How Can God Be Disappointed or Repent?

This is another in a series of critical questions about the Bible.

Question: The Bible says that God created mankind, then was sorry that He created (Gen. 6:6). It also says God changed His mind, or repented (Ex. 32:14). If God is all-knowing, He would know everything from the beginning, could not become sorry, and could not change His mind. 

In response, this question is very similar to others that have already been addressed about God knowing His future actions and being able to think through situations. See here. 

The Bible also describes God as having hair (Dan. 7:9), a backside (Ex. 33.23), hands and fingers (Ps. 8:3, 6), a mouth (Num. 12:8), lips and a tongue (Is. 30:27), eyes (Ps. 11:4), ears (Ps. 18:6), and other human attributes. But we also know that the Bible describes God as being a spirit (John 4:24) and not being a man that He should repent or have any regret (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29). Still further, the Bible describes God as having wings (Ruth 2:12; Ps. 17:8; 36:7) and feathers (Ps. 91:4). Since a spirit can have none of the physical attributes of a created being, and since one passage says God repents and another says He cannot, how can we reconcile these?

The answer lies both in the language of scripture and in the philosophical approach we use with scripture. We have no trouble when Jesus says he is a door (John 10:7) or a vine (John 15:1), for no one concludes that Jesus was made of wood or was a plant. We do not believe the Bible is literal when it says God parted the Red Sea with a literal blast from His nostrils (Ex. 15:8) or is so large as to measure the seas and the heavens in His hands (Is. 40:`12). We also do not get confused in everyday speech when we say to one another, ‘She’s driving me up the wall’ or ‘I’m at my wits end’ for we know these are figures of speech and do not take them literally. We also know that when the Bible says that the “; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Is. 55:12) that this is not literal, for we know from observation and making logical conclusions about reality that hills do not literally sing or clap.

Therefore we can use our minds to know that the universe did not cause itself to come to exist, there must have been a cause outside the universe that did not come into existence, but always existed, i.e., is uncreated. This cause must not be made of matter, for all matter is finite and all finites are created. An uncreated, nonmaterial, eternal being that has knowledge is infinite and would indeed know all things, and all-knowing things do not change their minds.

We can then discern between the passages that give God human attributes as anthropomorphisms, and the ones that describe God as spirit as literal. God does not change His mind since He knew His plans from the beginning. He nevertheless deals with us on our level in language familiar to our common tongue.

More importantly, an explanation such as this should be rather common and straightforward. That such a question arises is a clue as to the critics’ searching for problems in the Bible rather than reading it fairly to discern its truths.

About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Bible, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

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