Why don’t I think we are literal children of God, despite all of the verses in the Bible that say we are “children of God?” It’s a good question and I think it deserves a good answer. The short answer is that not everything the Bible says is meant to be literal. “Children of God” is a metaphor.
You Must be Born Again
1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
3In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
4″How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
5Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 8The 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.”
Here Jesus shows us that being born again is a metaphor and not a literal birth. Nicodemus ask how is a man supposed to reenter his mother’s womb? Jesus answers that it’s not a literal rebirth, it’s a spiritual rebirth. When the New Testament writers go on to call us “children of God” they are making a reference to what Jesus says about being born again. God’s children are those who have been “born again”.
Not Everyone is a child of God
12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent,[a] nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Here we see that only those who believe in the name of Jesus have been given the right to become children of God. Notice the word “become”, that means it wasn’t their natural state, it’s something that happens to them. It’s a right that has to be given to people.
1 John 3
9No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
Notice here again, not everyone is a child of God; only those who do what is right. In fact not only are not all born of God, some are even born of the devil. Does LDS doctrine make room for Satan being the father of men?
1 John 5
1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
There’s a logical argument being made here that goes like this: If A=B, and C=B, then A=C.
God’s children (A) = overcome the world (B)
Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God (C) = overcome the world (B)
God’s Children (A) = Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God (C)
I think the New Testatment quite clearly contradicts the idea that all men are children of God. Only those that believe in Jesus are children of God and they only gain this status after they are “born again”. I’m interested to hear how LDS view these verses.
Paul, Zues and Aratus
Since I was specifically asked about Acts 17, I did some research. Paul quotes a Greek Poet by the name of Aratus. The verse Paul quotes is from the poem titled Phaenomena
Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoken.
For every street, every market-place is full of Zeus.
Even the sea and the harbour are full of this deity.
Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus.
For we are indeed his offspring…
The point of the poem and the point Paul is making is that God created everything (something the Greeks agreed with). Paul goes on to say that if God is the creator, then why do we as created beings think we can created God in stone? Paul too is using the word “offspring” as a metaphor.