C H R I S T A D E L P H I A N R E S E A R C H
The Christadelphian Use of Words and Language
In understanding the Christadelphians and their theology in depth it is necessary to grasp some of the unique meanings they attach to words and language. The following list is a basic and currently incomplete list.
These can be broken down into three main categories:
These words originated from the system of church authority and organisation set up in the movement’s early days and which used a combination of a democratic approach within a defined statement of faith and a committee approach. Examples here would be “arranging brethren” (or ABs), “recording brother,” “ecclesia” and “fraternal gathering.”
Common words such as “the gospel,” “the kingdom,” “hell,” “the devil,” “the world” and many more have distinct theological meanings. When a Christadelphian uses various words he often does not mean by those words what may be understood by the hearer. To understand a Christadelphian requires some understanding of their language and the word pictures they have attached to certain words and concepts.
This has resulted also in a rejection of many words other churches employ. Christadelphians traditionally used the word “ecclesia” rather than “church.” They “break bread” or “take emblems” rather than “communion.” They don’t “excommunicate,” they “disfellowship” or “withdraw.” To an outsider the different language used can seem pedantic or minor, but historically the reasons for employing them were considered important. They sought to use words which did not carry existing impressions in the minds of non Christadelphians. The downside has been that it can seem strange and incomprehensible to those outside and in recognition of this there is a growing use of words Christadelphians historically would not use, such as “pastor” or “church.”
In fact in the past Christadelphians were even reluctant to use the word “Christian” because of its association with other Christians whom they considered to be an apostasy from Truth and a common response to the question “are you a Christian” would be to ask what the hearer understood a Christian to be.
Due to the divisions within Christadelphian history there are a lot of words associated with historical issues and divisions. Examples here are “immortal emergence,” “clean flesh” and “enlightened rejecters.” Most Christadelphians are likely to be in the main grouping and generally there is little discussion now on these issues. These words are more likely to be found where a person has dealings with some of the smaller breakaway groups. In fact to the average young Christadelphian today with little understanding of their history the historic ones would seem a bit strange to the ears.
The exact definitions of some words themselves is unclear even within the community itself. An example here would be “sin in the flesh” where huge debates and divisions centred around exactly what was meant or thought to be meant.
The words below are an initial basic list and further ones will be added in time and the definitions may need some tightening too.
The gradually changing words and language of the community is of interest and also of interest is the type of words generally not used, especially those relating to the experience of being a Christian, such as “knowing God,” “relationship with God,” “being saved” and also a range of emotional terms relating to being guided or led.
Specific Words and Phrases
A writer well known in Christadelphian circles, particularly for two books, “Brethren in Christ” and “the Protesters” used to try to show other people before the founder of the Christadelphians believed the same doctrines.
A word which was used to describe non Christadelphians, but tends to be less well used today. It is taken from the King James version of the Bible, Ephesians 2v12, where it reads, “at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:”
This phrase is mostly used in North America and Canada, because of an historical division where a large segment of Christadelphians did not amend their statement of faith in line with the majority leading to a division of the Christadelphian movement.
A clause which was added to the main statement of faith in response to questions over who would be resurrected to judgment.
A phrase often used historically to refer to other churches which were all believed to have departed from the true faith near the beginnings of Christianity.
“arranging brothers” (or ABs)
These are elected members who arrange and discuss the running of the ecclesia.
An early name that was used by those who accepted the teachings promoted by John Thomas.
“basis of fellowship”
This is a phrase used to describe which facts are considered necessary to be believed to accept others as fellow believers (or “in fellowship”). It is normally used in relation to a “statement of faith” such as the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith.
Berean Christadelphians (or Bereans)
A breakaway group from the main Christadelphian body.
A book written by Duncan Heaster used as a preaching tool in many parts of the world.
A Bible reading plan composed by Robert Roberts which suggests reading two portions of the Old Testament and one portion of the New Testament each day. If followed the Old Testament is read once in a year and the New Testament twice. A lot of Christadelphians follow this plan, although it is not obligatory.
Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith (or BASF)
The statement of faith which most Christadelphians assent to. A statement of faith is a list of defined beliefs which many churches have.
Birmingham Unamended Statement of Faith (or BUSF)
Statement of faith which a number of churches particularly in Canada and the US adhere to.
