Fatherhood and the Field Essay

September 11, 2008 020

Tomorrow, I settle in for three hours of essay writing and an intensive interview as a part of the PhD application for Systematic Theology at SBTS.  Preparation for the essay(s) and interview have included reading much theology, outlining major doctrines, and rehearsing biblical, historical, and systematic arguments for each.  But unexpectedly (sort of), they have also included the earlier-than-expected arrival of our first son. 

For the last few days, theological preparation has been done while holding Titus, attending to his hiccups, and protecting his face from his flailing hands.  In other words, the studying has been intermittent and often interrupted.  But that is not a complaint.  More important than the non-stop cranium stuffing with facts about Moltmann, Bultmann, postmillenialism, and predestination, God has given me a far greater theology lesson in being a dad.

Consider, the amazing gift to fathers and sons, that they might enjoy a status original to the Trinity itself.  From all of eternity, God the Father has known and loved His Begotten Son (1 John 4:8,16; John 3:16); and God the Son, being equal to the Father, has gladly submitted himself to the hierarchical headship of the Father.  Truly, the mysteries of the Trinity are plenty, but familial relations in this life help pave the way to better appreciating the Godhead.

Likewise, in the history of redemption, God has made himself a father to Israel (Ex. 4:21; Deut. 32:9) and now to those who have trusted in Christ (Matt. 6:9; John 1:12; 1 John 3:1-3).  In other words, God is a Father, and he loves his children.  He does good for them.  He provides (Luke 12); disciplines (Heb. 12:5-11), and shapes his children into offspring who bear a striking resemblance (i.e. Christ-like conformity, cf. Rom. 8-29).  In this way, God is the first and the best daddy (Rom. 8:16ff). 

So more important this week than memorizing all the verses that will help me do well on this entrance exam–though that is important–being a dad is a far greater lesson in theological truth.  Not to say that I have mastered this theological subject, I am only beginning, but in the lifelong pursuit of godly character, this paternal training is an invaluable part–theologically and otherwise.

Reflecting on these two things–fatherhood and the impending field essay–I confess optimistic excitement about the prospect of a doctoral studies, but truth be told, I am all the more excited about being a dad.  Why?  Surely because of the implicit delights of fatherhood, but also because of theological purposes of fatherhood.  As the Spirit instructs in Titus 2:1-10, it is in God-ordained relationships (like fathers and sons) that God provides the greatest lessons in gospel theology.  He conforms us into his image as biblical truth is lived and practiced.  No matter how much theology we know, it is theology enacted in day-to-day relationships that matters most.  As Paul says, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1).  This does not put parenting at odds with a PhD (or any kind of rigorous work done for the Lord, cf. Col. 3:23), rather they complement one another.  And they should, for the Father who sent his Son to be mankind’s savior, is also the sovereign Lord who formed Titus in the womb of Wendy, and now gives me the sober joy of caring for his young life.  What could be better?  Truly this is a glorious theology–life lived in light of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

May we who are a part of God’s household of faith, find delight in the relationships God has given us, and may we see the His glory all the more clearly as we live and move and have our being in familial relations.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

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