More or less I am asking for a defense of the propitiatory view of atonement in which God changes from being angry to being happy with us rather than sinners being the ones who need to change. Perhaps I misunderstand this model.

  • In some respect, it doesn't matter whether God's changeable--or in what respect He can change if He can. If God is benevolent--or if God isn't strictly benevolent, but is merely eternal and doesn't need us for Him to be, we can reasonably assume that God's anger is not self-serving. It's for our own benefit. Thus, it's worth appeasing regardless of His changeability. – svidgen Jan 19 '13 at 3:48
  • Good point. I guess this doesn't totally make sense without some historical backdrop. – user3797 Jan 19 '13 at 14:30

You misunderstand the model. But it's a common misunderstanding. One that comes up often enough that there's a standard answer from Apologetics. Here is is in my words:

The statement that God doesn't change means that His nature doesn't change. His Nature includes many attributes that never change: Goodness, holiness, He is Just, Righteous, and executes Judgement. None of these change.

His attitude toward us can and does change. This is not only consistent with the idea that His nature never changes, it is necessary if His nature of righteousness never changes. If God is righteous, He must punish sin. Therefore, if we are in sin, He must punish us. If He is forgiving, then His attitude toward us must be able to change from wrath to forgiveness.

I am a parent. I love my children. I will always try to do what's best for them, which means I will praise them when they deserve praise, I will punish them when they deserve punishment, I will comfort them when they are hurting, and I will burn with anger if anyone hurts them.

The fact that I can be angry with them when they are naughty and please with them when they are good does not mean that I change. I remain the same. Who I am does not change, my nature does not change. Neither does the fact that God can be angry with us, and then forgive us means that He changes.

More on this at Apologetics Press, on the question of "Does God repent?"


For instance, during the Patriarchal Age in which they were living, Noah and his contemporaries had received instructions on how to live righteously (see 1 Peter 3:18-20), and as long as they continued in this manner, God’s presence and blessings would abide with them. But when they became sinful and unrepentant, He no longer could condone their actions. As a consequence of their sinful rebelliousness, God withdrew His spirit (Genesis 6:3), and pledged to send a flood to destroy all mankind except Noah and his immediate family (6:7). God was grieved (6:6), not because He did not know that this series of events would happen, or because He somehow “regretted” having created man in the first place, but because, having given man the choice to serve Him or reject Him, man had chosen the latter with such unanimity. When we hear God described in terms such as “sad,” “joyful,” etc. that frequently are used to describe human emotions, we must remember that such descriptions are not intended to imply that God is emotionally vulnerable in the same way that humans are (cf. Acts 17:25). Rather, such descriptions are intended to show that God is compassionate and loving.

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    Also, even the nature of humans does not change despite our attitude changing. One moment I'm disappointed; another I am happy. Yet, at both times, I remain human. How much more would the nature of the eternal God remain unchanged? – user900 Jan 19 '13 at 1:30
  • There is an underlying historical context to this question that begs a philosophical question: is wrath part of God's essence or only one of his energies? – user3797 Jan 19 '13 at 14:31
  • @theosis: I would definitely enjoy seeing that question posed on the Christianity SE site. Please feel free to do so. Actually, I see that you edited your other question and included a similar statement in it. So, nevermind the request. – user900 Jan 19 '13 at 20:12

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