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Most Christians I have come across believe that because

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8

God must interact with people today the same way He did back then. One way this belief is expressed is that God speaks to us only or primarily though the Bible, for example. There seems to be this implicit assumption that humans today are basically the same as humans back then, so what God said to them applies just as well to us. I think is clearly not the case; the way we act and think today is vastly different, as are most of the issues we face.

The way a father interacts with his child changes as his child matures. What I would like to know is how prominent Christian theologians make the case against this possibility. I want to know how great theologians (on the order of, say, Augustine, John Bunyam, C.S. Lewis, John Wesley, and the like) justify this belief that the way God behaves towards humans today is much the same way He behaved towards them thousands of years ago. Widely-accepted sources of theology such as the Westminster Catechism are also acceptable. It seems to me that this sort of belief is fairly consistent across denominations and branches, so I don't think I need to scope it any tighter.

Note: such a justification should not depend on God's character/characteristics being unchanging. A father's character need not change (though it probably will) for his interactions with his children to change as they get older.


Okay, I'm gonna try to clarify my question. The Bible makes it quite clear that God does not change. His nature, essence, and Being do not change in the slightest. However, that doesn't preclude God from changing the way He acts towards us. Many societies today are vastly different from the societies of the ancients. Take the rise of democracy, for instance, or the rise of various economic systems like capitalism and communism. Take the advent of Science and how electronic/computer technology has become so pervasive and significant. The controversies surrounding abortion and contraception absolutely could not have happened two thousand years ago.

So then, is there a good justification for believing that God behaves towards us today the same way He did towards the ancients? I don't want a Biblically-based answer as there are too many varying interpretations of what it says, so I want an answer that derives from a prominent theologian's work. If one of those great theologians actually directly answers that question, that would be ideal.

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Who claims that God interacts with us in the same way? The Mosaic law is very different from the covenant Jesus made. What's written in the Bible doesn't claim God's interaction is unchanging, does it? –  mojo Jul 11 at 3:45
    
Your analogy (father, child) almost sounds like your suggesting that "humanity" has grown up or matured. This is debatable. It would be difficult to support a claim that human beings, themselves, are fundamentally different, physiologically, from human beings from antiquity. Our societies may appear grown up, but I see nothing about any contemporary society that could not be destroyed or lost within a generation. Is it important to your question that human society be in an, on average, steady incline (however that is measured)? –  mojo Jul 11 at 3:55
    
Wow! Awesomely interesting question. I hope the answers stay with the views of prominent theologians if there are any. –  gideon marx Jul 11 at 8:35
    
A biblical basis is a good start, but ultimately, experience must be the acid test - if your experience doesn't conform to your theology or vice versa, one of the two must change. That said, I find it difficult to see what sort of answer you're really looking for with this question. –  bruised reed Jul 11 at 22:08
    
@bruisedreed: I made an attempt to clarify my question. –  El'endia Starman Jul 12 at 0:34

3 Answers 3

What's the justification for believing that God interacts with us today 
the same way He did thousands of years ago?

In a word: Experience.

Consider the value the following men place on experience:

“This grace of God is a very great, strong, mighty and active thing. It does not lie asleep in the soul. Grace hears, leads, drives, draws, changes, works all in man, and lets itself be distinctly felt and experienced. It is hidden, but its works are evident.” ― Martin Luther

“The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.” ― John Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life

“And Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself.” Acts 26:24. And so say all the world, the men who know not God, of all that are of Paul’s religion: of every one who is so a follower of him as he was of Christ. It is true, there is a sort of religion, nay, and it is called Christianity too, which may be practised without any such Imputation, which is generally allowed to be consistent with common sense, —that is, a religion of form, a round of outward duties, performed in a decent, regular manner. You may add orthodoxy thereto, a system of right opinions, yea, and some quantity of heathen morality; and yet not many will pronounce, that “much religion hath made you mad.” But if you aim at the religion of the heart, if you talk of “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost,” then it will not be long before your sentence is passed, “Thou art beside thyself.” ― John Wesley, Sermon 37 "The Nature of Enthusiasm"

In different ways, they are arguing against a 'dead' orthodoxy that merely consists of intellectually assenting to propositions to be 'believed'; but rather for an experiential faith that makes a profound difference to the life of a believer. As these men all believed in sola scriptura, what constitutes 'valid' experience is of course determined by scripture (i.e. 'how God dealt with the ancients') - this necessarily includes 'how God relates to us today'.

The preceding is the substance of my answer, but for the sake of further clarity: From the sermon quoted earlier, Wesley goes on to say, in warning on the dangers of 'enthusiasts' receiving revelation by...

...what is justly called an extraordinary manner: I mean, by visions or dreams, by strong impressions or sudden impulses on the mind. I do not deny, that God has, of old times, manifested His will in this manner; or, that He can do so now: nay, I believe He does, in some very rare instances. But how frequently do men mistake herein! (Ibid., emphasis added)

Wesley at least, affirms that at least some of the 'supernatural' ways God has related to men in the past do still happen, but are not necessarily the norm, rather:

Perhaps some may ask, “Ought we not then to inquire what is the will of God in all things? And ought not His will to be the rule of our practice?” Unquestionably it ought. But how is a sober Christian to make this inquiry? to know what is the will of God? Not by waiting for supernatural dreams; not by expecting God to reveal it in visions; not by looking for any particular impressions or sudden impulses on his mind: no; but by consulting the oracles of God. “To the law and to the testimony!” This is the general method of knowing what is “the holy and acceptable will of God.” (Ibid.)

