“God is radically free.” These were words said in church a couple of Sundays ago.
How wonderful is that! This reflection arose as we consider Genesis 18:14 and the words “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
We all too often get stuck in binaries in which we describe God as “unchanging” or “impassable” – this makes dealing with a God who can very clearly be seen as moved to regret (Gen. 6:7), bartered with (Gen. 18:20-33; Ex. 32:9-14), disobeyed and ignored, or who at times out right changes his mind and negates himself, difficult to deal with.
The most significant demonstrate of God’s radical freedom is the definitive moment of exile in Israel’s history. Jürgen Moltmann puts it like this in Theology of Hope,
In the historic judgment on Israel, Yahweh not only annuls the debts of Israel, but he annuls also the institutions of his own covenant in his unfathomable freedom to adopt new ways. (115)
This is significant but more can be said. Moltmann continues,
Yahweh’s coming glory shows itself in overcoming the experienced judgment and turning it to blessing. If this were to be expressed in theological terms, we should have to say: it shows itself in the overcoming of God by God – of the judging, annihilating God by the saving, life-giving God, of the wrath of God by his goodness. (118)
God is radically free, free to adopt new ways and means, to change and annul, free to overcome and negate himself and his decisions with new ideas and decisions, that express his faithfulness in a new situation and place.
God is a God who says “See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isa. 43:19), who annuls laws and identity markers (Acts 10) because God is radically free and is not limited in scope or creativity. We have seen this enacted decisively, with eschatological reach, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Presumably what we want when we say that God is “unchanging” is a God who is faithful – absolutely, but this should not and does not negate God’s freedom and ability to “adopt new ways” it gives content, expression and motive to why God changes, to why God is “radically free”.