Does God Change His Mind?
Thursday of Pentecost 7
14 July 2016
Does God change His mind? Augustine of Hippo thought not. However, his view seems to fly in the face of clear Scripture passages that point to a change in God's attitude toward sinners, such as 2Co 5:19, Gn 6:6, and others. The divine self-revelation must have priority in shaping our views about the attitude of God toward us. In this matter Augustine was deeply affected by the philosophical opinions of his culture, in which change could not be predicated of God, or He would cease to be God. This was the philosophy of Neo-Platonism.
 
Yet, despite Augustine's commitment to Neo-Platonism, he still recognized the historical particularity of the Christian religion against the static universalism of Neo-Platonic thought. So for Augustine God's attitude toward sinners changed, but only in relation to the sinner. This is an anemic resolution of the enmity between God and man, if the only change that occurs is the one in man. The Bishop of Hippo was trying to defend the certainty of God's will through the changelessness of His attitude. The problem is that this way of speaking leads toward synergism, in which the sinners change in reference to God, the very thing that Augustine would have abhorred. Even the great Bishop of Hippo could not be perfectly consistent.
 
At best, his views on the changelessness of God guard from change the heart of God toward the sinner, so that we who fall will know that we have a God whose attitude toward us does not change. He will make stand those who fall and rescue those who are foundering. He is always there for us as a gracious God who has become reconciled to us through Jesus Christ. 
Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"A friend is so called relatively: for he does not begin to be one, unless when he has begun to love; therefore some change of will takes place, in order that he may be called a friend.
 
"'Lord,' the Psalmist says, 'You have been made our refuge' (Ps 90:1; Latin). God, therefore, is said to be our refuge relatively, for He is referred to us, and He then becomes our refuge when we flee to Him. I ask then does anything come to pass then in His nature, which, before we fled to Him, was not? In us therefore some change does take place; for we were worse before we fled to Him, and we become better by fleeing to Him: but in Him there is no change.
 
"So also He begins to be our Father, when we are regenerated through His grace, since He gave us power to become the sons of God (Jn 1:12). Our substance therefore is changed for the better, when we become His sons; and He at the same time begins to be our Father, but without any change of His own substance. Therefore that which begins to be spoken of God in time, and which was not spoken of Him before, is manifestly spoken of Him relatively; yet not according to any accident in God, so that anything should have happened to Him, but clearly according to some accident of that, in respect to which God begins to be called something relatively.
 
"When a righteous man begins to be a friend of God, he himself is changed; but far be it from us to say, that God loves any one in time with as it were a new love, which was not in Him before, with whom things gone by have not passed away and things future have been already done. Therefore He loved all His saints before the foundation of the world, as He predestined them. But when they are converted and find Him; then they are said to begin to be loved by Him, that what is said may be said in that way in which it can be comprehended by human affections. So also, when He is said to be angry with the unrighteous, and gentle with the good, they are changed, not He. Just as light is troublesome to weak eyes and pleasant to eyes that are strong; namely, by their change, not by the light's." 

Augustine, On the Trinity, 5.16
Genesis 6:1-8

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be years." The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them." But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.  (ESV)
Prayer
O Lord, Your grace made full in Christ does not change by any shadow of turning. Grant that we might repose quietly in that certainty and live in faith until our life's end. Amen.
 
For all those who are traveling to return home from the 66th regular convention of the LCMS, that their travels would be safe and their homecomings joyful
 
For all those who serve our transportation system by driving over-the-road trucks, that, while being watched over by the holy angels, they would be kept safe in their travels
 
For President Dale Meyer and the faculty and staff of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, that they would continue faithfully to proclaim the divine Word
 
For the Board of Directors of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty, as they go about choosing an Executive Director, that he would provide appropriate leadership in our nation's capital and confess Christ faithfully
Art: Durer, Albrecht   The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2016