Does the Trinity mean that God Changes?
The incarnation of Christ is a fundamental doctrine in theology that asserts the union of Divinity and humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. It is a key concept in the Trinity but a sticking point for unitarians. Therefore, the question we ask in this article is, does the Trinity mean that God changes?
I think this is a pretty complex argument and I suspect that points made on either side of the debate will not convince either party. Frankly, written debate rarely does more than simply elevate the discourse. Spiritual conviction comes from prayerful consideration and face to face conversation. Therefore this article aims to make the case that the incarnation of Christ did not represent a change in the immutable nature of God. I hope that the points I make assist you to discuss this with someone on the opposite side of the debate and become convinced.
Does the Trinity mean that God changes? I am asserting that rather the incarnation of Christ as human was an extension of God’s unchanging nature of Love rather than a departure from it.
God’s Nature does not Change
The concept of God’s immutable nature is central to this argument. Our understanding of God is that He is eternal, perfect, unchanging and unaffected by time. In asking “does the Trinity mean that God changes?” opponents are suggesting that the doctrine of the Trinity implies that God is subject to change. They are suggesting that the doctrine implies that God is imperfect or has potential for improvement. This is therefore incompatible with our universal agreement that God is all-knowing and all-powerful.
God declares of Himself, “I, Yahweh, do not change.” (Mal 3:6).
This solid foundation for the unchanging nature of God, emphasises His consistency throughout time from the Old Testament. This theme carries through to James’ writing where is says that the Father is not subject to variability. (Jas 1:17)
It is echoed in Heb 13:8. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”
God and Jesus share this characteristic of being eternal and consistent throughout the ages.
Incarnation was a Revelation of God
Does the Trinity mean that God changes or is it rather an example of the progressive revelation of the nature of God? In fact, throughout Scripture, you can see a progressive revelation of God.
Throughout the Old Testament, God revealed Himself to humanity in an incremental fashion (post the Fall at least). Of course, you have revelations in visions, dreams and the teachings of holy men set apart by God. The Law was designed as a teaching tool to assist humans to understand their relationship with God. The Judges were a way for God to help Israel to understand that they needed help to overcome the dilemmas they faced in a hostile world. The prophets likewise taught Israel the need for a mediator.
All of this led humanity to understand the need for the ultimate mediator between God and humanity, Jesus Christ. This revelation of the extent of God’s love is taken up in John 1:18. “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known.”
Jesus is the perfect representation of the Father, embodying the nature of God without altering it.
Incarnation is a Fulfilment of Prophecy
The incarnation of Jesus, rather than coming out of the blue, was clearly foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament.
The one that really strikes me is Isa 9:6
As a recovering unitarian, I get the interpretation of this verse as indicative of God Manifestation, but seriously, the revelation of the nature of Jesus in the Trinity in this verse is pretty unmistakeable.
For a child has been born to us, a son has been given to us. He shoulders responsibility and is called Wonderful Adviser, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.Isa 9:6 (NET)
To dismiss this out of hand requires significant theological gymnastics. The prophecy from a plain and simple reading asserts the divinity of Jesus and His union with the Father.
The birth, life, death and importantly, the resurrection of Jesus, fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. This means that Jesus’ incarnation was consistent with God’s declared purpose, rather than a deviation. The continuity between Old and New Testament reinforces this.
The Incarnation and the Trinity
Does the Trinity mean that God Changes? Understanding the incarnation of Christ within the context of the Trinity only strengthens the argument that the incarnation was a further revelation of the unchanging nature of God.
God exists as three distinct persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) yet remains one God. In this framework (and coupled with Isa 9:6 for example), the incarnation is the second person of the Trinity taking on human form. In taking on human form, Jesus retained His divine nature. The incarnation therefore, is consistent with the eternal, unchanging nature of God because it is an expression of God’s multi-dimensional existance rather than a contradiction of it.
Even if you don’t accept the divinity of Jesus, you have to concede that this framework allows the incarnation of Christ without it being a change in the fundamental nature of God.
That God became human and suffered the indignity of the Cross for us is a beautiful expression of His unchanging love nature.
Conclusion – Does the Trinity mean that God Changes?
At the outset, I understand that my mere words here will not change those who are entrenched. I no longer see my role in life to convert people from one faith to another. My sole role, humbly, is to introduce people to Jesus and then get out of the way of the relationship.
Does the Trinity mean that God changes? Well, I can see the arguments on both sides of the debate. I have in fact, espoused both sides of the debate in the past. My studies convince me of the true nature of God, His Son and the Holy Spirit as a beautiful, divine community.
This article asserts that the incarnation of Christ was a continuation and fulfilment of His eternal character and purpose. It is consistent with prophecy as well as the teaching of the bible as a whole.