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Some New Thing

In Acts 17, Luke relates Paul’s visit to the city of Athens. It is interesting to notice, the way in which the people of Athens (especially the philosophers) are described by Luke. As they offered to allow Paul to address them on Mars’ Hill they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.”

Luke then explains, “Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.” This tells us something very revealing about these people. They were not motivated by a genuine search for truth but by their curiosity and fascination with novelty.

We need to consider the possibility and danger of developing that same attitude. Certainly we need to guard against becoming so closed-minded, that we will not reexamine our views and practices in the light of God’s word. There is such a thing as being wedded to tradition, of thinking that what we have believed and done in the past must be right and should not even be called into question. However there is also a disposition of mind that seeks constantly after change for the sake of change. One can develop an attitude, such that any new idea has an immediate appeal, simply because it is novel or different.

It seems that we are especially susceptible to this way of thinking if, for some reason, we have come to sense that we are becoming alienated from fellow Christians. A maverick mentality can develop, which leads one to call all “conventional wisdom” into question. One begins to feel, that he stands apart simply because of his insight and independence of thought (which others lack). He sees himself as courageously challenging the status quo and refusing to be a blind sheep, that cannot think for itself. Any interpretation of scripture, which differs from the “traditional” view, has an appeal. New terminology and new procedures are stimulating and refreshing.

Ironically, while demanding the freedom to hold and practice his new views, the person who fits the above description will often become extremely intolerant of those who do not share his insight.

We have an obligation to “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” (1Thes 5:21), but we should also consider that there are often good reasons why spiritually minded, mature brethren have, over the course of time, reached the conclusions and adopted the practices that they have. While recognizing that God’s revelation is our only standard of truth, let’s not become like the Athenians and run after anything that is new just because it is new.