- by Robert M. Bowman, Jr. from the
Christian Research Journal, Winter/Spring 1987, page 18.
- The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian
Research Journal is Elliot Miller.
ORTHODOX AND HERETICAL VIEWS ON THE DEIFICATION OF
- Is the belief that men were created to be "gods, "
either in this life or in some future exaltation, a Christian
teaching? Is it in any sense Christian to speak of the "deification"
of man -- to say that God created or redeemed man in order to
become deity? What do various religious groups who use such language
today mean? Are they all saying the same thing? Are all who use
such terminology heretics? If not, how do we tell the difference?
All of these questions will be addressed in this article.
DIFFERENT IDEAS OF DEIFICATION
The first step in answering these interrelated questions is to
recognize that talk about men being gods cannot be isolated from
basic world views, or conceptions of the world and its relation
to God. Norman Geisler and William Watkins have pointed out that
there are seven basic world views: atheism (no God), polytheism
(many gods), pantheism (God is all), panentheism
(God is in all), finite godism (a finite god made the
world), deism (a God who does not do miracles created
the world), and theism, or monotheism (a God who does
miracles created the world), which is the biblical view (and
is held by orthodox Jews and Muslims as well as Christians).
Not all doctrines can be neatly categorized into one of these
seven world views, since some people do hold to combinations
of two views; but such positions are= inherently inconsistent,
and usually one world view is dominant.
In this article our concern will be with doctrines of deification
which claim to be strictly Christian. (This means that we will
not discuss, for example, New Age concepts of deification.) Varieties
of such "Christian" views on deification can be found
among adherents of monotheism, polytheism, and panentheism.
It may surprise some to learn that a monotheistic doctrine of
deification was taught by many of the church fathers, and is
believed by many Christians today, including the entire Eastern
Orthodox church. In keeping= with monotheism, the Eastern
orthodox do not teach that men will literally become "gods"
(which would be polytheism). Rather, as did many of the church
fathers, they teach that men are "deified" in the
sense that the Holy Spirit dwells within Christian believers
and transforms them into the image of God in Christ, eventually
endowing them in the resurrection with immortality and God's
perfect moral character.
It may be objected that to classify as monotheistic any doctrine
which refers to men in some positive sense as "gods"
is self-contradictory; and strictly speaking such an objection
is valid. Indeed, later in this study it shall be argued that
such terminology is not biblical. However, the point here is
that however inconsistent and confusing the language that
is used (and it is inconsistent), the substance
of what the Eastern Orthodox are seeking to express when they
speak of deification is actually faithful to the monotheistic
world view. The language used is polytheistic, and in the light
of Scripture should be rejected; but the doctrine intended by
this language in the context of the teachings of the fathers
and of Eastern Orthodoxy is quite biblical, and is thus not actually
Thus, it should not be argued that anyone who speaks of
"deification" necessarily holds to a heretical view
of man. Such a sweeping judgment would condemn many of the early
church's greatest theologians (e.g., Athanasius, Augustine),
as well as one of the three main branches of historic orthodox
Christianity in existence today. On the other hand, some doctrines
of deification are most certainly heretical, because they are
unbiblical in substance as well as in terminology.
Two examples of polytheistic doctrines of deification are the
teachings of Mormonism and Armstrongism, although adherents of
these religions generally do not admit to being polytheists.
The Mormons are very explicit in their "scriptures"
that there are many Gods; for example, the three persons of the
Trinity are regarded as three "Gods." Since they
believe that many Gods exist but at present worship only one
-- God the Father -- at least one Mormon scholar has admitted
with qualifications that their doctrine could be termed "henotheistic."
Henotheism is a variety of polytheism in which there are many
gods, but only one which should be worshipped. Thus, the meaning
of deification in Mormonism is radically different than that
of the church fathers who used similar terms, despite Mormon
arguments to the contrary.
The Worldwide Church of God of Herbert W. Armstrong (who died
early in 1986) claims to believe in only one God. However, Armstrongism
defines "God" as a collective term (like "church"
or " family") referring to a family of distinct beings
all having the same essential nature. Presently this "God
family" consists of two members, God the Father and Christ,
but it is their plan to reproduce themselves in human beings
and so add millions or even billions to the God family. Therefore,
by the normal use of words on which our categorizations are based,
Armstrong's world view is also polytheistic.
