By David Penno
The concept of present truth is a key part of Seventh-day Adventist theology. Our belief is that God continually reveals new light and understanding as we act on truth that we already understand. So in the 1830s and 1840s the Millerite movement built on the truths that were established in the Reformation and increased the understanding and knowledge of God’s will as revealed in the Bible.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church was born of a group of Millerites who continued to study and think and pray, and received “new light” on issues such as the Sabbath, the state of the dead, etc. Even though Uriah Smith and others did not believe in the full divinity of Christ, continued study and dialogue in the church, and the influence of Ellen White in books such as the Desire of Ages, we came to the point where the church officially accepted this understanding.
There have been times when the church reversed its teaching in a certain area, as new understanding became clearer. The eating of pork and unclean food is just one example of this change in thinking and practice.
The Principle of Present Truth
Today, the attempt to defend historic Adventism is often practiced improperly. The idea that what Adventists believed and practiced a hundred and fifty years ago is exactly what we should believe and practice today is actually a denial of the concept of present truth. Our pioneers were driven by the idea that there is more to learn, that our living out of the Word of God is in constant development and improvement.