The Theory Of A Finite And Developing Deity Examined -- By: L. Franklin Gruber

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 075:300 (Oct 1918)
Article: The Theory Of A Finite And Developing Deity Examined
Author: L. Franklin Gruber


The Theory Of A Finite And Developing Deity Examined*

L. Franklin Gruber

The theory of a finite Deity is not altogether new. It was foreshadowed long ago by more than one eminent philosopher. Indeed, there has always been more or less difficulty on the part of unaided reason to reconcile the existence of the world’s imperfections and evil with the doctrine of Divine omnipotence. This apparent difficulty has been regarded as virtually amounting to a theistic dilemma; namely, that if God could have made a better world than He did He cannot be perfectly good, and if He could not have made a better one than He did He cannot be almighty. This point was developed at some length by John Stuart Mill in his “Three Essays on Religion “; and his conclusion — which, upon the basis of his expressed and implied premises, would seem plausible — was, that God cannot be omnipotent. He thus unequivocally declared: “Not even on the most distorted and contracted theory of good . . . can the government of Nature be made to resemble the work of a being at once good and omnipotent” (p. 38). And with reference to the animal kingdom he said: “If we are not obliged to believe the ani-

* Copyright, 1918, by L. Franklin Gruber.

mal creation to be the work of a demon, it is because we need not suppose it to have been made by a Being of infinite power” (p. 58). He therefore came to the definite conclusion, “Omnipotence cannot be predicated of the Creator on grounds of natural theology. The fundamental principles of natural religion as deduced from the facts of the universe, negative his omnipotence” (pp. 180-181). This great thinker thus, in a lengthy argument, contended for a Deity that is finite in power, as also supposedly in wisdom and other attributes.

William James also declared for a finite Deity; and in his work entitled “A Pluralistic Universe” he set forth his grounds for such conviction. It should be noted, however, that he distinguished this Deity from the Absolute, whose existence he does not deny. On this point he said: “I believe that the only God. worthy of the name must be finite. If the absolute exist in addition then the absolute is only the wider cosmic whole of which our God is but the most ideal portion” (p. 125; see also p. 193).

Various philosophical solutions of the problem of evil that have been offered, thus agree in ending in a Deity whose power is either limited by His very nature or circumscribed by the laws and forces of the existing universe. But it seems to have fallen to this time of a world-catastrophe somewhat fully to develop this theory of a finite and evolving Deity, by adequately setting forth the supposed philosophic...

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