Friday, February 6, 2009

Does God Change His Mind?

This week in our small group we discussed an article written by Dr. Robert Chisholm, a professor of Old Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary. The article, titled "Does God Change His Mind?", had some interesting assertions that I had never considered before. The topic was brought on by our study of the book of Jonah in which God seemingly changes His mind and decides against destroying Nineveh after the entire city repented and turned to Him. In his article, Dr. Chisholm states,
"Some theologians argue that the biblical references to God changing His mind are “anthropomorphic”—they picture God as if He were a man. Even though God does not really change His mind, these texts describe Him doing so, because from the human perspective that is what appears to be happening."In other words, because we are human and cannot begin to adequately describe how God works, we resort to using human terms like "change his mind". As I thought about it, this seemed to make the most sense to me. But, Chisholm continues,
"This proposed solution arbitrarily elevates one set of texts over another and fails to take seriously Joel 2:13 and Jonah 4:2, which identify God’s willingness to change His mind as one of His fundamental attributes, closely associating it with His grace, compassion, patience, and love."
Chisholm then explains,
"When God announces His intention to reward or punish, the announcement may be unconditional or conditional. On the one hand, God sometimes issues a decree or commits Himself by oath to a particular course of action. Such statements are unconditional. God announces what He will do and He will not deviate from His announced intention. The oath gives the statement a binding quality."(Abrahamic Covenant)
"On the other hand, God’s promises and warnings are often conditional. He may not follow through on a warning or promise, depending on how the recipient of the message responds. For example, in Jeremiah 26:4–6 God declares, “If you do not listen to me and follow my law...and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets...then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city an object of cursing among all the nations of the earth.”

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure where I fall on this issue. I do know that I look forward to respectfully and fearfully discussing theological debates like this further when I enroll in seminary. For now, I am content to simply admit that the Lord is sovereign. He knows EXACTLY what He is doing, and that's good enough for me.

Here is a link to the entire article: