Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 28, 1957


James L. Denison, Agua Dulce, Texas

Occasionally in the church today we hear it said of some brother or preacher, "He's not reliable. He's changed his views on___________ (The blank could stand for a number of things). You can't trust someone who preaches one thing today, and a few years later changes his mind and preaches something entirely different."

I wonder if brethren who make such statements actually realize the full import of what they are saying. Such a statement implies that one who dogmatically holds to something he now thinks to be false, is more virtuous, trustworthy, and reliable, than one who confesses his error and sets about to correct it. Such an idea is completely at variance with the Scriptures. For instance, we are taught to repent. (Acts 3:19.) If a brother realizes that the position which he previously held was wrong, and changes, is that not repentance? We are taught to confess our faults. (James 5:16; I John 1:9.) If a brother states that what he previously taught is error, is that not a confession of fault?

The Judean brethren thought Peter was wrong for going in unto Cornelius; "And when Peter was come to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, saying, Thou wentest into men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them." (Acts 11:2-3.) As we all know, these Judean brethren held the wrong position in this matter. But after "Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them," (3rd verse) "they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." (18th verse.) They changed! Were they wrong in changing? Should they have dogmatically held to the first position they had taken, though they now saw that it was wrong? Were they unreliable and untrustworthy because they had changed? To be consistent, some of our brethren who make statements similar to that found in paragraph one, would he forced to answer all three questions with an emphatic YES. But would they want to so answer? I doubt it.

Also, such an idea is inconsistent from another standpoint. Suppose a Baptist preacher came to realize that baptism was necessary for salvation and remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; I Peter 3:21), and thus changed his views and teachings. Would we condemn him as being untrustworthy and unreliable? Or, would we praise him? Suppose a Methodist preacher came to realize, and began to thus teach, that sprinkling and pouring do not constitute baptism, but only immersion. (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12.) Would we condemn him for changing? Or, would we praise him? Suppose a Catholic priest came to realize, and began to so teach, that no man on earth should be called "Father" in a spiritual sense. (Matt. 23:9.) Would we praise or condemn him for changing? I believe that in each of these three cases we would praise him. Then why, please tell me, do we treat our own brethren otherwise when they come to believe that what they previously held was error! Such inconsistency!

Furthermore, some of the brethren who occasionally criticize others for changing, have no doubt themselves changed. Sometimes they now support that which in essence they once condemned! They need to heed what Paul said in Rom. 2:21-22: "Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?" And, we might add, for the same principle applies; "Thou that condemnest another solely for changing, hast thou also changed?"

Do not misunderstand me. I believe that it is possible for a brother to change from truth to error. (II Tim. 4:3-4; II Peter 2:1-2.) In such cases, the error should be exposed. But let us not try to PREJUDICE anyone against any brother by stigmatizing that brother as being unreliable and untrustworthy just because he has changed some of his previous views, teachings, and/or practices. It might perhaps be that he is NOW right and was FORMERLY wrong, while we are just too prejudiced to see it.