Thursday, June 11, 2009

Washer on the Immutability of God

We have been taking the youth group at our church through Paul Washer's One True God workbook. This workbook is a systematic study on the character of God. We have found it to be incredibly helpful, interactive, and insightful.

I especially appreciated Washer's note regarding the immutability of God. The immutability of God refers to his unchangeable nature. To say that God is immuatable is to say that God does not change. Washer helpfully clarifies the fact that God's immutability does not mean that God is immobile. Take a look at what he has to say:

"In 1 Samuel 15:29, the Scriptures declare that God 'is not a man that He should change his mind.' From this passage and others, it is clear that God's immutability extends even to His counsel and will. He is perfect in wisdom and therefore does not err in what He decrees; He is all-powerful and therefore is able to do all He has decided. But how do we reconcile this teaching with other Scriptures that seem to teach the contrary? In Genesis 6:6, God 'was sorry that He had made man.' In Exodus 32:9-14, the Lord 'changed his mind' about destroying the disobedient nation of Israel. Finally, in Jonah 3:10; God 'relented' concerning the calamity which he had declared He would bring upon the city of Ninevah. Do the Scriptures contradict themselves? Does God indeed change His mind? The answer is not as complex or mysterious as one might think. The Scriptures clearly teach that God's perfections, purposes, and promises are always the same. But this does not mean that his relationship and disposition toward His 'always changing' creation cannot vary. Genesis 6:6 simply refers to God's holy response to man's sin and His determination to blot out man from the face of the earth--v. 7 (the same in 1 Samuel 5:11, 26). In Exodus 32:9-14, God 'changed his mind' with regard to Israel's destruction as a gracious answer to Moses' prayer (a prayer that God led and empowered Moses to pray). In Jonah 3:4-10, God simply 'relented' from destroying Ninevah when Ninevah 'relented' from its sin. These passages are reminders to us that the immutability of God does not mean immobility. He does not change, but He is not static, apathetic, and uninvolved with His creation. He is dynamic and interacts with His creation. He is always the same, but His relationship and dealings with mutable men will vary according to how they respond to Him (Jeremiah 18:7-10; Ezekiel 18:21-24). This is not a contradiction to immutability, but proof of it. He will always respond to men's actions in a manner consistent with His unchanging attributes." (pg 31-32)

I appreciate Washer's balanced (and Scriptural) approach to this subject. God is not changing, but he does respond to our prayers, sins, and obedience. Although Washer suggests that it is not as mysterious as one would at first think, I would credit a large element of mystery to the the immutable God's dealings with mutable men. After all, God is much higher than us--his ways and character transcend all finite human categories. His answer certainly clarifies the issue, but it certainly does not wipe out the depth of God's mysterious dealings with mutable men.

Washer has provided an online version of his One True God workbook for free online. You can access it by clicking here. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Reading the Bible Literally

I want to direct your attention to a recent post put up on James Emery White's website. He interacts and critiques a liberal (or may I suggest, an "unchristian") article written by Miguel De La Tore put up on the Associate Baptist Press' website titled, "A Pop Quiz for Biblical Literalists." White's critique of this article is consice, and yet it gets at the very heart of the issue. Take a look at a paragraph from De La Tore's article;
Only God should be worshiped, not the book that reveals God. In spite of some minor contradictions and several immoral regulations or commands that appear in the Bible (as the pop quiz demonstrated for those who have eyes to see), it still remains the testimony of those who saw God move in their lives and in history. And, like all testimonies, it is subjective. As important as the Bible is in my life, to worship it and give it equal standing with the Creator would be blasphemous on my part.
Without a doubt, Dr. De La Tore raises issues which has confronted Christians since the formation of the canon. However, I do believe that White sufficiently defeats De La Tore's skewed reasoning. Surely, White does not thrash De La Tore's thinking on every front, but his dealing with the article is helpful. To access Dr. White's article click here.
Here is a little smidgeon from White's article:
I do not mind a learned discussion about biblical truth and authority. What I do mind is continually associating a ridiculously wooden interpretation of the Bible that violates the most fundamental rules of textual interpretation with “taking the Bible literally.” This is such a tired caricature. Suffice it to say, such “quizzes” as offered above reveal both a hermeneutical and a theological ignorance.