God our Father as a Script of Intimacy for the Shamed


Many struggle to approach God and Christianity because of the shame they experience due to past sins and violations and current attractions (homosexuality, alcoholism, etc.). The church, and especially pastors and ministry leaders, can help those who struggle not only to entrust themselves to the transformative work of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ, but also to give themselves over to new and much healthier ways of understanding God and the church. Current psychological research shows that people who often wrestle with negative memories and immoral impulses and habits need new “scripts” (like a play or movie), alternative ways of thinking about foundational issues. One negative script is the shame narrative, and in one sense, feelings of shame are normal when experiencing guilt from sin. We call those without this moral compass sociopaths. However, the church may give the former sinner or current struggler a script that God is merely an angry judge who hates what they have done and detests them for the urges they may still feel. In short, the church may give the impression that they should be ashamed. But believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ cannot find relational intimacy with God when continuing to feel such shame. In his work with homosexuals and the church, Dr. Mark Yarhouse, professor of psychology at Regent University and director of the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity, for example, has suggested Christian leaders need to provide other Biblical scripts beyond the very limited concept of shame. In particular, people need to know God as a good Father, which—as a script—undercuts simplistic notions of God as an angry or disappointed judge.[1]

This paper will develop the script of God as our good and intimate Father, which should influence our perceptions and pursuits of intimacy with Him. This script is an invitation to an ongoing, patient, kind, firm, attentive close relationship with God. Before I clarify this relationship, however, I will first need to explain the concept of “script” in the context of “script theory”, which includes ideas such as “cultural scripts” and “life scripts”. Additionally, two major concepts of shame will need to be clarified by way of understanding the roots of the “shame script” that so many believers follow today. All of this, I hope, will shed new light on shame as it relates to the Bible and the idea of God as the good and intimate Father.

Script Theory and its Applications

The concept of the “script” has emerged out of behaviorist studies into motivation, memory, personality patterns and attachment theory. Silvan Tomkins has posited that human responses to stimuli are biological/emotional, which are followed by our cognitive awareness of the initial action. He has said that a “scene” or a sequence of events linked together by the affects or biological/emotional responses to it have patterns, and so he has described them as a person’s over all “script”.[2] These scripts go on to influence human behavior by maximizing positive effects and by minimizing negative ones. Thus we find ourselves living out storylines that are deeply emotional and even physiological.

Can these scripts be changed? That is the question of psychologists concerned with education. Kollar, Pilz, and Fischer argue that scripts are not only individual memory structures that guide our understanding and actions, but they are also flexible and heuristic.[3] Thus, for example, interventions into student instruction and learning spaces with this understanding of educational script theory can create new and more holistic ways of engaging the learner. Yet these theorists also recognize the challenges of introducing a new script into the lives of students.

We must distinguish between a secular and a theological sense of how scripts function. While secular script theory has been useful in establishing key terms and contexts, they have overlooked the most important key term, from the standpoint of a biblical worldview: God. For example, the social constructionist work of Gagnon and Simon back in the early 1970s on Sexual Script Theory (SST) has had a big impact on sexual self-definition.[4] A person’s subjective understanding about their own sexuality is a very significant determiner of their sexual actions and their subsequent qualitative assessments of those actions. However, Jones and Hostler provide a very helpful means of integrating the SST for Christian counselors and therapists.[5] Specifically, they delineate a biblically-rooted Christian script, and they also reveal SST’s constructivist and pragmatic limitations at the same time. Thus while the key elements of Script Theory focus on human behavior as the biological affective response as well as the cognitive produced actions, the main problem with secular script theory is how it is applied. While scripts are subjectively and pragmatically created, they do not create what is true or right. That is why an objectively true script from the Creator of all humans must direct all human scripts.

“Life scripts” demonstrate personal and culturally shared expectations. In terms of the personal, scripts are not only shaped by biological/emotional responses to stimuli and the subsequent cognitively driven actions, but they are shaped by memories of past events. They are shaped – in part – out of emotionally charged biographical memories from childhood,[6] as well as certain phenomena, events and experiences.[7] Often these memories are idealized and become the prototypical timing and “order of life events” in ones life course (e.g., “A man should become a father by the time he is . . . ”, “My relationship with my father consists of . . .”, etc.). These then become shared “cultural life scripts” (CLS),[8] shaped both by emotionally positive and negative experiences, “life moments”.[9] And the key to these incredibly strong and influential scripts is that they often produce interpretations of a person’s current and future events. Therefore, if people take the time to understand the particular scripts under which they function in society and how they influence their very thoughts, then such understandings can help them be able to change or transform false, immoral, inadequate and harmful scripts.[10]

Before tackling the shame script, personal and cultural “father scripts” demand some attention. First, attachment theory has shown that one’s father script (either referring to one as a father or to a son about their father) is a significant affectional bond. John Bowlby’s seminal research on the child’s tie to their mother delineates elements of attraction one has for another.[11] This bond includes the desire for individuals to be near to their attachments, their return to them as safe havens, their view of them as secure bases of operation for venturing out into the world, and absence of or separation from their attachment creates anxiety and even distress.[12] All this demonstrates how significant and powerful the affectional bond and attachment is for children with their parents, and for our purposes, children with their fathers.

From a Christian standpoint, Limke and Mayfield effectively show that attachment to fathers predicts attachment to God.[13] In their study, they use the Experiences in Close Relationships scale (ECR) to measure levels of attachment-related anxiety and avoidance with romantic relationship partners. To assess levels of attachment-related anxiety about abandonment by God and avoidance of intimacy with God, they use the Attachment to God Inventory (AGI). At the same time, to assess religious and existential well-being, they used the Spiritual Well-Being Scale (SWS). They found strong support that attachment to God is similar to (vs. opposite from) attachment to fathers.[14] In fact, attachment to fathers and not to mothers predicts attachment to God. They recognize that this is supported by the Christian view of that God is a “heavenly father” and that their study also furthers the recent research in attachment studies which emphasizes the important role fathers have on the development of attachment relationships.[15]

Many will question the relevancy and even appropriateness of perpetuating the fatherhood of God script in light of bad fathers.[16] Rather than welcoming intimacy with an ideal good Father, memories of their absent and abusing father prompt anger, fear, pain and avoidance.[17] An emotionally gripping example of a negative father script is Pierre M. Balthazar’s reflection on the Lord’s Prayer “our Father” through the experience of a neglected child.[18] This father does not live up to his responsibilities, but ignores the mother, regularly comes home late at night, and abuses them physically, sexually, and emotionally. Only when the child has some success in life does the father call them his own. In order to find comfort, the child adopts other people as fathers in order to attain any affective expressions to resolve their feelings of uncertainty. However, even with access to surrogate “fathers”, the child may be on a quest to know their biological father because fathers represent freedom, excitement and individuation.[19] Given all this, is it even possible to enter into intimacy with a divine Father?

