Friday, May 15, 2009

Calling God "Daddy"- Part 2

The question of the day is: Can we call God "Daddy"? In my last post I surveyed how we naturally tend to view God as King and therefore relate to Him that way, as well as the fact that most Evangelical Christians have never called God Daddy (and most would probably agree that the term seems just a bit too familiar). I hope this post helps those of us who are longing to understand just what God holds out to us in the hope of the Gospel and in our identity as His children.

If the Gospel is true and through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ we are truly able to find forgiveness of our sins through Jesus' bearing our punishment for sin (justification), then the question of what we are saved UNTO has to be just as clearly spelled out for us. It seems that many Christians live the Christian life as if we have attained the status of angels- you know, able to be in God's presence, serving Him and worshiping Him, free from sin. Yet God did not create us in His image nor send His Son to die for the redemption of angels or to bring us to the status of angels. God's redemption of fallen humanity goes far beyond our freedom from and victory over sin. The Scriptures clearly reveal that God has adopted us INTO His family, with all of the blessings that come with being joint-heirs with Christ.

Romans 8:15-17 and Galatians 4:4-7 are our key passages here, both which speak of the doctrine of adoption. What stands out in these passages, though, and what most of us (myself included) have a hard time grasping is when Paul states that we have received the gift of adoption as sons (Galatians) and the Spirit of adoption (Romans) by whom we cry (Romans) and who Himself cries out within us (Galatians) "Abba! Father!" The implication for us is that we who were slaves (both to the Law and to sin) are now free to cry out by the Spirit (who is also crying out!) "Abba! Father!" So what does this mean for us as we approach our now Father God? Is He Daddy or simply Father?

I recently was on a blog of a highly respected Christian who loves to write about the doctrine of adoption. His subject was the "Abba" cry. He, along with some other very good commentators, have argued against “over-sentimentalizing” the Abba cry into such affectionate terms as “Papa” and “Daddy”. Though I understand these arguments from the standpoint of etymology, they fail to recognize the most powerful argument for precisely using these terms, and thus the unifying result of being a people who united are free to cry out “Daddy!” (along with the multi-ethnic unifier that it provides- next blog). Let me explain.

Any title for “Father” can at the same time be the most endearing of all terms or the most cold and distant of all terms. For example, in the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the rich and spoiled girl Veronica says over and over again, “Daddy, I want…” or “Daddy, get me…” (of course, you have to say it in a snobby British accent). This cold use of the term “Daddy” is a far different use than a child who dearly loves his or her father and who finally sees him after he was away on a four day trip. Can't you see that child running to be embraced in the arms of his father shouting with tears in his eyes, “Daddy!”? I have experienced this myself!

It is not necessarily the word employed for "Father" as it is the intimacy of the relationship behind the word when it is used. In Jesus’ case, there is an intimacy with the Father that goes back from before the world began (Jn. 17:1-5), a perfect intimacy that we can only get a taste of here on earth. And it is in that intimacy of relationship that Jesus knew with the Father that He had in his heart when he cried out to His Father in the garden (just before His coming death!), “Abba! Father!” (Mk. 14:36) So there is nothing wrong with translating the term "Abba" as “Papa!” or “Daddy!” or “Father” or even “Pa”, so long as the understood intimacy of the word is at the center. If we have genuine intimacy with our Father God (the intimacy promised by Jesus Himself in Jn. 17), then we are free to address Him as Papa or Daddy or any other endearing word that our language might have to offer. And the beauty of this is that it does not matter what language or nation you come from, we are all free to enjoy our Daddy God together as His children.

Author George MacDonald understood this as seen in his classic children's story The Princess and the Goblins. In one scene the Princess Irene is awaiting the return of her father, the King of the land. As he approaches on his white horse she runs to him crying out "King Papa!" Truly that is what He is.

It is a beautiful thing to hear a child here in Uganda who was once fatherless and who has come to know their TRUE Father (the true Father of the fatherless) pray addressing God as "Tata" (Daddy). May we begin to lead others (spiritual and physical fatherless) into the glorious freedom of the children of God where we are set free to come before our God and King who is in reality our King Papa and Tata.