20 Quotes from Father Hunger

What follows is a collection of 20 quotes that caught my attention as I read Douglas Wilson’s new book, Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love and Lead Their Families (Thomas Nelson, 2012):

"In human history, there will never be a more perfect father-and-son moment than this moment between Father and Son [Matthew 3:16–17]. This is the keynote — pleasure. This is the pitch that a father/son relationship needs to match — ‘well pleased.’ When we don’t match that pitch, a lot of things start going wrong.” (12)

“The fact that these other things have not been added to us, the fact that we live in fatherless times, reveals our attitudes toward God the Father. Father hunger is one of the chief symptoms of our idolatry. It is the basis for our political follies, our cultural follies, our technological follies, and so on. But the solution is not to schedule numerous family retreats. The solution is to announce, preach, and declare that the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of God, and of His Christ. Another way of saying this is that men must seek to be Christians first. If they love Jesus Christ more than mother or father, or wife, or sons, or daughters, then they will be in fellowship with the source of all love. If they make an idol out of any one of their family members, then they are out of fellowship with the source of all love — meaning that the “idol” is short-changed. A man’s wife receives far more love when she is number 2 after God than she would if she were number 1. A man’s children will be fathered diligently when they are loved in the context of a much greater love.” (33–34)

“There are many lawful activities and pursuits that ought to be excluded from the sanctuary, even though they are taught, shaped, and informed by the ministry of the sanctuary. Examples would include lovemaking and auto mechanics, great naval battles and heart surgery. But in order to have these kingdom activities conducted rightly, it is necessary to have the worship at the center being conducted rightly. Worship is the necessary governor. This means that if we see a dearth of fathers in the realm outside worship, we must not try to organize pro-fatherhood rallies in that same realm. It will not work. The need of the hour is to return to the worship of God the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and all conducted in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (36)

“The main threat against which a man must protect his wife is his own sin.” (40)

“We should get masculinity straight in the heart so that the badges of masculinity (which every culture necessarily has) can be understood in a straight manner as well. Sex roles, and sex badges, are often a matter of cultural definition. A kilt is not a dress, as everybody knows. Some might even say these signs are arbitrary. But we must also remember that cultures have the authority to assign these roles, just as a military service has the authority to define what constitutes a salute. And if the culture has this rightful authority, then members of that culture have the responsibility to submit to the definitions — and not kick against them. A military unit embroiled in a debate over whether or not ‘this kind of salute’ is an arbitrary imposition from a tyrannical authority is a military unit that has already lost its way.” (44)

“The Bible never says that a ’real man’ must go hunting, or play football at some time in his life, or change the oil in his truck, or spend some time every weekend at Home Depot buying fix-it items. If someone were to define such activities — suitably arranged in a checklist — as the essence of true masculinity, then we would be justified to laugh him right out of the room. Such a person would argue that Lord Nelson wasn’t a true naval hero because he never learned to salute the right way. And Caesar never changed the oil in his chariot either. Nevertheless, in any given culture certain masculine roles will necessarily be assigned, and those boys and men who are embracing their masculinity rightly will gladly assume those roles.” (44–45)

“When a man opens the car door for his wife, he is doing far more than just getting the door open. It is not a matter of utility. It is not a question of pragmatics. Granted, we could save energy all around if both individuals opened their own doors. But he is making a statement in addition to getting the door open. He is disciplining his own heart and soul, which need it, and he is honoring his wife, who is glorified by it. The role of the man here, if we may speak this way, is not just to get the door open. His central role is the liturgical act of saying that women everywhere should be held in honor by men, and that he adds his amen to this, as everyone in the parking lot at Costco can now see.” (45–46)

“Our males down here are only a dim, flickering image of what true masculinity is. We do not project our ideas of fatherhood up onto the big screen of the heavens. No, God’s ultimate idea of fatherhood is projected down onto the little screens that each of us carries around.” (50)

“The ancient world had no problems whatever with priestesses in religious service, and no problems at all with recognizing goddesses and consorts for the gods. The striking thing about the biblical faith is that this element, so common in the ancient world, is entirely missing. The biblical faith, with its highlighted masculinity, stands out in sharp relief against the ancient systems of unbelief — in much the same way that it stands out against modern systems of that same sort of unbelief.” (51)

“So what is it then? What is masculinity? Simply put, masculinity is the glad assumption of sacrificial responsibility. A man who assumes responsibility is learning masculinity, and a culture that encourages men to take responsibility is a culture that is a friend to masculinity. When a culture outlaws masculinity, they soon learn that such outlaws are a terrible bane to them, instruments that destroy civilization with their mutant forms of masculinity. Every society needs masculine toughness, but it needs a toughness that lives and thrives and is honored within the boundaries of the law. And if we want this kind of toughness in the men, we have to teach it to the boys, and cultivate it in them. Like a concrete foundation, masculine toughness has to lie underneath masculine tenderness.” (51–52)

