Today’s Assembly at Southwestern Adventist University was the annual Convocation. You know: that’s the one where the faculty all dress up like peacocks and march in while the band plays and we officially announce that the school year has begun. This is the 18th year I’ve been involved in convocation, and it’s something I do mainly because it’s expected of me, not because I expect to get anything out of it. But today was a pleasant surprise.
It dovetailed both with discussion that I’ve been having in my classroom and here at this website about the cautious attitude that some Christians have about their beliefs. They are concerned about what they believe being viewed in any other than traditional light, of it being compared to any other teachings, of science and faith being looked at side by side, for example.
Today’s speaker was Dr. John McVay, president of Walla Walla University, with the topic of “Truth Is Tough.” He started off by commenting on Southwestern’s new motto of “Knowledge. Faith. Service.” and followed it up with three stories. The last one is the one that caught my attention the most. He once had the opportunity to view the archives that held the library of J.N. Andrews, the first missionary for the Seventh-day Adventist Church back in the 1800s, who spoke seven languages fluently and had memorized the New Testament. He had a personal library of more than 700 books including the complete works of Plato in Latin. McVay shared this in light of his current battle with a few of those who believe that Adventists should only read the Bible or works written by other Seventh-day Adventists.
These radical Adventists don’t have a monopoly on this concept of “purity,” which is a stain in itself. There are plenty of other groups that think by keeping to themselves, they can somehow save something; don’t ask me what. But by struggling to remain pure, we force ourselves to do exactly opposite of what we are called to do, which is become “salt to the world.” That won’t happen if we are worried that our truth isn’t strong enough to stand up in the world’s marketplace of ideas. For the longer we wait, the harder it will be for us to find a place out there to share those ideas. If you’ve read my Manifesto, you know I feel that Christians are obligated to share that good news with the world, not for justification but because the world is dying and we have the answer. But we have to be willing to speak to them on their level before they can hear what we have to say.
One of the things McVay said today struck me: “We need to make sure we don’t confuse having a limited understanding of the truth with having the truth.” That’s very true. We sometimes have the audacity to believe that God has revealed Himself to us in ways He hasn’t revealed Himself to others. Even if that’s the case, who is to say we know everything? In fact, I can pretty much guarantee God will surprise us somewhere along the line, revealing more about Himself than we know today.
The bottom line in all of this is that Truth is tough. I don’t think we need to be afraid to share it. In church, in a bar, in a sci-fi story, on a streetcorner, in a subway, in a supermarket, anywhere. If it doesn’t fly one of those places, it’s probably not really truth. That’s the value of taking Christianity and throwing it in the clothes of science fiction once in a while just for fun. Sometimes different people will look at it and think about it. And sometimes the same people will look at it differently.
What a concept.