At the mere typing of the title to this blog post, I can feel the imminent backlash winding up, readying itself to strike with all the ferocity of Paul’s words in Romans, “me genoito!” “Can a religion change its mind? Certainly not! How can Truth be changed?” And on it goes. The issue is, it appears, to consider one’s religion “changeable” is to run the risk of striking at the very core of one’s identity, rooted in the religion in question (http://wwrn.org/articles/39854/).
The author’s use of examples from various religions provides very little in the way of making the thought more palpable. One who considers himself “orthodox” according to any tradition might be at peace with the thought of “other” religions adapting to cultural, societal, and scientific pressures. But to have one’s own convictions challenged is difficult to accept. If he is a Christian, he might ask, “What bearing does it have on my faith if the Mormons changed their policy on polygamy? Mormonism isn’t the True faith, so of course they need to change! What I believe, however, is true. Therefore, it must not change.
Since I write from a Christian point of view, I am also concerned that even offering Biblical examples might not help in settling disputes like this. There is a deep conviction in Christianity that Christ indeed did not “come to abolish [the Law or the Prophets] . . . but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17-19). Under this conviction, then, the church is comfortable with the decision made at the Council of Jerusalem, when the church concluded that circumcision would not be required of Gentile converts (Acts 15). Again, this is fine for a Christian because–I presume–modern Christian convictions are not the ones being challenged. Instead, it is the practice of the old establishment that is threatened. However, this kind of reasoning, I imagine, does not sit well with our Jewish friends.
So how can a religion change its mind? I suppose it is up to each faith community to decide if, and under what conditions, change is possible. This idea is not not foreign to the Jews. “Although Christians often talk about Judaism and the five books of Moses as ‘the Law,’ it is far more than law to Jewish believers. It is a guide to life. . . . Seen in this way, the Torah is a dynamic source of life and legislation that speaks to each generation anew.” This is the task of hermeneutics; the interpretation of Scripture and application of its teaching in practice. Christians in Africa participate in this kind of interpretation. As some African communities accept the Gospel, Christian practices do not necessarily replace their traditional practices. In these cases, a member of the community can consider herself a Christian, yet seek the help of a diviner for healing. These ideas may be difficult for many to swallow. But as the article suggests, “The key . . . is to distinguish ‘principles’ that are immutable and ‘models’ that are a product of the time and place the stories were told.” This difficult task, as mentioned, is a task that must be reserved for each faith community to decide.
Can a religion change its mind? http://wwrn.org/articles/39854/ #uwreligions