Ep59-The Scriptural Basis for the Doctrine of Deification - Of God and Gods Ch 12

Topics Discussed:
• Partaking of the Divine Nature: 2 Peter 1:4
• Ye Are Gods: Psalm 82/John 10:34–36
• Divine Sons Who Are like Christ: 1 John 3:1–3
• One Just as Father and Son Are One: John 17

Show Notes:


“I am not naive enough to believe that an appeal to scripture can resolve the thorny philosophical and theological issues that arise from the doctrines of deification.”

“The scriptures are pre-critical, it seems to me, in the sense that they affirm basic beliefs most often without any critical assessment or care for logical distinctions as to precisely what they mean. I don’t necessarily see that characteristic as a defect. Yet it does entail that scriptural language generally underdetermines any specific doctrine. Moreover, because there is a wide range of views among scriptural writers, there may be different or even conflicting views that are difficult (if not impossible) to reconcile by a hermeneutic that seeks to unify all of the scriptures under one logically consistent tapestry of doctrine. The fleshing out and plumbing of possibilities is the work of theologians. Revelation and the insight of inspiration are the work of prophets and apostles—and their work is often messy and confusing, especially when not read with the same spirit and from the context of a different culture. Nevertheless, it seems to me that surprising possibilities arise from a close reading of texts related to the view that humans are gods or partake of the divine nature.”

Partaking of the Divine Nature: 2 Peter 1:4

“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (KJV).”

“The divine nature is shared as a matter of grace from God.”

“Those who maintain the weak deification view may argue that this scripture means only that we share God’s goodness because, in context, the result of such sharing is to escape the corruption of the world. For example, Craig Blomberg asserts that 2 Peter 1:4 “deals merely with growth in conformity with Christ as the subsequent verses demonstrate, not to any kind of deification of believers.”

Ye Are Gods: Psalm 82/John 10:34–36

“Mark Nispel claims: “It is demonstrable that the origin of this concept [of deification] among the early fathers is largely to be found in the church’s Christological use of Psalm 82 in the [E]ast and [W]est as early as the late first century.”

“1. Elohim (<Hebrew script>) takes his stand in the assembly of El (<Hebrew script>, adat El)
among the gods (<Hebrew script>, elohim) he pronounces judgment . . .
6. I declare, though gods (<Hebrew script>, elohim) you may be,
and sons of Elyon (<Hebrew script>, bene elyon) all of you,
7. But you shall die like Adam,10 (<Hebrew script>, hakin keadam temutun)
and fall like one of the beings of light. (<Hebrew script>, wukahad hasharim tefolu)
8. Arise, O Elohim (<Hebrew script>), judge the earth:
for yours are all the nations.11 (Psalm 82:1, 6–8)”

“The meaning of what the Gospel of John asserts can best be grasped by looking at the structure of the argument in John 10. That argument has the following claim-and-response form:
Jesus’s Claim: “I am one with the Father” (John 10:30).
Jews’ Response: That claim is equivalent to a mere human claiming to be God and that is blasphemy (John 10: 33).
The Jews’ Implicit Assumption: No human could be God.
Jesus’s Reply: Jesus agrees that his claim entails that he is God even though he is a human and thus he rejects the Jews’ implicit assumption because Psalm 82:6 shows that Gods can become mortals (John 10:34–35).
Jesus’s Implicit Argument:
(1) Sons of God were Gods according to Psalm 82:6.
(2) The sons of God were required to relinquish their divinity to die like mortals (Psalm 82:7).
(3) Therefore, Gods can become mortals.
Jesus’s Additional Claim: I am the Son of God because the Father is in me (John 10:38).
Jews’ Response: That claim is also blasphemy (John 10:39).”

Discuss the varying views if deification interpretation of this passage.
Weak, Moderate, Robust

“Believers in weak deification assert that Christ is merely using an ironic figure of speech referring to Israelite judges as “gods.” For example, evangelical Robert Bowman argues that the term “gods” refers only to Israelite judges by virtue of their position as judges, which gives them authority to exercise the divine prerogative of judgment and that the term is ironic because it is addressed to the wicked judges who will “die like men.”

“Those who adopt the moderate deification view may argue that the reference to “gods” refers to humans who have Adam’s glory before the Fall restored to them by doing God’s works. For example, the Catholic scholar Jerome Neyrey argues that Jesus refers to those “to whom the word of God came” as gods. Who are those “to whom the word of God came”?”

“In Chapter 2, I argued that it is extremely likely that the “gods” and <Hebrew script> (bene elohim, “sons of God”) in Psalm 82 refer to gods in the council of Elyon or Most High God known in Ugaritic and early Israelite thought. It is likely that they were thought of as sons of God in some familial sense. There is no theogony or story of the origin of these gods in the Old Testament. It is important to note that the gods are already present as members of the divine council of gods with whom Elohim dialogues in his deliberations to create humans in their earthly existence—“Let us make man in our image and likeness” (Gen. 1:26). The view that the gods were already present before the Fall is confirmed by God’s statement affirming that the man and woman had “become like one of us [the gods]” by gaining knowledge of good and evil.”

