The Christadelphians

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THE CHRISTADELPHIANS were founded by an Englishman, one John Thomas, who was born in 1805 and died 1871. Thomas was raised in a Congregational Church manse/house (although there are some who say he was “the son of a non-conformist minister”). He received an orthodox Christian up-bringing. Thomas went on to study medicine in the United Kingdom at St Thomas’ Hospital. He was awarded a diploma as a physician after three years of study. His forte was in obstetrics. In 1830 he had two articles published in the British medical journal, The Lancet. The articles were entitled:

(1) ‘The Immortal Human Principle’ and,

(2) The Perishable Brute Principle’.

There is no doubt that the beliefs that he held in the United Kingdom at that time were but a foreshadowing of what would develop in time as Christadelphian Doctrine (or teachings) and form the basis, or roots, of what today is being promoted around the world by Christadelphian adherents.

Thomas migrated with his father, who had by then aligned himself with the Baptists, to the United States in 1832. In the USA John joined with a group that was known originally as the ‘Campbellites’. They were at times referred to as “The Disciples of Christ”. Their leader was one Alexander Campbell, who was claiming at that time that Jesus Christ would return to earth in 1866. Christ did not return at the stipulated time, but Campbell died in that same year!

Thomas commenced his ‘church’ in 1838, although some say it was 1844. Thomas, like Campbell, believed and taught that the date 1866 was significant. When the American Civil War began, Thomas and many other cult leaders and their followers believed that the war was the beginning of what the Bible calls ‘The Battle of Armageddon’. Thomas initially called his followers the “Brethren of Christ”. The name “Christadelphian” was first coined in 1864. When Thomas died in 1871, one of his early converts from England, Robert Roberts, became the new leader of the group.

Traits Today Amongst the Christadelphians
There are no paid ministers, or a full-time priesthood as such. In fact Christadelphians scornfully regard churches who pay their ministry as being unscriptural. They actuallly laugh and scorn the churches who salary their ministers, referring to them as being nothing more than ‘hirelings’! Just like Jehovah’s Witnesses they do not vote in a nation’s elections or support a nation’s war effort. Members are not to take part in political affairs, nor engage in any form of public service. They will not swear an oath in a court of law, but they are prepared to serve on a jury! Women are not permitted to preach or pray in their meetings. Members are not permitted to take communion in other churches. To do so would mean their excommunication.

Doctrines

Christadelphians hold to and teach the following beliefs(or teachings):
(1) There is no such thing as the Trinity [All true Christians believe in the Trinity – the Father (God), Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit.] – Scriptures that Christians use to support the trinity doctrine referring to God the Father as ‘Elohim’ (Hebrew) are dismissed as only referring to angels. The angels they say, did the work of creation, because it was beneath God to engage in such a work.

(2) Not believing in the Trinity means that the Christadelphians do not believe that Jesus Christ is God. They deny that Jesus existed in any form before he was born of Mary. In their publication ‘The Christadelphian’, the official journal of the church, No XI, from 1874 they say, “He (Jesus) was not God, neither a mere man, nor had he any existence prior to his supernatural birth”. Again in their ‘Christendom Astray’, page 1089 they say, “Jesus was a manifestation of the Father in man, begotten by the Spirit. He did not become the Christ until his water baptism; until then he simply had a body prepared for the divine manifestation that was to take place through him…”

(3) The Holy Spirit is not a person but a “…radiant visible power from the Father. It is an unseen power emanating from the Deity, filling all space, and by which God is everywhere present. It is the medium by which God created all things…” (Christadelphians by Lita Hutchins, page 7). Again, just like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they refer to the Holy Spirit as being an “it”. So the Christadelphians have no Holy Spirit to assist them in their study and interpretation of the Scriptures!

(4) The devil does not exist! Their second leader, Robert Roberts, claimed that where, “…the term Devil appears in the Bible is a synonym for the word ‘sin'”. A statement like this must make Satan the devil and his Kingdom of Darkness rejoice! Think for a moment, for satan to convince another that he doesn’t even exist would have to be the ultimate act of deception!

(5) Personal immortality (that man can live forever as the Bible teaches) is rejected. They believe in the doctrine of what is called ‘Soul Sleep’ (as do both the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Seventh-Day Adventists). They also reject ‘conditional immortality’.

(6) Man is just a body – and not a body and soul as the Bible teaches.

(7) The return of the Jewish people to Israel and the establishing of the Nation of Israel is the key to the times in which we now live.

