Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Faith, God, Religion

Is God a Good Father?

In my last post, discussion turned to the question of whether or not we need God. One of my regular contributors, William, posted the following comment, and I felt it deserved its own post:

I am just having problems understanding whether humans “need” a god.

Do humans “need” a father? it may be beneficial if it’s a good father, but we can see many who get along fine who have not had a father, so “need” is the wrong term.

And what if that father is never around, left before you were born, and only left a letter to you explaining (not always in the easiest or most direct of terms) how he expects you to behave and promises that he’ll take care of you and promises to severely punish you for disobedience or for leaving him?

is that a good father? is that a father we need? isn’t it laughable that such a father could even begin to threaten the child for “leaving him” (since the father clearly left the child) not to mention how absurd it is to think that such a father actually does anything to really take care of the child?

I’m having a hard time understanding how we’re ingrained to “need” such a father, or why we’d even call such a father good?

543 thoughts on “Is God a Good Father?”

  1. Welcome back, William. I have a couple questions for you, if you don’t mind. You said when you were a fervent believer with a genuine faith (and I’m not questioning that a bit), you still sensed that something was missing. What do you speculate that ‘missing’ thing was that you were feeling? And why do you suppose that was/is? You’ve also continued to bring up the concept of a father casting his child(ren) into outer darkness (i.e. leaving them utterly alone). There’s been several people that have attempted to address this, and possibly offer their own experiences, on how and why they don’t feel abandoned, yet this continues to be a point of contention. Why do you suppose that is?

    If you would like, I’d be happy to take this conversation private as I’m genuinely interested in your experiences but I’m sensitive to opening either of us up for ‘public’ scrutiny. My email is: bookslogger@gmail.com. I look forward to your answers.

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  2. “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” – Matthew 9:12-13, NLT

    God, in Jesus, has offered proof that He has not abandoned me. He has offered the most tangible example of love I could imagine. This love and gift is free to ALL because it cost so much to Him. God, however, cannot force me to see my need for Him. If I see that I can be “good enough” on my own, then I will not see my need for Him. The entire Sermon on the Mount shows me how deeply I need Him. Yet, He loves us enough that He will not force Himself on me. If I believe I do not need Him, then I will not see my need for Him.

    “Until you see the mercy God requires of you [toward others, ALL others], you will never be broken to accept the mercy He offers you.” – Tim Keller

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  3. Kent, hello again. The comment I made referring to “outer darkness” was a reference to judgement as described in the bible for the unfaithful or for the sinners. The point i was attempting to make in that instance was that I , as an imperfect father, could not imagine a scenario where I would cast aside my child in eternal punishment. Temporary punishment as a lesson – sure. My question then was, how can an imperfect father be more merciful than a perfect one? Or is my understanding of ‘mercy’ imperfect as well?

    Having said that, I still cannot quite understand people saying that god hasn’t left us. The reasons they all say this revolve around people in their lives. people in their churches, or families or groups, etc. because other people are around them, they say that God is. Would we say the same thing about an earthly father? If our father was nowhere around, would it be justified to say that “father sure has looked out for all of my needs by making sure I had a lot of siblings?” No, we’d say that father was even more of a deadbeat since he not only neglected one child but many. Perhaps we’d marvel at how well the children are fairing without their father… I just don’t get it.

    What does god look like? what does he sound like? we couldn’t even pick him out of a crowd and the main reason we even “know” anything about the judeo/christian god is what men have written about him – not on what we’ve actually seen or heard firsthand.

    and Josh, you mention “proof” and “tangible examples” in regard to things aren’t proven and are literally not tangible. If the bible can serve as proof for itself, then anything can – the koran, the Tipitaka, etc. or, or maybe they don’t and we should carefully weigh and measure the worth of such texts, wherein are such bold claims, so that we are not taken in and so we do not become as the emperor in the children’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

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  4. William – fair points. Only if Jesus is who He said He was, and did the things claimed in the NT is His life, death, and resurrection proof. I’ll still hold to the statement that I made: if you don’t think you need him, then you will not see any benefit in what is offered. This is strongly consistent with what Jesus taught in the Gospels, and the reaction that many had to Him (some worshipped Him, and some plotted to kill Him). He won’t (can’t? – maybe because He wants the free choice of love from us He literally has eliminated this option) force you to believe – He wouldn’t even do that for those who met Him personally.

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  5. But Josh, would Jesus take away our free will to love him by revealing himself to us? I mean really reveal. I don’t mean through the writings of random individuals a long time ago. I don’t mean our imagined interactions with him, or our one-sided conversations with him through prayer. I mean reveal himself to us the way everyone else has with whom we have real and tangible relationships.

