Another student in class brought up something which we covered a day or so ago, that is that God is immutable (for argument’s sake) because His changing in any way would either mean (1) that He is becoming more perfect and thus wasn’t perfect before the change or (2) that He was perfect and is changing from His current perfect state. The proponent of immutability is going to use this to show that God mustn’t change or else God cannot be perfect.
An example of this in human lives is illustrated as such: why do you change? Why do you change your habits, for instance? You change your habits because you believe (in some way and for some reason) that doing so will make you better. You change in order to become better. This is an elementary understanding of change in human lives.
Now the student in class brought the question up in order to raise an issue with it. First of all, I appreciated this issue being brought up in class because an important question should be raised (one which I feel like I’m raising more and more often). That is: who says what perfection is? In other words, what if perfection is defined as changing in order to remain perfect in relation to other changing things? This is desirable if you see God as a being who acts in relational ways with beings who change. I was very excited that this idea was brought forward in class, if only to show that it is an available option.
Before I get too carried away with that idea (which I believe I have covered before anyway) I will go on to the real reason this particular student sticks out in my mind. He brought to the discussion a number of verses he had looked up that, at least in his mind, brought serious problems regarding certain assumptions concerning the nature of God.
First, he brought up the verse “His ways are perfect,” apparently as a way of proposing that the Bible doesn’t claim that God is perfect, only that His ways are. Though I don’t believe his conclusion is based on thorough research, I move on. He also referred to how God “rested on the 7th day” of creation. This would seem to show that God changes, and is thus not immutable. This same student drew attention to a verse in which “the Lord said” that He remembered our sins no more. But how could an omniscient being not remember something, even if He chose to? Wouldn’t His omniscience and omnipotence conflict?
In my eyes he did bring up an issue today in class, although I don’t think it’s what he intended to bring up. What he brought up has to do with what I call the purpose or place of scripture. Simply put the Bible is not a metaphysics textbook, meaning that we can’t draw single verses (or even passages or stories, settle down) to derive metaphysical or scientific principles concerning the nature of God. Of course the true nature of God may line up with some of these verses from time to time – even often – but they don’t rise and fall by single verses or ideas like those.
I view scripture holistically versus specifically. By this I mean that when I look to the Bible to determine God’s nature I look at the whole of scripture – what picture does it paint of God? I’m sure I’ve blogged about this in the past as well. When viewed from the perspective of narrative theology – something I continually feel a pull toward – scripture is a historical document that also contains romantic and poetic language describing the story of a loving God moving toward and within His people to bring about redemption. The purpose of this book is to show us God in one of the truest forms we have – but not to define Him metaphysically.
I don’t mean to undermine the value of metaphysics or philosophy in general – obviously, it’s my major for goodness sake! But it needs to have its place. Give scripture its place. Don’t confuse the two and come up with silly conclusions. Please?