i read an article about the fallout when pastors and church leaders (and anyone else, for that matter) change their minds or come to different interpretations of the bible than they had previously held. it was a little controversial. it was challenging. i definitely caused me to look at my life.
here’s a sample:
Theoretically, Christians can go from preschool to seminary hearing the exact same religious doctrines. Theologies are often considered too “valuable,” “right,” and “holy” to change or question. Therefore, pastors debate instead of dialogue, professors preach instead of listen, schools propagate instead of discuss, and faith-based communities ultimately reject any form of honest questioning and doubt.
Indoctrination is preferred over critical thinking, certainty is favored over doubt, and we expect our leaders to offer black-and-white answers. A change of theology is viewed as weakness, poor exegesis, and a sign of insecurity. “If they change their views now, how can I believe anything they say in the future?” Christians often perceive change as a break in trust and a loss of identity.
there is no doubt i feel the pressure to give black-and-white, authoritative, “right” answers when i am confronted with questions…especially the hot button kind. i’m also aware there are “conventional” interpretations…answers i was taught when i was young…traditions as church practices that i just assumed as my own for years…that i no longer believe or practice.
change did not happen overnight. nor did it happen flippantly. i didn’t just wake up one day and decide i was going to part company with the theology of my past. i’ve read. i’ve studied…the bible and the writings of church thinkers throughout the ages. i’ve listened. i’ve compared and contrasted. i’ve weighed things out. i’ve wrestled with my motives and the possible outcomes.
some changes have been relatively easy. other changes in my thinking have been painfully difficult. some changes have been fully embraced. others are still a work in progress. all have been fueled by a desire to be a true disciple and obedient to the word. here’s a look at some of my changes:
things I used to believe…
- rock music is of the devil.
- women are unfit to lead in society.
- we can trust the american judicial system to treat everyone with fairness and impartiality.
- pastors are to be the theological authority in a church family.
- the goal of the church is to get bigger.
- true christians needed to picket abortion hospitals.
- you can’t be a private gun owner and truly trust jesus.
- making condoms available from the health centers on High School campuses is a bad thing.
- getting counseling is a sign of weakness.
- the premillennial position on end times is the right position.
- men are always to be the spiritual leaders of the marriage and family.
- i will be “raptured out” before the “great tribulation”.
- since god apparently knows everything that’s going to happen (and is possibly causing it), prayer can’t change god’s mind.
- calvinism and arminianism are both equally true. our finite minds are just incapable of completely understanding it.
- any people who speak in tongues are just wacky.
- paul wrote the book of hebrews.
- you must have an invitation to accept christ into your heart at the end of a worship service.
- it is a sin to miss communion on a sunday.
- it might even be a sin to miss church on a sunday.
- church services are only to be done on sundays.
- communion has to be unleavened bread and welch’s grape juice (the sacred grape juice).
- guitars should not be used in church.
- we need to dress up on sundays for church.
- the earth is less than 8000 years old.
- the king james version is the most reliable translation of the bible.
- christians should not have tattoos.
- dancing is sinful.
- women should never speak in a church service.
- if a person repents of sin and professes trust in christ for salvation on their deathbed…but never makes it to the baptistery…they will go to hell.
- all catholics will go to hell. probably most episcopals, too. my home church even had some serious doubts about southern baptists.
- real christians don’t drink alcohol of any kind.
- missionaries and pastors are superior christians.
- america is more “christian” than other countries.
- jesus was really born on december 25.
- homosexuality is simply a choice that people make.
- hell is endless and eternal pain and torment.
- divorced people are prohibited from important ministry in the church.
- sundays are the new testament equivalent to the old testament sabbath.
- church meetings need to begin and end with prayer.
- only certain people are predestined to be saved.
- the sermon is the most important part of a church service.
- god’s greatest attribute is his omnipotence.
- christians have to be republicans.
- personal wealth is a sign of god’s blessing.
- personal poverty is a sign spiritual maturity.
- churches are better off being racially segregated.
- there is a sure-fire formula for marriage success.
- natural disasters are a form of god’s punishment.
- my church and my doctrine are “right”…and everybody else…if they disagree…is wrong.
- i have an obligation to perpetuate my denominational heritage.
- my words or my relationship with a person can keep them from sinning or self-destructing.
- if i am doing something really important for god, he will protect me from harm.
- when a child dies, we can console ourselves by believing god wants them more in heaven than he wants them on earth.
- all muslims are inherently bad people.
- mormons and christians basically believe the same thing.
- it is important to teach people to tithe.
- the bill of rights, the constitution, the 27 amendments to the constitution and the sermon on the mount are all to bear equal importance in the life of an american christian.
- the bible says it, i believe it, and that settles it.
- the amount of people believing a particular doctrine, teaching or tradition increases its credibility.
- since we’ve always done something that way (or believed that way), it must be right…and we must continue doing it.
sorry. i got on a roll.
and yup. at various times in my life as a follower of christ, i have believed every one of them. the reality? i’m almost sixty…and i don’t think god is through teaching me new stuff yet.
now that is an awesome thought.