the evolution of God’s plan

There are times when I create posts with truths that I want you to study and incorporate into your theology and life. For example, my posts about cupcakes and our identity in Christ or Psalm 107. However, the following post is mere speculation. If you read it and think, “Um, Mara – no.” That’s fine. This post is basically an exploration of open theism or a variant of open theism. I have not researched this topic extensively. It came about by me reading Genesis and asking what is communicated about God and the world.

Scripture communicates that when God makes a plan, he fulfills his plan and its purposes. My question is whether God planned EVERYTHING or if he had just a few key plans (like Jesus’ incarnation) set in place before the world began. Jesus’ incarnation was a plan before the creation of the world. Peter says of Jesus, “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake (1 Pet. 1:20).” And near the beginning of our world, Genesis 3:15 foretells of the destruction of the serpent by the offspring of the woman, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Perhaps God did not have all the details worked out, but he seemed to have some major points in place, such as the destruction of death and the serpent by Jesus.

Still, having one major purpose set before the world began does not necessarily mean that the manner by which God’s purposes would be fulfilled were also decided. I am beginning to wonder if the first stone set in place before the world began was Jesus, yet other elements that we now include as part of God’s plan, including the final judgment and the various covenants with people such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David were developed along the way. Yes, God has foreknowledge of people, and he ordains our days (Ps. 139:16), but Genesis contains some stories that indicate to me that God was almost evolving as a parent of humanity and all creation.

For example, consider Genesis 6-9. I have heard about language in the Old Testament saying that God repented, but I had never taken it seriously until recently. Therefore, here are the elements in Genesis 6-9  that suggest to me that God’s plans and the parameters he has set for humans evolved:

FOREVER YOUNG NO MORE

Genesis 6:3 There is some weird stuff going on here in the surrounding verses of Genesis 3:1-4. It sounds like angels were marrying humans and creating the Greek and Roman “gods.” (Yes, this sounds fantastical: Perhaps the integration of higher beings with humans is a topic for another day.) But the key point is that God makes a change. In chapter 5 we read a long list of people who lived for centuries. Methuselah is said to have died at age 969. Some people do not want to accept those ages in Gen. 5 as literal, but Gen. 6 says that something happens that motivates God to make a change. We take it for granted that the Guinness World Record for verified age is 122. (Check out Jeanne or other lists of verifiable old people.) But apparently, one hundred and twenty years was not decided as the general limit until the ancient world had been spinning for quite a few years: “Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” Perhaps God had decided all along that he would curtail our age after the first few generations lived a REALLY long time, but it is also possible that God made a decision in that moment rather than prior to the creation of the world. Traditionally, we are taught that God is all-knowing and outside of time, but these verses indicate he is somehow in time and reacting to that moment with his wisdom.

SOUNDS LIKE A PLOT TWIST – DID GOD EXPECT IT???

Genesis 6:5-6 “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.”  These verses are monumental. I think it is a mistake to dismiss them as a mere anthropomorphism in order to keep an idea of God as above the passions, completely unchanging, with absolute foreknowledge of everything. We have an opportunity to learn who God is from Genesis 6:5-6. We learn of his heart, that he is so loving and oriented to giving life that seeing violence pains him. But we also learn something about the nature of God’s being. Could it be that YAWEH, the I AM, lives in the moment like we do? And could it be that God, whose wisdom, understanding, and knowledge is far superior to any human’s, could make a mistake? Is it possible that God is both a master-planner and spur-of-the-moment genius? Once he makes a plan, he can fulfill it. Can he also live in the moment and respond to the moment? The author of the universe has designed a plot and central character, but has he also created characters who have a life of their own? If God knows everything, why would this violence be such a surprise? Why would he repent at his action of creating human beings on the earth? I suppose you could argue that he knew it would happen but that the experience was difficult, but repent means repent.

I do not have children, but from my experience as an aunt and being very close to my siblings who do have kids, I have witnessed that love and tenderness is the first inclination of a parent. And only after beginning to see destructive tendencies in a child, do parents, with a sinking feeling in their heart, choose to discipline their child and hold the child accountable for harmful behavior with the intention of leading the child to maturity. God’s heart as our father, I hope, far exceeds our own ability to love. Nevertheless, I find it fascinating that Genesis describes God’s reaction to humanity’s violence and hatred with dismay, implying shock, rather than an all-knowing, “I knew it!”

THEN THERE’S THE FLOOD…

Genesis 6:7-8, Genesis 6:9-8:19 and Genesis 8:20-22 Death, I have heard it said, is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. Death can be merciful. Perhaps the violent deeds of the people in the days of Noah were left unpunished in their afterlife: I don’t know. 1 But what I do know is that they would have died eventually anyway, with the same just and/or merciful consequence. The flood stopped those people from procreating and continuing the cycle of violence. The flood enabled a clean slate for humanity. Thus said, I was again surprised to read that God decides to not flood the world on such a massive level again after smelling the sacrifice of Noah after the flood dissipates. The NIV says, “The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done'”(Gen. 8:21). If we have a high view of scripture, then we should take seriously this idea that God decided at that moment. He was not just communicating to Noah, “By the way, I decided long ago that this is the only time I would have a flood.” No, he inspired some human, perhaps Moses, to write that in his heart, he was moved at that moment to make a decision.

THERE’S MORE…

That’s all for today…but Genesis 9 has some startling implications…

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

The mind and heart of God are far beyond my comprehension. The being of God, the I AM, in three persons, in this present moment is mind boggling. For me, the implication of a powerful God who is moved by our actions and prayers suggest that our prayers do affect God and the micro-plan of how his purposes are fulfilled, and sometimes we even move him to make some rather big decisions. There are other ways to understand the effectiveness of prayer without touching open theism. It is possible that these verses somehow show God’s responsiveness without negating his omniscience. Still, as I was trying to hear what was communicated through the words of the prophets in Genesis, I heard a story still in process of being written post-creation.

 

Notes:

  1. The story of the rich man and Lazarus suggests they might have been separated from paradise after they died, but then Romans 3:25 suggests perhaps they were not punished. Perhaps this is a topic for further study…

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