new cry, is indeed that of Jesus himself, who spoke to the Father, in times of rejoicing (Luke 10:21-22) and of great suffering (Luke 22:42) often using the tender words ‘Abba, Father’ (Mark 14:36), the best English translation meaning ‘Dear Father’.

Invoking the Father – Not a Shot in the Dark!

In a volume published posthumously, entitled The Christian Life, Karl Barth gives to us a seriously good essay on  ‘The Children and their Father’ (p. 49-109). He says,

When God’s children invoke him as Father, this is in no sense a venture, a mere gesture, a shot in the dark, an experiment, or a gamble. They do this as those who have a part in the history in which God is their partner and they are his partners, in which they are liberated for this action and summoned to it, in which there is also given to them the promise of his corresponding action and therefore of his hearing. The dealings he has opened up with them and into which they enter when they call upon him as their Father can take no other course than to show the he for his part, in both word and deed, is in fact their Father.

Of this essay, by Karl Barth, Geoffrey Bingham – who has written numerous titles exploring the vast matter of God as Father – says:

The gentle, simple words of this famous theologian brought tears to my eyes. Having read much of his Church Dogmatics I thought, ‘He has kept the good wine until last!’ In this sixty-page treatment he shares what the Father means to him, and it is deeply moving. From the simple peasant then, to the erudite theologian, the human heart witnesses to restlessness until it finds the Father.

To Study the Person and Work of the Father

Many things the Father does, uniquely. He sends his Son (John 5:37-38); Scripture shows the Father, from before Creation, in Creation and Redemption, through to the new Home! Hear them: Jesus – in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18); Jesus prays: As you Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us (John 17:21). To know the Father and Jesus Christ, whom the Father has sent, is eternal life (John 17:3). The Father loves us too, and shows us, all he is doing (John 5:12); The Father raises the dead and gives life (John 5:21).

Q. Next time: Is there a grain of truth in the heresy Patripassionism?


C. S. Lewis, in George MacDonald, Phantastes and Lilith, (Eerdmans, 1975)

The Forgotten Father (Paternoster Press, 1980, 1996), p. 22

Donald G. Bloesch, God the Almighty, (Paternoster Press, 1995).

Other volumes in the series include: Jesus Christ and The Holy Spirit.

Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, (Baker Book House 1988).

C. F. D. Moule, The Holy Spirit, (Mowbrays 1978), p. 29

Karl Barth, The Christian Life, Church Dogmatics, IV, 4, (Eerdmans, 1981) Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromily, p. 104

New Creation Teaching Ministries http://www.newcreation.org.au/

Geoffrey C. Bingham, Oh, Father! Our Father! (NCPI, 1985), p. viii

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