FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Where are the Fathers?

with Doug Wilson | February 25, 2013
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Kids are running on fumes today – what our guest, Pastor Doug Wilson, calls father hunger. Doug, a father of three and grandfather to 16, implores men to be intentional in their role as fathers and model and instruct their children on the responsibilities of manhood: to provide and protect.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Kids are running on fumes today – what our guest, Pastor Doug Wilson, calls father hunger. Doug, a father of three and grandfather to 16, implores men to be intentional in their role as fathers and model and instruct their children on the responsibilities of manhood: to provide and protect.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Kids are running on fumes today. Pastor Doug Wilson, calls it father hunger.

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Where are the Fathers?

With Doug Wilson
February 25, 2013
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Bob:  According to the U.S. Census, 49.3 percent of our population is male. According to Doug Wilson, we have far fewer men.

Doug:  What we need desperately are men who grow a backbone—men who reject the idea that masculinity is a problem—not only for men to be men, but for women to thrive as women and for children to thrive as children. Nobody else can do that. So, men have to be not irrelevant.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, February 25th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Doug Wilson joins us today to talk about a hunger problem in our country—father hunger. Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I think if there was a—well, I was about to say if there was a word I would use to describe our guest today, “outspoken” might be a word I would use. I’m just wondering if you got the folks downstairs, who handle our correspondence and our phones—if you’ve got them ready for what may happen?

Dennis:  Do you think?!  I was going to introduce him as an author of a number of provocative books—it just causes one to think.

Bob:  Would provocative—is that a good word for you?

Doug:  I was thinking of having engraved on my gravestone, “And I was holding back.”  [Laughter]

Dennis:  Well, that’s the voice of Doug Wilson. Doug, welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Doug:  Thank you. It’s good to be with you.

Dennis:  Doug is the Senior Fellow of Theology at New Saint Andrew’s College in Moscow, Idaho—there’s some good fly fishing up there, I’m told. He’s written a number of books—been married for 37 years to his wife Nancy.  They have three children; and those three children have been very, very fruitful—16 grandchildren!

Doug:  Yes, 16 grandchildren. God has been good.

Dennis:  He has been good. You’ve written a book called Father Hunger. I’ve been really looking forward to this conversation because this is one of the big ideas of the Bible—presenting God as our heavenly Father. That’s what you’re tapping into here—that we’ve got to learn from the heavenly Father’s relationship with His Son as to how we need to be better fathers, ourselves.

Doug:  Absolutely!  Paul says in Ephesians, “Therefore, as dearly loved children, be imitators of God.”  So, our relationship to God is one of Father/children, obviously; but one of the fundamental things you can see about parents and children is that children learn by imitation. God has built us as imitators. So, he says, “As dearly loved children, be imitators of God.” 

Well, let’s take that seriously. What is God like?  What does He do?  How does He interact with His Son?  I open the book with a discussion of the baptism of Jesus, which are the first words of God the Father in the New Testament. The first words are important. When the Father makes His entry, what is He doing? 

There are six things that I draw out of that. The Father is there when the Son is baptized—the Father is present—He shows up. He makes His presence felt by giving His Spirit—the Spirit descends on Jesus. He makes His presence known, propositionally, by saying something. He articulates what He believes. Fourth, He identifies with Jesus. He says, “This is My Son,”—“I’m with Him; He’s with Me.” He expresses His love for His Son—“This is My beloved Son.”  He praises Him. He respects Him. He says, “...with Whom I am well-pleased.”

You have it—in that, I would argue, the quintessential father/son moment. That is typical fatherhood: The father is there. He makes his presence felt. He makes his presence known. He identifies. He praises, and He loves. You say, “Alright, how can I take that, as a sinful, fallen, human father and imitate it?” Well, you can’t imitate it perfectly, —


Dennis:  Right.

Doug:  —obviously—

Dennis:  Right.

