The Finite God -- By: George B. McCreary

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 080:320 (Oct 1923)
Article: The Finite God
Author: George B. McCreary

The Finite God

George B. McCreary, Ph.D.

No DOCTRINE or theory should be denied a hearing or rudely discountenanced because of the clothes it wears. Certain valuable and helpful interpretations have been at the first interdicted or ostracized, largely because of external habiliments, rather than on account of internal weakness. Whether the modern doctrine of the finite God belongs in this class is before us for decision. We have no inclination to fling into the ragbag what should be sent to the tailorshop. But novelty is so much the rule in theological circles that when some migrant theory seeks landing and lodging, we feel inclined to turn customs inspector, and examine the baggage of the unnaturalized for alien complications.

Those who advocate a modification of the traditional view of God’s attributes point us to the fact that many historic doctrines have been redefined. They claim that if restatement has been found necessary and acceptable in other items, why may it not be the same in the case of theism. We cheerfully admit that a restatement to bring truth nearer to the understanding and needs of the age is not only permissible but even obligatory. We should take our creeds out of the safety deposit vaults and put them to work. And, given a chance, if they do not work, they should be sent to the hospital for a major operation. However, the eagerness of professional surgeons does not always justify the use of the knife.

While attempting no genetic account of the doctrine of the finite God, it may be appropriate to mention a few of the many thinkers who have entertained this view. The most prevalent opinion seems to be that the modern origin of the doctrine was in John Stuart Mill, although some carry the beginning back to David Hume. Others whose names add weight are Horace Bushnell, F. H.

Bradley, Canon Rashdall, Mr. Howison, Prof. William James, Mr. Hobhouse, F. C. H. Schiller, and very recently H. G. Wells.

Prof. W. K. Wright, in a somewhat moderate way in his Student’s Philosophy of Religion, and Prof. C. A. Beckwith in The Idea of God. (Both of these books were published late last fall.)

Pres. Hough’s Productive Beliefs (Cole Lectures for 1919) should in the main be counted on this side. Some of these writers are most stimulating and their books well worth reading.

Of course, all names in the list of supporters are not equally impressive. We cannot take the estimate of Mr. Wells very seriously, for he is notorious in the earth for his discounting of all kinds of accepted values. You will recall that he finds it impossible to appraise the Washington Monument in more complimentary ph...

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