Changes and a Changeless God

by Karen A. Bellenir

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus noted, "Everything changes; nothing stands still." And, an old adage provides assurances during bad times while simultaneously warning against complacency during good times: "This too shall pass."

Some changes are predictable, like the way the constellations move across the sky from night to night and season to season. Others are random, like the flash of a meteor streaking across the sky. Some things change so gradually, it takes generations for the effects to be discerned.

Scientists estimate that the geological processes that created the sandstone layers seen at Capitol Reef National Park in Utah spanned 200 million years; Torrey, UT (Image by Alex Demas, December 26, 2014; courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.)

Scientists estimate that the geological processes that created the sandstone layers seen at Capitol Reef National Park in Utah spanned 200 million years; Torrey, UT (Image by Alex Demas, December 26, 2014; courtesy U.S. Geological Survey.)

Consider the North Star, Polaris. It's called the North Star because it sits permanently over the North Pole. Right? Well, not exactly. It has been used as an aid in navigation for at least a millennium and identified as the pole star since about 1,500 AD (when it was really about three degrees off true north). Currently, the North Star is less than a degree from the actual position of the North Pole, but it won't stay there. Because Earth's axis of rotation wobbles, the planet's North Pole finds itself under different points of light in different eras. In 3,000 BC a dimmer star, Thuban (in the constellation Draco) was the pole star. Looking ahead to the year 10,000 AD, the star Deneb in the constellation Cygnus will be the closest star to the coveted position above the North Pole, and in 14,000 AD that honor will belong to Vega (a star in the constellation Lyra, the Harp). Looking farther ahead to the year 27,800 AD, things will have come full circle, and Polaris will regain its status as the North Star.

Although a single human life is too short to be affected by changes on this scale, the changes still occur. If we relied on the study of nature alone, it would appear to be true that everything indeed changes.

Yet, several passages of scripture seem to indicate that God is changeless. Psalm 102 says that although the earth and the heavens will wear out, God will stay the same (verses 25–27). In Malachi 3:6, God is quoted as saying, "I the Lord do not change," and the writer to the Hebrews states, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (13:8).

Evidence such as this suggests that our eternal God, who was and is and is to come, never changes. Ever.

Some people seem to believe that this means our understanding of God should not change. They promote an idea that the opinions held in one's youth should not be influenced by education, new discoveries, or life events. They hold tenaciously to tenets embraced by societies that faced challenges and opportunities vastly different from the issues that confront humanity today.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul talked about the ever changing nature of our relationship with God and how little we understand God's ways. He wrote, "As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:8–12).

This process of increasing in knowledge of God and seeing glimpses of his splendor through a dark mirror may require that we be willing to reconsider our opinions. Perhaps we need to grow in grace to avoid condemning others who have peered through the glass from a different angle.

In political dialog and in theological debate, differences of opinion result from the vast variety of perspectives among the children of God who attempt to gaze through the mirror. Oftentimes what you see depends on where you're standing and how you examine it.

Perhaps it is time to set aside the rancor and consider a few questions. At first, these may sound like the opening lines of a series of corny jokes, but rather than smirking, try to think about the questions seriously: What do you call Christians who believe people walked the earth with dinosaurs? What do you call Christians who believe in evolution and global warming? What do you call Christians who don't? What do you call Christians who believe Biblical statements on sexuality need to be considered within specific cultural contexts? What do you call Christians who self-identify as Republicans? As Democrats?

All these questions have the same answer: brothers and sisters in Christ. Our relationships and relative positions may constantly change—suddenly and seismically or gradually with the slow drift of time—but we are all, nevertheless, brothers and sisters. Forever. And our common Father is our changeless God.

May we all continue to grow in knowledge of God and may God continue to change us.

*Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good New Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Observations: A Pier Press® Newsletter. If you're not already a subscriber, click here to sign up. It's free.