Doug:  —but being imperfect, and fallen, and sinful doesn’t mean that you can’t know what you’re striving for—“This is what fatherhood is like.” So your son’s got a game?  Show up. Go! Make your presence felt. Make your presence known.

Dennis:  Yes.

Doug:  You know, introduce your son after the game. Identify him, “This is my son!”  Praise him for the job he did. Express your love for him. That’s what fatherhood is like. We can’t imitate it perfectly; but if you aim at nothing, you hit it. If you aim at what God tells us to aim for, you’re going to do better than if you just gave up and were doing nothing.

Bob:  There is a severe deficit of what you’re talking about, in the American culture today—an absence of that kind of fathering; don’t you think?

Doug:  Yes, and that’s what I’m arguing, in this book, because fathers have either ditched—they run away, they desert their families, they go—or they are present, physically—but they abdicate; and they’re absent in other less tangible ways. They are checked out. Because of that, that has caused, I think, a severe deficit in the generations who’ve grown up with that—an emotional, spiritual, and psychological deficit. They are running on fumes. I call that “father hunger”.

As a result, people try to compensate. They try to fix it. They try to fix it with other things. They try to fix it with an overweening, paternalistic government. You know, if your father—if your dad isn’t watching out for you, “I’m going to construct my own federal government ‘dad,’”—that kind of thing.

We have feminism as the result of—not women coming up with crazy ideas—feminism is attributable, I believe, to fathers. Fathers need to address what God has called fathers to do. Fathers need to step up.

Dennis:  And, in this culture, it’s not just a matter of men abdicating their responsibilities as fathers. The culture has actually turned against fathers in innumerable ways—attacking this responsibility—this position in the family.

Doug:  Right.

Dennis:  In the process, even though we’re still filling our jails with more and more young men and, for that matter, young women—who grew up in homes that didn’t have fathers—we still don’t get it! The culture is still attacking fathers; right?

Doug:  Yes. We’re attacking fathers. We treat masculinity as though it were a disease. In the government school system, you’ve got—because the schools are not disciplined—boys—let me veer off to the side for a minute.

Boys thrive under discipline. Now, they take some discipline; but they thrive under it. If you don’t know how to discipline—if your standards have all had the wheels fall off—and you can’t run a coherent school system with all of these unruly boys—if you call it a syndrome and drug them up—you know, just hit them all in the head with a chemical rock—you’re treating their masculinity, which needs to be toughened, and disciplined, and directed. If you don’t have any of that, you’re just going to dope them up. You’re just going to do something to restrain them to keep them from burning the place down. In the meantime, they’re not learning how to be a godly man. We’re treating masculinity as though it were some sort of sickness or an ailment—something to be avoided.

Then, in the church, you have a similar form of it—where masculinity is not honored. It is attacked. You’re a problem if you show any signs of masculine initiative. So, what we need, desperately, are men who grow a backbone—men who reject the idea that masculinity is a problem. Deviant, disobedient masculinity is a problem, obviously; but masculinity is the thing that is necessary—not only for men to be men; but for women to thrive as women and for children to thrive as children. Nobody else can do that. So, if our culture turns on men, as I think you’ve accurately said they have, nobody can resist that assault on men’s behalf.

Dennis:  Doug, you may not know this, but I wrote a book called Stepping Up:  A Call to Courageous Manhood. In that book, I talk about five steps a man must make in his lifetime. One of the major steps that I think men are called to is to step off of the adolescent step onto the manhood step.

Doug:  Yes; right.

Dennis:  And, as you said, step up and away from childish ways—youthful lusts—and become the man and become responsible. But when men are straddling those steps—with one foot on the adolescent step and one foot on manhood—and they are standing sideways, they’re giving the world, and the culture, plenty to shoot at because when we behave badly, as men, we do a good job of it.

Doug:  Right; right. Absolutely!  One of the things I mention in this book, and argue for, is that men can make a mess like nobody else. Survey the U.S. penitentiary system. How many men are in there as opposed to how many women?  Men are troublemakers. Men are the destroyers. Men tear the place down; right? You must give men responsibility. Men have to be not irrelevant. Men have to have a job to do.

