Philosophy of Change

 

 

Change is often something Christians fear. They fear that a change in practice or policy might indicate a subtle change in doctrine. So Christians are usually resistant to change. Or it may simply be human nature (or age) that causes people to resist change. But there are times when change is actually beneficial for Christians. It is easy for any person (or group of people) to get into a rut, and change means freedom from that rut.

 

Perhaps Hebrews 2:1 is the best Scripture passage with which to begin; "We must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away." Yes, Christians can drift away from God and His Word. This is clearly the testimony of the hymn writer, "Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love." It is a valid concern that Christians keep a watchful eye in regard to subtle doctrinal changes. It is equally a valid concern that Christians keep a watchful eye in regard to drifting away.

 

Are there Biblical examples of such drifting? Certainly there are. II Kings 18:4 states that Hezekiah destroyed the brazen serpent Moses made almost 500 years earlier. The Jews had drifted in regard to this object. It was used of God to bring healing to His people, but they eventually drifted to the point that they were idolizing it and offering incense to it. Hezekiah told the people it was just a piece of brass (nehushtan), and so he destroyed it. A change needed to be made. I Corinthians 5:1-2 states that the Corinthians tolerated sin in their church and were actually filled with pride about it. How did this happen? Perhaps they allowed their worldly Greek culture to dull their discernment. Perhaps they adopted what is referred to today as Grace theology -- "We don't want to have the judgmental attitude of those legalistic fundamentalists. We are forgiving and loving" -- which soon turned into an attitude of tolerance. Either way, the church at Corinth had drifted, and Paul had to tell them in a very direct way that they were glorying in the wrong thing. Sin (leaven) would not take long to permeate and ruin their church and its effectiveness. A change was needed. Acts 15:1-21 is the account of the Jerusalem Council and the doctrinal issue that threatened to undermine the Gospel itself. It is true that part of this issue was a divine change from the Old Testament to the New -- from the old covenant mediated by Moses to the new covenant mediated by Christ. But there is another point of consideration here. God's people need to discern what God is doing (in any situation) and how He wants them to respond. The emphasis was no longer on the works of the law, but rather on faith in Christ. And this was not just a difference between Judaizers and Christians. Remember the situation in Galatians 2:11-14. Peter, followed by Barnabas, separated and would not eat with the Christian Gentiles. There is a question as to whether this situation took place before or after the Jerusalem Council, but either way Peter should have known better. A change was needed in their Jewish perspective. Such changes in perspective, practice, and tradition are often what God's people need.

 

Since Christians have been admonished not to drift (Hebrews 2:1), and Christians have stated how much they (we) are "prone to wander," it would be appropriate to watch for signs of drifting (or being stagnant) and then to make a change to compensate for such drifting. Christians ought to welcome this kind of change and not to fear it.