Bible Answer

Does God change His mind?

When dealing with both believers and unbelievers, does God change His mind depending on the way they respond?

Before considering if God changes His mind, we must first understand how human beings change their minds. Before we change our mind, we must first form an opinion or take a position on some matter. Our initial viewpoint is based on the information we possessed at that point in time and on our unique perspective or bias. If at some later point in time we receive new information or experience a change in our perspective, we may adopt a new view on the matter. So human beings change their minds as a result of a progression in our thinking triggered by changes in time, information and perspective. We are said to change our minds, but technically speaking, the actual changes were in the underlying factors that formed our opinion in the first place. Knowing this, can we say that God changes His mind? Fundamentally, the answer must be no, because the Creator’s viewpoint is not influenced by any of these underlying factors. 

First, the Bible says God does not exist within time nor does the passage of time influence or change God. God is utterly unchanging:

Heb. 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Psa. 33:11 The counsel of the LORD stands forever, 
    The plans of His heart from generation to generation.
Mal. 3:6 “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.
Is. 46:4   Even to your old age I will be the same, 
    And even to your graying years I will bear you! 
    I have done it, and I will carry you; 
    And I will bear you and I will deliver you.

If God exists outside of time and is unchanged by time, then all God’s viewpoints have been set from all eternity. There is no “before and after” for God. He doesn’t have one view on a matter today and a different view on the matter tomorrow because there is no today or tomorrow for God! Therefore, in His interactions with human beings God does not experience history as we do, especially since God set the end of history even before the beginning started:

Eccl. 3:11 He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.

Therefore, God can’t be said to change His mind because God is eternal. Secondly, God never learns new information. The Lord is always in possession of all knowledge, therefore, He has no cause to reconsider His view or change His mind concerning any matter based on new information. In fact, the Bible says God is the source of all knowledge:

Prov. 2:6  For the LORD gives wisdom; 
    From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. 

Therefore, God can’t be said to change His mind as a result of something He learns, because God never acquires new information. He knows all things. Finally, God is unbiased, therefore He cannot improve His perspective. The Bible says the Lord is not a respecter of persons:

Acts 10:34  Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality,
Rom. 2:11 For there is no partiality with God.

These verses and others like them tell us that God has no bias, and therefore, He sees all things as they truly exist. Consequently, we cannot say God is persuaded into a different view based on a change in preference or perspective. God’s perspective is eternally fixed and never wrong.

Since God is not influenced by time, information nor bias, there can be no basis for God to change His mind. Simply said, God doesn’t change His mind, so how do we understand Scripture that says God does change His mind? Examples include:

Ex. 32:14 So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.
Jer. 26:13 “Now therefore amend your ways and your deeds and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will change His mind about the misfortune which He has pronounced against you.

Since we know that God is not changing His mind in the human sense, we must seek another way to understand these statements. The answer is to recognize that God is choosing to describe His interactions with mankind in terms that man can understand. In the case of Exodus 32, the Bible says God “changed His mind” in response to Moses’ appeal, but this is merely explaining God’s response from Moses’ perspective. The Lord informed Moses of His desire to destroy Israel, so Moses appealed to God, and the Lord withdrew His threat.

From our point of view, the Lord changed His mind, but in reality this outcome was exactly as God intended and planned. We must ask ourselves why did God reveal to Moses that He intended to destroy Israel in the first place? God could have acted without telling Moses in advance, yet He revealed this possibility to Moses first. 

The fact that the Lord revealed this possibility to Moses beforehand shows us that the Lord intended to provoke Moses to intercede, and then as Moses interceded, the Lord would relent from destroying His people – which He intended to do. In reality, the entire scene played out exactly as the Lord intended. From a human point of view, God “changed His mind”, but in reality the outcome was not a change at all. Everything unfolded exactly as God planned from the beginning. 

So generally speaking, whenever the Bible suggests or states that God changed His mind, we should understand it to mean that God orchestrated the outcome, yet He permitted the scene to play out in such a way that He appeared to respond to human circumstances. So though it appeared that God changed His mind, in reality everything took place exactly as God intended.