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By Mitch Finley
I understand that change is a constant. But, does God change?
In responding to your question, the first thing I want to do is clarify somewhat the whole religious language issue. One of the most important characteristics of an adult faith — and even as orthodox a resource as the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” makes this clear — is the realization that all religious language is made up of metaphors and analogies; it’s an attempt to talk about what far transcends the human intellect; it’s an attempt to talk about what ultimately cannot be talked about. St. Thomas Aquinas, in the 13th century, asserted that the first thing we must say about God is that we can’t say anything. Even the word “God” is a feeble attempt to talk about the ultimate mystery that is behind and permeates everything. This is why, from a Christian perspective, the best we can do to understand God is to look at Jesus, the ultimate revelation of what and who God is.
Given this insight, when it comes to responding to your question the first thing I need to do is ask what you, personally, mean when you say “God?” Only then can we address what you mean when you ask if “God” changes. If by “God” you mean something like “the Supreme Being” or “the Creator,” then you need to first realize that these are both philosophical metaphors. Therefore, we can’t take them literally. These and other metaphors for God, such as the Christian metaphor, “Father,” are all we have available to us to talk about God. They reveal who and what God is, but they are as important for what they do not say as what they do say.
So, Does God Change?
OK. Does God change? It’s possible that what you’re asking has to do with whether God’s “mind” can be changed by human prayer. The Catholic Answers website replies thus:
God does not change his mind in response to our prayers or our actions. Though Scripture sometimes speaks as if he does, this language is figurative, not literal. If he did change his mind, that would mean that God had imperfect knowledge. However, the fact that God does not change his mind does not mean that we should refrain from praying. God, in his perfect wisdom, has made some things we need contingent on our praying for them. He does this so that we may turn our hearts to him, rely on him, trust in him, and grow in the virtues of faith, hope, and charity.
There may be other meanings behind your question, but they tend to be a lot more abstract and academic than the average person has in mind. One of these is what’s called “Process Theology.” The Wikipedia article on Process Theology is pretty good, and I recommend it if you’re interested. It includes this:
For [Process Theology], it is an essential attribute of God to affect and be affected by temporal processes, contrary to the forms of theism that hold God to be in all respects non-temporal (eternal), unchanging (immutable), and unaffected by the world (impassible).
Thick volumes of theology have been written about this question, of course, so my reply to your question doesn’t even begin to be adequate. I haven’t said even the first thing about the history of Christianity’s discussion of whether God changes or not. I hope what I’ve written will, however, at least give you a starting point for your own research.
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