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"God is perfect" is often used as a justification for the belief that God never became God, but that rather, He never changed, but simply always was God, and always was perfect.

What is the Biblical justification for the claim that "perfect" means that God always was God and never changed, seeing as Jesus commands us to be perfect, "even as our Father in Heaven is perfect"?

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    I don’t think this is the claim. As I understand Aquinas, God is pure actuality, meaning he lacks any potential. It is the fact that an imperfection represents and unactualized potential in God that makes him perfect, and this essence of pure act necessitates him being immutable (unchanging)
    – Luke Hill
    Dec 23, 2023 at 5:47
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    @LukeHill The question is asking whether being perfect now means He always was perfect. This has to do with immutable in the present not necessarily implying immutable in the past.
    – pygosceles
    Dec 23, 2023 at 7:50
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    This question is similar to the quintessential loaded question “have you stopped beating your wife?”: if you simply answer the question without a frame challenge, you implicitly accept its implications even if you disagree with them. In this case my answer would be “no, but there’s plenty of biblical support for God having always existed and being unchanging”. This is a loaded question.
    – bob
    Dec 24, 2023 at 0:56
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    To be salvageable as a real question this needs to reference one or more quotes that use the claimed argument, or it needs to be edited to drop the part about perfection implying eternal unchanging existence and just focus on the latter part (i.e. ask if God has always existed and is unchanging). As it stands it’s a claim without evidence.
    – bob
    Dec 24, 2023 at 1:01
  • @Bob God always existing and being unchanging do not imply that He never changed. This question addresses one such argument against His having changed in the past. But most answers seem to be missing the part about present status not implying the same status at all points in the past.
    – pygosceles
    Dec 24, 2023 at 1:31

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I confess I am struggling to understand your question. I agree that “God is perfect” but how does that have anything to do with your claim that this “is often used as a justification for the belief that God never became God, but that rather, He never changed, but simply always was God, and always was perfect.” I have never heard such a thing said by Christians who do not accept the belief of Latter Day Saints who say “God was once a man”.

Yes, Christians believe that the Almighty, Creator God whom we worship has always been the Almighty, Creator God and always will be the Almighty, Creator God. He is perfection personified, yet your premise is that "perfect" means that God always was God and never changed? God’s perfection is not in question.

Because your question is based on a premise that you have failed to verify, substantiate or bears any resemblance to Christian theology, then I can only conclude it is a “straw man” argument.

The biblical context in accepting the truth that God does not change can be found in Lamentations 3:22-23 – but it is all about His character, His integrity and that He is always true and faithful. Below are the words to a great Christian hymn written by Thomas Chisholm in 1923:

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father; There is no shadow of turning with thee; Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; As thou has been thou forever will be.

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest; Sun, moon and stars in their courses above; Join with all nature in manifold witness to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth; Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow; Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside!

The words of this great Christian hymn are so inspirational and uplifting that I want this hymn to be sung at my funeral. God does not change. He has never been anything other than the Lord God Almighty, full of compassion and grace, whose mercies are new every morning.

According to the Bible the Lord God Almighty did not start out as a spirit son of some heavenly father and mother, who is known by Latter Day Saints as Jehovah, who then came to earth to be born as Jesus in order to progress to his own godhood. Your question, Sir, makes no sense to me. Which God do YOU speak of?

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    "God’s perfection is not in question" -- absolutely agreed. I will admit that the justification "God is perfect and therefore never changed" seems like a desperate grasp at straws designed only to contradict the process of God becoming who He is today. Scripture appears to be worded in such a way as to accommodate the beliefs of those, provided they are willing to turn a blind eye towards many important teachings of Scripture. However, Scripture does not justify a claim that God never changed. The simply syllogism that yields a non sequitur is "A is X. Therefore A has always been X."
    – pygosceles
    Dec 23, 2023 at 18:15
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    Taking the above syllogism, this question highlights the fact that it requires special pleading and violation of clearly understood logical properties to make the leap from "A is X" to "A always was X", and simply asks for an attempt to explain any justification or lack thereof for such special pleading.
    – pygosceles
    Dec 23, 2023 at 18:18
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    Who is claiming as a complete argument that A is X implies A was always X?
    – eques
    Dec 23, 2023 at 19:23
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    @pygosceles It does not say 'from one eternity to another'. Eternity to eternity applies the same concept of 'eternity' to both past and future: not multiple eternities. If you acknowledge actual 'eternity' to the future you must do so to the past as well. Dec 23, 2023 at 22:46
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    @Lesley The premise is false. To argue that created beings (us) 'become' 'coeternal' (supposedly, as God is) and then to apply that 'change' to God himself as he (supposedly) 'developed' is a false premise. We do not become eternal, as God is eternal. If we believe the gospel (and only the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the eternal God) then, by a begetting, by union in the Holy Spirit, we have union with Deity and thus (and only thus) do we have eternal life. Some suppose that a 'thing' (life of a divine kind) is 'trasnferred' to us. Not so. Only in union, not otherwise.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 24, 2023 at 10:38
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The quality of perfection is a matter of character. It is a matter of integrity. It is a matter of being true to one's self.

