Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Christian Studies

First Advisor

Dr. J. Daniel Hays

Second Advisor

Dr. C. Marvin Pate

Third Advisor

Dr. Jim Files

Abstract

God is changeless. That is perhaps the simplest way to define the doctrine of Divine Immutability. Such a definition is non-controversial in the Evangelical world. For the most part, such a definition is non-controversial in Christendom as a whole and has been readily affirmed by Christians for two thousand years.

Unfortunately, Immutability is not that simple. The three-word definition of "God is changeless" does not address an important and highly controversial issue. What does it mean for God to be changeless? Even among evangelicals, there is significant debate over what it means for God to be changeless. One of the most significant and controversial questions in that debate has to do with whether or not God can or does change his mind.

In the Old Testament, there are several passages which show God seemingly changing his mind, usually over a judgment he declared on Israel. However, there are some passages in the Old Testament which appear to teach that God does not change his mind at all. Both sets of passages use the same Hebrew verb to describe God's actions.

The resultant theological tension has often times been explained through viewing passages portraying God as having a change of mind as anthropomorphisms. In which case the language describing God as having a change of mind is just an accommodation to our finite human minds. However, many scholars have challenged this traditional interpretation on the grounds that it is more informed by philosophy than on the Biblical text itself.

The question we must ask here is what does the text actually say? How does God reveal himself to us in the scriptures? This paper seeks to understand God the way he revealed himself to us. Rather than accepting the typical systematic and philosophical answers, this paper will approach the text through Biblical Theology. In order to answer the question of whether or not God changes his mind, we will examine the usage of the Hebrew verbal root nun het mem which is used to describe God relenting or changing his mind. Then we will examine four key passages that speak to God changing his mind: Jeremiah 18, Exodus 32, 1 Samuel15, and Numbers 23. The exegesis of these passages will be followed by a summary theological reflection.

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