Does God change his mind?

According to some Old Testament authors, God sometimes regrets his decisions and occasionally changes his mind. There are several examples in the Bible of this:

The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. [Genesis 6:6]

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘this is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”
Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people. [Exodus 32:7-14]

Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them instantly.” Then they fell on their faces. Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put in it fire from the altar, and lay incense on it; then bring it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone forth from the LORD, the plague has begun!” Then Aaron took it as Moses had spoken, and ran into the midst of the assembly, for behold, the plague had begun among the people. So he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. He took his stand between the dead and the living, so that the plague was checked. But those who died by the plague were 14,700, besides those who died on account of Korah. Then Aaron returned to Moses at the doorway of the tent of meeting, for the plague had been checked. [Numbers 16:43-50]

Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give him My covenant of peace; and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.’” [Numbers 25:12-13]
“Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age, and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age. Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life. [1 Sam. 2:30-33]

Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death; for Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel. [1Samuel 15:35]

When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. [2 Samuel 24:16]

In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’” Then he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, “Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.”’” Then Isaiah said, “Take a cake of figs.” And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered. [2 Kings 20:1-7]

Now therefore amend your ways and your deeds and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will change His mind about the misfortune which He has pronounced against you. [Jeremiah 26:13]

At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it. [Jeremiah 18:7-10]

‘If you will indeed stay in this land, then I will build you up and not tear you down, and I will plant you and not uproot you; for I will relent concerning the calamity that I have inflicted on you. [Jeremiah 42:10]

God told Ezekiel to cook his bread over human excrement as part of a prophecy of the Hebrew exile. Ezekiel however, rebelled against this, protesting that he has never in his life polluted himself by eating food forbidden in the law. Upon which God allows him to use cow dung instead. [Ezekiel 4:12-15]

When I say to the righteous he will surely live, and he so trusts in his righteousness that he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered; but in that same iniquity of his which he has committed he will die. But when I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and he turns from his sin and practices justice and righteousness, if a wicked man restores a pledge, pays back what he has taken by robbery, walks by the statutes which ensure life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of his sins that he has committed will be remembered against him. He has practiced justice and righteousness; he shall surely live. [Ezekiel 33:13-16] (We see this in Jonah 3.)

You might ask, “If God is omniscient, how could he change his mind? If he knew before the foundation of the world in certain circumstances he was going to first say one thing but then do something else, how can that be considered changing his mind?”

Many Bible scholars and theologians will say that the authors of the Old Testament had a very limited understanding of God, which explains why they often ascribed human feelings or passions to him. They suggest that we not take these passages literally since Jesus has provided us with a much fuller revelation of God.

What do you think? Can God change his mind?

Is God’s Spirit literally “in” me?

When we say that God’s Spirit is in us, what do we mean?

Some think of God’s Spirit as a divine, invisible, vapor-like entity who lives under our skin, perhaps in our hearts or brains, or perhaps evenly dispersed throughout our bodies. But I believe scripture paints a very different picture.

Just as believers are said to be “in Christ” meaning “united with him,” God’s Spirit “in us” means that he is united with us because we are united with Christ.

In 1 Peter 2:4-5, we read, “Coming to Him, a living stone—rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God—you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

“The adding of ‘living stones’ in 1 Peter 2:5 is a given for growth, but that does not mean that each and every one of them is being conceived of as an individual ‘spiritual house.’ There are many stones, but only one holy House in which God dwells in the Spirit. “1

“Since it is the primary task of the Spirit to glorify Christ (John 16:14), and since Paul names Christ as the “head of the church” (Eph 5:23), the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit should be directed primarily toward causing the church to come under Jesus’s headship. Obviously this emphasis on the Spirit’s bringing the church under Jesus’s headship does not exclude the glory that Christ receives from the holiness of individuals, but the primary metaphor used to describe the relationship that Christ has with believers is as bride and Lamb (Eph 4:25–33; Rev 19:7–9). The holiness of individuals becomes a part of the marriage only as individuals are part of the church.”2

“Indeed,…[indwelling] must not be conceived of as the Godhead spatially possessing individual physical bodies. Such a conception flies in the face of the biblical data…”3

1Zemek, Metaphorical Continuities: A Case for the Primacy of Corporate Indwelling, 31.
2Heide, System and Story: Narrative Critique and Construction in Theology, 183.
3Zemek, Metaphorical Continuities: A Case for the Primacy of Corporate Indwelling, 32.

How Should Christians View King David?

