Friday, May 31, 2019

Can Prayer Change Prophecy?

            Quite a few Christians believe that [determined] prayers can alter a prophecy. Is this a tenable belief or not?

            God is the source of prophecy. The prophet bears God’s message. This message need not always be a prediction or foretelling of future events but this message can simply be instructional (Acts 21:4), warning (Jonah 3:4), etc.

            A presupposition to the notion that prayer can change a prophecy is that God is capable of changing HIS mind. But God cannot change HIS mind. This Divine Constancy contains various aspects: God cannot change quantitatively or qualitatively and God’s nature does not undergo modifications. Hence, God cannot change HIS mind.

            In an earlier blog entitled, “Could We Change God’s Mind?” I addressed this subject. Here’s a relevant excerpt:1

Can God change HIS mind?
There are two diametrically opposite answers to this question. Some Christians believe that God can change HIS mind, whereas others assert that God does not and cannot change HIS mind.
Let us briefly study their assertions.
God Changes HIS Mind
Some Christians think that God can change HIS mind, “…advocates of a theory called open theism have argued that God can and does change and that we can cause that change. They find their support for this in passages such as Genesis 18, where Abraham intercedes before the Lord for Sodom and Gomorrah, and God seemingly changes His mind. They claim further support from passages like Jeremiah 18:7–10, Jonah 3:10, and Genesis 6:6, which speak of God repenting or relenting or being sorry.”1
These Christians, upon reading these verses, believe that God changes HIS mind:
 “The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” (Genesis 6:6, NIV, Emphasis Mine).
 “And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do to his people.” (Exodus 32:14, RSV, Emphasis Mine).
 “If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it." (Jeremiah 18: 7-10, NIV, Emphasis Mine).
 “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” (Jonah 3:10, NIV, Emphasis Mine).
God Cannot Change HIS Mind
Pastor, theologian, and author, R.C Sproul, unpacks this dilemma from the vantage point of God’s omniscience.2
There’s one sense in which it seems God is changing his mind, and there’s another sense in which the Bible says God never changes his mind because God is omniscient. He knows all things from the beginning, and he is immutable. He is unchanging. There’s no shadow of turning within him. For example, He knows what Moses is going to say to him in Numbers 14 before Moses even opens his mouth to plead for the people. Then after Moses has actually said it, does God suddenly changes his mind? He doesn’t have any more information than he had a moment before. Nothing has changed as far as God’s knowledge or his appraisal of the situation.
Is God confused, stumbling through all the different options—Should I do this? Should I not do that? And does he decide upon one course of action and then think, Well, maybe that’s not such a good idea after all, and change his mind? Obviously God is omniscient; God is all wise. God is eternal in his perspective and in his full knowledge of everything. So we don’t change God’s mind. But prayer changes things. It changes us. And there are times in which God waits for us to ask for things because his plan is that we work with him in the glorious process of bringing his will to pass here on earth.
Similarly, Dr. William Lane Craig explains this theme from the perspective of God’s foreknowledge and the need for us to understand the literary genre’s of the Bible and the literary devices used by the biblical authors for an effective narration. If we understand these details, we will be able to accurately interpret the Bible. Thus we would possess a proper understanding of God. Here’s William Lane Craig:3
I don’t think that God can change his mind, because as an omniscient being, he knows everything that will happen, including his own decisions. God has foreknowledge not only of everything that creatures will do, but also knowledge of his own acts…If God knows the truth value of all true future tense propositions — then he will know the truth value of propositions about his own actions — like God will part the Red Sea; he knows that. So, God would have knowledge of everything in the future, and therefore there could be no basis for changing his mind. An omniscient being cannot change his mind, it would only be an ignorant being, a being that is ignorant, that could acquire some new reason for doing something that would cause him to change his mind…
There are some Scriptures which, at least superficially to a layperson, looks like God’s changing his mind. Jonah and the whale and Nineveh where God was going to destroy the city unless something happened, and he seemed to change his mind.
It’s vital that we understand the literary genre, or type, of most of these biblical stories. The Bible is in the form of narratives. They’re stories about God told from the human point of view. And so, a good storyteller will tell his story with all the vivacity and color that he wants to enhance his narrative.
And so, you’ll find stories in the Bible about God, told from a human perspective where God not only lacks knowledge of the future, but even lacks knowledge of what’s going on presently. God comes down to Abraham and says, “I’ve heard the outcry in Sodom and Gomorrah. I’m going to go see if what I’ve heard is really happening there.”
Well, that would deny not only God’s foreknowledge, but his knowledge of the present. And there are other passages where God is spoken of in anthropomorphic terms of having nostrils and eyes and arms and other sort of bodily parts—wings. If you take all of these literally, God would be a sort of fire-breathing monster.
And so, these are anthropomorphisms. They are literary devices that are part of the storyteller’s art, and shouldn’t be read like a philosophy of religion or systematic theology textbook. There’s just a naïve view of the type of literature that Scripture is.
            To conclude, let us briefly consider two instances in the Bible that some Christians use to contend that God changes HIS mind.

            Consider the prophecy to King Hezekiah. The omniscient God knew that when Prophet Isaiah warned King Hezekiah (about putting his house in order else he would die), Hezekiah would pray earnestly to HIM, and that HE would extend Hezekiah’s lifetime by 15 years. Hence, if we consider the foreknowledge of God, wherein HE knows every future event, we cannot construe this instance to that of God changing HIS mind.

            Similarly, in Jonah’s case, God knew that the Ninevites would repent upon hearing Jonah’s preaching/prophesying. Therefore, it was not a change of mind that prompted the forgiveness of God. Rather the plan to forgive the Ninevites was always in God’s mind because of HIS foreknowledge of all future events.

            Therefore, a proper interpretation of every prophecy in the Bible would render the notion of God changing HIS mind as untenable. It’s not that God does not change HIS mind; it’s that you and I, however righteous our prayer may be, cannot force God to change HIS mind. So no amount of prayer can change a prophecy, unless God, according to HIS foreknowledge, has already determined another course of action based on the response to a particular prophecy.



Website last accessed on 31st May 2019.


Anonymous said...

You need to think about this more don't just post something from somewhere.

Wright Or Wrong said...

God can not change mind, what ever explanation you gave you need think about this once again. God knows future, he has all knowledge that's true but if you say in Jonah case and yehejkel case, then God lie about them. Why God first lie them that they are going to die or parish. If decided to save them why giving them to chance of repentance, notifications,