GOD’S FATHERHOOD: LITERAL or METAPHORICAL?
BY: JOHN R. GAVAZZONI
The question raised in the title of this article, I believe, is fundamental to a faith that warms the heart; a faith that finds refuge in the only form of satisfying love, i.e., that of a Person, and not merely a principle; a faith in that satisfies the deepest yearnings of the human heart, and provides the exact directional guidance to that destiny which is consistent with the nature of the Source of our humanness.
Spiritual emphases within the believing community along the course of history have an extreme swing-of-the-pendulum aspect to them. This can be seen in the swing from irrational literalism, very common among some quarters of fundamentalism, to the opposite extreme that sees all, or nearly all, descriptions of God, and His actions, as metaphorical, common to the more liberal mentality, which in some cases is the mentality that admires its own intellectualism.
The latter view, most often, claims support on the basis that God is Spirit, and therefore there is nothing in the physical realm, or of that which pertains to earthly, human relationships, which should be thought of as being literally descriptive of God. Now, we ought to know, I would hope, that such descriptions of Jesus, for example, are clearly metaphorical: "The Door;" The Good Shepherd; The Cornerstone; "The Lion of the Tribe of Judah; "The Rock;" to mention a few. But Jesus is also referred to as our Savior and our Lord. Why? Because that's what He IS--literally. He's our Savior, and as such, He saves. He's our Lord, and as such, His will takes precedence over our will. Note: He does what He is. As Savior, He saves; as Lord, all the doings in heaven and earth are under the authority given Him by God.
I ask the reader to note that He does what He is for our consideration of God, as THE Father. When considering the biblical description of God as Father, and the ancient creedal confession: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty...." ought we to reason in this way?: God should only be thought of as Father in the sense that Deity has the characteristics of what we consider good and positive about human fatherhood. God should be thought of in terms of strength--strong to carry out His purpose; strong to protect us, His creatures; having the quality of bold initiative action; having a very purposeful, pursuing, impregnating (metaphorically speaking) passion to His nature.
OR does God do most essentially what He is? Does He really, actually, as Spirit, beget children? I mean really, actually? Does what constitutes a man as a father, on the earthly plane, directly, literally, accurately led us to understand what God is on the heavenly plane? The Spirit of Truth has been most insistent re: this question in my life, and has over and over again energized me to affirm that God, indeed, has Spirit-Loins, and within His Spirit-loins, a Spirit-Sperm. And the Divine Nature, in and from eternity has had, and continues to have a longing to produce, and become a Family, NOT first by acts of creation, but first, and foundationally, by procreative generation. From THAT was formed our earthly form which has deep within it, the spirit-being begotten of God by real, actual, spiritual impregnation, conception, and birth through the coming together, that union of, the complementary impregnating and conceiving impulse of the Divine Nature.
The Family nature of Deity traces to the Divine longing to actualize the Father/Mother, Parental/Filial potential. That is, to become what He is, and what He includes within Himself--Family. The thread of this biblical theme begins in Genesis with God creating man in His image, "male and female, created He them." Got that? Where did Adam, along with Eve coming forth from within him, get their gender-complementary nature? What is it that they are an image of? Clearly, God. I stand in wonderment at the Becoming aspect of God's Being. God is Being that Becomes. God is eternally becoming more and more of all that He is, out of the depths of all that He is. The Divine beginning was the eternal begetting of God's Only/Uniquely begotten Son, out from whose loins have come His many brethren. The Book of Hebrews records the Son praising, and giving thanks to the Father, for the children He has given Him (the children the Father has given to the Son), as Abraham, by begetting Isaac, gave children to Isaac, in that Isaac's sperm originated from within the sperm of Abraham who begat Him. All the children of Abraham though Isaac came from that single sperm of Abraham that started the whole family nation of Israel. I stand in wonderment at the Becoming nature of God, whereby in begetting a Son, God became a Father, Mother, and Son. In the begetting of the Son, God became Parental and Filial, and the Son, in the image of God, continues to beget children.
We're not "going to heaven," dear fellow believer, Jesus is taking us to THAT (real, actual) Father. I remember the moment while in deep contemplation; the Lord spoke to me and said, "you are the fruit of my loins and the work of my hands." In one short statement He brought together my sonship and my creaturehood. He took the substance of what He had eternally birthed, and formed from that spirit-substance, the eonian creature that I am. Am I a spirit? Yes I am. Am I a creature? Yes I am. No inconsistency there. It's a consistency that calls for acknowledgment. Your spirit-sonship, and your material creaturehood, are both dimensions of God's determination to incarnate. First as the Only begotten Son, and from Him, the whole Family of, and which is, God.
Interestingly, it was just the day before writing this article that I came upon my dear friend, Eddie Brown's translation, of Ephesians as I was going through, and straightening out some of my papers. So I checked out a verse that I think gets to the heart of the subject of this article. Ed, who takes an approach to translation by beginning with the root-meaning of words, translates Eph. 3: 14 and 15 thusly: "Because of this, I am bending my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from within whom every paternal group in heavenly realms and upon earth continues being assigned..." It is "from within whom" (the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ) that "every paternal group... continues being assigned..." It is important to note that every paternal group--and every paternal group would be a family--while, it is implied that each paternal group has a uniqueness, being each assigned out from within God, all of them are assigned AS paternal groups--FROM WITHIN God. That is, from within the Paternal Group (Nuclear, Father-initiated, Family), we have all been natured as, and within, human families, and also, together as, one great human family.