Does God change his mind?

The thought of the week:

Some people resist it. Others try to bring it about.

We generally think that being consistent and unchanged is a good thing, don’t we? Maybe even a sign of character.

But who among us has not ever changed his/her mind, especially in the face of receiving new information or in response to a changing situation? Perhaps someone intercedes to bring a different perspective. To remain unchanged in such times would be a sign of . . . . what?

The first lesson tells us that God was angry with the people after the Golden Calf incident. God was ready to destroy something, but Moses served as the defense attorney for the people. The text declares that ‘God changed his mind’.

Hmmm. Is that comforting or challenging? Encouraging or disturbing?

What do you think?

Does this effect the way you think about change in the world? In your life? In your faith?

My first response is that “being consistent and unchanged is a good thing” “maybe even a sign of character” makes me shudder and think of George W. Bush.

Then I recall beginning of the Tao Te Ching (in Stephen Mitchell’s translation):

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin of all particular things.

So yes, in the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God. But our naming of God is not God. The name “God” itself names the unnamable in an abstract, placeholder way. God is not named “Bob” or “James”. “He” or “she” is not “a” god, with a gray beard, hopes and dreams. Our name for God – as well as our theology, rituals, and texts – is to aid our comprehension of something that, at its essence, cannot be understood, only felt and experienced.

Our understanding of God has evolved over time, always as a reflection of our ideal selves. Is that a problem? Was Jesus’ own revelation complete, or was it expanded by his Crucifixion and Resurrection? Was it a problem when Paul took his theology of the cross to the Gentiles? Or later when Luther brought a new variation of it back to Christianity? Or when Bonhoeffer tried to make it meaningful yet authentic in modern times?

I think our understanding of God is always evolving, as possibly is God’s relationship to us. We still need the tradition, the continuity, and the community of the church to keep us from flying off the deep end. For if our understanding of God is an expression of our ideal self, it can easily degenerate into self-worship.

September 9, 2013 in Life