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Fathers and the Nurture of Souls

A few months ago I wrote a column arguing that as fathers hug their children they engage in spiritual warfare for their children. The thesis may sound overstated to some. However, two items I read in the last week have reinforced my conviction in this area.

First, a friend of mine recently shared his story of his journey through homosexuality. He mentions his abusive father, and how at age seven he rejoiced when his father died. He wrote:

I have no memories of my father or my mother ever holding me or expressing love for me. I grew up starving for love, nurture, acceptance and affirmation.

What is so striking about this is that it is so common in the experience of people struggling with homosexuality.

Second, I am reading Jim Speigel’s latest book, The Making of an Atheist (I have commented before on an earlier book of his). This is a great book which I commend to you. In one chapter Speigel interacts with the work of psychologist Paul Vitz (particularly Vitz’s book Faith of the Fatherless) who argued, through an examination of many prominent atheists, that a broken relationship with one’s father predisposes many people to reject God. Vitz does not say that a broken relationship with one’s father ensures atheism, but that it often predisposes one to atheism. Speigel comments further:

We unconsciously (and often consciously, depending on one’s worldview) conceive of God after the pattern of our earthly father. This is even encouraged in Scripture, as Jesus constantly refers to God as our “heavenly Father.” When one has a healthy father relationship and a father who is a decent moral model, then this metaphor and the psychological patterns it inspires are welcome. However, when one’s earthly father is defective, whether because of death, abandonment, or abuse, this necessarily impacts one’s thinking about God. Whether we call it psychological projection, transfer, or displacement, the lack of a good father is a handicap when it comes to faith.

Experience and observation simply confirm what the Bible teaches. Fathers, our presence, care and nurturing of our children is crucial for their souls. They will make their own choices one day, but the choices we make today shape the way they see God. Some will rebel against God in spite of godly parents. Still, we do truly wage war for their souls as we demonstrate loving care.

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