Greatest Father’s Day

5 09 2009

There have been some great Father’s Days. But what is the greatest?

Father’s Day, today, in 2009, has become another opportunity for the opportunist commercial world to capitalize on the spare—or not so spare—cash of the community. Father’s Day for many dad’s has sometimes been – a day of genuine joy. A time for dad’s to spend with their wife, and their children, or brothers and sisters and their families.

A few years back, the traditional sort of Father’s Day may have begun with breakfast in bed, a new pair of socks, or a tie, some chocolate, and a  maybe new set of garden pruning shears, or similar.  Cool.

However, the Greatest Father’s Day, may have been the day that the creation was finished, to the point of creating the man and the woman, and placing them in the Garden of Eden. Yes, here in this ancient event, we have the Father creating a home for his family. And what a home creation is!

Added to that is the Day that the eternal Son of God, became a human being, a son, like Adam. The Day that Jesus was born was certainly hailed as one of the Greatest Father’s Days ever.  Here, the second Adam came to do that which the first Adam, had failed to accomplish.

But perhaps, above all Father’s Days, was the Day in which the wayward members of the family—the human family, were reconciled through the profoundly strange events of the cross of Jesus Christ. The Day the Father over-reached Jesus, as it were, and in his love, and together with Jesus, and the Spirit, reclaimed, redeemed, and renewed the children in rebellion—this indeed was a Day of grace. And here, perhaps, the gracious Father was at his best – in dealing with our sin, the holy Father laid it upon his own sinless Son, Jesus, and there it was borne, and destroyed, in the mind, conscience, and body of the finest Son ever. This was an action of—from one point of view—unimaginable horror and loneliness. Yet, it was a deed of the deepest love ever known. It was a work of the Father, on behalf of his eternal family. It was the Greatest Father’s Day.

We could add to this the Day the Son of God, rose from the grave, victorious over death forever.  This happened as the Father, by the Spirit, raised Jesus from the tomb, alive forever more.

And we could add to that the Day the Spirit was poured out upon all flesh, to enable the great ingathering of the Family. All nations, coming home at last; the family coming home, washed, sanctified, justified, in the merits of Jesus—the great Elder brother of all those of faith.

Yes, there have been some good Father’s Days. Let us remember the Father—The Father—with us. May this Father’s Day be a good one for many.

Blessed be the God and Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ!





Geoffrey C. Bingham dies – (goes home!)

3 06 2009

Geoffrey Bingham – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Today Geoff Bingham died. He is one of the dearest of men, that I know. He has been a friend, a mentor, a joyful preacher and teacher of the Christian faith, a doctor of theology, a missionary to Pakistan, a former POW in Changi in WW2, and a prolific and notable Australian author – and one to whom many, many people are grateful for his help and encouragement.

In particular Geoffrey has taught the heart of the Cross of Jesus Christ, and the grace of God known there, he has taught the hope and joy of creation redeemed through Jesus resurrection, and he has – perhaps as well as any – taught the Fatherhood of God.

Geoffrey has been a theologian and preacher of the heart! He has left a rich legacy in New Creation Teaching Ministries. 

May the Lord comfort Laurel—his dear wife, and his family, and the many, many people who will miss him. Much will be written about him. As the years roll on, many will undoubtedly discover his writings, and do so with great joy.

That is my small comment, for now.  … thanks dear Geoff, thank you!





Pateriology: Study 8

4 12 2008

Pateriology: The Person and Work of the Father

Prayer: ‘I ask… that they may all be one. As you Father are in me, and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me’. (John 17:20a, 21) Jesus

The Father—His Person and His Work—is a vast subject, which is indeed at the heart of the universe, and so of Trinitarian theology. It surely deserves to be given a higher priority in our churches, and—I believe—far more attention within our theological and bible colleges. This may yet happen. Last century, Barth, (and since the Reformation, Luther) and others have laboured to show that Christian theology is Christocentric. This has had a beneficial effect on the church. While at times subject to experimental overkill, and in some quarters, a play-off between doctrine and experience, the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements have nevertheless in recent decades been a positive factor in the renewal of the church. As can happen with a good crop, at the end of a season, some have suggested—with good cause—that these movements have in some respect ‘gone to seed’.  As Tom Smail once said: ‘Your Renewal is too small’.  For this reason, a rediscovery of the treasures of knowing the Father also, may indeed awaken the church to fresh waves of renewal, rich theology and worship.

 

Since this is the final study (in the current series of 8 studies, in 2008), for those attending the New Creation Teaching Ministry Thursday morning classes, there are a number of important points that should yet be clarified, or underscored.

1.     ‘Abba Father’ is Not a Metaphor but a revelation of what is essentially so. It is a revelation given by the Holy Spirit, where faith is present. Ian Pennicook writes:

“the cry ‘Abba! Father!’ is actually the cry of the Spirit himself. Christ came to effect adoption and because his work of redemption was accomplished, the Spirit of his own sonship was given to us. So I am suggesting that Pentecost brought in an amazing realisation of who God is and what redemption has accomplished. That does not mean that explanation and teaching was not required but it does mean that here was no ‘appropriate’ picture language constructed for the hearers. Instead a powerful revelation came to the church, which was born that day: God is Father! Ephesians 3:14-15 introduces Paul’s prayer: For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. Far from ‘Father’ being a metaphor, the ‘Application of a name or descriptive term to an object to which it is not literally applicable’, quite the opposite is true. ‘Father’ is literally applicable to God alone, and then only to others by virtue of their being the image or reflection of the true Father”. 

