Christian Sabbath God Focus for tomorrow

As usual, Jacob shares some LDS interpretation over at New Cool Thang about God that I totally disagree with.  Yet you must admit, he is always challenging your thinking.  Thanks also to LDS apologist, Blake Ostler.

I thought I would insert a few things by Bruce A. Ware from his book, God’s Greater Glory.  I like him because he is seeing some of the rich paradoxes that I am beginning to see in scripture about the God of all glory . . . ontological immutability but also relational mutability . . . timelessly eternal but also omnitemporal.

On pages 139-148, he speaks of God’s “ontological immutability” by writing,

As one considers Scripture’s teaching on God’s relation to change, it is clear that a number of passages indicate the changelessness of God’s essential nature (Ps. 102:25-27; Mal. 3:6; James 1:17).  That is, fundamental to anything else said on this topic is the conviction that the essential qualities of God’s very character—his holiness, goodness, knowledge, wisdom, power—are absolutely changeless.  One might refer to this, then, as God’s “ontological immutability,” since his very being is eternally who he is as God (140).

And in that which is “derivative and contingent” upon God’s ontological immutability,

We might refer to the changelessness of God’s word, promise, and pledge, then, as God’s “ethical immutability” (141).

Exploring even further nuances of God’s changelessness and change, Bruce writes,

We once were “children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:3), but now by faith we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).  How can we fail to recognize here that a change has taken place in God’s disposition toward us? 

This is just an example of what might be called the “relational mutability” of God, a change not of his essential nature, nor of his word or promise, but of his attitude and disposition toward his moral creatures in ways that are commensurate to changes that happen in them (142).

To illustrate further this idea of relational mutability, he delves into Exodus 32 and Jonah 3; but then with careful integration of 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Jeremiah 18:7, he concludes (though I have other passages in mind, like in Psalms, to be directly connected with Exodus 32):

Hence, God’s ethical immutability formed the basis here for God’s relational mutability as expressed in Jonah 3:10 (143).

Bingo.  This is exactly what the Lord had been teaching me these past months from the beginning point when I was blog conversing with Blake Ostler a while back.

On page 144, I believe the author rightly cautions you about Origen and Augustine in how they promote God with “impassible nature”, and then on the next page he shares,

Metaphysically, if God is simple (noncomposite), timelessly eternal, and immutably perfect, then it would seem that the very nature of God would preclude the possibility of variation of any kind, including variation of emotional states. . . . But metaphysically, we have already seen good reason to question these traditional conceptions of God that remove him entirely from any possibility of real relationship with the world.  Yes, God is timelessly eternal, but he also is omnitemporal, entering fully into the moments of creaturely existence.  Yes, God is absolutely immutable in the essential character qualities that are his by virtue of his being God, but this does not require immutability in all respects.  While upholding the full transcendence of God in every way that Scripture demands, we should not conceive of God’s transcendence so that other clear teachings of Scripture have to be eliminated—as I fear some have done with Scripture’s teaching about God’s emotions (145). 

And what about this?  We sing this beautiful verse every year among the large group of men at the Red Cliff Men’s Retreat in Wyoming.  One of the pastor’s wives currently living in Thayne, Wyoming put this verse to music.  Bruce declares,

One of the most glorious expressions of God’s emotions in all of Scripture is found in Zephaniah 3:17:  “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness: he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”  Just imagine the harm we would do both to this precious truth and to our understanding of God if we were to remove God out of time altogether (what real meaning would be left to “The LORD your God is in your midst”?) and in particular, remove from God any real emotions.  Unlike in the case of Scripture’s references to God’s bodily parts, where other Scriptures tell us that God transcends those bodily qualities, understood literally, in the case of emotions we have no Scripture that would lead us to think that God actually transcends the emotions Scripture ascribes to him (146).

And then after drawing out four implications, Bruce closes this section by summarizing,

So, as we marvel at God’s constancy, stability, and immutability, we should also marvel at his chosen path of variability, relational adaptability, and mutability.  What a God, and what an unspeakable privilege to be in relationship with him (148).

You all have got to read the book sometime.  In fact, I am going to encourage all the pastors in the intermountain West attending this God Focus Conference, one week from today, to pick up the book for future meditation on God’s Greater Glory.

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2 Comments ↓

2 Comments on “Christian Sabbath God Focus for tomorrow”

  1. Jacob J June 2, 2007 at 9:07 pm #

    Hi Todd,

    Two quick things. First, I just can’t pass up the opportunity to remind anyone reading my post after following your link that my views frequenty veer off the beaten path of Mormonism. I wouldn’t want anyone thinking they represent mainstream LDS thought.

    Second, I agree with quite a bit of what you wrote in this post. I share your conviction that God’s holiness and goodness are absolutely changeless. Also, I think the description of God being in our midst and its implication on God’s existence in time is a great point. Indeed, we have nothing in the Bible to suggest that God transcends emotions. I agree with all of this fully.

  2. Todd Wood June 3, 2007 at 2:04 pm #

    Jacob, when you take your family to the beach sometime this summer, make you sure put this book, God’s Greater Glory by Bruce Ware in the beach bag. Chapter 5 is titled “Ruling With Creation: Divine-Human Relationality,” dealing with such subtopics as 1) From Beginning to End . . . God’s Purposeful Relationship With Creation, 2) Apart From Us and With Us: God and Space and Time, 3) Ontologically/Ethically Immutable and Relationally Mutable: God and Change, 4) Independent of Us and Affected by Us: God and Contingency, 5) Alike and Different: God and Humans in Unique Relationship, and 6) Glory, Honor, and Praise: God and God Alone.

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