The idea that we could all be the children of God, equally worthy and unconditionally loved in His eyes, is totally unacceptable to the church and many of its people. Their theology demands that they reject this universality of identity. There is little wonder in that observation because our entire culture is based on inequality of merit before God and one another. To fully embrace the idea that everyone throughout the world is a child of God turns our world upside down in every respect. It involves the greatest possible sort of change in our lives, and as we all know disruptive change is resisted vigorously by most of us.
So very much that preoccupies our minds and generates our behavior is a positive denial of any sort of human divinity and equality. Every deprecating label and retaliatory action is a proclamation of superiority in the eyes of universe. My opinion, my religion, my government, my rights- all these expressed dogmatically to the exclusion of others are statements of privilege and pride. Pride has become a virtue in our culture despite any biblical warnings against it.
When the Book of Genesis says man was created in the image of God, what do we make of that? Did mankind later become the illegitimate disowned outcasts of God? Can I ever cast off my identity as the offspring of my father by how I behave? Not genetically, I can’t. My biological identity is fixed forever.
If we believe that mankind ceased to be children of God after the Fall, we need to explain why God continued to be concerned for us. If His love for man and his parental attachment no longer existed, why bother? Why does the Bible story endless show a God who cannot divorced Himself from his prodigy? Though the story is written from a partisan perspective through the eyes of Israel, we see evidence throughout that the conclusion will reaffirm the equality of all.
If as insisted by Christian orthodoxy, only a few can be God’s children and enjoy his love and blessing, the church needs to explain when that happened and how. Where in biblical history did that division occur? At the Fall? The Tower of Babel? The Flood? The Covenant with Abraham? In the Wilderness? In conquering the Promised Land? In the Divided Kingdom? In the Return from Exile? In the Maccabean Revolt? At the Cross? At the 70 A.D. destruction of Jerusalem? In each of these events there was undeniably a sub dividing of human beings in accordance with someone’s view of inferiority before God. But does that prove anything in the eyes of God? Where in all this litany of biblical partisanship is the precise moment where we all lost our divine daughter and sonship along with God’s love and attention? I contend there is no such time and place.
It is poignant to note that the reason put forth in the Garden for eating of the forbidden fruit was to be more like God, enhance the tie to God’s own image. The problem was that the ability to judge came without the maturity to use it properly. In that insufficiency, mankind gained knowledge without wisdom. By using the new concept of good and evil as a weapon against each other, mankind embarked on a historical journey of denying to each other the identity of a child of God. This knowledge became the lasting basis for all subsequent partisanship and conflict. That which in Adam’s mind was to make him better and more godlike, turned out to be that which made him less connected to his own identity as a child of God. Humanity’s subsequent obsession with identifying the good and the evil caused all of humanity to deny each other equality before God. Paul knew otherwise as he explained in Acts 17.
The Fall does represent the point in time where humanity came to believe that some were more equal than others, but the rest of the story leads to a different conclusion. Adam’s attempt to be what he already was caused him and his antecedents to lose their most important identity, not, in fact, but in their awareness of that identity.
By accepting the right to pass human judgments on others, Adam set human history on a path which guaranteed that the knowledge of good and evil would become the unremitted source of endless human evil, all perpetrated in the name of good. So here we are in the 21st Century still wallowing in philosophical arguments of human purpose and destiny, circling back over and over to the idea that we are here to punish evil and reaffirm divine inequality.
I think the Bible, especially in its depiction of Jesus, was revolutionary, obliterating the philosophical concepts of the first Adam. Jesus, as the second Adam, led a revolt against the sin of inequality set forth in the good versus evil dichotomy. Jesus denied the good/bad, warfare paradigm, preaching just the opposite. The fact that church tradition has ignored that revolution in thought does not mean that a radical change in mind and heart was not intended and is not still evolving.