God does not change, so should a Christian change?
Simple Definition of doctrine
: a set of ideas or beliefs that are taught or believed to be true
: a statement of government policy especially in international relations
~ Merriam-Webster, Definition of Doctrine
I am simply amazed at the number of times I come across the attitude that one does not need to change. Should a Christian change? If so, when and why?
One example is the attitude of those who claim to be following exactly what Herbert W Armstrong taught. That bothers me on a number of levels, but what usually sticks out is that they are lying. They do not follow exactly what he taught. Even if they did, when and how?
One thing about HWA’s life that was very evident was that he changed. From time to time I see posts by people claiming that Passover is held on the wrong night, supposedly that HWA knew this but was afraid to change it because it would split the church up. Should I believe them or believe what I know? In the 1970s, HWA changed the long-standing practice of keeping a Monday Pentecost because he came to realize that the Bible used inclusive counting rather than exclusive counting. Would such a courageous human being suddenly turn chicken and refuse to change because of human concerns?
I think not.
Following a Man
So, whenever someone claims to follow HWA, I have a problem with that because the second question that pops into my head is: At what point? HWA taught many things, but some of them were changed or at least refined along the way. During WWII, he believed Mussolini was the Beast power prophesied in Revelation. In reality, Mussolini and Hitler were wannabes, one of the attempted resurrections of the Holy Roman Empire, but they were not the final Beast (aka, Antichrist). Originally, he kept a Monday Pentecost. Originally, he took a draconian stance against divorce and remarriage. So, at what point do you follow him?
Of course, as I said, that’s the second question.
The first question should be, “Is HWA God?”
I am a Christian. That identifies me as a follower of Christ. He is the only man (Who rose from the dead and now is God) that I follow.
And, it does not matter if a human is an “apostle” or not.
4 For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?
~ 1Co 3:4
But, even if you follow someone, what is the priority?
11 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
~ 1Co 11:1
Paul wasn’t against someone following him, per se, although he was not the yardstick. In fact, calling people “carnal” for boasting about who they are following showed exactly where his sentiments were. Christ was the example. As long as he spoke and acted as Christ did, then that was all and well. However, he realized he was human, fallible and changed over time.
A related thing I see is people of one organization calling people of another organization “Laodicean”. The Bible teaches self-examination, not the judging of others.
12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
~ 2Co 10:12
God Does Not Change
I’m sure we are all aware of the passage:
6 For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
~ Mal 3:6
Then, there is the other familiar verse:
8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
~ Heb 13:8
I think sometimes we think that Christ does not change, so doctrine should not change, His Church should not change, etc. In an ideal world, that would be true.
But, this is not an ideal world.
God is perfect, but we are not. God’s Church is made up of fallible human beings, so it will not be perfect either. Not only must each and every one of us change, but our salvation depends upon it.
Think of a few synonyms for change. Do any of the words that come to your mind include: repentance, conversion or growth?
What Must Not Change
Let’s face it, there are two types of doctrine. There is true doctrine, and it is based upon the truth contained in God’s word. Then, there is false doctrine, which is everything else.
We human beings are a mixture of good and evil. That was what the tree that Eve picked the fruit off of represented. We can never come to a perfect understanding.
Having said that, there are nonnegotiables. These are the plain and clear texts contained in the Bible.
3 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made….
~ Ge 3:1a
Ever notice how false teachers slip in sideways? They start by picking at the esoteric and disputable items and then gradually grow their “doctrine” into something that barely resembles the truth.
Satan’s tactics have not changed.
Maybe the false teacher even starts out with something that really is the truth. After all, as long as humans are in charge, our doctrine will never really be pure. Sometimes the pride of spiritual know-it-alls creates rebels that split off because our organizations cannot or will not examine themselves honestly. Instead of humility, it becomes a daytime talk show where the proud vs the proud.
When we stop changing, we stop growing, we stop learning, and we stagnate. That is not what God intends. How many times did Jesus speak about “fruit”? Fruit is not borne of stagnation.
Of course, neither should we ever throw the baby out with the bath water. The truth is the truth. Either we have proven the basics to ourselves or we have not. If we have not, then we are almost surely deceived, no matter what else we might think we know.
HWA talked a lot about the trunk of the tree. People sometimes get lost in branches or, worse, wander off entirely into the weeds.
The real question is: Do we know the difference?