1864 Christadelphians

I. Group Profile

1. Name - Christadelphians
2. Year Founded - 1864
3. Founder - John Thomas
A. Date of Birth & Death - 1805-1871
B. Place of Founder's Birth
4. Sacred Texts
5. Size of Group
II. History

The movement was founded by physician John Thomas (1805-1871) who had left the Disciples of Christ in 1844, because of a number of theological disagreements. He started a periodical that same year, called "The Herald of the Future Age". Thomas wrote a book in 1848, titled "Elpis Israel - An Exposition of the Kingdom of God." He founded a number of groups, starting in 1848; they were commonly referred to as the Thomasites. His motivation was to return to what he believed to be the beliefs of the very early Christian church. In 1864, the group adopted a formal name, the Christadelphians (Brothers of Christ).

The movement survived the death of its founder in 1871. However, a conflict started during the 1880's in the US over the topic of resurrectional responsibility. The Unamended group believe that only the deceased who are "in Christ" will be raised from the dead and have eternal life; the rest will simply remain dead, without conscious existence. The Amended group believe that all who are responsible will be raised from the dead at the time of the Final Judgment. Those who are not responsible (that is have had no exposure to the Gospel) will not be raised. The righteous will be judged according to their works, rewarded appropriately, and live forever. The wicked will be annihilated, and cease to exist. Before the split, the entire denomination agreed that Jesus was of fallen human flesh, not "pure flesh" or "clean flesh" or "free life." However, since then, some of the amended group have adopted the belief that Jesus was born pure. This concept has altered their views of the sacrifice of Christ and the atonement. Neither group believes in a Hell where the unsaved will be tormented forever. This difference of belief led to a schism in the movement within North America. In the rest of the world, Christadelphians follow the Amended belief system.

During the 1970's, an unsuccessful attempt was made to merge the two groups in the US. They were unable to find a consensus on the matter of resurrection responsibility. They remain separate to this day. There are currently about 90 unamended and 80 amended congregations in the US. Worldwide, the two groups have some 850 congregations located in Africa, Australia, New Zealand, North America, South East Asia and throughout Europe.

 

III. Beliefs of Group

They share many core beliefs with most other conservative Christian denominations:

  • inerrancy (freedom from error) of the books of the Bible, as they were  originally written.
  • the Bible as the source of all religious knowledge.
  • the virgin birth, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • salvation through belief and acceptance of Christ as savior.

However, they differ noticeably in their belief in the nature of God, Christ, Holy Spirit and Satan.

Their beliefs are similar to those of the "losing sides" at the first two Ecumenical Councils of the early Christian Church.

  • At the Council of Nicea (325 CE), the Bishops of the church attempted to define the precise nature of Jesus Christ. Arius (250 - 336 CE) argued that Jesus and God were very separate and different entities: Jesus was closer to God than any other human being, but he was born a man. On the other hand, God has been in existence forever. Arius felt that any attempt to recognize the deity of Christ would blur the lines between Christianity and pagan, polytheistic religions. Athanasius (296 - 373) argued that Jesus was divine, because otherwise, he could not be the Savior. Both Arius and Athanasius had large followings among the bishops. The council, under pressure from Emperor Constantine, decided by a close vote in favor of Athanasius. They wrote the Nicene Creed, which declared that Jesus Christ was "of one substance with the Father." This did not settle the question of the divinity of Christ; many churches refused to accept the council's decision.
  • At the Council of Constantinople (381 CE), the earlier council's decision on the deity of Jesus was confirmed and Arianism declared a heresy. They also decided that Holy Spirit was the third Person of the Trinity.

The Christadelphians reject the Trinity and believe that:

  • God is a single entity. They are strict monotheists; their beliefs resemble those of Judaism, Islam and the Jehovah's Witnesses.
  • Jesus Christ is the Son of God, an human being who possessed a human nature. He had no existence prior to his conception circa 6 BCE by the virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit. His lived without sin. His death atoned for the sins of all believers.
  • Holy Spirit is simply the Power of God; it is not a separate person, but is rather "an unseen power emanating from the Deity."
  • Satan is not a quasi-deity with magical powers. Satan is the principle of evil which resides in people and promotes them to sin and rebel against God.

Some additional beliefs include:

  • The soul is not immortal. People lose consciousness at death and do not regain it unless they are resurrected at some date in the future.
  • Salvation requires an adult to both accept the gospel message and be baptized.
  • Christadelphians do not believe in original sin. This is the traditional Christian concept that every child, at birth, has inherited part of the sin committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Quoting the Encyclopedia Britannica: Thus, every newborn deserves "God's wrath for its share in the original sin of mankind and before it acquires the guilt of its own actual sin." 8
  • Hell does not exist as a place of eternal torment; it is rather the state of non-existence in the grave.
  • After Jesus returns to earth in the near future, the wicked will be destroyed and believers will reign with Christ for a millennium. After that period, those selected for eternal life will live on earth forever.
  • Christadelphians do not believe that the saved will spend eternity in heaven. They believe that the Kingdom of God will be located on the Earth, with Jerusalem as its capitol.

 

IV. Practices & Rituals

They meet weekly on Sundays for a Memorial Meeting or Breaking of Bread

Their local group is called an ecclesia which is Greek for "congregation". (Plural is ecclesias.) They average about 20 members each.
Most of the ecclesias meet in each other's homes or in rented halls. A few own their own buildings.
They have no central organizations. Each ecclesia is autonomous. Coordination is largely through publishing houses.
They have no paid clergy or church hierarchy.
Their leaders are called lecturing brethren, managing brethren and presiding brethren. All are male volunteers who are elected to their posts.
Women are given equal voting rights.
Members do not vote, run for office, or go to war.
Many members read the Bible daily; some use a reading plan which completes the Old Testament once per year, and the New Testament twice.
Christadelphians generally discouraged fellowship with Christians from other denominations.
V. Organization
SOURCE: http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_delp.htm

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