In Which I Disagree with Richard Rohr

In Which I Disagree with Richard Rohr February 25, 2013

I like Richard Rohr. He’s one of the good guys. And now he’s joined Twitter.

Well, it seems that one of this people has joined Twitter on his behalf and has been tweeting out proverbial aphorisms. He’s only tweeted 109 times (and he only follows 3 people).

Well, someone in my stream retweeted the following:

When I saw this, I tweeted that I disagreed, and @truelyleb asked me to blog about my disagreement. So here goes.

I get why “Richard” tweets this, and why “he” tweets things like, “Prayer is not about changing God, but being willing to let God change us.” A lot of people think this — a lot of people think that God doesn’t change.

But it’s just not true. God does change. And the incarnation of God in Jesus is Exhibit A of God changing God’s mind.

Look, for instance, at post after post on the #progGOD Challenge, “Why an Incarnation?” There you’ll read many progressive theobloggers musing on how God descended to humanity in order to show God’s solidarity with humanity. With that I totally agree.

But let me take it one step further: God came to earth in Jesus in order to experience what God had not previously experience — human loneliness, human joy, godforsakeness, and death. The incarnation of God in Jesus changed God. God achieved a new perspective. And, as a result, God’s “mind” did indeed change about humanity.

This is why the dual event of incarnation-crucifixion is the most hopeful event in cosmic history.


PS: It’s also why I want to be called an “Incarnational Christian.”

PPS: You can contribute to the new #progGOD Challenge: Why a Crucifixion?

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  • dhuth

    So process-y!

    I’m sorry I don’t have a more substantive comment. You: preacher, me: choir. Thanks!

  • Patrick Marshall

    It’s almost surprising that Rohr would frame it this way, as much as he strives to avoid dualistic thinking. I would more expect him to say something like, “Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God AND to change the mind of God about humanity.”

    I’m with you, Tony, about the incarnation being Exhibit A that God does indeed change. But not just that God changes as a RESULT of incarnation and all that is experienced therein. I see the DECISION to become human as a change in the mind of God. Something had to shift in God to say, “Okay, this has to happen now.”

    • I like that, Patrick. Good point. That volitional change was the first change in the, er, process.

  • I think the balance hangs in what you mean ‘change’ and how far that change actually goes, a change in response, or a change in quality. In quality, God does not change, Ultimate Love and Ultimate Wisdom are omniscient and omnipresent and qualitatively don’t change. God does change insofar as how that Love and Wisdom become expressed to us and that too shapes the incarnational nature of God, as in what and how God incarnates. I agree with you that the Divine changed in the incarnation, in coming into the world in the human was not a part of the Jehovah God bag of tricks and that God brought something that endures to the divine nature, yet that is not a qualitative shift for God, the love and wisdom are still the same but a quantitative shift that permitted humanity to become vessels of divinity just as God has done. I’m touching the tops of a lot of waves so I’ll stop.
    I like the way you are expressing the shift in God’s nature to reach out and be with us if I understand how you’re rolling with this. Because it really is not, ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’ but the incarnation changes everything, for the dance between God and us.

  • You don’t comment on the first part of the tweet. Do you disagree that Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God? I think the orthodox view that Jesus was sent to *show* God to people is valid. And even if God’s mind does change, a legitimate perspective which is NOT contradicted in the tweet, the idea that part of the Godhead chose to do the Incarnation to change God’s mind seems quite farfetched. It may be correct that God changed God’s mind in the decision for the Incarnation, but that is something aside from what Rohr tweeted. It seems to me you wanted to make a point, and picked a convenient tweet to do that, even though the tweet doesn’t really relate directly to your point.

    • Sure, but there are hundreds of stories in the Bible about God doing things to change people’s minds. If Jesus came only to change the mind of humans, what makes Jesus so different from the hundreds of other stories in the Bible?

      • What a narrow view! God coming down in human flesh does seem to me to make “Jesus so different.”

        • Right. But changing human minds had already been tried thousands if times, and had failed every time. Jesus was not just another attempt at doing the same “shock and awe” routine to change people. Jesus was radically different.