Dennis:  The flip side of that is men have to take responsibility, too.

Doug:  Correct. They’ve got to discharge it. When you give it to them, they have to be held accountable for when they don’t assume the responsibility you’ve given them. There was one young father, who read another book of mine—on related subjects—a book called Federal Husbands. He read the book; and his exclamation was, “Finally, I know what I’m for!”

That’s not necessarily an obvious question; you know? “What are men for? What do they do?”  I argue here that we see—from the Garden on—God has built men to provide and protect; okay?  God tells Adam he’s to tend the garden. He’s to provide and protect. That’s what I think our essential orders are. That means men have to be held accountable for when they don’t provide and held accountable for when they don’t protect. I think the only real way you can get men to step up is just to expect them to. Step back and, if they don’t step up, nobody’s going to. It’s your turn.

Bob:  Well, isn’t that Genesis 3?  Adam didn’t step up when he should have; right?

Doug:  Correct. Genesis 3 is the very first scientific experiment—where the prohibition of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was given to Adam before Eve was created. She wasn’t there when the prohibition was given—and Adam was. She is told by the serpent, “You shall not surely die.”  She repeats it and garbles it, “God said we’re not even to touch the tree.”  That’s an additional requirement.

Adam’s job was to protect his wife—protect the garden and protect his wife. There’s no better picture of abdication than that. She is deceived, Paul says, and ate first. Then, he ate second. But Paul also says in Romans that, “sin entered the world through one man.”  The race didn’t fall until the head of the race—Adam, who is responsible—partook of the fruit. When he did it—having abdicated—given that choice over to his wife—our troubles stemmed from that. So, it’s sort of a junior high-kind of thing—for men to blame women.

Bob:  Which is immediately what Adam does when God comes to hold him accountable for what has happened—he blames his wife.

Doug:  Yes, God comes down and says, “What’s all this?”  Adam, in effect, says, “The woman You gave me, she gave me the fruit and I did eat.”  But he says, “There are three people, basically, involved in this:  God, the woman, and me. Out of the three, the two people I find fault with are you two.”

Bob:  “I did nothing wrong.”

Doug:  Yes, “I did nothing wrong. The woman gave me the fruit, and You gave me the woman.”

Dennis:  Yes.

Doug:  “I was in here, by myself in the Garden, not sinning, and having a grand old time; and then, You came around and gave me a woman. Then, she came around and gave me fruit. I’m just an innocent bystander.”  Men have been making excuses ever since.

Dennis:  And guys make excuses about being a father, as well. Let’s just, real quickly, summarize what’s wrapped up in a man being a provider and a protector.

Doug:  Right.

Dennis:  Describe what a man should provide for his family, as a father—as a responsible father who is following Jesus Christ.

Doug:  Okay. One of the things Paul says in the pastorals is that, “If a man does not provide for his household, he is worse than an unbeliever.”  It’s an act of infidelity to not provide for your household.

Dennis:  You’re talking about financial provision?

Doug:  Well, I would begin with financial provision. Too many workaholic, American fathers substitute financial provision for every other kind of provision: “I work hard. I work overtime at the office. I bring home the bacon. I don’t have to do anything else.”

Dennis:  Yes; “I’m off the hook” to provide moral training, spiritual development, etc.”

Doug: Correct—that, basically, financial provision is simply the beginning. In

Ephesians 5, Paul says that, “Husbands are to nourish and cherish their wives.”  The word—feed, nourish, and cherish is literally “to keep warm”.  You’re not just providing physical warmth, but emotional warmth—the depth of relationship, the security of having a dad who’s there.

There are so many different ways you can go off here. A father who leaves is very, very different, for example, than a father who’s killed in war. A son whose father is killed in war misses his father and has to deal with that, but he’s not ashamed of his father. He is proud of his father, and he doesn’t believe that his father left because of him. You know, oftentimes, kids blame themselves—the kid’s saying, “It was something I did that made him go,” or that sort of thing.

