Christadelphianism

The strange name Christadelphians means The Brethren of Christ. It was coined from the Greek language in 1864 by the founder of the sect, a John Thomas. He could not stand the name Christian because it represented to him everything degenerated and anti-Christian. Therefore he meant to displace it with an invention of his own which he supposed represented the revival of original apostolic religion. Thomas was born in England in 1805, the son of an Independent minister. He entered the medical field, and as a young doctor left Britain for America in 1832 because he intensely disliked the "priest-ridden state of society" there. In Cincinnati he was converted to the Campbellite (Disciples of Christ) view of immersion. He then began to neglect his medical work. He is said to have dabbled in farming, unsuccessfully. But his chief interest was centered in becoming a self-styled preacher, teacher and writer, boasting of his ignorance of books other than the Bible, and of the fact that he had never been "cursed with the poison of a theological education." His viewpoint was that a man of average intelligence could not understand the teaching of the theologians. He obtained his religious knowledge much as the Buchmanites or Moral Re-Armament people do, by letting the mind run blank, like a tabula rasa, and allowing the mere reading of the Word to make whatever impression it, would upon him. As a result of his intuitive method of accumulating the knowledge of God, he not only changed his views of baptism, but also dropped his Campbellite views-of heaven, hell, eternal punishment, the- devil and salvation. His main position was that the hope of Israel, viz., the coming of Christ to set up a heavenly kingdom on earth at Jerusalem, was the essence of the gospel. With his thinking again radically changed, he had himself immersed once more, which was not performed in the name of the essentially triune God, but in "the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit," words which conform not to the baptismal formula of the Gospel, but to the Sabellian heresy. 

Thomas and his biographer, Robert Roberts, made Christadelphianism teach a pre-millennial kingdom with Christ ruler in Jerusalem, the metropolis of the whole earth. The world is to have one kingdom, vested in approved Christadelphians for one thousand years. There will be a resurrection of the righteous before the millennium, but no resurrection of the wicked. Holding quite the reverse of the avid and avowed practice of Baha'ists, Christadelphians do not engage in social or political enterprises. Further, they are pacifistic, refusing to bear arms. The form of government they adopt is that of independency. There is no denominational headquarters, but the group seems to propagate its literature from Waterloo, Iowa. It keeps archives and statistics only in its local bodies. Expenses are met not by taking collections, but by the making of voluntary contributions: Meetings are held on the first day of the week, "to eat bread and drink wine." The songs of Zion are sung as found in David's writings. Prayer is offered and Scripture read. Because of the belief that Christ may re-appear at any time, the places of worship are usually nothing more than a rented building or an "upper room." 

Christadelphianism's lengthy "rejection of errors" includes the doctrine that "God is One in Three," that the devil is a wicked fallen angel, being simply sin personified; that there is a "hell-fire in which all unregenerate souls will be tortured forever;" that for salvation it is necessary to believe in the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. Many of the same denials of Scripture truth and doctrine of the faith made by Christian Science, Russellism, Modernism and Unitarianism are also made by this system. Being Unitarian in character, it denies the deity of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Sounding like so-called Jehovah's Witnesses, they make the Son of God a manifestation of God, but not himself God, not the second person of an eternal trinity. They think the name Son proves his existence derived and not eternal. Along with Sabellians, Ariani and. Socinians they find further "proof" in John 1:1, in the words, "the Word was God" pointing out that there is no definite article before God, so allowing the translation, "the Word was a god." But there is no indefinite article in the Greek language; nor is it warranted in this clause. For there, for emphasis, the predicate (God) stands first, "God was the Word!" It would be Sabellian to write at this point Ho Theos, the God, for that, besides failing to show that God is the predicate, and not the subject, would also make the Word the same person as the Father. What is meant by saying that "the Word was God," without any article, definite or (as undeveloped in Greek) indefinite, is that "the Word was absolutely God," or "the Word was essentiallyGod," the "Word was fully and completely God." He is God without any subtraction or limitation! 

