God Only Knows

Piecing Together the Divine Puzzle

Herb Gruning, Ph.D.

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ISBN: 978-1-57733-240-4, 172 pp., 6x9, paperback, $16.95

Also by Herb Gruning:
God and the New Metaphysics
Who Do We Think We Are?

What can we know about God? God only knows. Is there anything that can give us a glimpse into the nature of God and the world God is allegedly responsible for? Does science help? Can the Bible assist us? Or is this something about which only philosophers can speculate? All our resources are of limited usefulness, but there is some information that investigation can yield.

Of the many ways of thinking about God, three models of divinity stand out: the classical or traditional approach has the most seniority, but that alone does not give it security; the process scheme lies at the opposite extreme, but is too radical for some; and the newest option called "open" or "free-will" theism resides somewhere in the middle. "You can't tell the players without a program," but with one, a selection might come easier. This book is that program.


"This is a book for people who enjoy ideas. Big ones, like the nature of God, Man, the Universe and how they all interact. Written in a playful manner, the first two thirds of the book are spent warming up with many mental tidbits and facts from diverse fields of study. A tighter focus and heavier cerebral lifting occur in the more serious final third. Every human must have some answers for these big questions, and like a well-stocked kitchen or gymnasium, this book has something for everyone to work with. The thinking and the thoughts are serious and deep, but the manner is light because the author has humility about his field of study. Theologians must know they can never completely define God, and therefore God Only Knows the accuracy of our thoughts." David Rempel, D.D.S.

"I see a wild opportunity for potential new audiences with this book. As I read, I've been sharing ideas from it with my more sarcastic, skeptical, and scientific friends. Their reactions have been wonderful. When a career-pessimist laughs with surprise at hearing a new concept of divinity or man's relation to God that he thinks is clever brand new, then you know you have a winner. I hope that this book will find its way into the hands of exactly that kind of person. I think that Dr. Gruning is giving us an opportunity to think in new ways about biology and God, but also just to think in new ways.

"This book has personality, is quick to read, and is also very important. We're living in a decade when science and religion are supposedly at odds. We need to be focused on the serious moral issues of our time, but this other popular debate about Darwin and Christ is dividing us. This book is indispensable because those of us who are familiar with evolution and genetics also need to discover the variations of divinity that are being talked about with regard to science. Herb Gruning teaches us the vocabulary that will help the atheist or the agnostic to get along with those who keep the faith, with respect and understanding for spiritual matters in the 21st century.

"Funny, readable, short and sweet, this book starts conversations. Each section has ways of getting people excited about concepts from science and divinity that they haven't thought of before. Christians can appreciate the way that Herb Gruning renews their options for living with faith while accepting science. Meanwhile, even the most dedicated cynic can find enjoyment in these new ways of thinking about God and the world." Terry Trowbridge, M.A. candidate in Social Justice and Equity Studies, Brock University, Canada

"Gruning possesses an amazing ability to render complex subjects that would normally require several tomes of dense explanation in clear concise prose. Witty observations and unexpected alliterations abound alongside illuminating aphorisms, making this book an enjoyable read on several levels. Gruning takes you through many prevailing theological and scientific ideas, and reveals their interactions and limitations, with a generous and non-dogmatic spirit." Paul van Arragon, Ph.D.

"In God Only Knows, Herb Gruning uses a very personal and colorfully anecdotal style to make a usually dry and technical topic readable and accessible. His treatment of the features of three theistic systems of thought, and their biblical and philosophical origins, exposing both the strengths and the weaknesses of each, is entertaining and incisive. Unlike many authors he is not afraid to state his preference, nor to criticize even his own position. At times I wanted to scream in disagreement, at others I laughed at his total lack of pomposity and his irreverence toward the cherished sacred bovines of philosophy and religion. I would like to see what he might do with the less traditionally theistic systems that many find more convincing today." Rev. David Reid

"In this uniquely organized book Herb Gruning tackles intriguing issues of metaphysical import in the interface between science and religion. Questions broached include God's nature and God's relationship to a world known through the marvels of modern science. Gruning rather roguishly samples extant positions keen to settle matters by appealing to religious or scientific magisteria. There's something here for everyone. Believers will appreciate the solicitous treatment of cherished beliefs while specialists (perhaps believers themselves), anesthetized by the jejune rhetoric of scientific materialists and biblical literalists, will welcome the balanced treatment of differing views. Gruning steers a middle course between classical theism and panentheism. In fact, he comes out just left of the 'openness' model, a newcomer to the debate, which mitigates the concerns of both theisms. Whether the case he makes is true, of course, God only knows.." Jim Kanaris, Ph.D., Faculty Lecturer in Philosophy of Religion, McGill University