  • Charlie

    Tony, I’d have to push back a bit on this. By saying that “God does change” puts some biblical truths into question. I’m not sure that is a consistent view. I think it’s a ridiculous notion to say that “God needed to become human to gain perspective.” God didn’t “need” to do any of that, he CHOSE to do it. It had nothing to do with God changing God’s mind. God did that for OUR benefit, not his. To say that God needed to do that discounts God’s sovereignty, in that God understanding that which he created hinges upon him becoming one of us. That means midway through his plan, he did a u-turn because of an epiphany he had, to say, “Man, I just don’t understand humans. Maybe if I just become one, I can finally know what they go through and can better serve them.” Honestly, I think this is a bogus way of looking at it. God did not achieve a new perspective by becoming human, but we gained an advocate because of Jesus’ incarnational life. If God needed to come down here to experience humanity, then by that assumption, he was never able to give comfort to the weary and strength to the weak, as David describes so often in the Psalms. I don’t believe that God has to or ever will change. As time goes on, our theology changes and our ideas may shift about God, but I can’t buy that God changes, or that we as humanity had anything to do with helping God gain new perspective. I have to agree with Richard on this one. If you look at the shift in the way in which we thought about God before Jesus and after Jesus, it’s clear the effect it has on US, not the effect we had on God.

    • Charlie, why do we need to protect the view that God does not change? What is at stake?

      It seems like the kind of unchangeable God you are talking about is one of Greek Philosophy and not the One of the Bible.

      • Charlie

        jpsperrano, I’m not protecting anything. But I’d challenge you to find some shred of evidence in the biblical narrative that shows God changing his ways, mind, or otherwise. In my brief time on this earth so far, and in my study of his word, I have yet to find anything that’s consistent with that line of thought.

        Since you’re talking about a changing god, you therefore believe in the God in two parts, the God of wrath and judgment in the OT, and the God of love in the NT? This is an unfortunate misinterpretation. If you buy this, then it’s easy to think God changes, because he’s gone from the angry God of Moses to the God of love and acceptance. Malachi 3 says “I, the Lord, do not change.” and Psalm 55:19 says, “God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change— he will hear them and humble them, because they have no fear of God.” James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” I normally don’t like to throw scripture around like that, but God doesn’t waver, he doesn’t change, and he doesn’t “evolve.” He was, is and is to come.

        I wouldn’t want to believe in a god that changes. That’s not whom I want to place my faith in. That essentially makes God a super-human, of the same nature as us. That’s not consistent or correct. God wants US to change, he doesn’t have to do anything but keep on being God. His ways aren’t our ways, and we have to be ok with that. That being said, as time goes on, I believe we continue to learn and evolve our theology, based on revelation or study or whatever it is. God isn’t changing, but our view of God may shift and evolve. Any attempt for us to say God changes is us trying to explain the actions of God, but God doesn’t have to explain himself, and sometimes it’s not up to us to try and figure it out.

        • I don’t think you are looking for a “shred of evidence” in the Bible. If you were, you could just google “God changes his mind” and see for yourself.

          Instead, I think we have to ask what does a relationship with God look like? A relationship where one party never changes and the other party must bend to the will of the first is called “tyranny”. A relationship where there is give and take, and both parties are in full communion with one another is called “cooperation”. Which word best describes the relationship between God and humans after Christ?

          • Charlie

            Again, I’d question where you’re getting some of these ideas. For a relationship to be give and take, that would imply the two parties can one day become equals through a process of change. But if God’s goal is to make us holy, because he is holy, why would he have to change? A relationship with God is one that refines us, not changes him. The problem with your communion point is that we as humans can’t be in full communion with God until we are in his presence. We get glimpses of it, and we can try our hardest, but it doesn’t happen while we’re here on earth. And if God is above us, communion with him won’t be “cooperation.” We have to submit to him, he does not have to (nor will he) submit to us. That’s a totally different relationship than the one you’re talking about. The word that “describes the relationship between God and humans after Christ” is accessible. Before then, there was separation. Now there’s not. God lives in us.

            • God “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave” Philippians 2:7. Jesus changed everything, including God.

