Whooooaaa!!! That’s a huge question! God regretted making us!!!??? Where does this one come from!?
The challenge is this: “You Christians say that God knows everything, and that God is good and that God is love; well, how do you explain the fact that your God, who KNEW that the world was going to be sinful, regretted making it and then destroyed it? That doesn’t sound like a good God! That sounds like an unfair God to me!”
Well, unfortunately (as it seems to me) there does seem to be a basis for this charge…
DID GOD REGRET MAKING MANKIND?
By the time of Genesis chapter 6 mankind had been created, had succumbed to temptation, sinned and been expelled from the Garden of Eden; had experienced murder; and populated the earth. We are then told this from verse 5 onwards:
5 The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord…
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood…
17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”
22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.
This is very clear, isn’t it? God – who we say knows not just what IS happening but what IS GOING to happen, regretted making mankind (because mankind had become bad) and so decided to destroy mankind and start over with Noah and his family. Well…this SOUNDS like He DIDN’T know what was going to happen…
And here’s another one. God instructed Samuel to make Saul king…but Saul did not “work out” to be the man that he was expected to be. God then declared (in 1 Samuel 15 verse 11):
‘I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.’
Now surely that is not fair! God KNEW what Saul was like and God KNEW what Saul would do…didn’t He? So why did God “regret” His choice and then reject him as King – replacing him with David?
How do we answer this charge, made by the world, of God being an unfair deity.
THE “OPEN THEIST” ARGUMENT
In this argument, God is NOT being unfair because God did NOT know how mankind in general, and Saul in particular, was going to turn out. In this view God has a general idea of the future but not a specific knowledge of the future. Thus, He knew that mankind COULD sin but did not know that they WOULD sin and so He created man in hope; He knew that Lucifer COULD rebel but did not know that he WOULD rebel and so He created Lucifer in hope. In this argument God is NOT all-knowing. Thus, believers of the “Open Theist” argument believe that God really did regret making mankind and so chose to destroy it and start again because He did not know how they were going to turn out. In the same way, He saw the potential in Saul but did not know that Saul was going to so-spectacularly fail. Thus, God is NOT an unfair deity because He did not know the future.
This answers the charge…the problem is that it is not Biblical!
GOD DOES KNOW EVERYTHING?
Orthodox Christian belief is that God is Omniscient – which means that He knows all things:
- He knows everything that has happened, everything that is happening and everything that will happen. He knows the end from the beginning. We are told this in Isaiah 46 and verse 9-10:
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
10 I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
There is an important dream relayed by God to Abram (that’s Abraham’s original name) and written down in Genesis 15 verses 13 to 16 which shows that God knows all that is going to happen:
“Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and ill-treated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here.”
- He knows everything about who we are. He knows us better than we know ourselves. David writes in Psalm 139 verses 1 to 4:
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
And David carries on this theme in the same Psalm and verse 14-16:
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
God knows how we were individually formed and God knows everything that is going to happen to us and the very day that we are going to die.
- He knows every “thing” – every fact, every bit of information, every concept, every philosophy.
Job therefore poses the question in the midst of his suffering (in Job 21 and verse 22):
Can anyone teach knowledge to God?
There is nothing that He does not know.
So why does it feel (or seem) that He DOESN’T know what is happening – that He doesn’t seem to know what we are going through? And how come it sometimes feels (or seems) that He didn’t realise that this or that thing is going to happen?
God KNOWS how things are going to “pan out” and God ALLOWS things to happen the way they do. This is not a failure in God. When God gave mankind “free will” He knew that man would choose to go his own way and do his own thing. If He had stopped the evil men in pre-diluvian times; if he had stopped Saul making his mistakes; then He would be a controlling God and we would be automatons. It’s pretty nigh-on impossible to understand but God ALLOWED mistakes to be made while KNOWING all the mistakes that would be made. Let’s not blame God for the evil in man – that’s our fault!
So, although God KNOWS what is going to happen this doesn’t mean He is happy about it. In fact, I think He was very sad that mankind chose to go “bad”. In this sense he “regretted” that He had created man. He would have wished that mankind chose differently…but they didn’t.
God’s “regret” has to be different from man’s. Man finds out new information and is sorry about what has happened. God, with foreknowledge, does not have new (unknown) information but still feels sorry (regret) as to what has happened.
WHAT DOES THE WORD “REGRET” REALLY MEAN?
The bottom line is that we actually need to understand what is meant by the use of the word “regret”. It might be helpful here to understand that the same Hebrew word is translated as “sorry” (God was sorry that He had made mankind). We tend to interpret “regret” as “I wish I had never done it – and I would not have done it if I had known how it would turn out”. But this is not a very good definition. A more accurate one is found in the Oxford Dictionary which defines regret as: ‘to feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that one has done or failed to do)’. And it defines sorry as: ‘to feel regret’. Therefore, in this case both translations ‘regret’ and ‘sorry’ have the same meaning. God clearly felt very, very sad, about what had happened to mankind – even though He knew it was going to happen.
Many theologians actually see the expression “regretted” to have nothing at all to do with emotions but with a decision that it was time to now put things right. This would fit in very well with the belief that He knows all things. He KNEW that mankind would go its own way and that now was the time to put it right.
It will be most useful to understand the Hebrew word used: this is “naham”. It literally means “sorry” – but not in an “I wish I hadn’t done it” sense, rather in a compassionate and grieving way – in a way that implies He FELT sorry for what had happened; He was SAD how things had turned out. Thus, despite His grief, it was time to now put things right…
It was time to carry out judgement immediately on a sinful world; it was time to carry out judgement immediately on a sinful man.
DOES GOD EVER “REGRET” MAKING US?
God created mankind in order to love mankind. We give Him great pleasure and great joy, He knew what we would be like because He knows everything. It was worth it to Him to be able to love us. But, to truly love us He had to give us free will…which led to our messing things up so much. He was sorry – in the sense of sadness and the need to now intervene and put things right – but his sorrow was not regret in the sense of wishing He had never created man or having made a mistake.
Does God regret making you and me? Of course not! Like the people of the time of Noah we turn away from Him and go our own way, but He still loves us all; like Saul, we let Him down constantly, make promises to Him that we just do not keep, (or is it just me?) but He still love us all.
Do not be deceived. There are always consequences of our actions and our decisions. Like the people at the time of Noah, there will be judgment on all who continue to sin – to live their own way without God; like Saul, there will be judgement on our decisions to disobey Him and let Him down. But thank God for Jesus who has come that we might be forgiven. Thank God for Jesus who washes away the sins of all who put their belief, their faith and their trust in Him. Thank God for Jesus who has died for us and risen for us, and who sits at the right hand of the Father speaking on our behalf. Thank God for Jesus who has made us righteous and who has restored our relationship with Father God and who is preparing a place for us in Paradise where those who put their belief, faith and trust in Him shall live forever. Thank God that judgement is not for NOW (like it was for the world of Noah and the kingship of Saul). Thank God that we have time to put things right with Him and make peace with Him and receive that Peace of God which passes all understanding.
God does NOT regret making us…but He will regret it if we die without getting right with Him.
I do not want God to be sorry that He made me. Do you?
Rather, I want God, in that day, to declare over me: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25: 23 ESV).