Children of God

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

John 3
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

John 1:12-13
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.

12 thoughts on “Children of God

  1. Excellent point at the end of this blog. I had been doing some thinking myself on this very same issue. I think the Bible speaks primarily of man apart repentance and faith as enemies of God – by nature the children of wrath etc….

    I might just cite this on my blog if you don’t mind. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Higher Ground

  3. Wow… in all of Christianity I have never ever heard anyone say they are not a literal child of God. Most didn’t quite understand the implications but never did I hear any teaching that we were only metaphorical children. Now you’re saying you are only a metaphorical child. Yet another teaching proven… that supposedly proves every other teaching I’ve heard from Evangelical Christians false.. *sigh* philosphies of men, mingled with Scripture…

    This is almost as sad to me as listening to people claim we evolved from apes…

    I am a child of the creator of the entire universe… God is my literal Father. I was with him in spirit prior to be born here and will go back to Him when I die but I will have a glorified body like unto His. I will share in Christ’s glory. I guess now Mormons will be attacked for actually believing the literal words of the Bible and Jesus Christ and actually believing what He said. lol Well, there you have it.

    Okay Dando – I came… I read… I’m done. I truly hope one day you are able to say ‘Abba, Father!’ and feel what it is like to truly be a child of the Almighty God.

  4. My problem with your analysis is that you are speaking of our mortality as the literal offspring. The foundation of your conclusion, as to our doctrine, is false.

    We are all the spirit children of God. Only Jesus is the literal child of God in the flesh.

    All your analysis of being born again is correct. Those who are spiritually born of God are his children. Those who live after the spirit and under grace are His children, not those who choose to live after the flesh. As embryos we are still alive before birth, but we are not born until we are properly prepared. So it is with the spirit. Our spirit is within us, but until we become spirit controlled, we are not born of God.

    God is a spirit, those that worship Him must worship Him in spirit. It is when we become spirit controlled that we are born to our rightful, divine heritage.

  5. I understand that you mean that we are all spirit children of God. My further understanding of what the LDS church teaches is that our spiritual birth happened in the preexistence (before our mortal life) and that our spirit even made choices there which affect us today. It follows (it’s speculative) from LDS teachign that our spirit was born as the result of a sexual act between our Heavenly Father and his eternal wife. If I have ANY of this wrong PLEASE correct my understanding.

    I think your embryo analogy falls short. If my wife were pregnant (fortunately she currently is not) the embryo, as you have said, would be alive but not yet born. But whether or not that embryo has been born he is still my child.

    God is a spirit, those that worship Him must worship Him in spirit. It is when we become spirit controlled that we are born to our rightful, divine heritage.”

    I think you are diverging from Church teaching here. Were we not born in the preexistence?

  6. Joy,
    I’m disappointed that you didn’t choose to engage any of the scripture I presented.

    To be sure, I view myself rightfully as a child of God. He created me and loves me, and as a good father only gives me good gifts. It’s an excellent way of expressing what sort of creator we have.

  7. Dando,

    I have never heard it taught in the LDS Church that spirits were born as the result of a sexual act between Heavenly Father and his eternal wife. I don’t know if that is church doctrine or not.

    Probably the trickiest thing about discussing LDS church doctrine in any kind of meaningful way is that it’s hard to know what IS church doctrine. Because there is a lay clergy, because members of the wards and branches get up and give talks, oftentimes one person’s opinions are taken as gospel truths, when in fact they aren’t. And so you have people giving talks in church, saying totally different things.

    (A good example of that, even though I’m getting off topic here) is to ask a group of LDS people about how the atonement works. Does Christ’s grace make up the difference from where we fell short (like, for example, getting to heaven costs $100. With my works I earned $.50. Jesus pays $99.50), or does it replace ours (for example, getting to heaven costs $100. With my works I earned an apple. Jesus accepts my apple, and pays the $100.) That isn’t clear church doctrine–you can find many talks to support either side of it.)

    When it comes to what is and what isn’t church doctrine, it is generally safe to say that church doctrine is made up for SURE of the stuff in the Standard Works (OT, NT, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price), the stuff in the Gospel Principles teaching manual, the stuff in the Preach My Gospel missionary study guide, and probably the stuff in the primary and young women/young men Sunday School lesson manuals. Also, stuff issued by the First Presidency (so, The Proclamation on the Family, etc).

    If you go much further beyond that, people who disagree with what you’re saying (or what someone else said that you’re quoting) will say, well, that’s just that person’s opinion. Or, ‘that’s not official church doctrine’.

    But, getting back to your post… If you were to have asked me and referred to those scriptures when I was a full-fledged Mormon, I probably would have said something like this:

    First of all, I don’t think that I would disagree that one is spiritually reborn. Especially as a convert to the church, and the LDS church being so conversion-heavy, of course a spiritual rebirth is necessary. Church leaders also talk about the need for everyone to be converted to Christ.

    In terms of the rest of the scriptures, I don’t know what I would say. I think it is a semantic thing. In anger, my mom has said to me that I’m not her daughter–does that make me not her daughter? (I’m not saying that Christ was speaking in anger there, but rather pointing out that the metaphor could have run either way).

    Overall, though, I just don’t know. And I’m okay with that.

  8. I think there are a couple of elements of the equation that you’ve missed. While it is clear in both LDS and Evangelical thought that we must be born again, the fact that we become the children of God in this process doesn’t necessarily negate the fact that we are also already His children in another sense. LDS theology teaches that by becoming born again, we become the children of Christ rather than the children of the Father — which we already were. Ephesians 1:5 notes that we are adopted through Christ unto himself.”

    Certainly people who serve the devil become metaphorically his children –and that fact doesn’t change our spirit parentage.

    I think your conclusion that Paul is using “offspring” as a metaphor for “creation” fails when you read the next sentence. “For we are also his offspring” certainly could be understood metaphorically as indicating that we’re simply part of the whole creative product; but the next sentence makes such an interpretation untenable: “Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and device of man.” Gold, silver and stone are equally creations of God, but the fact that we are His offspring precludes the notion that we’re just part of the rest of that creation rather than His literal offspring.

  9. Can you give me more support for the idea that we become the children of Christ? Ephesians seems to make in clear in any translation that we are adopted by God through/by Christ. I’ll take your word for it, I would just like to see a teaching on it.

    Ephesians 1: 4-5 (NIV)

    4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he[c] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.

    Ephesians 1: 4-5 (KJV)
    4According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

    5Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

  10. Support that it’s an LDS position or support from the Bible? Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other passages than the one in Ephesians, but I think it’s rock solid–“adoption of children by Jesus Christ” to whom? “to himself.”

    The Book of Mormon has many passages indicating that we become the children of Christ: “Because of the covenant which ye have made, ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons and and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” Mosiah 5:7

  11. Okay, the Mosiah passage helps quite a bit. If you are just going off of Ephesians you are reading the verse in isolation. If you read the passage from Verse 3-10, it’s quite clear that “himself” is a reference to the Father.

  12. I think we are limmiting our attention on scriptures form the new testament that seem to be limited to the letters of paul. Now, I would like to look in the book of Job. I do this becuase the doctorin of “born again as children of christ” was not present in the old testament. In Job 1:6 “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan[b] also came among them.” Sons of god would obviously be refering to the position of men as God’s childre. There seems to exist “tunnel vision” about the idea of bauptisum and acceptaince of christ and his name. Yes we become children of christ–> children of his gospel, but we will always be children of our father in heaven.

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