Our Immutable God?

As a young boy in confirmation class I learned that among the many attributes of God was God’s immutability. Basically that’s the idea that God, being perfect and whole in God’s self and the first cause of everything, cannot be moved or changed, because any change would imply imperfection of some kind. It is way of thinking about God especially popular among Protestant churches but it has its roots not in the bible but in Greek philosophy. I don’t think we can help it. Even though most of us have never read a word of Greek philosophy, that way of thinking is so embedded in the ethos of our western culture that we cannot escape it. Some early Christians tried to bridge the gap by incorporating the God of the bible with the Greek ideas of divinity through some fantastical weaving of what we call Gnostic myths that postulated two gods – one Greek and one Hebrew, the Greek god having superiority.
But if, as Christians, we believe that God’s truth is revealed through Holy Scripture, then it has got to be obvious that the one and only God has almost nothing to do with the staid, cold, distant and unchangeable Greek god of my confirmation class. The God of scripture is a God passionately engaged with humanity and all of creation. God loves, gets angry, can be persuaded, invites conversation, changes his mind, makes new plans, even wonders what will happen next. Make no mistake, scripture also reveals God as the creator and sustainer of all that is, whether seen or unseen. In the stories of creation, God speaks and the world comes into being. But, whatever that spoken word was, we hold that it also became flesh and lived among us as one of us in Jesus of Nazareth. God deigned to become, in some sense, human in a way so completely unlike any Greek, Egyptian or Hindu myth about gods taking on human form. God in Christ experienced the fullness of our human lives with all its possibilities and limitations. Out of nothing more than love for us, that of God through which creation came to be, also engaged in the reality of creation as a creature.
I’m not sure when that finally penetrated my mind, but I think it was through a more thoughtful reading of the Hebrew Scriptures to let them shine light on the texts of the New Testament. I feel very sad for those who still cling to a Greek idea of God because it is so lacking in life and wonder, so distant and so small.

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