An important example of a panentheistic doctrine of deification
within professing Christianity is Union Life, founded by Norman
Grubb, who at one time was a respected evangelical leader. In
1980 Cornerstone, an evangelical magazine, ran an article
arguing that Union Life was teaching pantheism or panentheism.
Union Life has attempted to argue that panentheism, unlike
pantheism, is not heretical (despite Grubb's admission that he
does not know the definition of pantheism!). However, neither
pantheism nor panentheism separates the creation from the essential
nature= of the Creator, though panentheism does posit a differentiation
in which the creation is the expression of the Creator. The heretical
nature of Union Life is made evident by such statements as, "
there is only One Person in the universe," "everything
is God on a certain level of manifestation," and "Nothing
but God exists!" Therefore, Union Life's claim to
following the tradition of the church fathers is no more
valid than that of the Mormons.
Positive Confession: Monotheistic or Polytheistic?
Not all views of the deification of man are easily classifiable.
Perhaps the most difficult doctrine of deification to categorize
into one of the seven basic world views is that of the "positive
confession" or "faith" teachers, including Kenneth
Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Frederick K.C. Price, Charles Capps,
Casey Treat, and many others.
In brief, the "faith" teaching maintains that God created
man in "God's class, " as "little gods,"
with the potential to exercise the "God kind of faith"
in calling things into existence and living in prosperity and
success as sovereign beings. We lost this opportunity by rebelling
against God and receiving Satan's nature. To correct this situation,
Christ became a man, died spiritually (receiving Satan's nature),
went to Hell, was "born again," rose from the dead
with God's nature, and then sent the Holy Spirit so that the
Incarnation could be duplicated in believers, thus fulfilling
their calling to be little gods. Since we are called to experience
this kind of life now, we should experience success in everything
we do, including health and financial prosperity.
Some aspects of this teaching have been documented and compared
with Scripture in articles published in previous issues of this
journal. Regarding the claim that men are "little gods,"
there is no question (as shall be demonstrated shortly) that
the language used is unbiblical, but are the ideas being conveyed
contrary to Scripture as well? Specifically, is the world view
of the "faith" teaching monotheistic or polytheistic?
A simple answer to this question is somewhat elusive. The positive
confession teachers have made statements that seem polytheistic,
and yet often in the same paragraph contradict themselves by
asserting the truth of monotheism. At least two positive
confession teachers, Frederick K.C. Price and Casey Treat, have
admitted that men are not literally gods and have promised not
to use this terminology again. In many cases, the dominant
world view appears to be monotheism, with their teachings tending
at times toward a polytheistic world view. It seems best, then,
to regard the "faith" teaching as neither soundly monotheistic
nor fully polytheistic, but instead as a confused mixture of
both world views.
This means that the "faith" teaching of deification
cannot be regarded as orthodox. Their concept of deification
teaches that man has a "sovereign will" comparable
to God's, and that man can therefore exercise the "God kind
of faith" and command things to be whatever he chooses.
At least one "faith" teacher, Kenneth Copeland, seems
to regard God as finite, since he says, speaking of Adam, "His
body and God were exactly the same size." Again, it
is the context in which the doctrine appears that determines
whether the teaching is orthodox or heretical. In this case,
there seems to be significant evidence to show that some, at
least, of the "faith" teachers have a heretical view
of God, as well as a heretical view of the= nature of the believer.
Nevertheless, there also appears to be evidence that not all
of the "faith" teachers are heretical in the same sense
as, say, Mormonism or Armstrongism.
At this point we will turn to the biblical teaching relating
to this subject to see whether the Bible teaches deification
THE BIBLICAL TEACHING
All of the various doctrines of deification discussed above appeal
to the same passages of Scripture and the same biblical themes
to validate their teaching. Besides the passages where men are
called "gods" or "sons of God," there are
the biblical themes concerning men in the image of God; the close
relationship between Christ and Christians; and the statement
in 2 Peter 1:4 that Christians are "partakers of the divine
nature." In this article we shall discuss briefly each of
these texts and themes.
Are Men Called "Gods" in Scripture?
The Bible in both Old and New Testaments explicitly and repeatedly
affirms that there is only one God (e.g.,Deut. 4:35-39; Isa.
