By Clete Hux –
Perhaps one of the most arrogant and adamant pronouncements that Christians are “little gods” took place at last year’s 2001 Southwest Deliverer’s Convention in Ft. Worth, Texas. It was re-aired in April of this year by Trinity Broadcasting Network. Black televangelist and Word-Faith teacher Creflo Dollar insisted that we are gods in a message titled “Receiving the Image of God.”
This is not the first time he has taught this. Several months ago, TBN re-ran a program in which Dollar proof-texted Philippians 2:5-7 to teach this doctrine. He read, “Have this mindset in you that was also in Christ Jesus. . .” He stopped and asked, “Now, what mindset did Christ have that the apostle Paul is instructing us to have?” Then he read on, “. . .who although he existed in the form of God, thought equality with God not a thing to be grasped.” He paused and said, “I didn’t say that, Paul says that. We are to have the same mindset that Jesus had: equality with God. I didn’t say that, he said that—we are equal with God.”1
Dollar’s teaching that we are little gods did not originate with him. This has been around in Word-Faith circles for a long time. More than likely, he got this from Kenneth Copeland who has been his mentor. Dollar has leaned upon Copeland for much of his own teachings.
Now, let’s look at some of the things he says in his “Receiving the Image of God” message. He relies upon three basic proof-texts to get his “little gods” message across. He sets it up by giving the example of Peter walking on water, saying that his ability to walk on water had been in him all the time. With Jesus releasing the word “come,” Peter started operating on that authority. Dollar immediately applies this to all Christians by saying, “You have the authority to speak to fig trees on the inside of you. . .to your debt. . .to sickness and disease. . .to create and speak to those things that are not as though they were—because you’re sons and daughters of the most high.”2 Since we are “little gods” we can do what God did with the same creative abilities.
For his first proof-text, he used John 5:18 where the Jews tried to kill Jesus, “not only for breaking the Sabbath, but for calling God His Father, making Himself equal with God.” After spending very little time exegeting the text, he jumped right into his second proof-text, Psalm 82, by saying, “Now, I done danced around this as long as I can. Let’s go ahead and dive into it.” He first read verse 2, “God judges among the gods,” then asked, “Who are these gods that God standeth amongst and judges? Now, here we got big G and little g.” Dollar gave an illustration of his son using his credit card at the store. The cashier says, “Oh, you’re little d. Tell big D I said ‘hey.’” Dollar pats his Bible and says, “Big G,” pauses and says, “Now, there’s gotta be some little g’s somewhere! God has some children! . . . If He’s the Father, that means the Father has some little g’s! Now! Don’t look at me, I ain’t finished yet.”
Dollar then attempted to explain the context when he read Psalm 82:2-4, and said, “In this situation, you got some magistrates and judges that won’t make decisions and do what they’ve been given the authority to do.” It turns out that in this shallow attempt at context, Dollar came his nearest to orthodoxy in his treatment of this passage. Then, without any further thought to context, he said, “Here He justifies why He calls them gods. ‘You are gods because you’re children. You come from God’s stock! You are little g’s because you’re my children.’” Dollar went on,
Turn to your neighbor and say, “Hello, little g!” Come and say it! “Hello, little g!” . . . Boy! Brother Copeland caught it the first time he preached on this. People went crazy and said, “Heresy, heresy, blasphemy! That man’s trying to tell them people they’re God.” Now, most people will say, “Well, Psalm 82, he was just referring to those judges and magistrates, that’s it!” Whoa! Jesus followed with John 10. Look over there.
With this, he laid the foundation for the last of his prooftexts. Dollar read John 10:32-36, Jesus’ response to the Jews for wanting to stone Him for blasphemy. Jesus quoted Psalm 82:6 as He asked the Jews, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I said you are gods?’” (v. 34). To Dollar, Jesus said it and that settles it. We’re gods. He berates people who would accuse him of blasphemy, saying,
I’m gonna tell you what blasphemy is: when you go against what God said about your true self. [Obviously, it’s blasphemy not to see yourself as a little g.] Oh! We’re all so unworthy— Shut up with that blasphemous statement! The blood of Jesus was shed to make you worthy and I dare you to go around and say you’re unworthy. When you say you’re unworthy, you’re saying the blood of Jesus was not powerful enough to accomplish what it was intended to accomplish.
Here, he brought in the atonement to reinforce his teachings. Very emphatically, he continued, “You’re now no longer some unworthy, filthy rag. You’re now worthy because of the blood of Jesus! You’re not a sinner saved by grace—YOU’RE GODS!” [The crowd explodes with shouts and amen’s.]
