Truth — How It Unfolds and Advances

Do you want to be a person of truth, someone who loves the truth, is able to comprehend the truth and move forward in truth as it is revealed?

The Bible tells us that those who are lost are lost because “they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Something about them causes them to develop minds and hearts that do not love truth. These lost souls won’t accept advancing light and don’t have minds that are willing to move forward in unfolding insight.

Do you think the majority who refuse truth realize they are doing so or would they likely consider themselves defenders of the truth?

Consider people through history who have resisted truth, such as those who crucified Christ, or persecuted His Apostles, or those who murdered the Reformers. Do you think they would have said, “We know we are in the wrong; we know we don’t have the truth; we realize these people are in the right, so let’s destroy them”? Or do you think these opposers of truth thought they were defending the truth?

I think that most people who end up opposing and resisting truth do so while ardently believing they are defenders of the truth. How can we tell if we fall into the truth-loving group or the truth-opposing camp? By understanding how truth actually moves forward and then determining which system and method one is promoting.

Consider how truth, on any subject, advances through the human population.

Does new truth happen this way: One day every person in the world awakens with the new truth understood and accepted?

Or does it happen this way: A few individuals have an epiphany, an insight, an idea that they share, propose, put forth, and then that idea is tested by its application in reality or against reliable standards. Initially, the new truth is often resisted but, as the evidence supports the new position, more people are convinced and change their views and share the new truth with others who are persuaded by the evidence, and the truth gradually spreads through the human family?

Consider germ theory. When first proposed by Pasteur and Lister, the idea that there were invisible organisms that caused disease was ridiculed and rejected. Doctors refused simple hygiene recommendations, such as handwashing and sterilization of instruments. But, the idea was tested in reality and patient outcomes demonstrated marked reductions in infections and deaths after surgery. The Mayo brothers (founders of the Mayo Clinic) were lovers of truth and they accepted germ theory and began applying Lister’s sterilization techniques in their hospital and had drastically improved outcomes, as compared to typical surgical practices of the time. This led others to accept the truth, more evidence came in to support this new perspective, and germ theory slowly spread around the world and today is accepted in all cultures. Mothers teach their children to wash their hands, antiseptics are used on small abrasions, and doctors sterilize instruments. The human race has benefited by this advancement in truth.

This is how ALL truth advances, whether scientific truth or biblical truth. No Bible truth ever advanced with all human beings on earth awakening with the same idea. No! All Bible truth advances with studied individuals who have discovered a new insight and shared that insight with others. The idea is tested against the totality of Scripture, in reality (the impact on lives, characters, relationships) and against reliable standards (design laws). As the evidence supports the new idea, more minds accept the truth and it slowly spreads throughout the population.

With a better understanding of how truth advances, now we can consider what organizational system would lend itself to the advancement of truth and what type of system would shut down and obstruct the advancement of truth. Then we can identify to which system we belong.

Consider an organization with many local groups who hold local authority, and membership in the organization is governed by the small local community where individuals are known by each other. That local community groups network in their region with other similar groups, sharing information and perhaps forming cooperatives in which they elect leaders to organize their resources for a shared mission. Property ownership and rules of governing the entity remain under local control. Regional groups organize into larger divisions, perhaps with shared geography, or shared language for further advancement of their mission and, if the organization is large enough, there might be a world conference which would articulate the common principles of the entire group.

In this organization, given that authority remains at the local level and the world conference only endorses consensus positions when accepted by all world regions, truth would be free to arise and be tested in the local communities. When an individual had a new idea, it would be shared in their local community. The local community would examine and test the idea. When it is borne out by evidence, it would move beyond one local group to other groups in the region.

Because truth is typically initially resisted, this advancement of light is slow and even contentious at times. Thus, just like with germ theory, some groups will practice the new truth, while others stick by the traditional standards. In time, however, what is actually true will be demonstrated to be healthier and result in greater acceptance until practiced by the vast majority — unless some obstacle is inserted into the organization to prevent the truth from its normal and natural advancement. And what is that obstacle? A hierarchical organization — a top-down authoritarian system.

In such a system, authority is not local but is invested in a supreme leader or governing body that establishes, from the top, what is truth, typically with precise definitions. This could be called a creed or a list of fundamental beliefs but, regardless, these definitions are not open to being challenged or deviated from by anyone within the organization. This is because in hierarchical organizations, questioning the established truth is seen as undermining its authority, as rebellious and as an attack on “known truth.” New ideas are not tested because when they arise in local regions they are not allowed to advance and be tested. Instead the ruling authority has a system of thought police or compliance officers who oversee the local groups, monitoring for any idea which threatens the orthodox view and then act to bring consequences to bear, thus ensuring new truth never takes root. Any group or region who attempts to resist the central authority and move forward in new light will be ridiculed, accused of being rebellious, and threatened with expulsion from the organization.

Consider when the gospel was being preached in the first century after the resurrection of Christ. The top-down authoritarian religious leaders utilized coercive power in an attempt to silence the Apostles. However, Gamaliel stood up and promoted a different method. He pointed out that others, with false messages, had arisen but because their messages were false they faded away. He summed up with this inspired wisdom, “I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39).

And what does the history of organized religion tell us? Where has the vast majority of opposition to the advancing truth originated if not from the theological ruling counsels of each era? And what method did those systems employ if not a top down authoritarian approach with centralized definitions of orthodox truth?

