A Restatement of The Always-Held Berean Position
ON CURRENT PROBLEMS AMONG THOSE USING THE NAME "CHRISTADELPHIAN"
Agreed upon by the Berean Fellowship in 1960, and printed in the July 1960 issue of "The Berean Christadelphian Magazine."
In the late 1950's, because of compromise and degenerating conditions in other groups, it became desirable that the Berean Fellowship restate its original and always-held position on several matters of truth being called in question elsewhere. This was taken very slowly, over a period of years, so all would have ample time to study and comment on the material. With two minor and secondary exceptions (see notes on Nos. 4 and 6), the Berean Restatement was unanimously adopted as expressing the mind of the whole Body. We invite the fellowship of any who are wholly of one mind with us. The 1960 Restatement follows:
This is not a new basis of fellowship; nor is it an addition to, or an alteration of, our Basis of Fellowship. It is simply a reiteration of the position the Berean Fellowship has held on these matters from the beginning. It is a call back to the old, established position of sound Christadelphianism. Our desire and endeavor is to give as strong and clear a presentation as possible on the basis of the established Berean position of nearly 40 years (written in 1960), without making any change or innovation. We are most comfortable in our minds when we are firmly within the sound framework laid down by sincere and able brethren of one, two, and three generations ago.
The long delay (it was between two and three years) in issuing this Restatement, since it was first proposed, has been used to imply that we are not united. We believe it is desirable to clarify this point. From the very beginning, the overwhelming majority fully accepted the original draft of this Restatement. The normal course would have been to publish on this established basis of a preponderant majority. From the beginning, the total of those who have desired any change has been numerically very small.
But we have aimed for the ideal of unanimous and enthusiastic approval in every detail. Therefore we have believed it best to move, very, very slowly whenever there was the slightest objection or reluctance of any kind.
We believe the greatest value of the Restatement is in the promotion, through mutual patience and understanding, of a deeper spirit of unity and fellowship and--above all--love among ourselves. Its value in relation to those outside our fellowship, though great, is secondary to this.
We have been extremely reluctant to make decisions on the final wording if even one brother objects. We have hoped and worked and prayed for complete unanimity, not wishing to offend any, or to override the wishes of a single one.
We believe it is possible, however, that in trying to fully satisfy every wish of every individual we have perhaps not given full weight to the desires of the many who were satisfied from the beginning, and who have repeatedly expressed the strong desire that it be carried forward.
Circumstances now appear to make further delay undesirable. We are just two minor points short of perfect unanimity: 1) A small group have expressed dissatisfaction with the wording on Conferences, not disagreeing, but fearing misinterpretation: see note there; and 2) A small group, not disagreeing with the item, desire further wording on Divorce: see note there.
The Restatement As Approved In 1960
As the trends in the Reunion movement become clearer, and many who have joined in that movement are now seriously reconsidering their position, a restatement of the Berean position on various problems that have confronted the Brotherhood, has become desirable.
This article has been many months in preparation. It has been submitted to all Berean ecclesias and brethren and sisters, and has received their approval. Two drafts were submitted, the third (this present form) incorporating as far as possible all suggestions received as a result of the circulation of the first two. While it is not to be taken as a formal, official, all inclusive document, nor in any way as an addition to the Statement of Faith, it does represent the considered, united viewpoint of the Berean Fellowship in regard to the principal issues that have arisen. It is not necessarily meant to be final and exhaustive: other problems can be considered later as circumstances require.
At the outset, let it be clearly understood there is no desire to criticize others. Our purpose is simply to present our own position, with particular relation to the present circumstances. Reference to others will be kept to the minimum required to make our position and its reasons clear.
First and foremost, we have been increasingly impressed with the great value and importance of a clear distinction and identity in fellowship. the Berean Fellowship has maintained a clear, separated position since 1923, since it was first necessary to stand aside from loose fellowship and toleration of error.
We desire to continue the benefit and advantage of this long identity and stability. We firmly believe that the stand taken in 1923 was right and necessary for the preservation of the Truth. We freely recognize and confess mistakes in methods and attitudes due to the inherent weakness of the flesh and the natural limited perception of the human mind. But the general foundation and course of our fellowship from the first, we believe, in God's mercy and guidance, to have been sound.
In our approach to the problems and opportunities arising from the present developments, this determination to maintain the value of our clear, separate position will be, God willing, our guiding principle. We earnestly desire, yea, need, the strength and support of all earnest brethren and sisters. We know that all who are at one with us in heart will agree with the reasonableness of our request that they seek our fellowship on the basis of a recognition of the soundness and correctness of the long established stand of the Berean Fellowship. In this way they will contribute to the strength of the continuity of our position, and share its advantages with us. All who are truly on one mind with us will readily agree to restrict their fellowship to those who are identified with the Berean position. To consent to a union of fellowship on any other basis would be to sacrifice the strength and stability that our consistent stand since 1923 has built up.
Some have objected to the name "Berean" on the ground that it implies a claim to certain characteristics, and denies them to others. We would like to point out that it does not imply presumption any more than the name "Christadelphian"--Christ's Brother--can be said to. It is not meant to imply any claim or presumption, but rather a dedication and allegiance and aim toward certain scriptural characteristics.
But (it is asked), is not the name Christadelphian sufficient? Sadly, we believe all must agree upon consideration that it is not. A name is simply to identify and distinguish. therefore when any name is used by more than one separate group, some further identification is necessary.
Our determination to decline to consider merging with out groups and adopting any other name is not that we consider there is any special virtue or importance in the name itself, but because it represents a comfort and strength and stability from this consistent, continuous identity, especially in view of the many changes in principles, fellowship, and outlook throughout the Christadelphian world in recent years.
The second major point we desire to make clear is that we have no intention of imposing any new, official, basic requirement of fellowship. If some, in reading this article, find that certain matters they would like defined are not treated of, or to their mind are insufficiently treated of, we would ask that they receive the following as the explanation.
Our purpose is consolidation, not innovation. We desire to remove any occasion for the charge that we are setting up new requirement. Furthermore, we have been more and more impressed with the conviction that the real solution to many problems lies not so much in restrictive legislation, but in laboring to build and develop a higher and more spiritual plane of thought and action throughout the Brotherhood by the transforming power of the love of Christ.
This is our great aim and fervent desire, and we frankly say that it is to such as are wholeheartedly in harmony with this aim that we appeal. Those who are satisfied with anything less than striving toward the beauty of the perfection of the holiness and goodness and godliness manifested in Christ will not find the Berean Fellowship to be what they desire.
Where this desire exists and flourishes in united zeal, worldly and fleshly things will be cast away freely without the need of legislation, and many problems of conduct that have saddened and divided the brotherhood will be undreamed of. We believe, too, that God will protect and deliver such a body from many of the problems that have been allowed to trouble the disobedient and worldly.
On the other hand (though not desiring to impose any new requirements), we are equally anxious and determined upon a firm defense and preservation of the original truths and principles upon which the Berean Fellowship has always stood. the following are the principal issues upon which we believe it wise at this time to reiterate our position.
1. THE NATURE AND SACRIFICE OF CHRIST
It was the determined agreement of the former Bereans who took part in the Jersey City Conference to insist upon an acceptance of the Ten Point Statement on the Nature and Sacrifice of Christ as a minimum safeguard against the erroneous theories long current in the Central group. Under pressure, this determination was not maintained.
We firmly believe that any who do not WILLINGLY AND READILY express their approval of the Ten Point Statement designed to defend Truth and guard against error, are not of one mind with us, and consequently a union in fellowship with such would not be mutually beneficial. The Ten point Statement (formulated by the Los Angeles ecclesia, and accepted by Central in 1940 as a sound basis for reunion on the question) is as follows:
1. That the nature of Christ was not exactly like ours.
2. That the offering of Christ was not for himself, and that Christ never made any offering for himself.
3. That Christ's offering was for personal sins or moral impurity only. That our sins laid on Christ made him unclean and accursed of God, and that it was from this curse and this uncleanness that Christ needed cleansing.
4. That Christ died as a substitute; that is, that he was punished for the transgression of others, and that he became a bearer of sin by suffering the punishment due for sins.
1. That death came into the world extraneously to the nature bestowed upon Adam in Eden, and was not inherent in him before sentence.
2. That the sentence defile him (Adam) and became a physical law of his being, and was transmitted to all his posterity.
3. That the word 'sin" is used in two principal acceptations in the Scriptures. it signifies in the first place "the transgression of law," and in the next it represents that physical principle of the animal nature which is the cause of all its diseases, death, and resolution to dust.
4. That Jesus possessed our nature, which was a defiled, condemned nature.
5. That it was therefore necessary that Jesus should offer for himself for the purging of his own nature, first from the uncleanness of death, that, having by his own blood obtained eternal redemption for himself, he might be able afterward to save to the uttermost those that come to God by him.
6. That the doctrine of substitution (that is, that a righteous man can, by suffering the penalty due to the sinner, free the sinner from the penalty of his sins) is foreign to Scripture and is a dogma of heathen mythology.
We earnestly desire a fellowship on the basis of a wholehearted oneness of mind, but we believe recent events have shown the fallacy of attempting to build fellowship on any basis involving compromise or insufficient investigation. We believe the principle of uniting first and "straightening things out" later is neither scripturally sound nor practically workable.
There must be a willingness to face the facts of the past that have brought about the problems of the present. Essential truths have been assailed. Friends of the Truth will GLADLY make clear their position: yea, we be ANXIOUS to make it clear.
2. RESURRECTIONAL RESPONSIBILITY
On this question, we stand firmly and wholeheartedly upon Article 24 of the statement of Faith that has been accepted among us since the days of bro. Roberts.
XXIV.--That at the appearing of Christ prior to the establishment of the Kingdom, the responsible (namely, those who know the revealed will of God, and have been called upon to submit to it(), dead and living-- obedient and disobedient--will be summoned before his judgment seat "to be judged according to their works," and "receive in body according to what they have done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 4:1; Rom. 2:5- 6, 16; 14:10-12; 1 Cor. 4:5; Rev. 11:18).
This truth is expressed equally clear in the Instructor by which we have taught our children for the same length of time (the sound, original Instructor)--
132: Q: What will Christ do first when he returns?
A: He will assemble all those who are responsible to judgment, living or dead.
133: Q: Who are responsible to judgment?
A: All who know the Truth, whether they submit to it or refuse.
Bro. Thomas (in 1855) defined the same basic principle in his "system of divine truth" entitled "The Revealed Mystery," Article 46--
"...those who have come to an understanding of the Gospel, but have rejected it...comes forth from the grave again to encounter the burning indignation of Christ, the Judge of the living and the dead, at his appearing and kingdom..."
We believe that LIGHT is the ground of resurrectional responsibility (John 3:19; James 4:17), and the clear scriptural picture is that the responsible -- just and unjust -- will be called forth together for judgment at the last day, "at his appearing and his Kingdom" (John 12:48; 2 Tim. 4:1).
This issue was fought through in the past by the pioneers of the Truth. Faithful brethren found that compromise on this basic principle is unsound and impractical. We believe our only faithful course is to maintain a clear and uncompromising position on this as to fellowship, so that we may be on one mind, and may be free to teach our children in a clear trumpet sound without having other brethren whom we support in fellowship undermining our efforts and teaching them otherwise. The Truth cannot proper under such confused conditions.