Reintroducing intimacy and relatedness is a means of redirecting the bad father script. Balthazar reminds us that even our initial interpersonal knowledge is imperfect; but it is inevitably a mixture of isolation, loneliness, fear, awe, love and intimacy. Nevertheless, certain steps forward must be taken or there will be destructive consequences. Refusing to enter or reenter into intimacy is detrimental to our health. Cultivating prejudicial attitudes toward unfamiliar intimacy may lead us into a life of distant isolation. However, intimacy can lead us beyond our barriers and can destroy our exclusiveness. It can help us understand others and bring us closer to them. This pursuit of intimacy does not mean avoiding or forgetting the anger toward the bad father. It also does not mean there cannot be any sense of differentiating oneself from their bad father and the subsequent script. It does entail several steps. It means a willingness to approach the pain of separation, identify the sources of memories that trigger mistrust, confusion, neglect, alienation and/or despair. They must grapple with the need for moving past the psychological and spiritual stagnation to forgiveness in order to find freedom. They must be willing to explore the idea that God can be identified as father, and enter into some sort of relatedness, moving toward intimacy with Him.[20]

In sum, scripts are important personal and cultural motivators that integrate memory and personality. They presuppose what life is supposed to look like, how one should feel about it, and how one should respond to life’s circumstances. They influence relational attachment and affection. So at this point we can seek to unfold shame, one of the most significant and powerful cultural scripts. Shame needs to be clearly understood in order for it to be transformed by the Biblical script of God as a good and intimate Father.


What exactly is shame and how is it a script? It is impossible to do adequate justice to defining shame or to summarize the research (past and/or current) on it. However, some general comments can be made. First, shame is something that everyone experiences. It is a sub-set of universal social emotions, alongside others like humiliation and embarrassment.[21] Second, if both psychological and sociological perspectives of shame are taken into consideration, then most agree that shame is a negative state and feeling that arises out of ones realization of a failure to live up to someone’s expectations or ideals, whether ones self-image or a social-image.[22] As a result, shame functions both a concrete personal and cultural script as well as a script about the failure to live up to aspects of such scripts. In other words, one’s very acceptance of the notion that failure to conform to a script results in shame, that is, the loss of one’s honor, purity, strength, and right-ness, demonstrates that shame in itself is a script. Third, shame is part of what shapes our identity. It is an element of the “spiral of reciprocal perspectives” that shape the very image we have of ourselves (“my image of you, my image of your image of me, my image of your image of my image of you, and so on, in sequence”).[23] Fourth, the world in which the Bible was written had a thoroughgoing understanding of shame and its relationship to honor/dishonor. God is honorable as Creator and Covenant-maker, whereas sin is at minimum a failure to honor God. It results in the shame and dishonor that Christ took upon Himself to satisfy God and to remove our shame.[24]

In general, Western cultures tend to have stronger elements of a guilt-oriented culture whereas Eastern cultures (at least those of the 10/40 window[25] and the Far East) tend to have stronger elements of a shame-orientation. Many have argued that shame-based cultures stress group identity and external social pressures behind shame. Andy Crouch summarizes this well: “In a shame culture, you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you. By contrast, in a guilt culture, you know you are good or bad by how you feel about your behavior and choices.”[26] Recently researchers are nuancing this by adding that the external group need not even be present for the internalization of shame. Thus there are no known cultures that are exclusively shame-based or guilt-based.[27]

Guilt is often associated with shame. Guilt is both objective and subjective. Objective guilt is the state of having broken a law or failure to live up to a certain standard. Subjective guilt is the painful negative feeling of being in the wrong, an “internal sense of moral failure”.[28]

From a Christian perspective, shame and guilt are the natural emotions that arise out of the conscience or heart indicating God’s objective standards and that His personal desires have been violated. These violations are often connected to other individuals and the community as a whole. The Great Commandments to “love the LORD your God” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” profoundly and simply encapsulate God’s design of relationships (Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18; Matt 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34). Therefore, one’s relationship to God and neighbor are strained at best, and intimacy is severed. In other words, shame and guilt are produced. However, when shame and guilt become the script in human hands for “shaming” the sinner, like what the Pharisees were doing to the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-5), unnecessary and often hopeless paths back into favor with God and the community are created. An equally biblical script to shame and guilt is the path back. For them, God our good Father provides intimacy with Him and with His people.

God our Father: Intimacy for the Shamed

The script of God as our good and intimate Father is so central to Christianity that it may be deemed a Christian control belief. It is a broad and significant biblical topic that is not simply an analogy for God, but an essential part of His personhood.[29] For this study we will need to focus on its intimate elements without ignoring its redemptive foundation.[30] At the same time, Western culture’s traditional family roles influence our views of intimacy with God as Father.[31] However, again this script is significant for those who struggle with certain Christian identity scripts that heap shame on those who do not conform and do not provide an alternative except for being “that kind” of Christian. People will find a positive identity in what they feel is safe, secure, and good. The Bible presents just such an identity for the believing sinner. In short, the Bible presents intimacy with God as our good Father with a focus on His being the one who intimately meets the needs of His children. He does this in adopting us and meeting our basic life needs, all the while revealing His motivations of love and compassion.