We are not commanded to achieve some sort of legal perfection. Because 'I am dead to the law' and 'redeemed from the law' and 'redeemed from the curse of the law'.

Love fulfils all law. If I love another, I need no law. I care for them. I long for their good. I focus on their well-being. I seek their best interests. I make sacrifice, myself, for their benefit.

I need no rules to do this. Love conquers all.

For God is love. That is the manner in which he exists. That is how he is perfect . . .

. . . . and he never deviates.

He changes not.

He is, always, and ever has been - Love.


God is true to himself. He cannot deny himself. He is what he is and he does not change. He is true to what he is.

God spoke the truth when he said, 'I am the Lord, I change not'. He was being true to his own nature - an eternal nature.

When the Angel of the Lord appeared in the burning bush, and Jehovah looked, and Elohim spoke, then three aspects of Deity are described and God said 'I am that I am'.

'I am' is Person ; 'that I am' is nature. God is what he is. And he does not change - for he is . . . . God.

If someone denies these fundamental truths, if they do not accept what the words mean, at their face value, if they attempt to 'wrest' these words (as Paul describes it) then I would have nothing to say about anything else in religion.

It would be pointless, if these fundamental truths are not accepted.


And I would feel unable to go further and discuss anything at all in regard to the one whom Mary dressed in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger in Bethlehem.

It would be pointless, for only those are invited to the manger, who accept that Glory is to God in the Highest, higher than all the angelic host.

Who is, thus, God alone. (And there is none other and there can be none other.)

Who is, thus, God alone.

And always is, and always has been, and always will be - exactly what he is . .

. . . . . Love, in perfection.

I have loved thee with an everlasting love [Jeremiah 31:3 KJV]

Amen.

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    The question does not at all dispute the present and future nature of God in the slightest. The logical gap to be filled is in the "was" aspect of His attributes. "God has attribute X" or more generally, "A has attribute X" does not in any way imply that "A has always had attribute X". A claim that God has always been perfect because He is perfect presupposes that causality is violated by God, through special pleading either because He is God or because He is perfect, or by a hidden reason. No one has to deny the meaning of "is" or "I AM" to say that "A is X" does not imply "A always was X".
    – pygosceles
    Dec 23, 2023 at 18:10
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    unfortunately this leaves the reader open to seeing such a take on Christianity as being founded upon special pleading, without due acknowledgement to attributes of God such as reasonability. "Come now, and let us reason together".
    – pygosceles
    Dec 23, 2023 at 18:20
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    "And the result of your reasonings is that God is not eternal, is it ?" That is absolutely not what I am saying. God always has existed, but there is no Scripture anywhere that says He always had the fullness of the attributes of Deity. Even the Son grew. God is eternal and so is man. Man, the child of God, can become perfect, and is therefore coeternal with God. Is "everlasting" the same as "everfirsting"?
    – pygosceles
    Dec 23, 2023 at 18:25
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    @pygosceles So you elevate the tree of the knowledge of good and evil above God (your comment elsewhere) and now you elevate created humanity to be 'coeternal with God'. I shall comment no further. I am being discouraged from further comment. No further.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 23, 2023 at 18:28
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    Crazy as it might sound, God created that tree. Yet it was to show that obedience must precede knowledge. I elevate the true nature of God above unscriptural creeds and superstitions. The word "create" never meant "ex nihilo". There is no such word in any language meaning "exnihilate". Create means the same thing it has always meant. And yes, we are the offspring of God.
    – pygosceles
    Dec 23, 2023 at 18:33
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I don't have any justification for that claim. (Because of that, I don't believe that claim)

I do have something to say about "Be ye perfect, even as our Father in Heaven is perfect."

The Western meaning of the word "perfect" is to do absolute perfect.

The definition of "perfect" (in verb form) from the Oxford Dictionary is to

make (something) completely free from faults or defects, or as close to such a condition as possible.

In this verse, perfect is translated from the Greek τέλειοι, meaning mature (like a tree bearing fruit), full grown, having reached its end, complete, etc.

This is very different from flawless performance.

Perfection is a state of being. Jesus is saying to be perfect, not to do perfect. This is a huge difference.

If a tree is is not producing fruit when it is young, is it not doing perfect? It is not doing perfect, but it is being perfect to the best of it's abilities. You be perfect by doing your best. You are perfect by being flawless in all aspects.