(8) The Kingdom of God will begin when Christ returns to the City of Jerusalem. Then, the Christadelphians believe that when Christ returns:

(a) The Saints (which for them means only the Christadelphians) will become immortal.

(b) The Wicked (meaning all those who are not Christadelphians) will be destroyed.

(c) The ‘faithful’ Christadelphians will gather in Jerusalem as they teach that Christadelphians who have met the required standards and the Jews have any hope of a resurrection and living in the kingdom that will then be administered from Jerusalem.

(d) The Kingdom established at that time, they say, will last for 1,000 years, during which time there will be:
(i) No hell
(ii) No torment of the body
(iii) No personal devils (or spiritual problems)

Salvation
For the Christadelphian, he believes that salvation is a sequential process which is understood as follows:
(1) Gaining knowledge [of the Bible]
(2) Water Baptism [by total immersion in water]
(3) Moral rejuvenation.
(4) A change of nature at Christ’s return.

Membership
To become a member in the Christadelphian church one has to submit to the following:
(1) Accept the gospel preached by Jesus Christ and his apostles – but only as interpreted by the Christadelphians!
(2) Be baptized in water by total immersion. A candidate for baptism must be at least thirteen years of age.
(3) Be seen to be obeying the commandments of Christ.
(4) Submit to the Christadelphian order

Government
In each “Ecclesia”, or church, the people are over-sighted, and administered by men who are drawn from the congregation and have proven their submission to the church and its rules. They are appointed to the following positions:

(1) Managing Brethren [the deacons]
(2) Presiding Brethren [the elders]
(3) Lecturing Brethren [the preachers]

However, it is possible that a man can function in more than one of the above categories. The writer has noted that in speaking with Christadelphians, that there are no single identity who stands out as a supreme leader, nor is there a hierarchy as one would expect in a church. In fact, in the Sydney area, it would appear from expereience and information gleaned, that in many instances the ‘eldership’ of the Yagoona church in Sydney seems to be looked to for appeal, guidance, speakers etc., by the other ecclesias in New South Wales.

Several years ago the writer was challenged to a debate by Christadelphians in the Blue Mountains area at Springwood, sixty miles west of Sydney, NSW. However, we soon learnt that it was from the Yagoona Ecclesia in Sydney that their intended representative was to come. In 1987 the writer was again challenged to a debate by an Ecclesia on the Central Coast, forty miles north of Sydney at Woy Woy, and again their preferred speaker was to come from the Sydney suburb of Yagoona! The writer did not debate in either situation (the writer believes that when it comes to debating, it is always the most skilled in the debating process who wins, not necessarily the one representing truth!), but rather the writer invited the Christadelphians to provide a local speaker for a public address.

The scenario and subject the writer set for the Christadelphians was for a one hour address on the subject, “Why the Christadelphians are the Only True Church“. The writer had then to respond for an hour on “Why the Christadelphians are a Cult”. The evening was a triumph for the truth of God’s Word! The Christadelphians initially accepted the challenge but then wanted to reduce the time allotted, which was refused. The Christadelphian speaker struggled to fill the time! [Both sessions will soon be available through our Resources Page.]

Thomas’ Writings
Perhaps the work John Thomas is best known for is his book “Elpis Israel” (The Hope of Israel). It is said that Parts I & II of the book have stood the test of time. However, part III contains error and has not stood the test of time! Thomas, in boasting of his teachings and writings, says, “Being crafty I taught them with guile”. The word ‘crafty’, according to the dictionary, it means, “…implies cunning, artful, skillful deceit”‘. It also says of the word ‘guile’, “treachery, deceit, cunning devices”‘. Not at all methods that one would use or expect of a person claiming to be a Christian!

On page 184 of Elpis Israel, the writer says, “Dr Thomas came to the conclusion, from what he saw, that a poperised brain is an earthly, sensual, devilish brain …. the bones and muscles of the face and head are molded into form and feature by the plastic influence of the brain”. Which of course is not true.

Notice also that he uses the word “poperised”. It is indicative of the manner in which the Christadelphians, just like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Seventh-Day Adventists, continually mock and ridicule the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, and of course the Pope.

False Dates or Prophecies
On page 209 there is an excerpt from Thomas’ magazine “Eureka” which says, “..the 42 months of the Apocalypse and the time and a half of Daniel were expected to terminate in 1864-1868”. John Thomas was wrong, he falsely, like many others have done, proclaimed dates for the time of the end. Notice that Jeremiah 28:9 says, of the true prophet, “…when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent that prophet”. The Lord did not send John Thomas or the Christadelphians to function as his spokesman.