              God’s goal is to restore our relationship with God, even before we are holy. Romans 5:8

              We are called into full relationship with God now, on Earth, through Christ. Not waiting until we are in God’s presence. 1 Corinthians 1:9 And we don’t even have to try for it. Ephesians 2:8

              I’m not usually real big on proof texting. But since you asked…

        • God changed his mind with Abraham a coupe times. But, you won’t see that as evidence.

          “Since you’re talking about a changing god, you therefore believe in the God in two parts, the God of wrath and judgment in the OT, and the God of love in the NT?”

          I don’t buy the dichotomy you are tossing around. To answer your question, no I don’t believe in the God you just described. I don’t think those are my only options either.

          • Charlie

            I’d just ask, did God really change his mind with Abraham, or was the exchange for Abraham’s sake, not to prove God changes? The narrative shows that God was going to destroy Sodom anyways, because God went ahead and sent his angels to check out the city. Abraham’s concern was for Lot and his family, and I’m sure in his mind he wanted to make certain the righteous wouldn’t be destroyed along with the unrighteous. Genesis 19 says God heard Abraham’s cry and kept Lot safe, but did Abraham really change God’s mind, or did God already have that planned out but he was waiting for Abraham to ask? If God knows everything that’s going to happen, what does that say for when we ask? It doesn’t mean that by our asking, we change God’s mind, but it does give us a glimpse into what His will is when our requests are aligned with his plan. God still destroyed the city, even though Abraham tried to bargain and reason with God. Jesus did this too in the garden. He asked that he wouldn’t have to go through it if there was any other way, “Yet not my will, but yours be done.” Did Jesus change God’s mind?

            The “god who changes his mind” is like that of the movie “The Adjustment Bureau.” In the movie, Matt Damon goes before the grand designer to ask that his fate be changed. That’s not how it works with God. We operate under the realm of choice, God already knows the choices we’re going to make.

            • Charlie, First God said 50, then 40, then 30, etc. That’s what the story actually says. God changed his mind based on Abraham’s dialogue. Saying that it was for Abraham is reading something into the text. Again you are protecting a certain notion of God that I don’t think need to be protected. When you read the Bible you have to jump through hoops to keep it. Again, Why is it so important to you?

              • Charlie

                Actually, Abraham is the one to start out at 50 (maybe you should go back and read the story first). Why didn’t he start out at 20, or 15? There weren’t even that many righteous in the city. I’m not trying to protect anything, I’m looking at what is actually said and then considering the rest of the narrative of the bible, rather than narrowing my view to only one story. I think you’re missing a bigger picture here. If it depends on us asking, then we have the power to change God’s mind. But if God simply wants us to ask and rely on him, then he remains supreme and retains his sovereignty. To think that God’s will depends on our asking is a very interesting and inconsistent view of God.

                What about Elijah? Did God sending fire down onto the altar depend on Elijah’s asking, or was God going to do it already? Did Elijah change God’s mind, or did God already have it out to do it?

                • So, I’m just going to ignore some of your post, but you kind of answered my question.

                  “If it depends on us asking, then we have the power to change God’s mind. But if God simply wants us to ask and rely on him, then he remains supreme and retains his sovereignty.”

                  It seems like God’s sovereignty is VERY important to you. I get that. I think it’s a misconception of who God is based more in Greek Philosophy than the Bible. Thanks for semi-answering.

                  • Charlie

                    I mean, if you want to talk about semi-answering, read your first statement again. On the other hand, I think you have things backwards. The idea of God bowing to humans is more rooted in Greek philosophy than the idea of the unchanging God of the bible. Go back and read the Greek myths about human involvement and changing the fates. In the Greek system, the gods are essentially a vending machine, if you push the right buttons or hit them hard enough, they’ll give you what you want. Again, the biblical narrative shows again and again that the God of the bible is not a vending machine. Nor does he bow to us as we answer.

                    It seems that those who have a problem with God’s sovereignty being unchanging, particularly in this thread, seem to point all over the place to other philosophies or additional theologies, but neglect much of what is true and consistent in the biblical narrative. It always strikes me as curious when those who contest or hold fast to a view point rarely have a foundation rooted in scripture, but rather in what others have said about it.

