To Change or Not to Change, Part 2

Posted on January 8, 2017

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To Change or Not to Change, Part 2

Last week we took up the question of how much of the past needs to be preserved in a rapidly changing world which seems invariably to favor the new.
We took a brief look at the Christian church, and the subject of teaching, then and now. We didn’t go back a gazillion years, just a couple of generations ago, like how were things in the 1950s and 1960s for example, and how are they today.
The question we left hanging is: how much to preserve and how much to change? And, perhaps even more important, assuming that we save some things and throw out others, what’s our criteria for doing this?
Were we better off without penicillin, and every other drug and medical advance of the last century? Of course not.
Almost in every instance of discovery or invention, we moved forward in making life better. A second rate, but well-known, movie actor named Ronald Reagan hosted the General Electric Theater in the 1950s and their logo was, if I remember correctly, “progress is our most important product.”
In a product-driven world, to categorize the process “progress” as a product was clever and carried with it the important message that all things change for the better. Just buy General Electric products like Ronnie was encouraging us to do and we’ll move America forward into better toasters, better ovens, better machines of all types that make our life easier and more comfortable. Advance the time machine about sixty or seventy years, and replace General Electric with Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, etc. New—change—is always better.
I can attest to the premise–change is always better—and state with great conviction, not! Every time a new app comes out, or a piece of familiar software, like Outlook or Word or your operating system, is upgraded or updated, it royally screws up my comfort zone developed after many months, or even years, of learning and getting familiar with it.
I realize the upgrades and improvements are probably, in the long run, good changes, but I tend to live in the short run.
In thinking about all this, especially about what basis or standard we need to apply in accepting or rejecting changes, I wander into the philosophical and political realms, throwing in the social, economic, and religious substrata of our lives for good measure.
Years ago I saw a movie Lord of the Flies (1963). It is about some boys marooned on an island and how they solved their problems as boys unfettered by laws, rules, or, even better, at least in the beginning, by adults. The themes are big: civilization vs. savagery; the loss of innocence; and innate human evil for starters. Biblical parallels, bullying, and other themes slice through it.
One is left seriously pondering the anarchy and chaos which results if the unbridled liberty of the individual is not reined in by the rules of civility and the laws of civilization.
Extrapolating here for a second, the past is what gives us our own sense of civility and rules for civilization. That’s why we teach the Bible and look to our own parents and grandparents (here or gone) for guidance and models.
The lesson is that while things change, rules for living, especially those bequeathed to us in Christianity (sorry, that’s my prejudice) remain the same. The Bible does not change, while cell phones and computers last about eighteen months or less before becoming obsolete. We then are sold—presumably–new and better models.
I am aware that some claim even Scripture is subject to change and there is some truth to that assertion, usually described as the “cultural captivity” of the Bible. Each culture tends to interpret difficult and sometimes seemingly contradictory or controversial passages in the Bible according to the cultural habits and trends of the times.
The central truths of Scripture, however, do not change. They are a constant in an uncertain and perhaps even unstable world where change goes on so fast that we are dizzied by the blur of “breaking” news, quick fixes, where instant and immediate often trump (no pun intended) the certainty and security of God’s word.
I like the newest and better medicines for sure. But I don’t particularly trust man left to his own devices like that examined in the Lord of the Flies.
In realms such as the spiritual, philosophical, or moral for example, I trust the higher principles expressed in Scripture.

Published as “The Higher Principles of Living Are Unchanging” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday December 5, 2016.