Are we all Children of God?
by James Fratzia, 19 November 2020
In 2020 the Roman Catholic Pope Francis declared that homosexuals needed to be ‘legally covered’ through a ‘civil union law’ in the documentary “Francesco” 1. The Pope’s argument appeared to be derived from a convoluted theology founded on all people being ‘children of God’. The Vatican subsequently declared no change to Roman Catholic doctrine 2. It is likely to please non-Christians that Pope Francis argued that all people are ‘children of God’ and ingratiate the Papacy to those amongst the atheistic elites who wish to normalise the homosexual lifestyle and see Christianity as an enemy. The positive implication that if all people are children of God, God has the same relationship with all people, regardless of their allegiance to Him or not, is understandably appealing to non-Christians. I would argue that Christians should disengage from any justification of the misanthropic ‘morality’ of the world in which they live. Instead, we need to ask the question ourselves – ‘are we all children of God?‘. To avoid potential avoid misdirection based on partisan theology the answer should be sought in the Bible.
This paper will briefly look at the term ‘children of God’ in general usage and then survey the use of the term ‘children of God’ in the Bible. It will then seek to answer the question – ‘are we all children of God.’
The term ‘children of God’
Though the term is frequently used in Christian Churches, it is also used by numerous religious sects 3. Some of these sects base their terminology on the Bible, and some use the term to abuse their adherents. Ironically cults which abuse or exploit the sexuality of adherents are common 4.
‘Climate activists5‘ also employ the term 6. It seems to me that such cases Christian theology is appropriated to to validate what is predominantly a secular religion. Swami Vivekananda uses the term to describe his followers7.
Examples of non-Christian non-religious use include :
- ‘Harijan’ (Hindustani: हरिजन (Devanagari), ہریجن (Nastaleeq); translation: “Child of Hari/Vishnu“) is a term popularized by Indian revolutionary leader Mahatma Gandhi for referring to Dalits, traditionally considered to be Untouchable8.
- The term is used in literature. Harijan, was Mohandas Gandhi’s publication between 1933 and 19489. It has been used in novels10 11.
- The term has been used in film12 and music extensively13 14 15 16 17.
Nevertheless, it seems to me that the most common use is probably as a Christian concept denoting divine filiation when one becomes a child of God as opposed to not being a child of God.
Biblical Use of the term ‘children of God’
The fundamental Biblical concept is that ultimately only God knows who are His, 2 Timothy 2:19 “the Lord knows them that are his”. So logically there are those who are not His. The essential flow of the Bible is one held together by God’s plan of salvation of His people, who are His by redemption through the blood and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The nation of Israel are His true people. But the nation of Israel are not the ethnic politicosocial or religious group from whom descend modern Jews. Though chosen as His possession (Deuteronomy 7:6 ; Deuteronomy 32:8), the ancient ethnic politicosocial religious group are disinherited for their betrayal of the Lord (Hosea 1:9). Throughout their history God had warned them this would occur (Numbers 14:12).
The true people of God (who have a filial relationship with God as his ‘children’) are described as a ‘new‘ Israel (Romans 11:1-28). The new Israel described in the Bible includes people from all nations, as well as descendants from ethnic Israel who will join them (Romans 11:24) by following the Messiah, Jesus whom gentiles call the Christ.
‘Offspring’ of God ‘by creation’
The argument that God created all things is fundamental to the Biblical world-view. This includes all people who are therefore products of His creative work (Acts 17:25). But people are different to the rest of creation. We are made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). And we belong to God – “All souls [people] are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). The apostle Paul used this argument amongst the philosophers in the Aeropagus of Athens when he declared his agreement with the Hellenic poets that “we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28). Nevertheless, such a generic description concerning the origin of humanity does not mean a direct father-child relationship between the Creator God and people. The Greek words used simply describe likeness as of kind (γενος εσμεν). That is, we are in His image. Indeed, the fact that people are God’s image-bearers makes them not only special (Psalm 8:5) but also subject to judgement for corrupt expression of the image (Genesis 9:4-6 ; James 3:9). A filial relationship with the Father as His children does not follow.
So it is dubious to equate being ‘offspring’ of God with being ‘children’ of God in any positive sense.
Though created ‘offspring’ of God, human beings as a whole lose any implied ‘child-father’ status when disinherited by God and handed over to lesser Gods (elohim18) (Deuteronomy 32:8) at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9)19. This event is fatal for the proposition that being ‘offspring’ of God meant we are ‘children of God’. It is not valid from a Biblical perspective to call all people children of God.
Yet the division of all people into two groups is not accidental. It has been on view in Scripture almost from the beginning when God declared to Adam and Eve that as a consequence of their rebellion there will be implacable enmity and warfare between the offspring of the serpent and humanity, Genesis 3:15. Though perhaps the serpent’s offspring could be interpreted as rebellious spiritual beings who followed the serpent, subsequent scripture includes people too. Jesus explicitly states that the Pharisees are children of the devil, not of God, John 8:44. Other verses describe the differences between the children of God and the human children of the devil 1 John 3:10, 1 John 3:8, Acts 13:10, 1 John 3:4-10, Revelation 21:8, 1 John 2:15-17, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Romans 6:23, John 8:42, John 3:16-17, Matthew 25:41, Ephesians 2:3, John 6:70, 1 John 3:1-24, Hebrews 2:14, John 3:8, Revelation 3:9, Revelation 12:17 and 1 John 3:2. Essentially, the differences are in terms of behaviour, allegiance to God through belief in His Son Jesus, and outcome.
