This might be a difficult subject for many of us in the West to understand. This is because we have lived under the influence of relativism and political correctness for so long that we can’t help but incorporate much of their doctrine into the way we think. Relativism and political correctness have lead to the mistaken belief that we can change our circumstance by changing the meaning of words. If we do not like to face the fact that killing an unborn baby is murder, we call it a fetus or tissue mass and label it free choice and speak in terms of the mother’s rights. However, we have not changed the facts of the matter, and in the case of abortion, the deliberate killing of another human being is murder. But then, we can also re-define what it is to be human by declaring that blacks and Jews are not ‘fully human,’ so why can’t we do the same to the unborn? But I am not going to use abortion to make my point in this post. No, I want to share what I have learned in wrestling with this desire to change our circumstances by changing definitions as it relates to matters of faith.
If you believe in God, then you have some idea of who or what god is to you. I do not wish to accidentally offend, so I will use my own beliefs to explain what this should mean for anyone who claims to believe in god. Sine I am a Christian, and there are many who may not know what this actually means, let me begin by explaining what it means to be a Christian:
First and foremost, it means I believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is by definition. Jews would disagree, but the reason for their error is a subject for another post. The fact is, a Christian believes that the father, Son and Holy Spirit are one — just as Isaiah said. So — by definition — Christians believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
If you are going to claim to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the next thing you have to do is accept the Scriptures as the inspired Word of God. If you do not accept the Scriptures, then you cannot accept the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is because we only know of Him through the Scriptures, and the Scriptures declare themselves to be God’s revealed Word. The Scriptures teach that God is all-powerful, so, if the Scriptures are His Word, He can preserve them. If He cannot preserve them, then He is not all-powerful, which means He is not God. Try as they might, no one has ever been able to disprove the Bible. What’s more, careful scholarly study has shown that the Scriptures have been preserved with an amazing accuracy. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, our modern texts were very nearly identical to those written several hundred years before Christ. So we have sound, valid and rational reasons to accept that the Scriptures have been accurately preserved — just as an all-powerful God would seek to do with His Word. Which means, if we chose to believe in them and/or the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, by definition, we must accept the other. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is inseparable from His Word.
Now, having chosen to believe in the God of the Bible, and that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, I now have some other things I must believe. They are not open to interpretation outside of what the Bible tells me they mean. As a Christian, this basically means I am not only obligated to follow Christ’s Gospel, but also His commands. The Gospel message is simple:
Man is sinful by nature. The price of sin is death (hell). Because he is sinful, man cannot change this: man cannot save himself. Therefore, if men are to be saved, God has to act on man’s behalf. So God sent His one and only begotten Son to redeem us by taking our place and paying the price we owe for our sin. This is why Christ had to suffer and die. He bore God’s punishment for our sins. But then Christ rose from the dead. By doing so, He conquered sin and put an end to death — for those who rely on and trust in Him as their Lord and Savior.
But Christ tells us that we must make Him the Lord of our life before we can claim Him as our Savior. This means we must follow His commands’ all of which tell us to seek to do the will of the Father (God in Heaven). In short, we need to keep the Ten Commandments. But as Christ makes clear in the Sermon on the Mount/Beatitudes, this is impossible for any human to do. No matter how hard we try, and even if we succeed in not sinning outwardly, we cannot stop inward sin. It is in our nature. This is why we need a Savior, but to be our Savior — by definition — we must surrender to Christ and make Him the Lord of our lives. This is the essence of what it means to be a Christian.
OK, now let us look at what this means for me. First, it means God is the highest authority in the universe. He makes the rules. I do not get to change them without incurring His wrath. Second, it means Christ is God, so I must obey Him, too. I have to think of them as one — because they are. Third, the Bible is God’s Word, so I must obey it, but before I can obey it, I must read and study it. If I do not, then how will I know what I am commanded to do?
Here is where we get to look at why the meaning of words cannot be changed when we are talking about matters of religion.
How will I know what I am commanded to do? Well, for many, they defer to people who claim to speak for God and God’s Word. They may call themselves teachers or prophets, and in so far as they stick strictly to the actual teachings in the Bible, then they are. However, once they start to stray — even if they make an innocent mistake — they cease to be teachers and prophets and become what the Bible calls false teachers and false prophets. Setting aside the larger issue with these people, let’s look narrowly on how false teachings lead people astray. In every case, they do so by changing the meaning of Scripture. In short, they change definitions.
NOTE: Here is where I have to step away from myself a little bit so I can further explain the problem we are examining. I plan to use real-world examples to illustrate the problem, but I do not intend any insult. I am simply stating the truth as defined by definition.
Now, suppose someone comes to me and tells me that they have been visited by an angel. This angel told them that the Bible had been corrupted and god had chosen this person to to be the prophet who restores god’s original message to man. Then this person tells me that Jesus is not really the person I was told he is by all the teachers I listened to before this person came to me with his new message from the angel. Suppose this person also told me that god is different from what I had been taught and that salvation had to come through works and not Jesus.
If this happened, I would be faced with a dilemma. God tells me He is the only God and that He does not change (this is in the Bible). Yet, this person is telling me I was taught incorrectly. Somehow, the Bible had become corrupted and he was chosen to correct and restore it. If this is true, I am compelled to follow and obey this new prophet. But if it is not true, then I am compelled to reject this person as a false prophet. My problem is going to be compounded if I have not read the Bible for myself because I will not know what the Bible actually says in the first place. If I have read it, then I know that the Bible says to reject anyone who comes to me teaching a different message — even if that message it is from an angel! But let’s say I have not read my Bible, so I accept the new teachings of this person. Am I still a Christian?
The answer is no! Why? Well, first, the Bible tells us that people like this will come, and they will teach false doctrines. It also tells us that, even if the message comes from an angel of light, if it is different from the Bible, then we should reject the new teaching and the false teacher. So — by definition — any new teaching that breaks with what the Bible teaches us is not ‘Christian.’
Then we have the reason we believe in the Bible and the God of the Bible. Remember, they cannot be separated. We have already mentioned that there is good reason to believe the Bible has been accurately preserved. This means that, if it was corrupted as this new prophet claims, then the god he teaches cannot be the One True God. We know this because the One True God would be able to preserve His Word and this prophet is saying He was not. This means the new prophet is teaching a different god, which — by definition (according to the Bible) — makes this new god a false god and this person a false teacher/prophet.
So, either way, if I chose to follow this new teaching, even if I claim to still be a Christian — by definition (according to the Bible) — I am no longer a Christian. This is because I am no longer following the One True God, the God of the Bible. I know this because, in order to preach the new teaching, the new prophet has to change the definitions of words. If God is all-powerful and the Scripture is His Word, and God said He and His Word do not change, and that we are bound to obey His Word, then we cannot change them without claiming God’s Authority. You see, the only one who can change the meaning of God’s Word is God, and He has said He does not change. So to pretend one can change God’s Word is to claim to be above God. This means the false prophet with the false teaching is claiming to be a god above the God of the Bible. This is why we cannot change the meaning of God’s Word: because the moment we do, we are claiming to be a god above The One True God.
So, OK, I was wrong: when it comes to matters of religion, definitions can be changed — but only by God!