Does God change? According to the Bible, he does not. But also according to the Bible, he does. That is the confusing nature of the Holy Writ. Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” This seems to imply that while we humans change our minds on things, God by his very nature does not. Yet, throughout the Bible we see God change his mind. Some might say that the Numbers verse is only talking about crucial matters, not trivial things. Okay, but what about changing his mind about sin itself? Wouldn’t it seem reasonable that God would be consistent about matters of good and evil?
Let’s look at a few examples. Keeping the Sabbath was extremely important to God in the Old Testament. It was so important to him that he made breaking it punishable by death. But today believers don’t pay it any mind. They work and play on the Sabbath without concern of being put to death. And not only that, many Christians have started calling Sunday the Sabbath. But the Bible never does that. The Sabbath was always Saturday. Sunday was called the first day of the week. Did God change his mind about the importance of the Sabbath, or did people make that change?
The Bible is pretty consistent in its lack of condemnation of slavery. This institution was simply accepted as a reality. Christian support of slavery was common as late as the mid-1800’s. Of course there were some Christians who found it abhorrent regardless of the lack of condemnation in their Scriptures. Today, slavery is pretty much universally condemned by the Church. Did God change his mind about slavery, or did people make that change?
In the Old Testament, adultery was so evil to God that he called for the execution of its participants. But in the New Testament we see that Jesus thought that only people who were without sin should cast those execution stones. Does anyone think that the people God told to execute adulterers in the Old Testament were sinless? So, did God change his mind about how to punish adulterers, or did people make that change?
I mentioned in a previous post that most Churches of Christ believe it is sinful to use musical instruments in worship to God. Yet in the Old Testament we read of people praising God with musical instruments. Did God change his mind about his followers using instruments in praise to him, or did people make that change? I’m sure that all those Christians in churches that do use musical instruments would answer the latter and point out it is just a select few who made that change.
When I was growing up, the predominant form of Christian music I listened to was country, bluegrass, and quartet music. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but today I find it interesting how secular country music and religious country music were all wrapped up together in a bundle. It was not unusual to watch a country music show on TV and hear a song about murdering someone and throwing them off a bridge and then a few minutes later, during the gospel segment of the program, hear a song about the love of Jesus and his coming to take his saints home. I don’t recall ever seeing a secular rock or pop show that had a gospel segment associated with it.
In the late 1960’s, but mostly throughout the 1970’s, something wonderful began to happen. Or rather something evil began to happen. It depended on who you were. Contemporary Christian music came on the scene. I first heard this style of music after I graduated from college and began my career. I had become friends with a fellow named Rod who worked at the store where I bought my stereo system. It turned out he lived in a house just a couple of blocks away from my apartment. He began inviting me to parties he and his roommate would have. Rod’s roommate was a fan of some of the Contemporary Christian music of that era and used to play it on Rod’s $5000 stereo system. Talk about cranking it up loud. That system could handle the sound of a jet engine without distortion. There was one group he listened to that really caught my attention: The 2nd Chapter of Acts. I was enthralled by the pop rock-ish sound of their music; especially given it was “Christian” music. On one album a young guitarist by the name of Phil Keaggy played and sang. He was incredible. I later learned that he started as a guitarist in the secular world, but became a Christian, prompting him to change genres. In fact, he was slated by some to be the next Jimi Hendrix, but that all changed with his conversion. Well, unless you want to consider him a Christian Jimi Hendrix.
Contemporary Christian music began to catch on in a number of Christian circles; but not in others. I heard a number of preachers on TV and the radio condemning this new style of music. They considered the style and sound of the music to be of the devil, and no amount of Christian lyrics accompanying it could make it acceptable to God. They were warning young people to stay clear of the music and called on parents to forbid their children listening to it lest they lose their souls. However, over time, many of those condemning preachers began to embrace the music as a tool to reach young people for Christ. Once again the Sabbath had lost its importance, slavery had become evil, and adultery was no longer punishable by death. In other words, believers had changed their thinking about what God wants and had reinterpreted Scripture to match.
The point of all this is that Deanna Troi was right in Star Trek: The Next Generation when she said, “That's the problem with believing in a supreme being: trying to determine what he wants.” Throughout history there have been people of faith that sincerely believed they knew what God wanted. So much so they were willing to die for that belief or kill for it. Oftentimes a new generation would come along that realized their ancestors had been wrong about those beliefs. Or could it be that the ancestors were right and the new generation had been led astray by the devil? That’s the conundrum. Even so, sometimes it doesn’t even take a new generation to realize the error. People often come to realize that they themselves had been wrong about certain issues and change their minds accordingly, just as some of the preachers who had originally condemned Contemporary Christian music did.
Despite its shaky roots, Contemporary Christian music has become mainstream. Many radio stations across the country specialize in playing this genre. I became a great fan of artists such as Amy Grant, Twila Paris, Newsboys, Stryper, Steven Curtis Chapman, Michael W. Smith, Petra, and many more. I continued to be a fan even after I changed my beliefs about the Bible. Let’s pray they are not of the devil.