A Question I Was Asked:

Can God Change His Mind? Some Bible Verses Seem to Say That He Can! How Can We Explain This to Those of Less Understanding?

Can God change His mind? Some Bible verses seem to say that He can! How about Amos 7:6? If so, how can we Bible teachers explain this to those of less understanding?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, let us look at this:

The Lord changed His mind about this. "This too shall not be," said the Lord God," (Amos 7:6).

The Bible can sometimes say 'the Lord repented,' or 'the Lord relented,' or even 'the Lord changed His mind.' There are a few examples of this. The problem we have with this is how this fits with the concept that God has all knowledge and all wisdom and is very far from being whimsical. Indeed He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). So what is the explanation?

These comments are sometimes referred to as Bible 'anthropormorphisms.' What is that? This is to attribute human characteristics and purposes either to inanimate objects, animals, plants, or other natural phenomena, or - more especially of interest to us here - to God Himself. Sometimes such biblical instances are in response to prayer. God may 'change His mind' after someone intercedes, or after someone prays and begs for mercy. The true issue, of course, is whether or not God actually goes through a process of changing His mind due to learning something new (as 'Open Theism' teaches), or whether God is simply speaking to us relative to our understanding and reference of time, where events usually happen in sequence. It is often better for Scripture to explain something in human terms, rather than in terms we would probably never properly understand while we are in the flesh.

God is omnipotent and has full omniscience. Nothing can truthfully surprise Him if He has all knowledge - and He does! Numerous Scriptures - many of them in Isaiah - will back up this point. From all eternity, God knew who would repent, when, and for what reason. So from all eternity, God has incorporated the choices of His people into the tapestry of His divine and sovereign plan. This certainly includes the individual prayers and actions of repentance which then seem to influence God and appear to change His course of action. But this is exactly what you would expect if God was working with people who are limited to an existence within space and time constraints. You would naturally expect that God would speak to us about repentance and that we would repent. And then God would apparently appear to change in response to repentance even though He knew it would happen from all eternity. This speaks of our God's wondrous foreknowledge, planning, and ability to know all things within His creation. But, as I have written before, despite 'knowing the end from the beginning,' I believe that God is able to temporarily put that aside as He deals with humans in the time and present. In short, God would probably never think, 'this person is going to lose out anyway so I shall not waste any more time with him/her.' No, He will go on responding positively as long as we respond positively to Him. God has infinite patience - see Luke 17:4.

Compared to God we are as children. In similar manner parents will often explain difficult things to their younger children in very simple terms, even using some child-like sentences. When parents do that they are aware, of course, that something of the full understanding of any particular point may well be lost but it is better to give children something that their - as yet - immature minds can grasp. This is a very similar thing.

Robin A. Brace. April 17th, 2016.