43:10; 44:6-8; 1 Cor. 8:4-6; 1 Tim. 2:5; James 2:19). Therefore,
the Bible most definitely rejects any sort of polytheism, including
The Scriptures also very clearly teach that God is an absolutely
unique being who is distinct from the world as its Creator (e.g.,Gen.
1:1; John 1:3; Rom. 1:25; Heb. 11:3). This teaching rules out
pantheism and panentheism, according to which the world is either
identical to God or an essential aspect of God. Since He is eternal,
omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient, God is totally unique,
so that there is none even like God= (e.g.,Ps. 102:25-27; Isa.
40-46; Acts 17:24-28). The Bible, then, unmistakably teaches
a monotheistic world view.
In the face of so many explicit statements that there is only
one God, and in light of His uniqueness, it may seem surprising
that anyone would claim that the Bible teaches that men are gods.
However, there are a few passages in Scripture which seem to
call men " god" or "gods." Most or all of
these, however, are irrelevant to any doctrine of deification.
In practice, the question of whether the Bible ever calls men
" gods" in a positive sense focuses exclusively on
Psalm 82:6 ("I said, 'you are gods'") and its citation
by Jesus in John 10:34-35.
The usual view among biblical expositors for centuries is that
Psalm 82 refers to Israelite judges by virtue of their position
as judges representing God; it is, therefore, a figurative usage
which applies only to those judges and does not apply to men
or even believers in general. If this interpretation is correct,
Psalm 82:6 is also irrelevant to any doctrine of Christian deification.
An alternative interpretation agrees that the "gods"
are Israelite judges, but sees the use of the term "gods"
as an ironic figure of speech. Irony is a rhetorical device in
which something is said to be the case in such a way as to make
the assertion seem ridiculous (compare Paul's ironic "you
have become kings" in 1 Corinthians 4:8, where Paul's point
is that they had not become kings). According to this
interpretation, the parallel description of the "gods"
as "sons of the Most High" (which, it is argued, is
not in keeping with the Old Testament use of the term "sons"
of God), the condemnation of the judges for their wicked judgment,
and especially the statement, "Nevertheless, you will die
as men," all point to the conclusion that the judges are
called "gods" in irony.
If the former interpretation is correct, then in John 10:34-35
Jesus would be understood to mean that if God called wicked judges
"gods" how much more appropriate is it for Him, Jesus,
to be called God, or even the= Son of God. If the ironic interpretation
of Psalm 82:6 is correct, then in John 10:34-35 Jesus' point
would still be basically the same. It is also possible that Jesus
was implying that the Old Testament application of the term "
gods" to wicked judges was fulfilled (taking "not to
be broken" to mean " not to be unfulfilled," cf.
John 7:23) in Himself as the true Judge (cf. John 5:22,27- 30;
9:39). Those wicked men were, then, at best called "gods"
and "sons of the Most High" in a special and figurative
sense; and at worst they were pseudo-gods and pseudo-sons of
God. Jesus, on the other hand, is truly God (cf. John 1:1,18;
20:28; 1 John 5:20) and the unique Son of God (John 10:36; 20:31;
Neither the representative nor the ironic interpretation of Psalm
82 allows it (or John 10:34-35) to be understood to teach that
men were created or redeemed to be gods. Nor is there any other
legitimate interpretation which would allow for such a conclusion.
The Israelite judges were wicked men condemned to death by the
true God, and therefore were not by any definition of deification
candidates for godhood.
If, then, the deification of man is to be found in Scripture,
it will have to be on the basis of other biblical texts or themes,
as Scripture gives men the title of "gods" only in
a figurative or condemnatory sense.
The Image of God: An Exact Duplicate?
One biblical teaching upon which great emphasis is usually laid
by those who teach some form of the deification of man is the
doctrine of man as created and redeemed in the image of God.
Of the many examples that could be given, two will have to suffice.
Casey Treat's claim that man is an "exact duplicate"
of God is based on his understanding of the meaning of "image"
in Genesis 1:26-27. The Mormon apologetic for their doctrine
that God is an exalted Man and that men can also become Gods
typically appeals to the image of God in man, and to the parallel
passage in Genesis 5:1-3 where Adam is said to have begotten
Seth "in his own likeness, after his own image" (Genesis
These claims raise two questions. Does the creation of man in
the image of God imply that God Himself is an exalted man (as
in Mormonism), or perhaps a spirit with the physical form or
shape of a man (as in Armstrongism)? And does the image of God
in man imply that men may become "gods"? There are
several reasons why such conclusions are incorrect.