2.     The Trinity is a Love Hierarchy (See John 14:28; 14:10, 10:30, 5:17-18; 7:29) The Father is the Divine Fountainhead (Fons Divinitatis), “in which the being of the Son has its source; the Father is God sending and commanding, the Son is God sent and obedient”  (C. K. Barrett) Over and against the heresies of tri-theism and of subordinationism, we need to assert that—rightly understood—the Triune God is hierarchical! This has implications for all of life, for humanity is created in the image and likeness of God. Consider the following paragraph, by Geoffrey C. Bingham:

“Some years ago a theologian in our city said he had ceased to read my books because my theology was hierthere was—and is—truth in the comment. I asked whether he or others had researched the idea of hierarchy—especially biblical hierarchy—and the frank answer was, ‘No. I don’t really understand hierarchy; and no, I don’t know of any material done on it’. I suggested that we might be missing out on an essential dimension of the truth if we did not at least inquire into hierarchy.”           

This is a large subject, unable to be dealt with at depth in these brief notes. However, we need to open things a little. If we first see that within the love-creation, there is hierarchy, then we may be open to consider the whole matter. In Genesis 1:16 we read:

God made the two great lights–the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night–and the stars.

 The sun and moon—prior to the entry of sin into the cosmos—exercise ruling authority. The term ‘hierarchy’ usually evokes thoughts of an oppressive regime, where authorities are arrayed in steps and stairs, and the worst location, is at the bottom—eg. it is not good to be the family dog, or cat, on a ‘bad hair day’. This is not, however what is in mind. Rather, the ideas of flow and offunctionality and service are paramount, together with mutual indwelling—a combination of Jesus’ statements in John.

 

Superordination does not mean superiority

This oft-repeated statement of Geoffrey Bingham’s is hard for sinners and rebels to hear. It indicates the heart of the matter: Superordination does not mean superiority, and subordination does not mean inferiority. Further, Bingham says: One of the keys to understanding hierarchy is to see that the most prior within its order is the person who takes the highest responsibility and who must serve the most. Another key is the fact that each member of the hierarchy is in another. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11:3 the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father. The Son is in the husband, and the husband in him.  The husband is in the wife and the wife in the husband, and in fact every member of the hierarchy is in every other member. This inter-dwelling of the members ensures unity, and works against the principle of oppression. 

                                                    

3.     Sonship and Inheritance: The Cosmic Dimension

The Father is creator—together with the Son who is co-creator. The family, the community of God, are placed in their home within creation. The entrance of sin however, outworks itself in alienation (due to guilt), anger, denial and disorientation concerning the whole plan of God. Many today live as if there were no plan, no future, and no point to life, except what we make of it ourselves. Not so for those who have faith. In Jesus Christ, they are redeemed and sanctified in order to participate within the new (regenerated) creation, including a profound homecoming and a grand inheritance—namely all things! (Romans 8:15-25;) Assurance from the giving Father who did not withhold his own Son, and has not abandoned us to our own miserable, little agendas, gives a person real confidence in God as Father, and as Love. The substantial nature of life, to come makes sense of creation, at last! For the creation itself anticipates glorious freedom. Bingham notes: ‘In almost every reference to sonship there is a forward looking to the end-time.  This end-time we call the eschaton, and so we say the sonship is eschatological.’  See for example, Ephesians 1:5 which speaks of adoption. And at the end of this great passage Ephesians 1:11, 1:14 and later 1:18 speaks of inheritance, as co-heirs with Christ.

The reality of adoption, sonship and inheritance refers to those who have come to maturity. A mature son is no longer a minor, under bondage to the slavery of sin. The new experience is of great freedom, even of embracing necessary suffering. The destiny is co-inheritance of the regenerate cosmos (Rom. 4:13).


   

 Thomas A. Smail, The Forgotten Father, Paternoster Press, 1980, p. 202

 Ian Pennicook, The Father and his sons, PDF File, February, 2004, p. 6

 D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, Eerdmans, 1991, p. 508.

 G.C. Bingham, All Things Are Yours, NCPI, Blackwood, 1996, p. xiii

 G.C. Bingham, All Things Are Yours, NCPI, Blackwood, 1996, p. 55

 Thomas A. Smail, The Forgotten Father, Paternoster Press, 1980, p. 156

 G.C. Bingham, I love the Father, NCPI, Blackwood, 1974, 1990, p. 116





Pateriology: Study 7

26 11 2008

So Many Orphans

Globally, there are approximately 14 million orphans, with the vast majority (approx 9 million) living in Africa. These children are among the most vulnerable in the world. They have decreased access to education, healthcare and possibilities for future employment.  They are at increased risk of living in poverty, working in exploitative child labour, and becoming victims of abuse.

