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Child of God or Child of the Devil?

In one of the presidential debates, Mitt Romney, everyone’s favorite Mormon (well, for me, second-favorite after Ken Jennings), stated “we are all children of the same God.” That’s a pretty common theme in American thought – that we’re all the same, with the same abilities, aptitudes, and capabilities.

And people eat this up – the idea that there is nothing at our core separating ourselves from each other. 

But a few weeks ago I was flipping through the radio stations in the car and paused when I heard a preacher, as I am prone to do. This particular preacher, you could tell, was on the radio because he had a great voice. He was using his preaching voice – deep, clear, with a hint of an accent to make things interesting. And everyone in radioland loved him, including me.

Anyway, he was preaching out of the third chapter of the first epistle of John and specifically on the dichotomy John the Letter Sender draws between children of God and children of the devil:

3 See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called God’s children….10 This is how God’s children and the devil’s children are apparent: everyone who doesn’t practice righteousness is not from God, including the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister.

The preacher caught my attention because he was making such a clear distinction and contrast to the pop theology of Mitt Romney; for this preacher, some of us are God’s children while others are unmistakably children of the devil.

So which is it?

This is one of the most central, core pieces of our theology. What we believe about ourselves, what we believe about humanity – our theological anthropology – will set the bar for all your other theological thinking (even if you don’t think you think theologically!). Yes, our understanding of God is hugely important – but it is powerfully shaped by our understanding of ourselves.

So where do you land?

Are we born children of the devil? Utterly depraved. No good thing – no good thought! – can come from us. We are reprehensible monsters, not only capable but destined for evil. Our ancestors were created in God’s image, indeed, but that image has been so shattered and tattered that we dare not even think about it lest we find ourselves trapped in our overconfident arrogant state. There is nothing in us worth redeeming, making the grace of redemption nearly unbelievable.

Are we born children of God? Created as things of beauty, reflecting our creator’s own image. Unique amongst all creation with magnificent potential, bringing unmatched joy and satisfaction to God. Through no fault of our own as well as through terrible faults of our own, this image is distorted, faded, and shadowed. But, at our core, this image can still shine through, reminding us and others of the created glory and beauty of all humanity awaiting redemption. There is something in us worth redeeming, marked for redemption by the unmistakable grace of creation.

We can’t have it both ways, can we? What do you think?

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3 thoughts on “Child of God or Child of the Devil?

  1. Well, the way you have put it here – I would have to say children of God! But I am interested then to hear your interpretation of that scripture? Do you think there are some that are children of the Devil? Some that are born utterly depraved and only capable of evil?

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    • ha, yes, I would say children of God as well but I know plenty of people who would readily identify with the “children of the devil” paragraph as well – those with a strong focus on original sin/total depravity.

      There is clearly some balance between the two sides, but my approach might be to *begin* with our created state as bearers of God’s image. We were intended/designed/created as God’s children and that remains true at the core of all humanity. We’ve chosen and choose a path resulting in a broken and shattered image (leading us to be, as John the Letter Writer says, somewhat dramatically, “children of the devil” in our state of rebellion) but through redemption are *restored* to our true status – that which was broken is eternally repaired.

      Sometimes I get nervous with the way the above story gets framed – with all of humanity containing a “spark of divinity” (which harkens back to gnosticism, ancient and modern mysticism as well as writers (who I appreciate) like Rob Bell, Richard Rohr) but, I do find myself seeing this as the truly “good news” gospel – that God’s creation was actually good (i.e. Genesis doesn’t lie to us) and will be again.

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  2. Pingback: Do You Trust Your Own Soul To Speak Truth? | dave kludt

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