Does God Have Regrets? OpEd Eurasia Review – Eurasia Review

Posted By on June 6, 2022

The Bible states: Adonai (the Lord) regretted making humans on earth, and Gods heart was pained. (Genesis 6:6) But to regret means to acknowledge that one has made a mistake, and all Christian, Jewish and Muslim philosophers claim that the one God of Abraham is all-knowing and all powerful; so God cannot regret.

Of course, if God cannot regret then God is not all-powerful.

After all it was God who decided to create human beings as a combination of Divine and animal character traits. When God said: Let us make mankind (Genesis 1:26), God was talking to nature in general and animals/primates in particular.

So the pain and regret God feels is not due to Gods negative attitude to humanity, but to Gods disappointment that some humans have not lived up to their Divine potential. This is like a parent who really wanted children, but becomes disappointed when some of them behaved very badly.

If God has the ability to feel compassion, piety, and mercy, then God can change, or seem to humans to change his mind, then as is clearly stated in the Quran when God tells Prophet Muhammad: We sent messengers before you, and We assigned for them wives and offspring. No messenger could bring a sign except with the permission of God. For every era (there) is a scripture.God abolishes (abrogates) whatever He wills, and He affirms (whatever He wills). With Him is the source of the (messengers) Scripture. (13:38-9)

Rabbi Bahya (13-14th century) said: Humans are unworthy that Gods spirit should reside in them, since they are only flesh like all the other creatures, and their soul is drawn to the flesh rather than to Gods spirit. Bahyas view is extreme. After all, it was Gods decision to create human being as a combination of Divine and animal.

When God said: Let us make mankind (Genesis 1:26), God was talking to nature in general, and animals/primates in particular. So the pain and regret God feels is not due to Gods negative attitude to humanity. But God is disappointment that humans have not yet lived up to their Divine potential.

The word regret (va-yinakhem) also is related to the word for consolation (nakhamah). So the rabbinic anthology of interpretations called Midrash Genesis Rabbah 27:4 presents several portraits of God.

Rabbi Judah has God saying: It was My mistake that I created him (to live in the world) below, as a terrestrial being; had I created him (mankind) in the higher realms (with less temptations to chose from), they would not have rebelled against Me.

Rabbi Nehemiah suggests that God is consoled, knowing that he created humans in the lower realms, with limited powers. For had humans been of the upper realms, they would have caused even the angles to rebel.

Rabbi Aivu proposes that God regrets creating humans with a yetzer ha-ra, an evil/untamed ego inclination, for had God not so created humans, they would not have rebelled against God.

But Rabbi Levi has a more positive take on consolation. He conjectures that God is consoled in making humans as God did, for (eventually) humans will be set in the earth, i.e.,humans are mortal and subject to burial. Every generation, no matter how evil will die out, so that there is always hope future generations will get it right.

Rabbi Levi ben Gershom (12881344), Ralbag for short, wrote groundbreaking works in many fields; include biblical exegesis, astronomy, geometry,logic, mathematics, philosophy, and philosophical theology.Ragbag also wrote extensive commentaries on the commentaries of Averroes on Aristotle.

Rabbi Levi ben Gershom asserts that God knows all that may be known, and knows it perfectly. What can be known, however, does not include what actually happens to each individual on Earth.God has perfect knowledge of the formal structure of the cosmos, but not of individuals who are individuated by their materialityi.e. you and me.God has perfect knowledge of the natural world that God created, but humans can, thanks to the way God created them, exercise free choice.Most humans do not really exercise free choice in Ralbags estimation, but when they do, God cannot be aware of the choices and their outcomes in advance.

There is thus evil in the world, and it is not just an absence of good (as countless philosophers say), but real, thumping evil (even if controlled and minimized by God to the greatest extentpossible without losing human free will)

I say, Although God knew giving humans moral free will would mean they could do great evil, when it does occur it still hurts God deeply and causes temporary regret.We also learn from this that God responds to human actions and cares deeply for us.

While the Greek philosopher Plato wrote: No human thing is of serious importance.(The Republic, book 10) the Torah begins with: Then God said, Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in his own image,in the image of God He created them;male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. (Genesis 1:26-28a)

The Talmud relates that: For 2 years, the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel debated whether God should have created humankind. Shammais school said it would have been better if people had not been created; Hillels school held the opposite view. Finally, they voted and the majority decided that Shammais school was right and it would have been better had people not been created, but since they were, every human being is responsible for examining their own past and future deeds (Talmud, Masekhet Eruvin 13b).

Although the Torah does not state it, the much later Biblical Hebrew literature does say: Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20) and When they sin against Youfor there is no one who does not sin (1 Kings 8:46 & 2 Chronicles 6:36)

St. James, the brother of Jesus (James 3:2) says, In many things we all offend; and St. John also states: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8) and St. Paul proclaims: as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one. (Romans 3:10); and again: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)

Yet our Rabbis taught that most people do more good than evil and we have to focus on the balance between good and evil. To focus only on evil is in itself evil because it leads to despair, depression, and hopelessness: There are three (psychological types) whose life is no life; the overly compassionate, the hot-tempered, and the overly fastidious (perfectionist). (Talmud Pesachim 113b) Perfectionists are hard on others and even harder on themselves. Both ways will eventually lead to sin.

For more insight into Jewish views of human nature and the nature of the one God who created us all, see my recent book: Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st century Kuzari (ISBN 978-620-2-45517-6)

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Does God Have Regrets? OpEd Eurasia Review - Eurasia Review

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