In 1 Samuel 13:14, Samuel says God will replace Saul with “a man after [God’s] heart” and the author of 1 Kings 15:5 wrote “For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD’s commands all the days of his life–except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.”

Based on these two verses, one could think that David came in just one small step below Jesus when it comes to human perfection, but is this true?

Although David was a valiant warrior, throughout his life his character left much to be desired.

We see early in his life that David seemed to enjoy killing (much like Samson before him). When King Saul offered David his daughter Michal in exchange for the skins off 100 enemy penises, David and his men went out and killed 200 men from Philistia and brought the skin off their penises to the king.

We know from the psalms he wrote that David recognized God as powerful and good and that he feared God, but we also know that he kept a household idol in his home (1 Samuel 19:11-17). David also wrote psalms recounting the curses he prayed over those he disliked–both foreigners and fellow Israelites–in which he asked God to humiliate and kill them.

David was also a womanizer of the worst sort. He had numerous wives and concubines (slave-girls or prisoners who were taken as sexual partners) and more children than he could keep track of.

In spite of the fact that he had numerous wives and concubines, he ordered a married woman, Bathsheba, to be brought to his palace so he could have sex with her. (He likely raped her.) Later, when he learned that he had gotten her pregnant, he ordered the death of her husband Uriah (a soldier in David’s army) and then he took her as another wife. The penalty for both of these crimes was death, but apparently kings were above the law.

He did absolutely nothing when he learned that one of his sons raped one of his daughters—possibly because he had done the same with Bathsheba. His inaction caused a different son, Absalom, to kill his half-brother rapist. (Years later, Absalom slept with ten of his father’s concubines and was killed for trying to take the throne from his father.)

Finally, when David was very old and unable to feel warm at night, his advisers, knowing his taste for women, found the most beautiful young virgin in the land and brought her to the palace so David could snuggle with her to warm himself. Although the writer of Kings tells us David did not have sex with her, this story is extremely disturbing and disgusting, especially considering Bathsheba, the wife he supposedly loved more than all the others, could easily have crawled into bed with David. (After David’s death, his son Adonijah asked Solomon, the new king, if he could have this woman as his wife. Solomon was so enraged by this request that he ordered his half-brother to be killed that very day.)

David is famous for rising from shepherd to king, for killing Goliath with a stone, for his military conquests that unified Judah and Israel, and for writing some of the psalms. But aside from the fact that he refrained from killing Saul when he had opportunities and that he cared for Saul’s crippled son after Saul’s death, there is almost nothing to suggest he was a kind, compassionate, or decent person.

I realize David lived in a time when idol worship, killing enemies, and using and abusing women was considered normal, but as Christians we must not put David on a pedestal and attempt to justify his sinful lifestyle. Instead, we must judge his life by the life of Jesus Christ, the one who demonstrated how to live a life truly pleasing to God.

How The New Testament Canon Came To Be

The New Testament is made up of twenty-seven different books, and the known authors were Apostles—Matthew, John, Paul, James, Peter, Jude—or their immediate disciples—Mark, Luke.

The story of how these 27 books were selected is fascinating and LONG! (It wasn’t until the mid-16th century that the Catholic Church officially made the list of these 27 books an article of faith.)

Here’s how it happened:

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How to read the book of Psalms

If you’ve ever read through the psalms, you’ve probably found some you absolutely love for their beauty, expression of God’s power and sovereignty, or declaration of faith in the midst of suffering. But you’ve probably encountered others that seem blasphemous or downright evil. So how should followers of Christ approach the book of Psalms?

Before tackling that question, it’s important to remember what the psalms are: They are poems that were meant to be sung. They were written over a span of about 1000 years by numerous authors. And their purpose was to provide Israel with a collection of songs for worship appropriate for a variety of situations.

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Formation of Trinitarianism

Shortly after Jesus’ disciples reported his resurrection and ascension, Christ’s followers agreed that Jesus was worthy of worship and they began worshiping him alongside of Yahweh; however, theologians, working from Jewish doctrine emphatically stating that there is only one true God, immediately began arguing over Jesus’ nature and his relationship to Yahweh.

Some said that Jesus was fully human until his baptism while others argued that he was fully human until his resurrection or ascension and that his title “Son of God” was not meant to be taken literally but to demonstrate the fact that he was God’s chosen one, the Messiah. Their views were based on their reading of the earliest Christian documents—Mark’s Gospel and Paul’s early epistles.

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What Would Jesus Say?