Divine Sons Who Are like Christ: 1 John 3:1–3

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God (<Greek script>), and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him (<Greek script>); for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”

“a believer of weak deification will undoubtedly once again focus on the results of a belief in the possibility of becoming like Christ.”

“The believer in moderate deification will focus on a rich vein of theological insight regarding the nature of divine sonship and what it means to bear the “image of God.”

“The believer in robust deification asserts that there is scriptural support for the belief that we are, in some sense, literally begotten as God’s children. Both the biblical and Mormon scriptures speak of two different types of filial relation between God as Father and us as humans. We are children of God both by shared genus or kind and also by adoption.”

“Mormons read Acts 17:28-29 to state that we are the same genus as progeny of God in some literal sense—because that is literally what it says: <Greek script>, “Forasmuch as we are the offspring of God.” The word <Greek script> (genos) is not the same as the terms used for “sons of God” when John speaks of being sons (and daughters) of God (<Greek script>, tekna theou) in 1 John 3:1-2 or when Paul speaks of being adopted as sons of God (<Greek script>, huioi theon) in Romans 8:14 and 19. The term used by Acts, genos, is specific—we are of the same genus as God. It means that, in some sense, we are literally begotten in the sense of being the same kind or the same sort as God is. The term used in 1 John 3:1-2, tekna theou, can also mean that we are literally offspring or begotten as children of God, but it has a wider semantic range that includes fellowship among very close friends.”

“ we are not God’s natural children in the same sense that we are adopted as God’s children. We are adopted as God’s children because we choose to enter into relationship with him and through the enabling grace of the Atonement. Thus, the relationship that is freely accepted is more like adoption than biological birth in which we have no choice. As eternal spirits or intelligences, we are God’s genus or kin; however, we do not just grow into deified individuals simply because God is our Father in this genetic sense. Rather, we grow in the grace of deification because we accept the atonement of Christ and are united in the indwelling spirit in which God’s life begins to grow in us as we enter into him.”

“The believer in robust deification accepts that we are created in the image of God in a physical sense in addition to the sense that we are rational and morally responsible.”

“When God appears in theophanies or visions, such as Ezekiel 1:28, he always has a human appearance. This fact supports the view that God actually bears such a human appearance. However, whether God is essentially embodied or has human appearance cannot be established by such visions. There is the possibility that the human form is one he assumes rather than one that he is. Nevertheless, when these theophanies are read in context with the assertion that humans are created in the image and likeness of God in the sense that they look like God, it strongly suggests that God either is or has chosen to permanently assume a physical form that is like human form in appearance. Isn’t that just what Christianity necessarily claims?”

Referring to my questions last time...“It is also important to note that, for believers in moderate and robust deification, salvation is a process and not merely an event as it is for believers in weak deification.”

“As Robert Wilken observed: “One of the most significant discoveries of early Christian thinkers was that ‘perfection’ was not a state at which one arrived, but continuous growth in the knowledge and love of God.”

One Just as Father and Son Are One: John 17

“John 17 is a glimpse into the amazingly intimate prayer of Jesus as it was known in the Johannine community. The sense of intimacy is so strong that the boundaries and barriers of alienation between Father and Son are dissolved and the glory that Christ enjoyed with the Father before he became mortal is restored to him during this prayer. Christ extends this same intimate union to the Saints:
And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. . . . And all mine are thine and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. . . . Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. . . . That they may be one; as thou, Father, are in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:5, 10-11, 21-24)”

“The robust deification view accepts the language of Jesus literally. In the Gospel of John, the indwelling love of the Father and the Son is shared by the disciples and is the basis of salvation for the disciples through a process of deification.”

“ I can do no better to summarize this view than to quote from the “Lectures on Faith” yet one more time:
The Father and the Son have the glory they have because they are just and holy beings; and if they were lacking in one attribute or perfection which they have, they could never enjoy the glory which they have, for it requires them to be precisely what they are in order to enjoy it. And if the Savior gives this glory to any others, he must do it in the very way set forth in his prayer to his Father [in John 17]: by making them one with him as he and the Father are one. In so doing he would give them the glory which the Father has given him; and when his disciples are made one with the Father and the Son, as the Father and the Son are one, who cannot see the propriety of the Savior’s saying, “These works that I do shall [they] do also; and greater works than these shall [they] do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12). . . . For any portion of the human family to be assimilated into their likeness is to be saved, and to be unlike them is to be destroyed. On this hinge turns the door of salvation.”

“These scriptural passages say precisely what robust deification claims: The fulness of the divine essence dwells in us and we partake of the divine nature completely because Christ dwells in us and we in him, and he dwells in the Father and the Father in him. We are divine in the same way and to the same extent that Christ is divine when the fulness of divinity dwells in our hearts.”


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