    And I just reject the “he is there for those who want to see him” et cetera, et cetera. It is exactly what I’m talking about when I referenced the “Emperor’s New Clothes;” “only the wisest can see these amazing garments, and you are wise aren’t you?”

    And believe me if you can, I was once where you are now. I rationalized and tried my best to make it all make sense, to have it all work out. I used to feel wise in doing so. I used to feel like I was reaching enlightenment. But that journey never ended. for every “solution” I came upon, there was at least one new problem that needed solving or required ignoring. The more I learned, the more uncertain I really became.

    maybe we don’t have answers for some of these difficult parts because there is no answer. because it’s not from god. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a god of some sort, it would just mean that the bible isn’t his bestseller.

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  6. “only the wisest can see him”

    It’s exactly the opposite William – the neediest, the poorest, and the most broken see the hope that is offered, and want it so desperately they accept it.

    “And, believe me if you can, I was once where you are now…”

    This whole paragraph of yours speaks to your attempts to “find answers”, “have it all figured out”, “be wise”, and “reach enlightenment”. That is not what Christianity is about. To be sure, that is what some other religions/worldviews teach. Christianity, if I can even use that word without immediately causing a bad taste, is about seeing who we really are, and the condition we and the world are in. It is the opposite of reaching the things you mentioned. It is about recognizing we cannot, He can, and He already has reconciled everything to Himself. It is about seeing need, not becoming what we think He wants.

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  7. Josh, I may have been mistaken. I assumed we were both talking about the christian bible. I Tim 3:15 says to study to show yourself approved, the entire book of proverbs revolves around the idea of wisdom, and then there are the gems like, “you do err not knowing the scriptures.”

    The Bible demands the christian disciples to be very educated on the bible and James calls it “Wisdom from above.” I had always viewed the term enlightenment to mean just that, or at least to refer the the better understanding of truth. To say that the bible doesn’t require these things is just inaccurate.

    Now, it does warn against philosophies, endless questions, and wisdom of the world…

    And the “only the wisest” comment can be substituted for “pure in heart” or “righteous” or the “good and honest heart” on and on. Whatever you put in there, the point is the same. The bible has questionable stuff in it, from the moral, to the scientific, to the historical, to the internally consistent. But if i were only to have a “pure and honest heart,” why then I’d see that is all just perfectly from god. And since I want a good and honest heart, then It must be perfect as they say… Just as the children’s story. But i am sorry. My heart is honest and is just as good as anyone’s, and i don’t see it.

    I think the intellectually honest and brave will see the problems in the bible and will admit that their presence is in fact a problem.

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  8. “would Jesus take away our free will to love him by revealing himself to us?…”

    William – didn’t mean to totally ignore this question/paragraph. By revealing himself in the way your suggest – in a way that no one could deny the reality of what he was claiming – he would, by definition, be forcing us to believe in him. Even so, however, I’d suggest that some would still refuse to trust in him even if they did believe what he claimed. You can imagine there would be some who would resent him for that, would you not? That we cannot be free without him? That we cannot be reconciled to him without his intervention? That we can’t be accepted “just because”? Don’t you imagine a lot of people would hate knowing that those things were true, even if they were convinced they were true? So, even if he revealed himself beyond a shadow of a doubt, some would still not trust (despite believing, the difference is vital) in him unless he actually manipulated their thoughts and forced trust onto them. This is not how God, represented in Jesus, operates.

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  9. Well sure there’d some people who’d say, “thanks but not interested.” But then their rejection of jesus wouldnt and couldnt be based on questionable an flimsy evidence – it would actually be their own choice.

    “By revealing himself in the way you suggest – in a way that no one could deny the reality of what he was claiming – he would, by definition, be forcing us to believe in him.”

    But see, here again the bible disagrees with you. Hebrews 11, if nowhere else, says how all these people who had first hand experience with God still did things. Are you saying that Abraham and Noah didnt have freewill? And that would also mean that the apostles had a huge upper hand on the rest of us. Respector persons?

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  10. William – In response to “Josh, I may have been mistaken. I assumed we were both talking about the christian bible…” and following.

    You see yourself as honest and brave. That is fine. I don’t know you, apart from what Scripture teaches about all of us, so I will not question your character. Maybe you are everything you claim. All of the quotes you mention regarding who is acceptable in the Kingdom – “wisest”, “pure of heart”, “righteous”, “good and honest heart” – are all referring only to Jesus. No human apart from Him meets the qualifications for the Kingdom. All of the statements about how we “should be” are aimed at showing us we can’t be those things. Read Romans 7 for Paul’s explanation of what commands are designed for.

    “In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” 8 But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power.” – Romans 7:7-8

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  11. “But see, here again the bible disagrees with you. Hebrews 11, if nowhere else, says how all these people who had first hand experience with God still did things. Are you saying that Abraham and Noah didnt have freewill? And that would also mean that the apostles had a huge upper hand on the rest of us. Respector persons?”

