As a white southerner who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, I have witnessed great change in societal attitudes and behavior. These changes were for the most part driven by secular forces as opposed to religious ones. In fact, southern churches were often swept along in the current of change against their wills. The changes I mentioned all were aimed at reducing or eliminating entrenched forms of prejudice and bigotry which marginalized certain segments of the population. These advancements, in each case, met strong opposition from those who benefited from the status quo. This opposition was supported in many cases by the church, where the status quo is always sacred. The church opposition to change was, as always, supposedly supported by the scriptures. Despite the initial opposition and its religious supporters, society moved forward and accepted a new paradigm, one that recognized the injustice of the past. New generations followed which had never experienced the previous paradigm and therefore only partially appreciate the magnitude of change that took place back then. What we witnessed then follows the natural course of human history; the church and its doctrines are always amenable to adjustment when societal pressures are strong enough.
I recall this recent history because it demonstrates just how much long held doctrinal positions among some churches have been altered just in our lifetime. Past doctrines are sacred only up to the point where the existence of the institutional church is threatened. When the proponents of Orthodoxy want to support there doctrinal positions based on longevity and tradition, I remind them of what we all have experienced in the church within living memory. The doctrinal transformations to which I allude were staggering. Ideas and assumptions that had been supported scripturally and translated into public policy for hundreds of years were re-evaluated and largely set aside within a matter of a couple of decades. Now some may propose that these doctrinal changes were inappropriate, but I doubt seriously that many church members would agree at this point.
The lesson here should be obvious. There is no sacred theology which cannot be challenged, if people decide to address the issues of injustice and illogic without allowing the religious forces to hide behind their favorite passages of scripture. As so amply demonstrated by the recent past, a re-evaluation of scripture will arise when the people demand it.