The song, “Give Me That Old-time Religion”, expresses the notion that in the area of religion the old ways are best. By implication whatever my parents and grandparents believed is fine for today without any change or increase in understanding.
Certainly this kind of thinking runs counter to what history teaches about the physical realm. Without contradiction, man’s knowledge of science and technology has been increasing throughout most of human history, especially in the last hundred years or so. I doubt many want to return to the past technologically.
I suspect that two basic factors make the attachment to the religious understanding of the past so strong. The first is the emphasis placed in Christian doctrine on faith. To many, faith means “The Faith” which in turn means the doctrinal position of my church. If faith is a requirement, then to question can be seen as a lack of faith which leads to rejection. Nobody wants to be rejected by God. Secondly, to admit a need to change religiously can be seen as condemning the followers of the “Old-time Religion”. If they were possibly wrong, that could cause them to be rejected. That is not very appealing either.
In considering the first of these factors, I conclude that we have a misunderstanding of the biblical concept of faith. Faith is not about faithfulness to our religious heritage. Faith is not about our ability to get enough of the Truth right to be accepted by God. Faith is about relying on God to provide all that is needed to thrive spiritually.
If we each knew the details of our personal spiritual legacy, I am confident we would see much evolution of opinion. Our predecessors were where they were religiously because of their heritage and circumstances. We naturally take what has been handed down religiously as the starting point for our own spiritual journey, but that shouldn’t preclude any change in understanding. Physical growth implies change; spiritual growth is the same.
Some are probably saying to themselves that excessive questioning can only cause confusion because people will question everything and that will create religious chaos. This perhaps seems like a logical contention, but the underlying message is the same as in the song lyrics. Growth involves change, which admittedly can be painful and frightening. However, the only alternative is stagnation and that runs counter to the whole story and purpose of human history.