The plethora of reports from media, concerning human suffering, can desensitise or numb us to such news. Perhaps the shock and grief of this state of affairs, evokes helplessness before the enormity and complexity of it all.  Such horror, absence and neglect of genuine fatherhood, has roots in a sinful race.

The gospel teaches that God so loves the world, that he sends Jesus Christ into this world to bring salvation, where there is desolation, despair and loneliness. Jesus comes to effect redemption, and to work the Father’s triumphant grace and hope amidst all the pain, and evildoing that humanity knows. Nothing is too difficult for God. Our Father sends and brings his Word to bear upon our global pain. Christ comes, to the world, with—among all others—orphans in his mind and heart. It has been said that ‘to be an orphan is perhaps the most lonely of all states’. So many people – so much loneliness! So many resources to meet human need, yet so much inequity and unfairness and brutality, and sickness and squalor. Of faith in Christ, James writes that ‘religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world’ (James 1:27). The Apostles did not teach withdrawing from society (1Corinthians 5:10). Rather they exhort us to take up genuine service in the life of the cosmos. This involves resisting the godless ‘world system’, while exercising a diligent participation in the unseen kingdom of God.  This is life.

Destined For Adoption

Creation groans awaiting future freedom. The Father has in love, destined redeemed humanity for adoption (Rom. 8:23; Gal. 4:4-8). He chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, for adoption as his children (Ephesians 1:5).  Baxter Kruger writes:

Adoption! Adoption! Adoption! This is the first thought, the mystery the secret of the entire universe. This is why this world is here, why man, humanity, the universe, history exists. Delete this purpose and there simply is no creation, for there is no reason to call it forth nor to sustain it.

Jesus is Immanuel, ‘God is With Us’ (Matt. 1:23). Jesus said, ‘I am with you always’  (Matt. 28:20). The Lord has promised ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’ (Heb. 13:5; Josh. 1:5). John Wesley, once said, ‘The best of all is this, God is with us’. The mystery of the Gospel is that the Everlasting Presence comes to dwell within our world, our life, our lot, as human flesh, forever. He walks our streets and feels our pain:

Immanuel! Immanuel!

God in our flesh forever,

You walk our streets, and feel our pain

With love that none can sever.

Our eyes had never seen our God

Nor known that He would shed his bloo

I will not leave you orphaned

Jesus spoke of the ‘must’ ‑ the necessity of his death, and of his resurrection (Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; cf. Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22). In John’s recounting of Jesus teaching, he spells out the conversations in greater detail. Jesus anticipates his resurrection appearances, and his ongoing Presence as God with us, by the Holy Spirit, following his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension:  Jesus said I am going to the Father (John 14:12c). He also said, concerning his care for his friends, the disciples, I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you (John 14:18).

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is for the making known of both God’s fatherhood, and Jesus Presence, as the everlasting God. Jesus did not leave the disciples to figure out the Gospel. He came to them, Risen from death. They were not left orphans. The Gospel comes to the world, to incorporate the isolated, lonely and abandoned into the family of God. The Gospel comes to rebels, to forgive the sin of unbelief, and of all anti-family, anti-nation ways, that all nations, might constitute the love community. The Gospel comes to us where fatherhood is absent.

Faith of the Fatherless

In an intriguing book Faith of the Fatherless, psychologist Paul C. Vitz examines the lives of many well-known atheists. Some who’s dad’s died when they were quite young including: Friedrich Nietzsche, David Hume, Jean-Paul Sartre, Bertrand Russell, Albert Camus, Arthur Schopenhauer. Those with an abusive or weak father included: Thomas Hobbes, Jean Meslier, Voltaire, Jean d’Alembert, Baron d’Holbach, Ludwig Feuerbach, Samuel Butler, Sigmund Freud and H.G. Wells. Vitz discovers that most of these atheists had an absent or abusive father.

As a control group (similar era), Vitz considers some theists, and their fathers: Blaise Pascal, George Berkeley, Joseph Butler, Thomas Reid, Edmund Burke, Moses Mendelssohn, William Paley, William Wilberforce, Francois Rene de Chateaubriand, Friedrich Schleirmacher, John Henry Newman, Alex de Tocqueville, Samuel Wilberforce, Soren Kierkegaard, Baron Friedrich von Hugel, G.K. Chesterton, Albert Schweitzer, Martin Buber, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Abraham Heschel.

The results have been criticised as merely anecdotal and hardly scientific. However, they certainly indicate that earthly fatherhood matters!

Where fatherhood is absent

Sociologist Ronald Conway probingly evaluated the dynamics of Australian society, in 1971, and highlighted the long-term effects of a conspired ‘mateship’ as the major expression of masculinity. An anti-authoritian attitude has been perpetuated, which fails to adopt any substantial grasp of true fatherhood. A matriarchal society often forms, where true fatherhood is neglected. Many SNAGS (sensitive new-age guys) of today once took their brief for fatherhood from the mantras of feminism (often following Marx, Freud or both). The failure rate in marriage of 50%, and children scattered across the continent often in deep agony, indicates a lack of genuine perception.

