Type the words "present truth" into your browser. Hit the search button. What do you find? Nothing particularly stimulating. I certainly didn't find what I expected. It took me nearly half an hour of searching to find real quotes about present truth. Instead, the first things that pop up are discussions that are anything but present: pages full of semantics, proof-texting, 19th-century prostletyzing. It's a sad reality that the greatest doctrinal defense against fundamentalism is a phrase fundamentalists use more than anyone.
Crack open a copy of Adventist Fundamental Beliefs, you won't even see a mention of Present Truth in the body of the text. It's been pushed as far into oblivion as it can be, only a token reference to the fact that our fundamental beliefs are not really set in stone, or muttered ex cathedra, but instead decided upon by the larger church. In other words, what we believe, officially, came originally through dialogue. But that seems to be conveniently forgotten, at least by mainstream Adventism.
Our Adventist pioneers were terrified by the very notion of a written creed. They knew that a movement could only keep functioning with the dynamism of a movement if it stayed present. They founded a movement on that notion, built a church on its very foundation. A foundation that was adaptable, its structure evolvable, like DNA, always ready to express genes to flourish in the current environment.
Yet, in spite of our efforts we are left wasted, both sides, liberal and conservative, having forgotten the beauty of truth that is present.
Present truth is not the newest key sent from heaven to crack the biblical code. Rather, in the words of our resident prophet "present truth is present truth, and not future truth, and that...Word as a lamp shines brightly where we stand, and not so plainly on the path in the distance."
We would do well to remember those words. They are an admission of our humanity, and at the same time, God's divinity. It's madness to assume that finite human beings have ever had the whole story regarding God and this world. We will always be learning, always discovering that some things we thought we knew, we didn't. When we interact with something larger than self, we will always be learning, our views and opinions changing. That's what it means to be human. We're anything but static, in fact, we are some of the most dynamic creatures on this earth.
And when we admit our humanity, we can begin to learn to be present to each other, and in that presence, reveal the most beautiful truth of church. That, in spite of our differences, our quarrels, our hidden agendas--we worship a God who is present for us, and in that presence, we learn what it is to love.
Within the context of relationship, our fundamentals take on a very different shape. No longer are they seen as a means of keeping out, of increasing distance; instead, what we are really about, the reason we all keep coming back, keep giving, keep believing, is to be closer to one another and closer to God. If our fundamentals don't accomplish that for us--don't help us accomplish that, it may be time to see what truth we find here and now, to see what binds you and me together, and us to God. What does the lamp of truth illuminate for you today?
Tim Dunston recently graduated from Walla Walla College where he sang with the Messengers.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4329