Tag: Pope

Implications of Everyone Being a Child of God

This is the second post in my series on everyone being a child of God:

  1. Why Everyone is a Child of God
  2. Implications of Everyone Being a Child of God
  3. What if We Disown Our Father in Heaven?
  4. Doesn’t the NT also talk about becoming children of God??

My first post contains most of the biblical reasons I think everyone is a child of God. I also cited some prominent, conservative evangelicals who also appear to hold this position―primarily to show that it can’t be dismissed as a liberal interpretation! Anyway, in this post, I’ll explain some of the significant implications of this view.

Commonality

Family implies at least commonality, connection, and shared attributes. However, often it’s even more than that―across cultures and history―it’s often included loyalty, intimate relationships, lifelong friendships, and mutual dependability. I realise we aren’t perfect and neither are our families, but this highlights further qualities that we want our families to have―compassion, empathy, and forgiveness. Even if you have a terrible fight with a sibling and don’t talk for years, it’s impossible to de-sibling them―you never cease being related.

Now consider how this should apply to our universal family:

  • Dehumanising or killing our brother should be abhorrent.
  • Seeing our sister being prostituted or trafficked should spur us into action.
  • Treating our brother as a slave shouldn’t even be contemplated.
  • Lusting after our sister should be icky.
  • Befriending our brother should be considered time well spent.
  • Showing kindness to our sister should be a joy.

I could go on and on… basically, when treating others we should ask ourselves, “Would I do that to my little sister or brother?”

As I pass people walking through town, in my head I often say, “Hello brother! Hello sister!” (perhaps I’d be brave enough to say it out loud if I wasn’t an introvert). I honestly find it challenges the way I look at people. For example, I feel more compassion for rough/tough looking people. I feel less judgmental of people in suits (contrary to my rural upbringing bias). It generally makes me feel more friendly, even towards people I’ve never met. I can’t write anyone off as I can’t de-sibling them.

Everyone is a child of God
“The Communion of Saints” by Ira Thomas (CatholicWorldArt.com)

Impartiality

While you might naturally get along with some siblings more easily than others, I think most people see the wisdom of not showing favouritism between them. That we should aim to love and care for all of them equally. When this gets applied to everyone, it should decrease sexism, racism, classism, xenophobia, etc. and, conversely, improve justice. A king should be treated as equally valuable as a beggar. On this theme of justice, Boersma points out that:

[The OT ethic of “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Ex. 21:24)] assumes the equal value of all human beings. Ideally, to steal from a foreigner warrants the same punishment as if the same amount was stolen from the king since the two are of equal value… The ethical treatment of humans as in the image of God appear in passages like after the flood account:

“Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind” (Gen. 9:6).

Because all people are in this image, all people are God’s children, and thus, all people deserve dignity such that no one can be, at the very least, murdered due to their lack of value to another and the murder [sic] get away with it. The notion that all people are God’s children, in his image, forms the moral bottom line of the Old Testament ethic.

Spencer Boersma, All People are God’s Children

The concept of the universal family subverts and undermines systems based inequality. It’s no surprise that:

Gregory, in what is considered “the most scathing critique of slaveholding in all of antiquity,” attacked the institution as incompatible with humanity’s creation in the image of God [the previous post explains why I see image here synonymous with universal family].

Dustin Bruce, The First Abolitionist: Gregory of Nyssa on Slavery

Undoubtedly influenced by Macrina, his older sister:

Gregory writes of the time in which “Macrina persuaded her mother to give up her customary mode of living … and the services of her maids [servants] … and to put herself on a level with the many by entering into a common life with her maids, making them her sisters and equals rather that her slaves and underlings.”

Eric Denby, The First Abolitionist? Gregory of Nyssa on Ancient Roman Slavery

In the last post of this series, I’ll explain why I think the NT further encourages this trajectory, especially for the slightly “older” children of God―Christians―although we often don’t act our “age”!

Reminding Everyone That They Are God’s Children

Paul unpacks implications of everyone being a child of God in his famous sermon in Athens:

God has done all this [creating and sustaining everyone], so that we will look for him and reach out and find him. He isn’t far from any of us, and he gives us the power to live, to move, and to be who we are. “We are his children,” just as some of your poets have said.

