Presenting God as father creates a few problems in modern conversation. What seems like a blanket of comfort to some, feels more like a wet blanket to others.
The most obvious issue with the idea of God as father is the negative connotation that the title “father” often carries. For many, father is the sperm donor who disappeared when the pregnancy test results came in. He is the man who was always on his way but never showed up—plenty of promises, no delivery. Perhaps he is the tough guy who likes to talk with his fists. The workaholic who put food on the table but never spent much time there. The sloppy drunk. The disgusting pervert.
With so many broken homes and horrible fathers, presenting God as Dad doesn’t always warm people’s hearts.
King of Never Neverland
More complex, and harder to wade through, is the Overbearing Dad narrative made famous by the late Christopher Hitchens, well-known writer and proponent of atheism.
Nobody but a lugubrious serf can possibly wish for a father that never goes away. – Hitchens
God, then, is like an immortal leach sucking every drop of independence out of humanity, an insecure father who refuses to let his children move out, the eternal king of Never Neverland.
Admittedly, this sounds awful. As a new father, I understand my infant son’s need for his parents; he is hopeless without us. But I also understand that as he grows he will gain independence and no longer rely on his parents for anything. In fact—fingers crossed—one day he may be the one feeding us and changing our diapers as we fade into our twilight years. Complete role reversal.
It’s pathetic, and frankly awkward, when a parent perpetuates adolescence and childish dependence in a teen or adult.
For this reason, Hitchens’ analogy deserves consideration. If God is just an overbearing deity who derives worth from stunting the growth of humans, then yes, let’s move out of his basement immediately.
But the God Hitchens aimed to dismantle is described in the scriptures as the omnipotent Creator of all things, the first and the last, the author of life. The Apostle Paul writes of Jesus, “…he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” In other words, without Jesus everything falls apart.
If this God exists, how does one outgrow a need for Him? The very concept is foolish, like a starving baby refusing a bottle, or a terminal patient declaring independence from life support.
If the eternal God of the Bible truly upholds the cosmos and is the ultimate source of human sustenance, of course he “never goes away.” And of course we remain dependent on Him. There is no other response.
So, have we outgrown God?
Have our enlightened scientific minds finally freed us from the oppressive chains of pesky religion, thereby allowing us to become better people?
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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Photo Credit: Andrew Mitchell Photography
I recently watched a documentary covering an ongoing debate about the existence of God between a Christian pastor and a well-known atheist, filmed in bars and lecture halls (I’ll place a link towards the end.) It was fascinating, and one of the most candid films about faith I have seen. The pastor is Douglas Wilson. The atheist is Christopher Hitchens.
If you haven’t heard of Christopher Hitchens, you need to fix that problem. Like now. He is one of the most notable anti-believers of this generation. The dude is a rock star. He’s the author of over a dozen books, all of which continue to sell strongly even after his death; he lost a battle to cancer in 2011. Still, his influence only grows. There are websites dedicated entirely to his quotes. It’s remarkable.