The Meaning of Deification7

We should, however, at least examine how these men use these terms. Some of the most orthodox church fathers used similar phrases but meant something different from the way present New Agers use them. They too spoke of the "deification" of man in Christ. Athanasius,2* in a famous statement from his classic work, On the Incarnation of the Word of God, wrote: "The Word was made mart in order that we might be made gods." David Chilton makes this point:

The Christian doctrine of deification (cf. Ps. 82:6; John 10:34-36; Rem. 8:29-30; Eph. 4:13, 24; Heb. 2:10-13; 12:9-10; 2 Pet. 1:4; 1 John 3 :2) is generally known in the Western churches by the terms sanctification and glorification, referring to man's full inheritance of the image of God. This doctrine (which has absolutely nothing in common with pagan realistic theories of the continuity of being, humanistic notions about man's 'spark of divinity, 'or Mormon polytheistic fables regarding human evolution into godhood [emphasis ours]) is universal throughout the writings of the Church Fathers; see, e.g., Georgios I. Mantzaridis, The Deification of Man: St. Gregory

23. For a detailed discussion of deification, the reader is encouraged to study Robert M. Bowman, Jr., "Ye Are Gods?: Orthodox and Heretical Views on the Deification of Man," Christian Research Journal (Winter/Spring 1987), pp. 18-22.

24. Athanasius (c. 296-373) led the theological battle against Arianism,a heresy that denied the externality of Jesus Christ the Son of God as the Logos.

taught that Jesus was only a subordinate being, that He was not the Second Person of the Trinity. Athanasius challenged Arius and the Arians during most of the fourth century by teaching the eternal Sonship of the Logos (Jesus, John 1:1), the direct creation of the world by God (Gen. 1:1; Col. 1:17-23), and the redemption of the world and men by God in Christ. A good dose of the Creed would go a long way in helping present day cultists. See Appendix C.

Palomas and the Orthodox Tradition, Liadain Sherrard, tram. (Crest-

wood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1984).25

The term "deification" was used by some in the early church to mean sanctification and glorification. Athanasius, one of the most orthodox church fathers, in using 'deification," did not mean that man becomes a god or evolves into God. He did not suffer persecution, decade after decade, from the heretical Arian party because he believed in "man into God." He was persecuted because he believed that Jesus was the only God-Man over against the Arians who held that Jesus was only man. There was never any consideration that Athanasius ever taught that man evolved into a god.

Man, as a new creature in Christ, reflects Jesus' perfect ku-Man was created as the image of God, to reflect His glory. When Adam fell, the image of God was disturbed, though not completely lost. In Christ, we are restored to the image of God, and through our lives we reflect more and more the image of God. We more and more reflect the glory of God. This increasing reflection of the image of God is called glorification, or, in the language of the church fathers, "deification."

The quotations found in Hunt's book under the sections, "The Dedication of Man," "Exact Duplicates of God?,""A Lie Whose Time Has Come," and '"Ye are gods,' *26 show how negligent some popular teachers and preachers have been. But is Dave Hunt's interpretation of Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34 correct? First, we will look at his interpretation, and then we will compare it with numerous Bible scholars who have written extensive commentaries on the texts in question.

25. David Chilton,The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation

26. Dave Hunt and T. A. McMahon, The Seduction ofChristianity: SpirituaiDis-cemment in the Last Lays (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1985), pp. 80-90.

Hunt on "Little Gods"

Mr. Hunt gives a very good analysis of how man rebelled God, and in his rebellion desired to become a god unto himself. Jehovah's status as God was rejected, Hunt tells us, and man, taking his cue from Satan, established himself as a rival to God's Word. But is this really the point of the passages in Psalm 82:1-6 (especially v. 6) and John 10:22-39 (especially w. 34-38)? Hunt thinks so:

If man is not intended to be a god, then why did Jesus quote Psalm 82:6 to His accusers? He was doing two things: 1) demonstrating that they didn't understand their own Scriptures, so were in no condition to condemn Him for saying that He was God; and 2) showing them the depths and horror of their rebellion.27

Nearly everything that Mr. Hunt says in this passage conceril-what Jesus was saying is correct, and we agree with him. As a general analysis of man's rebellion and his attempt to shake off his own creaturehood and sin, Hunt's appraisal of Jesus' statement is quite good. But Hunt's subsequent analysis of the meaning of Jesus' remarks does not fit the context of Jesus' discussion with the Pharisees in John 10:34-36 and His use of Psalm 82:6.