Adoption: We Need Him to be Our Father

The Bible’s script of God as our Father begins with the reality of our human existence as a fatherless people gladly parented by Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44). However, out of all the peoples of the world God adopted Israel as His chosen children as an act of redeeming them out of slavery (Ex 4:22-23; Rom 9:4-5).[32] Thus Israel is the prototype of what all humanity needs because of their slavery to sin.

A closer look into background of the New Testament adoption script is important at this point. The Greek term for adoption is only used by the Apostle Paul (Rom 8:15, 23; 9:4; Gal 4:5; Eph1:5). Since the term huiothesia is not found in the LXX or in the literature of Second Temple Judaism, Paul was more than likely drawing on the commonly known Greco-Roman practice. The particular features of their laws of adoption enlighten Paul’s script.

(1) that an adopted son was taken out of his previous situation and placed in an entirely new relationship to his new adopting father, who became his new paterfamilias; (2) that an adopted son started a new life as part of his new family, with all of his old relationships and obligations cancelled; (3) that an adopted son was considered no less important than any other biologically born son in his adopting fathers family; and, (4) that an adopted son experienced a changed status, with his old name set aside and a new name given him by his adopting father.[33]

That Jews and Greeks would connect with Paul indicates the implications for their relationship to God is through Christ. This new but familiar concept is a game-changer. An examination of Paul’s three major references to adoption will fill out this important aspect of God as an intimate Father script.

The adoption script references of Paul share the common essence of God’s adopting believing sinners as His children. Yet each reference has a nuance that when added together provide a fuller view of this intimate relationship.

In Ephesians 1:3-6, Paul positions the believer’s adoption within the grand scheme of God’s salvation of the church.

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

When we were desperate, He chose us to be His children out of love, grace and kindness. In 2:1-3, our need for adoption is clarified and it is morally revolting.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Like filthy, traumatized, psychologically damaged, rebellious, thieving, violent street children, or like self-satisfied and self-righteous kings, God adopted us out of our desperate need and state. He did all this so we could be a part of His close-knit family. In His Son, He has blessed us with everything He could have by choosing us out of His great love, kind desire and unmerited grace to be pure and blameless in His presence. We are now truly clean and healed children, loved, accepted and cared for by a good Father. Grasping this is a necessary first step in replacing ones shame script.

In Galatians 4:1-11, Paul positions our adoption within the context of freedom from slavery to legalism.

Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under [the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sonsBecause you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.

When the Galatians were slaves to serving legalism of the OT Law or the laws of other gods, God the Father purchased them out of slavery by paying for it with the death of His very own Son and adopting them as His very own children. This is a call to every Christian to draw near to Him in love rather than serving Him out of legalism. He intimately knows us and we now know Him.

However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.

So we must not revert to a slave/master mentality in order to earn His favor.

In Romans 8:12-17, Paul develops our adoption within the context of the new life generated by justification by faith and the leading of the Holy Spirit toward godly living. The flesh is a harsh task master.

“So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit [or “the Spirit”] of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

While we live in a sinful world of temptations and suffering, we have hope because we have been adopted as God our Father’s children. Being adopted as God’s children is about our position or status and not our performance. In other words, our relationship is not based on the righteous or perfect moral performance we can never achieve. This will produce the nagging fear of rejection and shame. Yet God our Fathers’ adoption of us is intended to produce a new mindset that we should consciously remember our position as His children granted by Him and remember our dependence on Him in love and gratitude.

Adoption is intimate. We can call Him, “Abba, Father.” This Aramaic term is one of endearment and intimacy, as well as respect and loyalty. Here, the needy and humble believer cries out “Abba, Father” in prayer. In Mark 14:36 Jesus used it in beseeching His own Father. It is true that the word “Abba” is a familiar term of the home of a little child. However, excessive familiarity not bounded by a healthy respect is not the case here. Before we transfer our “Papa” or “Daddy” to this term, in that day the head of the family was a somewhat imposing and dignified figure. “The Roman paterfamilias still had the right to put members of his household to death, even if the right was used rarely; cf. Gen 38:24.”[34] God is at the center of this family affectional bond. The Spirit of God confirms with our spirit that we are His children, but as Morris incisively observes, “The Spirit does not cause us to cry ‘I am God’s son’, but ‘God is my Father.’ The believer looks at God rather than contemplating himself.”[35]

Thus our adoption as believers represents our permanent legal standing as God our Father’s children. This new relationship results in intimate peace, security and privileges that only children can enjoy.

It is important to note the parallel dynamics of human adoptions. Paula Fitzgibbons recounts “20 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Adopting,” and some describe a negative shame script that competes with the intimate adoption script.

  1. No matter how simple or rosy your adoption might seem, all adoption is predicated upon loss.
  2. Some people will treat you like you are not a real family.
  3. Before even beginning the process, know this: You are in this for the long haul.
  4. At some point, no matter how much you have reinforced positive adoption language, your child, most likely a ‘tween, will scream for their “real mother/father” when angry with you. It will sting. [36]

It appears that God our Father feels and experiences these issues with His own children. The church must reinforce and incorporate the truth of the Bible’s adoption script.

Family Fellowship: Our Family Privilege

It must be added at this point that the relationship that comes with God’s adoption provides open access to Him. The Apostle John says in 1 John 1:3 the gospel itself declares this. We have deep and abiding fellowship with God our Father, with His Son and with each other. “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” The fellowship is koinonia, the having things in common. This is so radically different than a script of shame. All believers have mutuality with God our Father and His other children.

In Matthew 6:6, Jesus claims that being one of God’s children assumes the ability to have intimate fellowship with Him. “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” We can and should have private conversations with Him. Those who base their relationship with God upon their performance have to put on a show of right standing with Him before the world. Insecure and legalistic, they do not have true intimacy. They have to pretend. They arrogantly shame sinners who have not performed like they have. Yet Jesus argues that God the Father will have none of this. His Father invites His children to draw near and communicate in secret.

Life Needs: We Need Him to Provide Our Basics

There is much more to the intimacy of the God Our Father script than a new relationship status. We are not to think of this as simply marking the different option from “rebellious orphan” to “Child of God” on our Facebook page. This script is lived out in the real world of our basic needs. We have a real Father in God, a real Father who intimately takes care of us.