Q. What type of society might develop where wise, creative fatherhood is practised?

The following points belong the John Piper.  He has, together with his wife and family, adopted a new child into their own family. He is a biblical theologian, who has reflected upon the whole matter of adoption, in the light of Scripture and experience. It may well be that churches, as the family of God, would benefit, from thinking more often in terms of adoption, (than say, in terms of nuclear families, primarily). This means embracing those who are new and different, and even difficult, in the love which is Christ’s, and extending the grace of true family, to the wider community. The message of faith, and new life in the Spirit, would, still, of course, be paramount. Here are Piper’s great insights:

Adoption of us by the Father (cf. Adoption of children by us)

1. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) costly (Gal. 3:13)

2. Adoption did (for God) and does (for us) involve the legal status of the child (Gal. 4:4-6)

3. Adoption was blessed and is blessed with God’s pouring out a Spirit of sonship (Romans 8:15-16)

4. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) marked by moral transformation through the Spirit (Romans 8:14)

5. Adoption brought us, and brings our children, the rights of being heirs of the Father (Romans 8:16-17)

6. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) seriously planned (Ephesians 1).

7. Adoption was (for God) and often is now (for us) from very bad situations (Ephesians 2)

8. Adoption meant (for all Christians) and means (for Christian parents) that we suffer now and experience glory later.

May these biblical insights, thoughts and suggestions, press us to know the Father, and to enjoy and embrace the adoption as Sons and daughters (technically we are all Sons, and simultaneously members of the Bride of Christ!!!), which the Gospel proclaims and bestows.

Geoffrey C. Bingham, I love the Father, NCPI, 1974, 2008, p. 65

Baxter Kruger, [God] Is For Us, Perichoresis Press, 1995, p. 4

Geoffrey C. Bingham, New Creation Hymn Book, No. 282 (1993)

Paul C. Vitz, Faith of the Fatherless, Spence, Dallas, 1999

Ronald Conway, The Great Australian Stupor, Sun, Melbourne, 1971 p.55   

John Piper, Eight Similarities Between God’s Adoption of Us and Our Adoption of Children, Micah Fund Adoption Enrichment Seminar, 2007.

See: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByDate/1991_Adoption_The_Heart_of_the_Gospel/





Pateriology: Study 6

20 11 2008

Pateriology: The Person and Work of the Father 

If God were your Father…

Jesus once said to some who hated him: If God were your Father you would love me”.  The disciples saw the depths of love in Christ crucified and risen, as the full implications of God’s grace broke open to them. They confessed that their change was by God’s initiative. ‘We love because He first loved us’ (1John 4:19). It takes a revelation of the love of the Father, in Christ Jesus, to create faith in a person. This faith is a gift. So is repentance. The latter, is a change of mind and heart. It means turning from one way of life, to another, from anger, isolation and dislocation in the world, to fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It rearranges a lot of things in a person’s life!

As we reflect upon the life we once lived, namely being ruled by our passions (Titus 3:3-5) and selfish, ungodly desires – we can see that we were at one time, imprisoned under the powerful influence of the deceiver of the whole world – Satan.  Wherever there is guilt, and wherever there is restless passion he has the capacity to exercise power, utilising accusation and fear.

Authentic Fatherhood triumphs over satanic fatherhood

Our age has invested much hope into psychological insight and counselling, and at the same time, has often belittled the biblical view of the world.  For this reason, people often have difficulty in thinking in terms of God and Satan.

If however, we are to grasp the dynamics of life, in which we live daily, then we must come afresh to the biblical revelation, with faith and humility, seeking understanding. As we do so, it is to the teaching of Jesus, and the Apostles that we turn, in order to consider the personality and actions of the evil one, known from Scripture as ‘that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan (Rev. 12:9). Consider, the following extract (by Geoffrey Bingham):

 “The Impediment to seeing the Father and the Son

Almost two thousand years have passed since Jesus displayed the Father. How is it then that humanity has not recognized the Sonship of Jesus and so the Fatherhood of God? It is because there is an impediment.

     On one occasion Jesus said to Jews who did not understand him:

 ‘If God were your Father you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord but He sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? Is it because you cannot bear to hear my word . . . He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason you do not hear them is that you are not of God.’

 

He explained in simple but terrible terms,

‘You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.’

     We see then that man must belong to one or other of two families; one of two father–son systems; one of two action systems, both having purpose. One is true, the other false. One is good, the other evil. Each is energized by its father. This is surely the picture of the New Testament. Those who do good and love the brethren are of God and the Father. Those who commit sin and hate the brethren are of Satan. God energizes and works His will through His children, who walk as dear children of God. Satan energizes his children of disobedience and wrath, and they follow him. It is interesting to note that Satan in his pathological desire to be like the Most High God, has also to be a father, and to seek to gather a family.[1]

      Paul says, ‘The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God.’ Satan, we are told, goes out to deceive the whole world. He is spoken of as the one who deceived the whole world. Those who are his are called ‘natural men’. Paul tells us that ‘The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit for they are foolishness unto him.’ This is why Jesus says, ‘Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.’

