Truth Is Like a Camcorder

camcorder.jpg

I ALREADY HAVE A PRETTY DECENT digital camera. Having about half a dozen of the planet’s most irresistible grandkids in my downline, I jolly well better have!

Now, some people have technophobia—a fear of all things hi-tech and gadget-like. I’m one of many plagued with the opposite: technophilia—which I define as a strong enthusiasm for technology, especially the latest—brimming with all kinds of must-have new and better features.

Thus, few days pass in which I don’t spend at least part of my daily thinking quota on all the good reasons I need a camcorder. More specifically, I need a Canon DC310 camcorder with 41x optical zoom, that records directly to DVDs—when it’s finally released this coming April Fool’s Day.

Obviously, the astonishingly fast change and growth rate of my grand-descendants seems a pressing and legitimate part of the argument.

As I’ve pondered (that too seems to be one of my enthusiasms—pondering stuff), it seems to me that truth is a lot more like a camcorder than a digital still camera. The latter freezes the action in its tracks, even if the action includes closed eyes or strange facial expressions. The former, on the other hand, “unfreezes” the action and shows a segment of life more as it actually happens: fluid, dynamic, ever-changing.

I happen to believe that such a thing as ultimate, objective truth exists. I don’t (for now, at least) believe that God has endless gazillions of variations on truth, any one of which is just peachy.

Of course, God has a challenge getting His truth through to us in ways we can understand. First of all, His mind is so far beyond ours that even to compare it with say, my earnestly trying to explain all I know about nuclear fission to a passing bug, is not an adequate comparison. The gap is far greater between my mind and God’s.

Not only is God’s mind so beyond ours that He truly must have expended some major energy just trying to find a way to communicate His truth in our language, but He had only sin-impaired people through whom to send it. The Bible writers were riddled with the sin virus and all that the selfishness disease has done to the human ability to reason accurately. Bible writers also came with the baggage of their own preconceptions, literary inadequacies, and cultural viewpoints.

Nonetheless, God did the best He could with what He had. And that was only in Phase I: getting the truth in print. Then came Phase II: the challenge of those who would read His messages. If anything, the readers were far worse off than had been the writers.

Even if you factor in that God through the Holy Spirit kept His hand closely over the whole process beginning to end, given the challenges already mentioned, the chances for misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and deliberate “wresting,” as the Word says, were—and are—high.

The result can be seen in the World Christian Encyclopedia’s research reporting at least 10,000 distinct religions world-wide, of which Christianity is only one. Within Christianity itself, a further division results in 33,830 denominations. And guess what? Do you think anyone belongs to any of those religions, groups, denominations, who does not believe that it has “the truth”?

I would not want to suggest or imply that because of all these various conceptions of it, truth therefore isn’t possible to know. I’m not ready to jump ship and sign on with agnosticism. In fact, I’d go even farther than the Encyclopedia and say that no two people on the planet see or understand truth exactly the same.

And maybe that’s not all a bad thing. Maybe that means that God does have ultimate, unchanging truth out there, but that He knows He made each of us to be unique. As such, not only are our brains uniquely wired, but our personalities, gender-influenced perspectives, temperaments, life experiences and environments, childhood upbringing, emotions, thought patterns, brain chemistry, hormone balances, DNA—and all else that makes each of us who we are—is as individual as the snowflakes that fall.

Maybe God knows what truth I need most to get straight—and I can count on Him to reveal that to me according to His priorities and time schedule. If so, then maybe He’s speaking truth to me that may not be on His calendar for you till years from now—if ever. Or the reverse may be true.

Now, what about this camcorder versus digi-cam business?

Well, just as, I suspect, God progressively reveals His truth to me on His own personalized schedule, I think He does the same in how He shares truth with His Church—His “body” on Earth. If so, that has implications. Such as:

While truth itself may have only one full and ultimate version, as God has set it up, our understanding of truth may well be—and I believe should be—progressive. If so, then we do well to be in a constant mode of open-mindedness—of eager readiness to revise our understanding as God brings us His steadily unfolding revelation of any given truth.