‘Children’ by ‘re-creation’
To enter a filial relationship with God as our Father, and we as His Sons and Daughters requires God to do something special in us. He must re-create us (2 Corinthians 5:17) so that we are reborn. John 3:3 “Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again”. This is a special work of God which does not occur in all people (even though they bear His image). Jesus reiterates it to Nicodemus the chief theologian of Israel because it is hard to understand. John 3:7-8 “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
This rebirth recreates us as God’s children within His family. He becomes our Father and we his sons and daughters, that is, His children, Galatians 3:26-29 “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” There are different words in the original Greek language to describe this Father-child relationship. It is the same one for human families. We are called ‘υιοι θεου‘ (sons of God) or ‘τεκνα θεου’ (using the genitive, or possessive form, in Greek grammar in relation to God) or simply but less commonly ‘παιδια‘ (Hebrews 2:14) and ‘σπερματος‘ (‘seed‘ – Revelation 12:17). And this is different to ‘likeness of kind’ translated as ‘offspring’ ‘γενος εσμεν‘.
It is also important to note that it is in this way that we become descendants of Abraham. This is why the new Israel is Israel, not the ancient ethnic culturopolitical and religious nation of Israel, Romans 9:6 “not all Israel is Israel“. All Abrahamic faiths can only inherit the promises to Abraham through Jesus, not through law, nor through religious observance.
So, the Bible states clearly that only those who receive and believe in the name of Jesus have the right to become children of God. John 1:12-13 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” The Roman Catholic Pope was wrong. Not everyone is a child of God.
Expression and Privilege of being a child of God
Being a child of God is fundamentally expressed differently by the children of God and those who simply bear His likeness.
The joy and peace of moving from an existence where we should fear God to one where we simply love Him is expressed as a proud implacable allegiance to His Son Jesus and a desire to honour Him in our lives. The eternal security He offers us means we are liberated from many doubts and crises that logically eventually become existential unless we sedate ourselves from the reality of our existence20.
- We know Him and He knows (Nahum 1:7) and loves us a genuinely good father loves his child (Matthew 7:11).
- We know what is coming and look forward to it with a hope that cannot be taken away from us (Romans 8:17), even by our physical death. So, we actually feel more secure and we exercise authority over many things that once enslaved us (power of the Spirit dwelling in us).
- We have an intimacy with God that operates even when we cannot express our anxiety (Romans 8:15) and our Father is constantly reassuring us by His Spirit in us with His love (Romans 5:5 ; Romans 8:16) regardless of any trials which come our way (Psalm 27:13).
- Moreover, we do not despair when we suffer knowing that our Father is Almighty and can take it away (Romans 8:17). Rather, we know He will not withhold what He has promised (Romans 8:17) because He is good (Psalm 23:6, Psalm 34:8, Mark 10:18) even when He disciplines us we know it is for our improvement, (Hebrews 12:9-10). Paradoxically, we even praise God at times of suffering (1 Peter 4:16).
- We are amazed when He does things through us which we knew we could not do in our weakness (Romans 8: 29, Ephesians 2:10, 2Corinthians 12:10).
God simply satisfies those who are His children (Psalm 107:8-9). Yet those who are not reborn as children of God cannot relate to our Father. They simply cannot please Him or receive the privileges which accrue from being part of His family Romans 8:8 “Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”
Though it can be argued that we are all God’s offspring because He created all people, the clear teaching of Scripture is that not all people relate to God as their heavenly father in any credible way, and therefore they are not His children. To be God’s children requires a special work of God to recreate us. Also described as being reborn, it is expressed in one exclusive way – to receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour by believing in Him.
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Feel free to add your comments after the footnotes.
- Reported in a New York Times on-line article on October 21, 2020 titled ‘In Shift for Church, Pope Francis Voices Support for Same-Sex Civil Unions’ written by Jason Horowitz https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/21/world/europe/pope-francis-same-sex-civil-unions , and in the print edition on page A1 on October 22, 2020
- The New Forest Shakers, an 1870s and 1880s. English religious sect also known as the “Children of God. The Family International, a US religious sect also known as the “Children of God”
- The Telegraph article referring to the Children of God Sect https://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/0/hollywood-sex-cults-nxivm-children-god-story/
- a person who actively campaigns to have issues of climate change recognized and addressed https://www.collinsdictionary.com/submission/22026/climate+activist#:~:text=a%20person%20who%20actively%20campaigns,global%20movement%20of%20climate%20action.%20%5B
- Swami Vivekananda (2006). “Pathways to Joy: The Master Vivekananda on the Four Yoga Paths to God”, p.39, New World Library
- Archives of Harijan 11 February 1933
- by Mary Doria Russell ISBN 978-0-679-45635-3
- Cormac McCarthy published 1973
- Children of God (film), a 2010 film directed and written by Kareem Mortimer
- Children of God (Swans album), 1987
- Children of God (Phil Wickham album), 2016
- “Children of God”, a song by Eyehategod, from the 1992 album In the Name of Suffering
- “Children of God,” a song by Third Day, from the 2010 album Move
- “Children of God,” a song by Andrew Jackson Jihad, from the 2014 album Christmas Island
- see Michael Heiser http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/Deuteronomy32OTWorldview.pdf
- There are many means for doing so including actual drugs. Others include affirming and spending ourselves serving misanthropic ideologies, entertainment, extreme hedonism etc