The Doctrine of Deification
The Word of Faith/Positive Confession and Dominion theology adopt teachings which are distinctly similar to the metaphysical cults such as: New Thought, Christian Science, Unity School of Christianity, Mind Science, and Religious Science. The doctrine of deification was taught in the church by E.W. Kenyon who believed one is able to reach godhood. Kenyon has taught that man is a little god "in God's class" and therefore can use the same faith-force that God does.(1)
Hagin who popularized Kenyon, not only expanded Kenyon's errors but added to them as well. The progression from bad to worse has continued with people like Kenneth Copeland and Charles Capps, and is now sinking to new depths through ministry leaders as Frederick Price, Benny Hinn, and Robert Tilton. (2)
It is not a scandalous idea to speak about God becoming man in the person of Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that God ". . .was made flesh, and dwelt among us. . ." (John 1:14). However, to speak about man becoming God or a god has been considered as the ultimate heresy in the history of the Christian Church. Sadly, there is an influence amongst charismatics that one can attain godhood. Not all charismatics teach this but among the leading preachers who expouse the "little god's" theory are Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Robert Tilton, Charles Capps, Fred Price, Benny Hinn, Bill Hamon, and Earl Paulk. Many of these names you will note are popular televangelists who are broadcasting into homes their misrepresented theories about God and misleading many into grave error.
Religions Who Promote the Deification of Man
The Roman Catholic church, the Greek Orthodox church, the Russian Orthodox church, the Mormon church, the "Christian" cults, and the New Age Movement (comprising of a combination of eastern religious practices), believe man can eventually ascend to godhood through various spiritual disciplines. Sadly, this practice is being identified amongst Christians and promoted in the Charismatic church too.
Latter Rain Movement Phenomenon
Adam and Eve where the first to entertain the idea that they could be like god's; the lie the serpent told Eve (Gen. 3:5). This delusion is the self centered world view Satan promotes, which countless others have fallen prey to when influenced to believe that they are in control of their own destiny, and are in their own right god's. Not only are these teachings unique to cults or non-Christian movements but have unfortunately worked their way into the Christian Church.
The mid-twentieth century phenomenon often referred to as the Latter Rain Movement blended Pentecostal theological distinctives as: baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, etc. with their own religious fervor. That a believer could attain sinless perfection was taught by many in this movement, and could make one an "overcomer."
Franklin Hall promoted a baptism that all who received it could be free from sin and sickness called "the Holy Ghost fire." Hall referred to this as "body-felt salvation" which he claimed was "700% greater than ordinary healing power." He said this mighty baptism was designed to save peoples bodies, free them from sickness, tiredness, body odor, and all human frailties. Hall's teachings raised the hope that recipients of "the Holy Ghost fire" would achieve immortality while in their present flesh-and-blood bodies.(3)
Children of the Latter Rain Movement, such as Manifested Sons of God, openly taught that believers could overcome death altogether.(4) In his book, The New Charismatics, Michael Moriarty writes from discussion with a Manifested Sons of God devotee, who claimed that believers in "an immortal state, which some referred to as "godhood," would be attained by those overcomers who received higher revelations and continuous spiritual experiences."
Even though the Latter Rain/Manifested Sons of God no longer exist as a movement their adherents have found refuge in various Charismatic churches around the world.(5)
It can be argued that there is a connection of the "little god's" theory which was taught by the Latter Rain and Manifested Sons of God movement to those teaching it today, who are: charismatics Bill Hamon and Earl Paulk, as well as Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagin.
The Roman Catholic church promote that one is able to eventually reach immortalization through good works, and ascetic exercises. Ascetic exercises are taught to Roman Catholic candidate priests undergoing training, entitled, Ascetic and Mystic Theology. Asceticism is the art of mastering "self" and bringing under control all passions, desires and lusts by severe self discipline, abstinence, or inflicting punishments upon the body. These methods in practice require the scourging of oneself with a wipe known as flagellation, sleeping on a hard board with sticks and stones, wearing a chain around one's bare waste with spikes and weights, pray kneeling on a bag of sharp stones for hours, along with many other disciplines of torture in the process of attaining immortalization. Once the notorious process of immortalization is identified in a person by reputation in their attempt for mastering self righteousness, at death, the Roman Catholic church beautify and canonize* the body of the person. Sometimes the body of those canonized go public for Catholics to revere and pray to. Take for example a Roman Catholic priest, padre Pio, who was found to have the stigmata and claimed to pray and suffer for the sins of others; which the Catholic church calls doing penance for others. That any man should suffer for the sins of others is unfounded in holy Scripture. Only Jesus Christ suffered for the salvation of sinners (Heb. 10:10-18). So what does this make padre Pio? Christ! The Catholic church can just as well say that Christ's sacrifice at the cross was insufficient for salvation, that it needs the likes of men such as padre Pio to secure our salvation. As pious as such men may seem, the Bible calls this false humility "which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh" (Col 2:20-23).
Teaching that man is a little god "in God's class" misleads one with the tendency to claim that the more you become sinless by immortalization, the more progress is attained to "godhood." Notice that this teaching causes one to strive by their own efforts to attain a state of sinlessness, and nullifies the grace God has given to us through Christ. The Latter Rain/Manifested Sons of God have taught this. Other extremists from biblical truth teach the very opposite, and that effort is not required here in attaining by the process of immortalization the state of maturity. Taught though is that Christ became sin at the cross, went to hell, become re-created and then born again in hell; this, taught by the Word of Faith/Positive Confession movement from the plagiarized work of E.W. Kenyon. To say Christ sinned makes it easier to accept that man can be a little god, as this reduces Christ to the level of mortal man, and breeds doubt to Christ's divinity and deity one with the Godhead.
