Recently I have studied a bit on the proposed logic behind the Arius deception that states Jesus was not God, but was instead a created god. In discussing this with a modern day follower of a faith that postulates this same idea, I have found it interesting to see how those from this faith attempt to use the Bible to support the idea that Jesus can in fact be "a god" rather than The Almighty God.
Having grown up with various tv preachers often playing in the background, I first heard the "little gods" doctrine as a child. I recall that at the time I found the idea both fascinating and somehow unsettling. Fortunately, the unsettling aspect won and I never really accepted this doctrine as true, though until recently I could not have told anyone why, nor had I thought much about it.
But as an adult who has now studied both lines of thinking, I find it quite interesting that both those who proclaim the "little gods" deception and those who insist that Jesus was merely "a created god" use many of the same scriptural arguments to support their beliefs. Here, I will briefly discuss those arguments and show why they can not be truth.
For those who may not be aware, the "little gods" doctrine is the belief that as Christians (or originally Adam himself) we are not mere men, but are in fact, little gods (with a little g). They believe that if we are created in the image of God, and if God is God, then those created in his image must be gods too. As one pastor famously puts it:
Pastor: "If horses get together, they produce what?"
Pastor: "If dogs get together, they produce what?"
Pastor: "If cats get together, they produce what?"
Pastor: "So if the Godhead says 'Let us make man in our image', and everything produces after its own kind, then they produce what?"
Pastor: "gods. Little 'g' gods. You're not human. Only human part of you is this flesh you're wearing."
If I hadn't actually seen this pastor preach this message with my own eyes, I would not have believed it. Since there is no Bible scripture that truly says we are gods, what scriptures do these preachers use to support this self-exalting claim? They are the same scriptures that the "Jesus is a created god" folks use to support that their conclusions are probable. The logic typically entails the points discussed below...
One of the first verses both camps will point to is John 10:34John 10:34 (ESV)
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? . Here, Jesus is speaking with the Jewish leaders who have just accused him of blasphemy for saying that "I and the Father are one." (see John 10:30John 10:30 (ESV)
I and the Father are one.). Jesus has a little fun with them and makes the argument that if the scriptures say "I said, you are gods" (referring to Jewish judges), then how is it blasphemy for him to say "I am the son of God"? Jesus ultimately leaves it to the Jews he is speaking with to decide, as he says that if he is doing the works of the Father, then they should believe him for the works' sake. The Jews do not appear to have a good comeback for Jesus' argument.
Jesus was referring to Psalm 82:6Psalm 82 (ESV)
1God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
2“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? — Selah
3Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
4Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
5They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
6I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;
7nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”
8Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!
. The entire Psalm must be viewed to get the full context. While verse 6 does say "I said, 'You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;'" what we need to realize is that verse 7 finishes the sentence... "nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince." In this psalm, God is talking to Jewish judges who have become corrupt. In those days, Jewish judges held a place of high dignity as they represented God to the people. They were not actual gods. They were not deity. They were clearly mere men who would die. Earlier in this psalm (verse 5), God describes these so called gods as having "neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness." In this Psalm, God is saying, "I set you up as judges for the people, to represent the judgement of God for them, to be as elohim to them, but you are blind and corrupt, and you will in fact die like mere men."
Yet, despite this clear context, the "little gods" preachers use these verses and Jesus' words referencing them to support the idea that man was really made as "little gods" or elohim. Interestingly, those who follow the Arius deception use the same scriptures to support the idea that Jesus wasn't saying "I am God" but instead he was showing that he was a created god - a "little g" god. If man can be a created elohim, so too can Jesus, the argument goes. Both beliefs are wrong. The only place in scripture where man is called elohim (god), he is called such in a rebuke for the corruption of his God-appointed position of power over the people as judge. God is clearly not saying that men are divine. He is calling them out for their representing Himself to the people so pathetically, and is affirming that they are but mere men who will die.
Two other verses I have heard used to support both arguments are Exodus 4:16 and 7:1Exodus 4:16 and 7:1 (ESV)
4:16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him.
