Donald Grey Barnhouse on Fosdick and the Evolutionary View of God

Four times I have read the opening chapter of the book with the terribly misleading title, A Guide to the Understanding of the Bible, written by Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick. That chapter discusses the evolution of God in the Bible. If I may reduce the four score pages of argument to a paragraph of boiled down essential ideas, the reasoning, if we may call it that, is as follows: Primitive man had a devilish concept of God. Noah’s God destroyed the earth with a flood. Abraham’s God was a bloodthirsty God who wanted a human sacrifice. The God of Moses was the horrible God of volcanic fire, speaking to him from Sinai. Little by little man has advanced as the centuries rolled on. David began to have high ethical thoughts of God, but they were mixed with the terrible imprecatory Psalms that call down wrath upon the enemy. By the time of the prophets, God was really improving. He now hated unrighteousness and spoke out against the crimes committed by men. When Jesus came along, the idea of God took on the marvelous concepts of fatherhood and brotherhood, and was the greatest idea up to that time. But Jesus had the repugnant idea of Hell, of which he spoke so much. This must be abandoned in order to continue the upward curve of development. The modern idea of God is all sugar and spice and everything that is nice. He has no Hell for the wicked, and little by little He has become so respectable that He can be worship in good taste by the people of Park Avenue and Morningside Heights. Yet it is a scientific fact that if such a writer had been acquainted with even the rudimentary findings of the greatest of ethnologists and anthropologists he could never have fallen into such an error. Perhaps this writer had not read anything more up to date than Frazer’s Golden Bough. Great as that work is as a collection of the follies of the human race in the field of religious thought, its conclusions have been completely nullified by the work of Schmidt of Vienna. In a great four volume work Ursprung der Gottesidee, that is the last word in its field, Schmidt has demonstrated that the idea of one God is much older in the human race than the idea of many gods. Polytheism is the degradation of monotheism. To hold the opposite view is nothing more than an escape mechanism to avoid the implications of the existence of the Creator to whom the creature must be absolutely responsible. Donald Grey Barnhouse, Man’s Ruin, Romans 1:1-32, 249-250.

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One response to “Donald Grey Barnhouse on Fosdick and the Evolutionary View of God

  1. Carl Daniel

    Sadly, Fosdick’s understanding of God is held by many professing believers of our day as well. Our love of self and our ideals is constantly tugging us away from the truth of God’s word, and according today’s culture, nothing is sinful when flown under the banner of love. This though, is a worldly wisdom, not a wisdom from above which is imparted to those who truly believe in the sovereign, immutable God of the universe.
    God is not progressive regarding sin. How on earth could one be comforted by a god who’s word becomes null and void from generation to generation? Where is the wisdom in serving a god who’s plan for humanity is constantly ‘evolving’? What a fool I would be to say ‘I believe the word of God is true, but…….’. For this, I should be pitied most.

    Scripture makes it clear that God does not change.
    “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. – Malachi 3:6

    “Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. “But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.-Psalm 102:26-27

    Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.-James1:17

    The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.-Psalm 119:160

    Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

    The God of the Bible is immutable; it is this immutability that makes Him worthy of honor and glory and praise.

    Dr. Steve Lawson said it well when he said, “God has one plan, it is Plan A, there is no Plan B, there is no Plan C; one plan from before the foundation of the world and He does not alter His plan.”

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