      We understand, then, that men do not see the ministry of Jesus the Son as the very action of the Father through him. Man is so far gone from his original sonship as to recognize neither the Father nor the Son. The acts and events of Christ are unintelligible to him until a revelation comes from God. Mercifully God gives this to human beings.”[2]

The Revelator

We can easily underestimate the indispensability of revelation. One cannot just simply sit down and figure God out! The Holy Spirit is ‘the Revelator’. [3] Any and all of the acts and events of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, can and do serve as the medium, or means of revelation. It may be a new thing to realise that, not only in the cross, but in all things that Jesus did and said, the Father did, does and continues to do his works.

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works (John 14:10).

In all things, ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them’  (2Cor. 5:19). Therefore in the work of Christ, wherever it takes place, we can study the works and involvement of the Father. We read of Jesus liberating deeds and life-giving words and in the gospels, and of His power exercised by the Holy Spirit, in the book of Acts, as well as of his work through the Apostles in the other letters of the New Testament. In the stories of the past 2000 years of human history, we learn of what Jesus has done, and thus, of the Father’s ongoing actions.

The Gospel Goes Forth Amidst a Battle

The Father was, according to Paul, pleased to reveal his Son in me (Gal. 1:15-16), so that he might preach him among the nations. The context of this breakthrough is amidst, and in spite of the hidden action of Satan’s blinding of sinful humanity. The Father has worked, and is at work now, to overcome Satanic deception, fear of death, and the imprisoning power of guilt and sin, through forgiveness and reconciliation. The gospel, or Word of the Cross is the power of God, the means by which a person comes into freedom (Rom. 1:16; 1Corinthians 1:18ff), and then the ongoing hearing of the voice of Jesus, sustains one in it. (John 8:31,36; Rom. 10:17).

Father and Son – Both, Servant and Lord of Creation

Thankfully, the Father persists to serve the creation with the gospel, for his glory. He is regal, wise, and deliberate. Sin and sinners are fully dealt with. When the power, penalty and the pollution of sin are all overcome in Jesus life, death and resurrection, then the evil one is disarmed. A justified person need not be bullied by accusations or temptations of Satan. This gives rise to true moral power. Blessings and benefits for a redeemed human race, and a regenerated creation thus flow forth (Matt. 19:28). The Father of grace and holiness is not irrational, dangerously wild, impulsive or vindictive.  Nor is his love-plan, a mere sentimental matter:

The Lord who is not the Father is demonic; the Father who is not the Lord is sentimental. Theology has erred in both directions.[4]

The Father brings his family home (Matt. 28:18-20) to rejoice in Him with all creation. His redeemed sons and daughters are called and equipped (Eph. 6:10-20) to be involved in that great purpose.


[1] Cf. 1John 3:11f.; John 8:44f.; Eph. 2:1-3; Phil. 2:12-13

[2] Geoffrey C. Bingham, I love the Father, NCPI, 1974, 2008, p. 59-61

[3] Bingham, I love the Father, p. 63

[4] Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, Chicago U.P., 1971, p. 287





Pateriology: Study 3

1 11 2008

Pateriology: The Person and Work of the Father 

Introduction

A favourite story told by Jesus is found in Luke 15:

  11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.

  14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’

  20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

  25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.

  29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’

  31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

The story is hauntingly familiar. It resonates. This is the story humanity is made of, the world over – with mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, husbands, wives, grandparents and in-laws and cousins. It is brilliantly told by the master storyteller himself; it gets into our hearts, and minds. We think of dear ones, estranged or reconciled. It connects with prayers issuing from the depths of our hearts. Tears and sorrow are near to the surface, or anger and disappointment is concealed deeply below. Why so poignant, so stirring, so disturbing?

Kenneth Bailey says:

‘… the prodigal …planning to work as a servant …intends to save himself, [but]…on his return …is shattered by the offer of grace… the older son launches into a bitter tirade against the father. The parable closes with a final appeal for reconciliation. Both sons are seen as rebels needing a visible demonstration of love to win them from servanthood to sonship.’

We should note of this story:

1.     It echoes the human predicament – rebellion, loneliness, and folly.

2.     It echoes the gospel appeal from the Father through His son to the world: For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life (Romans 5:10). And, ‘…we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin…we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain (2Corinthians 5:20–­­­­6:1).

3.     It echoes lavish grace, new possibilities, and stubborn wills.

This story is there in all of humanity. And it is there in humanity, primarily because it is there between Our Father in heaven and his children in rebellion. As someone said ‘we are rebels with weapons in our hands’.

What is it that wins rebels, like these 2, ‘from servanthood to sonship’?

Seemingly absent from the story, is the action of atonement that takes people, sin, guilt scheming and rebellion seriously; that takes the Father and the Son of God, and the eternal family seriously. However, the storyteller himself, Jesus, is all too well aware, amidst all the failure of the human race, of what it will take to effect true forgiveness and reconciliation, namely, a cross. Nothing less.

