Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The Bible, although not always viewed this way, is a fixed canon that does not change. The Church endures through all the ages. Jesus Christ died once for all so that all might live. Therefore, it may sound like a bold statement to say that Christian theology changes; but it does. We could find several more examples, and I am only seeking to highlight some of the less controversial, but here are a few ways in which our theology has changed in the short 2000-year existence of the Church of Jesus Christ.
1. The early Christians believed that the return of Christ would occur within their lifetime,
2. Early Christians also thought that they should not eat meat that had not been drained of blood. I hardly think anyone has been thrown out of the church for eating blood sausage in the last several hundred years,
3. Stipulations about hair length that were thought to be blatantly evident within “the very nature of things” are now disregarded. Christians are now comfortable with all fashions of hair on men and women,
4. It was once thought that the sun travelled in the sky relative to the earth and this was verified by statements in the Bible such as that in Joshua 10 where “the sun stood still in the sky,”
5. Those who got divorced were once barred from membership in the Church,
6. Before the Reformation, people required a priest to mediate between them and God,
7. And women were once required to wear head-coverings when they attended church or prayed.
The point is, the Bible doesn’t change, but our understanding, or theology, of the Bible does change.
We now live in a time when many of our cherished understandings of the Bible are being challenged by the science of the day. Luke J. Janssen, in an article in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
The scientific data now at hand pertaining to human evolution conflict with any theological worldview that is dependent upon the following:
(1) a “young earth,” or a timeline of less than ten thousand years….
(2) there being a primal pair…. [from whom all people have descended]
(3) the human species receiving a discrete command regarding what God expects, and all humans having broken that command.
Instead, we should account for hard evidence, such as
(1) Homo sapiens appearing a couple hundred thousand years ago;
(2) Humans being nearly genetically identical to other hominids who can be tied together on an evolutionary tree of life extending back millions of years;
(3) Interbreeding between humans and other species (Neanderthals and Denisovans);
(4) The evolution of religious thinking and practices long predating the biblical texts; and
(5) A gradual evolution of morality and awareness of God.
With all of this scientific evidence to deal with, is it not time that we set our theologians to the task of once again re-thinking how we understand our biblical texts? Some, such as Scott McKnight
and N.T. Wright have indeed become friends of Biologos
and have begun to seek to understand the Bible in light of the current scientific and genetic revolution. We need not fear such theological processes. If science is truth, and theology is truth, and indeed, if all truth is God’s truth, then such thoughtful processes can only lead to a greater understanding of that truth and greater understanding of our God. Those of us who love God and follow Jesus must not find ourselves in a battle with the science of the day. For the sake of our faith, we must embrace all of God’s truth.
See, for example, “The Canon of the Old Testament,” at Catholic Faith and Reason
Ephesians 3:21; Psalm 145:12-14
‘“Fallen” and “Broken” Reinterpreted in the Light of Evolutionary Theory,’ Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
, Volume 70, Number 1, March 2018, p. 44.
See Adam and the Genome
, by Venema and McKnight, Brazos Press, 2017.