Leading Question: How certain can we be that we have the truth?
1. Jesus is the way to truth; he is truth: John 14:6. How does the truth in Jesus relate to all the rest of truth which believers and non-believers seek? How does the claim to “have” the truth relate to the “truth” of Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
2. Are we looking for correct information or effective motivation? Should there be a mix of both? The dominant model among devout conservatives is to look for “truth,” rather than a way of motivating people to explore the truth. This Ellen White quotation is sobering:
The greatest deception of the human mind in Christ”s day was that a mere assent to the truth constitutes righteousness. In all human experience a theoretical knowledge of the truth has been proved to be insufficient for the saving of the soul. It does not bring forth the fruits of righteousness. A jealous regard for what is termed theological truth often accompanies a hatred of genuine truth as made manifest in life. The darkest chapters of history are burdened with the record of crimes committed by bigoted religionists. The Pharisees claimed to be children of Abraham, and boasted of their possession of the oracles of God; yet these advantages did not preserve them from selfishness, malignity, greed for gain, and the basest hypocrisy. They thought themselves the greatest religionists of the world, but their so-called orthodoxy led them to crucify the Lord of glory. – DA 309
3. Wholehearted searching: Jer. 29:13. Is it possible to know whether we are searching for truth with the whole heart? What would be the clue that points to the truth? It would seem that wholehearted searching would work best for those who are already part of God’s remnant community.
4. Truth as something dynamic and growing: 2 Peter 3:18. In Adventism, “present truth” has been a solid part of the community’s experience, referring to fresh perspectives that may not have been seen until the “present.” But not everyone is enthusiastic about the idea. Here is the crucial quote from Ellen White:
Peter exhorts his brethren to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” [2 Pet. 3:18]. Whenever the people of God are growing in grace, they will be constantly obtaining a clearer understanding of His word. They will discern new light and beauty in its sacred truths. This has been true in the history of the church in all ages, and thus it will continue to the end. But as real spiritual life declines, it has ever been the tendency to cease to advance in the knowledge of the truth. Men rest satisfied with the light already received from God”s word and discourage any further investigation of the Scriptures. They become conservative and seek to avoid discussion.
The fact that there is no controversy or agitation among God”s people should not be regarded as conclusive evidence that they are holding fast to sound doctrine. There is reason to fear that they may not be clearly discriminating between truth and error. When no new questions are started by investigation of the Scriptures, when no difference of opinion arises which will set men to searching the Bible for themselves to make sure that they have the truth, there will be many now, as in ancient times, who will hold to tradition and worship they know not what. – Testimonies 5:706-707 (1889); also in GW 297-98 and CWE 38-39.
5. Twenty-year turnaround? Ellen White, along many other pioneer Adventists, used the phrase “present truth” to refer to cutting-edge teachings and experiences. Here is the key quote:
From MS 8a 1888, address to ministers on October 21, 1888, with apparent reference to a telegram from the “absent and ailing” president who urged the delegates to “stand by the landmarks.” – M. E. Olson, Thirteen Crisis Years (1981) 282.
The message “Go forward” is still to be heard and respected. The varying circumstances taking place in our world call for labor which will meet these peculiar developments. The Lord has need of men who are spiritually sharp and clear-sighted, men worked by the Holy Spirit, who are certainly receiving manna fresh from heaven. Upon the minds of such, God”s Word flashes light, revealing to them more than ever before the safe path. The Holy Spirit works upon mind and heart. The time has come when through God”s messengers the scroll is being unrolled to the world. Instructors in our schools should never be bound about by being told that they are to teach only what has been taught hitherto. Away with these restrictions. There is a God to give the message His people shall speak. Let not any minister feel under bonds or be gauged by men”s measurement. The Gospel must be fulfilled in accordance with the messages God sends. That which God gives His servants to speak today would not perhaps have been present truth twenty years ago, but it is God”s message for this time.
How do we make room for Landmark people and Present Truth people in the same worshipping community? What do you think would be most helpful in touching young lives for God?