Does Truth Change?
Change… Things change. People change. In fact, in an ever-changing world the one constant in life seems to be change. The realm of faith is no exception. Now, that statement may bother some of you but it’s true. Yes, even our faith is subject to change. For example, the past 26 years have brought a lot of change to my faith. Speaking in spiritual regards, I’m not the same person I was at 20. I have matured in some areas. Dogmatic beliefs and considerations from my more youthful days have been refined, reshaped, and even rejected in some regards. I have grown in conviction, confidence, and compassion. I have had my eyes opened on more than one occasion to realities I previously held impossible. I have been both disappointed and discouraged. At times I have both wavered and wandered. For 26 years now my faith has been subject to a constant metamorphosis as the things I hold true have been tested and tried in the fiery furnace of daily living. My faith has indeed changed.
Now before you flood my inbox with scathing emails denouncing my blasphemy, please notice my repeated use of the word “faith.” I did not say the Faith changes. Subtle distinction but a major difference. While my faith may change, the Faith is unchanging. In other words, the object of faith has remained constant. But my personal experience has undergone some radical periods of upheaval at times. Think of it this way. Imagine you are standing at the beach. The tide rises and falls but the ocean never really goes anywhere. The water is always on the move, always changing, but yet it is incredibly constant. It was here before I was born and it will be here long after I die. It’s location is fixed. Seasons change… but the ocean remains. Sunrise and sunset… but the ocean remains. The years pass us by in the blink of an eye… but the ocean remains.
The Faith is the same. It remains. It stands the test of time. My personal understanding of it will increase. My own experience of it will vacillate through the seasons of life. The outward expression of it in my life will vary. But the Faith remains. Neither congressional rules nor cultural rantings can change the Faith. Neither popular consensus nor public opinion can change the Faith. Why? Because it is founded upon the Truth.
Challenges to the Faith are nothing new. They are not a 21st century novelty. They existed in the earliest days of the Church just as they do today. Paul was well aware of the forces that sought to subvert the Truth and change the Faith. Look at the warnings he gives to Timothy in chapter 1 of his letter. “…strange doctrines… myths… endless genealogies… mere speculation… fruitless discussion…” That’s one comprehensive list. The disturbing part is that these theological challenges were not coming from outside the church. Paul makes it clear that the source of these conflicting messages were coming from within their own walls. The core of Timothy’s newly realized task was to teach clear Biblical instruction in order to address and correct these persistent and potentially dangerous challenges.
Life has a way of testing our faith. The great temptation is to allow circumstances and situations to draw us away from our sense of conviction. Rather than holding fast to the Truth we allow the winds and waves of adversity and disappointment to move us from sound doctrine and Biblical principle. And in the end we become just like those men that Paul warned us about, “For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.”
The great challenges to Faith and Truth are not those “forces” outside the Church. The enemy is defeated. The world has been overcome. The great challenges to the emerging Church come from within, both from within our church walls as well as the depths of our own hearts. Compromise never happens because of public pressure. History and the Bible teach us just the opposite. If anything, real persecution always leads to vibrant growth. The genuine threat for compromise comes from “teachers” who abandon the Truth in favor of popularity and a listening audience who has grown so Biblically ignorant that they can no longer discern the difference.
Strange doctrines, myths, endless genealogies, mere speculation and fruitless discussion… The very things that Paul listed as potential threats are quickly becoming the cornerstones of the contemporary Sunday morning service. And it was in just such a spiritual climate that Paul began his letter to Timothy. Repeatedly Paul encouraged Timothy to focus his efforts on instruction. Amidst the competing thoughts and views Timothy was to apply himself to the Truth, to teach the people those things that were foundational to practical, Christian living…God the Father, Christ Jesus our Lord, Christ Jesus our hope, love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. These principles still hold true almost 2,000 years later. In that time a lot has changed both in the world and in the church. But through it all one thing has remained constant… the Truth.