First, there are the biblical statements which say that God is
not a man (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Hos.11:9). Second, there
is the biblical teaching on the attributes of God already mentioned,
according to which God obviously cannot now or ever have been
a man (except in the sense that the second person of the triune
God became a man by taking upon Himself a second nature different
from the nature of deity). Third, in the context of Genesis 1:26-27
and 5:1-3 there is one very important difference between the
relationship between God and Adam on the one hand and Adam and
Seth on the other hand: Adam was created or made
by God, while Seth was begotten by Adam. To create or
make something in the image or likeness of someone means to make
something of a different kind that nevertheless somehow
" pictures" or represents that someone (cf. Luke 20:24-25).
It is therefore a mistake to reason backwards from the creation
of man in God's image to deduce the nature of God. Genesis 1:26-27
is telling us something about man, not about God.
Besides the passages in Genesis (see also 9:6), the Old Testament
says nothing else about the image of God. The New Testament teaches
that man is still in God's image (1 Cor. 11:7; James 3:9), but
also says that, in some unique sense, Christ is the image of
God (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). Christians are by virtue of their
union with Christ being conformed to the image of God and of
Christ resulting finally (after this life) in glorification (2
Cor. 3:18; Rom. 8:29-30), which includes moral perfection (Eph.
4:24; Col. 3:10) and an immortal physical body like Christ's
(1 Cor.15:49; cf. Phil. 3:21).
Orthodox biblical theologians and scholars do have some differences
of opinion as to how best to define and explain what these passages
mean by the "image of God." However, these differences
are relatively minor, and do not obscure the basic truth of the
image, which is that man was created as a physical representation
(not a physical reproduction or "exact duplicate")
of God in the world. As such, he was meant to live forever, to
know God personally, to reflect His moral character -- His love
-- through human relationships, and to exercise dominion over
the rest of the living creatures on the earth (Gen. 1:28-30;=
cf. Ps. 8:5-8).
From the biblical teaching on the image of God, then, there is
nothing which would warrant the conclusion that men are or will
ever be "gods," even "little gods," as the
"faith" teachers often put it.
Sons of God: Like Begets Like?
Although men are never called "gods" in an affirmative
sense in Scripture, believers in Christ are called "sons"
or "children" of God (John 1:12; Rom. 8:14-23; Gal.
4:5-7; 1 John 3:1-2; etc.). Based on the assumption that sons
are of the same nature as their father, some conclude that since
believers are sons of God, they must also be gods. This reasoning
is thought to be confirmed by those passages in John's writings
which speak of believers as being "begotten= or "born"
of God (John 1:13; 3:5-6; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1,4,18).
As convincing as this argument may seem, it actually goes beyond
the Bible's teaching and is at best erroneous and at worse heretical.
The above Scriptures do not mean that the "sonship"
of believers is a reproduction of God's essence in man for the
1/ In one sense all human beings are God's "offspring"
(Acts 17:28), so that even Adam could be called God's "son"
(Luke 3:38); yet this cannot mean that human beings are gods
or have the same nature as God, for the reasons already given
in our analysis of the "image of God".
2/ Paul speaks of our sonship as an "adoption" (Rom.
8:15,23; Gal. 4:5), which of course suggests that we are not
"natural" sons of God.
3/ John, who frequently speaks of Christians as having been "
begotten" by God, also tells us that Jesus Christ is the
"only-begotten" or "unique" Son of God (John
1:14, 18;= 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). At the very least, this means
that we are not sons of God in the same sense that Christ
is the Son of God, nor will we ever be. Christ was careful to
distinguish between His Sonship and that of His followers (e.g.,
John 20:17). For this reason Kenneth Copeland's assertion that
"Jesus is no longer the only begotten Son of God"
must be regarded as false doctrine.
4/ Finally, the New Testament itself always interprets the spiritual
birth which makes believers sons, not as a conversion of men
into gods, but as a renewal in the moral likeness of God,
produced by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and resulting
in an intimate relationship with God as a Father who provides
for His children's needs (Matt. 5:9, 45; 6:8, 10, 32;= 7:11,21;
Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 4:6-7; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1-5).
