Q&A: God's Immutable Nature

God's Immutable Nature

In what ways is God immutable?

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Answer

One of the many significant attributes of God, the Triune God, is immutability. That's the term that you'll find in many theology texts. Immutability might be translated "unchanging." And that's really wonderful news because we are so aware of the impermanence and the transience of just about everything in our lives, in our world, in our relationships, and even in our own fleeting lives. I think of that descriptor of God as the still point in a turning universe. What is there that draws our restless souls to a vision of the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever? I think it's this profound psychological and spiritual need we all have for that which is rock solid, that which is trustworthy, that which can function as an anchor for the soul when the mountains shake and everything appears to be falling into the sea. That's a legitimate human need. When it's not found in God, that need can drive us to addictions and all sorts of pathologies, and a kind of emotional infantilism that makes us less than adults. But when it's anchored in God, when it's rightly centered in God, we become people of strength. We find our strength in this immutable God. Now in the history of Christian theology, however, there was an unfortunate appropriation early on of some platonic notions of God's immutability that implied that God was serenely detached and unaffected by the problems and struggles of his creatures and could not be touched in any way by what was going on in our chaotic existence. And so this alien platonic notion of God's impassability effectively distanced God, at least in our perceptions of him, made him a cool and more philosophical essence than the dynamic, impassioned, personal God of Scripture. So, I think it's very important that we affirm that constancy of character and that firmness of resolve that immutability truly represents. The God who begins a good work and brings it to completion, that's the God we're talking about. But the immutable God is God the Father who is not untouched by the suffering and neediness of people, who is not unresponsive to their prayers. This God is an interactive, relational God whose stability of character and purpose is something we worship and adore.

Answer by Dr. Glen Scorgie

Dr. Glen Scorgie is Professor of Theology at Bethel Seminary in San Diego