It’s amazing to me to see how easy it is to claim to be biblical, yet not embrace its cosmology, its theology or any of its other “ologies”, but adopt a Greek worldview and in turn interpret the Bible to fit this.
One such example is our view of God (or as it has been called “theology” or better yet “proper theology”). Aside from the overtly Greek terminology and notion of “omni” used to talk about God (omni-present, omni-potent, etc.), the Aristotelian concept of God in particular has had the deepest and most enduring impact on Christian Theology to this very day: God does not change (“Unmoved mover”) .
Since this is not the place for an in depth analysis I’ll just make some observations and comments.
The issue I personally have with the idea of a God who does not change (in theology, God’s immutability) is that it does not hold water in light of biblical revelation. Now I know that for some reading this makes them laugh. They would say that precisely because of the Bible they are compelled to embrace this concept. Isn’t the Bible pretty clear that God does not change, that He is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow? etc, etc,. To those I just want to say: don’t forget those passages where God is clearly changing (Exodus 32:12; Jeremiah 26:2-3, 12-13; to name just a few). I know… I know those biblical passages that speak of God’s unchangeableness. When looked at in their proper context, though, it becomes apparent they don’t depict the Aristotelian God, but a God who does not change in the sense that He is not restricted or bound by the laws and principles our universe works by (hence, miracles maybe super-natural for us, but for God they are as natural as anything else He created).
• The God of the Bible is not a transcendent, static, distant, uninvolved God; on the contrary He is very intimately involved in His creation. The Bible does not paint the image of a God who created the universe and once set in motion has removed Himself from it. Sadly, many Christians look at the universe in this light and accept, without much thought, a naturalistic view of the universe whereby it is sustained by some intrinsic laws that supposedly governs it. The biblical narrative depicts a God who actively sustains His creation to the most minuscule particle.
• In the Bible story I don’t find a God who’s made up His mind well before creation in eternity past and is unaffected (unmoved) and firm in that. On the contrary I see a God who interacts so deeply with people, His image bearers, that in His love He’s willing to accommodate and yes, change. The Scriptures don’t present God as a puppeteer and we are just puppets. It is more of a dance in which both parties have a say into each other’s rhythm and moves. We are working with God and God is working with us.
Now this would be all fine had we not been exposed and bought into the Aristotelian concept of God. Aristotle was a profound thinker and used brilliant logics. Since we value logics to asses reality it is very hard to resist embracing his view of God. So to do that and, ironically, still be biblical, Christian theologians through the ages have come up with various hybrid notions (or call it doctrine) of God whereby He can be unchanging (Aristotle God) and yet change (biblical God). Now trying to grasp how exactly God is outside of our realm of experience (His essence or sorts) has little if any value for us. Really! Our concern should be our view of God as we know Him and He has made Himself known to us in our human experience. Otherwise we’re attempting to step beyond our territory. Do we really need to go there to validate our own trust in Him? Deuteronomy 29:29 is pretty clear: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us”. Has He not shown himself clear enough and is He not doing plenty to earn our trust? We trust and believe in God not because He is unchanging and so we can depend on Him. We trust God as a response to His amazing love He has and continues to shower us with.
- God doesn’t have to pass our qualifications for Him to be God. He is God after all! He exists outside of our metaphysical constructs.
That’s the problem with doing “Systematic Theology”: trying to talk about God in philosophical format and trying to squeeze Him and the biblical narrative to fit into that. We have figured what is necessary for God to be God and we have effectively told Him He needs to be that way if He is to earn our trust, otherwise we can’t really believe in Him. How ridiculous !!!
Millard Erickson puts it well when he writes: “The God we find in Scripture is not a static being, as is Aristotle’s God. He is rather an active, dynamic being, at work in the world. This dynamic activity, however, is stable, not unstable. His actions are in keeping with His fundamental nature, with His values, plans, and decisions.” In other words God does change, but not randomly, chaotically, haphazardly, but according to His internal criteria. The beautiful mystery about God is that God can change and adjust in working with people and yet remain God. Whatever it is that He is doing will always be characterized by love and goodness.
God’s incarnation in Jesus is the supreme example of change and adaptation God is willing to go through in His love for us, his prized creation. Isn’t Phillipians 2:7, “he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” pretty clear? Thank God He has undergone this change; because of this there is redemption and hope.