Is it a sin to change your beliefs?
The other day an article by Stephen Mattson on this subject showed up in my Twitter feed. The article, likely sparked by a number of prominent professing Christians coming out in favor of same sex marriage, wants to remind readers that “theology — our study and beliefs about God — should be a natural process involving change instead of avoiding it.… And while we may not agree with a person’s new theological belief, we need to stop seeing the inherent nature of change as something negative.”
There’s a lot I think a fair-minded reader could and should agree with in Mattson’s article. For example, he exhorts Christians to behave Christianly when it comes to dealing with the changing views of others—show kindness, mercy, gentleness and understanding. Agreed.
He also brings up an excellent point on the negative side of changing—and not changing—in our beliefs when he writes:
There are distinctively sinful reasons and motivations for changing one’s beliefs: for self-promotion, pride, popularity, power, professional advancement, or because of peer-pressure, fear and, manipulation. But many people refuse to change their beliefs for these exact same reasons.
But in reading the article, I couldn’t help wondering if, perhaps, there’s a gap in the logic.
Yes, we should not be afraid of change our beliefs if necessary. No question, we certainly should treat those who come out and publicly change their views (whether we agree or not) with dignity and respect.
But what’s missing from the article’s argument is any sense of an objective standard:
Who decides where the line between sin and not sin in our changing beliefs is?
The answer, of course, is Jesus.
In his article, Mattson points out that one of the most frequently used titles for Jesus is “Teacher,” and this is true. He corrected his hearers’ false understandings of God and harshly criticized the religious elite whose self-justifying teaching actually kept people away from God instead of drawing them closer to him.
Jesus is the master Teacher; he taught (and teaches) with authority (Mark 1:27).
But where did Jesus get this authority?
From God. From himself.
Jesus was a Teacher, no doubt. But teacher isn’t his only title. Remember the others:
When Jesus exhorted people to change their beliefs, he did so as God himself. He knew perfectly the requirements of the Law, the character of the Father, the way to salvation—all of it. The Holy Spirit, likewise, inspired the writers of Scripture to faithfully record the gospel accounts, Acts, the epistles and Revelation so we might know with humble certainty all that is necessary for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3; 1 Tim. 4:8).
So if we’re going to change our beliefs, our first question should be this:
Is my thinking aligned with the Word of God?
Because we who claim the name of Christ are all to grow into his likeness, our goal is to have beliefs conformed to his. So, where my beliefs are out of alignment with his own, I’m not only free to change them—I’m compelled to. Where my beliefs conform, I’m compelled to hold firm.
Naturally, I’m making two assumptions here:
- Truth can be known with certainty, even if not exhaustively.
- The Bible is the source and arbiter of said truth and can be basically understood, even if not totally.
These assumptions are important ones, though. You can only rightly evaluate any beliefs you hold—or formerly held—in light of an objective truth, otherwise you’re left twisting in the wind. Or as Paul put it, “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14).
So is it a sin to change your beliefs?
You tell me.