“Figure out what changes, what doesn’t change, and what you want to change.” Anne Hartman, Essex Partners
There are many aphorisms dealing with change. One well known one that was very popular several years ago was The Serenity Prayer.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
While that advice is good, I like Anne’s advice better, especially for Christians. One of the great problems throughout the history of the Church and our life as Christians within it has been dealing with what Anne identifies. What changes and does not change? What doctrine is foundational and never changes. What demands are unalterable, what are contextual, and why do I or others want to change them?
Our technologically driven society is steeped in change. New and different is everywhere, every day. It is celebrated and rewarded. It has the cachet of inevitability. Everything changes it is argued. Change, die, or be left behind. Well that is a false demand and a false choice. While many things do change and should change, some things never change and the mixing of categories such as technology and social and religious understanding does disservice to everyone and everything. There are absolutes and unchanging realities, both in the physical world (take gravity and basic physical laws) and in the social/religious world (people still love and hate, strive for meaning and search for their place in the world).
Within the Christian faith, there are numerous absolutes, many of which are instantiated in the historic Creeds. These are the “faith once delivered unto the saints.” Those who wish to discard these unchanging attributes of what it means to be Christian are free to do so, but at the same time they should also abandon the label of being Christian. It is patently absurd to do anything else, as well as ethically immoral. Their actions are not the attempt at reform some say they are, since reform identifies and attempts to fix what is wrong, to correct error. No, they want an entirely new faith, but are unwilling to give up the trappings and legitimacy that the old ways gave them. Look at the Episcopal Church and its paramount example, “Bishop” John Shelby Spong. He denies everything that makes Christianity Christian, yet still clings to the office, titles, and identity that it afforded him. He is a hypocrite of the worst kind who knows that Shelbyism would die aborning so he clings to the appearance of godliness, depending on the trappings of the past to lend its credence to his apostacy.
We, as the Church of Jesus Christ, must come to terms with what changes, what does not, and what we should do about it. We need to remember the warnings in Revelation 22:18 about adding and subtracting. We need to remember that we are not God.