Immutability of God

How often I have heard people say that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Upon close inspection, the reality is that YHWH and Allah have a completely different makeup, proving that they cannot be the same God.

One method of identifying God is by naming His attributes. An attribute of God is not what makes up God, but rather defines who God is. In other words, God isn’t merciful, but God’s essence is mercy. God embodies mercy. God defines what mercy is by the fact that He is merciful. So what is are some attributes of God? God is wisdom, God is grace, and God is holy. Probably the most often cited attribute of God’s is His perfect, self-sacrificing love.

For this article, let’s focus on God’s immutability. That is the doctrine found in the Bible that assures us that He never changes. Hebrews 13:8 refers to Jesus as being “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” The same thing is revealed in Hebrews 1:12, Psalm 102:27, and Malachi 3:6, to name a few. So why is this attribute so important? It is because God’s immutability encompasses every other attribute, and through immutability, every other attribute becomes eternally significant. The immutability of God means that God’s wisdom is everlasting, His grace is everlasting, as well as His mercy, forgiveness, comfort, compassion, love, and everything else imaginable. Imagine if God decided to change who He is. What if the day comes that God would say, “I didn’t really mean it when I said I will never change. I am God. I choose to no longer be a God of love.” What assures us, besides our faith that such a thing will never happen? God’s great plan of redemption provides that such complete assurance is automatically part of the package.

We see the desirability of immutability of others in how we assure that someone will not default on a commitment. We secure a significant enough investment in the cause that it would be foolish for that person to reconsider the commitment. If someone wants to secure an item of merchandise to come back later and complete the transaction, we might require them to make a down payment. The amount would be enough to assure us that they would complete the commitment because there is too much invested to do otherwise. The loss would be too great. Lending institutions do the same by asking for collateral. In God’s case, He placed the greatest imaginable investment in our redemption in giving His only begotten Son to be brutally tortured and killed. It was a 100% down payment invested in eternity. It is a completed ransom that cannot be withdrawn (Ephesians 1:13-14). We are God’s purchased possession, paid in full. God has also provided a down payment, the Holy Spirit, until the completion of our inheritance is realized!

The Bible communicates this truth in a surprising way that reverses our thinking on His nature. We tend to think that God can do anything. It may be a new avenue of thought to see in the scriptures that there actually are things that God cannot do. God even says they are impossible for Him to do, not because God is too weak, but because He is so strong that God has the power to fix a permanent limitation on Himself that, because of His perfect nature, even He cannot possibly overcome. God cannot lie or deny Himself, which is the essence of His immutability. There are many things that God WILL not do, but these things are specifically stated that God CANNOT do (2 Timothy 2:13, Titus 1:2, John 10:35).
So do Muslims believe Allah is immutable? Typically, the answer is no. While there is some level of disagreement, most Muslims would not name Immutability as an aspect of Allah since it is not one of his 99 names.[i] Additionally, the Qur’an itself rejects this notion.

Qur’an 006:054:
When those come to thee who believe in Our signs, Say: “Peace be on you: Your Lord hath inscribed for Himself (the rule of) mercy:

Other translations say that Allah “ordained” mercy upon himself. Moreover, multiple Hadith discuss that when Allah created mercy, he divided it into 100 parts, keeping 99 for himself, and giving one to mankind. There are numerous such Hadith appearing in the most respected collections.[ii]

So it is very clear that the Islamic literature teaches Allah created mercy, giving most of it to himself. This means that mercy is not part of Allah’s essence, but is rather a created attribute. Before the time of its creation, mercy was not an attribute of Allah. Allah somehow made the decision to give himself mercy, meaning that before that decision, he had none. The skeptical reader may question this line of reasoning, since time doesn’t have much meaning in eternity past. However, such a rebuttal misses the point. An infinite and eternal God does not create His attributes. He “is” the collection of His attributes. If there were a time when Allah was not merciful, and he changed himself, then there could very well come a time in the future where he again is not merciful. Since Allah has shown that he can change himself, there is nothing precluding him from doing so again in the future.

YHWH is immutable. Allah is not. How can anyone justify or even suggest that Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

[i] http://www.islamicity.com/Mosque/99names.htm

[ii] Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 476 and Sahih Muslim, Book 37, Number 6629.

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