Dr. David Bauer
Free Methodists believe that we must take seriously the fact that Scripture presents God as both knowing the future and sometimes changing his mind. Some readers of the Bible take these two descriptions to be contradictory. After all, they would say, how can God change his mind on the basis of something that happens at a point in time if God had had full knowledge of the future and was thus aware of all that would happen? This consideration has led certain readers of the Bible to deny either God’s complete foreknowledge or God’s practice of changing his mind on the basis of what human beings do.
But the Bible affirms both of these descriptions of God, and does not consider them contradictory. Although the biblical writers do not argue explicitly for God’s complete foreknowledge, they do assume God’s foreknowledge and many passages describe God as knowing the future (Genesis 15:13, Daniel 2:21-49, Acts 20:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). In addition, there are several New Testament passages that represent Jesus as knowing the future (Matthew 24:5-25, 13:11 and 38; 21:18-19).
Other biblical statements describe God as changing his mind on the basis of what humans do (Exodus 32:1-34, Jonah 3:1-10; 1 Samuel 15:1-35, Matthew 2:20-22). The Old Testament describes this divine change as an instance of God’s “repentance.” This language does not suggest that God realized that what he intended to do was morally wrong, and therefore changed his behavior. Rather, it indicates that in response to specific human actions God reconsidered what he had intended to do.