Novelty and Spiritual Growth

Think about this with me:

Is there a childlike virtue in learning something new? I’m talking both physically/intellectually, like learning how to knit or finally learning all the elements in the periodic table. And I’m also talking spiritually, like learning that something is a sin and repenting or starting to tithe. Should we be looking for this “novelty” in our lives?

We all set New Year’s Resolutions right? And aren’t they things like what I just listed? “Learn how to knit,” “Start going to church,” or maybe “Lose 10 pounds.” We want to be able to change, so we set goals and try to keep them. We wish we could go back and tell our younger selves to try harder at learning the piano so that we would have that skill now. So it’s not so much that we’re looking for novelty in our lives as we are drawn to it. We’re lured by the dream that this change will make us one step closer to being the perfect version of ourselves.

In the physical/intellectual category, I think it’s always a virtue to be able to learn something new. If I’m 65 years old one day and my great grandchild is able to teach me how to use the latest 3D-handheld-techno-device, I think that’s a good thing. There is a childlike softness of heart and humility in people who are always willing and able to learn something new. Teachablility, at any age, is a virtue.

But what about morally and spiritually? Should we be teachable and humble? Absolutely yes, I think. We must take the Word of God to heart when it says something “novel” that we’ve never heard before. If we realize we’ve been going about something all wrong, we ought to pray God would help us change as quickly as possible.

But what about moral “adaptability”? Say I’m 65 and my grandchild is trying to explain to me that Christianity accepts all sexual orientations now–it’s the year 2,052 after all and gay marriage has been legal for decades! And, silly grandma, all couples live together before they’re married now. It’s so old-fashioned to get married and then move in together, it’s laughable. In these cases, would it be a virtue to adapt to changing times? I think no.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that “moral adaptability” is not the same thing as spiritual growth or intellectual teachability. God’s moral law transcends time and culture, so there are some things we ought not to look for novelty in. In fact, the central aspect of our faith never changes: Jesus Christ died to save sinners. One definition of spiritual growth could be: our adaptability, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the many moral applications of the one truth of the Gospel. It is not our adaptability to to the moral landscape of cultural authorities around us. That “childlike softness of heart and humility in people who are always willing and able to learn” ought to be evident, but not insofar as it violates the transcendent moral law of God. We ought to be teachable at any age but at the same time grow in discernment to only accept what is rightly taught.

If that made any sense to anyone, feel free to add your comments!


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