by Fred Grigg
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 (although some 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 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 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 the Bible "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 they regard paid ministry as being unscriptural. They laugh and scorn the churches who salary their ministers, referring to them as being "hirelings". Like Jehovah's Witnesses they do not vote or support a nations 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 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 excommunication.
Christadelphians hold to the following beliefs:
(3) There is no Trinity - Scriptures that Christians use to support the Trinity doctrine referring to Elohim 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.
(4) Jesus Christ is not God. They deny that Jesus existed in any form before he was born of Mary. In The Christadelphian', 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 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..."
(5) 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, like Jehovah's Witnesses, they refer to the Holy Spirit as "it". So they have no Holy Spirit to assist them in their study and interpretation of the Scriptures!
(6) The devil does not exist! Roberts claimed that The Devil' where the term appears in the Bible is a synonym for the word "sin"'. This must make the devil and the kingdom of darkness rejoice! For Satan to convince another that he doesn't even exist would have to be the ultimate deception!
(7) Personal immortality is rejected. They believe in the doctrine of soul sleep (as do the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Seventh-Day Adventists) and conditional immortality.
(8) Man is just a body -- and not a body and soul
(9) The return of Jews to Israel and the establishing of the Nation of Israel is the key to the times in which we now live.
(10) The Kingdom of God will begin when Christ returns to the city of Jerusalem, then:
Christadelphians believe that when Christ returns:
(a) The saints' (which is only the Christadelphians) will become immortal
(b) The wicked (all those who are not Christadelphians) will be destroyed
(c) The faithful Christadelphians will gather in Jerusalem. Only Christadelphians who have met the required standards and the Jews have any hope of a resurrection and living in the kingdom that will be administered from Jerusalem.
(d) The Kingdom established then 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)
For the Christadelphian salvation is a sequential process which is understood as follows:
(11) Gaining knowledge [of the Bible]
(12) Water Baptism [by total immersion in water]
(13) Moral rejuvenation
(14) A change of nature at Christ's return,
To become a member in the Christadelphian church one has to submit to the following:
(15) Accept the gospel preached by Jesus Christ and his apostles - but only as interpreted by the Christadelphians!
(16) Be baptized in water by total immersion. A candidate for baptism must be at least thirteen years of age.
(17) Be seen to be obeying the commandments of Christ.
(18) Submit to the Christadelphian order
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:
(19) Managing Brethren [the deacons]
(20) Presiding Brethren [the elders]
(21) 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 identities who stand out as leaders, or as a hierarchy for the church. In fact, in the Sydney area, it would appear from information gleaned, that in many instances the 'elder ship' of the Yagoona church in Sydney is 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, 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, and again their preferred speaker was to come from Yagoona.
The writer did not debate in either situation (the writer believes that on the most skilled in the debating process wins), but rather invited the Christadelphians to provide a speaker for a public address. The scenario and subject the writer set for the Christadelphians was for a one hour address on "Why the Christadelphians are the Only True Church". The writer to respond for an hour on "Why the Christadelphians are a Cult". The evening was a triumph for the truth of God's Word!
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 means, "implies cunning, artful, skillful deceit"'. It 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 the word "poperised" is used. It is indicative of the manner in which the Christadelphians, like Jehovah's Witnesses and the Seventh-Day Adventists, continually mock and ridicule the Roman Catholic Church, and of course the Pope.
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 end-time. 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 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:
(22) "... 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
(23) Thomas further said, "..the true age of the world is 5,933 full years at the same epoch, instead of 1847-48, so the current year is that of 1844!! 2
(24) He qualified that by saying, "True time 1844 is 1848"! 3&4
Robert Robert's Writings
Roberts did not learn from Thomas' mistakes. He also tried his hand at date setting. 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 that the foregoing paragraph is quoted from, 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"'
Two pages further on in the same book7 we find the following table supposedly proving 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!
Have you ever heard someone jokingly say of another, "You need your head read"? The saying resulted 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"!
Robert Roberts was a 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 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 of 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 last century.
One Christian writer recently summed up the Christadelphian position perfectly. "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, he is
not really worshiped -- which dishonors the Father and the Son (John
5:23). Without the New Birth there is no new 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, now 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.
(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