Jesus was saying to do the best we can at all times and all places. (like our Father)

Our best will certainly not be anything like the Father's best because he has different capabilities. Our capabilities are very different from the Father's capabilities but we can still do the best with our capabilities.

Note: I take a considerable amount of ideas from Perfection: Being vs. Doing. Please read it to get a fuller understanding of what I am saying.

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There is none. The reverse is proven by the Bible and the very meanings of words.

Latin "perfect" means "whole or complete" or "thoroughly done; well made". Is it possible to be complete without ever having endured a process of becoming whole or complete? The root verb behind perfect, facere, means to "make or do". Anything that is made or done, logically must have undergone a stage in which those things were being made or done. The word itself tells us so: the -fect root is the past participle of "make/do", stating unequivocally that the condition or event spoken of was accomplished in the past. Not only was it accomplished, it was thoroughly accomplished, leaving nothing undone, per the prefix per-. In fact, this meaning is so thoroughly baked into our language (which God determines the trajectory of) that the very name of the past tense for a thing completed is the word "perfect" itself.

If we can become perfect, "even as our Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48--proving that it is the same "perfect"), then perfection cannot be used to contradict change or progression in the past. In fact, the word itself testifies of past progression towards and culminating in completion. If any of us becomes perfect, it must be through repentance, change and progression empowered the Savior's grace. The Savior promised that we can become perfect, even as the Father is perfect. If we cannot do so, that would make the Son of God a liar. But we know He cannot lie.

Therefore man can become perfect--an attribute of God--and the reality of God's perfection and thenceforth unchanging nature does not and cannot rationally or in any way contradict that God had to do something to become our God.

For additional witnesses, in Matthew 19:21 the Lord invites the rich young ruler to become perfect by following Him. Therefore the exact same perfection that the Father has is available to us, and therefore God the Father's status of perfection cannot possibly contradict past progression on His part.

The Savior frequently reflected on and expounded the meaning of His Sonship towards the Father and His Living Inheritance from the Father: "All things that the Father hath are mine" (John 16:15), "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." (John 14:7), "Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel." (John 5:19-20), and so on. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." (Romans 8:16-17) "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." (John 17:5)

The joint inheritance with the Son is more than a fatted calf, a ring and a robe, it is, in the express words of the Savior, it is to be like the Father in every respect even as Jesus is Heir to all the Father's attributes, and to have all that the Father has. A child of God cannot be perfect unless he becomes like God.

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    Asserting that perfect means there must be a process to complete is an etymological fallacy at best. "Is it possible to be complete without ever having endured a process of becoming whole or complete?" that is exactly OP's question effectively. Your argument is thus because nothing is completed without having undergone a process to be completed, God must have undergone a process to be perfect. Thus God isn't unchangeable. You simply assume the oppose of the proposed question. Plus you offer no Biblical sources to support your argument (nor attempt more than assert it doesn't exist)
    – eques
    Dec 23, 2023 at 1:30
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    @eques It is in fact a tautology that something cannot be completed if it was never begun or in process of completion. It is a logical error to say that God never changed because He is unchangeable. Simplify it thus: "A cannot change. Therefore A never changed" is a non sequitur. Many things are unchangeable today that have changed in the past. I assumed nothing. Matthew 5:48 -- "no Biblical sources"?
    – pygosceles
    Dec 23, 2023 at 4:27
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    No. Something that cannot be further improved is completed because the alternative (uncompleted) cannot apply. I'm not asserting "cannot change -> never changed." I am only asserting that perfection doesn't require process into it. You cite one verse that uses the word perfect twice; that's hardly Biblical evidence that supports the idea that God is changeable. That's effectively an equivocation fallacy. You assume the word perfect there is used in exactly the same way.
    – eques
    Dec 23, 2023 at 12:14
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    @eques "I'm not asserting "cannot change -> never changed." Thank you, then you admit that the justification that "God is unchanging, therefore He never changed" is an invalid one. "that's hardly Biblical evidence" - It is more than evidence, it is proof. It plainly states that we are commanded by the Being who cannot lie to become perfect with the same perfection that God the Father has. Therefore perfection now cannot imply a past without progression.
    – pygosceles
    Dec 23, 2023 at 18:41
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    @eques It proves beyond all doubt that the same term "perfection" is applicable to both man and God in full semantic equivalence. I made no assumptions anywhere. The Scriptures explicitly and unequivocally state that man is eligible to receive the exact same perfection that God has, conditioned on his individual faithfulness. Therefore "God is perfect" does not and cannot imply "God always was perfect". If you want to walk away from what words actually mean and what text actually says, then the text can be of no use to you.
    – pygosceles
    Dec 23, 2023 at 20:54

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