God and Change -- By: Millard J. Erickson
SBJT 1:2 (Summer 1997) p. 38
God and Change
Millard Erickson is Research Professor of Theology at Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas. Among his numerous writings are Christian Theology, Introducing Christian Doctrine, and God in Three Persons: A Contemporary Interpretation of the Trinity. This article will appear as a chapter in Erickson’s forthcoming God the Father Almighty: A Contemporary Exploration of the Divine Attributes (Baker).
The question of the relationship of God to change has taken on a special significance in the latter part of the twentieth century. The old Greek question of the one and the many has been given an added impetus in our day. One reason is simply that change, at least in terms of cultural change, has become commonplace in our thinking. Whole books are devoted to the subject of change, such as Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock and John Naisbitt’s Megatrends. The change is the result of many factors. The accelerating capability of technology has meant that technological changes are more radical, more
frequent, and farther-reaching. The knowledge explosion, together with radically improved means of communication, results in changes being spread over wide areas rapidly. Modern physics increasingly is coming to view reality not as static and fixed, but as dynamic and growing. Coupled with this is the rise and spread of process philosophy, with its emphasis upon the basic unit of reality as being not the fixed substance, but event, something much more evanescent.
Interestingly, much of conservative theology has not really risen to the challenge to the traditional doctrine of divine immutability. Although there has been a real outpouring of new systematic theology texts from conservative theologians in the past fifteen years, most of them really do not give much attention to this subject. Among the exceptions are Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology1 and Carl F. H. Henry’s God, Revelation and Authority.2 Both volumes give major attention with respect to change and permanence in God’s nature to the challenge of process theology.
At least upon the surface, orthodox theology has much at stake in this issue, for it has traditionally maintained the doctrine of divine immutability. By this it meant that although everything else in the universe appears to undergo change, God does not. He is the unchanging eternal one. In light of the recent developments mentioned above, however, this topic needs fresh scrutiny and contemporary restatement.
Basis of the Doctrine of Immutability
One source from which the...
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