            • No, scripture demonstrates numerous times where God does not know ahead of time what choices humans will make…. not least with Abraham when about to sacrifice his son: “Now I know…”

              Regarding Jesus question to take this cup of suffering away: Jesus asked, which meant Jesus believed God’s mind could be changed (even though God led Jesus to die anyway), so do you agree with Jesus or not? 😉

        • God changes God’s mind plenty of times in the Bible. Coming immediately to mind are Jonah 3:10 (in which God decides not to destroy Nineveh in complete contradiction to everything God and Jonah have said up to this point) and 2 Kings 20, in which God’s mind is changed as a response to Hezekiah’s prayer.

          There are plenty of other examples as well. Greg BGoyd has a whole chapter full of them—I think it was in ‘God of the Possible.’

          The problem is that if you read these texts with the assumption that God’s mind doesn’t change you are going to read these as stories in which God holds back on the truth in order to get a result. In the examples I give such a reading isn’t supported by the text, but from the assumptions you bring to the text.

    • Thanks Charlie. I often disagree with Tony based on external unverifiability, but you nicely demonstrate the internal inconsistency of this “god changing” idea. I think it can be worked out, but it would require some declarations and interpretations that would be very uncomfortable for any version of Christianity.

    • Jonnie

      Charlie, if everything is ‘for our benefit’ that looks like God is actually changing God’s mind (and ways, and opinions…) based upon engagement with human beings, then you are sucking the actual drama of the biblical witness right out of it. The narrative has only a tutorial meaning rather than actual relations where God is doing what it looks like God is. This does violence to the scripture, theological violence. Do you see how this makes these stories of God’s engagement weird? There is a second order theological commitment coloring that narrative and drama that makes it all drab. It makes the actual engagement where it looks like God is doing something in response a facade. It is not the biblically faithful view. It is a theological view that flattens and does violence the biblical narrative.

      Please share your thoughts on this.

      • Jonnie; are you really thinking this through for the entire narrative? A common response to genocidal directives of God are that they are some sort of “shadow” activity where God is “meeting us where we are”. Same for slavery, he just nudges us toward a moral world even though he knows slavery is wrong. I don’t know how else you can deal with these passages except as a facade or as mistakes entered by men who were not properly hearing God’s inspiration or something.

        • Jonnie

          Lausten, what does this have to do with my response, exactly? I would no doubt agree that their are human hands and misunderstandings all over the biblical text. My point is simply that if we disallow change in God, chalking passages that look like that up as cases where we have mere appearance and God literally pretending like he’s genuinely responding and changing, then we have divested the narrative of and first order (within the actual narrative as it affects us) impact. By Charlies logic, there are absolutely no cases where this can happen as a theological rule. I’m simply pointing out that categorical dis-allowance as violent to the narrative. It is of course always a question of what’s guiding are readings. I wasn’t trying to claim anything about ‘texts of terror.’

          • Your sentence structure and use of terms like “first order” are confusing me a bit. Basically I’m understanding that you see some coherence to the narrative. Charlie asks several questions about this, I just like to go to the worst passages, because, if you can’t make it work with those, then you have to admit you are imposing some external criteria to your analysis. But you don’t do that, you dance around the idea of a “biblically faithful” narrative without saying what it is or how it applies to anything specific that either Charlie or I have brought up.

            • Jonnie

              Lausten, I’m talking about a bit of narrative, in this case, passages brought up where God changes his mind/is persuaded to act differently. I’m saying Charlie has theological commitments that disallow for God changing his mind about things. Again, I’m talking about his cases. Still not sure what a random text of terror has to do with the ‘God changing his mind’ question. My only point is commitments like that preempt any dramatic reality to those stories. I think you’re presuming a capital T The narrative where I’m just talking about narrative cases.

              • Maybe you need to catch up on Charlie’s recent posts. Sure, you’re discussing examples of God bargaining with the prophets, in one case at least, a “terror” text of destroying an entire city. It doesn’t really matter. Charlie is citing specific examples and attempting to develop a hermeneutic that demonstrates God does not change his mind. You and others are more generally refuting this notion and applying external criteria to claim his passages are less important than your explanations. That you aren’t engaging him in an internal discussion, one where you can demonstrate there is a consistent message of God’s changing mind is not surprising, since it has never been demonstrated before.

