by John M. Frame

Sometimes in the Bible, God appears to change his mind. For example, in Gen. 6:5, he declares that he is grieved that he made man. And in the prophecy of Jonah, he announces that Ninevah will be destroyed (Jonah 3:4); but Ninevah is not destroyed, because the city repents of sin before the true God.

Jonah understands, however, that God’s “change of mind” is merely the expression of a deeper unchangeability: the constancy of his character as abounding in love (4:2) (see also Ex. 34:5-6, Jer. 18:7-9). So God’s unchangeable nature and his historical actions are related in subtle ways.

God’s omnipresence may be one key to the problem. He is omnipresent, not only in space (Jer. 23:24, Psm. 139), but also in time: as God with us, he is both here and now. He is transcendent, the Lord of space and time, and also immanent, the Lord present in space and time. As the transcendent Lord of time, God sees all times equally and acts as their sovereign, working all things according to the purpose of his will (Eph. 1:11). As the immanent, omnipresent Lord, he is here and now, an actor on the historical stage. Within time, he sees time as we do, the past as past, the future as future. He responds appropriately to each moment, each day, as it comes: with rejoicing or grief. When his rejoicing turns to grief, or vice versa, we can say as the biblical writers do that he changes. But these changes are not changes to his eternal plan. Rather they represent his changing relationships to creatures, as he executes his eternal plan through history.