Is God Primarily a King or a Father...or Both?

Is God a father, a king, or a fatherly king? Setting aside the fact that the image of God as a king is antequated among today's democratic loving people, let's say he's a fatherly king (since both images are to be found in the Bible). Okay? Then there are at least three views about God's relationship to his creatures:

Is he 1) a king to everyone but a father only to the elect; 2) a father to everyone but a king only to the elect; or 3) both a king and a father to everyone?

Let's look at these images and see if we can make sense of any of them:

Let's immediately dismiss views 2 and 3 above, since no Christian would affirm God is not a king over every creature even if they don't recognize him, and because the Christian claims a special family relationship with God that others do not share. Okay so far? [If this is not okay please tell me what you mean by kingship and fatherhood and I'll see what can be said about your view].

This leaves view number 1. What is a good king? A good king enacts impartial justice to bring peace in his kingdom. He's impartial toward his subjects. His role is the Justice of the Peace. As a good father though, the king must treat his sons differently. What is a good father? A good father will show partiality to his children, or favor them because he loves them. He's partial to them. He loves them.

Now it's quite possible for a good king to love his subjects, and a good father must show impartial love toward all of his children. But a good king must be impartial toward his subjects, while a good father should be partial toward his sons. The good father will always favor his sons over any outsider, while a good king should not favor anyone in his kingdom. So it just doesn't seem possible that a good king can treat his subjects like sons, nor can a good father treat his sons like subjects.

Take the issue of punishment, for instance. A good king may enact stiff punishments for crimes committed based on deterence, reformation and retribution (although no moral sense can be made of the latter motivation). A good father though, will not punish his children in the same ways a good king should (what father, for instance, would ever kill his son for any crime, even if he was the king, even a good one?).

Christians believe God acts like a king when he punishes sin. The person who sins must die. That is a kingly image which show no partiality, and as such God is primarily viewed as a king. If God were primarily viewed as a father to his children, he would not demand this punishment. He would be more like the father in the Parable of the Lost Son, who simply accepts his wayward son back based on his repentance.

So if God is a fatherly king then we have a huge problem, for one of these images must be primary. As a king he cannot act as a father. As a father he cannot act like a king. If God is a king to everyone but a father only to the elect, then he is not acting as a good king. Why? Because inside of his kingdom he's showing favoritism towards a certain group of people.

So which is it? Is God primarily a king or a father? He cannot be both.

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