There is an interesting story in the Acts of the Apostles where Peter proclaims that “God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” (Acts 10:34-35). This proclamation, and Peter’s antecedent vision, are considered the official doctrinal change to take the gospel to the Gentiles. (Please disregard Christ’s own commission years earlier to “go ye therefore, and teach all nations…”)
The Acts account poses an interesting question about the primacy of circumcision; namely, is the commission to proselytize among the Gentiles a new policy? Or Peter’s enlightened interpretation of an eternal law?
On the one hand, I believe that God has not graduated from the realm of personal development and is himself learning as he goes along at this stage of his existence. I understand the ipsedixitism. However, I cannot understand the principle of eternal progression without this belief. In many ways, it seems that God has tried several different approaches to managing the gospel on earth, much like an entrepreneur peddling a new product. Maybe this is one manifestation that God is still learning.
That being said, it seems silly that God wouldn't be able to foresee the problems of the extremely exclusive society of circumcised Jews under the law of Moses. And the idea that God is still learning is very difficult to reconcile with the personal accounts of several prophets who claim that God showed them the history of the world from beginning to end.
In our contemporary setting, I'm not quite sure how to interpret Acts 10. We laugh at the closed-minded Jews who were befuddled at the prospect of sharing their rites with the uncircumcised. "It must just be a societal thing" we tell ourselves. "Discrimination is not eternal." So Paul breaks down the barriers of nationalism and ethnicity, and later (much later) President Kimball reaches out to blacks. And our justification remains: "those crazy out-dated societal traditions of discrimination. God is truly no respecter of persons." What I don't understand (anybody?) is why we don't extend this same rationale onto the exclusionary barriers of gender and age. While the "Jews-only" and "blacks are less noble" policies are written off as unfortunate anachronisms, we believe that our adult-male-only policy is eternal. This fascinates me. Especially considering that our scriptures include stories about priestesses and child prophets.
So, should the policy change in Acts 10 be viewed as a step in God's development, or a step in our own development (or both)? What is the great take-home message? This has been on my mind today.