Our Provisions

As needy children, God our Father has intimate knowledge of our needs. Jesus knew this well, and recognized that badgering religious prayers of those who do not think of God as their Father devolve into something more along the lines of a business transaction.

And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him (Matt 6:7-8).

Jesus follows this teaching by giving His disciples the Lord’s Prayer, a pattern of communication with God as their Father in heaven. He is the kind of God who, like a good Father, knows exactly what our daily bread should be, what sins we need forgiven and what the Evil One is trying to get us to do at any given moment. This aspect of the script is His cure for our worry.

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? (Matt 6:25-26).

Orphans anxiously wonder if they will have enough food to fill their growling stomachs on a daily basis. They shiver in the cold because of worn and inadequate clothing. However, God the Father is trustworthy to provide for His children their basic needs because they are more valuable to Him than the other creations He obviously provides for. A deep-seated peace should come to the shamed with this aspect of the script, but even more so with further understanding of what God the Father furnishes His children.

Our Direction

God the Father provides intimate involvement in the direction of our lives. He has done this throughout history. He acted as a loving Father to His rebellious people in their wilderness wanderings and rebellion. In Deuteronomy 1:31, Moses reminded them to remember all the times “in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place.’” He carried them to where He wanted them to go and protected them from their enemies.

Paul entrusted himself to God His Father for clarity and protection to get to the persecuted Thessalonians. We must remember we can and should entrust ourselves to God’s intimate involvement in our ministry paths. “Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you” (1 Thess 3:11). As sovereign God, He shapes the very direction of our lives to get us where He wants us to go with the least amount of resistance. Solomon states in Proverbs 3:6 that God “will make your paths straight.”

Our Comfort

God our Father also provides comfort. Paul committed the persecuted Thessalonians to this. “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, 17 comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word” (2 Thess 2:16-17). Amidst persecution, false teaching, and struggle, God our Father will give us comfort, hope and strength to continue on with what He has called us to do and be until His Son returns for us. Hearts weakened by trials may give out, and the person no longer moves forward. The Father’s comfort and strength touch our fragile hearts, the center of our being and intimately provides just what we need to keep going on being the kind of people that honor Him and minister to others in His family as well as outside of it.

Our Discipline

God our Father also provides discipline. The writer of Hebrews reminds believers of the discipline process in Hebrews 12:5-9.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.” (from Prov 3:12)

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

How can a father’s discipline be intimate? Here it is clear that the process of restoring closeness is through the training of a child’s character through negative consequences. Human parents may employ spanking, time-outs, grounding, withholding of certain privileges, and/or extra responsibilities to achieve this desired result. God our Father will discipline us for sins in this context like bitterness and immorality. He lovingly does this for our good so that we may be like Him, holy and righteous.

Without moral consequences, we cannot draw near to Him. Undisciplined children do not ultimately feel close to their parents, but ultimately resent them for not caring about them. Their consciences want resolution to their guilt and shame. Consequences of disobedience, while unpleasant, produce “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” which allows for restored intimacy with the parents.[37] God is not a permissive parent, who allows His children to mock Him by their attitudes and behavior like Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas. God provides discipline for His own children in order to resolve and draw them in. Children respect and respond to that.[38]

His Motivations: We Need His Love and Compassion

The shamed may be asking at this point in the delineation of this intimacy with God as our Father script, “Why would He meet my needs? Does He simply do it out of duty? Is some higher court requiring Him to pay child-support?” As we have seen, shame scripts are not replaced easily. Besides providing reminders of God’s choice of us when He adopted us, His motivations as our Father are foundational to this script.

God our Father’s Intimate Love for Us

Love is clearly the motivation behind God becoming our Father and acting as our Father. John is nearly overwhelmed by this fact and calls all Christians who read his letter to

“See [“Behold, Look in amazement”] how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1). It is exclusive for God’s own children. This is why “the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.” It sets us apart from everyone else on our planet. We are God’s children. He is our Father.

Jude makes it clear that being God’s loved children is simply who we are. 1 “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.” He called us to salvation and provides for us on earth for Christ’s return. Jude includes this truth as what should be an accepted script for churches which are being infiltrated by pretenders who creep in to steal away believers to follow them into immoral behavior. He not only greets them with the truth of God’s love for them as their Father, but later calls them to save others from these cancerous fakes with this truth (vv. 20-23).

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

Is God’s Fatherly love only found in His what He does for us or merely in the fact that He condescends to communicate with us? Does He feel anything for us? Theologians and philosophers of the past have argued that God is without emotion, impassive. If He had emotion, He would be susceptible to change when He interacts with others outside Himself. Can God’s Fatherly love be emotionally sidelined by calling it a mere anthropopathism? It is true that Psalm 103:13, “As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him”(NKJV), uses “as” and is a figure of speech. However, God still has pity, which is prompted by His will to move to meet the need of another out of His care and love. It also does not help to draw upon the flawed word studies to claim that God’s love is different than ours because His love is agapao, a self-sacrificing emotionless choice as opposed to phileo, a brotherly fond affection.[39] He loves and cares for His children with great feeling as much as He judges His enemies with His wrath.

God our Father’s Intimate Compassion on Us

Compassion is another clear motivation of God’s relationship to us as our Father. There is perhaps no clearer illustration of this than in Luke 15:11-32 and the deeply profound parable of the Prodigal Son . . . the Lost Son. A full-scale exposition of this parable is not necessary in order to grasp how significant this window into God’s intimate compassion for His children is for replacing shame and guilt. However, it deserves some substantive reflection on the context, elements and implications of the Father’s compassion.

Shame and guilt are woven into the gritty context of this parable. Like many who function out of a shame script, the Pharisees and Scribes claim Jesus should be ashamed of Himself. He has become too relationally close to sinners (hamartoloi, 15:1-2). When Jesus was asked this question in Matthew 9, He framed His response with a focus on compassion for the sick. “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick” (9:12). He frames His answer in Luke around lostness (apollumi), separation and distance (the parables of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin and then Lost Son). From a wide-angle lens to a microscope, Jesus leads them to intimacy with God the Father.

