We're currently at the Australian Restoration Fellowship Conference in Brisbane and I'm writing this message during one of the few breaks in a intensive programme. Each day we've had 7 sessions and all the speakers have come with different perspectives. At times it has been quite challenging as we've been presented with information and ideas which we may not have seriously considered before, as the speakers and participants come from a variety of denominational backgrounds. Yet the atmosphere here is very 'united' as we celebrate the things we have in common, discuss various ideas with respect for each others point of view, and embrace the opportunity to share where God has taken us in our individual study of the Bible.
One of the things that has really impressed me is that participants who come from the various denominations represented here have all spoken of Christadelphianism respectfully, sometimes admiringly, always lovingly and with great sensitivity, even when discussing where they disagree. This has prompted me to think about the things which Christadelphians have to offer to other Christians, as well as some of the things that Christadelphians could learn from others. I though I would do a 'SWOT' analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) as a short series of messages.
In this message I'd like to comment on Christadelphian Christology - that is, the Christadelphian view(s) of the nature of Christ and His relationship to the Father.
STRENGTHS - It's interesting that there have been some very definite trends in theological scholarship over recent years towards a Christology which is remarkably similar to core Christadelphian teaching on the subject. Scholars such as James Dunn have challenged the 'orthodox' view of the pre-existence of Christ and an increasing number of theologians are coming out and saying that the Trinity is not Biblical, cannot be explained in Biblical terms, and was not the belief of the first Christians. Christadelphians have generally done a good job in explaining the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and in dealing with the various Scriptures which have been quoted in support of the Trinity or pre-existence. Of course, Christadelphians are not alone in this, although they have probably produced more literature on the subject than other non-trinitarian groups.
I've have taken note that at this Conference a number of people have commented favourably on the contribution that Christadelphians have made to study of this subject, and some have remarked that their own ideas have been directly or indirectly influenced by Christadelphianism.
WEAKNESSES - despite having the same core beliefs it is indeed tragic that Christadelphians have splintered over the doctrine of the nature of Christ, almost always over matters which are extremely technical and often beyond the comprehension of the rank and file of members. There has been a great deal of bitterness and anger between brethren of different 'fellowships' and some divisions which were created generations ago still haven't been been healed. This is to the shame of Christadelphians. At this Conference I've heard people remark that it's staggering almost beyond belief that Christadelphians who understand Christology so well have divided over minor technical issues rather than standing united and presenting a strong case to other Christians.
The Christadelphian disputes over the 'sinfulness' or otherwise of Jesus' human nature, whether He needed to 'offer for Himself' and whether His human nature was the object of God's wrath have, in my opinion, often degraded into personal attacks where the beauty of the core doctrines has been lost in the muck that has been thrown around.
OPPORTUNITIES - as Christians in mainstream churches examine the challenge that has been created by the trend amongst theological scholars towards a more Biblical Christology, and as they wrestle with these theological issues, there is an opportunity for those who have held to a Socinian-unitarian position (such as Christadelphians) to weigh into the dialogue with a spirit of cooperation rather than confrontation. We should adopt the attitude that we are helping our Christian friends to come to a clearer understanding of truth, rather than attacking them for their 'apostacy'.
There is also an opportunity for Christadelphians to learn from other believers, whether they are trinitarian or non-trinitarian, to clarify their own thinking, to 'fine tune' their theology and to adopt a healthy respect for the enormous scholarship that has been done in other areas.
THREATS - If Christadelphians don't dump their baggage which has been accumulated over generations of infighting and schism and adopt a gentler method of explaining their views, they may become useless to God as His witnesses to these truths and become an irrelevancy. Some serious work has to be done to not only repair the breaches of the past but to put an end to the divisive spirit which created them in the first place.