Home » Angry gods vs. A Loving Father: How Your View of God Affects Your Reading of Scriptures

Angry gods vs. A Loving Father: How Your View of God Affects Your Reading of Scriptures

by Dr. Eitan Bar
6 minutes read

This is a perspective you may not encounter in traditional Bible college or seminary teachings. It’s an understanding that emerged from my personal reflections on the frequency with which Jesus referred to God as “Father” – a term he used over 150 times. This observation prompted me to develop a principle that offers a unique approach to how I read the Bible.

When I started reading scriptures through the lens of God as the perfect Father, it was enlightening and transformative. Such a reading requires a deep understanding of both the nature of fatherhood, as we know it, and the divine attributes ascribed to God within the context of the scriptures. Recognizing God as the perfect Father allows us to access new depths of wisdom, compassion, and guidance in our spiritual journey. Let’s unpack this process.

Understanding God as the Perfect Father

The fundamental starting point is to comprehend the notion of God as the perfect Father. This concept rests on the presumption of God’s absolute goodness, unconditional love, and supreme authority. As an ideal father, God seeks the best for his children, offering guidance, comfort, and discipline when necessary. But, unlike human fathers who are imperfect and limited by their humanity, God’s fatherly attributes extend beyond these confines, embodying perfection and eternity.

Next, consider what the ideal attributes of a father would be, based on human societal and moral standards. A perfect father would undoubtedly love unconditionally, always be present, provide guidance, be forgiving, be supportive in trials and tribulations, and consistently model the right behavior. These attributes align closely with those traditionally ascribed to God, suggesting a compelling parallel. However, God, as the perfect Father, surpasses these attributes, displaying infinite patience, unconditional love, perfect wisdom, and unchanging constancy.

The scriptures provide several instances where God’s attributes are aligned with the characteristics of a perfect father. In the Bible, for instance, God’s love is demonstrated by His willingness to die for the sins of humanity (John 3:16). This represents an ultimate act of selfless love akin to a father willing to make sacrifices for his children. In Psalm 103:13, God is portrayed “as a father [who] has compassion on his children.” Another instance is found in Hebrews 12:6, where God’s discipline is portrayed as evidence of His love, similar to a father’s disciplinary actions aimed at guiding his children’s moral development.

Interpreting Scriptures through the Lens of God as the Perfect Loving Father

When interpreting the scriptures through this lens, we should seek to identify these fatherly qualities of God. Where is God providing guidance, love, discipline, protection, or comfort? Understanding this allows us to interpret passages in light of God’s fatherly nature, offering new insights into His character and His will for us.

Moreover, understanding God as a perfect Father allows us to understand the purpose behind His actions. We see this when God allows challenges and trials, not as punitive measures, but as opportunities for growth, character building, and spiritual strengthening, just like a father allows his children to face difficulties to build resilience and maturity.

Let’s take, for example, God’s wrath. The wrath of God can be allegorically likened to a loving father who sternly warns his child against touching a hot stove. The father’s prohibition is not borne out of anger or hatred but rather out of love and a desire to protect the child from harm. Yet, if the child disobeys and touches the stove, they inevitably get burned. This painful consequence is not a direct infliction by the father; rather, it’s a result of the child’s choice to ignore the father’s warning. The burn is not a symbol of the father’s wrath or anger but rather a natural consequence of the child’s disobedience. The father doesn’t delight in the child’s pain; instead, he takes this opportunity to help the child learn an important lesson. Similarly, God’s wrath is not about Him punishing us out of anger but about the natural consequences of our actions when we choose to ignore His guidance. He, like the loving father, hopes we learn and grow from these experiences, drawing closer to Him and understanding His will more fully.

In the Old Testament, God’s wrath manifested itself in the form of divine passivity; He refrained from protecting Israel from evil. For instance, Israel would sin in the worship of other idols – putting their trust in them – and in response, God declared through the prophets, “Fine, Israel, the pagan neighboring nation who is on their way to conquer you, and I won’t be there to protect you. Perhaps your other gods will help. Let’s see how that turns out. Good luck!” This was God’s wrath demonstrated in Israel’s real life. However, this had nothing to do with God hating or destroying Israel Himself (nor with the salvation of individual people.) Even when Israel suffered God’s wrath (lack of protection from evil), there were always individuals within Israel “who did not bow down to Baal,” yet they suffered the same wrath as the rest of Israel.