The narrative of the parable stresses the physical and relational distance created by the prodigal son. His selfish choice was to go “on a journey to a distant country” (15:13). This is picked up again when his return home is described as “but while he was still a long way off” (15:20). He was truly lost and distant. He burned his bridges by not only bringing shame upon himself, but on his family, and especially upon his Father. His father had to liquidate a large portion of his assets—he did not just go to the bank to withdraw cash. He went around to all those who could buy his assets. He had to sell off a portion of their land, livestock, etc. The dishonor he demonstrated to his Father was indeed shameful. The son would later realize this for himself: “Father, I have sinned against . . . and in your sight” (15: 18, 21) underscoring that this is a key to Jesus’ thrust. The turning point is in the prodigal son’s return. His plan is an attempt to save-face.[40] “So he got up and came to his father” (15:20). The relational distance is about to be narrowed, but in an unexpected way.

The shame-oriented cultural script demanded restoration of honor to the Father. If the son returned, appropriate demonstrations of shame were to be heaped on him and accepted. At the village or city gates, the elders of the city would remind the son of his selfish shaming of his father and family. The son would then approach his father’s home only to have to wait outside until his father allowed him to take audience with him. His father would eventually grant it only to receive his son’s apology. One possible avenue of “reconciliation” would be that the son would then be expected to move to a neighboring village in order to take an apprenticeship with which support himself and rarely if ever return to his father’s home again.

The radical reversal in the son’s restored intimacy comes in the culturally unexpected display of the Father’s motivation . . . compassion, not shaming justice. Jesus carefully draws out the Father’s increasing levels of intimacy/closeness. The Father had been looking for His prodigal . . . “but while he was still a long way off his father saw him” (15:20). Then his true motivation is revealed . . . “and felt compassion for him” (splagchnizomai). This term is associated in part with a visceral reaction of deep sympathy, care, kindness, mercy and love. There is no indifference, bitterness, disgust or humiliation here. This Father is clearly God, the one Who has consistently shown this kind of compassion to prodigals in Biblical history. His response to adulterous Israel, like Hosea’s response to his adulterous wife, Gomer, is one of the most counterintuitive examples of all time.

“I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!’” (Hos 2:23; cf. also 11:28).

Luke has already recorded Jesus’ counter-cultural example of compassion of the “good” Samaritan that would also shock His hearers who thought of them as a shameful people (Luke 10:30-37).

The Father’s compassion prompted Him to respond in more ways that would contradict the shame-orient script of his culture. Jesus communicates this masterfully in three simple phrases: “and ran,” “and embraced him,” “and kissed him” (15:20). It is well-known that running (dramov) for an aged eastern man was not only unusual but undignified even when he was in a hurry.[41] The embrace is literally “fell on his neck” (epipipto). This action coupled with kissing is for overwhelmingly emotional celebrations of unions and reunions. This is reminiscent of Laban’s running to embrace Jacob after his gracious assistance to Rachel at the well (Gen 29:13), of Esau’s reunion with Jacob (Gen 33:4), and Jacob/Israel’s blessing of the sons of his long lost son, Joseph (Gen 48:10). This was not merely a hug, but the embrace of the part of the body closest to the center of the countenance (vs. feet, hands, head, etc.) and gives the Father the ability to kiss (kataphileo) his long lost son. He was lost and now is not only found, but returned to the intimacy that fathers and sons are supposed to have.

However, the script of shame and dishonor rears its grotesque head. The elder son’s motivation or attitude toward his shameful prodigal brother is palpable. He represents the cultural script imbedded and propagated by the shepherds of the community, the Pharisees and scribes. These religious watch dogs for religious and cultural purity and precision of adherence to God’s “expressed” prescriptions for righteousness serve an important purpose for any community. But when they arrogantly and hypocritically institutionalize their spiritual roles and segregate “sinners” (past or present) from “the holy” with their power of shame, they create a parallel and yet counterfeit Christianity.

The older son’s reaction is a “missing climax”.[42] His personal and cultural script of shame processes the Father’s mercy differently, to say the least. While the prodigal experiences restoration to intimacy with his Father, his elder brother has been off working, being the only responsible child in the family. After a full day of labor in the field, he approaches his house only to hear something strange. One of the family servants provides an apt summary of intimacy restored. “Your brother has come . . . because he has received him back safe and sound” (15:27). Again, the missing climax. He got angry (orgizo) or enraged, which stopped him in his tracks. His deep-seated shame-scripted anger that flowed emotionally, volitionally and physiologically barred him from going in to even see his shamefully irresponsible brother, let alone feel or join in any celebration. It is Thanksgiving dinner, and the first thing that comes to mind is, “Why is he here?!” Bailey is indeed correct in his assessment of this situation. “For certain types of people, grace is not only amazing but infuriating.”[43] This shows that this brother’s shame script defines his relationship with his Father as one of a servant to his Master.[44] He underscores that he has been “serving you,” and that he has “never neglected a command of yours” (15:29). However, this cannot produce any real closeness, any genuine love. He claimed that, despite the favor he should have earned, “yet you never let me celebrate with my friends” (15:29). In this claim, the little phrase “with you” appears to be conspicuously absent. At the elder son’s party, and thus the worst of the shame-oriented script, is that the Father would not be invited.

Depicting His own Father, Jesus passionately seeks to provide a substitute and more accurate personal and cultural script for His audience. Again He reveals His Father’s compassion even for the shamers with the element, “His father came out and began pleading with him” (15:28). With the few if only tender words Jesus utters to the Pharisees and scribes,[45] the Father reiterates intimacy. “Son, you have always been with me, and all I have is yours” (15:31). So it is beyond logical that “we had to celebrate and rejoice,” because intimacy has been miraculously restored like a resurrection from the dead.

