C H R I S T A D E L P H I A N R E S E A R C H
Christadelphian Approach to Balancing the Bible
The Christadelphian concept of getting to “the saving truth” centres around a comprehensive understanding of the Bible and balancing it in the way they suggest. There is no quick way to be able to judge whether they are right about "what the Bible teaches" without comprehensive Bible knowledge and study that can take many years to accomplish. It isn’t based upon any internal guidance, understanding, central focus on Christ, repentance, new heart or the “Christian spirit.” One has to grasp all the scripture to put it simply. Having grasped it all the “searcher for truth” has to then balance it. This is a totally logical consequence of believing in “the Bible alone” and “independence of thought.” It is also a logical consequence of not believing God gives any special help in understanding. It also makes sense to start at the beginning, Genesis, and follow it through to the end since that is the way that it was written and later bits refer to earlier bits.
In the case of the Christadelphians this is considered to be the whole of the Bible and a concept of “balancing scripture” is involved. So a verse in one passage that seems to say something very straightforward can be denied by reference to a passage somewhere completely different in the Bible. In view of the fact that the Bible is in fact two sets of books written by many different authors we have to question whether this really is how we would normally read and understand books. It is in fact a very complex, detailed and difficult system of interpretation for someone not brought up as a Christadelphian to grasp. It also places someone without the intellectual knowledge or ability at a disadvantage.
Christadelphians therefore claim the right view of inspiration and to have balanced it comprehensively in the right way. To become a Christadelphian means understanding the Bible in a certain way and that entails adopting a certain approach towards its interpretation which is both involved and complex. They do not believe in simple ideas of the grace of God. It is based upon the need to gain intellectual certainty.
The Consequence of This Approach
The consequence of the Christadelphian approach is that it involves lots of explanations and re-explanations that make gaining the complete and absolutely certainty deemed necessary difficult. For instance Christadelphians usually suggest common Christian beliefs such as the devil, demons, hell, being led by the Spirit of God and so forth are not found within the pages of the Bible. In fact it doesn’t take much reading to find out that these words are most certainly there and in many cases seem to say what mainstream Christians say. In view of the fact that Christadelphian views are the newcomer on the scene, how is this explained? Why do Christadelphians believe their explanations to not only be superior, but to be so sure that having the wrong view negates repentance, baptism, salvation and fellowship and gives them divine right to exercise church authority?
Some can be explained through a different emphasis. For instance mainstream Christian views are largely supported by the New Testament, whereas the Christadelphian emphases are largely based upon the Old Testament. Some such as the physical kingdom to be on earth fit well with much information in the Old Testament such as promises given to the ancestors of the Jewish people, promises God made to them and prophecies to do with the return of the Jews to the land after being taken into other lands (in an event called the captivity) by the Babylonians and Assyrians.
Others such as the rejection of many supernatural elements seem to flatly contradict what seems to be said in a great number of places. For instance we have huge numbers of passages stating, “Jesus cast out demons” with him even talking to them and mentioning them in conversation as though they were realities. We read of spirits, we read of souls, we read of the devil. This is where it gets more complex.
Going back to the concept of the Christadelphians that the Bible is a book which has to be “balanced” this means that the Bible is treated a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. For instance if one passage seems to talk about the devil tempting Jesus, but another talks about us being tempted by our own sinfulness, then the passage about the devil is simply talking about Jesus internally tempting himself. The context of the individual passage becomes subject to a complete Biblical context. In reality this leads to multiple potential ways of balancing it. For instance the devil could be taken as the definite and being tempted from within could be merged with it in another way.
Since in this method the immediate context is subject to a larger context to reason with a Christadelphian requires considerable scriptural knowledge. It also requires a lot of thinking about how we use words and language. In essence the Christadelphian approach treats the Bible in almost a mathematical fashion. Each word wherever in the Bible is given equal validity and equal weight and since it is all considered inerrant there is no acceptance that different authors may have had different understandings or that there could be progressions of understanding. So it also rests upon a particular view of inspiration and how the Bible was inspired.
The end result is that verses which seem to read certain ways are understood in others. So for instance when the devil is mentioned it refers to “sin in the flesh,” Satan simply refers to the root meaning of the word which is “adversary,” hell simply means “the grave” and demons mean “mental illness.” References to the Holy Spirit leading and guiding refer to the Bible as a “spirit-Word” and soul simply means “human life.” In other words the approach requires a lot of explanations in the form of “it says that, but it means this” and referring to verses elsewhere or to root meanings by way of explanation.
If a “proof verse” is given weight and able to take away common sense rendering of other passages and we need to understand the root meanings of words, isn’t this all a bit complex? How can anyone be sure they have balanced the Bible in the right way, let alone be dogmatic through such an approach? Doesn’t it all rest on the weight given to certain core verses? That’s the obvious question, but try telling that to a Christadelphian. In practice the Christadelphians end up with a large series of “difficult verses” and books such as Wrested Scriptures have been written to help Christadelphians answer them in debates with other Christians.
Such debates in essence can end up being a game of Bible ping-pong. One person quotes one of their core verses and another quotes one of theirs and the person who has the shortest list or isn’t intellectual enough to do this or can’t find the words to express themselves gets stuck first. It is worth noting also that when it comes to the difficult verses there are not consistent Christadelphian explanations. As long as people agree on the core beliefs explaining inconsistencies consistently as a movement is not considered that important.
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PAGE VISITS FROM 16/09/13
THE TRINITY HURDLE
NOVEL: HOLY BIBLE
You lay a great stress upon facts throughout your letters, and are incessant in your demand that I should attend to them. This is good; but facts have to be rightly put together, and then you must have all the facts. I do not think you put the facts rightly together, and you leave out some, I am sure.
(Robert Roberts, a Christadelphian Pioneer, quoted
by Ruth McHaffie in Brethren Indeed)
The Spirit of liberty, based upon the law of faith, is the Spirit of Christ; and this spirit all the Sons of God are privileged to possess, and having it, to breathe. I claim the right of exercising this privilege, as well as my contemporaries; and I require of them that they should do to me as once they loudly required others to do to them…
(written by John Thomas, the founder of the Christadelphians, when he was against creeds in
The Apostolic Advocate magazine, August 1836)
(John Thomas, from Apostacy Unveiled, p. 137,
quoted in The Christadelphian Magazine, January 1906)
Must a man never progress? If he discovers an error in his premises, must he for ever hold to it for the sake of consistency? May such a calamity never befall me! Rather let me change every day, till I get right at last.
(from a letter written by John Thomas in 1848, quoted by Robert Roberts, in Dr. Thomas: His Life and Work)
Do what is right; be valiant for the Truth; teach it without compromise, and all lovers of the Truth will approve you. For all others you need not care a rush!
(from a letter written by John Thomas to Robert Roberts and published in The Christadelphian magazine, February 1866)