Some have asked about the relationship with my own father thinking, I suppose, that a poor relationship with my own father might relate to my discomfort in calling God “Daddy”. However, I have not only been blessed with a wonderful and Godly father but one who I would class as one of my best and closest friends. I have no problem calling my own dad, pop, mate or any formal or informal terms for ones father. So I can’t relate to or understand that. So is there more to it than that?
Looking at the biblical use of the word we find the following references:
Mark 14:36 ESV And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Romans 8:15 ESV For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Galatians 4:6 ESV And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
I have heard it said, by many, that “Abba” is a term a small Jewish child would us to speak to their father – which is correct. However, this alone does not make it mean Daddy. It is, as you can understand, an easy word for very young children to say, possibly like “Da-Da” I suppose, but unlike English Abba is a real word and so it not a baby word for something like “Da-Da” would be.
Unfortunately there is no English equivalent word for “Abba” because the word “Abba” has multiple meanings. One as a familiar context for Father and at the same time one of great respect. It is easier to explain using the Italian language by looking at the word “Papa”. This is a real word very young children use for their Fathers and is pretty easy for them to say and is a term of great love and endearment. However, the very same word “Papa” is used for the Pope, someone the Italians particularly hold in great esteem. The word Papa therefore holds huge honour and a magnificence and reverence in that context and one of great intimacy and familiarity in the other.
So too in these verses I do not see it to be the writers intention to bring an irreverent over familiarity by using “Daddy” but, in context, is addressing with great honour the magnificent, all powerful creator of the universe. In Mark 14:36 Jesus is saying “All powerful, almighty Father, all things are possible for you”. The reason that we “did not receive a spirit of slavery” in Romans 8:15 is because we have had a revelation in our spirit that we have an “All powerful, almighty Father”. Now I agree that Galatians 4:6 has much more of a paternal feel to it, but there too as you read the context of Galatians Paul is defending vigorously the fact that we are justified by faith alone, not by works of the law. We were slaves and ensnared by sin, born under the law and by the amazing grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus we are now sons! and so our hearts cry “All powerful, almighty Father”.
My discomfort in using the word “Daddy” when addressing God (as a title if you will) is this: That whilst he is our father, and we are sons and heirs he is still “All powerful, almighty Father”. He is the creator of all the universe and everything in it. He is slow to anger, but he does anger. He is merciful, but he also stores up wrath, he is forgiving but he also judges. He is gracious but he is to be feared. His is in his very nature love, but will not be mocked. Yes, let us acknowledge him as our father and accept that we are loved by him as his children, but to forget his power and might and not behold his magnificence and majesty is folly. It would be foolishness to address the Pope as Daddy even for those of us who believe that his position is man made. It would be dishonouring and disrespectful. In a similar way I do not think that any of these verses lead us to address one who is worthy of all honour and all praise as “Daddy”.
That said, there is something that we can draw from this in that God does desire for us to be both intimate with him and at the same time maintain a sense of awe and wonder. I am not challenging the sentiment of the word “Abba” as “Daddy” just the use of it as a title, as a way of addressing Yahweh, the God of all creation! The fact that the word “Abba” has two meanings in the original text can not lead us by itself to assume the most intimate and familiar meaning is the right one without looking also at its other meaning and most importantly the context in which it appears. The context does not lead us to the over familiar, but an awesome title of respect and honour!
Hebrews 12:28-29 ESV Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
Please feel free to comment. To agree or disagree. I am not infallible, or so literate in bible languages and theology that the conclusion I have reached is perfect, but at this point in time, with the understanding and teaching I have received, this is what I believe to be a correct interpretation of both the biblical word and the context in which it appears.