I have a friend who refers to God as ‘DaddyGod’ and sometimes ‘PoppaDaddyGod’. It’s cute, though I’ve always found it strange – I wasn’t ever sure if ‘Daddy’ was the right translation of the word ‘abba‘ that Jesus and the New Testament uses of God, our Father (abba).
So this from Phil Ryken’s great book on the Lord’s Prayer was helpful.
The New Testament is careful not to be too casual in the way it addresses God. The Aramaic word abba appears three times in the English New Testament (Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). In each case, it is followed immediately by the Greek word pater. Pater is not the Greek word for “daddy.” The Greek language has a word for “daddy”—the word pappas — but that is not the word the New Testament uses to translate abba. Instead, in order to make sure that our intimacy with God does not become an excuse for immaturity, it says, “abba, pater.”
The best way to translate abba is “Dear Father,” or even “Dearest Father. ”That phrase captures both the warm confidence and the deep reverence that we have for our Father in heaven. It expresses our intimacy with God, while still preserving his dignity. When we pray, therefore, we are to say, “Our dear Father in heaven.”
Update: 18 July 2015
This post seems to have sparked a little discussion on my FB feed. First, I want to say that I’m not intending to police the language of anyone who is addressing God. My purpose in posting this was to think through the meaning of the word ‘abba’ and whether ‘Daddy’ is really a good translation of it. Ryken, I think, suggests that ‘Daddy’ is less formal and too casual a word to use in reference to God, especially in attempting to encapsulate the reverence God is due. That God deserves reverence is not in dispute, I would think. That the word ‘abba‘ shouldn’t be translated as ‘Daddy’ I don’t think is in question either.
The question is whether those who use ‘Daddy’ as a description of intimacy are being too casual (and whether they should stop). As an observation it appears as though the objection to the usage being too casual appears first grounded in experience – those seen using the phrase appear to have deep intimacy with God worth imitating. I don’t dispute this, nor did I intend that any who are experiencing deep intimacy to be rebuked by this post either. For that I apologise if my words came across this way.
The wider question of whether the word ‘Daddy’ carries enough reverence I think is still up for debate. And whether the word ‘Daddy’ should be encouraged.
Perhaps some of our consternation is rooted in the fact that ‘Father’ in our common parlance is now less intimate a word than when Jesus used it to describe his Father (and in so doing created a great paradigm shift). ‘Daddy’ for us carries a greater sense of intimacy. But, again, the question of this post and the quote is to ask whether ‘Daddy’ also captures a sense of reverence. Perhaps it does. Perhaps it will in future.