Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Changeless Principles In A Changing World

August 1958

Schwarzen Germany

Changeless Principles In A Changing World

Paul H. Bowman


...Change is evident everywhere.... Change itself is a changeless law of life which we cannot escape. Life is full of beginnings and endings. ... Change is not only the law of life; it is also the law of progress. There are times in history when old ideas must be abandoned and the mind of man emancipated from the past. If new ideas fail to appear and new vision fades, then stagnation and death are inevitable.

It would seem that God loves change, else He would not have made a world like this.

Change is difficult and sometimes revolutionary. Thinking and acting anew is not as simple as we sometimes believe it to be. It is much easier for most of us to go on thinking and acting as we have always done. ... In the midst of our changing order, man is restless. He seeks stability and is constantly in search of solid ground. His spirit demands certitudes which are adequate for the stress and strain of his turbulent life. This deep hunger of the human soul is a common aspiration of Christians everywhere.

Christ, our Lord, was not afraid of change. He sought to conserve the good and the best of the order which was already old in his day. He came "not to destroy but to fulfill." Yet he loosened the shackles of the law which had held the spirits of men in servitude for uncounted centuries. He planted in the minds of a few men some of the most revolutionary ideas of all time. He was the forerunner of a new order. He is always hovering on the edge of today calling His followers to a changing and adventurous tomorrow. ...

The decisive test of Christianity is that in the midst of change and revolution there are elements of faith which remain constant and are continuously relevant to the will of God, to the life of man, and to the problems of complex society.

... We are not here to idolize the past or to apologize for the mistakes of our history. Our prime concern is for those living elements of our faith which will apply in our changing world. It is that heritage which we seek to quicken, preserve, and perpetuate for the good of (all).

Principles are constant and develop along constant lines, whereas the rules of the church are temporary and short lived. The rules may be repealed and superseded, but the order of God rests on moral absolutes which are the enduring substance of the church and of society.

Let us with humility and with a deep sense of inadequacy seek to set forth some of these living and changeless principles.

1. The principle of the open mind and the open Book. In the quiet seclusion of this beautiful valley the early Brethren searched the Scriptures, explored history, and sought earnestly for the guidance of the Spirit of God in their struggle to know the mind of Christ. ... regardless of our proneness to forget, we consider the principle of the open mind and the free search of the Scriptures relevant to truth and progress and vital to the Christian order in our own times.

2. The principle of freedom in religion. The principle of religious freedom undergirds our protest against compulsion in religion and sustains our insistence that dominance over the conscience of man may be exercised by no authority on earth, either ecclesiastical or political. ...

3. The principle of love and universal goodwill. Our fathers were committed to the principle of brotherly love and goodwill in all human relationships. This they considered Biblical and Christian, morally right and politically practical. It was for them a bond of fellowship in the church and the basis of harmony, stability, and security in society. As corollaries of this principle, the Brethren advocatednonviolence, nonlitigation, and the adjustment of disagreements and differences by deliberation and reason in the spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness. ...

4. The principle of creative citizenship. Our fathers regarded religious duty as entirely compatible with civil duty but not subservient to it. ...they established a boundary between civil and religious duty at the point where the two became irreconcilable. At that point they obey the voice of God rather than the voice of man. ...

5. The principle of demonstrative Christianity. Our fathers were devoted to the belief that our profession of faith must offer in everyday life a practical demonstration of its claims. ...

6. The principle of the simple life. The doctrine of the simple life has a new relevancy in our day. Our fathers sometimes employed drastic measures in their eagerness to keep themselves disentangled from the world. ... But their struggle to avoid deflection from spiritual values by the appeal and the insistent demands of the immediate and the temporary confronts us even today with desperate urgency. ...

7. The principle of the dominance of Christ. Our fathers, nurtured in the atmosphere of devotion and prayer at Schwarezau, in 1708 accepted Christ as their supreme Lord and their only Savior. ... When we Brethren are true to our heritage, Christ is Lord of our personal lives. His ideals and teachings, and example, and spirit, are for us the finalities of faith. Christ is also, for us, Lord of the Church which is His body, knit together in love and unity. ... We must seek unity in diversity and learn that in the midst of conflicting opinion we may still find unity in our common love and loyalty for Christ, who is the Lord and Savior of men and women of every race and tongue.

These truths we believe to be universally relevant. They witness to ultimate values and are limited neither by time nor by geography. Our fathers believed them to be valid in 1708 and we believe them to be valid still.

Christ our Lord is always going on before. He is always inspiring new ventures of faith and imparting to us new insights. He is forever breaking new ground and calling us to new areas of service.

To our Lord, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, to the living elements of our faith which we believe to be changeless and yet relevant to a changing world, and to the Lordship of Christ transcendent of both time and space, we dedicate ourselves in penitence, humility, and gratitude. We face the adventurous future with a firm resolve that the living elements of our faith shall, under Christ, continue to live in us and apply in our changing world.

Source: The Adventurous Future