C H R I S T A D E L P H I A N R E S E A R C H
Message For Christadelphians
I would like to welcome you to my site and invite you to consider the information, insights and experience presented. It may be a valuable resource for you. In many ways it is tailored to your perspective. That is because as a former Christadelphian I am coming from where you are. This site has now been widely read by Christadelphians, who form a high percentage of its readership based upon the feedback I receive. Many have written and expressed thanks for the value it provides. Several have also visited many times based on the site statistics. Some agree, some disagree, some agree with parts. That’s okay. Hopefully we all grow in understanding and that’s really what this site is about. Exploring the issues - and in that sense it is personal. Although I seek to be fair and objective, to some degree it is related to my experiences, what I have read and the people and thinking I have been exposed to. As I grow in understanding and as I receive feedback and criticism, I try and alter it to improve its balance, correct weaknesses and more fully explore issues. I believe by doing this it aids those who are Christadelphians by helping them better understand their own religion, explore doubts and concerns, and move further down the pathway of truth we all want to follow.
Although to some Christadelphians the wide considerations of issues found on this site may be portrayed as opposing truth, in fact it is very much in tune with what the founder of the community advocated, at least initially. The idea promoted was that light reveals darkness, truth overcomes error and can withstand strong investigation. In fact truth has nothing to fear from a rigorous examination of facts and evidence. Institutionalisation was portrayed as the obstacle to free thought by contrast. Although there is a widely supported status quo, there are also signs many Christadelphians want more scope to question both their theology as well as traditions which are limiting to that.
There is another reason. The community is no longer a movement based on reforming existing theology. Like many established denominations it has lost energy and seems increasingly archaic. Its historical focuses no longer serve it well and its structures provide little support for contemporary challenges. Not reforming it is no longer an option and the prospects without that are a lingering death. In addition after 150 years, the weaknesses of the historical approaches are evident. It isn’t going to return there. Nor will reform occur simply because folk read the Bible and religious books more. Deeper questions about some of the foundational assumptions are at the heart of this and they are not going to go away. The evidence is that in its traditional areas it is in severe decline and not all of that is due to the wickedness of the world. These challenges are considered further in “Wrestling with the Need for Change.”
Personally I doubt the community will survive as it is, although it may emerge in new strains. It isn’t the same as it was in 1880 or 1900 anyway. Ultimately what matters isn’t the survival of a religious denomination, but that as individuals, families and communities we have ways forward. The truth is the community never came out of a void or had a restoration of the first century gospel. It was a product of its times and to a degree questioned certain assumptions, but not others. We have had 150 years to explore the assumptions which haven’t been questioned, find out about verses we can’t easily reconcile with our own theological positions and learn the limits of certain approaches. Even statements of faith and constitutions and determined members trying to maintain what they see as gospel truth can’t totally subdue weaknesses we begin to grasp within ourselves. That approach no longer works as well, there isn’t a central hierarchy to maintain it and so at some point we have to genuinely seek to understand the issues that people raise and want answers to. Force cannot ever supplant real answers to questions raised and where this site is inaccurate then its weaknesses will emerge and be answered. On the other hand where it has validity eventually those issues will need to be addressed, no matter how great denial may be right now.
The advantage I have as a former Christadelphian is a greater ability to raise issues and questions without needing to consider how that will affect my social status or fellowship position. The downside of course has been that I have had to live with a loss of social support, a very real struggle to move forward and this raises some other relevant issues. Whatever failures the community has it does supply many benefits to its adherents. A community is one of them. The reality is that the pursuit of truth and understanding does have a price tag attached to it. Those who wish to question things openly need to be aware of this price tag and for many it is a price they may not wish to pay. They may also believe they are better remaining where they are and trying to alter perceptions from within. These are the choices I cannot make for anyone else.
Join me in my consideration of where we have come from, what it teaches us, what knowledge and experience we can present to the far wider group of folk outside the community and the deep questions of life, spirituality and purpose. This is a resource base that has been built for you. Take from it what you find of value in your journey and blessings to you.
Isn’t This Site Negative?
An objection I have received from a few Christadelphians is that this site is negative and doesn’t help remaining members. To put that in perspective most feedback I have received has been positive, complementary and supportive and much has come from existing Christadelphians. The reason for this is that not all the information presents perspectives that they agree with. Instead of answering the points raised on this site it is suggested that my whole life must therefore be completely negative.
Basic research shows that the whole community was established on the basis that all other forms of Christianity were in error and much Christadelphian time and energy has been spent seeking to prove that. The idea that this could be negative for other Christians or disturbing their inner tranquillity has never been given any weight. Instead the whole thrust has been that the important aspect is Truth. It seems incongruous therefore that the same criteria should not be applied to the Christadelphian community and its theology and how it works in practice examined.
Those who are commended to “search out the Truth” should therefore have the opportunity and means to examine varying perspectives.
We Aren’t Perfect
Another objection is that “we aren’t perfect” and I am in essence expecting people to be perfect. I most certainly recognise that fact and I’m not expecting this to be the case. I recognise that there are strengths as well as weaknesses within the community and they are mentioned on this site. Perhaps it isn’t perfectly objective and balanced, that’s because it is based on my research and my perspectives. The real issues are that there are some deep-seated and structural weaknesses of position that need examination. I have a concern if maintaining internal tranquillity and an internal unwillingness to not question (by what is a closed community) is at the expense of those who leave or who are disfellowshipped. I also believe the community has some need to answer the valid concerns raised by this website that (in private) are acknowledged by many existing members.
Why Don’t You Just Move On?
The suggestion here is that as a former Christadelphian I have an axe to grind and I should simply remove myself from view.
Unfortunately what this ignores is that to some extent we are all a product of our backgrounds and conditioning. Most Christadelphians today have been born into the faith and are brought up in a community which teaches principles that isolate them from others of differing perspective. To leave the community therefore requires a person to totally re-evaluate all their positions, attitudes and thoughts. This has to be done within an environment where questioning can lead to disfellowship. It is therefore a very difficult process, because leaving can lead to the loss of emotional support and isolation. The community equips people to live within the community, but does not equip them to be able to live outside of it easily. In that respect it does have some cult-like aspects to it.
As part of that process those who leave do have to understand the community, where they have come from and why they think as they do. As a very exclusive community with very exclusive “we alone have the Truth” attitudes it doesn’t have any mechanism to relate to those who question anything. It therefore doesn’t understand the process of anyone who questions anything. This site forms a necessary part of my personal moving forward and it also helps others who do the same.
You Will Be Judged By God
The suggestion here is that for questioning and raising issues God will decide I am unworthy and I will be condemned by Him. I am glad when I receive emails like this that at the judgement it is not them who will be judging me. I would also suggest that if God has given us reason and emotions and the ability to think we were meant to use them. The concept that others may just reach different conclusions and explanations and they may in some cases actually have better explanations and reasoning seems to escape some sincere believers. We should also realise that to establish a system of church authority, to disfellowship and a take a position that requires divine validity is also one that potentially could lead to a judgement by God itself. What if a person has been rejected whom God accepts? How would he view that? What if the position of authority we adopted turned out to be wrong theology on our part? How would “we thought we were doing what you wanted” or “we thought we had to protect the Truth” sound then?
I am not seeking to destroy “the Truth.” I value truth. I am sincerely questioning whether it adds up and I am more than willing to alter if I need to. I do not hate Christadelphians and I am not on a mission to hurt them. I simply believe that a full a discussion of issues is suppressed because of the nature of being a closed community, I believe many who leave struggle and I believe many examining the community need to have a full picture of how things work.
The general feedback I receive has found this site helpful and have been supportive and thankful.
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)