When the State becomes your father…

1.     I once spoke with a worker, who described some failures in the Youth detention centre system, saying, ‘Young Aboriginal men come to the centre, until they are 18 yrs old. Most continue their ways and proceed to State Prison. Sadly, we are not allowed into their home lives to work on helping whole families. “When the State becomes Your Father, your Home becomes the Prison”.

2.     I am a friend of a man who has been out to prove himself, all his life. He never met his father. He knew he was adopted, and was grateful for that… but does he have a deep longing in this…

O Lord, all my longing is known to you; my sighing is not hidden from you (Psalm 38:9)

3.     I know a man who grew up in orphanages. He never knew his parents. He believes Jesus promise below, and is very moved by Christian messages of the Father. How beautiful is Jesus promise:

 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you… On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you….those who love me will be loved by my Father…we will come to them and make our home with them’ (John 14:18-23 selected verses)

4.     My Dream: I shared that God is Father, with a tough bikie. I said he had an inbuilt resistance to this, but that if he really heard me, he would know this to be true.  I thought he would bash me… but he heard me, and believed me, and his anger was gone! He softened.

The Male-Female Duality

The Christian revelation is that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The substitution of Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer as such, is not the Christian revelation. (Indeed, all work together in these 3 works)

‘Man’ (male-female) is made in the image and likeness of God. The word ‘Man’ is chosen here in preference to the word ‘Humanity’, because it is a single syllable and as such, conveys the sense of a single ‘block’ of human people. (God is One). The word – humanity – with the “–ity” ending, suggests a multiplicity (2 or more groups, not 1). It conveys the one-ness in creation prior to the entry of sin. It does not here, suggest ‘maleness’, but rather one-ness.

Given that Man (male-female) is the image of God then it follows, surely, that the male-female duality exists within God. There is certainly motherhood in God; this needs clarifying. Geoff Bingham says:

The male-female of God is called ‘Father’, given that God is often likened to a mother but is never as such called mother. Yet the word Father embraces both.

The Father is Love – Love is Flowing

Students of the Bible are often surprised to learn that nowhere in Scripture does it teach that ‘Jesus is Love’. Neither does Scripture speak of love as being the glue that holds the Trinity together. This would suggest a fourth action (or hypostasis), within the Triune God.

When John teaches that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8, 16), he means ‘the Father is love’; in and from this love creation and redemption flow!

Paul supports this conclusion, when he speaks of Jesus, as being ‘the beloved Son’ (Colossians 1:13), or the alternatively phrase is ‘The Son of his Love’. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father, and Spirit of the Son (Rom. 8:11; Matthew 10:20; 2Cor. 3:17; 1Peter 1:11).

Love flows from the fountainhead of love: the Fons Divinitatis.

(Psalm 36); this steadfast love flows out to the world to deal with sin, cleanse and reconcile, that the Father’s true family be formed.The Son is sent (incarnated), and the Spirit is spirated (breathed).  And we are incorporated into that flow of love (John 17:20-25).


Kenneth E. Bailey Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes (Eerdmans, 1976), p. 206

Geoffrey C. Bingham, I love the Father, (NCPI 1990), p. 20; See references Isaiah 66:13; Psalm 131:2; cf. Psalm 27:10

Geoffrey C. Bingham, Ah, Strong, Strong Love! (NCPI ,1993), p. 66





Pateriology: Study 2

22 10 2008

STUDY 2
Pateriology: The Person and Work of the Father

Available Studies

Last week we saw the general absence of studies in the Person and Work of the Father. A curiosity for sure! We noted that Christology, and Pneumatology were both readily available as topics for study. However to study Pateriology seems to be rarely done, within the church. The importance of Jesus words, concerning the Father, and his relating to the Father, as well as his Post-resurrection teaching to Mary Magdalene – My Father and Your Father – suggest this needs redressing. Sources of study can be found particularly in John’s Gospel, but also in the Sermon on the Mount. Add to this the witness of Paul, Luke, and others, to the Father, and we have much material. We also have the riches and insights of theologians, who love the Father.

What is to be done?

There is a story of a famous huntsman who, when asked about the best way of trapping a fox, replied: ‘Start trapping – the fox will teach you!’

We could say – start studying, The Person and Work of the Father, Pateriology – and the Father will teach you. Indeed, it is even better than that – surely. If the elusive fox can be our teacher, how much will our Heavenly Father, teach us the good things we need to know.

Jesus said: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone. 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11)

Covenant Father; Covenant Son

In the Old Testament, we note that Israel knew God as Covenant Father, and Israel was the Covenant Son.

Some 700 years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah wrote of their God:

For you are our father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our father; our Redeemer from of old is your name. (Isaiah 63:16)

Also Hosea 11:1

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

We can say that the One who had redeemed his people from Egypt had a close relationship of which the full revelation was yet to come.

The Incarnation – in these last days

The Father speaks and reveals himself by a Son, the Son:

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:1-3)

Jesus came, yet still people missed the Father – The Forgotten Father.

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

(John 14:9)

Even the close disciples failed to grasp the fullness of Jesus relationship with the Father, until after the crucifixion and resurrection. Indeed, it took the terrible cross, and the subsequent teaching concerning the Kingdom of God from the Risen Lord – during forty days – and then the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, for the new believers to be able to understand, that, God is … truly Father:

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6).

