How Has Your Theology Changed?

Every now and then, I look back on my walk of faith and have a hard time believing just how much I’ve changed. I don’t mean in terms of virtue and character but also in my theological outlook. Things I couldn’t have imagined believing 10 years ago, I either do hold to them or don’t really care enough either way.

So I thought it’d be fun to list out some ways that I’ve changed. (I’m sure I’ll look back in 10 years at this list and realize how much I’ve changed–again.)

After you read my list, feel free to join the conversation. How have you changed as a Christian? Are you still hold to the faith?

Are you a Catholic turned Protestant?

A Christian turned atheist?

A Baptist turned … wait, what was I thinking? You’re Baptist. You’re already perfect! 😉

I’ll start it off:

-Where I once would have seen salvation in terms of Jesus getting us into heaven, I now see the Gospel as God’s message of how He intends to save the world–through Jesus Christ. The Gospel is about more than a personal relationship with God or social-justice work. God will destroy evil once and for all and establish the world in justice. All of this is accomplished through Christ, and anyone who’s willing, regardless of their sinful history, is invited to be saved and join the movement.

-I’ve gone from being a young-earth creationist to someone who thinks that the theory of evolution is valid and that our universe is billions of years old. Truth is truth. In this case, I think it’s found both in Genesis and through science.

-I used to be a four-point, John-Piper loving Calvinist. (The concept of limited atonement never stuck with me, even back then.) I no longer think that the Reformed concept of “election” matches up with what the Scriptures actually present to us.

-I’m no longer a biblical inerrantist. I’m not convinced that when the biblical writers described the Scriptures as inspired or God-breathed, they had “inerrancy” in mind.

-I used to think that only people who had heard the Gospel could be saved. I now think it’s possible that someone who hasn’t heard the Good News can respond favorably to the revelation they’ve received of the true God and be saved. It’s not within my power, though, to know who that might be or God might make that work (assuming such a thing is even possible). It’s certainly not an excuse to cast aside the Great Commission.

-I still hold to a traditional view of hell even as I hope I’m wrong about it. I hope that God would continue to offer mercy, but even if He did, I don’t think that guarantees anyone in torment would take it. (This scenario assumes that post-mortem repentance is even possible.) You can label me a “hopeful universalist,” because I hope that everyone, everywhere, of every time period, will come to know Christ, but I have yet to hear a convincing case for it from Scripture.

-When the Bible condemned homosexuality, I’m open to the view that it was attacking same-sex acts performed in the context of pagan worship and not within a committed relationship.

-Even if the traditional view is correct, I don’t think that’s justification for anti-gay marriage laws. I’m not convinced such laws are the best way to “protect” marriage–assuming gay marriage is an actual threat. I also find it odd that many conservatives want the government to be powerful enough to regular marriage when they cringe at the thought of government getting involved in health care.

-I’m much more willing to listen to different theological opinions than I used to be. Regardless of whether you agree with me on biblical inerrancy, I think we can all agree that none of our personal views are inerrant and all of us need to be challenged from time to time.

That’s it from me. Your turn!

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3 thoughts on “How Has Your Theology Changed?

  1. Bill April 28, 2011 / 9:58 am

    Justin,
    I have a couple of questions; certainly not a point-by-point dissection of your thoughts. And, by the way, many of my “positions” in these areas have evolved over time as well.

    First, it would be interesting to see – for each point – what influenced your change in view. Was it a thorough study of the Word in these specific areas, a more general synthesis of 10+ years of exposure to the Word, books you read on the subject? To say one has changed is interesting, but to share why and not just how is certainly more insightful.