“born into the Truth”
A phrase used to refer to those who were raised by Christadelphian parents.
“breaking of bread”
The custom of meeting together and breaking bread and wine to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus.
“brought up from outside”
A phrase used to refer to those who were raised by non Christadelphian parents.
“came in from outside”
A phrase used to refer to those who became Christadelphians, but who did not have a Christadelphian upbringing.
A planned attempt to convert people through various programmes of activity.
A derogatory term used by John Thomas to refer to the church from which he left. One of their leaders was a man called Alexander Campbell who had many debates and disputes with him. Today they are called the “Church of Christ” and “Disciples of Christ” and are widespread particularly in Canada and the US.
“candidate for baptism”
This is someone who has requested baptism.
A Christadelphian group involved in preaching across the world.
A term used to describe the mainstream of Christadelphians who follow the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith established by a church in Central Birmingham.
Historically the main magazine of the community, the editor was often seen to be responsible for maintaining a leadership role. This has generally diminished having been supplanted by a whole array of magazines and today, websites.
Christadelphian Isolation League (or CIL)
A Christadelphian group that caters to those who are geographically isolated from other Christadelphians.
“commands of Christ”
A polemic written by Robert Roberts attacking mainstream Christianity as being in error “on all points” and contending that the true doctrines had been restored in truth in the last days in preparation for the return of Christ.
Dawn Christadelphians (or Dawns)
A breakaway Christadelphian group.
“doctrines to be rejected”
A person whose duty is to welcome visitors who enter a meeting place, a fairly usual practice.
A Christadelphian who has made a lot of converts throughout the world. He has altered the traditional emphases and gained recognition on the one hand and resistance on others. His preaching has centred around the use of a book called “Bible Basics” which summarises the main historical Christadelphian beliefs.
The Greek word which is translated church in the Bible is used for groups of believers. It was used historically because the word church is often associated with a building whereas it was used in the original to describe the believers. It was felt that using the word church was inaccurate.
A reference to “A Guide to the Formation and Conduct of Christadelphian Ecclesias” written by Robert Roberts as a method of church organisation and structure, referred to sometimes in disciplinary matters.
Often used to refer to a meeting place rather than use the word church.
“an effort” (or “special effort”)
A specific organised preaching event.
A lengthy book written by the founder of the Christadelphians, John Thomas, setting out the foundational theological position that subsequently became the basis of the community. It was widely read in the early days of the movement with specific reading groups called “Elpis Israel classes” often being set up for that purpose.
A word used to describe the bread and wine used in the service of remembrance.
Usually pertaining to the role of being a host to a visiting speaker (and commonly his family), often between meetings on a Sunday.
These are members of an ecclesia appointed to decide if a candidate for baptism has embraced Christadelphian beliefs.
A name given to a talk which stresses living the faith.
A term often employed to describe the various small breakaway groups or schisms that have occurred throughout Christadelphian history.
A term used to describe the essential Christadelphian beliefs considered essential for salvation.
A paragraph added to the main Birmingham Amended Statement following a division over the nature of inspiration.
"fraternal" or “fraternal gathering”
A meeting of different ecclesias within the Christadelphians usually based around a talk with a buffet afterwards.
Reference to someone brought up in a non-Christadelphian background.
“good standing” (or “in good standing”)
A phrase used sometimes to refer to those who consistently abide by the status quo and who are seen to be good upholders of Christadelphian traditions and who are considered beyond reproof in moral terms.
“growing up in the Truth”
A phrase meaning a person was brought up by Christadelphian parents.
A phrase used to describe those who are considered in fellowship, often defined as being accepted by a Christadelphian ecclesia or in accordance with a “statement of faith.”
A word described to refer to a theological difference that led to a division in the Christadelphians. It refers to a belief that people were raised immortal prior to the judgment rather than being made immortal following it.
A phrase used to describe Christadelphians who are geographically separated from other Christadelphians.
A controversy that led to a major division in the Christadelphians after an article was written discussing views of inspiration and that led to a “Foundation Statement” being added to the most common statement of faith.
instruction (or “under instruction”)
A term used to describe the process of training a potential convert in the beliefs considered necessary for salvation.
The founder of the Christadelphian belief system, sometimes referred to as “Dr Thomas” or “the Doctor.”
