Is God Immutable (Unchanging)?

In this post I wanted to talk about what it means to call God, Unchanging and Immutable in the biblical sense and in the philosophical sense.

A Philosophical Immutable God:

Some of the classic definitions of an immutable God goes as such:

  • Changeless
  • Unchanging Through Time
  • Consistent and Unchanging with his own Being/Character
  • Unalterable
  • Fixed
  • Constant

Really it all means the same ‘Unchanging’

Immutable Vs. Perfect
One of the natural reasoning steps toward the belief in an immutable god is because before God was immutable and unchanging, he was perfect.  So it was a natural logical inference to assume that if God is perfect, he is also immutable.  In that a functionally perfect god does not change, for if a perfect God did change, it would be a direct change to his State of Perfection.  For why would a perfect God ever need or want to make any changes. (page)

Immutable vs Creation
Also in addition to that when looking at the philosophical definition of a divinely absolute immutable God, we must come to the conclusion that this God is unchanging in all things. For if this God is to do anything he is changing from his state of perfection.  And that would be a violation of his absolute divine immutability.  To believe God created this world is to go against the character of an immutable God, because that means he changed his mind from being the sole being of existence to  many beings of existence.  What changed his mind?, that’s a good question…

“What did God do during that eternity before he created everything? If God was all that existed back then, what disturbed the eternal equilibrium and compelled him to create? Was he bored? Was he lonely? God is supposed to be perfect. If something is perfect, it is complete–it needs nothing else…There is nothing he needs, nothing he desires, and nothing he must or will do. A God who is perfect does nothing except exist.” -(Why the Christian God is Impossible By Chad Docterman)

Argument from the impossibility of an immutable creator:
1. God is immutable
2. God created the universe
3. An act of creation requires a state-change in the creator (from not having exercised its will, to having exercised its will)
4. An immutable being cannot undergo a state-change
5. Therefore an immutable being cannot create the universe
6. ->Therefore god does not exist

A Refutation of the above argument by Christian Apologetic Research Ministries

1.      1. God is immutable

Immutability must be defined.  It means “unchangeableness.”

In Christian theology God’s immutability describes his nature and does not mean he cannot think, know, or experience. 

2.    2.  God created the universe

3.     3. An act of creation requires a state-change in the creator (from not having exercised its will, to having exercised its will)

The nature of free will is to exercise that will. A decision is not a change of nature but of mind, and this does not violate the immutability of God’s nature.

4.      4. An immutable being cannot undergo a state change

The argument fails to clarify the difference between unchangeable in nature and the ability within that nature to make a decision.

5.      5.  Therefore an immutable being cannot create the universe

6.      6. Therefore god does not exist

->Therefore the argument fails for the reasons and comments mentioned above in Italics.

Immutable vs Omniscience vs. Prayer
One of the greatest flaws of a perfectly divine immutable God goes against practical biblical usage of prayer.  For God knows the future, and cannot change the future or the past.  An unchanging being cannot know changing truths.  For how could God truly answer anyones prayer or more than one (especially if they conflict), for he would be changing his predetermined plan.

Even God cannot change the past.” 
Agathon

Immutable vs. a Free-Will Sovereign God (FANG)
The Christian God is defined as a personal being who knows everything. According to Christians, personal beings have free will.  In order to have free will, you must have more than one option, each of which is avoidable. This means that before you make a choice, there must be a state of uncertainty during a period of potential: you cannot know the future. Even if you think you can predict your decision, if you claim to have free will, you must admit the potential (if not the desire) to change your mind before the decision is final.

A being who knows everything can have no “state of uncertainty.” It knows its choices in advance. This means that it has no potential to avoid its choices, and therefore lacks free will. Since a being that lacks free will is not a personal being, a personal being who knows everything cannot exist.

Therefore, the Christian God does not exist.

This is the freewill argument for the non-existence of God, Dan Barker calls this his FANG Argument.  Kyle Butts refutes his argument and says that “foreknowledge does not equal causality.”  In that he implies,in that Barker asserts and assumes too much in such that “free will does not require that a person be ignorant of the future“.

An Immutable Christian Theological God:

For many Christians the answer is simple, God says in the Bible (Malachi 3:6):

“I the LORD do not change.”

Therefore if the bible says it; I believe it.  That God’s inalterability needs to be understood that God is sovereign and unchanging.  And this is not the only scripture that supports the notion of a divinely immutable God.  But the problem is that the mindset of a divinely immutable being absolute is somewhat contradictory.  And the contradiction actually starts with the bible.  In Exodus 21:14-”The Lord changed his mind(repented) and did not bring on his people the disaster he threatened.”  Now there are many other cases of God changing his mind, and showing he grieved, relented, and repented. Just click on the Skeptics Annoted link here to learn more about it.  There is no need to go through all of them.

The doctrine of an absolute divine immutable god which is sometimes referred to as strong immutability is starting to fade, which has opened the door to a more liberal definition and version of the attribute of immutability in God.

However, there is one alternative answer as put forth by one christian blogger.  Which delicately balances faith with common sense.  He believes that God is not absolute in his personal Immutability.  That God is a thinking, living, emotional being with a core set of values that do not change such as love, holiness, and justice.  But by saying that God is not immutable applies more to the personal relationship aspect that one has with God.

