Book Review – God Distorted: How Your Earthly Father Affects Your Perception of God and Why It Matters

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,” (Matthew 6:9)

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

“And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9)

These and a plethora of other passages in Scripture describe God as our heavenly Father. He is the one who cares for us, who created us, and who longs to have a relationship with us. Often, our earthly fathers and our relationship or lack thereof as it may be, greatly impacts how we relate to and view our heavenly Father. Those who have or had a caring, loving, and nurturing earthly father will in turn be more likely to view their heavenly Father in a positive manner, seeing Him also as caring, loving, and nurturing. Conversely, those who have or have had a trying, combative relationship with a nonexistent father or one who did not demonstrate godly love and oversight will have a tendency to translate those feelings of apathy and bitterness towards their heavenly Father.

John Bishop, in his book God Distorted: How Your Earthly Father Affects Your Perception of God and Why It Matters, addresses this vitally important relational issue. Bishop divides this book into three sections, with the first section outlining different types of fathers, section two discusses various attributes of God our heavenly Father, while section three identifies ways in which we can begin to experience restoration and healing of relationships with our earthly fathers, essentially the application or where the rubber hits the road section.
As the soon to be father of an adopted child, I am painfully aware of how a deficient earthly father can impact the life of a child. While thankfully through the efforts of a number of caring and loving social workers, counselors, and foster parents, our child has moved on from that painful past, it nevertheless is a prime example of the importance of not only having a good earthly father, but also how negative experiences can warp ones view of God. My wife and I have had a number of conversations with our kiddo concerning God and how He is truly a loving, caring Creator who is watching over her every second of every day.

The reality is, while most people may not experience physical or verbal abuse as a child to the extent they have to be removed from their biological parents, there are no perfect parents. After all, as noted by the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” So we know God’s perfect standard is holiness to include training up a child in the fear and admonition of the Lord. However, in a fallen world, God’s standard is more often than not something that is fallen far short of.

Bishop rightly notes “If Satan can distort your image of God, he can destroy your life. You will be unable to relate to the father heart of God, and you will never experience the intimacy, love, and complete acceptance that await you. Through his misdirection, you’ll miss the best relationship possible this side of heaven.” This does not mean that because someone experience a poor relationship with their earthly father, that automatically Satan will have a firm hold on your life to the extent where your perspective of God will be forever distorted. What it does mean, however, is the fullness of relationship God desires to have with His children will indeed be impacted by past experiences, at least until those issues have been dealt with appropriately and the distorted view of God that may exist is corrected.

In his descriptions of various types of fathers, Bishop does an excellent job of not just providing clinical definitions, but also bringing into the mix his own life experiences. Some people may not realize their experience with their earthly father actually falls into one of the categories he provides and as such, this may be an eye opener for many. The point is not to provide a means by which people can place blame on their father for all of life’s ills therefore taking no responsibility for their actions or rejecting any effort at making reconciliation and offering forgiveness. What Bishop is doing is providing the means to identify what may be the source of the problem for many people in regards to how they view God, namely that of associating their poor relationship with their earthly father with that of a perfect, holy heavenly Father. So if your father was absent, passive, demanding, enabling, controlling, abusive, accusing, “good” or any combination of these, understanding what that means is the first step to resolving your relationship with your father if it has not happened already and more importantly, it is a vital step to evaluating your view of God.

In part 2, Bishop compares the perfect attributes of God with the not so holy attributes of the types of fathers he presents and outlines in part 1. This was a fascinating study as it brought into focus exactly who God is and why there is the need in the first place to understand the frailty and sinful nature of earthly fathers as compared to a perfect, holy heavenly Father. Bishop aptly comments “God is not a bigger version of your heavenly father. As good as your father is or was, God is infinitely better. As difficult as things were for you, God can change the father-image you have and, through that, change your destiny.” He further elaborates that God’s love is perfect, totally unlike any love we can experience on a fleshly level. After all, “The Bible doesn’t just say God loves – although He does – but it clearly states God is love.” God will never leave us nor forsake us. He is omnipresent and thus He is always there even when our earthly father cannot or will not be there for us. He desires a relationship with us which if you think about it, just might blow your mind. The God of the universe cares enough about each one of us that He desires to know us. As Bishop so rightly notes, knowing involves intimacy, a type of relationship we will never experience with human beings.

Furthermore, God is sovereign and there is nothing that is outside His control. Bishop reminds the reader that God will never hurt us. For those who have been abused by their earthly father, this is a tough one to accept at times. Abuse impacts our level of trust and that is often reflected or cast on to our concept of God. Bishop saliently states “If you are an abuse victim, what comes into your mind is the image of a God who is ashamed of you, didn’t protect you, and allowed the abuse to happen.” Those who are His are adopted sons and daughters of the God of the universe and He truly loves and cares for us. When that reality is grasped, our view of God will be altered from one of mistrust to casting our cares upon Him for He cares for us.

God Distorted is truly an excellent book and one I could easily relate to. While my relationship with my earthly father thankfully did not distort my view of God as the heavenly Father, this book nevertheless was very useful given the past experiences of one which we have been given charge to care for. Even those who might not have a distorted view of God will find this book useful as reality dictates we will come in contact with someone who has experienced past hurts in their life. To that end, this is a valuable resource.

I received this for free from Multnomah Books for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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