Most churches, at least on the surface, teach that being a Christian involves an ongoing process of change.
Changes like character development. Changes like growing productive daily habits. Changes like healthy behavioral patterns. Changes like meaningful church involvement.
All good changes, right?
But what about theological/spiritual beliefs?
Should these ever change or evolve? That depends a bit on who you’re listening to (we’ll come back to this).
Many Christians I know within today’s Evangelical context were taught there are a set of beliefs all Christians should believe and these set of beliefs should never change. And that by believing these set of beliefs our Christian faith is secure and in good standing.
But what if some of the things you were taught were right, even orthodox or foundational are not right? Perhaps because, after careful reflection, you see good reason to question their rightness?
And what if the very reason you feel this way is NOT because you have turned atheist or agnostic or relativist or liberal, but because some of those right beliefs you were taught were orthodox or foundational to Christianity simply no longer jive with what you have come to know and learn of Jesus in the pages of the New Testament?
At one level, Christians have been debating and discussing what beliefs should be foundational to the Christian faith since the early days (and by early days I mean the first century in the immediate years and century following Jesus’ crucifixion). Just start with the book of Acts.
BUT because of careful reflection, careful reevaluation, and with a good dose of humility, some Christians changed their mind beginning with the first disciples of Jesus.
Pause for a moment: they changed their mind. And yes, about their once dearly loved and treasured theological beliefs and assumptions.
But while some have changed their mind throughout church history, others have clenched their fists to the idea that they could ever be wrong or misguided about their beliefs.
And they couched their assertions with talk of “orthodoxy” and “foundations of the faith” not simply because they believed it but because it was comfortable. It turns out that claiming to maintain “orthodoxy” has kept a number of people in positions of power, both in churches and in government service.
But that doesn’t happen today, right?
To live (to truly live) is to grow and change
Life involves a process of evolution.
Evolution simply means a process of change over time. Think about it. Are you the same as you were when you were a kid? How about ten years ago? Five years ago? Last year?
The point is, all of us have changed because life circumstances have changed. Think about the following changes that many of you have experienced in just the last twenty years of your life:
where you live
jobs and income
values and aspirations
training and education
physical and mental health
church attendance and involvement
mentors and those whom you’ve mentored
relationship dynamics (single, dating, married, etc)
How about your theological/spiritual beliefs? Do you think or believe the exact same things as you did in the last twenty years?
My guess is that most of us have experienced varying degrees of change EVEN within our set of theological/spiritual beliefs? They have changed because we have changed.
By the grace of God, we have changed.
Following Jesus means whole life change
The Christian technical term for change in the New Testament is sanctification. It’s the process of becoming more like Jesus, set apart to his work and mission.
And the NT authors understood sanctification as a whole life experience that involves our thoughts, our emotions, our choices, our relationships, how we perform our job functions and treat our co-workers, who we invest in (not just monetarily), and the sense of divine purpose and calling we carry that motivates and inspires how we think and live.
If we trust that the process of sanctification is God’s way to grow us, we can expect changes in every area of our lives. Including our dearly loved beliefs and convictions.
As we become more like Jesus.
Grace and peace, Peter
Short list of beliefs Christians have discussed/debated and changed their mind over since the first century:
- How should we interpret the Old Testament story in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus?
- How should Christians understand and apply the death and resurrection of Jesus?
- Who should be welcomed to eat at the Lord’s table and be considered “in the faith?”
- How should Christians carry out or execute God’s justice in this world?
- Should food sacrificed to idols ever be eaten?
- Should women be leaders in the church?
- How should we treat those in poverty?
- How should we treat God’s earth?
- Does God approve of slavery?