The question for each of us today is: Do you want to be a person of truth, someone who loves the truth, is able to comprehend the truth and move forward in truth as it is revealed?

Then, consider to which system you belong. Truth presented in love while leaving others free, or a hierarchical system of authority which must enforce its beliefs upon others?

I invite you to be a lover of the truth!

Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, international speaker, authors of six books, a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and Fellow of the Southern Psychiatric Association. Dr. Jennings works in private practice and lives in Chattanooga and is president and founder of Come and Reason Ministries. This article originally appeared on the author’s website and is republished here with permission.

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9288
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Have enjoyed your other articles for my Right and Left brains to fight over. LOL!

Excellent!! Open discussion, which allows each one of us to make a choice, and become better in understanding who God is.

Thank you for your contribution to advancing open and honest dialog amongst the brethren. We need more of this level of thinking.

I am weary and wary of those parading a banner of “truth”. I don’t blame Pilate for asking, “What is truth”? How would anyone who interacts daily in the political realm be able to see a clear answer to that question? However, Jesus described himself as truth, so I recognize Him as truth. I also recognize Him as self-sacrificial love. So the truth that I recognize looks very different from the truth that others defend, proclaim, demand, publish, shout at others, etc. Those who believe truth to be a collection of facts are prisoners to the various popular interpretations/applications of those facts. Those who believe truth to be “a way of being”, such as demonstrated by the life of Christ, are free indeed.

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I think Jesus identified with truth to encourage us to value it and search for it and discuss it.

As I recall, when Ellen White said that we have much to learn and even more to unlearn, she was talking about Adventist “exposition of Scripture”. The current push from the “top” is to define the 27 (or 28?) as truth–in fact, absolute, untouchable truth . A dog chasing its tail doesn’t get anywhere.

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Thanks Tim for your raising of a very relevant issue that, whether people like it or not, is coming to a head one way or another. Thanks for providing a framework that identifies, locates and explains key elements and offers a way of constructively viewing and responding to this issue.

A while back when I was researching the concept of ‘new light’, I came across a R&H article that Ellen White wrote in the latter part of her life. Its summary line (which is true to the context of the entire article) has really stuck in my mind: “…in closely investigating every jot and tittle which we think is established truth, in comparing scripture with scripture, we may discover errors in our interpretation of Scripture.” (R&H, July 12 1898).

Consistent with what Tim has mentioned, I would assert that a key part of the ‘closely investigating every jot and tittle which we think is established (ie, unquestionably fixed) truth’ necessarily involves going beyond the ‘cliches’ and ‘jargon’ and asking the questions ‘what does this actually mean’ and ‘how does it actually work’ within reality. When you ask these questions while comparing scripture with (a) scripture and (b) with reality, a whole different picture of the nature and character of God, sin, Satan, salvation, etc emerges. And this picture really is Good News!

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Thanks for the writing this article. I am reminded of the parable of the Separation of the Sheep and the Goats. Eternal life was given to millions on the Judgment Day that were just kind and giving to others. It made no difference if a person followed Luther, Calvin, Wesley or EGW? What Christian religion they practiced or church attended. If they prayed with beads, attended Mass or a Protestant Communion. In the end, none of these practices they regarded as essential truth, mattered to God.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…"

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nice article !!! its so liberating to know we don’t have to police thoughts, our duty is to love and leave people free to evaluate evidence under no threats or pressure. this article has sparked another thought in me thinking about how error spreads… give us one along those lines Tim

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I believe this article to be true. I am astonished at the path the SDA Church is now on. But I am not really surprised. I have been watching this trend for some time, somewhat like watching a small child play near side of fast moving highway. In a strange way it is mirroring what is going on in America’s political discourse. Both systems are headed for MAJOR upheavals and for each, the outcome is not certain. What an amazing moment to be living.

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What! You mean God didn’t care what Brand of Robe of Righteousness they were wearing?

:wink:

It would appear that the prophet Isaiah would be in complete agreement with you: Isa 55:9.

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Without appropriate commentary “I am the truth” becomes a word salad. A proper context on the issue would be Bill gates stating “I am Microsoft”. Bill Gates, of course, isn’t the entirety of Microsoft, but he is the core driver of Microsoft to which we attribute all of the design, ideogy, and subsequent success.

Likewise “I am the truth” means that the core axioms of reality begin with God as we proceed structure our understanding of reality.

Truth is just as much about coherence as it is about correspondence. But within cerain semantic structure of meaning there has to be some meaningful relationships that don’t all devolve to absurd appeals to magic. Otherwise we leave God as an arbitrary rule-breaker whenever such arbitrary rule-breaking is needed to justify our explanation of the events.

Yes, you prayed really hard and got a great deal on the car. Thank God? Sure, you can, but that’s not what “I am the truth” means. If you ask “how” you’d have to somehow think that God re-arrange the entire world to fit your needs, or given you some secret information that was beyond your threshold of understanding… meaning rearranging the neurons in your brain without your awareness.

Or. Perhaps. You just got a good deal on a car :slight_smile: and you see it as good and you credit that good to God, and anything you don’t see as good you credit to Satan?

We have much broader understanding of reality today than 2000 years ago when it comes to tracing causes and effects. Hence we have to be careful with language in general when we express models of reality that we endorse as “Christian worldview”.

Orthodoxy is neither “top-down” nor centralized–Papism is, but the Orthodox have always been decentralized, with several autocephalous churches, and monks have often corrected bishops.

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