“Are Christians ‘little gods’?”What has been popularly termed the “little god controversy” originated with Word of Faith pastors and teachers. The basic idea behind the controversy is that humans are actually divine, created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27) not only in having a soul, having dominion over the earth, or living in relationship with others, but by being of the same “spiritual class” as God Himself. Evangelicals criticize this concept as misguided at best, or sacrilegious and cultic at worst.The main tenant of Word of Faith is that, when we ask something of God in faith, He is compelled to fill the request. As “little gods,” our words have much power. This error is taught by some television evangelists, and its roots in Pentecostalism have made it more common in Charismatic churches. The Word of Faith movement has a number of popular monikers including “name-it-claim-it,” “prosperity theology” and “health and wealth gospel.”The basis for the “little gods” claim is found in two Scripture passages.Psalm 82:6 reads, “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’” Jesus quotes this psalm in John 10:34, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I have said you are gods’?” However, both of these passages include explanations in the immediate context which clearly do not indicate human divinity. Psalm 82:6 is followed by a warning that “you will all die like mere men, you will fall like every other ruler” (v. 7). The reference is to mortal men who represent God’s authority in the world—kings, judges, and magistrates. (Please see our article on Psalm 82:6.)Psalm 82 is a warning to unjust leaders who consider themselves “gods” (Psalm 82:1) yet who “know nothing,” who “walk about in darkness” (Psalm 82:5). Jesus used this passage in response to those who accused Him of blasphemy. Essentially, Jesus asked why, when human rulers were called gods, “the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world” (John 10:36) was blaspheming by claiming to be God’s Son.Claiming divinity for Christians is unsupportable, especially taking the rest of the Bible into account. God is God alone (Isaiah 37:16). We have never been God, we are not God now, and we never will be God. Jesus was fully God and fully man (a combination called the hypostatic union). If the “little gods” hypothesis is accepted, it imputes to Jesus a lesser divinity of some kind; He became a “little god” like us. John said that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14), but this does not indicate “a lesser divinity.” Jesus took on human flesh and blood in order to die for our sins (Hebrews 2:14), yet He retained His full position in the Godhead. God created us with a spirit, but that spirit does not hold divine qualities.Please read more about the image of God in us here.
Let’s start with a look at , the psalm that Jesus quotes in . The Hebrew word translated “gods” in is . It usually refers to the one true God, but it does have other uses. says, “God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the gods.” It is clear from the next three verses that the word “gods” refers to magistrates, judges, and other people who hold positions of authority and rule. Calling a human magistrate a “god” indicates three things: 1) he has authority over other human beings, 2) the power he wields as a civil authority is to be feared, and 3) he derives his power and authority from God Himself, who is pictured as judging the whole earth in verse 8.This use of the word “gods” to refer to humans is rare, but it is found elsewhere in the Old Testament. For example, when God sent Moses to Pharaoh, He said, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh” (). This simply means that Moses, as the messenger of God, was speaking God’s words and would therefore be God’s representative to the king.
The Hebrew word is translated “judges” in and , , and .The whole point of is that earthly judges must act with impartiality and true justice, because even judges must stand someday before the Judge. Verses 6 and 7 warn human magistrates that they, too, must be judged: “I said, `You are gods; you are all sons of the Most High.’ But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.” This passage is saying that God has appointed men to positions of authority in which they are considered as gods among the people. They are to remember that, even though they are representing God in this world, they are mortal and must eventually give an account to God for how they used that authority.Now, let’s look at how Jesus uses this passage. Jesus had just claimed to be the Son of God (). The unbelieving Jews respond by charging Jesus with blasphemy, since He claimed to be God (verse 33). Jesus then quotes , reminding the Jews that the Law refers to mere men—albeit men of authority and prestige—as “gods.” Jesus’ point is this: you charge me with blasphemy based on my use of the title “Son of God”; yet your own Scriptures apply the same term to magistrates in general. If those who hold a divinely appointed office can be considered “gods,” how much more can the One whom God has chosen and sent (verses 34-36)?In contrast, we have the serpent’s lie to Eve in the Garden. His statement, “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (), was a half-truth. Their eyes were opened (verse 7), but they did not become like God.
In fact, they lost authority, rather than gaining it. Satan deceived Eve about her ability to become like the one true God, and so led her into a lie.
Jesus defended His claim to be the Son of God on biblical and semantic grounds—there is a sense in which influential men can be thought of as gods; therefore, the Messiah can rightly apply the term to Himself. Human beings are not “gods” or “little gods.” We are not God. God is God, and we who know Christ are His children.