And if this is how God reveals truth, what happens when we make the mistake old Israel did and freeze truth into a systematized, dogmatic, set-in-cement creed that never changes? Does that not frustrate God’s purpose and plan? And does it not utterly truncate His “word” of truth in mid-sentence, risking erroneous conclusions and possibly tragic consequences?

I’m reminded of what happened at Napoleon’s final Battle of Waterloo in 1815, where an Anglo-allied force under the Duke of Wellington came against him. The message that came through in Britain on June 18, 1815, in a flashing light from Winchester Cathedral, spelled out in code, “W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N   D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D”—and at that point, the fog closed in and the message light could no longer be seen. Great despair followed the message, till the fog suddenly lifted, and the full message could now be seen: “W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N   D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D   T-H-E   E-N-E-M-Y.”

When we latch onto truth, then close ourselves to even the possibility that we might have interrupted God in mid-sentence—that He might not be done yet—we take a great risk. We make ourselves vulnerable to the same rigidity, authoritarianism, dogmatism, and self-righteous but unjustified certainty that befell ancient Israel. God may indeed have His end-time incarnation of His original chosen people—Israel II, if you will—but it too is at risk for repeating that same mistake.

Am I saying that because God’s revelation of truth—and our understanding of it—is progressive, that truth itself is constantly in flux, that indeed, there IS no ultimate truth? Not at all! No more than the reality of a scene from life changes simply because a camcorder reveals more of it with each minute recorded. If I’m using my future camcorder to record one of my “world’s most awesome” grandchildren, does the view ever stay the same? Not for a second! But does that mean there is no such thing, ultimately, as my grandchild? You’ll never sell me that!

Since my earliest exposure to spiritual truth, my understanding of any given facet of it has changed….sometimes only incrementally, sometimes dramatically. I don’t understand the truths of the Second Coming, the Sabbath, or how Salvation works, in just the way I did when I was a child—or a young man. That would be the case, of course, if I had taken my first understanding of truth, shot a still camera photo of it, and chosen to believe that it was now locked in, nevermore to change. Oh, were that only true of the photos of me from earlier in life!

No, I’ve found that by rejecting dogmatism and staying wide open to whatever God has to show me, my understanding of truth has shifted, changed, and expanded. And that process won’t end for as long as I draw breath.

Does that mean “ultimate, objective truth” does not exist? No, not as I see it, anyway. But again, both God’s revelation of truth—and especially my understanding of it—is progressive.

I look forward to arriving in Heaven not long hence, not to pick up my diploma, but to enter a never-ending grad school in which I’ll never finish learning more and more and more about God and His truth!

And just as a camcorder beats a still camera hands down, whatever way God has waiting by which to show me more, it will put even my fervently desired Canon DC310 in the shade!

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lara on February 28, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    This was a rich entry. I couldn’t agree more that while God’s objective truth doesn’t change, our understanding does change as we grow.

    I have often thought to myself, though I don’t find it spelled out in quite this way in the Bible, that one of the functions of our diversity of perspectives here on earth is to keep each of us grounded and humble and to help us advance in our understanding of truth.

    How often I’ve sat in a class at church or school and benefited beautifully from someone else’s thought process. At various time, others drop jewels of truth in my lap in the form of their own perspectives, jewels that wouldn’t have occurred to me if I live 100 years. It’s a true priesthood of believers when we all minister by sharing with one another what God has graciously shared with us.

    Reply

  2. And yours is a rich comment.

    It’s sadly part of human sin that sometimes, the diversity you speak of leads not to humility and gratitude but to rigid and judgmental dogmatism….even condemnation.

    But with you, I choose as God gives me His own heart and mind, to celebrate the constant insights and new perspectives on truth that come from truly hearing what God has shared with others.

    Thanks for yours!

    Reply

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