Can God change his mind?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by SaggyWoman, Feb 14, 2010.

  1. SaggyWoman

    SaggyWoman
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    Yes or no? Why?
     
  2. Scarlett O.

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    Ok, I'm going to take the lazy way out and give you someone else's commentary. But it's a dog-gone good one and it represents my belief about your question. :thumbsup:

    ........................................................................

    Question: "Does God change His mind?"

    Answer:
    Malachi 3:6 declares, “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” Similarly, James 1:17 tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” The meaning of Numbers 23:19 could not be more clear: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?” No, God does not change His mind. These verses assert that God is unchanging and unchangeable.

    How then do we explain verses such as Genesis 6:6, “The LORD was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain”? Also, Jonah 3:10, which says, “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.” Similarly, Exodus 32:14 proclaims, “Then the LORD relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened.” These verses speak of the Lord “repenting” of something and seem to contradict the doctrine of God’s immutability. However, close examination of these passages reveals that these are not truly indications that God is capable of changing. In the original language, the word that is translated as “repent” or “relent” is the Hebrew expression “to be sorry for.” Being sorry for something does not mean that a change has occurred; it simply means there is regret for something that has taken place.

    Consider Genesis 6:6: “…the LORD was grieved that He had made man on the earth.” This verse even goes on to say “His heart was filled with pain.” This verse declares that God had regret for creating man. However, obviously He did not reverse His decision. Instead, through Noah, He allowed man to continue to exist. The fact that we are alive today is proof that God did not change His mind about creating man. Also, the context of this passage is a description of the sinful state in which man was living, and it is man’s sinfulness that triggered God’s sorrow, not man’s existence. Consider Jonah 3:10: “…He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.” Again, the same Hebrew word is used, which translates “to be sorry for.” Why was God sorry for what He had planned for the Ninevites? Because they had a change in heart and as a result changed their ways from disobedience to obedience. God is entirely consistent. God was going to judge Nineveh because of its evil. However, Nineveh repented and changed its ways. As a result, God had mercy on Nineveh, which is entirely consistent with His character.

    Romans 3:23 teaches us that all men sin and fall short of God’s standard. Romans 6:23 states that the consequence for this is death (spiritual and physical). So the people of Nineveh were deserving of punishment. All of us face this same situation; it is man’s choosing to sin that separates us from God. Man cannot hold God responsible for his own predicament. So it would be contrary to the character of God to not punish the Ninevites had they continued in sin. However, the people of Nineveh turned to obedience, and for that the Lord chose not to punish them as He had originally intended. Did the change on the part of the Ninevites obligate God to do what He did? Absolutely not! God cannot be placed in a position of obligation to man. God is good and righteous, and chose not to punish the Ninevites as a result of their change of heart. If anything, what this passage does is point to the fact that God does not change, because had the Lord not preserved the Ninevites, it would have been contrary to His character.

    The Scriptures that are interpreted as God seeming to change His mind are human attempts to explain the actions of God. God was going to do something, but instead did something else. To us, that sounds like a change. But to God, who is omniscient and sovereign, it is not a change. God always knew what He was going to do. God does what He needs to do to cause humanity to fulfill His perfect plan. “…declaring the end from the beginning, and from the past things which were not done, saying, My purpose shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure … What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do” (Isaiah 46:10-11). God threatened Nineveh with destruction, knowing that it would cause Nineveh to repent. God threatened Israel with destruction, knowing that Moses would intercede. God does not regret His decisions, but He is saddened by some of what man sometimes does in response to His decisions. God does not change His mind but rather acts consistently with His Word in response to our actions.

    Recommended Resource: Knowing God by J.I. Packer.
     
  3. Marcia

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    No, because if God changes his mind, it would mean one of the following:

    God's plan was not perfect to begin with so he had to change it

    God is not omniscient/does not know the future

    God makes mistakes


    Having to change one's mind only comes from imperfect knowledge or from making mistakes or not being sure one is right
     
  4. donnA

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    He wouldn't be God if He did.



    what she said
     
  5. Tom Butler

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    When we humans repent (or relent) we change our will.

    When God repents he wills a change.
     
  6. Crabtownboy

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    Yes, God can change his mind. Remember how he changed:

    Genesis 6:6, “The LORD was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain”?

    Jonah 3:10, which says, “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.”

    Exodus 32:14 proclaims, “Then the LORD relented and did not bring on His people the disaster He had threatened.”


     
  7. Jon-Marc

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    I'm not as sure as I used to be that God doesn't change His mind after reading Genesis 6:7. "And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them."

    This sounds as though God regretted creating man and would have destroyed him and everything else had it not been for Noah and his family.

    What I cannot understand is that God is supposed to know the future before it happens and must have known how mankind would turn out. So it couldn't have been a surprise to Him.

    I often start a movie that is boring or difficult to understand, but I will sometimes keep watching it hoping it will get better. It usually doesn't, and I end up regretting the wasted time.

    This verse makes it sounds as though God is like that, but He knows ALL things, past, present, and future. Nothing takes Him by surprise. So why would He regret something He did when He already knew what would happen?
     
  8. webdog

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    Yes, He does "change His mind". There are many Scriptures showing just that (account of Hezekiah one of the biggest). He doesn't change His mind as man does, but there is a mystery we cannot understand in regards to how God deals with man within the confines of time and how He acts / reacts as such. We can try to philosophize it away, but there is a tension in Scripture that exists. If He didn't change His mind, the prayer of the righteous would mean zilch
     
  9. webdog

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    That sounds nice, but when a sovereign God says He's going to do x, man prays asking God to not do x, and God does not do x (all sovereignly), He is in fact changing His will or He would either be lying in His declaration of doing x initially.
     
