The condemned gods of Psalm 82:6 and Mormon exaltation

LDS.org’s Becoming Like God essay situates its quotation of Psalm 82:6 in a paragraph about passages that “intimate that humans can become like God,” and that we are in a “process of approaching godliness.” The verse itself reads: “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” Mormon use of this passage is astonishing.

The gods of Psalm 82 were wicked

The psalm is one of judgment against gods who were defiant against Yahweh. They judged unjustly (82:2a), favored the wicked (82:2b), neglected the afflicted and destitute (82:3), refused to rescue the weak and needy (82:4), and were judged unto humiliation and death (82:7). Blomberg writes, “The context of [Psalm 82] refers not to anyone’s exaltation but to the judgment and downfall of those who defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked.”1 Using the addressees of Psalm 82:6 as a model for exaltation is like using the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4 as a model for sexual ethics.

Oh, how the mighty gods have fallen

The passage does not teach that we are human gods-in-embryo. Those addressed are already in the “divine council” and are “in the midst of the gods” (82:1). God addresses them in the present: “You are gods, sons of the Most High.” Neither are these permanently exalted gods who have the same “power, glory, dominion, and knowledge” that God has.2 Having misused their jurisdiction, they are condemned to die. “You will die like men, and you will fall like one of the princes” (82:7). These gods are, by both biblical and Mormon standards, not fitting candidates for exaltation.

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Grudem, Piper, and Self-Defense

In his recent essay, “Should Christians Be Encouraged to Arm Themselves?“, John Piper writes that he would “personally counsel a Christian not to have a firearm available for such circumstances” as shooting the assailant of one’s wife.

Wayne Grudem would probably disagree. In 2013 he gave a lecture, “Self-defense and the use of firearms” (MP3, PDF outline), arguing for the legitimacy of self-defense and a generally positive view of gun ownership. It is probably material that will end up in his book on ethics, which Grudem aims to finish before Parkinson’s disease incapacitates him.

Piper favors Darrell Bock’s view of Luke 22:36-38, where the sword is “only a symbol of preparation for pressure.” For Grudem, “metaphorical interpretations do not seem persuasive.”

In Piper’s 1979 doctrinal dissertation, Love Your Enemies, one can perhaps see from his section on non-resistance (pp. 89-91, 2012 edition) the interpretation that led to his present thinking. Piper’s approach to non-resistance reminds us of his now-published approach to divorce: as Jesus laid aside concessions for divorce, he also laid aside concessions for resistance and retaliation.

Yet concerning enemy-love commands from the Sermon on the Mount, Grudem quotes from Piper’s dissertation:

“The commands … are not absolute prescriptions with no exceptions but rather are pointed, concrete illustrations of how enemy love may and should often look in the life of a disciple.” (p. 99, 2012 edition)

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Wisdom Before Gospel

Perhaps a variation of “law before gospel” is “wisdom before gospel.” We learn from Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, and the Sermon on the Mount how to live wisely, but we also learn how foolish we are.

Jesus speaks wisdom with most authority. He is Wisdom himself. He exposes our folly, forgives our foolishness, and restores us to a knowledge and fear of the Lord.

“Grace will confront you again and again with your foolishness as it connects you eternally to the one who is Wisdom.” (Paul David Tripp)

“Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)

When “Natural” is Pagan

Because God and creation are distinct, we shouldn’t feel so inclined to treat the “natural” approach to food with sacred reverence. We have dominion over nature. Food is ours to modify. The universe is not enchanted nor is there a Mother Nature.

The strong Creator/creature monotheistic belief and a “disenchanted” view of the created universe should help lead to more food science and experimentation, not less.