Originally posted in Open Theism on March 17th, 2006
I want to credit John Sanders and his book The God Who Risks for providing the backdrop for this article. See P. 15-38 for details. Open Theism owes him a lot for this book.
The great issue that many come forward with is when you say that God ‘changing his mind’ in Scripture is that those are human expressions of something else because God is ‘wholly other’ to anything that we are as humans. God is so far above us that he has to really reach to come down to our level to even try to communicate with us. Things like God ‘changing his mind’ then are God’s attempt to describe something in terms we lowly humans will understand but what he really means is a mystery because is so much higher in all things than us.
Now the argument here is self-defeating — because here we are saying that God is ‘wholly other’ than us and we cannot understanding him because of this, but we are using the concept of wholly other which is created BY MEN to explain this concept of God. On the one hand we claim that we cannot really know anything about God but then we are SURE that we know that He is ‘wholly other’.
I want to add a little to Sanders here. If God changing his mind is a wholly other way of attempting in human mental terms to explain the thinking process of God then what about other mental attributes ascribed to God that are in human terms. How about God’s memory of our sins.
Isaiah 43:25 —
I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.
Memory is a mental attribute that is human but that God here uses to illustrate what His response will be to sin if there is repentance. What wholly other concept would we use that we could describe God choosing to forget one’s sins. Is then his forgetting of our sins not reality because God’s forgetting of our sins is different from our forgetting? Makes the concept of God’s forgetting our transgressions odd doesn’t it.
The truth is the wholly other concept of God is not built on Biblical propositions or statements but on Greek philosophical presuppositions developed by pagan philosophers in reaction to the pagan deities that seemed all too human to them.
God’s revelation to us is clear because he created us in his image and so some of our humanness is his design as a reflection of himself. It also means that God would create us with the capacity to understand him if he revealed himself to us because our ‘humanness’ is his creation. In a sense it is not that God has attributes like ours, as the opponents of being literal on God ‘changing his mind’ would claim, but that our changes of mind reflect God’s ability to do so.
Another thing about this — why the distinction of what is human and divine in our interpretation of Scripture. The entire Word of God is of both human and divine origin. God inspired the words to be written, but it is men that wrote them. Jesus himself stands as the largest example of being both human and divine as well.
It is actually this God is ‘wholly other’ concept that may be inhibiting proper interpretation of Scripture and leading to either a vain intellectualism about high thought of God or extreme mysticism of trying to reach a divine being without human concepts.
We are in God’s image which means there are things about us that reflect who God is and what he is like. The creation cannot help but reflect the creator. God changing and our changing our mind included.