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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: When the God of the Bible Is Rejected

Don Stewart :: Is God Subject to Change?

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Is God Subject to Change? (Panentheism, Process Theology)

When the God of the Bible Is Rejected – Question 13

There is a relatively recent view of the nature of God known as “panentheism.” This has the idea that God is in everything. This is also known as process theology.

Process Theology: A Changing God

Process theology can be simply defined as follows. Since everything in the universe evolves or changes it is argued that God also is constantly evolving or changing. In other words, He is not a stagnant being. He is like the universe in which He created.

This view goes further. It says that God must change. If not, then nothing humans do have any effect on Him. Life would not have any real meaning if human beings cannot do anything to make God act. Consequently humanity is basically irrelevant if God never changes. Therefore, it is argued that God must be a changing God for human beings to have any relevance.

It Is a Mixture of Pantheism and Classical Theism: God Is Not the Same as the World but He Needs the World

One way to look at the beliefs of process theology is to see it as sort of a mixture of classical Christian belief about God, and pantheism. Pantheism makes no distinction between God and the universe. In pantheism the creator and the creation are identical.

The biblical position is that God and the world are not identical. God did not create the world as an extension of Himself nor did He create it from part of His own being. Neither does God need the world for His existence or to give Him any meaning. Though He intimately works with the creatures in this world, He is above the world in the sense that He is independent from it. Simply stated, God does not need the world. God does not need anything.

Process theology agrees that God is not identical to the world but it claims that God does indeed need the universe. He is not independent of the world but rather interdependent with it. The world is what gives meaning to God’s existence. He needs the world as much as the world needs him. In process theology, God has been compared to the head while the universe has been compared to a body. As the head cannot function without the body, so God cannot function without the universe.

God Grows in His Knowledge: He Is Not All-Knowing

The idea of God being omniscient, or having all knowledge, is re-defined in panentheism. While it is taught that God has all knowledge, it is also taught that he can learn new things. His perfect knowledge can be improved upon.

For example, the God of process theology knows the past and present exhaustively but he does not know the future. He does not know how things are going to turn out. He is growing in knowledge with the rest of his creation. Therefore, he is spoken of as being “in process” or becoming something that he presently is not.

There is more. Because he is relational God, and not a controlling God, he cannot guarantee that good will eventually triumph over evil. By taking risks the God of process theology risks evil winning in the end. Obviously, there is no certainty to the future in this view of God.

Humanity, Not God, Is at the Center of Process Theology

We should also note that process theology does not see God’s chief aim as declaring who he is and receiving the deserved honor and glory from his creatures. Rather the God of process theology desires that humans, and their enjoyment, be his highest priority. The God of process theology has human beings chiefly in mind rather than himself.

Biblical Response to Process Theology

Process theology uses and quotes the Bible selectively to come to its view of God. This is why it arrives at a distorted picture of God’s character. The biblical response to this perspective is as follows:

1. God’s Basic Nature Never Changes

The God of the Bible is changeless in His character. His attributes do not change. Indeed, they always remain the same. The Bible says,

For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished. (Malachi 3:6 NRSV)

This is one of the truths of Scripture. The God of the Bible is unchangeable in His attributes.

The writer to the Hebrews declared the same to be true of God the Son, Jesus Christ. He wrote,

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8 KJV)

Jesus will never change in character. He will remain the same.

Thus, the God of the Bible will always be all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere present. This can never change. He cannot learn anything new because He knows everything.

Perfection in the knowledge of God extends to events that will occur in the future as well as those that have occurred in the past and are presently occurring. The Lord has said the following about His control over events which will take place in the future.

Remember what happened long ago, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and no one is like Me. I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: My plan will take place, and I will do all My will. (Isaiah 46:9-10 HCSB)

God can tell us what will happen in the future because He knows for certainty what will occur. He knows everything.

2. God Is Personally Involved with Humanity

There is something which must be emphasized. While God does not change in His basic nature, this does not mean that He is uninvolved with humanity. To the contrary, He is personally concerned with everything that is occurring in the lives of human beings. When we get into trouble He tells us to call upon His name. He promises to answer us.

God is our strong refuge; he is truly our helper in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1 NET)

The Bible is full of promises like these. The God of Scripture is a God of action. He is actively involved with human beings and their concerns. He is not some God “afar off” in this sense.

3. The Unchanging God Acts Differently in Different Situations

While God’s character does not change, He does act differently in different situations. He is able to respond, as necessary, to various situations that occur. The unchangeable God has the ability to act differently, as the need arises, without any change in His basic nature.

Process theology mistakenly assumes that God must change in his nature in order for Him to respond to differing situations. But this is not the case. While His responses may be different, His nature is always the same.

Therefore, the idea that God is somehow continuing to evolve in His nature, or character, is at odds with the teaching of Scripture. Process theology, or panentheism, does not accurately reflect the nature of the God of the Bible.

Summary – Question 13
Is God Subject to Change? (Panentheism, Process Theology)

Process theology, or panentheism, does not believe in the God who is revealed in Scripture. Instead, the god of panentheism is constantly evolving. He does not remain the same in his attributes.

Panentheism is a mixture of pantheism and classical Christian belief. It rejects the idea that God is the same as the universe, as pantheism teaches, but it makes God dependent upon the universe; contrary to classical Christian theism. Instead of seeking his own glory, the God of process theology is more interested in humans and their happiness.

Process theology is different than historic Christianity for a number of reasons. They can be simply stated as follows:

Scripture says God is not dependent upon anything or anyone. He did not need to create the universe. The God of the Bible needs nothing. He is not interdependent with His created universe. He can certainly exist without it.

In addition, the God of the Bible never changes in His basic nature. He will always be all-knowing, everywhere-present and all-powerful. These attributes will never change.

This, however, does not mean that God is not intimately concerned with the problems of humanity. Rather it merely means that He is unchangeable in His basic attributes. Indeed, if anything is clear from the Bible it is that God is intimately involved in the lives of His people.

Furthermore, the God of the Bible is not limited in His knowledge of future events. He not only knows what will happen, He also knows every potential thing that may happen. He knows everything.

Therefore, the God of Scripture is not the god of process theology.

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