Sunday, January 29, 2006

What is a Christadelphian?

I have removed the three messages which I posted during the past week under the heading "What is a Christadelphian?"

I will, however, be reposting edited and revised versions very soon.

The need for a revision came when I realised that what I was describing was what Christadelphians set out to be, what they could have been, and what some Christadelphians are. There are, however, many kinds of Christadelphians and my generic description could certainly confuse a non-Christadelphian who read it and then expected to find a whole lot of Christadelphians matching the description.

Before launching back into the series I need to explain a few things, mainly about Christadelphian history.

Many articles say that Christadelphians were founded by John Thomas in 1848. In fact, the name Christadelphian was coined by John Thomas in 1864 during the American Civil War. The movement which began around 1848-1850 had no denominational name for many years, and, as its roots were in the Restoration Movement (which began with the preaching of Alexander Campbell) which resisted all forms of denominationalism, the churches which were later to be called Christadelphian also resisted a denominational name. Throughout the USA and Britain these churches went by the names of Believers, Baptised Believers, the Royal Association of Believers, Baptised Believers in the Kingdom of God, and other similar names. They generally referred to each other simply as "believers". Strictly speaking there were no Christadelphians prior to 1864, although many of the Believers and Believers' churches which existed between 1848 and 1864 later adopted the name Christadelphian. In the past when I have referred to "early Christadelphians" I have sometimes had this 1848-1864 movement in mind, but to avoid any confusion in future I will endeavour to refer to it as the Believers Movement, and to individual members as Believers (with a capital B), rather than as Christadelphians.

The other point I need to make is that there are a wide variety of Christadelphians today. There are, of course, several different "fellowships" and sub-groups within Christadelphianism all claiming to represent "true" Christadelphianism. But even within some of these groups there is considerable diversity of thought and attitudes.

What I will be writing about in the subsequent series of messages is not so much what a twenty first century 'typical' Christadelphian looks like (if there is such a thing as a typical Christadelphian), but rather:

  • What kind of community the Believers set out to build
  • The attitudes which contributed to the success of the Believers Movement (1848-1864) and early Christadelphianism (1864-1885)
  • The strengths of the Believers Movement and early Christadelphianism which have continued in some parts of the Christadelphian denomination and which, if revived, could see a change in fortunes for the wider Christadelphian community
  • What went wrong? Why is the Christadelphian denomination today so different to the Believers Movement?

Why do I refer so much to history? We're almost all probably aware of the quotation "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (George Santayana in 1905). The more I look at Christadelphian history the more I see it repeating itself. Perhaps by looking again at the lessons to be learned from the past we can make a difference for the future.

I am also changing the heading for the series from "What is a Christadelphian?" to "What did Christadelphians set out to be?"

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