I’ve often heard it said that God doesn’t change only our understanding of God does. I think that to an extent this is true; various cultures,denominations and individuals all understand God differently and interpret what they believe God to be saying in different ways. But if you are simply talking about the God of the Bible I would have to say that isn’t true in the least. It has been quite obvious to me for some time now that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are two different deities entirely. Which would make sense as the God of the Old Testament is quite definitely the God of the Jewish people while the New Testament contains the God of Christianity. I can understand why the Old Testament was included in the Bible as it serves a history of where Christianity evolved from, but it seems now that the Old Testament just serves as a way for bigoted, narrow-minded, hateful, violent individuals to justify their vitriol. There are those out there, for instance, who believe that in the Old Testament God is not only okay with executions but that executions actually PLEASE God and he demands they must be done. And here I was thinking that blood sacrifices were so passe. But I digress.
If you really want to follow the Bible literally, or if you want to at least believe that every single word in the Bible is the infallible and divinely inspired word of God, then okay, that is well within your right to do so. My issue is with people and denominations who pick and choose what they decide to follow to the letter and what they don’t. Obviously, everyone does this to some extent. However, it is the women-subjogating, bible-thumping, hurricanes caused by homosexuals believing, evolution denouncing, Jesus freaks who justify their brand of crazy by simply stating it’s because it “says so” in the Bible and you can’t argue with God. Where it “says so” for those folks is almost always contained within the Old Testament. But let’s pause and be real for a moment because if you REALLY wanted to follow the word of God verbatim from the Old Testament you would be an Orthodox Jew, or at least very nearly so, and I don’t think it’s very likely that Pat Robertson is kosher. I feel that the fact that the Old Testament contains cultural and religious rules intended for the ancient people of Israel is lost on most people today, Christians most especially. The ignorance of that fact has only fueled the Fundamentalist and Evangelical movements we are currently enduring.
While many Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians claim to have a direct line to God and claim they have a handle on God’s “truth” and what God really wants from you, while hurling Old Testament quotations your way to try and justify their statements, they in turn ignore many things from the Old Testament themselves. You cannot make such outrageous and fear-mongering claims about how people are supposed to conduct their lives and what they are supposed to believe while simultaneously ignoring parts of the Bible that are convenient for you to ignore. It’s okay for you to ignore scripture when it fits your lifestyle, but it isn’t okay when others ignore the parts of scripture that define your lifestyle. That is the absolute definition of hypocrisy: “The Bible says so here which means EVERYONE has to do it, but this part here? No, good Christians don’t have to do THAT stuff”. Furthermore, it’s also a giant contradiction to state that your faith is based on following THE Word of God, yet you only follow the words you want to. If it’s okay to ignore some stuff then why isn’t it okay when others do the same thing only to different parts of scripture? If it’s okay to ignore some things then anyone can do it and pick and choose what they want to ignore and what they want to believe just like you do. But honestly, not even God is consistent with his own statements in the Bible, so one kind of has to pick and choose.
However, if God doesn’t change, then why would there be two statements in direct conflict with one another in the Bible? Shouldn’t the entire Bible agree with itself one hundred percent if it’s the infallible and divinely inspired word of God? If you want to try and defend this statement by arguing that it is infallible, but that through translations and over time human errors have muddied the language a bit, then you have just contradicted yourself. If the human beings who originally wrote the Bible were transmitting the Word of God exactly how he wanted it delivered to the whole world, then why didn’t he ensure that this message would remain pure and intact? If the Word of God was supposed to remain as it was and infallible, why would God allow for human error later on if he didn’t allow it at the beginning? You can’t say that the Bible is the infallible, incorruptible Word of God while at the same time conceding that it may contain human error when presented with the irrefutable fact that it does.
So, let’s look at a few examples of God changing…
Malachi 3:6 “For I am the Lord; I change not.”
Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent.”
Ezekiel 24:14 “I the Lord have spoken it: it shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent.”
James 1:17 ” . . . the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
Exodus 32:14 “And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.”
Jonah 3:10 “. . . and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.”
Jeremiah 15:6 “Thou hast forsaken me, saith the Lord, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary of repenting.”
If God were not capable of change he wouldn’t be able to repent, as the act of repentance is fueled by regret and the desire to change and atone for what has happened. If God hadn’t changed his mind and felt what he had done was wrong after the fact, then he wouldn’t be able to repent. God states quite blatantly in Malachi 3:6 that he “changes not”, but does change when he speaks of repenting for the evil he had caused in both Exodus 32:14 and Jonah 3:10. Even this handful of examples is adequate to demonstrate that the Bible can make two radically different statements about what the nature of God is supposed to be.
And though not on the immediate topic of whether or not God can change his mind, the question of whether or not God can tempt people is related to his alleged nature. Take for example:
James 1:13 “Let no man say I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.”
Genesis 22:1 “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham.”
Whether or not God is capable of tempting humankind should be a pretty basic facet of God’s personality to get right, but the Bible cannot agree with itself on that either. It also brings up some pretty interesting theological questions about who is responsible for tempting mankind towards doing both good and evil acts. I personally believe there are no supernatural forces tempting individuals to behave one way or another, but for those who do I imagine it’s something pretty big to consider.
My own personal faith is not wrought upon the foundation of Biblical inerrancy and infallibility. I am at peace with and in acceptance of the fact that the Bible is chockfull of errors, contradictions and downright falsehoods because I am not ignorant to how the Bible came to be. It was created by several different individuals over many many years during ancient times and reflected the period in which it was originally written – a time of violence, short lifespans, great uncertainty, and with the common man having very little awareness of the world beyond their own existence. These originals were then hand copied over thousands of years by people with varying degrees of literacy and competence, people with their own personal & theological agendas, who also inhabited periods in history fraught with violence, similarly short lifespans and very little worldly knowledge. Currently the Bible inhabits a time which is itself filled with violence and a continued ignorance of science by the average person, only with longer lifespans to enact violence and live in ignorance. If the foundation of your own faith stands solely on the infallibility of the Bible then you have a very weak foundation indeed.
Note: The excellent webpage where I got the scriptural examples from can be found here.