Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Necessity of Atheism: Q9

Resuming the series... on Shelley's questions on the necessity of atheism...

Q9: If he is unmovable, by what right do we pretend to make him change his mind?

Is He unmovable? When we think of someone being unmovable what comes to mind? Is it someone who is rigid, static and unable to relate? An unbibilcal view of God is rooted in the idea of some divine substance behind everything. The unchanging divine stuff. Nothing in scripture portrays this.

What then? God is unmovable in his character. He is consistent not whimsical or unpredicatable. He never acts out of character. Yesterday, today and forever his promises stand. In this sense he is unmovable - in that he will not contradict himself or deny himself.

Does this imply he is static and rigid? No. God the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is alive, relational and personal. The Son is always sustaining the universe by his word, but he was once on earth and is now in heaven. Somethings change, something remain the same. The Spirit was once over the waters, then on some people and now within all believers. In all these different ways God remains acting for his own glory.

If he is personal and invites prayer does that mean we can change his mind? Christians are wont to say that "prayer changes things". Is this true or is God playing games?

God does invite us to ask him for things. To pray for his intervention in our lives or others. Does he change? Not in the sense that we can ask him to change his character and think that he will comply. In his sovereignty he does act when we pray in a way that he wouldn't otherwise. In the absence of observable parallel universes however, it is difficult to measure the difference prayer makes.

Is God subject to our whim and request? No. He is not constrained by us. He is in no way powerless in the face of prayerlessness. Yet fervent prayer appears to yield changed lives.

Does God repent? Not in that we might err and then be corrected, but we do observe him proposing one course of action, only to hold back from it. This is seen in the threat of judgement on the unrepentant. He holds back his anger. Always this is conditioned - where there is repentance he will justly save, where there is not judgement is sure only to have been delayed not avoided.

In Exodus 32 we find an example of this. God speaks with Moses after Israel have created a golden calf to worship. They've attributed their salvation to this work of their own hands. We fail miserably to see how abhorent this is becausse we fail to see how glorious God is. Moses appeals against God destroying his people on the basis of God's reputation. If they are destroyed the nations will mock God for saving them only to kill them, and Israel will find God's promises to keep them to have been false. Does this mean God was wrong to rise in wrath against them? No. He was fully justified. And yet constrained by his concern for his own reputation - the same thing that arose his wrath against them will lead to their salvation. Throughout the Old Testament we find wrath and mercy in tension. A tension only resolved in the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. That was the breaking point of history for God's reputation - establishing that he is indeed judge and justifier.

Did God change his mind? No. Was God wrong? No. Through these events however God's concern for his glory is revealed. This I believe is why we find such stories. They invite us to feel the tension of a righteous God sparing unrighteous people from judgement - and everyone is unrighteous. God is unflinchingly committed to his glory. And that glory is displayed as he enters into salvific relationship with people he has created.

Relationship is not defined by God not knowing the future, nor constrained by his unchanging character. Rather, we are invited to know this God who is I AM. The God who is beginning and end. This God who is other that us. This God who is above and beyond us, and yet condescends to live with us. To serve us by saving us, he invites us to personal relationship with himself.

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