It is interesting to note that John Thomas agreed with the Ellen G. White, of the Seventh-Day Adventists, on the purported date of Christ’s return in 1844! He said, “…we could agree and concluded to await the arrival of the Ides of March, 1844…” [See my booklet “The Sabbath Keepers] However, Thomas had to alter the calendar to be able to agree with the false prophecy of the Adventists. Thomas did this by reasoning as follows:

“…the 391 years and thirty days should be calculated from May 29th AD 1453 which will cause them to end June 29th 1844 which is only three months and eight days after the termination of the 2300 years in March…”1

Thomas further said, “..the true age of the world is 5,933 full years at the same epoch, instead of 1847-8, so the current year is that of 1844!! 2
He went on to qualify his error by saying, “True time 1844 is 1848”! 3 & 4

Robert Robert’s Writings: Roberts obviously did not learn from Thomas’ mistakes. Because he also tried his hand at setting dates. For example he wrote: “…the world was 4,090 years old at the birth of Christ, instead of 4,004. Add 4090 to the present year 1910 and we get 6,000 as the real age of the present time…”5

It is interesting that in the publication from which the foregoing paragraph is quoted, that the remainder of the text has been left out [blank] but for a publishers note which reads:

THE LAPSE OF TIME HAS MADE VOID THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH” (Emphasis added)
Two pages further on in the same book7 we find the following table which supposedly proves Roberts setting of the year 1910 for the time of the end:

  • Seven times commencing BC610 = 2520

  • deduct years elapsed before Christ = 610

  • Expiry date of the 7 times = 1910

  • the world is 6,000 years old = 1910

If this wasn’t so serious it would be funny!

Bumps on the Head!
Have you ever heard someone jokingly say of another, You need your head read“? Well, the saying results from a practice known as PHRENOLOGY. Phrenology was very popular in the 1800’s, and is even today seeing a renaissance among the New Age alternative therapists!
Very simply, phrenology according to the dictionary is the, “Study of the external contours [or bumps] of the cranium [head] as an index to the development and position of organs supposedly belonging to the different mental faculties”! (Parentheses added)

Robert Roberts was a practicing phrenologist! He was employed for about two years by one L.N. Fowler from the United States, when he practiced in the United Kingdom. Roberts says of the practice: “Phrenology, by which is indicated the delineation of a person’s characteristics and mental powers by the conformation of his skull, has a very wide vogue since the 1840’s”8

It is interesting to note that not long after John Thomas joined with the Campbellites, he had a falling-out with their founder and leader Alexander Campbell. The disagreements and open debates over doctrine that ensued between Thomas and Campbell are well documented.

At the height of the argumentation, Thomas challenged Campbell to a Phrenograph, that is to have his ‘head read’ by a phrenologist, in order to prove which of them was organically different! This was to be done by comparing their ‘Skullographic Digitational Difference’. In other words, to establish who was the most intelligent in order to determine who had used the best logic and reasoning, and therefore had the wisest argument!

Robert Roberts was still promoting phrenology, or as it has also been called ‘Cranioscopy’ well into the latter half of the 1800’s.

Conclusion
One Christian writer recently summed up the Christadelphian position perfectly by saying, “Without God, without the Father, without the Son, without the Holy Ghost, without atonement, without a hope of heaven, how truly terrible their condition is! Theirs is indeed a system of error without one redeeming feature”9

Since their ‘christ’ has no deity at all, Jesus is not really worshiped – which dishonors the Father and the Son (John 5:23). Without the New Birth (being Born-again by accepting Jesus as your Lord and Saviour) there is no new spiritual life. As we have said before, without the Holy Spirit there can be no divine love shed abroad in new hearts to mark the true disciple of Christ, no power to witness to the reality of the risen Christ, and no expectation of the miraculous intervention of a caring Lord to meet needs of His people, and confirm the preaching of His Word.


Notes
(1) “Dr Thomas, His Life and Work”, by Robert Roberts, 1873, page 96
(2) Ibid., page 98
(3) Ibid., page 149
(4) Ibid., page 150
(5) Christendom Astray, by Robert Roberts, 1922 Edition, page 326
(6) Ibid., page 328
(7) “Dr Thomas, His Life and Work”, by Robert Roberts, 1873, pages 142-144
(8) Pamphlet, “Christadelphianism, Briefly Tested by Scripture” by A.J.Pollock
(9) “The Christadelphians”, New Life, May 13th, 1982

 

About Fred Grigg