An Imperfect God?

I recently saw a short discussion on Twitter and it got me thinking.

It went like this:

“The God of the bible is not the same as the god of the Quran.”

“god [sic] mentioned in the bible [sic] depicts him to be imperfect, while The God depicted in the Quran is absolutely perfect.”

“Imperfect how? And where?”

“For starters, 1 Samuel 15:11.”

1 Samuel 15:11 states (ESV): “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.”

Does this suggest that if God expresses regret over something he did, would that mean he’s admitting to making a mistake and is therefore imperfect? That’s certainly what the Twitterite above is implying.

But is he correct?

We must first go to what “regret” means:

According to Mirriam-Webster, regret (verb) is defined as: 1(a): to mourn the loss or death of; 1(b): to miss very much; 2: to be very sorry for.

So the question is, how is “regret” defined in the above passage? Was God expressing sorrow (first definition) over Saul’s faithlessness, or stating he had made a mistake (2nd definition)?

Let’s turn to the Hebrew term: נָחַם pronounced naw-kham’.

Strong’s and NAS Exhaustive Concordance define it as “to be sorry, console oneself.”

Brown-Driver-Briggs goes even further and defines the word per passage in the Old Testament. For 1 Samuel 15:11, regret is defined as “to be sorry, rue, suffer grief, repent, of one’s own doings.”

If we are to trust the last one, God is indeed sorry for or repentant of appointing Saul king—admitting he’d made a mistake.

Now that we’re back to square one, I ask again: is God expressing regret, admitting that he’s imperfect? Is it truly impossible for a perfect God to have regrets? Or is that assumption incorrect?

I’ve heard people say, “Scripture interprets scripture.” If one finds a contradiction, such as 1 Samuel stating that God is admitting imperfection, whereas other verses show God to be perfect (such as in 2 Samuel 22:31 & Matthew 5:48), one must look deeper.

The first step is to read the entire chapter to discover the circumstances as well as its context and audience.

In this case, the answer over the definition of “regret” is made clearer in verse 29: “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.”

That says to me that God is expressing sorrow over Saul defying his word, not admitting to a mistake derived from imperfection.

What do you think?

4 thoughts on “An Imperfect God?

  1. Agreed, God has sorrow when we disobey Him. Yet, He decided before the foundation of the world to go ahead with creating humans even though we would case Him much heartache.

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  2. I appreciate that you are bringing these important topics up, Andra. God’s regret is an earthly explanation of a divine fact. Like saying we are hiding under the shadow of God’s wings. He obviously knew what was going to happen all along. But he was grieved nevertheless that Saul was so faithless when he was faithful and true to Israel since the beginning. The “regret” is not like our regret…but is similar. Like his wings are like an eagle’s wings, or like a chicken’s wings, or like a shadow. We regret because we didn’t know what the future held, and made a bad decision. He regrets because he DID know what the future held, and it came out bad for Saul but for God’s good purposes (ie: David’s kingship and Christ’s ancestor). “Poor Saul,” as we would say.

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    1. Which reminds me of how some people can never say “I”m so sorry” when someone is sad or hurt because they think they would be claiming responsibility. But some people just mean “I’m sorry that you are sad,” not at all meaning “I’m sorry I made you sad.”

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