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July 28, 2005

Ch.V. Q.35. Polytheism and Dualism

POLYTHEISM and Dualism are examples of perverted theistic developments. Polytheism represents, intellectually speaking, a failure to pass beyond and above the local and particular manifestations of Divine operation and purpose to the truth that a God must either be supreme over all or merely one of the effects which require a First Cause and Supreme Ruler to account for and govern them. Without such a Ruler chaos must ensue. Divine unity can be seen to be essential to the very idea of God. Polytheism is found only among savage or imperfectly civilized races.1

2. Dualism may arise either from an exaggerated estimate of the amount and power of evil in the universe, or from belief in the eternity of matter. Belief in two rival Gods or ultimate principles—one good and the other evil—ever contending for mastery, prevailed anciently in Persia and the Orient. In the forms of Gnosticism and Manichaeism it troubled the Christian Church. The notion that matter is inherently evil dies hard, and continues still to obscure the doctrines of creation, the Incarnation, and the resurrection.2

3. The problem of evil is too mysterious to be solved. But the forces which make for the triumph of good are obviously supreme, and such a universe as ours could not result from the conflict of mutually independent gods or principles. Evil may be seen to be imperfect good, the good having God for its cause, the evil being a perversion of Divine purposes which is none the less overruled to a progressive fulfilment of God's holy will in history. We are indeed unable to formulate a final theodicy, or theistic philosophy of evil. But the universal trend of events indicates that our failure is due to inadequate knowledge simply.3

4. Many moderns are led by their inability to imagine the ultimate creation of matter to regard it as eternal, and as imposing an external limit upon Divine operations. Thus God and matter are set over against each other as jointly accounting for the present state of the universe.4

5. We cannot, indeed, imagine a beginning of matter, but neither can we imagine its eternal existence. Either hypothesis is thinkable, and both lie beyond the range of scientific verification. It remains that the evidences of God's existence, and the results of analysis of the idea of God involved in them, point to the dependence of matter, for existence as well as form, upon Divine causation. Merely abstract difficulties should give way to such evidence. Moreover, the most elementary and presumably primitive forms of matter bear the marks of adaptation, i.e., of shaping mind; and this suggests that their origin is due to the same cause as is their form.5

6. The human mind ever seeks the simplest philosophy of things, as most likely to be true, in every sphere of thought. Theism is much simpler than either Polytheism or Dualism. The universe is more obviously a unity—a universe— than a bundle of conflicting forces. It is much easier, therefore, to accept the existence of one Supreme God and Cause of all, in spite of incidental difficulties, than to hypothecate a conflict of ultimate causes in an orderly universe of effects.

1 Lacey, Elem. of Doctrine, pp. 75-76; Blunt, Dic. of Theol., "Polytheism" and "Paganism."

2 Lacey, pp. 74-75; Flint, Theism, pp. 113, 114; Liddon, Some Elements, pp. 142-148; Strong, Syst. Theol., pp. 186-188; Baldwin, Dic. of Philos., "Dualism."

3 Flint, Theism, pp. 245-263; Oxford House Papers , 2nd Series, pp. 99 et seq.; Illingworth, in Lux Mundi, 3rd Paper; Strong, Manual, pp. 231, 232; Liddon, Some Elements, pp. 148-155.

4 Flint, Anti-Theistic Theories, pp. 150-157; Martineau, Seat of Authority, pp. 29-36.

5 Flint, Anti-Theistic Theories, pp. 156-157; Profeit, Creation of Matter, x.

Posted by Debra Bullock at July 28, 2005 04:58 PM

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