What I think Jesus would say to the American church if he visited us today…

You have mistaken the word of God—the Bible—for the Word of God, me. As a result, your priorities are confused.

You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about me; however, you’re not willing to follow me and receive eternal life. (see John 5:39-40)

Just as I did 2000 years ago, I must again remind you to do that which is most important: Love God with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, AND love others. If you do not love others by doing for them what you would want done for you, you do not truly love God. Obeying this command is far more important than listening to sermons every Sunday or reading your Bible every day. (see Matthew 7:12, Mark 12:33)

The children of God are those who do what he has asked. (see Mark 3:35)

If you neglect to do what is essential, you have missed the way!

How to be saved

All who believe in Jesus will be saved.

What does this mean?

You will not receive eternal life believing that a Jewish man named Jesus lived 2000 years ago.

You will not receive eternal life believing that this Jesus was the Jewish Messiah who lived a sinless life, died on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended to Yahweh.

Believing in Jesus means much more than believing certain facts about Jesus to be true. It’s far more than merely intellectual assent.

Belief (faith) requires obedience.

If we simply believe in Jesus and neglect to follow his teachings, we will not experience AT-ONE-MENT with God. (John 8:31-32)

It is the obedience of faith that separates the faith of demons from saving faith. (James 2:14-20)

Is inerrancy a shibboleth?

shib·bo·leth noun: a custom, principle, or belief distinguishing a particular class or group of people, especially a long-standing one regarded as outmoded or no longer important.

In America, “inerrancy” as defined in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI) is a standard used by fundamentalists to determine who is orthodox and who is a heretic. (Interestingly, the Bible never refers to itself as inerrant.)

Inerrantist hold to the view that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact; however, since none of the Bible’s original autographs have even been found, this claim cannot be verified nor can the claim that modern Bibles are inerrant to the extent that they agree with the original autographs.

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Was Saul a Hellenistic Jew?

Was Saul of Tarsus a Hellenistic Jew? I don’t believe he was, but I think you could argue that Paul became one.

Although Saul would likely have been more familiar with the ways of Gentiles than a Jew born and raised in Palestine, I don’t think he can be called a Hellenized Jew. Paul referred to himself as a Hebrew of Hebrews (Phil. 3:5, 2 Cor. 11:22) and said that he studied at the feet of Gamaliel in Jerusalem.

I believe that Saul (and most Hebraic Jews) viewed the Abrahamic covenant with all of its privileges as the means of righteousness (and justification) for Jews.

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Christian Fundamentalism vs Evangelicalism

Traditionally, Christian fundamentalism was built on five tenets of the Christian faith:

1) The Bible is literally true. Associated with this tenet is the belief that the Bible is inerrant, that is, without error and free from all contradictions.

2) The virgin birth and deity of Christ. Fundamentalists believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary and conceived by the Holy Spirit and that He was and is the Son of God, fully human and fully divine.

3) The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross. Fundamentalism teaches that salvation is obtained only through God’s grace and human faith in Christ’s crucifixion for the sins of mankind.

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Should Christians pack heat?

By now, most everyone has probably heard what Jerry Falwell Jr. had to say to the student body at Liberty University about carrying guns. And if you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably been exposed to posts by Christian bloggers weighing in on every side of this issue. So I thought I would weigh in as well. :)

So here’s the big question: Can Christians use the Bible to support defending themselves and others with a gun?

  • Let’s start with Old Testament support:

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Sharing the Gospel

I think most Christians know they should share the gospel (because Jesus said so), but they’re not really sure how. And I suspect many Christians don’t really know what the gospel (good news) is. Does it include Adam? Noah? Jonah and the fish? The strange book of Revelation?

I believe the gospel can be shared quite simply and effectively in 3 short paragraphs:

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Free Grace and Hyper-grace

Free Grace Theology says praying a prayer to accept Jesus in your heart guarantees you a place in heaven when you die. Free grace churches usually emphasize getting children to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” because it’s much easier to get kids to repeat a prayer than getting adults to do it.

In Free Grace Theology, producing fruit is good. (It will earn you crowns or rewards in heaven.) But even a complete lack of fruit cannot disqualify people who have said the Sinner’s Prayer at some point in their life from inheriting eternal life. Those who have said the Sinner’s Prayer at some point in their life but are not following Christ are referred to as “carnal” or “backslidden” Christians.

Hyper-grace Theology goes one step further and says all of your sins—past, present, and future—were forgiven at the cross so there is no reason for believers to ever ask for forgiveness when they do wrong since God now sees them as perfect. It also says if you feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit when you do wrong, ignore it because it must be from Satan.

