“Far the most important thing we can know about George MacDonald is that … an almost perfect relationship with his father was the earthly root of all his wisdom. From his own father, he said, he first learned that Fatherhood must be the core of the universe. He was thus prepared in an unusual way to teach that religion in which the relation of Father and Son is of all relations the most central.”
Fatherhood must be the core of the universe. When I first read these curious words from C.S. Lewis some years ago, they struck me with great curiosity. I thought, “Of course God is Father, and our Savior is His Son, but I suspect Lewis and MacDonald are getting at something much bigger here!”
And they are.
If Christianity is true, then Fatherhood is literally, actually, the core of everything that is. Jesus tells us as much Himself. The great Francis Schaeffer shows us this in Genesis in Space and Time, noting that even though scripture starts with “In the beginning,” we recognize that something profoundly lovely was there before “the beginning.” What was it?
In John 17, Jesus’ high priestly prayer, we are given the opportunity to eavesdrop on an intimate and wholly unique conversation between God the Son and God the Father. Jesus tells us what was happening before “In the beginning.” There was glory (John 17:5), and there was love (John 17:24) shared between a Father and His only begotten Son. And the nature of that love and intimacy was deeply personal, intimate and passionate. In fact, John 1:18 tells us, in the original Greek, that the Son dwelled intimately “in the bosom of the Father” before He came to dwell among us on earth.
This means that before anything in creation existed – before Genesis 1:1 – the earth was empty and formless, but reality certainly was not!
Before Genesis 1:1, there was Fatherhood.
The core of all reality is a Father loving and glorying in a Son, and a Son loving and glorying in the Father. And their love was so powerful and real that it is eternally manifest in the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity. This means that Christianity uniquely teaches that ultimate reality is not dark, void and impersonal, but intensely personal, inherently relational, and passionately intimate.
J.I. Packer, in his book, Christianity: The True Humanism, explains:
“Before the Creation ever appeared, God who is both singular and plural, unique and triune, solitary and social, existed and rejoiced in love—the love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father, love in which the Holy Spirit was and is somehow agent, the issuer, and sharer, all in one.”
C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity makes this universe-changing observation:
“God is love, and that love works through men—especially through the whole community of Christians. But this spirit of love is, from all eternity, a love going on between the Father and Son.”
And as Augustine explained simply, but profoundly in On the Trinity,
“There, then, are three things: he who loves [Father], and that who is loved [Son] and love [Holy Spirit].”
Jesus spoke of His Father over 170 times in the New Testament, and in nearly every case He used the word abba, an intimate and exclusive form of address. This intimacy, love, acceptance and self-giving between the Father and the Son is what Christians understand the “core of the universe” to be. As such, this is what lies at the center of our very lives, our deepest essence.
I realize this all sounds very metaphysical and mysterious, but it is a fundamental Truth that is central to our faith. It dramatically changes our understanding of the foundation of reality and of God Himself. It impacts the very nature of who you are, what you are made for, and therefore your deepest longings. But that Christian story of Fatherhood doesn’t end there.
The Spiritual Power of Fatherhood
Christ’s first recorded words in Scripture come when He is twelve years old. His parents accidentally leave Him behind in Jerusalem, and after they discover He is missing, a frantic three-day search ensues. They finally find Him in the Temple and offer a stern rebuke for giving them such a scare. Jesus responds calmly, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) Decades later, Jesus is condemned to the most humiliating death for the “crime” of saying He is the beloved Son of God (Matt. 26:63-66).
The Cross: A Crisis of Father Abandonment?
Consider the day Jesus died. At noon on the day of crucifixion, the sky went dark for three hours. God had turned away from the Son because of the sin that He bore on our behalf. For the first time—and the last—in all eternity, the intimacy of Father and Son was severed profoundly. Enough that Jesus cried out feeling alone and ultimately forsaken. It is indeed the first and only time Jesus refers to His Father impersonally as “My God, my God.” And He died.
The cross was a crisis father abandonment.
Fatherhood is a deeply precious and sacred thing for the Christian. “Father” is not just a role that God took on in order to tell His story. It is who He is. Fatherhood is the very core of the universe because it is the very center and fount of all reality. Fatherhood is the original and most fundamental nature of God.
And this, we must understand, is why human fatherhood is under such vicious attack today in our culture. Why the father wound is so real and devastating. Satan knows all too well what fatherhood represents, and he hates it.
We must understand all that it represents, as well… and love it.