So this is the norm (as per the model of the Bereans - cf. Acts 17:11), however just because 'visions...dreams...strong impressions or sudden impulses on the mind' from God are 'very rare', they are not non-existant.

It is actually a reasonably common mistake, upon cursorily reading the Bible, to assume that the way God normally interacts with man is overtly miraculous. Such a view (a seemingly implied premise of your question) focuses on the 'spectacular portions' of scripture ignoring the fact that over the historical period covered by scripture, the miracles, visions and dreams etc. presented are actually few and far between (the periods of the Exodus and the ministry years of Jesus being the exceptions that actually prove the rule). Scripture is not just a 'highlights package' of God's 'greatest hits', but it does actually record (significantly extensive) periods where nothing much is happening on the miracle front - the people of God are chronicled as proceeding through life in a fashion that is either characteristically obedient or disobedient to earlier revelation, but not necessarily 'encountering' God until (or sometimes, not even when) some crisis eventuates. Prophets receiving their prophetic revelation may be viewed as a significant exception to this, but for the vast majority of people contemporaneous with the prophets, they could easily have viewed the prophets and what they said as just a guy mouthing words unless there was some miraculous confirmation or direct fulfillment of foretold events (which often didn't happen for generations after the fact) - indeed at least in Jeremiah's case, that is exactly what happened.

In regard to some of the other issues you raise -

Many societies today are vastly different from the societies of the ancients.
Take the rise of democracy, for instance, or the rise of various economic systems 
like capitalism and communism. Take the advent of Science and how
electronic/computer technology has become so pervasive and significant. The 
controversies surrounding abortion and contraception absolutely could not have 
happened two thousand years ago.

The Bible itself portrays:

  • People groups that undergo significant cultural transformations - including, but not limited to, the development of various technologies and operating under different political and economic systems - but God's interactions with those people groups not changing significantly as a consequence of these particular changes, but rather -
  • God changing the way he relates to people according to how they relate to Him. In the book of Judges for example, viewed at one level, God changes the way He relates to His people from chapter to chapter - alternately allowing them to be oppressed and then delivered (of course, viewed more wholistically, God is completely consistent - it is the people who He deals with that are inconsistent). The Amorites (cf. Genesis 15:6 & book of Joshua) and Ninevites (book of Jonah) are further salutory examples of this.
  • Significant and lasting changes in the way He relates to people according to 'Covenants' he makes with them (particularly Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob/Israel, Moses & the children of Israel, David and of course the New Covenant offered through Christ to all peoples of the Earth).

Summary: the Bible itself portrays a variety of ways that 'God behaves towards mankind'. Theologians who affirm sola scriptura necessarily bind themselves to scriptural (especially New Covenantal) models of this interaction - for them to deny that God would 'interact with us today the same way He did thousands of years ago' would be inherently inconsistent.

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Ah, great answer! –  El'endia Starman Jul 14 at 12:00

Your question kind of hops around, but I can say that the justification for that belief is the verse you provide plus some others

Hebrews 13:8 ESV Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Malachi 3:6 ESV For I the Lord do not change

James 1:17 ESV Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Yet you, correctly, mention how God's character need not change for his plans to change. But scripture says just as clearly that God's plans have been as unchanging as He has:

  • Ephesians 1:9-10 ESV making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

  • Acts 17:26,27,31 ESV And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him....he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

  • Isaiah 46:8-11 ESV Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

If then, your question goes further in asking "His nature and eternal plan are unchanging, but is he doing the same stuff now as he was then?" Then I think that's a bit too broad. I hear all the time about how Muslims in the middle east are seeing Jesus in their dreams. I still hear about miracles and I still hear about how God is speaking believers everywhere, but that is all anecdotal.

This reference to the book of Joel that Peter gives in one of his sermons seems to say that God will still be doing his cool, miracle-ish type stuff all the way to the end of time.

Acts 2:17 ESV And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;

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He wants to know how great theologians (on the order of, say, Augustine, John Bunyam, C.S. Lewis, John Wesley, and the like) justify this belief that the way God behaves towards humans today is much the same way He behaved towards them thousands of years ago. The position for these writers I do not know. –  Only he is good. Jul 11 at 20:07

What do you mean by "interacts with"? Humans today ARE the same, the rules ARE the same. God judges us the same. But God does not "interact with" us the same, as in, he doesn't speak audibly to us. Your question is really not a question but a liberal rant, and one that is all caused by your inability to differentiate between the rules changing and interaction changing.

Parents may interact differently with their children as they grow, but does that mean their morality changes? Say a parent taught their child that smoking is wrong. As a kid, if they caught the kid smoking they might interact with them one way, and as an adult, a different way. But in both cases the disappointment and disapproval will be the same.

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I'd appreciate some constructive criticism. –  david brainerd Jul 11 at 3:09
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I didn't downvote but as constructive criticism... It's generally preferred to not include personal attacks in answers. The second sentence doesn't add anything relevant to your answer, and the insulting tone makes it sound much less professional. The second paragraph was valid, but didn't really answer the question. Overall, this looks more like. comment than an answer. –  David Stratton Jul 11 at 3:27
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It's also not factually accurate; I'm aware of several people of sound mind and character who profess to have audibly heard God speaking to them. –  Waggers Jul 14 at 12:17
    
@Waggers Saying that God doesn't speak to humans audibly also contradicts scripture. In Numbers (ch 9 or something I forget) God listed five ways He would speak to whom He chooses. Audible speech was one of them! –  Zoe Jul 14 at 15:19

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