In the Present Tense

June 21, 2010

Elijah’s Razor on Father’s Day

Filed under: Culture and the Bible, Present Truth, The End, Women in the Bible, Worship — edoutlook @ 2:57 am

I’ve been contemplating this for some time. I’ve hesitated, because I am generally suspicious of manifestos and ultimata. I’ve wondered whether I should go out on this particular limb. As this Father’s Day comes to a close, I feel compelled to finally declare myself.

This blog is titled “In the Present Tense” because I am a Seventh-day Adventist, and I believe the uniquely Adventist contribution is the one of “Present Truth.”

As George Knight has documented, “Present Truth” was not a single doctrinal position, but rather a dynamic concept of bringing God’s Word to bear on the most important issues of a particular time and place. In 1843 it was the Second Coming. In the summer of 1844 it was the “Tenth day of the seventh month.” In November 1844 it was the Heavenly Sanctuary. In 1859 it was the 7th day Sabbath. And so on.

Some other place and some other time I will explore this concept in greater detail, but today I want to focus on what I believe is Present Truth today, right now. What I think is the most important thing to realize here and now.

Frankly, I expect that this will result in a good deal of criticism, even ridicule. That’s one reason I have put it off until now. But, on this Father’s day, I feel impelled to declare my mind.

I believe that the most important thing for today is found in Malachi 4: 5, 6.

“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

From our earliest days, Adventists have considered themselves the Elijah movement, those who act as forerunners of the King, as we proclaim the Second Coming. But for some reason we have been hesitant to proclaim what the Bible clearly designates as the Elijah message: Turning the hearts of the fathers to the children.

One consequence, I believe, is that we are hemorrhaging young adults at lethal rate. And few seem to either note it or even care. Another symptom of this failure to emphasize this crucial truth is that we are engaged in essentially trivial controversies.

Gay marriage, women’s ordination, worship wars, music –these are but a few of the highly controversial issues that generate so much heat and produce so little light among us today. And I believe that focusing on turning the hearts of the fathers to the children either resolves these disputes or puts them into perspective which makes them manageable.

You may have heard of Occam’s Razor, which basically states that the simplest explanation that takes all facts into account is likely to be correct. Well, this is my razor–call it “Elijah’s Razor.” From now on, if one side of an issue can be shown to aid in turning the hearts of the fathers to their children, then Elijah’s razor says that is the preferred position. If it  detracts from that cause, Elijah’s razor condemns it. If it has no effect either way, then Elijah’s Razor declares it irrelevant.

That’s it. That’s my declaration. I don’t want to pick any fights or start any controversies. But if someone asks me about any issue, from gay marriage to government health care to women’s ordination to worship and beyond, I’ll apply Elijah’s Razor. And there’s no better time to declare this focus than Father’s Day.

July 29, 2009

Past, Future, and Imagination

Filed under: Bible study, Present Truth, The End — edoutlook @ 5:00 pm

C. S. Lewis wrote that “The past is as much an act of the imagination as the future.” What he meant, I think, is that the way we think of the past is an act of imagination. I touched on this in an earlier post. And this relates directly to Cindy’s question about changing views of the End in the Bible. We tend to think of our own past as one of settled doctrines.

In fact, as a people, SDA ideas of the End have undergone significant changes.  For a while, early pioneers believed that the gospel going to the whole world meant reaching the world through ‘hyphenated Americans,’ that is, reaching Germany through ‘German-Americans,’ China through ‘Chinese-Americans’ and so on. In the earliest days, they really didn’t have a missionary outlook in the truest sense. That came later.

These changes need not be a source of embarrassment. It’s clear that the Disciples originally expected Jesus to return, for the End to come, in their lifetimes. There are strong indications that Paul intended to “take the gospel to the whole [then known] world” all by himself! Only later, in places like Thessalonians and the writings of John do we see an awareness ( a changing awareness) that the End will not happen for some time.

This is simply part of the human condition. God knows the end from the beginning, we do not. Until it happens–and even afterwards, to some extent– our knowledge will remain incomplete, partial. No doubt a good portion of the millennium will be spent sharing stories about what we experienced in those climactic events! As we get closer to the End, our understanding will grow, and probably become clearer and more detailed, just as our image of an object grows clearer and more detailed as we approach it.

Our very name, “Adventist,” proclaims that we have an interest in the future. That is as it should be. But what really matters is what we do, how we live, how we build relationships now. The End will come. But who, and which of us, enjoy what comes after the End depends upon how we live and reflect God’s love to others today.

It is my hope and prayer that my understanding of the End continues to grow–which necessarily means change– and that my reflection of Christ’s character will increase every day. I’m 59 now, and hope to live many years. But violence, accident, or disease might take me at any time. That will be the End for me.

Leaders tell us that the best long-range plan makes clear what we should do today. In the same way, our understanding of the End should inform our daily walk with God, and with our fellow creatures.

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