A father, who provides, is—and this goes back to my first point about the Father being present and making his presence felt—God the Father. The first thing that a father provides is himself—that’s the first thing he provides. Then, everything else is a symbol of that. If a father brings home the paycheck—and gives that instead of himself—then, what he’s paying, actually, is extortion money.

Dennis:  Yes.

Doug:  A father who gives his kids an expensive vacation, and a big allowance, and a plasma television in their room—he gives them all of this stuff—but he’s distant—that dad is not providing for his children. A father, who doesn’t have all of that money—but goes out in the backyard and throws rocks at a fencepost with his kid [Laughter]—that’s pretty inexpensive.

Dennis:  Yes, yes. And, to that point, let’s wrap up the other half of a father’s responsibility. A man not only is supposed to provide, he’s also to protect.

Doug:  Right.

Dennis:  And it’s more than just protecting his family, physically, from invaders.

Doug:  Right.

Dennis:  There’s more going on in this culture, coming at your family, than most fathers, I think, ever really consider.

Doug:  Sure. The serpent comes at your family in lots of different ways. It’s not just criminals who break into your house and you have to defend your family, physically. That happens; and it’s good, and glorifying, and God-honoring when a man steps in between the physical threat and his family. You may be aware that in that terrible shooting in Colorado—where men put themselves in front of their girlfriends—just their date.

Dennis:  Right.

Doug:  Well, that instinct is a wonderful instinct. It’s a God-given instinct. It’s the way it ought to be. There ought to be—danger over here—and if your bride, or if your date, or if the girl you’re with is here—then, you get in between the danger and the woman you’re with. But the devil—the serpent—gets at your family in lots of different ways.

It’s not just the criminals, or the random shooter, or the drunk driver. It’s also the serpent coming after your family in those songs that the kids are listening to. It comes after them in the commercials. It comes after them in the conversations that they have with the other kids at school.

Dennis:  It may come after your daughter with a young man—pulling up, out front—who wants to take her out on a date.

Doug:  Right; so, one of the things—a father’s authority—there are two kinds of authority, which I cover in this book. There is the authority of office—which every father has—and then, there is the—what we would call—moral authority.

A father has the authority to write checks. You’ve got a checkbook; and it’s your name, and your address, and your ID number. All of that stuff is in the upper left-hand corner and the bank would say, “Yes, that’s your checkbook.”  That’s one kind of authority. The other kind of authority is having money in the account. That’s another kind of authority. So, when the young man pulls up, outside of the house, and dad can see, right away, that he's a bozo; right? [Laughter]

Dennis:  Yes.

Doug:  He can tell that, right away; but his daughter really likes this boy. Well, does she really like him because that’s the first masculine attention she’s had for ten years?  Is that why she likes him?  Is she responding because you’ve been ignoring her?  And now, after ten years of ignoring her, she starts to get some kind of masculine attention, you are going to step in and say, “No”? What I would point out to a father, in that situation is that, “You don’t have any money in the bank.”  If you sit down with me in some counseling situation—as I’ve had happen—and the father says: “But I have to say, ‘No,’ to this suitor. I have to do this because it’s not good.” 

I say: “But, friend, you haven’t made any deposits in this account for years, and years, and years. That’s why your daughter is enamored with this guy. It doesn’t do any good for you to prove to me that it’s your checkbook. You’re like the shopper who says, ‘How can I be out of money?  I still have checks left.’

“You can open one of my books and prove to me that I wrote biblical verses, proving it’s your checkbook. Yes, you’re the dad. You’re the one with this responsibility. But if you have the responsibility—you have the responsibility to make deposits, over the years, so that when the time comes—an emergency arises—and you are the dad and you have to write a check for $10,000—it clears, and it clears easily—as opposed to some fathers who get to the point where they have to write a check for five bucks”—

Dennis:  And it bounces.

Doug:  “and it bounces;” right? That’s a real problem.

