It is not hyperbolic to say that a great deal of society's spiritual and moral erosion is due to the death of fatherhood. Perhaps we can't nicely specify exactly how much, as with a pie chart, but we see it nonetheless. (Good) fathers are extremely important in God's economy.
In what ways? Certainly very many; we know that fathers are providers, defenders, and child trainers. They are examples of character. They are a tangible representation of steadfast love. But let us speak of another vocation of fathers, vision casting. Fathers are vision casters, and without it, we are much the worse off. Proverbs 29:18 says, "Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law" (NASB).
God alone has creative power. In the twinkling of an eye, God can make a universe. But he not only can create it, he can imagine it… out of nothing. We might say he can envision reality, and that vision becomes reality. But what is so exciting (if that weren't already enough) is that he has imbued people, who are the imago Dei (the image of God), with a kind of creative imagination and ability; we sometimes use a fancy term for this: "mimetic power" or "mimesis".
For his own mysterious reasons, God has empowered people to construct and improve the world using his gracious empowerment, which includes the ability to see what might be and then make it so. This vocation, for it is nothing less than that, is even more essential in a fallen world, where sin threatens to bury life and vision in a pit of self-absorption. Paul tells us that someday we will see the perfect God face to face, but now we see only dimly, as in a mirror--and he is talking to the church.
The enemy does not want us to see reality--the reality that Lewis beautifully imaged for us in The Great Divorce. The enemy wishes us to see his own lie-filled non-reality, a non-world designed only to keep us in bondage. Satan, the flesh, and the world are liars and magnificent obscurers. They detest man, and they detest man, empowered by God, transforming the world into something that better reflects God's glory.
Fathers combat this. Fathers are charged by God with teaching and showing their children, their wives, and their communities what might be. God is goodness, beauty, and truth, and fathers are one line of defense against the enemy's attempts to blind us from living in the Truth.
Vision can look many different ways--perhaps an infinite number of ways, given its source. But we can say some general things. God charges fathers to show their charge what it means that God is good. Fathers show their charge the difference between reality and falsehood. Fathers show their charge what beauty is. God has empowered fathers to point others beyond themselves, to look up to sublime things.
This could include discipline, in order that we do not relish that which displeases God, or that we do not wallow in base things. It might mean showing us how to be courageous because the alternate path, though much easier, is not worthy of Christ. Vision casting often means painting an image in the heart and mind of the listener, an image that they can't see with their spiritual eyes (yet), but the vision caster can.
Certainly, this is not to say that only fathers can be vision casters. Young and old, male and female can serve in this way. But fathers have a unique way, given by God, of doing this in the lives of their charge. There is a trust, a firm-yet-peaceful confidence that fathers possess from on high, that facilitates casting vision.
So, fathers, God has provided everything we need to orient our charge to look up to higher things. Obviously, any vision casting done in our own power--as this world is wont to do because it seeks only to derail and destroy--will lead to death. God, the perfectly good, perfectly powerful, and perfectly imaginative father, is sufficient an example and empowerer for us. In this dark world, we praise God, the perfect vision caster and creator, that he has chosen to give us fathers to orient us to true-Christ, in whom alone is the reality we were meant to live.