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Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Importance of Changing Beliefs

Some time ago I heard it suggested that leaders who changed their beliefs were unreliable leaders; that to change your mind about something that you once strongly believed somehow cast doubt on your credibility as a leader. If all that was meant by this is that leaders cannot be those who are 'blown about by every wind of doctrine' (Eph.4:14) or who are vacillating when it comes to the fundamentals of the truths of the gospel (and it's important to reflect on what they are!) then I agree. But if it means that a leader (or any Christian for that matter) should never change the beliefs that they formed in the faith community they grew up in, or that they encountered in their late-teens to early-20s (a really important time for belief formation) or when they first became a Christian, then I think almost the complete opposite is true.

I would have more respect for a leader who could trace the development of their beliefs over time as they have changed, shifted, filled out, developed etc. And especially if they had some moments where they had honestly admitted to those they led that they had been mistaken, and courageously apologised for where they'd been too strident and dogmatic in the past about such beliefs, and explained where they had actually changed on some beliefs and why. I'd be even more impressed if they went on to explain how a living faith is like a journey and that it is important to be open to recognising that we might have got some things wrong, and to be honest when we need to change some things we have believed. It seems to me that the only alternative is a dogmatic, un-reflective, head-in-the-sand fundamentalism - a form of religion only too prevalent in our world today, including among some Christians.

I have always tried to be open to reflecting on what I believe but in recent years I have much more consciously gone on a theological journey which has involved abandoning some things I once believed, changing on others, shifting my perspective on others and becoming more willing to be open, uncertain and provisional on others. In the next post I'd like to look at the reasons why this is important to do, what sometimes stops us from doing it, perhaps explain some of the things I've changed on and just generally consider what it looks like to see the process of belief formation not as a static thing but as a continuing journey. I hope you'll be interested enough to keep reading.

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