There are some Christians who believe that God is the Father of every human being who exists, every human being who existed in the past, exists in the present and will exist in the future. I know someone personally who holds to this view, though I won’t mention her name. We’ve debated this issue together and sadly, a couple of times it got pretty heated. Is this view correct? Is everyone a child of God or is it only Christians who are children of God? The purpose of this blog post is to give the answer to that question. My view is; no. Not every human being is a child of God. Only Christians are. However, that does not mean that God loves unbelievers any less than He does Christians (as I’ll explain further in a minute). First, what does The Bible have to say about this topic of being God’s children?
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
John 1:12-13 is one passage that talks about our being God’s children. The context of this verse is the opening of John’s gospel. John chapter 1. In verse 1, John tells us that Jesus Christ (the Word) existed in the beginning with God The Father and that He was God Himself (John 1:1), then John repeats himself saying that Jesus had existed from the very start of creation with The Father (verse 2). Then it affirms that, like the Father, Jesus is the Creator of the entire universe, telling us that creation was a team effort between all 3 persons of The Holy Trinity, it wasn’t just something God The Father did, but it was something that God The Son did also (verse 3). Then John mentions John The Baptist foretelling Jesus’ arrival (verses 6-9) and eventually mentions the incarnation (God becoming human) in verse 14. However, verses 12-13 is what concerns us here. Since the topic of this blog post is the doctrine of the fatherhood of God. What do these verses say?
John 1:12-13 says: “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.”
This passage tells us that those who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior become God’s children. It says that for those who receive Jesus, He “gives them the right to become” children of God. It says children of God are “not born of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” What this seems to imply is that the people mentioned in this passage were not children of God prior to “receiving him”. Once they received him, God “gave them the right” to be called His Children.
This passage teaches that it is by regeneration and faith that we become the children of God, but how can that be if we are the children of God already?. How can God give to men the right to become His sons if they have it already? If they were already children of God, how could they “gain the right” to become children of God? How can you gain a right if you already had that right? And how can you “become” a child of God if you were already a child of God? Is The Bible saying that you can become something that you already are? Did The Holy Spirit turn a child of God into a child of God? That doesn’t seem to make much sense. John 1:12-13 seems to refute the notion that God is the father of every human being and affirms that He is the father only of those who “receive him”.
Another passage that seems to argue against God’s universal fatherhood is Romans 8:14-17.
Romans 8:14-17 says "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
This passages explicitly says that those who are children of God are people who are “led by the (Holy) Spirit” What does this mean for the view of universal fatherhood? If you affirm that even unbelievers are God’s children, then it seems you’re forced to say that these unbelievers live lives led by The Holy Spirit (even Hitler and King Herod), which is absurd and extremely unbiblical. Obviously those who don’t have The Holy Spirit in them do not live lives led by the Spirit. They live by the flesh and produce the fruits of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) instead of producing the fruits of The Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
But even worse than that for universal fatherhood is that verse 15 of Romans 8 says that The Holy Spirit “brought about our adoption to sonship” What this is saying is that we were not God’s children before, but once we repented, The Holy Spirit brought about an “adoption” which caused us to be sons of God. Now, again, I ask you; how could the Spirit bring about an adoption for us to become God’s children if we already were God’s children? Can a child be “adopted” into a family if he is already a part of that family? Does a man go to an adoption center to get a kid that already belongs to Him? No. When a person adopts a child at an adoption center, the child isn’t his prior to the man adopting him. After adoption, then the child becomes his son or daughter. The Bible teaches that God adopts us as His children. We weren’t His before, but now we are.
Verse 17 of Romans 8 says that “Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Dear Universal Fatherhood people, are you saying that even non-Christians will “share in Christ’s Glory”? That they are heirs of God? This smells of universalism (the view that everyone will be saved, regardless of whether they have placed their faith in Christ). It smells of heresy. Either you must abandon the view that all mankind are God’s children, or you must embrace the heresy of universalism. One or the other.
“For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” – Galatians 3:26
Besides these 3 passages, probably the most explicit verse denying the universal fatherhood of God is 1 John 3:10. 1 John 3:10 says “This 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 God's child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.”
DOES THIS MEAN THAT GOD LOVES UNBELIEVERS LESS?
By no means! I believe that God loves EVERYONE equally. God loves Adolf Hitler as much as He loves Mother Teresa. God loves King Herod as much as He loves the apostle Paul. God loves Richard Dawkins as much he loves William Lane Craig. That’s Why God became a human being (John 1:14, Philippians 2:6-7) and suffered one of the most agonizing, slow, torturous deaths that a person could experience, experiencing the horrors of Hell Himself so that human beings wouldn’t have to (Romans 5:6-11). God suffered Hell in a human body so that we wouldn’t have to experience Hell. And this sacrifice that Jesus made, He made for everyone.
2 Peter 3:9 says God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” and 1 Timothy 2:4 says God “…desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” While these two verses don’t say that Jesus died for all people, it does say that God wants all people saved. And if God desires all to be saved, then it stands to reason that Jesus would have died for all so that they could be saved (even though many would be lost because they freely chose not to repent). However, just two verses after 1 Timothy 2:4, Paul says that Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all”- 1 Timothy 2:6
So, God does love everyone equally. He desires all to be saved (though not everyone will be saved because many will choose not to repent, and won’t accept Christ as their Savior and so, Jesus atoning blood, though offered to them, will not be applied to them).
Follow this syllogistic reasoning:
1: Those who get saved become children of God (John 1:12-13, Romans 8:14-17)
2: God wants all people to get saved (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4)
3: Therefore, God wants all people to be His children.
And it seems to me that if God wants all people to become His children, then that must mean He loves those who do not become His children as much as those who do become His children. So I do not think that denying universal fatherhood in any way suggests that God doesn’t love everyone or that He loves the unsaved less than the saved. John 3:16 says that God loves the world. Moreover, as an Arminian, I think that not only does God love everyone, but He desires all to be saved. The reason He wants everyone to be saved is because He loves all people. God is not the Father of all human beings, nevertheless, he wants to be the Father of all human beings.
The Parable Of The Rich King At The Adoption Center
NOTE: This is NOT one of Jesus’ parables. Rather, It’s one I made myself. I conjured this parable up to demonstrate God’s omnibenevolence in relation with God’s non-universal fatherhood.
There once was a rich King who went to an orphanage to adopt some children. He was a friend of the owner of the orphanage so he got to interact with the children often. One day, when he went to the orphanage, he told the children there that he wanted to adopt them into his family so that they could enjoy all the riches and splendor of his palace. He said that he wanted to adopt every single child there. Some of the children there had lived in poverty their whole lives and were excited at the thought of living in the lap of luxury in the king’s palace. However, some of the children there were too prideful, and didn’t want to go with the king. They didn’t want handouts. They wanted to work their way to riches and glory. They ran up to the king in anger and kicked him the shin. The owner of the orphanage was stunned at the audacity of these kids, but the king didn’t react harshly. He told the angry children that if they didn’t want to live with him, that was fine. They didn’t have to. He told them that none of them had to go with him if they didn’t want to.
After signing adoption forms, the rich king left with a group of children who were now his. The children who were left behind did not become children of the king, though the king wanted them to be for he loved them dearly.
In this allegory, God is the rich king, the orphanage is the world, the children at the orphanage are human beings, and God wants to adopt everyone in the world. However, He leaves the choice up to us (Deuteronomy 30:15-19, Joshua 24:15). There are some who reject God’s offer. Nonetheless, God loves those as much as he did those who did repent and got saved. The rich king loved those who wanted nothing to do with him as much as those who willingly went with him.