The High Calling of Fatherhood
by Ted Cockle
Three months from yesterday, I’m due to be a father. And Wilson has me pegged when he writes, “it is likely that a number of readers have felt simultaneously encouraged and overwhelmed.” (198)
In his book, Father Hunger, Wilson seeks to re-establish the “high calling” of biblical fatherhood by pointing our society’s fathers away from the aloof “sitcom-dad” and back towards God the Father.
While this high calling of fatherhood is, at times, overwhelming, the strength of Father Hunger is in recognizing that a father’s strength comes from the Father. “Theology undergirds everything,” he argues, “how we think of God the Father will drive how we think of all fathers.” (189) Therefore, Wilson contends, our culture’s incorrect understanding and view of God the Father is the source of not just our familial but also our cultural woes (educational, vocational, financial, political, etc…).
Hope in Imitation
Wilson writes with a pointed hope which finds its foundation in the good news of Christ. “Our comfort is that the author of this great disaster story wrote Himself into the very center of that disaster, that He might carry the weight of it Himself.” (58)
Because “the way children really follow a father is by means of imitation” (186), we, as fathers, are to imitate God the father so our children (whether physical or spiritual) might see what He has done on our behalf (cf. 1 Cor 11:1; 1 Peter 1:16):
The hands of fathers are there for provision (which means openhanded giving), and also to protect. For the former we may read through the gospel of John again and see what the Father has done with His hands—He gives and gives again. For the latter, we can look at the hands of Christ and see the nail prints still. (197-198)
Wilson’s years of experience are clearly evidenced in his masterful writing. Having mastered the tools of logic and illustration, Wilson simultaneously simplifies and expands one’s understanding of otherwise difficult-to-grasp concepts. Here he explains how treating men and women differently (as is done in a complementarian gender roles) does not diminish the value of either:
When two things are the same we tend to treat them the same. But if we treat two things the same, it does not follow that they are the same. If we found two hammers on the workbench, we wouldn’t have any trouble picking up either one of them to do the job—because we intend to treat them exactly the same. But it does not follow from this that if we should treat something the same (in a legal setting) they must, therefore, be the same. A man might be called up to take care of all his tools, treating them all with the same kind of respect. But treating a hammer with respect and a screwdriver with respect means treating them differently—you don’t twist screws with a hammer, and you don’t try to drive nails with the handle of a screwdriver. (6)
While there are days I am overwhelmed by the practical implications of what it means to be a father, the encouragement of Father Hunger is in its dependence upon scripture and God as the only perfect father. My responsibility, then, is to seek Him first—and make sure my children (and my wife) see me doing so.
I fully expect this book to become well-worn by the time I reach empty-nester status. I highly recommend it to future or present fathers of both physical and spiritual children (read: all men).
I received this book as part of Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze blog reviewer program.