What is the significance of Jeremiah 18:7–11?

The Lord states that “if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it.” But if a nation which he has declared he will bless “does evil in my sight…I will change my mind about the good that I had intended to do to it.”

If the Lord exhaustively foreknows what will definitely transpire in the future, it is impossible for him to genuinely intend to curse or bless a nation and then later genuinely reverse his plan. In other words, it’s difficult to avoid denying the premise of this entire passage, and all passages like it. If the classical understanding of God’s foreknowledge is correct, God eternally knows exactly what he will and will not do and what every nation will and will not do. There can be no authentic reversal.

Yet the Bible depicts God’s willingness to change his mind as one of his attributes of greatness (Jonah 4:2; Joel 2:12–13). And, as we have seen, there are a wealth of biblical examples in which the Lord demonstrates this attribute. Dare we hold any view which requires us to conclude that such a magnificent aspect of the biblical portrait of God is merely anthropomorphic and not depicting God as he actually is?

We should also note that the fundamental error in the Israelites’ thinking which Jeremiah is confronting in this passage is their conclusion that since God has prophesied against them, “It is no use!” (vs. 12). Yet this is exactly the conclusion the classical view encourages. If the future is eternally unalterable and known by God as such, then it is appropriate to conclude when he tells us of something coming, “It is no use!” How could we possibly change what is already certain to God?

In contrast to this, if we agree with Scripture that this fatalistic attitude is wrong, then shouldn’t we conclude that the future is not exhaustively settled? Shouldn’t we conclude that it is, to some degree, open to our decisions as free agents? Shouldn’t we conclude that, to some extent, the future is not definitely this way or definitely that way, but rather possibly this way or possibly that way? And since God knows reality perfectly, shouldn’t we conclude that God knows the future as being, in part, a realm of possibilities, not only definite certainties?

Only when we accept this, I submit, can passages like Jeremiah 18:7–11 be cleared of any hint of disingenuousness. The verse speaks about God as he truly is: He plans, he responds, he changes.

Category:
Tags: ,
Topics:
Verse:

Related Reading

Does your “dispositional” ontology avoid substantival categories?

Question: In Trinity and Process you argue against a “substantival” ontology and instead advocate a “relational,” “process” and/or “dispositional” ontology in which being, being-in-relation and being-in-process are one and the same. In your view, entity x is its relation to entity y (and all other relations) and is the disposition to interact with y (and…

How do you respond to Zechariah 12:10?

“when they look on the one they have pierced, they shall mourn for him…” Hundreds of years before Christ was born it was declared that he would be pierced (cf. John 19:24–27). Detailed prophecies such as this one help convince us that Jesus is the Messiah hoped for in the Old Testament. The ministry and…

What is the significance of 2 Chronicles 7:12–14?

The Lord says to Solomon, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will…

Topics:

Free Will: What does Quantum Theory suggest?

Bet you didn’t think we’d be going here. Greg discusses how quantum theory supports the idea of free will.

Revelation 17:8 refers to people whose names haven’t been written in “the book of life from the creation of the world.” Doesn’t this conflict with open theism?

As in Revelation 13:8, the clause “from the foundation” (apo kataboleis) need not mean “from before the foundation” but simply “from the foundation” (= since the foundation). It’s not that names either were or were not written in the “book of life” before they were ever born. Rather, throughout history, in response to the choices…

Podcast: Is Open Theism an Accommodation?

Or for that matter is accommodation an accommodation? Greg talks about things that impact God. http://traffic.libsyn.com/askgregboyd/Episode_0407.mp3