The revelation of the love and unity, and purpose at the heart of the crucifixion of Jesus, revealed the love of the Father, for his people.

Patripassionism

Now, we ask: Is there a grain of truth in that heresy Patripassionism?

Patripassionism confuses the Persons and Work of the Father and that of the Son. It claims that the Father suffered on the cross. However, it was Jesus, the Son who was nailed to the cross. The Father and Son are not the same Person. They speak to one another and have separate wills to engage, even when wholly united, as One in the work of the cross, and in all things. Heresy is usually going too far – an overstating of some point – in teaching to the detriment of other matters.

All Things Are Yours

But Paul writes: “For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God”. (1Corinthians 1:21-23) Heresies are ours, to learn of error; they are also there, sometimes, because hovering nearby is a great question, looking for an answer. It is probably this: Did/does the Father suffer?

The Initiative in the Sending

The Father is not the Son; they are discrete persons. The Son has come down from heaven, and the Father has sent him. (A work!)

37 And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, because you do not believe him whom he has sent. (John 5:37-38)

28 Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. 29 I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” (John 7:28-29)

The Motive of the Sending is Love

In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1John 4:10).

God is willing to go to the length of suffering and dying to enter into fellowship with man. There is a misunderstanding of the Christian doctrine of atonement that goes something like this: God is an angry God, angry at men because men have sinned, and he decides to condemn mankind; but Christ intercedes for man, and God’s vengeance is sated by punishing Christ instead. Although this is a travesty of the Christian position it has unfortunately been too often suggested by interpreters of the atonement as well as by their critics. But Forsyth, who said, “The doctrine of grace and the doctrine of the atonement are identical,” the true interpretation is that the atonement flows from grace, it does not “procure” grace. This extremely important insight means that our reading of the atonement is more like this: Because God loves men, he suffers on their behalf, bears himself the weight of their wrongdoing, and this restores fellowship, or reconciles. Grace is not something Christ earned for us from God; grace is rather something God gave us in Christ. “Do not say: ‘God is love. Why atone?’ Say: ‘God has atoned. What love!’[1]

Note then, that the Father atoned – what sending love!

And in this sending, atoning love did and does the Father suffer?

Father and Son Carry and Suffer the Misery of Ages

Jesus said: the Father and I are one (John 10:3). He also said, the Father is in me and I am in the Father (John 14:10). When we see the Cruciality of the Cross we see the action of the Father giving up his Son in love, and the Son honoring the Father. God, the Father, was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. We are often made aware of the sufferings of Christ. However, P.T. Forsyth draws our attention to the depth of the Father’s suffering too, saying: ‘And the Father suffered in His Son even more than the Son did’.[2]

There is an Eye, a Mind, a Heart, before whom the whole bloody and tortured stream of evolutionary growth has flowed. We are horrified, beyond word or conception, by the agony and devilry of war, but, after all, it only discharges upon us, as it were from a nozzle, a far vaster accumulation of such things, permeating the total career of history since ever a sensitive organism and a heartless egoism appeared.[3]

World War 1 was an occasion, to turn anew to the sufferings of God, the Father, throughout human history:

This misery of the ages, I have said, vanishes from human thought or feeling, till some experience like war carries some idea of it home. But there is a consciousness to which it is all and always present. And in the full view of it He has spoken. As it might be thus: ‘Do you stumble at the cost? It has cost Me more than you—Me who see and feel it all more than you who feel it but as atoms might. “Groanings all and moanings, none of it I lose.” Yea, it has cost Me more than if the price paid were all Mankind. For it cost Me My only and beloved Son to justify My name of righteousness, and to realise the destiny of My creature in holy love.[4]

P.T. Forsyth spotlights the love of the Father, for the Son, and calls us to consider this. (We are often very self-centred when we ask questions concerning the unfairness of life, and of our sufferings). He continues, along the lines that the Father, might say, concerning his Son, Jesus:

And all mankind is not so great and dear as He. Nor is its suffering the enormity in a moral world that His Cross is. I am no spectator of the course of things, and no speculator on the result. I spared not My own Son. We carried the load that crushed you. It bowed Him into the ground. [5]

The Father Takes the Initiative in Dealing with Sin

In 1 Peter 2:24 we read of Jesus that:

‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross…’.

There is a footnote to the text where other manuscripts include the words: ‘carried up our sins in his body to the tree’.

This is the action, or work of Jesus. But what of the Father’s work?

Isaiah 53:6 says of the crushing load of the suffering servant:

‘The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all’.

This seems to indicate the Father’s action, of laying the sin upon his son, as Abraham took the knife to kill his son Isaac (Gen. 22:10). Only this time, there is not another ram in the thicket.

Further, Matthew 26:31 has it written of the action coming upon Jesus, and of the deserting flight of the disciples:

‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’.