      • Charlie

        Jonnie, I’ll have to do this in parts, since your responses came in pieces to me.

        Firstly, the view of an unchanging God doesn’t suck the drama out of the biblical narrative, it drives the entire story. From the beginning, we see the Creator of the cosmos who has a plan, who loves his created things and wants them to be fully in a relationship with him. But while he does give us free will and choice, we chose not to obey and thus the story continues, and God’s plan (which he had from the beginning) of restoring us continues on. As God doesn’t operate within our sphere or line of thinking, throughout history we have to discover things along the way as God chooses to reveal them to us. Think of it like a grand easter egg hunt, God knows where all the eggs are hidden and what’s inside, but humans come along and stumble upon one every now and again, and that continues the story. God doesn’t rearrange the eggs to fit our requests, but he does indeed guide us as we get closer and closer to one.

        To see God’s engagement with us as a facade misses the idea of communion and union with the Father. No, it doesn’t rob or create a drab scenario. When we ask and receive, we see more fully what being in line with his will looks like. When we ask and don’t receive, we are still faithful, yet it reminds us that our relationship with him is not yet complete. Nothing about the view of an unchangeable God does violence to the biblical narrative, it actually enhances it! To have a constant in a story drives the characters along. To have God as a constant in our story continues to drive us.

        If, however, God (the Father) operated in the same way that we do, having the same nature as us, and doing similar things, then I can see how you’d assume the narrative is unjust or inconsistent. But again, we have to remember that He is above us, and it’s not our job to understand or explain his actions. Hence why Lausten posed the “terror passages” you chose to ignore. Did God really have in mind that men stay slaves? Is that why Paul spoke to it? As we went along throughout history, did God change his view on slavery, or did we? Is God changing his view on women’s roles in the church, or are we? You have to look at the grande effect over time to really grasp who is being affected. Is God changing his views on marriage, or are we? (I won’t dive into the marriage issue, but you get this line of thinking by now.)

        If you believe that God changes, then the ideas of slavery, or women’s roles, or marriage in the bible are null and void in God’s view, because he was eventually going to change his mind about them. But if you look at God as the constant, unchanging and unwavering Father, that stays consistent throughout scripture, and even in the light of the life of Jesus teaching us new ways of living, and that we are the ones being changed, THEN you can begin to see the beauty of the narrative, that humans are broken and imperfect, and we need a perfect, unchanging God to not only be God incarnate as our one true sacrifice, but to continue to change us to be more like him in the way we live, think, act, love, etc.

        • Jonnie

          I appreciate your detailed response here Charlie. I respect the theological and philosophical paradigm you’re working out of here, I just fundamentally disagree with your presumptions. First, you are a compatiblist about human freedom– God has arranged and knows all the eggs, but we can still genuinely find and act freely. This is an extremely controversial notion which I reject. Secondly, to presume that exclamations of God’s ‘unchangingness’ in places like Micah and the Psalms represent something that can be universally construed as an abstract attribute of God that disallows what looks like God genuinely relenting and changing his course of action based on interactions with human beings, is suspect. My point is that we must look at the individual cases themselves, and be willing to accept God changing God’s mind or way based on the narrative in question. This is what I mean by narrative violence. A theological preemption is guiding when we say it ‘cannot be that way.’

          For both you and Lausten, I agree that the ethical arguments you raise are good queries (marriage, slavery, etc.), but these are NOT arguments against believing cases where God seems to be genuinely responding based upon the actions of other beings are real reflections of things that happen and change God. An open theists (let alone process people) can easily say God is consistent in character (morally) but responding and changing his actions in relationship to creation. No theological rub here.

          God relents throughout the Old testament narratives, changing his mind and course of action, and it is obvious that we have different philosophical and theological commitments guiding our processing these texts. God doesn’t change…but God does change. We have to hold these in tension. I for one cannot see how the cases where God seems to be genuinely responding to his creation and their requests are cases where the actual responses are farcical.

          Fundamentally you are claiming that the whole of what has happened throughout the diverse narratives in the biblical witness (and human history) are determined. The scene has been set, and God is feigning emotion and reaction for our benefit.

