Is God really Immutable?

Hi everyone,

I have a question that greatly troubled me when I first encountered it. During my early theological studies in school I read in my textbook that God is immutable. That is, He is unchanging. However, I soon came across the standard doctrine of the incarnation of Christ, which states something to the effect, the Second person of the Trinity (properly the Logos or the Son) added to Himself a human nature through His incarnation as Jesus. Now, that seems very much like a change to me. Surely there is a better way to understand the incarnation that does not cause a mutation in the immutable God?

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@BenIAm Great question :slight_smile: I would not say that the incarnation violated immutability based upon my definition of immutability. So, my first question would be, what does immutability mean to you?

To me, God’s immutability means that His character or essence does not change. Christ incarnate was still 100% God - God did not change, but He also took on flesh. God’s character did not change. God’s nature did not change - He remained Trinitarian - Father, Son and Spirit. But the Son took on flesh and dwelt among us, without ceasing to be the Son.

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Thank you @SeanO

I think that is a great way to reconcile that apparent contradiction! I eventually came to a very similarly phrased understanding from listening to Dr. William Lane Craig’s defenders podcast, though I forget now exactly how he stated it. But, it basically was to the effect that every human is a person (or as C.S Lewis would say it—is a soul) who has a body. Jesus is the 2nd person of the Godhead in a human body. However, before that resolution was reached, the conflict that apparent inconsistency produced in me really challenged my faith. I was to the point of having to choose if I could continue to believe in Christ or if I would lay my doubt and fear at His feet and accept that my insufficiency to resolve the conflict doesn’t nullify the truth of the Gospel.

I chose the latter option and soon I found the solution. That is one of the only times my faith was seriously rocked due to my study of theology. I couldn’t think of any other question to ask. Thank you for resolving it so quickly. God bless.

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@BenIAm Glad it helped and thanks for sharing some of your story :slight_smile: I have likewise encountered times where I had to trust God with a confusing doctrine or life circumstance and, like you shared, I have often found that through patience, prayer and study the answers come with time.

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@SeanO

I forgot to answer your initial question of what immutability means to me. The problem arose from the language the ancient Christological doctrine employed. It stated God added to His divine nature a human nature. While technically correct, I think there are problems in stating it such largely because we do not easily comprehend what a human nature really is, let alone what the divine nature is. So, within that somewhat ambiguous terminology, I began to think the addition of the human nature was bound to influence the divine nature and therefore causing a change in God. I think it is more accurate, or at least less confusing, to state the divine person became a human being, but retained his divine personality, and indeed, His divinity. I certainly would have processed that explanation of the incarnation easier anyway.

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@BenIAm Great point! I had not thought about it before, but I can definitely see how saying that God added a human nature could lead to confusion in regard to the doctrine of immutability. Thankfully it is more an issue of semantics than an actual point of confusion.

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I believe you can’t really talk about an eternal unchanging God without talking about time.

In my mind, God exists in the past, the present, and the future. In my mind, Jesus is the Godhead that exists in the present as a matter of speaking. I believe Jesus is, or has a Spirit. I believe it was Jesus or a manifestation of Him who Jacob wrestled before crossing into his homeland again. I believe there are instances in the OT where Jesus met with people and even interacted with them. I don’t believe this poses any incoherencies with the Trinity as in my mind Christ can choose to manifest himself in flesh any time He wants.

As far as God as a whole is concerned with time, I believe God exists in BOTH the present and the eternal. Meaning He can and does experience time in an eternal fashion but can also experience time as we do if He wishes.

Sorry if this doesn’t answer your question.