Monday, July 5, 2010

Repost: The Immutability of God: Its Truth and Relevancy - Theological Applications

We have finally come to our final post and look at the theological subject of God's Immutability.  We've discussed its importance, its biblical foundation, biblical challenges, and various theological challenges, and now we must discuss its application.  Since all theology is practical, we have not done our job until we have applied our theology.  Theology was meant to be practiced and the doctrine of immutability applies directly to our lives.

This is a vital point that deserves much attention.  Many consider the study of theology to be a hobby for those who live in ivory towers or for geeks who have too much time on their hands.  I believe that part of the reason the Church is anemic is because we have failed to see the connection between theology and practice.  This is why we see many self-help and Christian living books at the local Christian book store while the theology books are somewhere in the back.  I want us to see that instead of simply looking to see what the Bible says about our sex lives or how to balance our checkbook, let us take the time to dig deeper into Scriptures theological truths and then see how they apply.

So in what ways is the doctrine of the Immutability of God applicable to me?  First, if God is immutable (and thus does not change), then His words, declarations, truths, and revelations are eternal.  This means that Scripture remains applicable for today.

In a world of news cycles, it is tempting to see God's Word revealed in Scripture to be only temporarily.  To do so turns the Bible into a fable or at the very least a document that is out of touch with our society.  Unfortanetly many (even among Christians) hold to this view.  For example, some would argue that due to recent scientific and historical evidences, portions of the Bible are outdated and irrelevant to today.  They knew nothing of microscopes, nuclear weapons, sexual orientation, or evolution.  To think that shepherds, farmers, ancient kings, desert prophets, fishermen, local-eating baptizers, or amateurish historians is relevent to today is simply foolish.

But if Scripture is God's Word and God Himself is immutable then the Bible is transcendent.  The message and meaning (not to mention application) of Scripture is not limited to age, time, or culture.  Since God does not change and does not contradict Himself, then what was morally wrong in the past remains so today.

What we really have here is a revelation of our true motivations.  The reason we wish to write the Bible off as out of touch is in order to justify our immorality and impurity.  Just as atheism is oftentimes a strong motive for vice, so too relegating the Bible to ancient literature and nothing more is a strong motive to ignore its moral implications.  If the Bible is not relevant, then neither is the gospel or the "thou shall nots."  But, as we have established, if God is immutable then we are accountable to what He has revealed.  Jesus was right when he said, "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed" (John 3:19-20). Our desire to remain in darkness (thus veiled) remains strong.

Secondly, if God is immutable then His promises are certain and we can have assurance of our salvation.  One of the unfortunate theological debates that Christians have had (and continue to have) throughout history is the debate over the assurance of salvation.  The question is this:  if a person gets "saved" and then lives in sin, can or do they lose their salvation?

The question really misses the point of salvation.  For one, salvation is by grace through faith alone apart from our works.  Therefore, if works had nothing to do with our salvation in the first place then how can it rob us of our salvation after we've been redeemed?  This is no excuse for immorality (as many claim).  Instead, those who do fall away clearly never understood the gospel in the first place.  The problem here isn't assurance, then problem is with cheap grace.

But apply immutability to this issue.  If God had declared one justified will He then change His mind?  To suggest that one can lose their salvation either suggests that they gained in the first place (which is blasphemy) or that God changes His mind with the wind (which is theologically unfounded and contradictory of Scripture).  The argument in favor of assurance begins and (should) ends with God's immutability.  When God declares something He does not go back on His Word.  If Scripture is eternal, then so is our salvation.  Since it is God who declares us righteous, then only God can declare otherwise after the fact and since God does not change, neither will our standing before Him.

This means that we can have full assurance that though we make mistakes we are still in the arms of God.  Again, this is no license to sin and we must always be asking ourselves if we are truly redeemed and checking to see if we bear the fruits of redemption.  But for those who are justified by God will always be justified by God.

Thirdly, and very importantly, if God is immutable then the gospel is transcendent.  Virtually every major liberal attack on orthodox doctrine is a fundamental attack on the immutability of God and the transcendence of the gospel.  If God is immutable then His gospel has to be transcendent and not limited or redefined because of changes in culture, language, nations, or technology.  The same message that saved the sinners at Pentecost continues to save us today.  The cross and resurrection of Christ remains the fundamental message of Christianity and the gospel itself today.  For more on this subject, read my previous article and/or listen to a sermon I gave on the subject.

Any attempt to change the gospel or to update it for the 21st Century (which seems to be the goal of any and every heresy these days) is at its core a fundamental attack on the immutability of God. 

Finally, if God is immutable then the future is certain and we have no reason to fear.  Here we see God's Immutability connected with His Sovereignty and Providence.  Since God has already written the future, then we can be certain that His glorious plan will be fulfilled.  We will be redeemed.  Sin will be judged.  Righteousness will be rewarded.  We will be resurrected.  Justice will reign forth.  Since and injustice will end.  The effects of the Fall will be conquered and be no more.  Violence will cease.  The promises made to Israel will be fulfilled.  Satan will finally and forever overthrown.  And we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6).

This means that when I turn on the news, though I might be disheartened, I need not be afraid.  I know how the story ends. I need not be surprised by the events around me.  I need not fear that all is lost and there is no hope.  I am confident that God is still in control and knows what He is doing.  Whether it be the smallest of concerns to the greatest of unforeseen tragedies, we can have confidence that God is in control and we can rest at night.  God's soveriegnty and providence can only be possible if He is immutable.  God wins.

These are only just a few (and a drop in a bucket) of applications one can make from this wonderful doctrine.  I believe it is time for Christians to take it more seriously.  If God is Immutable then when have real hope, real joy, real contentment, real peace.  If Christians would become more willing to think through these issues and study the attribute of God we will be much better off than we are today.

In conclusion, I am reminded of a brief conversation Carl FH Henry had with Karl Barth.  The story goes that Henry was being introduced at an event for Barth as the editor of Christianity Today.  At that announcement Barth declared, "You mean, Christianity Yesterday!"  Without hesitation or thought Henry replied, "Christianity, Yesterday, Today, and Forever!"

Let us have confidence and let us boldly proclaim not just the Christianity of yesterday, today, and forever, but also the God and His Son Jesus Christ yesterday, today, and forever.

For more:
Theology - The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Introduction (Part 1)
Theology - The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Scriptural Foundation (Part 2)
Theology - The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Scriptural Challenges (Part 3)
Theology - The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Theological Challenges (Part 4)
Theology - The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Practical Implications (Part 5) 
Sermon Podcast - April 26, 2010 - The Immutability of God 
Sermon Podcast - November 29, 2009 - The Transcendence of the Gospel
Theology - The Stipulation that Paralyzes:  Tony Jones and the Limits of the Emergent Worldview
Theology - Orthopraxy is Rooted in Orthodoxy - The Postmodern Return to Rome
Commentary - Accomodationism Breed Irrelevancy:  Why Liberalism Fails and the Transcendent Gospel Triumphs 

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