The biblical doctrine that believers in Christ are children of
God is a glorious teaching, to be sure, and what it means we
do not yet fully know (1 John 3:2). But we do know something
about what it means, as well as what it does not mean. It does
mean eternal life with Christ-like holiness and love, in which
the full potential of human beings as the image of God is realized.
But it does not mean that we shall cease to be creatures, or
that "human potential" is infinite, or that men shall
Union with Christ: Are Christians Incarnations of God?
The doctrine that Christians are adopted sons of God is closely
related to the doctrine of the spiritual union between Christ
and Christian believers. This union is expressed both as a union
between Christ and the individual believer and as a union of
Christ and the church. Paul in particular teaches that Christians
are "in Christ" (a phrase which occurs over 160 times
in Paul's letters), " with Christ" in His death, burial,
resurrection, and ascension (Rom. 6:3-8; Eph. 2:5-6), corporately
the "body" of Christ (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:12-27;
Eph. 1:22-23; 4: 12; Col. 1:18), that they have Christ, or the
Spirit of Christ, dwelling within (Rom. 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 3:16;
6:17-20; 2 Cor. 13:5; Eph. 3:16-17), and that Christ Himself
is their " life" (Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:4). On the basis
of this teaching, many have concluded that Christians are in
fact either a corporate extension of the Incarnation (as the
church) or replications of the Incarnation (as individual Christians).
Such a conclusion is often tied to the teaching of some concept
of deification. The question is, does the Bible support such
As with the doctrine of Christians as the sons of God, such ideas
go far beyond the teaching of Scripture. To say that believers
are "in Christ" means that they are somehow spiritually
united to Christ, not that they are Christ. When Paul
says that we have been crucified, buried, raised, and ascended
with Christ, he is not speaking literally, but= means simply
that by virtue of our legal identification and close spiritual
relationship with Christ we benefit by His death and resurrection.
The teaching that the church is the body of Christ is also not
to be taken literally, and should not be pressed to imply that
the church is Christ or even an essential part of Christ. That
the relationship between Christ and the church involves a substantial
union without the church becoming Christ is best seen in the
figure of the church as the bride of Christ (Eph.= 5:28- 32):
the bride is physically united to her husband, yet they remain
distinct. The Spirit indwells the believer, to be sure, but the
believer does not become divine as a result, any more than the
temple under the old covenant became a part of God simply because
His presence filled it (cf. 1 Cor. 3:17). Christ is our life,
not in the sense that our individuality is replaced by His person,
but in the sense that we have eternal and spiritual= life through
our union with Him.
Finally, the notion that each believer is somehow a duplicate
of the Incarnation deserves a closer look. The rationale for
this view is that an " incarnation" is defined as the
indwelling of God in a human being; and since, we are told, this
is as true of the Christian as it was of Christ, it follows that
the Christian, as Kenneth Hagin puts it, "is as much an
incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth." The error in
this reasoning lies in the definition of "incarnation."
Christ was not merely God dwelling in a human being, a heresy
(known as Nestorianism) the early church condemned because it
meant that the Word did not actually become flesh (John
1:14) but only joined Himself to a human being. Rather, the incarnate
Christ was one person in whom were= perfectly united two natures,
deity and humanity; the Christian is a person with one nature,
human, in whom a separate person, God the Holy Spirit (and through
Him, the Father and the Son as well), dwells.
Does Partaking of the Divine Nature Make Us Gods?
In 2 Peter 1:4 we are told that through God's promises Christians
may " become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped
the corruption that is in the world by lust." This text,
even more so than Psalm 82, has suggested to many a doctrine
of deification. And indeed, if by deification one means simply
"partaking of the divine nature," then such "deification"
is unquestionably biblical. The question, then, is what does
Peter mean by "partakers of divine nature"?
Since the word "divine" is used earlier in the same
sentence ("His divine power", verse 3), where it must
mean "of God," "divine nature" must mean
God's nature. The word "nature," however, should not
be understood to mean " essence." Rather, as the context
makes evident, Peter is speaking of God's moral nature or character.
Thus Christians are by= partaking of the divine nature to escape
the corruption that is in the= world because of sinful lust,
and are instead to exhibit the moral attributes of Christ (cf.
