Occasionally my dog gets excited enough to run across the room, try to make a corner, misses and runs into the wall… something that is both very sad and very funny! The wall, of course, does not give at all, it has no way of responding or cushioning or shifting. However, when my dog runs and jumps on me, I move, cushion, and shift in order to take the impact.
Is God a wall that does not move, respond, or cushion? For some, the immutable, unmovable God is a comfort. For some, if God changes or is moved, then there entire system of theology begins to crumble.
Indeed, there are statements in Scripture that seem to paint God as an immovable wall, one who does not change and remains the same no matter what circumstance comes along. There are verses that describe God as knowing all things, having every detail of human history already worked out in advance, foreknown, and chosen.
Yet, much of the Bible describes God in very different language than this. Many scriptures describe a very movable God– A God who repents, relents, is suprised, and regrets. When I read the story of Moses interceding on behalf Israel in Exodus 32 and God “repents of the evil he was about to do”, I am overwhelmed by such a God who would respond to the passionate pleas of a human being. I am overcome with emotion at a God who takes the time to listen and shift perspective and change action. This is a God who is so powerful that vulnerability is not seen as a weakness but the hope of creation. This is a God who allows the dog to jump and cushions the blow. This is a God that is in relationship– a true relationship, a give and take relationship.
Let us stop striving to create bomb-proof systematic theologies and allow each scripture text to move us as it sees fit. When in Exodus 32, let us fall in love with a God who could be moved. When in James 1, let us feel strong that we have a God who does not shift like shadows. Both are true and both have something very amazing to teach us.