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Immutability

That perfection of God by which He is devoid of all change, not only in His Being, but also in His perfections, and in His purposes and promises. - Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology

Arthur Pink's The Attributes of God mentions the same categories of immutability as are found in Berkhof's definition. "God is perpetually the same: subject to no change in his being, attributes, or determinations. (p. 46 - emphasis added)

Immutability of God's Essence and Attributes

God does not evolve, grow, nor improve. There is nothing in His essence that can be improved upon, since He is already perfect.
  • Exod. 3:14 - "And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
  • Ps. 102:26 - "They will perish, but You will endure;
    Yes, they will all grow old like a garment;
    Like a cloak You will change them,
    And they will be changed."
  • James 1:17 - "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."
  • Heb. 13:8 - "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever."

Discussion:
  • What would happen to us if God ceased being who He is?
  • How is it comforting to know that God is eternally trustworthy? loving toward His elect?

A Note About Emotions

The word "emotion" is not found anywhere in the scriptures. What is an emotion? Webster's New World College Dictionary (1588) says "1 a) strong feeling; excitement". If you look up the word "feeling" and ignore the physical definitions you come to "3 a) to experience (an emotion or condition)". Gordon Calrk's book, Today's Evangelism, contains a chapter on "What is Emotion?". In this chapter, he illustrates the problem psychologists have coming up with definition for the word "emotion".
Like other psychologists, D. O. Hebb (A Textbook of Psychology, p. 156) acknowledges that emotion is difficult to define, hard to comprehend, and useless as a scientific term; but in a commonsense way emotion means that something exceptional is going on inside the subject. In this, Hebb no doubt speaks the truth. An emotion is something unusual, sudden, exceptional. If a certain state of consciousness continues over a fairly long period of time, we do not call it an emotion. An emotion is some kind of upheaval within the person....

In addition to the characteristic of suddenly disturbing one's normal mental state, an emotion must be recognized as involuntary. A person does not calmly decide to get angry, or to lapse into depression. Indeed emotions are not only involuntary, in the sense that we do not deliberately choose them, they also occur when we do not deliberately try to suppress them. At other times we may want to have a certain emotion and yet find that we cannot produce it. Emotions, therefore, is doubly involuntary.

A third characteristic of emotion is the absence of intellectual content. To be sure, we can hardly be angry without being angry at someone or some thing; and this person or thing is known. But the knowledge and the emotion are different, for we can know the person or thing without being angry....Emotion therefore has no intellectual content.
Nor should emotion be confused with volition...At any rate, we can see that volition is not emotion by the fact that both joy and depression occur without any tendency to act. At most, joy may be accompanied by a tendency to jump, dance, or shout - in some undirected, spontaneous manner - while depression is more a tendency not to act. That a volition or an intellectual act may accompany some emotions cannot be denied...

Discussion:
  • Is Love an emotion or a volition? Why? Is Love commanded in the bible?
  • Given Clark's definition of an emotion (sudden involuntary disturbance in one's mental state which is devoid of intellectual content), can you find a place in the bible where God commands us to experience an emotion?
  • Does God have emotions? Does he experience anything involuntary? Does he suddenly change?

Immutability of God's Thoughts and Determinations

The immutability of God's thoughts and volitions is logically derived from the doctrine of the Decree of God. God eternally thinks His divine thought (singular), which involves all His unchangeable volitions. His volition to set His love on His elect (because He sees us in Christ) is an immutable volition. In contrast, His volition to hate the reprobate for eternity is an immutable volition.  Thus, Paul is able to write in Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." The converse is also true, namely that God works all things together for evil to those who are God's reprobate (Prov. 16:4 - "The LORD has made all for Himself,Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.")

  • Mal. 3:6 - "For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob."
  • Num. 23:19 - "God is not a man, that He should lie,
    Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
    Has He said, and will He not do?
    Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?"
  • 1 Sam. 15:28-29 - "So Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”
  • Ps. 33:11 - "The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
    The plans of His heart to all generations."
  • Ps. 110:4 - "The LORD has sworn
    And will not relent,
    'You are a priest forever
    According to the order of Melchizedek.'"
  • Ps. 119:89 - "Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven."
  • Isa. 46:10 - "Declaring the end from the beginning,
    And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
    Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
    And I will do all My pleasure,’"
  • Isa. 54:10 - "For the mountains shall depart
    And the hills be removed,
    But My kindness shall not depart from you,
    Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
    Says the LORD, who has mercy on you."
  • Jer. 31:3 - "The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying:
    “ Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you."

  • Heb. 6:17 - "Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath,"

Discussion:
  • Read Gen. 6:6 and 1 Sam. 15:11,35 where God expresses "regret" for a volition that He had made. Did God change His mind in these passages? How do we resolve these passages with the above passages that seem to show that God does not change His mind or repent?
  • Why should we pray for those who do not believe if God's will volitions towards them will not change?
  • What modern heresies attack the doctrine of the immutability of God?
  • Why is it so important for us to understand the immutability of God's volitions and promises?
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