It makes a difference

In yesterday’s (1/22/12) Forum our group wondered aloud about God changing his mind: ” When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.” Jonah 3:10 NRSV

It was a lively discussion among Episcopalians and there was a spectrum of faith statements and realizations. When one of our members observed that the answer to the question about God’s ability to change God’s mind really makes a difference in how we pray there were many affirmations and nods of agreement. It does make a difference.

The questions we were responding to in the light of the reading from Jonah:

  • Does God change his mind?
  • Does he ever change it in response to our prayers?
  • How do Bible statements that God ordains the future and that he alters his plans relate to each other?
  • Does God know your next move—whether it’s a life-changing decision or a routine choice at the grocery store?
  • And if he really knows it all, are you truly free?
  • Does God know the future?
  • Does he know it precisely or just with a high degree of probability?
  • Was God taking a risk in making the human race?
  • If God doesn’t know the future, how do we make sense of Bible prophecy?
  • And if God doesn’t know the future, what are we to make of the Bible’s teaching that “those whom God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son”?

Questions posed in Christianity Today, May 21, 2001 in an article on Open Theism

We also looked at how various translators have presented this one verse (Jonah 3:10), commenting on the thoughts and feelings evoked by these translations:

And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. KJV

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. NIV

When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out. NABRE

God saw what they did, how they were turning back from their evil ways. And God renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon them, and did not carry it out. NJPS

When God saw what they did and how they gave up their wicked ways, he relented and did not inflict on them the punishment he had threatened. REB

God saw what they were doing—that they had ceased their evil behavior. So God stopped planning to destroy them, and he didn’t do it. CEB

Please join the conversation. Leave a comment. Does God change his mind? Does it make a difference?

Author: Daniel Rondeau

I am a husband and father and an Episcopal Priest (now retired) in the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego.

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