Dennis:  I had a dad, Doug, who couldn’t get a credit card when he was 60 because he’d never borrowed any money.

Doug:  Yes, he paid for everything.

Dennis:  He paid for everything. He paid cash because he had it. He had the relationship with me, as a boy. He didn’t do it perfectly; but I’m just reflecting on that as I think about how you’ve described a father, as a man, who provides and protects.

Doug:  Right.

Dennis:  Hook Rainey—that was his nickname, “Hook”—Hook Rainey was a great dad.

Doug:  Yes.

Dennis:  He was a great dad because he provided—not only, as you’ve said, financially—he also provided a relationship and a connection to me when he coached my Little League teams—when he went to every game that I ever attended.

Doug:  Right.

Dennis:  You speak of the Father being present when Jesus was baptized. My dad was always there. I mean, he drove two and a half hours to watch me sit on the bench in junior college. What a gift to have a dad like that!  Speaking of a bank account, I think when I became a father—which was, in my opinion, one of the most noble and one of the greatest privileges of my life—being the father of six kids—I went to the bank, back then, on my dad; and I’m still going to that bank today.

Doug:  Right.

Dennis:  Bob, I think guys who are looking to maybe paint the picture of what a father looks like in this culture—what Doug has put together here is a very biblical book—that’s anchored in our heavenly Father’s heart, and life, and how He wants us to behave, as dads, as well.

Bob:  I think this is going to be something that’s going to be very helpful.  It’s also going to be provocative. We started off by talking about the fact that you say some provocative things in this book as you are wont to do. But we want to encourage dads to get a copy of the book Father Hunger by Douglas Wilson. We’ve got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. We want to invite you to go to to request a copy.

Again, the website is If you’ve listened to FamilyLife Today for any length of time, you know that this issue of men stepping up and being the men that God has called them to be is something that we feel strongly about here. In fact, we have designed video resources—the “Stepping Up” one-day event kit that we’ve put together—so that a church men’s group can get together on a Saturday and have a one-day rally point to call guys to step up.

We recently had hundreds of churches participate in the launch of this one-day resource, but it’s available for churches to use any time that makes sense for you. If you’re doing a retreat weekend for your church—if you want a one-day launch point for your men, for any reason—the “Stepping Up” one-day event kit is available for that. Then, there’s a ten-week video study that’s designed for small groups of guys to go through together. A lot of churches are using it, again, with their entire men’s ministry—and then, breaking up into small groups after the guys have gone through each of the videos.

You can find out more about our “Stepping Up” video resources when you go to Again, you’ll find Doug Wilson’s book there, called Father Hunger. The “Stepping Up” resources are available there, as well. Order from us, online, if you’d like; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.

Now, let me ask you: “When it comes to Jesus—His ministry, His life, and, particularly, His resurrection—do you have any friends or family members who are skeptics?  Do you ever feel like you just aren’t sure how to answer the questions they have, particularly, as it relates to the resurrection of Jesus?” Author, Lee Strobel, has addressed that issue in a book that he has written called The Case for Easter.

This week, we’re making copies of that book available to those of you who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation. FamilyLife Today is listener-supported—folks, like you, who listen, call in, from time to time, or go online to make a donation. It’s those donations that keep us on the air in this city—keep us online 24 hours per day and 7 days a week. We appreciate your financial support of this ministry. Again, if you make a donation, online, this week, we’ll send you a copy of Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Easter.

Go to and click the button that says, “I CARE”. If you’d prefer to make a donation over the phone, call 1-800-FL-TODAY and be sure to mention that you’d like the book on Easter when you call. We’re happy to make it available to you. We appreciate your support of the ministry, and we look forward to hearing from you.

We hope you will be back with us again tomorrow. Doug Wilson is going to be here again. We’re going to talk about what a husband can do to help his wife learn how to submit to his authority. You will want to tune in to hear how he answers that question; right?  That’s coming up tomorrow. Hope you can be here with us.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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