Bible Review 12:3, June 1996

When God Repents

God’s repentance is not only an expression of divine freedom, but also of divine compassion.

By Bernhard W. Anderson

Bible Review

Now and then in the Bible, God “repents.” In the Jonah story, for instance, we read that when God saw how the people of Nineveh had turned from their evil ways, God “repented” (KJV) of the calamity he had planned to bring on them (Jonah 3:10). This curious theological statement leads to the larger question of God’s sovereignty and human freedom.

In creating humankind in the divine image, with an independent will and freedom like God’s own creative freedom, God risked the potential chaos that results from human violence evident in wars, exploitation, environmental ruin and other forms of disorder.a The major limitation to God’s sovereignty is this fundamentally unpredictable and uncontrollable human freedom.

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