Jesus was not complimenting the Jews of His day, but reminding them of their rebellion against the true God. Indeed we are gods, just as Jesus said, but it isn't good. Through rebellion man has broken free from God and is now a little god on his own. It is a terrible thing to be called "gods," to be identified with demons who have rebelled against God and are seeking to reign in His place.28

Jesus was discussing His deity with the Pharisees, something which they denied. He was using a comparison: If something is true in the lesser case, then it stands to reason that it is true in the greater case. He was saying, "If you Pharisees really believe the

Bible when it states that God ordained rulers under the Old Covenant as 'gods, to whom the word of God came' (John 10:35), then how can it be blasphemy for the Word' who 'became flesh and dwelt among us' to be called God?" (John 1:1, 14). Jesus was not answering the Pharisees on what they thought of themselves. Hunt obscures the meaning of Jesus' battle with the Pharisees. The issue was Jesus' divinity, not the supposed divinity of the Pharisees. Again, Jesus was dealing with who He is, based on what the riders in the Old Testament had been. Hunt even hints at this when he writes: "Psalm 82 does not say, 'Ye shall become gods/ as Mormons hope, but Ye are gods.' So whatever is meant by this statement, it refers to something that humans already are, not to some new status that we will eventually attain?'® Jesus did not say, "They sad, We are gods.'" It was God who called them "gods . . . sons of the Most High." This is quite different from the passage Hunt quotes to support his interpretation: "/ [Satan] will make myself like the Most High" (Isa. 14:14). Here Satan declared what he wanted to become. The passage in Psalm 82 describes what already is an established fact: some men are elohim, gods. The crucial question is: Who and what kind of gods are they? Something is going on in this passage that Mr. Hunt fails to see.

I wonder how Dave Hunt would respond to Charles Spurgeon's comment on Psalm 82:6? Spurgeon wrote: "The greatest honour was thus put upon them; they were delegated gods, clothed for a while with a little of that authority by which the Lord judges among the sons of men."30 No one would accuse Spurgeon of Mormonism, demonism, or New Age philosophy.

30. The Treasury of David: An Expository and Devotional Commentary on the Psalms, 7 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Guardian Press, [1870-1885] 1976), vol. 4, p. 41. Spurgeon goes on to comment: This was their ex-officio character, not their moral or spiritual relationship. There must be some government among men, and as angels are not sent to dispense it, God allows men to rule over men, and endorses their office, so far at least that the prostitution of it becomes an insult to his own prerogatives. Magistrates would have no right to condemn the guilty if God had not sanctioned the establishment of government, the adrniniitration of law, and the execution of sentences. Here the Spirit speaks most honorably of these offices, even when [He] censures the officers; and thereby teaches us to render honour to whom honour is due, honour to the office even if we award censure to the office-bearer."

It seems that the Hebrew term for "gods" (elohim) in Psalm 82:6 is a reference to those who exercise judicial authority in God's name. Keep in mind that Yahweh, God's personal name, is not used here. It is quite clear by Charles Spurgeon's extended comments on the Psalm that this is what he understood the text to mean. It's an interpretation that Hunt fails even to mention. His readers are left with the impression that no other interpretation is even possible than his own, namely, that becoming a "god" in this sense is a wicked thing, a sign of man's rebellion. In fact, nearly every commentator we consulted on Psalm 82 understands that 'gods" has reference to civil magistrates. H. C. Leupold translates the Hebrew elohim ("gods") as rulers." He goes on to comment:

This is the last statement God is represented as saying in the assembly of God. What He had said to the judges or rulers was in effect that they were "gods." The same word is used which was employed in v. 1. That is, He had given them a position that was analogous to His in that He made them administrators of justice, His justice.31

If we re-read the quotations from the alleged 'New Age seducers" cited by Dave Hunt in The Seduction of Christianity in the light of Leupold's comments and the comments to follow, it's at least possible that these 'positive confessionists" were describing how Christians ought to rule in God's name,32 Keep in mind that we are not defending these men. We are equally suspicious of what they mean. The reference to "gods" in Psalm 82:6 is very specific and any use beyond the limits of the Psalm is inappropriate and borders on the heretical.

