Little Gods Hypothesis Statement

– By Byron Jennings, Theorist and Project Coordinator

Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace (1749 – 1827) was one of the great French mathematical physicists. In math, his fame is shown by the number of mathematical objects named after him: Laplace’s equation, Laplace transforms, the Laplacian, etc.  In physics, he was the first to show that planetary orbits are stable and he developed a model—the nebular model—to account for how the solar system formed.  In modified form, the nebular model is still accepted. In spite of these important contributions, he was also very much a lackey, being very careful to keep on the right side of all the right people. During the French revolution, that might have been just good survival strategy. After all, he served successive French governments and, unlike Lavoisier, kept his head.

Laplace presented his definitive work on the properties of the solar system to Napoleon.  Napoleon, liking to embarrass people, asked Laplace if it was true that there was no mention of the solar system’s Creator (ie God) in his opus magus. Laplace, on this occasion at least, was not obsequious and replied, “I had no need of that hypothesis.” This is essentially the simplicity argument discussed in a previous blog, but stated very crisply and succinctly.

Laplace was not just a whistlin’ Dixie. Newton had needed that hypothesis, ie God, to make the solar system work. Newton believed that the planetary orbits were unstable and unless God intervened periodically, the planets would wander off into space. Newton had not done the mathematical analysis sufficiently completely. Laplace rectified the problem. Newton also had no model for the origin of the solar system. Laplace eliminated these two gaps that Newton had God fill.

Back to Napoleon—he told Joseph Lagrange (1736 – 1813), another of the great French mathematicians/physicists, Laplace’s comment about no need for the God hypothesis. Lagrange’s reply was, “Ah, it is a fine hypothesis; it explains many things.” Laplace’s apocryphal reply was, “This hypothesis, Sir, explains in fact everything, but does not permit to predict anything. As a scholar, I must provide you with works permitting predictions.” This is the ultimate insult in science: it explains everything but predicts nothing. Explanations are a dime a dozen; if you want explanations, read Kipling’s Just so Stories. Now, there are some fine explanations. I particularly like The Cat That Walked by Himself.

Lapalce’s argument, I had no need of that hypothesis, is still being used today. Hawking and Mlodinow in their book, The Grand Design, created a stir by claiming God did not exist. But their argument was just Laplace’s pushed back from the beginning of the solar system to the beginning of universe:  they had no need of that hypothesis.  Whether their physics is correct or not is still an open question. It is not clear that string theory has gotten past the “it explains everything but predicts nothing” stage.

An alternate approach to understanding God’s absence in scientific models is methodological naturalism. The term seems to have been coined by the philosopher Paul de Vries, then at Wheaton College, who introduced it at a conference in 1983 and published it in the Christian Scholar’s Review.  It has since then become a standard definition of science, even playing a significant role in court cases, most notably the case [1 in Dover Pennsylvania on teaching creationism in public schools. The judge mentioned methodological naturalism prominently in his ruling.

Methodological naturalism, as a definition of the scientific method,is rather ill defined except for its main idea, namely that science, explicitly, by fiat, and with malice a-fore-thought, rejects God, gods, and the supernatural from all its considerations. There is frequently an implicit secondary idea that science is about finding explanations but only natural ones, of course. Both ideas are inconsistent with what science actually is: building models constrained only by observation and parsimony. (See above and the previous blog for my opinion of the role of explanations in science.)

However, methodological naturalism is a very convenient hypothesis. It avoids awkward questions about the relation between science and religion. By inserting naturalism into the very definition of science,methodological naturalism, if valid, would create a firewall between science and religion. This would both protect religion from science and scientists from the religious. Considering the violence done in the name of religion, the latter may be more important, but the former was probably part of the original intent.  However, I suspect the main motivation was to explain why God and the supernatural are absent from science.  But Laplace gave the real reason for God’s absence: parsimony—there is no need of that hypothesis. There are probably also very good theological reasons for that absence but that is outside the scope of science and this blog.

Methodological naturalism confuses the input with the output. To the extent science is naturalistic, it is an output of the scientific method, not part of the definition. Excluding anything by fiat is poor methodology. But once one realizes that historically God and the supernatural have been eliminated from science, not by fiat, but by Laplace’s criteria, methodological naturalism becomes redundant; an ad hoc solution to an already solved problem.


[1] United States District Court for the Middle District Of Pennsylvania, TAMMY KITZMILLER, et al. v. Dover Area School District; et al,

Tags: religion, science

Are believers in Christ little gods?

The teaching that believers in Christ are "little gods," is patently unscriptural. It is an erroneous interpretation of the Scriptures promulgated by a number of high-profile pastors and teachers of the Word of Faith movement. These would include Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Hagin, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Paul and Jan Crouch, Fred Price, and Joyce Meyer. Aside from teaching that believers are "little gods," those of the Word of Faith movement also advocate the "prosperity gospel," which is also unbiblical.

Those who promote the false teaching that believers are "little gods" use as their primary proof text a passage in Psalms which reads, "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you" (Psalm 82:6). They further claim that Jesus affirmed that we are "little gods" when He quoted this passage in John 10:34. Then they take Hebrews 1:3 (Jesus is "an exact representation" (NIV) of God's being) and John 14:12 ("whoever believes in [Jesus]" will do what Jesus did) to say that believers today can do everything God can do, and more!

Such an interpretation of Psalm 82:6 is a classic example of taking Scripture out of context. This passage addresses the judges of Israel in the Old Testament. Psalm 82:6 does not say "you are gods" because the judges were divine but because they represent God when they issue judgment and exercise civic power. Psalm 82:6 is a warning to the "gods" of this world that they are still under the true God's authority. For more study on this passage, see our article here.

Isaiah makes it clear that God is the only true and living God, that there are no "gods," little or otherwise, except Him: "Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me" (Isaiah 43:10). The apostle Paul affirms this truth: "For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many 'gods' and many 'lords'— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist" (1 Corinthians 8:5-6).

No, believers are not "little gods" despite what the Word of Faith teachers proclaim. In essence, these people are calling God a liar: "Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: 'I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god'" (Isaiah 44:6).

Supporters of the "little gods" idea twist the Scriptures and contradict what the Bible actually teaches. They should be reminded of what the psalmist says of those called "gods": "like men you shall die, and fall like any prince" (Psalm 82:7). In other words, the Bible affirms the humanity of so-called "gods" in this world.

As believers we reflect His image through our love for one another and our faithful obedience to His will (John 14:15; 1 John 3:24). Only God is divine. Man is not divine and never will be. Only God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. Only God can create with words. Only God can save.

By declaring ourselves to be "little gods," we attempt to make ourselves equal to Him. Without question, this is the very height of arrogance and is nothing more than self-worship and self-glorification. There is nothing new under the sun. The lie that we are "little gods" is the same lie the serpent told Eve in the Garden: "you will be like God" (Genesis 3:5).

Related Truth:

Who are we in Christ?

What does it mean that humanity is created in the image of God?

Do humans become angels after death?

What is sanctification?

What does holy, holy, holy mean in reference to God?

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