Hopefully, by this point the basics of the script of God as our intimate Father have come into clearer focus. This biblical theology depicts God our Father as the Ultimate One who intimately meets the needs of His children. He does this in adopting us as His children with all the privileges that come with it. He can be trusted to meet our basic life needs of provision, comfort, direction and even discipline. There is nothing that we need that He not only knows about before we even ask Him, but nothing that He will not supply. All of His providing is clearly motivated by His deep love and merciful and kind compassion. Internalizing and practicing this real script should inspire the Christian to be full of profound gratitude for this family privilege and a strong desire to draw near to God our Father in vulnerable trust and peaceful security. Even more, Christians have work to do with counteracting other unhealthy and counterfeit scripts like the shame-oriented one.

Implications of the God as Intimate Father Script and Shame

Mary Magdalene and Zaccheus could have experienced some projections of the shame script from others as they sought to follow Jesus. Due to their past sins and potential and/or current temptations and attractions, they may have felt unworthy of God’s continued acceptance because of the script that personally and culturally motivated them. It was deeply integrated into their memory and personality. Their relational attachment and affection to God and others could have been placed in jeopardy by “well-meaning” believers whose place in the Christian community was to be watch dogs for religious and cultural purity and precision of adherence to God’s “expressed” prescriptions for righteousness. They could have been held suspect and not really accepted as truly God’s children. Who in the history of Christianity would ever fail to celebrate the life change of these two sinful people by the power of God in Jesus Christ? Yet many struggle with incorporating people just like these two, who have sinful pasts and may continue to struggle.

What are some steps we can take to deal with this? First, we need to ask a series of probing questions both of ourselves and of those around us. What script is being lived out? Is there a struggle with shame on some level? Is God thought to be constantly disapproving of them and they can never measure up?[46] Do they think He is distant and indifferent to them?

Furthermore, research into script theory has shown that our “father script” is pivotal to our view of God. We need to have tools by which we can assess what the view of their own father is. Many have inadequate or even abusive fathers. While terrible and inexcusable, the Bible is replete with fatherly failures: Abraham, Lot, Jacob, Jephthah, Eli, David, Solomon, etc. Yet Biblical revelation does not retract from establishing and proclaiming God’s nature and character as Father. Thus in sharp contrast stands God our Father.

There is only one good Father who is always patient, kind, firm, close, attentive.[47] He is the one who is trustworthy to intimately meet our foundational needs. We have been adopted by Him. He is our Father now. He meets our needs and does so out of love and compassion for us. We must push on to determine where we find our intimacy. With what or whom do we pursue the close, safe sharing of ourselves? As one of God’s creatures and as one of His children, our closest vulnerable attraction should be to God our Father first. This profoundly real script should be a part of a truly biblical theology of God, every believer’s life, and the church’s proclamation, discipleship and pastoral counseling. We must hold as a deep conviction that it is more than a mental script passed on merely by rote. It should be a part of the evangelical church’s culture, psychology and even physiology.

Furthermore, the biblical theology of God as our good and intimate Father carries with it not just the reality of intimacy for His children, but certain relational and ethical responsibilities as well. Mawhinney is indeed correct in his analysis of adoption and its popular version. His revision in light of the data is helpful.

Adoption as sons means both encouragement and obligation. In fact both of these flow from the single notion of intimacy. Paul’s thought moves easily from ethical obligation to sonship to absence of fear to the fatherly presence of God through the Spirit. It can do so because this intimacy with Paul’s God is both a demanding and encouraging relationship. Such intimacy is not limited to the cradle. The believer does not live his life as a perpetual infant. Intimacy grows as the son matures and comes to know his Father ever more closely, as the son’s heart becomes more in tune with the Father’s, as the son comes to appreciate his Father more and more, and as the son comes to think and act more like his Father. Sonship means blessings and responsibilities.[48]

His children should go on to reflect the Father’s compassion and love as it flows from a thoroughly internalized script. Seeking to meet needs, not just welcoming but incorporating “sinners” into the very bosom of the church.

This is especially needed by all of the divorced, addictive, abused, damaged people who come to the church hoping for some relief from the personally and culturally shared script that holds them captive to shame. We must assess how the God-as-Father script is affecting our attachments or affections with “sinners”. How are we really doing with sinners? Is our personal and corporate psychology governed by compassion or anger? This compassion does not excuse sin. It is and should be disgusting to us. However, can we see past that to the sinner who is made in God’s own image and a trophy of God’s grace to be celebrated every time we see or think of them? Those who have yet to come to the God who reaches out to sinners, need to experience His adoption, provision and compassion.

More research needs to be done in applying this script. Churches have been venturing into this realm. Tim Wright in his The Prodigal Hugging Church has recognized the value of acceptance of prodigals into the Christian community. However, his approach is focused more on relating to the culture of the prodigal than a focus on God as their Father. Still, he does ask some insightful questions in regards to evaluating the risks of this approach. For example, he states,

Interacting with culture the way Jesus did is filled with risks and dangers. The first risk is alienating, angering and scandalizing faithful church members. As you move forward as a Prodigal Hugging Church, how will you care for and love the “older siblings”?[49]

He makes some assumptions about faithful church members that need evaluation. Is it helpful to cast such a wide stereotypical net over “faithful church members” that in Luke 15 are recalcitrant shaming legalists?

He goes on to add another risk assessment that is actually quite insightful.

The other risk is subtler. In our attempts to embrace, welcome, celebrate, affirm, engage, use and serve culture, we risk losing ourselves by condoning culture, being absorbed by it, or being tainted by its values.[50]

This is a critical process to navigate. In our Western culture, churches may view the sins of sinners in a variety of unbiblical ways from sin as disease, as only personal faults, as addictions, as unforgivable, as morally relative, etc. These views need careful theological scrutiny without which the sinners are either encouraged to move past their sin as quickly as possible without ever grappling with what it actually is before God and others, or are encouraged to remain in the guilt and shame of their sin until due penance has been achieved before God and the community. Neither of these options is Biblically acceptable.

Finally, other Biblical scripts can be used to aid the acceptance and assimilation of “sinners” into the Christian community. Theological analysis should begin with the transparent and more obvious longitudinal themes of the Bible. Creator/creature relationship, God’s kingship and humans made in His image, the lamb of God and substitution, reconciliation of enemies, loving loyalty to the only true God amidst tribal and ancestral spirits, and others.