Later, Jesus, the Prophet of prophets, warned Israel, calling her once again to repent (Matthew 4:17), yet Israel rejected Christ. Consequently, the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed as the Roman pagans invaded and exiled our people. This, once again, also affected Jews who did believe in Jesus.

Applying the Interpretation to Our Lives

Once we have interpreted scriptures through this lens, it can inform our relationship with God and our daily living. Recognizing God as a perfect Father, who helps us mature with love, guides us with wisdom, and comforts us with compassion, can profoundly impact our trust in Him, willingness to obey His instruction, and overall well-being.

Understanding God as the perfect Father also fosters our spiritual growth. We become more patient with others and ourselves, understanding that, like a loving father, God nurtures our growth at a pace appropriate to us. We also become more trusting, knowing that God, like a devoted father, has our best interests at heart, even when we cannot immediately see the outcomes.

Recognizing God as the perfect Father allows us to see our own imperfections and struggles in a new light. Rather than viewing difficulties as evidence of punishment, abandonment, or unkindness, we can interpret them as part of our journey and spiritual growth and development. This is much like a caring father who allows his children to make their own mistakes but also helps them to navigate challenges to foster resilience and character development. This perspective encourages us to lean into these challenges with faith, knowing that our divine Father guides us even when we fall short, provides support, and turns everything in for our good.

Consider, for example, the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. Interpreted through the lens of God as the perfect Father, this story vividly depicts God’s unconditional love, patient waiting, and joyful forgiveness. Just as the father in the parable welcomes his wayward son home without recrimination, God, as our perfect Father, graciously accepts us back whenever we stray and decide to return to Him. His forgiveness is without condition, and His joy at our return is sincere and abundant.
In Deuteronomy 31:6, God promises never to leave or forsake His people, much like a devoted father who consistently remains by his children’s side. No matter what trials or tribulations we might face, understanding God as a faithful, ever-present Father provides reassurance and courage. Like any other child, we, too, may rebel and leave God occasionally, yet he will never forsake us!

Parental Sacrifice

The perfect Father’s love also involves sacrifice for the benefit of His children. This can be Israel (in the Old Testament), the Church (in the New Testament), and you as a believer today. This sacrificial love is most notably demonstrated in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. As mentioned earlier, John 3:16 emphasizes God’s love as He “gave His one and only Son” for us. As we interpret this verse through the lens of God as the perfect Father, we see a love that is willing to endure the unimaginable for the benefit of His children. This love goes beyond human comprehension, yet it resonates with us on a fundamental level, as we understand the depth of a parent’s love and the lengths they would go to protect and save their children. This means that the gospel is not about a Father who poured His accumulated wrath on Jesus by abusing and torturing Him to relax His anger – as some preach – because that would assume that Christ did something to change the mind of His Father. But God doesn’t change, and therefore Jesus never changed the Father’s mind. Instead, Jesus came and revealed to us who the Father really is so we can change our minds about Him: God is a loving father, not one of the angry gods.

Inviting Trust and Surrender

Recognizing God as the perfect Father invites us to a deeper level of trust and surrender. Much like a child entrusting themselves to their father’s care, we are invited to place our lives, with all their complexities and uncertainties, into God’s capable hands. We can be the worst of sinners, yet our Father loves us nonetheless. In Proverbs 3:5-6, we are instructed to “trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Seeing God as our perfectly loving Father allows us to embrace this passage fully, relinquishing our need for control and leaning into His infinite wisdom and guidance.

A father is also a disciplinarian, and God as the perfect Father also extends to this aspect. He is just and fair in His judgments, providing reproof when necessary but also offering more mercy and grace than any merciful judge. This dual nature is encapsulated in verses like Psalm 145:8-9, “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.” This statement allows us to appreciate God’s perfect justice and steadfast love.

In conclusion, interpreting scriptures through the lens of God as the perfect loving Father can lead to a richer, more nuanced understanding of His divine character, His love for us, His purpose for our lives, and the meaning of scriptures. It allows us to appreciate His omnipresent guidance, infinite patience, and unwavering faithfulness.

In my new book, I offer eight rules for interpreting scriptures. Please consider getting my new book to support my work: Read Like a Jew: 8 Rules of Basic Bible Interpretation for the Christian

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Dr. Eitan Bar
Author, Theologian, Activist