Today is Father’s Day.
Its significance shouldn’t go unnoticed.
It is a day for children to celebrate their fathers, whether their fathers are still alive or not, and a day for fathers to celebrate the fact that they have been blessed—yes, blessed—with the gift of fatherhood.
This brings me to my next point.
Father's Day is another occasion to provoke Christians the world over to recall to mind that they are all children of one Father, the Father of all fathers.
What’s more important to remember is that being a father, the First Person of the Triune God is not just eternal; it’s conceivable, as Benedict Spinoza and other monistic philosophers from various traditions have shown, that an impersonal “substance,” as philosophers call it, could be eternal. But our Heavenly Father is at once all present and all-loving.
The Father did indeed create us. Yet He as well nurtures us. Through God the Son, the Father redeems and reconciles us to Himself.
Non-Christians reject this reading of God, of course. However, on this day, as men receive expressions of appreciation from their children, and adult children express thanks for their fathers, they would be well-served to question the likelihood, or even the conceivability, of gratitude appearing in either a materialistic universe or one sustained by an impersonal God, “the God of the Philosophers.”
Gratitude is a moral virtue. It’s also a value. Moral excellence and values, of any kind, are, necessarily, the function of intelligence, of mind. While there is indeed no small supply of contemporary philosophers and a whole lot of other folks who see nothing in the least problematic with the idea that values are simply projections of human beings onto a value-neutral universe, their words and deeds betray them once they move from the realm of theory to that of actual practice.
Once these “existentialists,” “nihilists,” “pragmatists,” and “relativists” move from the Matrix of academia and their own enclaves into the real world, then, just like that, they proceed as if they are entirely different people.
Perhaps with the sole exception of serial murderers and other assorted psychopaths, no one thinks that, say, a proscription against murder reflects the subjective, or inter-subjective, prejudices of those who endorse it. “Genocide is abhorrent” is not an opinion, a perspective, a choice. It is not the expression of a feeling or a veneer behind which those making the claim seek to advance their own interests.
“Genocide is abhorrent” is an objectively true proposition because it is objectively true that genocide is abhorrent.
Undoubtedly, there have always been genocidal murderers, and given the variations among the allegiances and other prejudices of human beings, there are, accordingly, variations among the responses to these events. The point, though, is that no one ever acts as if they thought that genocide is, generally speaking, a good thing.
The answer is that human beings, universally, value life. This example of the sense of outrage and horror that we experience upon hearing about the decimation of one people by another should suffice to put the lie to the notion that our sensibilities are of a piece with self-preservation alone. Egoism, at least of the crude sort that reduces the complex of human motivations exclusively to self-interest, has become all but impossible to defend.
No, people genuinely value, not just their own lives, but the lives of others, strangers.
Human beings, to judge from the everyday manner in which we speak and act, know that the values that they affirm they haven’t created.
Rather, they discover values.
And they discover values because ours is a world infused with value.
Truth itself is a value.
Yet the idea of a value is inseparable from that of a mind, of intelligence. If there are values in our world—and, to repeat, there is no one who acts as if there aren’t—then the world is not brute matter. It is infused with intelligence.
It is the product of intelligence.
If life, truth, beauty, justice, honor, courage, love, and gratitude exist in our world—and everyone certainly acts as if they believe that they do in fact exist—then they could not have sprung up from nothingness. Nor, which amounts to the same thing, could they have emerged from pure matter.
They must, in other words, derive from Life, Truth, Beauty, Justice, Honor, Courage, Love, and Gratitude.
Since something cannot come from nothing, the finite instances of these values that we encounter on a daily basis must depend for their being upon an infinite ground.
But how, one might wonder, could God, a wholly self-sufficient being who existed for all eternity before all others experience love or gratitude?
It is at this juncture that we should recognize that only if God is a community of persons, as Christians have always maintained, can we account for the objective goodness of love and gratitude.
Only if we recognize that we ought to be grateful for the gift of fatherhood because both parenthood and gratitude are values that are ultimately grounded in a triune God can we make sense of these obligations.
Only if we realize that we have a Father, the Father of all fathers, who is with us always can we truly appreciate the limitless significance of this special day.
Happy Fathers’ Day!