May Christians fully internalize the real script that God is our intimate Father who in adopting us releases us from our shame to participate in His love and compassion in our secret places as well as the public ones. May we see God our Father like Billy- age 4, when asked what love is, he responded that it is “when someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” This is found in numerous locations on the internet. There is no way to know whether it is a real statement of a child named Billy, but ultimately, it doesn’t really matter.[51]

[1] He gave this charge when addressing pastors and ministry leaders in Salem, Oregon, in October of 2013. See also Mark A. Yarhouse, Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors and Friends, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010).

[2]Silvan, Tomkins. “Script Theory,” The Emergence of Personality. Edited by Joel Arnoff, A. I. Rabin, and Robert A. Zucker. New York: Springer Publishing, 1987, 147–216.

[3] Ingo Kollar; Florian Pilz; and Frank Fischer. “Why It Is Hard to Make Use of New Learning Spaces: A Script Perspective,” Technology, Pedagogy and Education, Vol. 23 No 1 (2014), 7-18.

[4] John H. Gagnon and William Simon. Sexual Conduct: The Social Sources of Human Sexuality, (Chicago: Aldine, 1973).

[5] Stanton L. Jones and Heather R. Hostler, “Sexual script theory: an integrative exploration of the possibilities and limits of sexual self-definition,” Journal of Psychology and Theology, (Summer 2002) 30:120-130.

[6] Steve M. J. Janssen “Is There a Cultural Life Script for Public Events?” Applied Cognitive Psychology, Vol. 29 Issue 1 (Jan/Feb2015), 61-68. Shamsul Haque and Penelope A. Hasking, “Life scripts for emotionally charged autobiographical memories: A cultural explanation of the reminiscence bump,” Memory, Vol. 18, Issue 7 (Oct 2010), 712-729.

[7] Jonathan Koppel and Dorthe Berntsen, “The cultural life script as cognitive schema: How the life script shapes memory for fictional life stories,” Memory Vol. 22 Issue 8 (Nov2014), 949-971. Richard G. Erskine. Life Scripts: A Transactional Analysis of Unconscious Relational Patterns, (London: Karnac Books, 2010).

[8] Steve M. J. Janssen, Ai Uemiya and Makiko Naka. “Age and Gender Effects on the Cultural Life Script of Japanese Adults,” Journal of Cognitive Psychology, Vol. 26 Issue 3 (Apr 2014), 307-321. Christina Lundsgaard Ottsen and Dorthe Berntsen. “The Cultural Life Script of Qatar and across Cultures: Effects of Gender and Religion,” Memory, Vol. 22 Issue 4 (May 2014), 390-407.

[9] Justin T. Coleman, “Examining the Life Script of African-Americans: A Test of the Cultural Life Script,” Applied Cognitive Psychology, Vol. 28 Issue 3 (May/Jun2014), 419-426.

[10] Sarah Wilson, “The Meaning of Life Scripts,” http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/mar/08/life-scripts, Accessed: 11/7/2015. Azriel Grysman; Janani Prabhakar; Stephanie M. Anglin; and Judith A. Hudson, “Self-enhancement and the life script in future thinking across the lifespan.” Memory, Vol. 23 Issue 5 (July2015), 774-785.

[11] John Bowlby, “The Nature of a Child’s Tie to His Mother,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 39 (1958): 350-73; A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development (London: Routledge, 1988), 99-157.

[12] John Bowlby, A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development (London: Routledge/ New York: Basic, 1988), 99-157.

[13] Alicia Limke and Patrick B. Mayfield, “Attachment to God: Differentiating the Contributions of Fathers and Mothers Using the Experiences in Parental Relationships Scale,” Journal of Psychology and Theology, Vol. 39, No. 2 (2011); 122-29.

[14] Limke and Mayfield, “Attachment to God,” 126-28.

[15] Ibid., 127.

[16] There was a relative neglect of the father in psychological and sociological research from the 1940s on. Most studies were matricentric and focused on the child-rearing assumptions of Western industrialized society. See John Nash, “The Father in Contemporary Culture and Current Psychological Literature,”

Child Development, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Mar. 1965), 261-297.

[17] William Carroll, “God as Unloving Father,” The Christian Century, March 6, 1991, 255-56. Carroll, a homosexual and an ordained minister, has viewed God as an unloving Father. He states, “Some of the greatest pain gays experience is rejection by immediate family members. Ironically, this happens even though many gay people were considered wonderful children . . . This makes the rejecting father even harder to understand” (255). Gay and lesbian people have come to think of God as the unloving, rejecting father “for our perception of God is shaped by an unloving church” (255). “I am beginning to recognize that my image of God as unloving father is the distortion of an unloving church that claims to speak for God” (255).

[18] Pierre M. Balthazar, “How Anger Toward Absentee Fathers May Make It Difficult to Call God ‘Father’,” Pastoral Psychology 55 (2007): 543-49.

[19] Balthazar, “How Anger Toward Absentee Fathers May Make It Difficult to Call God ‘Father’,” 546.

[20] Ibid., 549.

[21] Carlos Guillermo Bigliani, Carlos E. Sluzki, Rodolfo Moguillansky. Shame and Humiliation: A Dialogue Between Psychoanalytic and Systemic Approaches, (London : Karnac Books. 2013), 66.

[22] Nicolay Gausel, “What Does ‘I Feel Ashamed’ Mean? Avoiding the Pitfall of Definition by Understanding Subjective Emotion Language,” in Psychology of Shame: New Research, ed. Kevin G. Lockhart, (Nova, 2014), 159-60. See also G. Davies, “Shame,” New Dictionary of Christian Ethics & Pastoral Theology, Edited by David J. Atkinson, David F. Field, Arthur Holmes, Oliver O’Donovan, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1995), 785.

[23] Bigliani, Sluzki, Moguillansky. Shame and Humiliation, 66.