Earl Paulk in his book Ultimate Kingdom says that this generation now living will experience immortality.(6) He challenges the church to press on to maturity so that this transformation can take place at Armageddon, which he interprets spiritually to mean "God coming to our rescue."(7) Paulk exhorts the church by saying: "We must move from the natural to the supernatural, from corruptible (carnal) to incorruptible bodies. Entering into immortality comes by either death or a miraculous change. Immortality is our goal."(8)
Paulk says three characteristics have to be established in progress to the state of maturity, that of: discernment, unity, and conquering death by love.(9) Hamon advocates the same kind of maturing process en-route to immortalization, only, he promotes a baptism of fire reserved for the present-truth church in the last days. He encourages believers to be open to new truth, and avoid denominationalism.(10)
Both distort Scriptures around their own opinion to make look what they teach to appear as biblically based. The apostle Peter sternly warns us against those who use the Bible in this manner: " And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction." (2 Pet 3:15, 16).
Paulk establishes his teaching on immortality by what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 15:51-53, but Paul's emphasis is much different from Paulk's. Paul does say we will be supernaturally changed, but says nothing about a process of immortality as Paulk purports, rather, it is a miraculous, instantaneous metamorphosis (an immediate change of our bodies from corruptible into incorruptible). This change will be brought about by God and not by our own efforts. Paulk's view nullifies the grace of God if he says that the process of immortalization that a believer must attain to is the growth to state of maturity. This then makes our relationship to God dependant upon our own efforts. Paul admonished the Galatians for trying to work out their salvation by their human works in observing the law (Gal. 3:1-9), and remaining not in God's grace through faith for salvation (Eph. 2:8, 9).
According to 1 Corinthians 15 this miraculous event will take place when God transforms the Church (vv. 51-53), and translates (raptures) her from the earth. (1 Thes. 4:16, 17). When 1 Corinthians 15 is considered in proper context, the first thing Paul makes the Corinthians aware of is the resurrection of Christ (vv. 1-8 ), and goes on to tell them not only the validity of Christ's resurrection - as there were some who never believed in the resurrection (v. 12) - but also proving to them the inevitability that the believer will also attain to this (vv. 35-53). Since flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, the bodies of those in Christ will be changed for heavenly dwelling (vv. 50, 51).
Paul was not challenging the church to press toward immortality, but was exhorting the Corinthians to get a tight grasp of the truth of the future resurrection that would happen instantaneously to all believers, both the dead and the living (vv. 51-58).
Are Christians "little god's"
The Bible teaches the deity of God is the co-existence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the unity known as the Godhead - God distinctly three persons in one God. As we have already covered, some leaders assume deity with Jesus Christ, and claim they are able to reach godhood and become little god s. John.10:34 is the verse the little god s theory is drawn from.
Let us look at how this verse should be understood, and see what relation it has regarding someone becoming a little god. Jesus quotes from Psalm 82 relating to the judges of Israel written of in (v. 6). The psalmist exhorts the judges of Israel and prays God to judge the earth. In the exhortation the psalmist entitles the judge s as god s who were divinely appointed in Israel as representing God in His authority. When Jesus addresses the Jews in regard to their unbelief in the works that He was doing (John 10:25), and wanting to stone Him for declaring that He and the Father are one - accusing Jesus of blasphemy (v. 30), Jesus reminds them of the divinely appointed judges in Israel of the Old Testament who were considered god s, due to their representation of divine justice in this godlike function. Jesus said, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he[God] called them[the judge s] gods, unto whom the Word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? (vv. 34-36). Jesus tells them that they should not be surprised by the claims He makes, because if they accepted what the Scriptures recorded in Psalm 82, how much more should they receive the written Word incarnate, in person, Jesus Himself.
Moses (Ex. 4:16) and the judges of Israel (Ex. 21:6; 22:8; Psa. 82:6) are called god's because like God they held the power of life and death over men.(11)
It can be proved that what Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Robert Tilton, Charles Capps, Fred Price, Benny Hinn, Bill Hamon, and Earl Paulk teach about being "little god's" is unscriptural, and sadly many naive to what the Scriptures teach are being deceived by these teachers.
1. E.W. Kenyon, What Happened from the Cross to the Throne? (Kenyon, 1945, 5th ed.) pp. 62, 173-76
2. Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis, (Harvest House Publishers, Oregon, 1993), p. 32.
3. David E. Harrell, All things are Possible (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1975), 212-14
4. D.R. McConnell, A different Gospel: A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1988), 157
5. Michael G. Moriarty, The New Charismatics (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan), 325
6. Earl Paulk, Ultimate Kingdom: Lessons for Today's Christian From the Book of Revelation (Atlanta: K Dimension, 1986), 120; and Satan Unmasked (Atlanta: K Dimension, 1984), 199, 264
7. Ibid., 120, 145
8. Ibid., 119
9. Ibid., 122-23
10. Bill Hamon, The Eternal Church (Point Washington, Fla.: Christian International Publishers, 1981), 374-75, 394
11. Robert A. Morey, Battle of the Gods (Southbridge, Mass.: Crown Publications, 1989), 182
* Beautification is when bodies are preserved after death, by a chemical which is pumped into it, enabling preservation. I think the chemical is called insulin, but I stand to be corrected. Embalming, also, is done to the bodies for preservation, like covering the surface with a kind of resin, expelling it from any contact with air, and preventing oxidation. Canonization is to admit formally to calendar (add to the list) of saints by authority of the Roman Catholic church.