“Biblical authority knows how to bleed for others. . . . The foundation of all Christ’s authority in the church is the blood that He shed. He took responsibility through sacrificial service, and therefore all authority flowed to Him. He shed His blood as He was assuming responsibility for the sins of all His people, therefore God has highly exalted Him. Jesus took the rap for things He didn’t do — that’s the model we are to live out. . . . When masculinity is not taught and disciplined, boys grow up thinking that it means selfishness instead of sacrifice.” (53–54)

“Everyone seeks happiness, and that’s the way it is. Virtue is based on what makes you happy, not whether something makes you happy. If you sought to disprove my point by adopting an extreme stoical outlook, in order to show me that not everybody is motivated by the ‘pursuit of happiness,’ as I am so glibly maintaining. We are not put in this world for pleasure alone, you might say, and then add that you intend to do your raw duty out to the utter frozen limit. This would not really throw me. I would shrug my shoulders and say, ‘Whatever makes you happy.’” (112–113)

“Our ambitions must be converted the same way the rest of a man is — through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Death is the ultimate detox center. It purifies everything. So, in order to be a clean ambition, it must be a resurrected ambition. Any other way, it will corrupt everything it comes in contact with. If it has not been mortified, ambition will destroy a man. If it has not been mortified, then lack of ambition will destroy a man.” (115)

“A man who takes a woman to the altar is going there to die to himself.” (126)

“Why is it not permissible for a woman to raise her hands to give a ministerial blessing? As we know, Paul forbids it (1 Tim. 2:12), of course, but why? It is not because Paul believes women to be incapable of the requisite knowledge, or that he thinks women cannot exhibit the necessary godly character. No, the reason is her body. Women can’t be ministers because they are women. Women have breasts and wombs, and the presence of breasts and wombs matter. Women were embodied with a different calling than was assigned to men when they were given their bodies. Bodies matter.” (138)

“What are fathers called to? Fathers give. Fathers protect. Fathers bestow. Fathers yearn and long for the good of their children. Fathers delight. Fathers sacrifice. Fathers are jovial and open-handed. Fathers create abundance, and if lean times come they take the leanest portion themselves and create a sense of gratitude and abundance for the rest. Fathers love birthdays and Christmas because it provides them with yet another excuse to give some more to the kids. When fathers say no, as good fathers do from time to time, it is only because they are giving a more subtle gift, one that is a bit more complicated than a cookie. They must also include among their gifts things like self-control and discipline and a work ethic, but they are giving these things, not taking something else away just for the sake of taking. Fathers are not looking for excuses to say no. Their default mode is not no.” (158–159)

“We contrast impurity with purity, but Paul contrasts impurity with contentment [Ephesians 5:3–4]. There is something deep going on here. This is not a trivial point. Biblical contentment is not stoicism. We are not called to be content in the same way that a block of wood is content — even though we may assume that the wood presumably is content. That is not what we are called to. And Paul is not urging us into some kind of “happy, happy, happy all the day” kind of stuff. He is not urging a constant and frothy giddiness. No, he sets the pattern for us, providing us with an example. In one place he describes himself as “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10). His joy, his contentment, was not a perverse kind of denial, or a stiff-upper-lip stoicism. And yet it was “always rejoicing.” This kind of contentment, whether well fed or hungry, is a deep satisfaction with the will of God for you (Phil. 4:11–12). This is bedrock stuff — a basalt kind of joy twenty feet down. And it needs to be a foundational, bedrock joy that runs underneath the entire house.” (184)

“Gracious fathers lead their sons through the minefield of sin. Indulgent fathers watch their sons wander off into the minefield. Legal fathers chase them there.” (195)

"Over the years, I have heard my own father talk about an assignment he has given (countless times) to victims of our father-hungry generation. Suppose that someone is converted to the Christian faith, and he wants to be a good husband and father. He thinks of it as a good thing, and so he is all for it. The only problem is that his father ditched when he was only two, and he doesn’t have a good grasp of what fatherhood is even supposed to look like. My father has often told young men and women in this kind of position to read through the gospel of John, taking special note of everything that is said about God the Father. We learn what tangible fathers are supposed to be like by looking to the intangible Father. And we look to Him by looking at Jesus, the one who brings us to the Father." (200)

“Authority flows to those who take responsibility. Taking responsibility is the foundation of all true authority. This means that reestablishing authority is accomplished by taking responsibility. Often a simple reassertion of authority is an attempt to evade taking responsibility. The point is reasserted so that someone else will do what needs doing. This is not only impotent; it is counterproductive.” (208)

* Note: the page references cited here are based on the pagination of unfinished proofs and may differ from the final book.