One of the amusing things about modern software is the “save” icon. While it may vary among applications, it still looks like a 3.5″ floppy disk in some desktop programs. While regular users have grown accustomed to what to look for in a save button, if you think about it, these disks haven’t been in regular use for many years (although I do still have a stash of them in my basement).
Along the same lines, the voice mail button on my (fairly modern) phone at work has an icon of a cassette tape, hearkening back to the days where answering machines used a physical cassette with magnetic tape to record callers’ voices.
“Throwbacks” or “classics” can be fun to reminisce about, and I think that we can all enjoy the memory of certain things – whether toys, books, or shows – that we remember from our childhood. In addition, a lot of change is good: diseases are wiped out (or cures are found), knowledge (the good kind) is accessible to more people than ever, and technology allows far-away family members to keep in touch.
On the other hand, some things never go out of style. In society, for instance, habits like courtesy and respect remain valuable throughout the centuries (even as the practice of them ebbs and flows).
In the same way, our own salvation may hearken back to an old message, but it is still just as true – and important – as it was to the first believers in the church. Paul was pretty clear about this in his letter to the church in Galatia:
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
GALATIANS 1:8-9 NASB
Much has been said about how vital it is to retain the truth of Jesus’ message to the world, even as the means and style of sharing it may change. However, this is such an important point that it bears repeating: No means of salvation has been offered to humankind except the one that each of us can accept through the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice.
(By the way, have you noticed that for all of the ways that modern technology gives us to read and share truths from the Bible, a one-on-one, in-person conversation still works just fine for telling other people about the great life that they can have in Jesus? I’m certainly not opposed to technology, nor do I mind using it to share the good news, but it’s nice to know that the way that Jesus taught has remained just as effective throughout the centuries!)
Sometimes, messages gets corrupted, though. Our memories from our childhood may become skewed over time (perhaps by repeating tales from those days with “embellishments” too many times), and we remember things differently than they actually were. That may be relatively harmless, but when our recollection of the words of Jesus starts to get mangled, the simple truths get lost, and we risk causing lost people to remain in their current state – whether by learning an invalid path back to God, or by becoming alienated to the truth because they heard a message that Jesus didn’t teach.
Other times, the message is added to. I’m glad that my car today has more features than the first one that I bought long ago. Newer features and technology make it easier to travel comfortably (and safely) than my original hatchback. However, we must not look at the Bible in the same way. Commentaries and teachings based on the Bible can help us learn more about it, but elevating them as part of the inspired Word of God can cause their human-directed biases and shortcomings to overshadow the truth of the Bible itself. In the same way, if we tell others that there is any more to salvation than what the Bible tells us, or if we imply that the Bible’s instructions for our reconciliation with God aren’t all necessary, we are leading others – and quite possibly ourselves – down a dangerous and potentially deadly path.
So, as we study the Bible in depth, and listen to the Holy Spirit’s direction in our lives, may we all stick to the “classics” – the unwavering, unchanging message that God gave us about our origin, our purpose, our role, our salvation, and our eternal destiny. No new technology is required for that.