My husband and I watched The Two Popes (2019) last weekend, and so much about that film has stuck with me. Too much for one post alone, so here is the third (and last) of a mini-series of posts on different elements raised by the film.
“Nothing is static in nature, in the universe, not even God” – Cardinal Bergogio, from The Two Popes, 2019.
I remember when we learned ‘Yesterday, Today and Forever’ (Beeching, 2002) as a worship band. I was struck by two things. Firstly, that you can mash it up with the baseline from ‘I Believe in a Thing called Love’ by The Darkness (2003) and it sounds incredible! Secondly, I wasn’t sure I fully accepted the premise. I know it is directly quoting the Bible (Hebrews 13:8) but if a life with God is all about relationship, how can there be no changing? If one person does all the changing and the other doesn’t, that doesn’t sound very relational to me. Can God be unchanging yet relational at the same time?
Open Theism is one potential answer to these questions. Open Theists believe that God makes Their knowledge of the future dependent on how we discover it together. In other words, They know what the possible futures are, but don’t know which one will occur until it is chosen (Risler, 2020). The future is discovered together, but the Love of God is the unchanging absolute in the relationship. This position is a significant move away from the traditional exposition of God in the Church, but that in many ways is why it appeals to me. Anything which makes you look again and re-evaluate your beliefs is a positive in my book! A further discourse of the issues around Open Theism is here.
There are examples given in the Bible of God changing Their mind. 2 Kings 20:1-6 tells the story of Hezekiah, who prayed for a longer life when faced with a severe illness. God granted his prayer, and Hezekiah went on to sire Manasseh who was recorded as having “done things more evil than all that the Amorites did, who were before him,” (from 2 Kings 21:10, ESV). Would God have done that in the fullness of knowledge there would be rupture between Themselves and all of Judah? Perhaps, in the moment of pleading from a beloved child, in the knowledge there were multiple ways it could play out, They would. Or perhaps, Hezekiah was always meant to recover, there was no change of mind, and this was always the pre-ordained path God had designed to take. It’s all part of the mystery.
From the very beginning of the Bible, God has been associated with movement. Genesis 1:2 tells us “the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters.” (MKJV). The word ‘moved’ here is a limited translation; the original Hebrew depicts a movement akin to a bird fluttering over their nest and young, keeping them safe with care, or “fluttered lovingly”. What a beautiful reflection of God’s nature in the natural world. Nature changes in relationship with the seasons, however the basic premises of the laws of nature stay the same. Could this be a reflection of God too?
Peace be with you.
Beeching, V. (2002) Yesterday, Today and Forever. Survivor Records
Graham, E.J, Hawkins, D.F, Hawkins, J., Poullain-Patterson F.G, / Francis Gilles Poullain-Patterson (2003). I Believe in a Thing called Love. Atlantic Records
Risler, J (2020) Open Theism. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Available at https://www.iep.utm.edu/o-theism/ (Accessed 12th May 2020)
The Two Popes. 2019 [Film]. Fernando Meirelles. dir. UK/Italy: Netflix