Dualism and Reciprocal Teaching
At this point Dollar said something very instructional for our understanding of Word-Faith theology and anthropology. With daring confidence, he announced, “You’re God’s reflection on this planet.” We might think, “OK! We’re made in God’s image or reflection. So, what?” But, Dollar’s teaching goes a lot deeper than that. To him and other Word-Faith teachers, being created in God’s image means that there is something called “reciprocal teaching.” That is, they believe that whatever God is, we are. So, since the Most High God is divine by nature, we are divine by nature—little gods. Dollar alluded to this earlier when he said, “You come from God’s stock.” The influence of Copeland is evident here. Copeland has taught that “Man was created in the god class. . . . All right. Are we gods? We are a class of god’s”3
We would go a long way in understanding many of the errors in the Word-Faith movement if we can understand this “image” or “reflective” teaching. With Gnostic-like dualism, some in the Faith camp teach that this physical existence is just a reflection of spiritual existence.4 Physical laws that govern this earth are based on spiritual laws that govern the universe. This earth is an image or smaller reflection of the planet where God lives. And if that is so, then man having a body and being made in the image of God is just a reflection of God Himself. That’s the reason Copeland can localize God on a planet and say that “he is a being who stands 6’2″, 6’3″, weighing a couple of hundred pounds or little better.”5
Well, back to Dollar. After launching into a tirade against anyone in the audience not receiving his message, he said,
What are we gonna do with that? [referring to Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34] Should we just tear it up and act like it doesn’t exist? We are believers! We just read what the book said! I’m a little g! And I need to start carrying myself like Most High God. He’s the Most High God. I’ve been made a little lower than Him. I’m a little god on this planet.”
What Dollar said next sounded very similar to Mormonism’s Law of Eternal Progression. If a Mormon has progressed to the point of exaltation and becomes a god, he will be given his own planet to populate.6 Dollar asked,
What do you think’s gonna happen when all this is over with? The Father’s gonna take you and all those unfinished planets out there—Hallelujah! [He starts speaking in tongues] Since you’re learning how to operate in this earth. . .what do you think’s gonna happen when God Almighty declares, “I want you to create a universe. I want you to speak to these worlds and like I said, ‘Light be,’ you say, ‘Light be;’ Like I say, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst,’ you do the same. You are my sons and daughters, bless God! I share with you my authority…my name…my spirit…my power. Start acting like my Children!”? We’ve been so doggone scared of religion that we’ve allowed it to rob us of who we really are! Once you begin to realize you’re God’s children and you’re gods on this planet, then you’re not gonna put up with debt…being broke…with devils or demons. You’re not going to put up with anything except the good life, once you realize who you are.
When the devil shows up in the wilderness experience of your life, then you’ll act just like Jesus. You’ll say, “Get thee behind me, Satan, because I am the Lord Your God!” Hallelujah! “I have authority over you…” It’s time for us to go and dominate this world! It’s time for the body of Christ to start gathering up what belongs to us…I’m free!! Watch out devil, here I come!…I’ll never be broke again!
The Truth of the Matter
Are we little gods? Of course not! Never have been. Never will be. But how do we answer Dollar or any heretic that would make this type claim? Toward the end, this Word-Faith teacher asked rather rhetorically, “What are we gonna do with that? [Referring to Psalm. 82:6 and John 10:34] Should we just tear it out of the Bible and ball it up and act like it doesn’t exist?” The implication is because these passages exist, they can only be explained in the way that Dollar interpreted them.
Instead of tearing these passages out of their context and applying them inappropriately, let’s “rightly divide the word of truth” here. In John 10:34, Jesus is speaking to Jews who knew very well the nature of Jesus’ claim of equality with God. Jesus responded by referring them to Psalm 82:6, saying, “Is it not written in your own law, ‘I have said you are gods?’” Why would Jesus answer them this way? What is the context of both Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34?
It is obvious in the context of Psalm 82:1-6, that the passage deals with Israelite civil magistrates or judges, even though they are called “gods” (Heb. elohim). These had been appointed to fulfill the “god-like” role of administering justice. They had been given the responsibility to deliberate on issues of life and death. In this sense, their responsibilities were “God-like.” These judges weren’t called gods because of deity, but because of role.
We must take this into account as we see how Jesus reasons with the Jews in John 10. He was basically saying, “If human judges, because of their role and work, can be called ‘gods’ (though they aren’t gods by nature), then I, because of who I am— the Son of God— can be called God even more so.” What the judges in Psalm 82 were by role, Jesus was by nature. By nature, these judges were men, as indicated in v. 7 where it says that they “will die like men.” It is a contradiction in terms to be a god and die like a man. When Jesus called himself the Son of God, on the other hand, he was referring to His deity. Jesus was defending His own deity, not the deity of men, because men don’t have any deity to be defended. By nature, God is eternal and uncreated. By nature, men are created. So, if men are “gods” and yet are created, then they can’t be gods by nature.
There is another thing to keep in mind when anyone wants to make gods out of human beings. With this prideful attitude, comes the “hiss of the serpent.” God never said that we are gods or can become gods. Satan himself injected this into the hearts of men when he said to Eve, “God knows in the day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).
1 TBN broadcast (Winter 2002) of Creflo Dollar. Tape on file with ARC.
2 TBN broadcast (Spring 2002) of Creflo Dollar. Tape on file with ARC. All subsequent quotations of Dollar are from this broadcast.
3 Kenneth Copeland, TBN’s Praise the Lord show (February 6, 1986).
4 Kenneth Copeland, The Laws of Prosperity (Ft. Worth: KCM Publications, 1974, 1989), 15. Frederick K. C. Price has also taught this. See his Living in the Realm of the Spirit (Tulsa: Harrison House, 1989), 17.
5 Copeland, “Spirit, Soul, and Body” audiotape #01-0601, side 1. (Ft. Worth, TX: KCM, 1985).
6 Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. II (Salt Lake: Bookcraft, 1955, 18th printing 1976), 48.