7:1 And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. . In these verses God is speaking and says that Moses will be "as God" to Aaron (who will be Moses' mouthpiece) and "as God" to the Pharaoh. Here, it is clear that Moses will be "as God." There is a big difference between "as God" and "God" or "god." Moses was not divine, and Jesus was not merely "a god" because Moses was "a god." Moses was simply God's representative. Both arguments fail under any real scrutiny.
For the "little gods" camp, the argument goes further. As noted in the preacher's quote above, since we are made in God's image, and since God is a God, then we must also be gods. This is a ridiculous assertion. The man looking back at me in the mirror is clearly made in my image, but he is no human. It is the same with us and God. We are men. We are women. We are Adams. We are not gods.
Further, the "little gods" preachers say that since God gave Adam authority and Satan stole that authority and Satan is called the "god of this world" then we must have been gods in order for Satan to steal our god-ness. The only issue today is that most Christians don't know that Jesus wrestled that god-ness away from Satan and gave it back to us (the church). Because of this lack of understanding we don't walk in our god-like authority as the gods of this world we were made and intended to be.
Where to begin with this?
The first thing that has always come to my mind is the self-serving nature of the proposition. Wasn't Satan's demise in the fact that he wanted to proclaim a god-like state? Isaiah 14:13-14 says:
You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’
I find it interesting that the scripture doesn't even say that Satan said "I will overthrow God" or "I will set myself above God Himself." He just wanted to be "like the Most High." That was enough to seal his fate. Isn't this similar to the self seeking proclamation of the little gods camp?
In Genesis 1:26Genesis 1:26 (ESV)
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” the Bible says that God gave man dominion or rule (ESV vs. KJV). Looking at the Hebrew, this word, radah, means exactly that - dominion or rule. The scripture does not say that God gave us godhood or god-ness. He simply put us in a position of authority. This is no different than a king giving authority for someone to act in his name. That authority does not make the blessed subject a king himself. It is simply an extension of authority to a lesser person.
Additionally, if we were gods and gave our godhood to Satan and then Jesus got it back and gave it to the church, Paul would have not referred to Satan as the god of this world/age after the crucifixion (see 2 Corinthians 4:42 Corinthians 4:4 (ESV)
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. ). The false preacher's argument falls apart on this one point alone. Additionally, if we had given away our god-ness to Satan until Jesus won it back, then the Psalm could not have referred to the corrupt judges as gods and meant it literally. Again, the "little gods" camp's argument falters.
The entirety of the Old Testament points out the nature and character of God. The New Testament shows Jesus to be that very character. While we should mirror that character to the world, mirroring the character and nature of God does not make us God or even gods. The creation can never obtain to be the same as the Creator. The creation will never have "always been." He will always have been created, and thus have a non-eternal starting point. He will never be a god. God is eternal - from everlasting to everlasting - it is part of the very definition and description of what it is to be God, and there is only One God. Jesus was prophesied as the "everlasting father" and he is the Alpha and Omega - the beginning and the end. He isn't the first created; the beginning is before the first created. You can go back for eternity and never reach the Beginning. Both camps (the "little gods" camp and the "Jesus is the first created, an a god" camp) do not realize this truth. The first tries to claim godship in their misunderstanding; the second denies the deity of Jesus in theirs.
The Bible only speaks of two types of G/gods. The first is the eternal, almighty God. The second are all false gods. There is no room for any other - and that includes Christians as being "gods" or Jesus as being only "a god." Both concepts are in direct violation of the entirety of scripture.
Exodus 20 does a nice job at defining any "god" that is not the One True God. Exodus 20:3-5 says:
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,...
For the "little gods" camp, I point out that they are making themselves as something found on the earth beneath and saying it is a god.
For the "Jesus is a created god" camp I point out that Jesus is in the likeness of both heaven above and the earth beneath and they are saying he is only a god.
To both, God would say that they are not worshiping the true God or acknowledging the true God. To the one, man has made an idol of himself; to the other man has reduced Jesus to the level of an idol. If scripture says there are to be no gods besides the One True God, then Jesus is either that One True God or he is a violation of scripture. If men are "gods" then men are either that One True God or a violation of scripture. If we are going to claim that the Bible is our source of truth, then there are no options regarding this.