It would be easy to say “Because my parents were Christadelphians, and so I became one to please them.” There is a truth in that, but it is not the whole story. There were many things I did when I was younger because I knew it would please them, but there were also things that I did that would not have. I am, after all, my own person, and everybody else is too.
However, I always believed that there is a God, and above all, I wanted to please him. I was taught about God when I was a child, not only by my parents, but by society in general. Religion, in the form of hymns and prayers at school, was noticeable every day. In the society of 1960s New Zealand, to be a committed Christian was not a bad thing at all, On the contrary, it was encouraged. As well as hymns at morning assembly when I was a teenager, there was also a Christian group at school called the “Crusaders,” Everywhere, Bible-based values were encouraged.
However, very early on, I came to understand that Christadelphians were not like other Christian denominations, and they were certainly not like non-Christians. To me now, the major differences lie in several areas, namely –
(1) Understanding about the connection between God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Christadelphians believe that these three are separate; whereas other denominations believe that they are united in a trinity.
(2) Understanding about the soul. Christadelphians believe that the soul is physical, that it is basically our living selves as an alive creature or body, and that at death it ceases to exist. This is in contrast to other groups who are taught to believe that the soul leaves the body at death and goes to God’s kingdom in the sky.
(3) Understanding about the Devil or Satan. Christadelphians believe that the devil is anything, including people, that are opposed to the will of God. Other denominations believe that the Devil is not only something that is opposed to God, but is a non-earthly supernatural being.
(4) Understanding about God’s kingdom. Christadelphians believe that this is something that God will set up on the earth at the return of Jesus, and that immortals will rule on the earth for ever, and that is the true hope of a Christian. Other areas of difference may relate to acceptance of declining moral standards, which Christadelphians believe is one of many signs that the return of Jesus is imminent.
Having said that, however, does not mean that I consider that there are no wonderful things about other Christians. There certainly are. I admire in many cases, their commitment to the things of God, their love of him, and the sense of community that they have. However my difficulty in joining completely with them lies in how those differences of belief that I mention, would enable whole-hearted participation in their services. To cite but just one example – how could I joyfully, and with conviction sing such words like “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty, all Thy works shall praise Thy name in earth and sky and sea. Holy, holy, holy, Merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity” when the last phrase I do not believe? And this is just one example of many that I could cite.
And yet, there are as I said, many wonderful things about Christians. They are more inclusive than Christadelphians in the sense of who they would accept. Some do believe that the return of Jesus is imminent and cite signs of this, the same as Christadelphians do. I could enjoy singing with them many other of their hymns and say a hearty “Amen” to much of their messages. A lot of them would be amenable to direct teaching from Jesus and would be recognised by him as having true hearts of sincerity, and thus his friends and part of his body of believers. However, many of them similarly do not wish to have anything to do with us because we are non-trinitarian. It is by no means a one-way separation. It is also a complex situation with no easy answer.
As a young person growing up with Christadelphians parents, I attended their Sunday Schools and later as a teenager, their “CYCs” – “Christadelphian Youth Circle.” These were groups of teenagers and young adults who met together regularly to share companionship and faith. We were encouraged to not always look inwardly, but to examine the beliefs of other denominations and test them against the teaching of Scripture. We were encouraged to do this, not only in our group gatherings, but in our personal studies and research also.
While considering the differences between Christadelphians and other Christians and their lack of association in worship with them, it should be noted that one of the positive aspects of Christadelphians is the fellowship that they do have with each other. It is this that forms part of the reasons as to why I am a Christadelphian. We too internally as a group, have had our differences of belief amongst ourselves, but many of them have been resolved as well. Through all my life, I have been able to travel the world and be accepted in full fellowship in the places I have been, simply because I belong to a Christadelphian ecclesia somewhere in the world. These people accepted me into their homes immediately, without any personal knowledge of me, nor having even met me before they did so. Physically to them I was a complete stranger, yet accepted as a brother in the Lord, and thus was regarded with full and immediate family status. It is that relationship and connection which exists within the Christadelphian community today. Just this last weekend my wife and I were able to share not only mutual expressions of love and fellowship on-line with those in our Halifax, Nova Scotia, area – but with our brothers and sisters in Christ elsewhere in Canada, and in other more far-away places like Australia and New Zealand. Hopefully this will continue well after this current corona-virus scourge is past – or until Jesus has returned to unite us all should that happen first.
In the meantime I wish everyone peace and happiness, and most importantly, God’s richest blessings. Numbers 6, verses 24-26 – “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”