“left the Truth”
A phrase used to refer to those who were baptised as Christadelphians, but left the community for whatever reason.
A phrase used to describe meetings which seek to emulate the original Christadelphian belief positions in a hardline manner, usually by elevating the original Christadelphian founders and their doctrinal emphases. There is an Australian Magazine that was prominent in this regard.
“meeting” (or “the meeting”)
Used to describe either the congregation of believers in a location or the church when used as the phrase “going to the meeting.”
Used to describe the place, setting or occasion where Christadelphians meet to remember Christ by “breaking bread.”
Used to describe the main meeting (usually weekly) where Christadelphians meet to remember Christ by “breaking bread.”
An abbreviation for the North American Statement of Unity, a failed attempt to formulate a consensual document that it was hoped would reunite an historical division in the Christadelphians.
North American Statement of Unity (or NASU)
An attempt to heal a breach between two branches of the Christadelphians, the Unamended and Amended.
“out of fellowship”
A phrase which is most commonly use to describe someone who was accepted as a Christadelphian, but no longer is.
A phrase that was employed to explain views advanced in opposition to the historical view of how the Bible was inspired and its infallibility. A foundation statement was added at the time to the main statement of faith.
A book written by the founder of the Christadelphians, John Thomas, promoting his view of the nature of Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit (conventionally called the Godhead) which he called “God manifestation” in opposition to the concept of the Trinity.
A phrase used to refer to the founders of the Christadelphian movement, John Thomas and Robert Roberts.
“the Pioneer Works”
A reference to the books and writings of the founders of the Christadelphian movement, John Thomas and Robert Roberts.
Generally refers to the stage from which talks and services are given, although it is sometimes used to refer to the position a speaker holds in relation to the audience.
“preparation for baptism”
“president” or “presiding brother”
A member of the Christadelphians who chairs a study or service.
“ready” or “ready for baptism”
Are used in a particular way to refer to people who have accepted the Christadelphians theological positions but have not yet been baptised.
“recording brother” (or secretary)
A position within the church usually associated with arranging speakers and sorting out general procedures.
A term used to describe those who rejected the teaching that Jesus had “sinful flesh” and had to first die to save himself before he could save others. Some claimed this was a development from the orginal teachings of John Thomas and they were truer to the original position put forward. It rests on disputations on what exactly constitues sin and is the nature of sin and what passages referring to “sin in the flesh” mean. Their beliefs have often been called “clean flesh” and a website promoting their arguments can be found here. The idea that Jesus had to die first to save himself is not widely mentioned today, even though it was the traditional position and in general interest in the metaphysics of the atonement has diminished today.
“right hand of fellowship”
A phrase used to describe an event after baptism where the new convert is welcomed into the congregation by a brother at the memorial meeting.
An early convert of John Thomas who structured his belief-system and formulated the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith.
“signs of the times”
Specific modern day events interpreted as fulfilments of Bible prophecy or pertaining to their possible fulfilment.
“statement of faith”
A list of defined doctrines such as the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith which most ecclesias have. On the one hand it is used as a “basis of fellowship” .... on the other hand it is used to determine who has moved away from “the Truth.”
A Christadelphian meeting that closed March 2004 that provided the name for a Christadelphian fellowship known as “The Suffolk Street Fellowship” that separated from the main body over an issue called “The Inspiration Controversy.” Subsequently reunited with the other fellowship called “Temperance Hall.”
A term often used in the very early days of the Christadelphian movement to describe their meeting places. No longer used today.
A Christadelphian meeting that provided the name for a Christadelphian fellowship known as “The Temperance Hall Fellowship.” It amended the main statement of faith and separated from those who would not amend theirs. This was over an issue called “The Inspiration Controversy.” The other group was known as the “Suffolk Street Fellowship” and they were subsequently reunited.
A phrase used by many Christadelphians to refer to their belief set, often written with a capital T.
A division of the Christadelphian movement which separated because they were unwilling to amend their statement of faith with the majority of Christadelphians at the time. Mostly found in North America and Canada.
“went into the world”
A phrase commonly used to refer to those who were brought up by Christadelphian parents, but never joined the faith.
“withdrawal of fellowship”
A word used in a theological sense sometimes to describe the idea that non-Christians (in practice non-Christadelphians) form a system called “the world.”
VIEW THE MIND MAP
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)