A friend of mine references the following quote, which I think is quite profound: "Denominations are movements of God frozen in time."
Basically, something new comes up that breaks up the status quo, often resulting in a split or a revitalization of existing organizations in response to some Spirit-led activity. Then, as time goes by, others take the initiatives presented within these new movements and solidify them to a level which creates rigid dogma. As time goes on even more, then another movement of God occurs, breaking free from some of the inevitable limitations of that movement, only to repeat the process over and over. In America alone, there are 50,000 or more registered denominations.
I think this statement illustrates a tendency among us to try to make concrete law, concrete statements of faith, or concrete dogma as a means to make living easier. I don't think it is what God intends, but rather is a way we tend to in some respects make things easier for us to remember without having to live in continuous, conscious responsibility to the law-giver.
Religion is not the only place where this occurs. Politics, history, and even science all can allow this tendency to take place again. Pretty much anywhere that there are theories, philosophies, interpretations, or opinions, we can choose to hold them with rigidity or flexibility.
Debates about the Constitution of the United States, or more specifically the Bill of Rights within the mechanism of Amendments to the Constitution, greatly illustrate this point. Are they set in stone, or are they to adapt, progress, and reach into the times? American history has illustrated both, as there have been many added amendments as well as reactions against others proposed as being unconstitutional. Its a societal discernment and guide as to whether proposed changes add or take away from that document.
Time tends to make us regard documents of the past with more rigidity. Inspiration comes easily to those we cannot talk to, or know the grandkids of the person.
I'm not advocating that we should not look at the traditions around us and recognize what worth they have, what wisdom they impart, or what truth they prescribe, but we must be careful to not place our own reticence for change upon mere mortals. Change always seems to come at a cost for those who don't think change is needed. Yet, for others, there is no value found in what already exists. For instance, the deep disregard for Catholicism that sits so squarely in the minds of some Protestant Christians, despite the fact that there is much in common, and in fact their lineage cannot disregard the contributions made by that very church. After all, if you are a Christian, is there anything that you can truly disagree with in the Nicene or Apostles creeds? This is just an example.
The Constitution establishes our rule of government, which in its very nature must adapt and govern based on the circumstances of the present, but also with regard for the precedent of the past.
These are just a couple of areas in which this tendency to approach change, to approach law, and to approach tradition, are readily evident. What can be seen as an ideal for some is less than ideal for others. Most of our debates are over such sliding scales, with an ever growing, negative tendency to think that any movement away from a pure ideal is complete capitulation to the opposite extreme. We have to catch ourselves in this way of thinking, and to realize that what we are fighting is actually our own flesh. There is a part of our nature that desires homeostasis, which is the easy way for the body to act. It is why when we practice a particular skill or activity, it gets easier. But then, if you try to adapt the way you do it, like a golfer with his swing, there is a struggle to deconstruct and reconstruct the neural and physiological pathways to accomplish such a change. Our thought patterns are equally conditioned to homeostasis. Sometimes, we react against a statement without truly thinking it through, but simply react in our preconditioned nature to reject or accept change.
I think we need to learn to catch this in ourselves, and to stop exacerbating situations by speaking and reacting out of turn, without truly looking into the situation. I can tell you that it is not as dire as many would make it out, nor is it hardly any change at all for those pushing for progress. It is a process, and one in historians can look at in terms of decades or centuries, not weeks or days. The world has not gone to hell since the 1950's, nor have we somehow reached a point of enlightenment where our problems are truly all solvable with a little moral legislation or technological advancement.
In conclusion, my point is really that we have to catch the way we think about what we believe, what standards we hold as convictions that guide our lives, and why. Are they truly supposed to be static guidelines or law, set in stone, or are they dynamic, alive, and adaptable to each unique circumstance we find ourselves in?
I'm not sure I have a definitive answer, but maybe that is the point?
Just something to chew on...