    I think the only point I find weak (at best and indefensible at worst) is your observation regarding being “open” to the view that scripture – in its treatment of homosexuality – was addressing very specific sexual acts in very specific contexts. Is this shaped by your wishful thinking, or influenced by the need for a more compassionate and grace-driven approach to homosexuals because of your increased exposure to them over the last ten years? Being “open” to the view sounds like you really don’t believe it, or you are just taking the easy road for the sake of not offending everyone?
    I would love to see your arguments supporting such a narrow context of the bible’s treatment of that subject. Without reasonable evidence, I suppose one could slice and dice nearly every aspect of our character and our behavior and make the Bible’s treatment of it conform to our own personal worldview. But it’s hard to read Romans 1:26-27 (you had to know that was coming) and arbitrarily narrow the context.
    One of the areas I’m hopefuly “changing” in is being able to speak the truth in love. I hope I accomplished that.

    • Justin April 28, 2011 / 10:50 am

      Hey Bill!

      Maybe I’ll do a post soon on what changed my mind (or at least, left me open to considering other opinions). You’re right, that would be a good one!

      As for your concerns, I’m “open” to another interpretation in the sense that it sounded like a good argument and I think it deserves attention and study. Part of what I liked about it was that it actually looked at the Bible and didn’t use the cheap “Paul didn’t know what we know so we can ignore everything he wrote” route. I don’t have access to what I read before, but maybe I can find it and share at some point.

      That being said, I think it’s also crucial to remember that people who love Jesus interpret those passages in the same way that you do and that I have in the past. Since they also have the Spirit, I won’t ignore their opinions and concerns. (I’ve also looked for critical reviews of this alternate interpretation but haven’t found any solid ones yet. Let me know if you come across any.)

      To give another example of my being open to other views, I was willing to consider the conditionalist and universalistic approaches to the doctrine of hell. I was even hopeful that they could be true, but I came out of that study with the same interpretation I held before. Being open to a different view, and even hoping for its validity, doesn’t mean you have to change your mind.

      And no, it’s not about taking an easy road that offends no one. I don’t think that road even exists (especially for this issue, in which any stance you take is going to offend somebody). But I do think that, every now and then, it’s worth testing what we consider to be the correct interpretation of Scripture. If we find that our original interpretation was correct, then we’ll be able to defend it better than we were before. If we were wrong, then we can be corrected. Plus, if we’re going to offend people, then we should make sure we’re offending them for the right reason. 🙂

      P.S. I think you accomplished speaking the truth in love. For what it’s worth, I’ve never really seen that as something you needed to grow in.

  2. Fr. Anastasios Hudson May 1, 2011 / 9:47 pm

    Very briefly, and I will expand if anyone has a specific interest in any of the sub points:

    1) Raised Lutheran in Ohio, moved to Northern Virginia, where I was exposed to many different cultures

    2) Became interested in New Age/occult things as a teen; never denied Jesus, but had a syncretistic view, and then “bad things” happened with the New Age practices that led me to renounce them

    3) Catechism class talked about the Bible, the Apostles, things “went wrong”, and then Martin Luther fixed things 1400 years later…what happened in between??

    4) Roman Catholic friends challenged my knowledge of Catholic doctrines.

    5) Studied Church history, saw most of the Catholic doctrines in the early Church: Eucharist, saints, no belief in salvation by “faith alone”, no believe in “sola scriptura.” I became a Catholic.

    6) Found Orthodox people, realized that I had not considered that option. Realized that because Catholics were right on so many points, that I had bought their argument for Papacy and some other things without really thinking it through (accepted the “package deal” as it were).

    7) Didn’t want to be one of those “wackos” that changes churches every year, so I spent the next four years studying Orthodoxy vs. Catholicism, even did a seminary degree in the process just to be sure 🙂

    8) Waited 2 more years for my wife to be ready. Was baptized into the Orthodox Church by triple immersion (very important for us). Ordained a priest 2 years later to start missions in North Carolina, which I do now.

    Why did I change? Because I believe the evidence shows the Orthodox Church to be the first Christian Church, and because I see in Orthodox spiritual figures a type of sanctity I had never experienced anywhere else. I want to partake of that, and have seen my own life change greatly since being baptized (still a long way to go though). Also, on a personal level, I think Orthodox liturgy is beautiful and blows away all alternatives. The hymnography is deep, inspiring, and provokes repentance.

    So yeah, I’ve come a long way…!

    Fr. Anastasios

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