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Don Stewart :: Did Certain Bible Doctrines Change over Time?

Don Stewart

One of the arguments against inerrancy is the alleged change of doctrine over time. Certain writers and biblical characters supposedly changed their beliefs later in their life. This change is not compatible with an inerrant Bible.

The following arguments are usually raised.

Jesus' Statement Of Having More To Say

At the end of His three-and-a-half years with His disciples Jesus told them He still had more to tell them.

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear (John 16:12).

This supposedly implies that Jesus had changed His mind on some things. However this is not the case. Jesus made this statement before His death, resurrection, and ascension. The things He had to tell them could only come about after His death and resurrection. He could not explain the meaning of these events until they occurred. Therefore we have no change of beliefs - only the statement that He has more to tell them.

Paul's Seeming Change Of Mind About The Coming Of The Lord

In his earlier letters, 1,2 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians, Paul emphasized the soon coming of Christ. However in his later letters this emphasis is not there. This has caused some to argue that Paul changed his mind and corrected himself about the coming of the Lord.

However in his later writings Paul does not deny the soon coming of Christ. His later writings are written about different themes. He was dealing with situations that had arisen in the churches and his letters addressed these issues.

In the final chapter of the last letter that he wrote we have this statement of Paul.

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

Obviously Paul had not lost hope in the coming of Christ.

The Progress Of Doctrine Is Ignored

This objection ignores the progress of doctrine. God did not reveal everything to humanity at once. His revelation was progressive in nature. These earlier revelations were not complete. The later revelations expanded upon what had earlier been revealed. The progress of doctrine does not imply that the earlier and partial revelations of God were incorrect. There is no contradiction between them. Therefore the idea that some of the main characters in the Bible had changed their minds on particular issues has no basis in fact.

Summary

It has been alleged that the writers and main characters of the Bible changed their beliefs over time. Examples given include Jesus telling His disciples that He had much more to say to them and Paul supposedly changing his belief that Christ was going to return soon.

These examples, however, do not prove any change in their teaching. There is no contradiction concerning what Jesus said to His disciples. Jesus never said that the things He had earlier taught his disciples were wrong - He said that He still had more to teach them. There is no change of beliefs.

There is no contradiction with Paul's early and later ministry. Paul had different subjects to write about later in his ministry. He dealt with details regarding the smooth functioning of the church. The return of Christ was not at issue - that had already been dealt with. Furthermore, in the last chapter of his last letter, 2 Timothy, Paul was looking for of the Second Coming of Christ.

Therefore this argument against inerrancy, that certain key figures changed their beliefs over time, has no basis in fact.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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