"Dr. Gruning’s book stands as an essential introduction, for students and educated laypeople, in the area of how to think about God in light of our modern understanding of the world. How does God fit in with science? Does science tell us anything about God? Examining the works of theologians, philosophers and scientists such as David Ray Griffin, Charles Hartshorne, John Polkinghorne and Lyall Watson, Dr. Gruning gives a clear and accessible account of what science and theology today can tell us about the God-world relation. In my forty-four years as an industrial worker, with an interest in amateur astronomy, this book could have done much to help clarify my confusion over the apparent rift between the science that I found so compelling, and the religion that called from my heart. This is a fitting companion to Gruning's previous book God and the New Metaphysics." Keith Sudds, retired industrial worker and amateur astronomer

Table of Contents



Part One: Message in a Bible
The Calling
The Undoing
Judging and Liberating
The Wedding
Jesting (or Facetious Jesus)

Part Two: The Nature of the Natural
Just a Curiosity at Best?
Extraordinary Life
The Personal Touch
In the Eye of the Beholder
Inroads for the Divine?

Part Three: Models of Divinity
Classical Theism
Is the Bible For or Against Theology?
Laying the Foundation
Father Knows Best?
Other Roads
An Emanating Deity
God as the World
It's About Time
The Whole Package
What Else Is Open to Us?
Making Friends and Influencing People
Do We Have a Prayer?


Appendix One: A Cause for Celebration
Appendix Two: A Force to Be Reckoned With
About the Author


When considering how the creation got underway, the debate usually centers on, as David Ray Griffin informs us, the two sides of creation out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo) and creation out of chaos. In the case of the former, there was no preexistent matter that did not have a divine origin. Since the entire length and breadth of universal matter had the deity as its source, in this view God also has a claim on it and power over it. Its power, to the extent that it enjoys any, is delegated power and this can be withdrawn or overridden at any time. The amount of power that God relinquishes is exactly the amount that the creatures can command, and the two together equal one hundred percent. Since the creation boasts no native power of its own, omnipotence (meaning all-powerful) can be retained as a theological category, in this case an attribute of God, in the traditional sense. The only power God does not have is that which God gives away.

In the case of the latter, there was preexistent matter known as chaos out of which the divinity formed a world of order. Power in this case is shared. Chaotic matter already has inherent power, meaning God does not have a monopoly on it. The mindset of the followers of Alfred North Whitehead, referred to as process thinkers, Griffin being one of the main exponents, favor this scenario since in the place of an authoritarian, coercive deity comes a persuasive one—one which is hands-on with respect to vested interests and coaxing creatures toward these ends, but hands-off in terms of effectual, unilateral activity.

The present book has three aims and comes in three parts. It first seeks to interact with the traditional Judeo-Christian scriptures to determine what sense can be made of them for life in the twenty-first century and to what extent they are still worth investing in. An overarching question put to them will be whether or not the God depicted therein is a misrepresentation of the one which actually manifests itself. In some cases, we will be asking how God is related to the natural world, implying that our commentary on the biblical text will often have a scientific import. The second aim is to investigate this natural world that is so often highlighted in these same scriptures. To this end we will examine the work of biologist Lyall Watson. The final section will analyze three models of divinity with the foregoing in mind. These inquiries and reflections will yield three questions: what kind of divinity might there be?; what kind of world are we working with?; and what kind of relation would these two likely have? The inspiration for several of the lines of inquiry pursued here stems from the work entitled The Paradox of God and the Science of Omniscience by Clifford A. Pickover. While the current volume is not in direct response to Pickover’s arguments, it does take them into account.

Topics covered in the biblical segment will generally follow the order in which they are treated in the Judeo-Christian scriptures themselves. Themes in the science component will then take their cues from the writings of Watson. Images of God will round out the third. It appears that the best place to start would be at the beginning, with a more theological discussion about an alleged creation. Upon completion of my set purposes in this threefold study, God only knows where the discussion ultimately will lead.

Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2009

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