Does God Change His Mind?

Category: Bible/Christian Worldview 34 0

The belief that the Bible contradicts itself is very popular among non-Christians. One of these contradictions is that God changes his mind. How could an all-knowing God change his mind? Let’s look at the various passages that contradict each other. Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God is the same at all times, He doesn’t change at all. Other texts include:

“For I am the Lord, I do not change…” (Malachi 3:6)

“God is not a man, that He should lie, not a son of man, that he should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)

Changing His Mind

These verses are simple to understand. God does not change. But, take a look at the following verses:

“So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people” (Exodus 32:14).

“Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10).

“And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:6).

“I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments” (1 Samuel 15:11).

An Answer

It seems clear to many people that the Bible contradicts itself on the issue of whether or not God changes his mind. This is a serious charge; if the Bible is contradictory in one thing, then how can we trust it anything else? However, I believe there is a logical answer to the question in this article.

First, it must be understood that the Bible is clear that because God is holy and just, he must punish sin; and punishment of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Yet Scripture is also clear that God is a loving God full of mercy and grace (Exodus 34:6-7). The following passage is very helpful:

“If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed,and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted,and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.” (Jeremiah 18:7-10)

Jeremiah 18 makes it clear: if we do wrong, God will punish us. If we do repent of our evil ways, God will relent and not punish us. This is what we are seeing in the second set of verses above (Genesis 6:6; Exodus 32:14, etc.). However, there is another aspect of these verses that can help us more fully understand the alleged contradiction. Passages such as Genesis 6:6 and 1 Samuel 15:11 simply show us that God has emotions. Take a look at Genesis 6:6. God had created mankind just a few chapters before, and in Genesis 6:1-5, mankind is recorded as doing great evil in God’s sight. In 6:6 God is showing his disappointment and sadness that mankind has chosen to do evil and reject the very God who created them in the first place. Stacia McKeever makes a good point:

“[These kinds of passages] aren’t expressions of, ‘I didn’t do that right the first time; guess I better figure out something else to do.’ Instead, God is grieving over disobedience and wickedness: a response that we should all have to sin. Again, this doesn’t indicate a change in His nature or character; in fact, it is His holy nature that demands this response of grief…Yet, the ‘relenting’ of God is, in many cases, the voice of compassion and mercy from a longsuffering God extended to sinful creatures in need of grace.”[1]

The late Bible scholar Gleason Archer noted this in his discussion of 1 Samuel 15:11. King Saul (the first king of Ancient Israel) had disobeyed God. So God rejected him as king and even regretted that He had made Saul king. Archer says,

“it was a matter of deep regret that Saul would disregard the instructions God had given him through Samuel and that he would substitute his own will for the revealed will of God…This does not imply that God was deceived in His expectations about Saul but only that He was deeply troubled about Saul and the suffering and failure that would come on Israel because her king had turned away from the path of obedience.”[2]

God’s character and nature never change. However, God does express emotions towards sin. God will promise blessings on us, but he has the right to take away those blessings and punish us when we sin.

[1] Stacia McKeever. “Change of Heart” in Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions. Volume 1. Ken Ham ed. Green Forest: Master Books, 2010. Pg. 65-66.

[2] Gleason L. Archer. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982. Pg. 174.

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