Fathering Norms

How involved is your spiritual father? I have heard the rather silly assumption normalized: “If you do not have your spiritual father’s smartphone number, he isn’t your father.”

Think about it.

I know we have repeated it without analysis because it sounds right, but the statement’s Biblicity and the presuppositions underneath it are suspect.

Paul. Jesus. Simon Peter. John. All these revelations of fathering leaders who are spiritual fathers provided fathering without cell phones. So, we know that fathering does not require the immediacy of contact and communication.

We mix shepherds with fathers. We exaggerate the metaphors. We begin with natural fathering dynamics instead of spiritual fathering dynamics. We blend in mentoring, coaching, best buddy, and boy-scout-troop leader mentality. In other words, we aren’t that Biblical in our expectations and analysis of spiritual fathering.

Relational Dynamics

Jesus had one nearest His heart. Paul did, as well. Jesus had three inner circle leaders. Paul may have had more. Jesus had twelve selected apostles in training. Paul may have had as many if we count all his spiritual sons.

Jesus strategically led seventy who could do what He did as His representatives. Paul may have had more given the impact of his apostolic training in Asia Minor and the rapid expansion of kingdom leadership in elders throughout his comparatively short-lived ministry.

So, we have no one Biblical norm for spiritual fathering that can stand our conceptualization of constant interaction with a territorial apostolic spiritual father. We have something else revealed in Scripture. We have a spiritual fathering viewpoint that can touch, influence, lead, and impact one or one hundred thousand.

Inheritors Do Not Design and Define Fathering

The real issues are that we both demand one-on-one when Father does not intend it, and we attempt to diminish the fathering of leaders who can influence ten thousand to recruit inheritors. Both of these errors whisper in the false idea that I need to have a father who answers the phone every time I call or returns my call every time I think I should hear from him.

It is both illogical and illegitimate to think the sons and daughters design and define fathering. It is both lawless and pretentious to assume that sons and daughters find, chose, recruit, and write job descriptions for spiritual leaders of any kind.

The spiritual father partners with and represents the Heavenly Father. In that way, spiritual fathers respond to spiritual children with Father as their reference point. In that way, one of the first order presuppositions is that spiritual children are, indeed, too immature to lead the relationship. The heart of spiritual children is to honor the role of spiritual fathers with submission.

Anything else is so obviously contrary to the Bible’s presuppositions, the commandments of God, the design and definition of the relationship that we are obviously self-perpetuating dysfunction.

Existentialism Error

We do not begin with what exists to determine what is right. We do not start natural fathering to discern and discover spiritual fathering.

The statement that we begin with the natural to learn the spiritual is so blatantly wrong that existentialism alone can give it a dash of interest. Once that dash dashes off, we giggle like a child that we even allowed ourselves to taste it.

Some things are Biblically obvious. Start there. Imposing some humanistic or existential condition upon Truth is the first order of error, exaggeration, and existential absurdity.

However, we want to believe things enough to insert our beliefs into God’s revelations. We begin with this mixture when we approach the Bible in our journey to a 2 Timothy 3:16 process. We read and study to receive teaching that rebukes our errant thought processes and conclusions. We receive revelatory correction.

From that condition, Truth trains us in lifestyle and culture, so we are entirely prepared by Truth to apply Truth to every good activity of our existence.

Humanistic and Existential Syncretism

Many of our leaders are products of syncretism. We learned to honor humanistic and existential training during the loss of the authority of the Scriptures. We bought into the lies of evolutionary progressivism then syncretized it with the Chicken Soup for the Soul verses we didn’t dismiss as irrelevant.

I’m talking about neo-evangelicalism now. I’m talking to you and me. I’m saying that each of us must now fight through this morass to re-pioneer Truth, plucking pearls from the quagmire in which our preaching, teaching, writing, and dialogue settles us.

Start talking fathering, and you begin with a collection of “well, I believe” hodgepodged errors. Start talking about fathering, and you immediately get six pages of “we don’t want controlling leaders” apologetics before you get one sentence of Bible revelation.

I’m not talking about liberal seminaries. I’m talking about the apostolic restoration that is coming into a New Era Reformation. In the same way we hammered the apostolic restoration, we now beat fathering into existential natural fathering dynamics, often including dysfunctional modern cultural designs for parenting definitions.

If you say, “spiritual children choose their spiritual fathers because it is a completely voluntary system,” you spit in God’s face. It never happens in the Bible. It cannot correctly occur in the kingdom. It defies every presupposition of Father’s design and definition of fathering. It also reconfigures Father’s revelation of how He fathers.

Imperfect and Impure

Not that the argument I make begins with perfect fathers or purity of the fathering relationship. It is not that we cannot father until we get the design and definition purified to perfection. It is that we will never improve from our present condition and function until we abandon all sources of input and cast ourselves wholly upon Scripture for the foundations.

We are improving in fathering every month! We are actually talking about fathering now! We are having healthy and unhealthy dialogue and arguments about fathering. We are rejecting Shepherding control systems all over again–“Hey! Shepherding is over, honey! Move on!

“Fathering” is hip again, I know. Therefore, the first step for contemporary churchism is syncretism. The first step for nearly all existing leaders is syncretism.

In each case, the syncretism is an effort to salvage the experience or fit the revelation into an existential context.

No! Never! Forget it!

Start there with “only God the Father who created, designed, defined, and applied fathering has a clue about fathering. Start with “let God be true and every man a liar.”

When we read books and hear discussions, teachings, and expositions on fathering that begin with, continue in, and conclude from experiences without those experiences losing themselves in the glorious brilliance of revelation, we err into the muck of existentialism.

There is now a left coast work of honor and love as wrong as satanism emptying the kingdom of its essentials. The exaggeration has run its course in the application so that the implementation requires people to go back and ignore the Bible to maintain allegiance.

In other words, what you believe in trusting faith as revelation produces consequences. Your commitment to these consequences is your trusting submission. You serve them. When they lead to conclusions at odds with Bible revelation, the context of your commitment to them and their communication demands that you either repent when your consequences and conclusions are inconsistent with God’s or you must rewrite God’s meaning.

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Dr. Don

Dr. Don

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