  10. webdog

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    You are starting with the false presupposition that changing one's mind is defined humanly by having imperfect knowledge. Many accounts in the Bible of God doing just that while remaining omniscient...finite beings cannot understand how it can be the case, but I think it is pretty presumptuous to claim God can or cannot do something due to our understanding.
     
  11. Skandelon

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    Webdog,

    I tend to agree with you on this point because apparently God doesn't have a problem with scripture revealing his willingness to change. In the passages where there is an apparent divine change we don't find any type of "qualification" explaining that it is just "anthropomorphic" language. We simply find a narrative where God appears to change.

    If nothing else, God doesn't have a problem with us thinking of him in these "anthropomorphic" terms, right?

    However, we must take in the whole counsel of God so I wondered how you interpret the verses that Packer referred to:
    I think of these as meaning God's ultimate sovereign will does not change. His nature does not change. He will accomplish His purposes even in the midst of "changes, disappointments, disobedience, relenting" etc. He is not like man, he is transcendent, but this doesn't negate his immanence. We cannot fully understand his ways (Rm 11), so we shouldn't attempt to explain away the clear revelation of God in scripture by having one attribute of God negate another.
     
    #11 Skandelon, Feb 15, 2010
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 15, 2010
  12. webdog

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    I think both passages are referring to God not changing His mind the way a man does, i.e. based on emotion, feelings, incomplete knowledge, due to the flesh. We can even see God changing His mind in v. 7 in Malachi 3 (..."return to Me, and I will return to you")
     
  13. Skandelon

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    We also have new testament parables such as the man who is forgiven a great debt but then doesn't forgive his debtor and then the original forgiveness is revoked. Jesus says that it is the same with our Father in heaven.

    That appears to be teaching that if we, who have been forgiven by God, choose not to forgive others will suffer the same "change of heart" as the man in the parable did. Is that an empty threat to prevent something that could never really happen, or is it real? Could God take back his forgiveness of our sin ("change his mind") if we refuse to forgive others? It certainly appears so, if not, what is there to fear and what is the point of Jesus even giving us this parable?
     
  14. Marcia

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    I think that we have to conclude that God is not perfect if he changes his mind; there is just no other conclusion to come to. It means either he does not know the future or has to change from one plan to another.

    If God knows the future, then why would he change in response to someone's prayer? Has God made a mistake or has God not known the person would pray for something? God knew the person would pray for x before it happened, so how could God change his mind in response to this prayer?

    Open Theists use the same scriptures some here are quoting to prove that God changes his mind; from this they have concluded that God knows only the future that can be known. However, quite a few book and articles have been written refuting the arguments using these scriptures to try to claim that God changes His mind.
     
  15. Marcia

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    For those willing to change their mind that God changes his mind :smilewinkgrin:, here are some links and excerpts:
    http://www.provethebible.net/T2-Objec/G2-004.htm

    Also see
    http://www.gotquestions.org/God-change-mind.html

    http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/559-does-god-change-his-mind

    http://www.carm.org/religious-movements/open-theism/exodus-3214-lord-changed-his-mind
     
  16. OldRegular

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    Marcia you are correct. GOD does not changes HIS mind. If HE did that would indicate that HE did not know all things. Just because we fail to fully understand some Scripture has nothing to do with the nature of GOD.
     
  17. Crabtownboy

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    Not so. He would have know that he was going to change his mind. :laugh:
     
  18. Jarthur001

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    wow...this is strange, but I'm going to agree with you in part. :)

    The Immutability of God applies to three things.

    His Decree
    His Attributes
    His Covenant Promise

    He can and does change in other ways. To say God cannot change no matter what, will give you nothing but a rock not able to move or do anything.

    If God MOVES...he changes.

    God can and does bring wrath.

    God can and does remove his wrath.

    But if God makes a Covenant promise...count on it.
     
  19. webdog

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    Let's look at Hezekiah. God told him flat out "get your house in order, you are not going to live". Was God omniscient at that point? Hezekiah fell on his face in prayer. Was God omniscient at that point? God told Hezekiah "I heard your prayer and you will live 15 more years". Was God omniscient at that point? If you answered "yes" to all three, your theory crumbles. Was God kidding Hezekiah when He told him initially he was not going to live, or even worse, did He lie to him? It would have to be the case using your understanding.
     
  20. Skandelon

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    Webdog, that is exactly what some Calvinists do argue. I remember one discussion I had with a Calvinist recently who argued that the "threat" of God is the means He uses to ensure a change in the man. In other words, they believe that God gives an "empty threat" that He has no intention to carry out because He knows it will have the effect He intends, which is to change them in the way He has predetermined it would.

    So, in the example of Moses interceding for Israel, the threat of destroying Israel was not real, it was just an "empty threat" to get Moses to do what God wanted him to do...intercede. Once he did intercede, then God "relents" which is what he planned to do all along.

    The problem I have with this is that it brings God's integrity into question. It seems as if God lies to Moses to get him to pray. If God says, "I intend to destroy Israel," when He really doesn't intend to do so, then isn't that a lie?

    If a parent says to a child, "I will spank you if you don't obey," when the parent has no intention of spanking, isn't that a lie?

    I just don't like the whole idea of qualifying a clear message in scripture with my man made theological constructs.
     

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