John Thomas and Robert Roberts, together with the other heretics mentioned above, appeal to Deut. 6:4 in support of their contention that there is not a shred of Trinitarianism in the Bible. "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord." But this great Shema passage, as it is called, does not exclude the doctrine of three persons in the Godhead. Quite the contrary, it rather supports the Trinitarian teaching. For the text literally reads, "Bear, O Israel, Jehovah (singular) our (plural) Elohim (plural); Jehovah (singular) is one. And thou shalt love Jehovah (singular) thy (singular) Elohim (plural)." The Hebrew language has three numerals, the singular, meaning but one; the dual, meaning two and the only two; and the plural which denotes at the least three. If then this passage is supposed to teach that God is only one in person as well as one in being, why, where the oneness and simplicity of God is so firmly taught, should the name God be in the plural? Why is it that Elohim, the plural, is found in Old Testament Scriptures 2,579 times, while the singular form of the word is found in about 57 places and only six times applied to other than the true God? Regardless of the question whether the meaning of the plural Elohim is numerical, the idea of the trinity is latently enshrined in the word. In proof of this we appeal to another passage. It is true that elohim is used of angels (Ps. 97:7), and that all the angels of God are to worship the Son who is not less than God. A comparison of Heb. 1:6, 8 and Rev. 22:9 reveal that fact. It is also in a few instances used of men, e.g., in Ps. 82:1, of the magistrates in Israel. "God (Elohim: plural) standeth in the congregation of the mighty (El: singular); He (singular) judgeth among the gods (Elohim: plural)" That He judges among the gods, and not between elohim, reveals that elohim cannot be understood as dual, but as plural, signifying that judges (Ex. 21:6, 22:8, 9, 28) convening in Israel must be not one or two, but three in number. Thus Christadelphianism is off the main fundamental of the Christian Faith; namely, the doctrine of God as expressed in the doctrine of the essential trinity. 

Another fundamental of the faith cut from its moorings in the Word of God is the doctrine of the atonement. It is denied that the death of Christ was a bearing of the wrath of God against sinners. "We displace the sacrifice of Christ from its scriptural position. We destroy its character as a means of securing life, and are compelled to transform it into that anomalous doctrine of pulpitology which regards it as substitutionary suffering of divine wrath, in order to save . . ." (Christendom Astray From the Bible, Robert Roberts, p. 298). The cross was merely "an expression of God's love toward fallen humanity." There is no question that the death of Christ was an expression of God's love. "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him" (I John 4:9). But in His death Christ bore the wrath of God, for "being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (Rom. 5:9). It was the death of Christ which "delivered us from the wrath to come" (I Thess. 1:10). Further, although such a term as "substitute" is not found in the Bible, yet as referring to Christ's redemptive work on the cross, the doctrine is plainly there. In these words, "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust" (I Peter 3:18), the truth of substitutionary suffering is taught in the most unmistakable language. 

The cult attacks what is called "the immortality of the soul." It states, "Man . . . only holds this life on the short average tenure of three-score years and ten, at the end of which he gives it up to Him from whom he received it, and returns to the ground whence he originally came, and meanwhile ceases to exist" (ibid., 16). What is denied here is the immortality of the body. Death is "the extinction of being" (ibid., p. 49); that is, the body and soul together, of the righteous and of the wicked, are annihilated. Because of this allegation, it is maintained of the latter that "therefore resurrection does not take place in their case" (ibid., p. 68). But when Judas died, he did not cease to exist; he went to perdition, i.e., "to his own place" (John 17:12 with Acts 1:25). To the penitent thief dying, Jesus did not say, "Today you will be annihilated," but "Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise." "The rich man also died." Then although the language detailed here is parabolic, we do not read that he ceased to exist-no, but that "in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments" (Luke 16:22ff). In that place and state he underwent such human experiences as physical sensation (v. 24), sight (v. 23), speech (v. 24), emotion (have mercy), memory (son, remember, v. 25a) and reason (v. 27). Also he was there conscious of being in a place (v. 28), not in a mere state of mind, where there is no probation (v. 26), no restoration (v. 25b), no universal salvation (v. 31), no soul-sleep and no communication of the living with the spirits of the dead (v. 26c). 

This pseudo-religion is a system of denials and "damnable (destructive) heresies" (II Peter 2:1). The deity and personality of the Spirit is denied, He being such inconceivable focus of energy as to fill universal space with incandescent substance (Heresies Exposed, 55). "The devil is not . . . a personal supernatural agent . . . there is no such being in existence." The devil is simply the personification of evil. But read Luke 10:18;Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; and Revelation 20:10. The existence of Heaven and Hell are denied, along with the reality of eternal punishment and the resurrection of the body. But the errors of baptismal regeneration (ibid., p. 119), salvation by character development (ibid., 306) and the falling away of saints (ibid. p. 310) are taught. The misnomer "Christadelphians" ill befits these who are in reality antichristadelphian. In his Holy War, John Bunyan had a more apt name, better suited to them,Diabolanians! There he uniquely describes their denials, their doubtings and their destruction.