“God [said] he’d made a mistake just before the flood, didn’t he? From what you're saying he never made a wrong move, so he knew from the beginning of time that he would wipe almost everyone out in a flood.”Where does the atheist get this from? He is referring to Genesis 6:6 in the Bible. The atheist doesn’t believe the Bible is true and makes the case that if we find contradictions in the Bible, like God is perfect and yet God makes mistakes, that proves that the Bible is unreliable. That is fine, but let me be very clear that both the atheist and I are BOTH starting with the words of the Bible as our reference point. It is only fair then to examine other parts of the Bible for comparison as the atheist himself is doing. This is not circular. While I will make a case that God did not make a mistake, I am not trying to prove God or His attributes from scripture. Instead I will be looking carefully at the Bible, the very text that the atheist is pointing to, to show that it is not the case that God made a mistake.
First, let’s look at Genesis 6:5-8 which reads,
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them." But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.These passages describe God being sorry that he had made man, grieved in His heart and He then acts to remove all of mankind but Noah and his family.
The equation 2+2=5 is a mistake because the correct answer is 4. We have to ask what would be the correct decision. Is it the atheists’ position that humans should not exist? Does the atheist believe that humans should not have the free will to choose wrong? I don’t think so. It would seem then that the atheist position is that God THINKS that He has made a mistake. There is no indication that God believes that He has made a mistake. We are only shown God’s present displeasure at the sinfulness of man. The language is not even strong enough to indicate that if God could start over, He would do it differently.
Students of theology will recognize the anthropomorphic (from the Greek, anthropos, "human" and morphe, "shape" or "form")and anthropopathic (anthropos, "human" and pathos, "suffering") descriptions of God. This is when human physical features and emotions are attributed to God. While the atheist may not ascribe to the perspective, he cannot ignore the Judeo-Christian position that God is uniquely different than man but communicates in this analogous way. The above passage mentions God’s heart and eyes as a way of expressing God’s nature through our experience of His creation. Such is the case for the words “sorry” and “grieved.” Even if someone was sorry and grieved at their decision does not mean that they made the wrong decision. Everyone can think of a situation where we could make the correct decision and still express grief or sorry at the temporary or even permanent outcome.
What we are seeing is God’s reaction to His perfect creation marred by sin. Imagine that you paint a beautiful picture. You allow it to be displayed in an art gallery. The painting then is vandalized. You would be sad and may regret the decision to put it in the museum, but it would not be a mistake, especially if your purpose was to share it with as many as possible. Even if you knew that it would eventually be vandalized, your purpose would still be fulfilled.
So, did God “[know] from the beginning of time that he would wipe almost everyone out in a flood”? Yes. Sometimes radical surgery is necessary to save the life of a patient. Civilization had become infected with the cancer of moral depravity and in danger of destroying Noah and his family. We see God surgically remove Sodom, the Bejamites of Gibeah, Jericho, Makkedah, Lachish, Eglon, Debir, the cities of Negev and Shephalah, Hazor, Madon, Shimron and Achshaph to prepare the way for the Messiah. In every case God gives clear warning and the opportunity to repent and turn to Him, ensuring their protection and ultimately our salvation through the Messiah, the Savior, Jesus Christ.