'To err is human; to forgive, divine," is a line from a poem by English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744). We ask our clergy if maybe to err is also a divine trait. Does God make mistakes?
Rabbi Avi Kasten, Congregation Shaar Hashamayim, Oceanside:
The initial response is that God is, by definition, that one being who not only does not make mistakes but is incapable of a mistake.
But a look at biblical sources may teach us more. Just as we start the story of Noah and the flood (Genesis 6:6), the Torah says, "I regret that I made man as I did." If God regrets what he had done, that implies he made a mistake -- in relation to the creation of man.
The Torah tells us that man was created in God's image (Genesis 1:27). We know that God takes no physical form; but God's image relates to several human characteristics that are godlike:
A. Man is the only creature in creation capable of making a moral decision. Before acting, only man may consider whether his action is right or wrong, moral or immoral.
B. Man is endowed at all times with freedom of choice.
C. Only man has godlike power to destroy the world, or hopefully, to partner with God to perfect the world.
So, my answer would be "maybe." It is not so much that he made a mistake, but that we may make mistakes with the abilities he bestowed upon us.
From biblical sources then, the question is, did God make a mistake in sharing his godly powers with humanity? Will we make the world a better place, or destroy it, or turn it in to a hell? God has provided us with a "User's Manual" for this world, which we call the Bible.
As a person of faith, I understand that God has a plan, and I trust him to fulfill it. From a human perspective, there are things that he does that may look like mistakes to us. There are things he does that don't seem like the way we humans would do them.
What we see as mistakes are things that he has a greater understanding of.
One of the things we see as a mistake is evil. Couldn't God have designed us better so we don't do evil? Did he fail to see the problem ahead of time? If he had only fixed that one part of us?
Free will also comes across as a possible mistake to some. Free will makes it possible for the horrible, bad things we've done to each other. But, it also makes possible the great acts of love, caring and concern that we do. The only way those good acts mean anything is because we can choose to do them, not that they are inflicted upon us.
I do think God changes his mind, which is different from making a mistake. That doesn't imply a mistake, simply that he altered his plan. The flood is an example of this.
Joseph Garofalo, outreach pastor, Island Christian Church, East Northport:
Whether you look at the Old Testament or the New Testament, there are numerous places that explain that God's ways are not our ways (Psalm 145:3, Romans 11:33-35).
God's ways are so infinitely above what we think or imagine. The living God is perfect in all his ways. What we may perceive as a mistake is because we don't have the whole picture. We can't possibly see things the way he sees things. His foresight is like our hindsight. Our hindsight is 20-20 because we've already seen it. That is how his foresight operates.
You must remember that the Bible is God's revelation to us. Psalm 19 demonstrates that very well. In verses 1-6, it explains that the heavens declare the glory of God as a general revelation. In verse 7, it talks about the letter of the law being perfect. It is everything he wants us to know about him and his plan for us. Anything outside divine revelation is just speculation on our parts. We have to trust by faith.