If you want an interesting link for wasting some time you might enjoy Time Traveler by Meriam-Webster. I first heard about this link via the podcast 99% Invisible. If you haven’t listened to 99% Invisible before I would recommend you checking into the podcast. Anyhow Time Traveler is a feature of the online version of the Meriam-Webster dictionary that lists the year of the first occurrence of various popular, and at one time popular, words. Language is a living thing and thus constantly changing. Words die, are born, and change meaning throughout time as we and our culture do also.
Time Traveler shows just a sample of words first used within certain years, but looking through the years you can see modern trends and values take shape. You can also see older trends and values that we have moved away from, both for the good and bad. We call languages that don’t change “dead languages” and in reality at least our understanding of them continue to change as we discover more concerning word meanings and how they were used. Koine Greek (the Greek with which the New Testament is written) has been a living language since around 300 AD (It was used as an official language in Byzantine for much longer but let’s not go there) but our understanding of Koine continues to grow and improve.
“Dead languages” come from dead cultures while living languages come from living cultures. Living languages and cultures change because the circumstances and environments they are located within change. This doesn’t mean rejecting our core values, rather it means letting our core values expand into areas that we hadn’t considered at before. Our country’s Founding Fathers wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” at a time when they had a very wrong understanding of who a man was and wasn’t, and didn’t understand that it should be “that all people are created equal”. The value was already there but our understanding of it changed in a very good manner.
The same should be true with our faith. Our understanding of the core of our faith should expand and grow. That doesn’t mean the actual core of our faith changes but our understanding of that core changes. It should widen into areas that we had never considered before. This isn’t change for change’s sake. It is allowing our faith to grow. If my faith had a “time traveler” feature and I could go back and look at some of the things that I believed when I first became a follower of Jesus I know that I would laugh and possibly cry about those beliefs. I believed Jesus is Lord back then but I didn’t have as broad of an understanding of what that meant. There are changes that can lead us away from the core of our faith, but that doesn’t mean we should avoid change. Instead it means that we have to constantly be making sure that our understanding of and, more importantly, our love of Jesus enlarges into more of our lives.
Living things change. Living faith does too.