Hyper–grace Theology emphasizes “being” over “doing” since we are already perfect in God’s sight and nothing we do (or don’t do) can cause God to be less pleased in us.

Grace is a beautiful thing, but God will not be mocked!

Note: Free Grace Theology grew from more traditional Baptist roots; however, the election of David Platt in 2014 to the position of President of the International Mission Board (IMB) may signal future changes in this denomination. Platt has called the Sinner’s Prayer a superstitious prayer that is found nowhere in the New Testament.

Biblical Inspiration Gone Bad

Have you ever heard anyone say, “The Bible is inspired, so every word in scripture comes from the Holy Spirit”?

Have you ever thought about that?

What about when Lot’s daughters said, “Come on, let’s give our father wine to drink, lie down with him, and we’ll have children from our father.” (Genesis 19:32)

Or when the chief priests and their deputies shouted out, “Crucify, crucify!” (John 19:6)

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Why was Jesus Crucified?

Was Jesus crucified because he said he was God?

No, Jesus never said he was God. (He was only recognized as divine and worshiped after his crucifixion.)

Was he crucified because he said he was the son of God?

No, although the religious leaders didn’t like when he referred to himself as the son of God, this was not unprecedented. David called himself a son of God (Psalm 2:7) and in Psalm 82:6 we see other beings referred to as both “gods” and as “sons of the Most High.” The nation of Israel was also called Yahweh’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22 & Jeremiah 31:9). And in Genesis, Deuteronomy, and Job there are references to “sons of God.”

Then why was Jesus crucified?

The Jewish religious authorities, probably motivated by Jesus’ continual harsh criticism of them, knew that if they turned him over to the Romans, he would likely be crucified since many Jews were calling him the long-awaited Messiah, and he talked often of “the kingdom.” The charge brought against him was that he declared himself to be King of the Jews. It was for this reason Pilate ordered his crucifixion.

What the death of Jesus accomplished is a far more difficult question to answer since it requires one to consider the various atonement theories.

Easter Day Ascension

Believe it or not, I just learned last week that the predominant view of early Christians was that Jesus ascended to heaven and was exalted by God on the day of his resurrection. And subsequent appearances of the glorified Christ were appearances from heaven.

The fact that I just heard this for the first time at the age of 46, either means I’m a terrible listener or that this doctrine is no longer taught (at least in the Protestant denominations I’ve attended).

I think an Easter Day ascension makes a lot of sense and the forty days mentioned in Acts are probably meant to be taken symbolically rather than literally. (The number 40 was a sacred number for Jews and is used well over a hundred times in scripture.)
Note: The rest of the NT is silent with respect to this forty days and the number is absent from church tradition until the third century. Even Justin and Irenaeus, both of whom rely heavily on the Lukan writings for their accounts of the ascension, make no mention of the forty days (perhaps indicating they didn’t believe this number should be taken literally).

Giving Yourself as a Ransom

“Jesus called them over and said to them, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.'” (Mark 10:42-45)

Are we willing to follow Jesus’ example? As humankind continues to flounder amidst age-old systems of power and dominance, are we willing to sacrifice, to reject reality, in order to show those around us that there is a better way?

Are we willing to eschew “common sense” to demonstrate this better way? Are we willing to love and serve, knowing this will make us vulnerable to the hurt that will come from those who see us as nothing more than idealistic fools?

Are we willing to live out the truth and share it with others so that they can also experience freedom? Are we willing to live our lives as living sacrifices in order to ransom many?

Following Christ is not for the faint-hearted!

Would you follow a human Jesus?

I just read a post by a Christian blogger in which he answers the question, “What if Jesus did not rise from the dead?”

After exploring the theological ramifications, he concludes this way:

My answer is, “So what? I will follow Him anyway. Following the example of Jesus is by far the best way to live.”

I’ve been thinking about this and wondering if I would say the same. If it were somehow proven conclusively that Jesus didn’t have a miraculous birth, didn’t live a perfect life, and didn’t rise from the dead, would I still be his follower?

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Children & Old Testament Violence

There is so much human slaughter carried out (and celebrated) in the Old Testament by the “good guys” that I really don’t want my kids reading it. Does that make me a bad Christian parent?

I grew up thinking war was exciting, noble, and patriotic. As a kid, I ran around the woods with my friends mowing down commie soldiers with my stick machine gun.

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