  • Tony,
    I agree with you, that God’s experience in and through Jesus was new territory for God. A new experience. But that doesn’t, at least to me, mean that ‘God changed his mind about people’. After all, the fact that the incarnation happened is evidence that God loves the world so greatly that through Jesus he enters and experiences all that being ‘in the world’ entails–joy and sorrow, suffering and celebration. The incarnation does, to be sure, change our mind about what God is like…God isn’t distant, angry, vindictive, and harsh. He is love. He enters our pain and brokenness, he experiences it for himself, with us.

    So I agree with you…and Richard Rohr.


  • I think his point is that theology all to often speaks as if before the incarnation God couldn’t love us, forgive us, save us…because God couldn’t or God didn’t want to. Then “God punishes Jesus in our place” and then all of a sudden we can then get the unconditional love of God. I think it’s that shallow theology that Rohr is rejecting.

  • I agree. Jesus came to change God, not to change humans.

    “who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be grasped,
    but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
    And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death-
    even death on a cross.”

    Jesus put God into our position, changing God from Lord to slave, that we might have equality with God and worship God.

    “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his
    life a ransom for many.”


    “But God commends his love for us in that while we still were
    sinners Christ died for us.”

    Again, Jesus comes, not that humans may serve God, but to make God a servant to us. And God saves us “while we still were sinners”. The salvation occurs before, and regardless, of any change in people.

  • I like the way this post ties together much of your recent thoughts and writings.

  • Erica Billings

    I see Richard’s statement a lot less about whether or not God changes his/her mind and a lot more about atonement. I think every time I have read or heard Richard explain this he links it to the Christology of John Duns Scotus.

  • Granted the following entails a metaphysic your process position probably won’t accept (and I DO think there’s power in your perspective), but I’ve always found the argument advanced by John Duns Scotus to be more powerful. The basic approach was “what is last in action is first in intention” beginning with the nature of God as Love (1 John). Scotus argues that God’s first intention is always Love and love always seeks union (and human actions [sin] can not place a causal demand upon God). Therefore, God’s decision to take flesh in Jesus was prior to creation. This might still hold room for change post-incarnation in God while avoiding (what I think is the mistake in Calvin) the suggestion that the incarnation involved a change in mind or disposition in God- that God was PO’d with humanity until the incarnation.
    I wonder too: what effect does your position have on how God’s depicted in the OT? The pathos etc expressed there. Do we just chalk it up to anthropomorphizing? Or do we say there’s a continuity in God’s identity from one testament to the next such that it’s not a seismic change in God?

    • I think it doesn’t make much sense to assume that every time an OT text reads like it’s saying God did this or wants this that we should assume it’s actually speaking for God. You have to do some real gyrations in trying to explain God if you do. There are clearly different voices speaking in the OT, and sometimes they’re arguing with one another (the priests say you must sacrifice; the prophets say no, God has no use for sacrifice, etc.). If you read it as the writings of different people in a community trying to understand God, it makes more sense. Than you can look for some broad themes which probably do really tell us something about God, and not get all worked up trying to justify those things supposedly said or done by God which don’t seem consistent. Also a good way to look at the OT is through the lens of our Lord and Savior. See what Christ highlights as important, and what Christ indicates needs expansion to really express God. If you can’t reconcile an OT passage with what Christ said and did, either you’re misunderstanding the passage or the view of the writer of the passage differs from that of Christ. As a Christian, my focus always needs to be Christ.

      I don’t think there is any basic change in the character of God. Most of what Jesus said can be found in the OT. I once heard a seminary professor speak about him being challenged on the idea of a difference in God’s identity from the OT and the NT. In response, he went thru the OT to look for the references to love, and found they were legion. It changed his understanding. But you can find things in the OT which don’t seem to match up with that, and so you need a hermeneutic which doesn’t require messing with the basic theme of God’s love which shows up from Genesis to Revelation.

      • Well done Bill, this is the way out of the dilemma of a changing God. According to Karen Armstrong, Augustine said that if there is a passage that promotes violence, we need to reinterpret it, even it means going against the original author’s intent. I agree with that, with the difference between now and 1600 years ago that we need to be completely honest and open about when and how we are doing it.

      • Where in the Old Testament does it say that humans are saved, apart from their works?