“What this means is that God can be approached and appealed to and if a person approaches God with a genuine heart, God will react and change the situation and his emotions will change toward that person or group of people accordingly.” -Ed Rabyd Sr of All Things Rabyd Blog

Classical Christian theology defines God’s immutability as God is unchanging in his being, perfections, nature, and promises.  However yet God is a being with feelings and emotions and reacts differently in response to different situations.  Open Theism teaches that God is immutable in his natural essence and in his trustworthiness over time; God is open to  change pending on the reality situation or experience and that God does not or chooses not to know all possible future outcomes.  This is very loose view of God, that many object to, cause it also hints at that God is not all powerful, all knowing, unchanging and perfect.  Thus is the reason why this is not accepted by the traditionalist and fundamentalist protestant Christian community.

Related Articles

Does God Move When We Pray?  A Classical Theistic Response
Does the God of the Bible measure up to his own standard of Perfect?
The FreeWill Argument for the Non-Existence of God By Dan Barker
God is Immutable: Why Can’t God Change? By Austin Cline
Divine Immutability , The internet encyclopedia of philosophy
Proofs for the non-existence of God
The Argument for and Against A Perfect Creator
Problems with Limited Immutability By Tim Prussic
A Tale of Two Immutabilites By Tim Prussic
Immutability of God By A.W. Tozer
What is Open Theism? 
Can Anything About God Change?, Blue Letter Bible
The Attributes of God: The Immutability of God By A.W. Pink

God has no free will

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About M. Rodriguez

When I first received Christ salvation, I made it a priority to read the whole bible and I did. But it was the Bible that made me question my faith. For I found it flawed and lacking. Due to this I launched a personal inquiry/investigation into my faith, and ultimately realized that the Christian God of the Bible was indeed man-made. Now I Blog about those findings and life after Christ.
This entry was posted in Dan Barker, philosophy, quote, religion, skepticism, youtube and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Is God Immutable (Unchanging)?

  1. Ed Raby Sr says:

    Thanks for the quote. I find that atheists and agnostics are in general dismayed with the Christian ‘God’ as commonly presented. The God of the Bible is a different character than commonly presented. Religion has a difficult time making the change to understanding God differently. For the most part, Christians have invested a lot of time in coming to their current understanding of God. They simply do not want to abandon the coupling of Western philosophy and the Bible. For me, I simply have chosen to accept the God of the Bible as presented and discard the western philosophical assumptions. For me, God does not change in his central attributes (love, holiness) but he does change in his experiences with humanity.

  2. Tim Prussic says:

    Hey! How did you happen upon little ol’ me? 🙂 A handful of years ago, my seminary did a full journal on Openness, in which I did a small study on divine repentance. This might or might not be helpful: http://www.wrs.edu/resources/wrs-journal/volume/12-1/

    Blessings!

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      Usually when I do these type of information-educational post, I put a lot of research into putting the post together. So Frequently look for christian, secular, and academic sources to put my articles together. And yours was one of the post I came across in my research in putting it together.

  3. In order to demonstrate that God experiences emotions, Boyd uses Gen. 6:6 where God regrets making man; 1 Sam. 15:35 where God regrets making Saul King; in Exod. 4:10-15 where God is angry at Moses; and Ezek. 22:30-31 where God expresses frustration over not being able to find someone to “stand in the gap” for Israel. The response to all of the examples is the same. The fact of the matter is that the Bible does speak in anthropomorphisms and these are clear examples. Even Open View Theology accepts that Scripture does use anthropomorphic language. The Bible clearly refers to God as having eyes, arms, legs, and wings. (57) Why not emotions? Passages that talk about God forgetting as well as passages that talk about God expressing emotions are all metaphors. Either the Bible has contradictions or we are to interpret some of the passages that refer to God as literal and others as figures of speech. Passages that speak to God as immutable mean that He is immutable. Those that ascribe human emotions to God are figures of speech. Boyd seems to think that his “third option” (58) solves the problem of resolving passages that seem to conflict, but he sees a problem that doesn’t exists. In fact, he produces a huge problem by creating a finite, temporal God which is inconsistent with Scripture.

  4. When we say that God is a personal being we mean that He is intelligent and free and distinct from the created universe . Personality as such expresses perfection, and if human personality as such connotes imperfection, it must be remembered that, as in the case of similar predicates, this connotation is excluded when we attribute personality to God . It is principally by way of opposition to Pantheism that Divine personality is emphasized by the Theistic philosopher . Human personality , as we know it, is one of the primary data of consciousness, and it is one of those created perfections which must be realized formally (although only analogically) in the First Cause. But Pantheism would require us to deny the reality of any such perfection, whether in creatures or in the Creator, and this is one of the fundamental objections to any form of Pantheistic teaching. Regarding the mystery of the Trinity or three Divine Persons in God , which can be known only by revelation, it is enough to say here that properly understood the mystery contains no contradiction, but on the contrary adds much that is helpful to our inadequate knowledge of the infinite .

  5. Claire Sweeney says:

    When we say that God is a personal being we mean that He is intelligent and free and distinct from the created universe . Personality as such expresses perfection, and if human personality as such connotes imperfection, it must be remembered that, as in the case of similar predicates, this connotation is excluded when we attribute personality to God . It is principally by way of opposition to Pantheism that Divine personality is emphasized by the Theistic philosopher . Human personality , as we know it, is one of the primary data of consciousness, and it is one of those created perfections which must be realized formally (although only analogically) in the First Cause. But Pantheism would require us to deny the reality of any such perfection, whether in creatures or in the Creator, and this is one of the fundamental objections to any form of Pantheistic teaching. Regarding the mystery of the Trinity or three Divine Persons in God , which can be known only by revelation, it is enough to say here that properly understood the mystery contains no contradiction, but on the contrary adds much that is helpful to our inadequate knowledge of the infinite .

  6. Pingback: Is God Eternal? Is God Transcendent? | The BitterSweet End

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