by Joshua Theilen
In June, thanks to our annual celebration of Father’s Day, social media blows up with images of people, young and old, celebrating their fathers. This year, the flood of pictures and messages has me thinking about the schizophrenic attitude of our modern culture toward dads.
On the one hand, the in vitro fertilization and adoption industries tell women that they do not need men to form a family. In 2011 nearly one third of all adoptions were completed by unmarried individuals. In addition, the official acceptance of same-sex unions as equal to traditional (godly) marriage endorses the idea that 2 mothers or two fathers are just as good as having one of each as God designed.
These trends all seem to downplay the importance of fatherhood. Then I passed a billboard near the airport picturing a dad reading a story to his children. The text read, “It only takes a moment to make a moment.”
Someone is promoting fatherhood, but who?
The billboard directed its viewers to a government website: fatherhood.gov. Think about that for a minute: The same government that — through Obergefell, its financial support for single mothers, and other means large and small — is telling its people that fathers are not necessary to raise children is also running a resource center called the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse that aims to “to provide, facilitate, and disseminate current research, proven and innovative strategies that will encourage and strengthen fathers and families, and providers of services.”
Given all these mixed messages, I would say that our culture is — at best — terribly confused about the necessity of fatherhood.
God is not confused, however. He is the author of all fatherhood, and He knew what He was doing when He put our earthly fathers in our lives.
One resource that you are not likely to find on a government website, but that is far more valuable than anything on a .gov domain, is Rev. Jeffery Hemmer’s book Man Up!, particularly chapter 9 called, “The Portrait of Fatherhood: God the Father.” As Pastor Hemmer points out, God is the Father of the eternal Son of God. This means that “Fatherhood is older than time” (p 225).
Ephesians 3:14-15 states, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” Commenting on this verse, Pastor Hemmer writes, “[E]very earthly father derives his identity as father not from the gift of children, but from the nature of God the Father Himself. Every family is named for — created by — God the Father.”
Fathers are not optional. We all need them. God is the Father of us all, especially those who are baptized into the death and resurrection of His Son (Gal. 4:4-7). Out of His great fatherly goodness, He gives good gifts to His people, including fathers.
Children need earthly fathers who are modeled after the image of God Himself. This is what men are called to be: strong, compassionate, loving, joyful — like God. Men are called and sent to be fathers to their own offspring and to those whose own dads have died or abandoned them.
May our Father in heaven so bless His church on earth with men who will pursue this calling with all the zeal the Holy Spirit can muster within them.
The Rev. Joshua Theilen is the director of Camp CILCA in Cantrall, Ill.