In a book published in 1985 that is new to me, the author declares “to note the obvious: some things have changed.” Yes, it is obvious; some things have changed. At the age of 66, and having recently moved from Southern California (after 32 years) to the Texas Panhandle, I’m well aware of much change in my life. And I am intrigued by this matter of change.
Change is inevitable. Yesterday I went to get my Texas driver’s license and had to fill out those four areas describing my appearance. My height, weight, and eye color are all still the same as my old license; but I changed my hair color from brown to gray. (I don’t mind my gray hair–at least I have hair!) Not only is change inevitable with our bodies and physical appearance, change is inevitable with almost anything and everything. We may not like it, but we cannot stop it.
A lot of change is good. Much of what we call progress is good change. In my life I have benefited, and hope to benefit in the future, from changes in the medical field. As Christians we want to change—we want to grow and be transformed into the kind of people the Lord has called us to be. Admittedly, the process of even good change can be uncomfortable, but we like the result.
Change often is good, but not everyone agrees whether certain changes are good or bad. Change that is progress to some is certainly not progress to others. Often a person’s perspective on whether social and cultural changes are good or bad is generational. I think it’s safe to say not all the changes are good, nor are they all bad.
I am most interested in changes in Christian theology and doctrine, understanding and interpreting the Bible, and living the Christian life. When I was in high school our youth group was split down the middle with regard to the question “Can Christians dance?” That may or may not be a question asked today, but I’ve always agreed with Tony Campolo’s answer: “Some can, some can’t.”
A couple of current high profile controversial issues in the larger Christian community, not necessarily related, are the role of women in ministry and the traditional view of sexuality and marriage. A variety of Christian leaders have changed their views on one or both while many have maintained longstanding positions.
I don’t think it is wrong for a Christian to change her or his mind about a particular issue, doctrine, or biblical interpretation. For years the magazine The Christian Century published a number of essays titled “How My Mind Has Changed.” And in 2010 a book titled How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership was published with multiple authors contributing.
I think there is value in the suggestion made by the author I quoted earlier that perhaps what we presently believe, as well as believed in the past, both need to be carefully rethought. Those two words “carefully rethought” get my attention. It seems to me a lot of changes are made that are not carefully rethought as well as some changes resisted without careful rethinking.
One thing we do know is that God does not change. Theologians call it the immutability of God. A.W. Tozer explains that means “He never differs from Himself.” Later he adds: “What peace it brings to the Christian’s heart to realize that our Heavenly Father never differs from Himself.” In his classic book Knowing God, J.I. Packer has a chapter entitled “God Unchanging.” In it he notes God’s life, character, truth, ways, purposes, and Son do not change. He summarizes, “This thought brings comfort as we enter into the perplexities of each day; amid all the changes and uncertainties of life, God and Christ remain the same.”
Some things have changed and things will continue to change. I gain comfort and peace from knowing God doesn’t. Don’t you?
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