Our Understanding Develops; Ideas Stay the Same

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After reading the first part of Mark 5, where Jesus sends the Legion of demons into a herd of pigs, the small group of guys briefly discussed demonic activity. Of those present some grew up in the church, but none of them had done any formal Scripture study. One expressed doubt in the visible manifestation of demonic possession--such as violent outbursts--while another said he had personally witnessed four different accounts of possession.

"What do you think of demon possession, Luke?" Five pairs of eyes turned to me.

I teach Sunday School and am familiar with waxing eloquent on passages of Scripture. But it's different when you're only a participant in a brief morning devotional. It's difficult when you're with a group of guys, mostly older than you, who possess an unknown familiarity with various concepts. Possession vs oppression? Cultural expressions of spiritual warfare? Historical precedent and medical studies? What do they need to know?

My response was drawn from the many Sonlight missionary biographies I was raised on and coupled with a brief hint of my own experiences. They nodded and then another guy spoke. "I think this passage shows Jesus' power over everything else."

That about sums it up. Is there more? To be sure! But that can be uncovered as our understanding develops. The foundational idea remains: Jesus has authority. Our understanding of Him does not. Our perceptions and conceptions can grow, but the idea is unchanged.

This experience reminded me of a passage from C.S. Lewis' God in the Dock, where he discusses "Dogma and the Universe," specifically the question of "How can an unchanging system survive the continual increase in knowledge?"

A great Christian statesman, considering the morality of a measure which will affect millions of lives, and which involves economic, geographical and political considerations of the utmost complexity, is in a different position from a boy first learning that one must not cheat or tell lies, or hurt innocent people. But only in so far as that first knowledge of the great moral platitudes survives unimpaired in the statesman will his deliberation be moral at all. If that goes, there there has been no progress, but only mere change. For change is not progress unless the core remains unchanged.

Progress is built upon a solid foundation. We may, in time, learn more of what the foundation is made and how, but it endures. I find this humbling as I speak with people about big and fundamental ideas. I find this cautionary as we discuss the expression of an idea. I find it encouraging as we re-encounter basic ideas with our children and learn, once again, that for all our knowledge, the core is still intact and we are better for returning to it now and again.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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