[24] A wealth of material is available on honor and shame in the Biblical text and world. See for example, Bradford A. Mullen, “Shame,” Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Walter A. Elwell, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996 (2000)), 735; Jayson Georges. “From Shame to Honor: A Theological Reading of Romans for Honor-Shame Contexts,” Missiology: An International Review, Vol. XXXVIII, no. 3, July 2010, 295-307; G. B. Funderburk “Shame,” The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 5, General Editor, Merrill C. Tenney, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 372-73; Sam Hamstra, Jr., “Honor,” Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible, Edited by Walter A. Elwell, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996 (2000)), 355; Jerome H. Neyrey. Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew, Louisville: Westminster, 1998.

[25] Roland Muller. Honor and Shame: Unlocking the Door, (Birmingham, UK: Xlibris, 2000), 18.

[26] Andy Crouch, “The Return of Shame,” Christianity Today (March 2015), 37.

[27] Timothy C. Tennent. Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 79.

[28] Ibid, 79. Tennent has a very good section in this work on the theology of shame in the Bible on pp. 83-91. See also, David J. Atkinson, “Guilt,” New Dictionary of Christian Ethics & Pastoral Theology, Edited by David J. Atkinson, David F. Field, Arthur Holmes, Oliver O’Donovan, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1995), 425.

[29] H. Wayne House effectively argues, “The use of Father, in contrast to other terms such as Rock or King, is an essential part of his person- hood rather than merely a description of how he acts or even relates to us. He is the eternal Father, even as the Son is the eternal Son. In the relationship of Father and Son, the Son, as is characteristic of a son, is subordinate to the authority of the Father; and the Father, in some sense, is the eternal producer, begetter, of the eternal Son.” “‘God, Gender and Biblical Metaphor’ (Ch 17) by Judy L. Brown,” JBMW 10/1 (Spring 2005) 69.

[30] Numerous authors have written on the Christian’s relationship to God as father. Cf. Floyd McClung, Jr., The Father Heart of God: Experiencing the Depths of His Love for You, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2004); Lisa Cline, To Know God As Father, (Mobile, AL: Axiom Press, 2011); Michael R. Phillips’ allegory, A God to Call Father: Discovering Intimacy With God, (Tyndale, 1994), etc.

[31] David Guretzki, “Does Abba mean Daddy?” Faith Today 27:36 (Jul/Aug 2009); Gregory C. Cochrane, “Remembering the Father in Fatherhood: Biblical Foundations and Practical Implications of the Doctrine of the Fatherhood of God,” JFM 1.2 (2011), 14-24. Cf. also, Ken Canfield, “The modern fatherhood movement and ministry to Fathers in the Faith Community,” JFM 1.2 (2011), 26-33; Stafford Betty, “Motherliness Should Be Included in the Godhead,” National Catholic Reporter, Beb. 6, 2009, 21; Jack Frost, Experiencing Father’s Embrace, (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 2002); John Eldredge, Fathered by God: Learning What Your Dad Could Never Teach You, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009).

[32] A sampling of this topic may be found in Svetlana Knobnya, “God the Father in the Old Testament,” EJT (2011) 20:2, 139–148; Gottfried Quell, “pathvr The Father Concept in the Old Testament,” TDNT, ed. by Gerhard Kittel, trans. by Geoffrey Bromiley, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 5:959-74; Gottlob Schenk, “pathvr,” TDNT, ed. by Gerhard Kittel, trans. by Geoffrey Bromiley, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 5:975-1022; C. L. Crouch, “Genesis 1:26-27 as a Statement of Humanities Divine Parentage,” Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Vol 61, Pt 1, April 2010, 1-15; Scott Hahn, A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture, (Cincinnati: Servant Books, 1998); Christopher J. H. Wright, Knowing God the Father Through the Old Testament, (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2007).

[33] Richard N. Longenecker, “The Metaphor of Adoption in Paul’s Letters,” The Covenant Quarterly (2014) 72, no. 3-4: 72.

[34] Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, (Downers Grove: IVP, 1988), 316.

[35] Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, 316.

[36] Paula Fitzgibbons’ “20 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Adopting” https://www.scarymommy.com/things-i-wish-i-had-known-before-adopting/, Accessed: 11/13/2015.

[37] Donald F. Walke and Heather Lewis Quagliana, “Integrating Scripture with Parent Training in Behavioral Interventions,” Journal of Psychology & Christianity 20, no. 2 (Summer 2007): 122-131.

[38] See Wade R. Johnston, “Spare the Rod, Hate the Child: Augustine and Luther on Discipline and Corporal Punishment,” Logia 20, no. 4 (January 2011): 11-16. Both men experienced excessive corporal punishment as children but also knew their parents meant the best for them.  Therefore, they argued for discipline in love.

[39] D. A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 29, 45-64.

[40] Kenneth E. Bailey, The Cross and the Prodigal: Luke 15 through the Eyes of Middle Eastern Peasants, (Downers Grove: IVP, 2005), 49-62.

[41] Roger David Aus, “Luke 15:11-32 and R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus’ Rise to Fame,” JBL 104/3 (Sept 1985), 457.

[42] Bailey, The Cross and the Prodigal, 81.

[43] Ibid., 82

[44] Timothy Keller, “Basis of Prayer: ‘Our Father’,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqxXABgRhVo, Accessed: 11/15/2015.

[45] John Piper, “A Tender Word for Pharisees,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuREA32ktIU, Accessed: 11/15/2015.

[46] When one of my colleagues, Dr. Ryan Stark, read a bit of this paper, he readily agreed, “The idea of the good Father is obviously right, but it is also a useful reminder that things like shame, etc., can get blown way out of proportion if we do not see God as a good father but rather as an angry volcano god who requires virgin sacrifices every year.”

[47] “Father, Fatherhood,” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, general editors: Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit and Tremper Longman III, (Downers Grove: IVP, 1998), 274.

[48] Allen Mawhinney, “God as Father: Two Popular Theories Reconsidered,” JETS 31/2 (June 1988), 189.

[49] Tim Wright, The Prodigal Hugging Church: A Scandalous Approach to Mission for the 21st Century, (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2001), 52.

[50] Ibid, 52.

[51] “Quotes: Love, as Perceived by Some Children 4 to 8 years-of-age,” http://www.religioustolerance.org/love_is.htm, Accessed: 11/14/2015.

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