Since we are God’s children, we must not think that he is like an idol made out of gold or silver or stone. He isn’t like anything that humans have thought up and made. In the past, God forgave all this because people did not know what they were doing. But now he says that everyone everywhere must turn to him.

Acts 17:27-30, CEV

As Boersma puts it:

Paul is saying, “You are God’s children, don’t debase yourselves worshiping idols. You were meant for more!”

Spencer Boersma, All People are God’s Children

Why Everyone is a Child of God

 

I often ponder just how much more of a jerk I would be if I didn't happen to believe that all men and women, regardless of their capacity or usefulness, are inestimably precious children of the Creator―John Dickson
John Dickson’s post

I particularly like his point that “all men and women … are inestimably precious children of the Creator”. It is something I’ve been pondering for ages so I thought I’d explore the idea in four posts (drawing a lot from Spencer Boersma’s article):

  1. Why Everyone is a Child of God
  2. Implications of Everyone Being a Child of God
  3. What if We Disown Our Father in Heaven?
  4. Doesn’t the NT also talk about becoming children of God??

I’ll start by looking at where I think the Bible implies everyone is a child of God.

“Image of God” implies “child of God”

The first place we find God described as a parent is:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness … So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:26-27, NIV

Interestingly, image and likeness are also used to describe the relationship between Adam and his son:

When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.

Genesis 5:3, NIV

Boersma explains that it’s “an ancient way of saying “These are my children”” and we still have a sense of that in the common, “Wow, your baby looks just like you”, compliment. We also find this connection in the NT:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

Colossians 1:15, NIV

His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance

Hebrews 1:3, WEB

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

James 3:9-10, NIV

Everyone is a child of Adam and thus a child of God

Another place we find God described as a parent is at the end of the genealogy in Luke:

the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Luke 3:38, WEB

As all humanity comes from Adam, we all inherit his curses (Rom 5:12-21) and blessings―including being a child of God.

God is the Father of everything

I think it’s worth considering Ephesians 4:6:

One God and Father of pás, who is over pás, and through pás, and in pás.

The question is, what is the scope of the Greek pás here? pás is usually translated “all” but when the context is people, it’s appropriate to translate it “everyone” or “all people”; or when the context is creation, it can be “all things”, “everything”, or “everywhere”.

Given verses 4-8 have many people related words―God, Father, body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, “each one of us”, prisoners, and people―it’s possible that pás could be translated “all-people/everyone”, and indeed some translations translate it that way (e.g. CEV, GNT, and ERV).

However, given almost every English translation translates pás as “all-things/everything” in verse 10, it seems most likely that is the scope of verse 6 too (e.g. EXB, ICB, NIRV, NCV, and GW). I think linking parenthood and creator isn’t unique to Ephesians. For example, God’s challenge to Job:

Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens

Job 38:28-9, NIV

And in other OT passages the concepts appear overlapping:

Is this the way you repay the Lord, you foolish and unwise people?
Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?

Deuteronomy 32:6, NIV

Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers?

Malachi 2:10, NASB

God is the head of all families

While headship isn’t as significant in our culture, hopefully, we can still see how this  concept supports God’s universal parenthood:

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

Ephesians 3:14-15, NIV

Even non-believers are God’s children

In part 4 I will look at the question of why the NT seems to talk about people becoming children of God when they believe but for now, I’ll just point out that Paul associates God being Creator, with God being a parent of even non-believers (his audience):

and he [God] gives us the power to live, to move, and to be who we are. “We are his children,” just as some of your poets have said. Since we are God’s children

Acts 17:28-29, CEV

Conclusion

I find it encouraging that Christians across the spectrum, including conservative evangelicals, are acknowledging this life-changing (for reasons I’ll explore in my next post) teaching.

In recent years a number of scholars have taken the view that “the image and likeness of God” is the language of family relationship. For example, Graeme Goldsworthy argues that “image and likeness are terms of sonship.” John Dickson writes that “the image of God means that men and women stand in a filial relationship to God; they are his offspring, as it were. They bear the family resemblance.” And Greg Beale holds that “Adam was conceived of as a ‘son of God,’” appealing to Genesis 5:1-3.

… “In the garden, Adam is portrayed by Calvin as the loving son, surrounded with signs of the ‘paternal goodness’ (Institutes I. 14.2) of God. … Adam has no fear at the sight of God, whom he is able to identify as Father.”

Brian Rosner, Image of God as Son of God