Too often we fail to scrutinize the Bible for its own interpretation. Experienced Bible commentators draw on the use of a term and how it is used throughout Scripture to reach their conclusions on what a passage means. Dave Hunt has not done this with respect to Psalm 82:6. Nowhere does he justify his interpretation,

31. Leupold, Exposition of Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, [1959], 1969), p. 595.

32. See Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age, pp. 147-48 for a biblical exposition of John 10:22-42 and Psalm 82:6.

either by quoting similar Scripture passages or by quoting Bible expositors who are well respected in the Christian community. Therefore, we should not be too quick to look for a novel interpretation, when so many capable and gifted men throughout the centuries have understood "gods" to mean civil magistrates who rule in God's name. Thomas Scott ,33 F. S. Delitzsch,34 J. J. Stewart Perowne,35 David Dickson,36 Joseph Addison Alexander,37 William S. Plumer,38

33. "The rulers of Israel, as immediately appointed by JEHOVAH to be his representatives, to judge according to his law, and to be types of his Anointed, were especially honoured with this high title, "Ye are gods.' 'Scott, The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, According to the Authorized Version; With Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations ancCopiousReferences, 3vols. (New York: Collins and Hannay, 1832), vol. 2, p. 182.

34. "[T]hey are really elohim [gods]by the grace of God." C. F.Keil and F. S. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Tes w: Psalms, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980), vol. 2, p. 404.

35. "He declares that it was He Himself who called them to their office, and gave them the name, together with the dignity which they enjoy. (This interpretation falls in readily with our Lord's words in John x. 34.)" Perowne, The Book of Psalms, ┬┐Vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, [1878] 1966), vol. 2, pp. 106-7.

36. "Princes, magistrates, chief rulers, and judges, have allowance from God, of honour, power, and strength, tribute and revenues, for the better discharge of their office under him: I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you, are children of the most High; that is, I have put the image of my superiority on you, and given you preeminence of place, power, and gifts, over others in my name ." Dickson, Psalms, 2 vols. (London: Banner of Troth Trust [1653-5] 1959), vol. 2, p. 62.

37. 'Their sin did not consist in arrogating to themselves too high a dignity, but in abusing it by malversation, and imagining that it relieved them from responsibility, whereas it really enhanced it. They were God's representatives, but for that very reason they were bound to be pre-eminently just and faithful." Alexander, The Psalms Translated and Explained (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker [1873] 1975), pp. 350-51.

38. "The 05ce of the magistrate was as dignified and awful [full of awe] as any of them claimed it to be. They were invested with the character of representatives of God. Therefore they acted under the highest responsibility. Their name was dreadful; so was their position; and, if their power was abused, their doom should be dreadful also." Plumer, Psalms: A Critical andExpository Commentary with Doctrinal and Practical Remarks (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, [1867] 1975), p. 782.

John Calvin,39 Matthew Henry,* Matthew Poole,41 and Woodrow Michael Kroll42 all take the position that "gods" in Psalm 82:6 refers to civil magistrates who rule in God's name. There was only one commentator among those we consulted who took a different view. He offered three possible interpretations, none of which re-fleeted Dave Hunt's view.43

New Testament commentators interpret John 10:22-39 in a similar way: "The passage refers to the judges of Israel, and the expression 'gods' is applied to them in the exercise of their high and God-given office."44 This is not an isolated interpretation.

39. "God has invested judges with a sacred character and title. This the prophet concedes; but he, at the same time, shows that this will afford no support and protection to wicked judges." Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, 5 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), vol. 3, p. 334.

40. 'The dignity of their character is acknowledged (u. 6): Z have said, You are gods. They have been honoured with the name and tide of gods. God himself called them so in the statute against treasonable words Exod.xxii. 28, Thou shah not revile the gods? Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on theWhole Bible, 6 vols. (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revelf, [1712] n.d.),vol. 3, p. 552.

41."/ have said, Ye are gods; I have given you my name and power to rule your people in my stead. AU of you-, not only the rulers of Israel, but ofall other nations; for all powers are ordained by God, Rem. xiii. 1. Children of the Most High; representing my person, and bearing both my name and lively characters of my majesty and authority, as children bear the name and image of their parents." Poole, ACommentaryon the WholeBible, 3vols. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust [1685] 1972), vol.2, p. 132.

42. "But even though these men have held lofty positions, they must not forget that great men die, just as common men do. Even Gods representatives in judgment must one day die and face judgment themselves (Heb. 9:27)." Kroll, "Psalms," Liberty Bible Commentary, Old Testament (Lynchburg, VA: The Old Time Gospel Hour, 1982), pp. 1086-87.

43. 'The crux for the interpreter is the repeated reference to 'gods,' who are reprimanded for injustice. Our Lord's reference to verse 6 in John 10:34f. leaves their identity an open question." Derek Kidner, Psalms 75-150: A Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1975), p. 296.

44. Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1971), p. 525. Elohim "is translated 'the judges' in the Authorized Version [King James Version] in Exodus xxi. 6, xxii. 8, 9, 9, and in the margin of Exodus

Homer Kent, who writes from an eschatological perspective similar to Hunt's, is a representative of the position articulated by the Old Testament commentators listed above:

Jesus based his answer on such passages as Psalm 82:6 and Exodus 4:16 and 7:1, where God's spokesmen who minister his word are called "gods." His point was that if Scripture can term such men "gods" because they were the agents to interpret divine revelation, how could Christ be a blasphemer by claiming the title "Son of God" when he was sent from heaven as the very revelation of God himself?45

In all of our discussion thus far, we have shown that the term "gods,velohim in the Hebrew, refers solely to magistrates, rulers, and judges. The reference is to a God-ordained office. It is not a position that all Christians hold. In this sense, it is inappropriate and exegetically improper to apply this text to all Christians. Thus, since there is so much confusion today over what the Psalmist meant in Psalm 82:6 and what Jesus meant in John 10:34, 36, Christians from all camps should avoid the use of the terms "deification," "little gods," or anything else that smacks of Mormonism and New Age philosophy. Those within the positive confession camp should work on their Christology and anthropology before they get into any more semantic trouble.*

xxii. 28, while the singular is employed in I Samuel ii. 25. In all these passages except the last the Revised Version reads 'God' in the text and 'the judges' in the margin, while in the last the marginal reading is in the singular, 'the judge.' There does not seem much doubt but that the judicial processes are envisaged in all these passages, however we translate the term. Nor need we doubt that thejudicial process is seen as something of a high dignify and to be performed only as in the sight of GM." Leon Morns, The Biblical Doctrine of Judgment (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdroans, 1960), pp. 33-4. Emphasis added. See his entire discussion, pp. 33-36.

45. Homer A. Kent, Jr., Light in the Darkness: Studies in the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1974), p. 144.

46. This is being done. See Bowman, "Ye Are Gods?,* p. 22, note 14.

Rightly understood, however, Psalm 82:6 shows us that God delegates dominion to some men to rule in His name. The church has always held this position. It has been only in recent decades that the church has abandoned this belief, one of the most basic of biblical doctrines: dominion under God. George Hutcheson, a Scottish Puritan scholar of the mid-17th century, drawing out the implications of John 10:36 (and Psalm 82:6), gets to the heart of the issue when he writes:

Albeit magistrates be but men like their brethren, yet in respect of their office they have the glorious title of gods conferred upon them, as beiig his vicegerents [deputies of a king or magistrate], and as bearing some stamp of his authority and dominion; therefore saiththe scripture, I said, ye are gods. This should both engage them to see to their qualifications and the exercise of their power; and others, to reverence and honour them,47

Rulers must never forget that they must not abandon God as they exercise dominion. The majestic title of Elohim does not allow God's subjects to be a law unto themselves, ruling independent of His lordship over all men and creation. The religion of humanism places man at the center of the universe as an independent sovereign, ruling and overruling according to his self-made law. The Psalmist declares their just end: '"Nevertheless you will die like men, and fall like any one of the princes.' Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is Thou who dost possess all the nations" (Psalm 82:8). No exalted title will save them.

3. Higher consciousness: Transformation of humanity is brought about through techniques that can be applied to mind, body, and spirit.48

47. The Gospel of John (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust [1657] 1972), p. 215.

48. Examples of such techniques include meditation, yoga, chanting, creative visualization, hypnosis, and submission to a guru.

This is where much of contemporary Christianity falls into error. We mentioned that Dave Hunt's books should be read on two levels. The first level is his critique of the methods some prominent ministers are using to help Christians 'get closer to God" or to "take dominion" through verbal authority.49 Man does not speak anything into existence; God did that during the creation week. The basis of dominion under God is ethics, not magic; obedience, not vocalization. We agree with Dave Hunt when he writes:

We do not believe the leaders of the Positive Confession movement are deliberately involved in sorcery. However, the terminology, while sounding biblical, promotes concepts that cannot be found in the Bible, but are found in occult literature and practice. Moreover, some of the Positive Confession leaders not only admit but teach that the methods, laws, and principles they use are also used successfully by occultists. Nowhere in the Bible does it indicate or even imply that the people of God are to use the same methods or powers as the pagans.50

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