DISCERNING ORTHODOX FROM HERETICAL TEACHINGS
It is not always easy to tell the difference between heretical
and orthodox doctrines. Often people of different religions use
the same or nearly the same words to express widely different
ideas. One of the marks of the "cults," in fact, is
the use of Christian terminology to express non-Christian concepts.
This is very much the case with deification.
How, then, can Christians tell the difference? There are four
essential elements to an orthodox view of the relationship between
God and man, and any doctrine which compromises or denies these
teachings is less than soundly orthodox. These four elements
are monotheism, trinitarianism, incarnationalism, and evangelicalism.
Monotheism, as has already been explained, is the view
that a single, unique, infinite Being (called God) created all
other beings out of nothing, and that this Creator will forever
be the only real, true God. Trinitarianism is the distinctive
Christian revelation of God, according to which the one God exists
eternally as three distinct but inseparable persons, the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Incarnationalism is
the teaching that the second person of the Trinity (called the
"Word" in John 1:1, 14, and the "Son" in
Matthew 28:19), without ceasing to be God, became flesh, uniting
uniquely in His one undivided person the two natures of deity
and humanity. Evangelicalism is the belief that salvation
is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
With these four criteria of orthodoxy in mind, how do the various
doctrines of deification measure up? The doctrines of the church
fathers, as well as of Eastern Orthodoxy, are, as we have already
indicated, thoroughly orthodox on all four points. Mormonism
and Armstrongism fail on all four counts, and are therefore heretical.
Union Life appears to hold to the Trinity and salvation by grace,
but sets these doctrines in the context of panentheism; therefore,
it too is heretical.
But what shall we say about the "faith" teachers? They
do affirm a monotheistic world view and generally affirm the
Trinity (though there is some evidence of confusion on that score).
Some at least of these teachers consider the Christian to be
as much an incarnation as Jesus, and thus fail the third test.
Most speak unguardedly of man as existing in "God's class,"
of being the same "kind" as God, and so forth, even
while occasionally making disclaimers about men never becoming
equal to God. Are these teachers heretics, or are they orthodox?
It may be that a simple black-or-white approach to this question
is inappropriate in some cases. Certainly these teachers are
not to be placed in the same category as Mormonism and Armstrongism,
since the "faith" teachers affirm monotheism and trinitarianism.
Yet too many statements have been made by these teachers which
can only be called heretical, though it may be that such statements
are due to carelessness or hyperbole and not actual heretical
belief. It is to be hope that the "faith" teachers
will recognize the errors of their unbiblical statements and
repent of them. Until that time, their doctrine of men being
"little gods" is so far from being orthodox that it
should not be placed in that category either. How, then, should
we categorize such teachings?
In recent years ministries which specialize in discerning orthodox
from heretical teachings have been using the term "aberrational"
to describe teachings which do not fit neatly into either the
orthodox or heretical category. Specifically, " heretical"
teaching explicitly denies essential biblical truth, while
" aberrational" teaching compromises or confuses
essential biblical truth. Both are in error, but a heresy is
an outright rejection or opposition to truth, while an aberration
is a distortion or misunderstanding of truth only. Aberrational
teachers affirm the essential doctrines of orthodoxy, and then
go on to teach doctrines that compromise or are otherwise inconsistent
with orthodoxy, while heretics actually deny one or more of the
It we apply this distinction to the cases at hand, their usefulness
becomes apparent. Mormonism and Armstrongism both explicitly
reject certain essential teachings of orthodoxy; they are therefore
heretical. Union Life rejects monotheism in favor of panentheism;
it is also heretical. Many of the "faith" teachers
affirm the essentials, but then go on to teach doctrines which
undermine their professed orthodoxy; their doctrine= is aberrational
and false. On the other hand, there are, unfortunately, at least
some "faith" teachers (for example, Kenneth Copeland)
whose teachings are so opposed to orthodoxy that they can only
be regarded as heretical.
It is not always easy to decide whether a teaching is orthodox,
aberrational, or heretical. Nevertheless, it can be done, and
we should not allow the unpopularity of making doctrinal judgments
to deter us from the necessary (if sometimes unpleasant) task
of evaluating questionable teaching. In doing so, we must avoid
the extreme of labeling as heretics absolutely everyone who uses
the term "deification," as well as the extreme of regarding
as Christian any doctrine of deification which= makes reference
to Christ. It is the substance of each doctrine which must be
examined as the basis for discerning whether it is orthodox,
aberrational, or heretical. Only in this way can the church's
calling to "test the spirits, to see whether they are from
God" (1 John 4:1) be fulfilled.
