The Father Meets Our Real Need

Rod Rosenbladt
Thursday, May 3rd 2007
May/Jun 2005

Every good father is a clue as to what God is like to his child and especially to sons. The great Scottish storyteller George MacDonald certainly understood this.

To My Father
Take of the first fruits Father of thy care,
Wrapped in the fresh leaves of my gratitude.
Late waked for early gifts ill understood,
Claiming in all my harvests rightful share,
Whether with song that mounts the joyful air,
I praise my God or in yet deeper mood,
Sit dumb because I know a speechless good.
Needing no voice but all the soul for prayer,
Thou hast been faithful to my highest need.
And I thy debtor ever, evermore,
Shall never feel the burden sore.
Yet most I thank thee not for any deed,
But for the sense thy living self did breed.
That fatherhood is at the great world’s core.

Now if you had a good father, you know exactly what MacDonald means. Every good father on earth is an analogy to God. Every single one. I grew up with a father like that, and I found out just how much need there is in our day and in our culture for fathers. The father’s presence is not one primarily of power, it’s one primarily of grace. The German reformer Martin Luther said, “The calling of a father was to be a priest in his own household.” Now some of you sons might recognize this. That certainly was my story. I can’t speak for daughters, but I know as a son I was forever in trouble with my mother. And somehow my father worked it so my mother didn’t feel alienated, and he was my deliverer. For every son who has that, when the gospel story is told, he says, “I recognize that. That’s familiar.”

The message of the New Testament is the message of our total hatred of our Creator and his total rescue of us anyway, without even asking our permission to do it! Every son who had a father who was sort of like that has extra help in recognizing that. I’ve realized through the years that healing occurs even into adulthood for sons who haven’t had a father like that when the stories of good fathers are told and linked to the gospel promises. So, if you have a good one, tell people. Tell the stories. Because the child knows it’s supposed to be something like that. He doesn’t know how, it’s long ago and far away, but he knows somehow it was supposed to be like that. And it was. That child is right, it was supposed to be like that. That’s how it was supposed to be. Even in a fallen world, it was supposed to be like that.

This is one reason why J. R. R. Tolkien’s books have such a hold on our society. In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Tolkien was retelling the Great Story again in a hidden way.

The Gospels contain a fairy story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy stories. They contain many marvels-peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: ‘mythical’ in their perfect, self-contained significance; and at the same time powerfully symbolic and allegorical; and among the marvels is the greatest, and most complete, and conceivable eucatastrophe [Tolkien’s word for the “turn” in a fairytale when things are utterly without hope and a turn comes that’s so good it almost makes you cry. It’s too good to be true.]. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has preeminently the ‘inner-consistency of reality’. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath. It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy that one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy story were found to be ‘primarily’ true, its narrative to be history without thereby necessarily losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. It is not difficult for one who is not called upon to try and conceive anything of a quality unknown. The joy would have exactly the same quality, if not the same degree, as the joy which the ‘turn’ in a fairy story gives: such joy has the very taste of primary truth. (Otherwise its name would not be joy.) It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind. But it is preeminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord of angels, and of men – and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.

Tolkien is considered one of the greatest experts in the Western world on fairy stories, and he was convinced that the gospel was the greatest fairy story of all time–only this one was true. Fathers are like that. They make the unbelievable true. Every good father does this for his children by being an analogy of God to them.

Thursday, May 3rd 2007

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

Picture of J. Ligon Duncan, IIIJ. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church
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