        • Well that could be a complex question, in which we would need to go into what you are meaning here by saved and by works. But just trying to do a word search, it seems there are many places where humans are saved, and often it appears to be apart from works. Anyone could do such a search easily.

          • In the Old Testament, “salvation” was linked to “righteousness” or good living. The Old Testament is full of stories of people having moments of righteousness, but then screwing up again. This failure of humans is reflected in Psalm 14:3
            “They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse;
            there is no one who does good,
            no, not one.”

            This is the difference that Jesus makes. Because of Jesus, we are granted the righteousness of God, regardless of our works.

            Yes, God’s basic character, God’s love, is consistent in the Old and New Testament. But the ability of humans to receive that love is not the same. In the Old Testament, in God’s view, “There is no one who is righteous, not even one”. In the New Testament “all are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. (Romans 3)

            That is what changes about God between the Old and New Testament — God’s relationship with humans. That is the huge difference in the disposition of God toward humans between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

    • “God’s decision to take flesh in Jesus was prior to creation.”

      If God always knew God was going to take flesh, why didn’t he do it sooner?

      • Charlie

        The decision to do so was prior to creation, but the implementation happened at the exact right time.

        When Jesus was born…

        The entire known/civilized world was speaking the same language, Greek.
        The Hebrew scriptures were even translated into Greek. And there was a renewed interest in scripture at the time of Jesus’ arrival.
        Augustus called for a census, when all Jews were to return to their hometowns at the same time Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem.
        Because of the Roman empire, it was easy to travel from place to place.
        I also read recently that when Jesus was alive, and based on the estimation of the population, that only 2% of anyone who ever lived were alive before Jesus. That means since then, 98% of the people who have ever lived have had the opportunity to hear the Gospel.

        Timing is everything, and God chose the perfect time.

        • Nick Gotts

          No, the entire known/civilised world was most definitely not speaking Greek. Iran, India, China and Central America were all home to literate cultures at that point, and at least in Central America, almost certainly in China, absolutely no-one would have spoken Greek. Even in Iran, which had been Greek-ruled until the 2nd century BCE, and for that matter in the Roman Empire itself, the vast majority would not have understood any Greek.

          The story about Augustus requiring Jews to return to their home towns is utter nonsense. There is zero reference to any such event outside the Bible, and the Romans were not such fools as to disrupt economic activity and still up needless resentment. The story is simply a retcon (put more plainly, a lie), to justify the claim that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, as the Jewish Messiah was supposed to be.

  • How about the question Tony is raising (which is totally different from the question Richard Rohr was answering, and Tony does not in fact express disagreement with anything actually in the tweet)? The question which seems to be of interest to Tony is, Does God change God’s mind?

    I wonder, if I were actually able to comprehend God (which of course I’m not) whether that would seem like a sensible or ridiculous question. It comes out of an anthropomorphic perspective, and I assume God is not in fact a human.

    Maybe of more value might be a much broader question: Is God static or dynamic? I would say dynamic. Does that mean God changes God’s mind? From an anthropomorphic perspective, it would seem to, But I really don’t know.

    • The question: “Does God change God’s mind?” is anthropomorphic. It presumes God has a mind. Mind is clearly a human trait — as far as I can tell, it is unknown if God has one.

      But it is also anthropomorphic in that it assumes God is one. Christians believe God is trinity. From a trinity perspective, it is not at all ridiculous to assume that God changes.

      You don’t have to spend long in a group of three people to realize how quickly differences and arguments arise. Usually about as long as it takes for the next mealtime to roll around. Same with God. (not the mealtime part, the argument part). Got is trinity, so God is in constant relationship, tension, and flux, by nature.

      God changed when the son decided to bail on God and become a slave. That changed everything.

  • Wow, I really, really like this. I changed so much in my travels, and how much more would God change by becoming man on earth?!

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  • I really like this. I was thinking recently that maybe one of the biggest reasons for the incarnation was for God to actually experience our pain, so God can truly understand and truly care about people.

    • Nick Gotts

      Doesn’t seem to have made the slightest difference: if he exists, he still stands by, twiddling the celestial thumbs, as people suffer the most appalling agonies, in many cases far more prolonged than Jesus’s crucifixion.

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