Fatherhood and Creation Ordinances

Another theological point that is of fundamental importance for Douglas Wilson’s Father Hunger is the creation ordinance of providing and protecting.  Wilson states:

The role of a father as a provider and protector is not an arbitrary assignment given to an arbitrarily selected group, regardless of any other consideration.  Here is the mandate given to Adam (Gen. 2:15)–God wants men both to work and protect.  Work has to do with nurture and cultivation, while protection refers to a man’s duty to be a fortress for his family.  We find a working definition of masculinity in the first few pages of the Bible. (18)

“Creation ordinances” are sort of the Christian version of “nature.”  But by nature, we don’t mean “just the way things are,” but rather, “the way God programmed things to be.”  God created and directed, both by His word.  And so when a man fails to work and protect, he is disobeying and failing to be a true man.  He’s failing to be who is supposed to be, failing to be himself.

It’s also helpful to explain that Adam in Genesis is not just an individual.  As Paul teaches us in the Epistle to the Romans, Adam is the head of the race.  And in his relationship to Eve, Adam is the exemplary husband.  What he is, we are.  And when he sins, we sin, becoming what he became.  But the original creational intent still remains, and we are always called back to it.  Our inability to perfectly do this is why we need grace, but we are still, nonetheless, called back to the original good creation.

Wilson adds:

When men take up their responsibilities to nurture and cultivate, and to protect and guard the fruit of that nurture and cultivation, they are doing something that resonates with their foundational, creational nature.  When they walk away from these responsibilities, in a very real sense they are–don’t miss this–walking away from their assigned masculine identity. (19)

And so no man can fail to work and protect without their being negative consequences, not the least of which is his failing to be fulfilled.  In addition to explaining the nature of fathers, Wilson also gives us a teleology of fatherhood:

…Men don’t carry things because they happen to have broad shoulders.  They ahve broad shoulders because God created them to carry things.

All this is to say that fatherhood has a point, and that the point goes far beyond the services provided by a stud farm or a fertilization clinic.  Fatherhood has a point that extends far beyond the moment of begetting.  That point extends into everything, and if we are baffled by what the point might be, wisdom might dictate that we should read the manual–which would be the Scriptures God gave to us.   (20)

Now this doesn’t tell us everything that it means to be a father, but it gives us the foundation.  It gives us the first principles which contain in themselves the rest of the story.  The only thing to add is that calling the Bible a “manual” is a little tricky.  The Bible actually isn’t a “parenting manual” in the literal sense.  Rather it gives principles of wisdom, teachings on sin–which is to say human limitation, and the truth of redemption.  A prudent man doesn’t just read the Scriptures and say “Bingo!”  Instead, he meditates upon them, drawing inspiration from the original creation, the realities of sin, but also the picture of redeeming fatherhood in God.

Still, the Bible definitely presupposes a certain understanding of humanity, as well as a certain understanding of husbandry.  Christians who, unwittingly, adopt postmodern skepticism towards sexual ontology can only do so by stepping away from the Bible’s philosophical framework.  There will be more to say about masculinity in the upcoming chapters, but the basic point is that good fathers must be good men, and good men must be what they were created to be.


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