It is the Father, surely, who takes the initiative here, to deal with sin, once for all, laying the burden, and its horrendous judgment upon the Son. This is a love-action, for the whole of creation, and it is also a severe action – that sin is dealt with. It must happen. The Father brings such complete judgment upon evil, that His dear Son is abandoned up for us all. He is utterly forsaken. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me. (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22) – the essence of these words really must be grasped. Geoffrey Bingham has written:

If he were not separated, then would sin have been really dealt with? If this alienation of the human spirit from God is the very essence of wrath, then was God’s wrath really poured out on the Cross upon sin, and was it borne by Christ, if he were not forsaken? The answer must surely be, ‘The wrath was poured out upon sin, and for man’s sake he was forsaken’… What we fail to understand is the utter desolation that is indicated by the cry. If to be forsaken is the utterness of suffering (and it is), then he actually has to suffer this. If some special knowledge tells him he is not essentially forsaken, then he does not suffer to the full. Let us understand this: he did suffer to the full. Failure to understand this cry is failure to understand the terrible nature of sin and the high wrath of the eternal God, who must destroy evil by His burning action of holiness.[6]

Jesus must know and bear the dreadful anger of God upon all sin, once, for all. It is only as a person by the Spirit, sees these facts that they can be truly at peace.

He must, as man, be taken from the Holy Presence and go out into the place of the damned. He must suffer it all, or not at all.[7]

Leon Morris concurs regarding this actual fact of forsaken-ness. The meaning of Jesus words, are that he was cut off from the Father.[8]

Another scholar, R. W. Dale would never allow that Christ only felt forsaken. He said,

‘I shrink from saying that even in my calmest and brightest hours I have a knowledge of God and the ways of God which is truer than Christ had, even in His agony. I dare not stand before His cross and tell Him that even for a moment He imagines something concerning God which is not a fact and cannot be a fact’.[9]

Forsyth alerts us to the wrecked world, where the mending requires something very deep:

Things are so profoundly out of joint that only something deeper than the wrecked world can mend them, only a God of love and power infinite, making his sovereignty good once for all, though mountains are cast into the sea. The only theodicy is not a system, but a salvation; it is God’s own saving Act and final judgment, incarnate historically and personally. The Cross of Christ, eternal and universal, immutable and invincible, is the moral goal and principle of nations and affairs.

If it seem ridiculous to say that a riot and devilry of wickedness like war is still not out of the providence of Christ’s holy love, it is because we are victims of a prior unfaith. It is because we have come to think it a theological absurdity to say that the Cross of Christ outweighs for God in awful tragedy, historic moment, and eternal effect a whole world ranged in inhuman arms. We do not really believe that it is Christ, ‘crucified to the end of the world’ (as Pascal says), that pays the last cost of war. That God spared not His own Son is a greater shock to the natural conscience than the collapse of civilisation in blood would be.

Again, Forsyth has nailed it. We too, in our day, have come to think it a theological absurdity to say that the Cross of Christ outweighs for God in awful tragedy, historic moment, and eternal effect a whole world ranged in inhuman arms. Theologians, preachers and churches – we have all too often failed to declare the whole counsel of God in this matter. We have been slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.

For civilisation may deserve to collapse, if only because it crucified the Son of God, and crucifies Him afresh. But if God spared not His own Son, He will spare no historic convulsion needful for His kingdom. And if the unspared Son neither complained nor challenged, but praised and hallowed the Father’s name, we may worship and bow the head.[10]

Hallowing the Father’s Name [Matthew 6:9]

We may worship and bow the head, before our Father, who has so spent everything – to redeem his renegade people. All this glorifies the Son, and he in turn, the Father. No length is spared. Creation rejoices.

‘Behold – see what love the Father has given us…’ (1John 3:1)

That we – the rebels – should be judged, healed, forgiven, sanctified, brought home, and called sons and daughters of the Father!

This suffering achieved the Father and the Son’s shared purpose for the world – together with all the Spirit’s help:

On the third day He rose with a new creation in His hand, and a regenerate world, and all things working together for good to love and the holy purpose in love. And what He did I did. How I did it? How I do it? This you know not how, and could not, but you shall know hereafter. There are things the Father must keep in His own hand. Be still and know that I am God, whose mercy is as His majesty, and His omnipotence is chiefly in forgiving, and redeeming, and settling all souls in worship in the temple of a new heaven and earth full of holiness. In that day the anguish will be forgotten for joy that a New Humanity is born into the world[11]

[1] Robert McAfee Brown, P. T. Forsyth: Prophet For Today, Westminster Press, 1952, p. 82-83

[2] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, NCPI, p. 169

[3] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 164

[4] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 164

[5] Ibid.

[6] Geoffrey C. Bingham, Christ’s Cross Over Man’s Abyss, NCPI p. 68

[7] Ibid, p. 70

[8] Leon Morris, The Cross in the New Testament, Eerdmans, 1965, p. 45

[9] R. W. Dale, The Atonement, 1902, p. xli

[10] I believe it was David Brainerd, 1718-1747 who was able to praise and hallow the Father’s name even as his own family members were murdered, as he was dragged in a tortuous manner across a prairie, for his testimony to Jesus; all in the service of bringing the gospel to the North American Indians in Delaware.

[11] P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, p. 164­­–165








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