1 Norman Geisler and William Watkins, Perspectives: Understanding
and= Evaluating Today's World Views (San Bernardino, CA:
Here's Life, 1984).=
2 See, for example, Gerald Bonner, "Augustine's Conception
of= Deification," Journal of Theological Studies,
n.s., 37 (Oct.= 1986): 369-386.
3 Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake
City, UT:= Bookcraft, 1966), 317.
4 Van Hale, "Defining the Mormon Doctrine of Deity,"=
Sunstone 10, 1 (1985), 25-26.
5 See especially Philip Barlow, "Unorthodox Orthodoxy: The
Idea of= Deification in Christian History, " Sunstone
9 (Sept.-Oct.= 1984), 13-18.
6 See "A Summary Critique: Mystery of the Ages, Herbert
W.= Armstrong," elsewhere in this issue of CHRISTIAN RESEARCH
7 "A Case in Point: Union Life," Cornerstone,
9, 52 (1980),= 32-36.
8 Norman Grubb, "The Question Box," Union Life
6 (May- June= 1981), 23.
9 Norman Grubb, "The Question Box," Union Life
6 (July- Aug.= 1981), 23.
10 See "A Case in Point: Union Life," 32-33.
11 Tom Carroll, "The Mystery According to St. Augustine,"
Union= Life 10 (Nov.-Dec. 1985), 20-21.
12 Brian A. Onken, "A Misunderstanding of Faith," FORWARD
5= (1982), and Onken, "The Atonement of Christ and the 'Faith'=
Message," FORWARD 7 (1984).
13 E.g., Casey Treat, Complete Confidence: The Attitude for
Success= (Seattle, WA: Casey Treat Ministries, 1985), 319-324.
14 At private meetings between Walter Martin and Larry Duckworth
with= Frederick K.C. Price on May 1, 1986, and between Walter
Martin and Casey= Treat in early April, 1987.
15 Treat, 82-83, 306-327; Holy Bible: Kenneth Copeland Reference=
Edition (Fort Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1972),
16 Holy Bible: Kenneth Copeland Reference Edition, lvi.
17 On the biblical teaching on the nature of God, see The
Nature and= Attributes of God, by Robert and Gretchen Passantino
of CARIS (write to= CARIS, P.O. Box 2067, Costa Mesa, CA 92628),
or this author's outline= study, "The Attributes of God,"
available from CRI (order= #DA-250).
18 E. Jungkuntz, "An Approach to the Exegesis of John 10:34-36,
"= Concordia Theological Monthly 35 (1964):560.
19 Casey Treat, Renewing the Mind: The Arena for Success
(Seattle,= WA: Casey Treat Ministries, 1985), 90.
20 Barlow, 17.
21 See G.C. Berkouwer, Man: The Image of God, Studies
in Dogmatics= (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962), 37-118.
22 Kenneth Copeland, Now We Are in Christ Jesus (Fort
Worth, TX:= Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1980), 24.
23 Kenneth E. Hagin, "The Incarnation," The Word
of Faith= (Dec. 1980), 14.
24 Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, rev. ed. (Minneapolis,=
MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1985), 18-24.
25 Introductory literature on the Trinity is available from CRI.
End of document, CRJ0018A.TXT (original CRI file name),
"'Ye Are Gods?' Orthodox and Heretical Views on the Deification
release A, February 7, 1994
R. Poll, CRI
A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help
in the= preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.
Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute.
This data file is the sole property of the Christian Research
Institute. It= may not be altered or edited in any way. It may
be reproduced only in its entirety for circulation as "freeware,"
without charge. All reproductions of this data file must contain
the copyright notice (i.e., "Copyright 1994 by the Christian
Research Institute"). This data file may not be used without
the permission of the Christian Research Institute for resale
or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all
of its content with the exception of a few brief quotations not
to exceed more than 500 words.
If you desire to reproduce less than 500 words of this data file
for resale or the enhancement of any other product for resale,
please give the following source credit: Copyright 1994 by the
Christian Research Institute, P.O. Box 7000, Rancho Santa Margarita,