Recently I wrote about how times have changed for Christianity. Some of it was positive. Some of it was tongue-in-cheek sarcastic. We've figured out, for instance, that the Church is not the arbiter of truth or salvation, but that God and His Word is. That's good. We understand now that those in the South who defended slavery as biblical were wrong, and that's good. On the negative side, however, we've reinterpreted Scripture to include women as pastors, for instance, and that's not good. Some have embraced a redefinition of marriage and the murder of babies as perfectly suitable and that's not good. We've largely forgotten about the Sovereignty of God, and that's ... well ... really bad.
What's the difference? Why are certain changes good and others not? How do we decide what is a good and right change and what is a deviation from orthodoxy (right thinking)?
As I've said before, predicated on Jesus's promise to send the Holy Spirit to lead His followers into all truth (John 16:13), I have to believe that the truth has been told to believers from the outset, requiring that the truth can be traced from then until now. So, with a God-breathed Bible, the leading of the Holy Spirit today, and a "fact check" from church history, we should be able to have a fairly constant set of orthodoxy that is truth. This, in fact, was the position of the Reformation when they sought to push Christianity not to newer and better (like some reform school kid), but to re-form it to what it was supposed to be at the start.
So, when the changes we've seen are 1) aligned with Scripture and 2) harken back to church history, we can be fairly confident that we haven't found a new and better path, but that we've simply corrected back to the original. Originally, for instance, we were told that we are not saved by works (a la Roman Catholicism), but by grace through faith apart from works. Correcting then to that was a good thing. Christians didn't argue, prior to the 18th century, that white people could enslave black people because they were offspring of Canaan under God's curse, so a return to the position that this is wrong was both biblical and historical. All good.
When we come, instead, to the point that marriage is no longer the union of a man and a woman as Scripture and history have always held, but some vague relationship between two people for whatever duration for whatever purpose, and you can see that we've departed from both Scripture and history. "Oh, no," some will try to tell you, "we've just finally figured out that they were wrong all along." And that's the problem, isn't it? We, some 2000 years after the fact, have figured out what the Spirit has failed to get across for all of history, that the Church was always wrong and our grasp of the truth was mistaken. This is a problem. It is a problem for the shift to a metaphorical view of Genesis, for the discarding of the value of human life in abortion, and for introducing women as pastors when Scripture and history are abundantly clear that it has never been the case.
There are times that the current church needs a corrective. No doubt. That correction must come from Scripture. And it should align with "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 1:3) These are valid and good, changes we should embrace not because we're "improving", but because we're returning to the truth. Something "new and improved" is problematic. The "New Perspective on Paul", a willing shift from "the intrinsic value of humans made in the image of God" to "women's choice and reproductive rights", redefining fundamental things like "marriage", "family", and the like are all set over against Scripture and history. This makes them problematic. It reflects badly on the Church, on the Body of Christ, on Scripture, and on the work of the Holy Spirit who just couldn't seem to get His act together up until these wonderfully enlightened folk came along to figure it out.
Note this. Generally the latter -- positive corrections that return us to the original design -- are not pleasant. They aren't comfortable. We pursue them not because it makes us feel better, but because we love God and His truth. On the other hand, the negative corrections (as I'm calling them) that are "new and improved" Christianity are certainly more pleasing than the corrected Christianity. They allow us to embrace things we like -- sexual immorality, a "more inclusive" pulpit that includes women, and things like that. We are told in Scripture, "The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (2 Tim 4:3-4) When a change is presented, you might want to ask yourself. Does this push you in a direction you aren't initially comfortable with but aligns with Scripture and history, or does it "suit your own passions"? I think there's an indicator there that might be helpful.