, , , ,

To the modern (especially American) mind, change is a good thing. Given that our own origin comes out of rebellion and revolution, it should come as no surprise that our heroes tend in the direction of the rebel and the outsider rather than the authority figure (Star Wars and the Twilight series immediately come to mind). Even when they are an authority figure (say, like Dirty Harry or Michael Weston of Burn Notice) they tend to work outside the system in order to do good.

In contrast, change, especially when it comes to the Orthodox Christian understanding of God, has a negative connotation. Though we can change into a state of grace through our relationship with God, this is not the normal change we see in fallen creation. Note how St. Ambrose, in the fifth chapter of On the Holy Spirit, characterizes change in fallen creation:

Every creature, then, is subject to change, not only such as has been changed by some sin or condition of the outward elements, but also such as can be liable to corruption by a fault of nature

Through sin, creation has moved from being declared very good by God into being fallen. Humanity has moved from being made in the image and likeness of God into being fallen. Our condition as sinful and fallen creatures has the direct consequence of disease, decay and death. Change in the fallen world, therefore, is associated with these kinds of movements:

  • youth into old age
  • health into disease
  • life into death

It is particularly vital that we understand that God does not and cannot change in contrast to change in fallen world. Note how St. Ambrose insists:

Every creature, therefore, is capable of change, but the Holy Spirit is good and not capable of change, nor can He be changed by any fault, Who does away the faults of all and pardons their sins. How, then, is He capable of change, Who by sanctifying works in others a change to grace, but is not changed Himself.

If God were capable of change, it would be possible for Him to go from being good to being evil; from being eternal to being finite; from being immortal to being mortal. If God were capable of change, then Christians everywhere would be wasting their time. What good does it do to seek to unite ourselves to something that might change from immortality into mortality? Our salvation would be worthless.

The irony is that positive change is possible, but in a way that the modern world (which desires so much to change) has largely rejected. We are made in the image and likeness of God. We are created to be able to become like God. This positive change, however, requires that we have an intimate relationship with God so that we know what it means to be like Him. Amen.