Editor's Note: In our last issue, we began a series on the Apostles' Creed to show how the creed can counter the culture and help shape our beliefs as Christians about matters of life and death. We began with the expansive first sentence, "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth." In this issue we return to that sentence to explore God's fatherhood.
The Apostle’s Creed has everything to do with issues of life. For the Creed tells us of God, and who God is directly determines how we see the world, and how we regard all life. "I believe in God the Father Almighty," it begins, and immediately we have affirmed something revolutionary. God is Father.
The Old Testament has just enough references to the Father to establish the possibility. But among these fifteen uses of Father for God, only two are direct addresses by people toward the Lord. Not even the Psalms, for all their intimacy, directly pray to the Father. It is only with the coming of Jesus that the gift of calling the Almighty "Our Father" is given.
God in relationship
The arrival of the Son of God in the flesh revealed what had before only been hinted: the one God is not a solitary monad, but a three-personed God, who has his very being in an eternal relationship of love.
God is Father means that God lives in relationship to his creation as the one who creates, sustains, protects, disciplines, nourishes and guides. But more: there is a relational quality at the very heart of God.
This relational quality is built into us as human beings made in the image of God. We are not here as isolated individuals seeking independent fulfillment of our personal destinies. We are creatures made through the relationship of our fathers and mothers, who were able to survive only because of our relationship to others and who continue to live in the world as those necessarily in relationship to other people. An essential part of who we are is our relatedness to others: to parents, siblings, spouses, friends, children, caregivers and care-receivers.
All familial relationships are derived from God the Father
This seems so basic, and so obvious: in the image of God we relate to others. God eternally relates in love as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That love, when creation, and thus time, began, opened out to make us, those who live in the image of God. In Ephesians 3:14-15, we read, "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name." Literally, the Greek text may be translated, "the Father from whom every fatherhood …is named."
In other words, that God is Father means that all fathering, all familial relationships, are derived from him. We do not project human fatherhood back to God, as radical feminism claims. Rather, we derive our understanding of all fatherhood from God the Father. That places us profoundly in relationship: we have access to our Father, the privilege of calling him Abba, by the grace of his only Son Jesus, to whom we are united by the Holy Spirit.
All our familial relationships draw their life and pattern from the Triune God. So marriage is seen further on in Ephesians as flowing from the Son who laid down his life for his bride, the church.
Abortion is a family matter
To recognize that God is the Father reminds us that our human relationships are derived from him. We are not individuals in isolation. Certainly we are not isolated when we unite sexually and a child is conceived. Therefore, abortion is never just about a woman and her body—it always, profoundly, concerns a man, a woman, and their baby. This familial relating is grounded eternally in the God whom we meet in Jesus as Father.
Issues of life derive from God's Fatherhood
God the Father Almighty is the founding safeguard of all human life. We come into being by relationship, after the pattern and image of the Triune God, eternally related as three in one being of love. Issues of life, then, derive from God’s Fatherhood. This "father to the fatherless" (Psalm 68: 5) is the creator, protector and sustainer of all life. We are each conceived in relationship and reared in constant relating. Abortion arguments attempt to isolate one individual, the woman, from fathers, motherhood, and children. God the Father, whom we confess with our first breath in the Apostle’s Creed, will not allow this to be done.
The Rev. Gerrit Dawson is pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Lenoir, NC, and a member of the PPL Theological Advisory Board.