by Matt Slick
I have never heard in all my years of studying Roman Catholicism that it is ever declared that we will become gods. Such a teaching is, of course, against the Bible (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8; 45:5) and is held by cults - in particular the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). So, when I discovered in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (scborromeo.org/ccc.htm) a paragraph that was surprisingly unbiblical, I had to take a closer look. It is about becoming gods.
I have reproduced the Catholic catechism, with context, so that we might see what is being said. The superscripted numbers are in the original and represent footnotes which I have likewise reproduced so you can see what they are referring to.
CCC 458, "The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God's love: "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him."72 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."73
CCC 459, The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me." "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me."74 On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: "Listen to him!"75 Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: "Love one another as I have loved you."76 This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.77
CCC 460, The Word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature":78 "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God."79 "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God."80 "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods."81
CCC 461, Taking up St. John's expression, "The Word became flesh",82 the Church calls "Incarnation" the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. In a hymn cited by St. Paul, the Church sings the mystery of the Incarnation: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.83
Does the RCC teach we can become gods? Again, all my research has led me to believe the contrary. So what is going on here? Most probably it is saying that Christians, because they partake of the divine nature of Christ by his indwelling us (2 Pet. 1:4), are in a sense "made divine" not by changing our nature but by Christ's indwelling. This can be the only rational explanation.
However, no such explanation is given in the context of paragraph 460 except to say that we are made "partakers of the divine nature." The CCC's footnote #78 references 2 Pet. 1:4 which says, "For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust."
Okay, so this makes sense; but the wording of the Catechism is wrong. We do not become gods. We do not become godlike. It should be made very clear that we do not actually become gods as it says in CCC 460.
Why is this important?
This is important because the Roman Catholic Church has so many other errors in it (i.e., earning salvation, purgatory, indulgences, Mary worship, etc.,) that its potential to move towards even more error cannot be ignored. Why is there such a profound failure to clarify what is actually meant? Without a detailed "contextual" explanation, a person could very easily conclude that the Roman Catholic Church is promoting the idea that people can become gods. This is so important that it should be addressed. But it is not. Why? I cannot say for sure; but perhaps it is because, with the present errors of meriting grace and gaining eternal life through our works, we can see an elevation of man and his ability to save himself--with Christ's help, of course. Who knows what "new" revelations concerning man will be revealed through the Roman Catholic Sacred Tradition.
----------- Footnotes Cited From Original -----------
72 1 Jn 4:9.
73 Jn 3:16.
74 Mt 11:29; Jn 14:6.
75 Mk 9:7; cf. Dt 6:4-5.
76 Jn 15:12.
77 Cf. Mk 8:34.
78 2 Pt 1:4.
79 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 19, 1: PG 7/1, 939.
80 St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.
81 St. Thomas Aquinas, Opusc. 57, 1-4.
82 Jn 1:14.
83 Phil 2:5-8; cf. LH, Saturday, Canticle at Evening Prayer.