    Can you be clearer about what you mean here? I’m not sure I follow the point you made. What do you mean by “still did things” and “upper hand”?

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  12. “But then their rejection of jesus wouldnt and couldnt be based on questionable an flimsy evidence – it would actually be their own choice.”

    You don’t think they’d find a way around the evidence to claim that it was flimsy? What about all the amazing things that can be done with cameras these days, or even in front of a live audience?

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  13. “But see, here again the bible disagrees with you. Hebrews 11, if nowhere else, says how all these people who had first hand experience with God still did things. Are you saying that Abraham and Noah didnt have freewill? And that would also mean that the apostles had a huge upper hand on the rest of us. Respector persons?”

    Oh, I do see what you’re saying here. At least, I think I do. There were plenty of people of Jesus day to whom he revealed himself and they did not believe him. Look at all of the things the teachers of the law witnessed him doing, yet they still found ways to condemn him to death. They saw as much of his miracles as others did, yet they claimed he “cast out demons by the power of Satan”. If you’re going from Scripture you simply can’t claim that everyone who saw Jesus personally, and witnessed his teaching and miracles believed him.

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  14. Jesus was all over the place in his teaching. If you don’t believe it , watch this youtube video that lists Jesus’ commandments in order to get into Heaven. You can’t get there !

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  15. kcchief1 – I’ll be interested in the video when you find it. But, still, to you and William, it comes down to whether you think you need reconciliation. If not, what does any of this discussion matter to you? If you do not believe you need reconciliation with God, and someone were to prove to you that Jesus was right and is God, all you’d have is resentment toward his presumption that you need saving. However, if you do believe you need reconciliation, then trust in Jesus is a formidable option.

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  16. There were plenty of people of Jesus day to whom he revealed himself and they did not believe him. Look at all of the things the teachers of the law witnessed him doing, yet they still found ways to condemn him to death. They saw as much of his miracles as others did, yet they claimed he “cast out demons by the power of Satan”.

    Then how can you claim that if he revealed himself to us today, we’d have no choice but to believe him?

    If you do not believe you need reconciliation with God, and someone were to prove to you that Jesus was right and is God, all you’d have is resentment toward his presumption that you need saving.

    This is just speculation — you don’t really know how they’d react. More than likely, if they were to truly see God or Jesus, they’d be much more inclined to listen to whatever they had to say. Then William and kcchief1 might be willing to believe that they need reconciliation from something.

    And hello again, btw. Good to hear from you again. 🙂

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  17. Hey Nate-
    “Then how can you claim that if he revealed himself to us today, we’d have no choice but to believe him?”

    I was speaking directly to William’s point about God revealing himself to everyone without room for doubt. I took William’s point to be about a revelation that would leave no choice but to submit to God based on His revelation. It’s a juxtaposition, and shouldn’t be taken to contradict what I think actual revelation is like.

    “This is just speculation — you don’t really know how they’d react.”

    True. But, so is the whole scenario.

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  18. kcchief1 – Watched the video.

    My only response is this: If you read a headline in the newspaper that read “Packers kill Bears on MNF”, I suppose you would take this to mean that the Packers literally killed all of the Bears’ players, coaches, assistants, etc on live television. Right? You would have to based on the way the author of the video reads scripture. There is never any room for non-literal language. I think we can agree that a basic understanding of the cultural mindset of the society in which something is written is necessary in order to determine meaning. Not just taking words off the page with only literal meanings as possible meanings.

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  19. In fact, the parables are NEVER meant to be taken literally. Parables are stories that make a point, not literal pictures of truth.

    For instance, if you take the story about Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19ff) as a literal interpretation of what hell is like, then you have to take the parable in Matthew 18:8-10 about plucking out your offending eye or cutting off your offending hand literally.

    WAY too many men with two eyes and two hands sitting in churches these days, methinks. 😉

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  20. Josh, i point on god or jesus revealing themselves was only to the extent that everyone else has revealed themselves so that we’re not all wondering if god’s really there or not. Imagine your real father – the way you know he’s actually there.

    And you’re right about your response to kcchief1, but there is so much else wrong with the bible, people needn’t invent reasons to disregard it. There are plenty of actual reasons.

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  21. Ah, but William pointed to other biblical examples as a reference to what he was talking about. I think he was saying that if God interacted with all of us in the same way that he did with Abraham, Paul, Gideon, etc, they more people would follow the teachings of Christianity. He also said that this wouldn’t take away a person’s free will, unless you believe that Abraham, Paul, Gideon, etc didn’t have free will.

    So do you agree with William’s assertion that a level of interaction from God that matched what he supposedly gave in the Bible would leave our free will intact? And if so, do you think it would help more people become Christians?

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