Thursday, January 24, 2008

What's in a name?

This week I came across a Christadelphian meeting place quite by chance as I was driving along a road I have not been on for quite some time. It wasn't the building which caught my attention. In fact, the building was stark and uninviting and I initially thought it was an industrial site. However, the sign caught my eye.

I guess I was initially somewhat surprised to see a Christadelphian meeting place described as a "Bible Learning Centre", as I haven't come across this before. It got me to thinking about how this name was obviously chosen because that is the main emphasis of this ecclesia - in other words, what mostly goes on here is learning about the Bible.

Interestingly, I also recently visited an ecclesia which has a very different sign. This meeting describes itself as the "Pine Rivers Worship Centre". This tells me that the main focus of this ecclesia is worship.

Do the different names tell us anything about any possible differences between these two ecclesias? I think so. I must say that I have actually visited one (the "worship centre") but not the other, so what I'm writing here is mostly just my impression from the sign.

Apart from the fact that the "War with Russia is Inevitable" sign is a dead giveaway (to a Christadelphian) that this is a Logos ecclesia (does any other kind of ecclesia flog this prophetic dead horse?), the emphasis on "Bible learning" tells me that for this ecclesia knowledge about the Bible would be the most important thing to them. On the other hand, to the folks at the "worship centre" how they worship the God of the Bible is presumably the most important thing to them.

The two signs tell me that one ecclesia is interested in matters of the head ("learning") while the other is more focussed on matters of the heart (as worship involves the emotions as well as the intellect). One ecclesia would emphasise getting their facts right, while the other would want to be in a right relationship with the One they worship. The first might help me to know about God, but the second might help me to actually get to know God. If I was looking for salvation I might get the impression from one sign that there was stuff I had to know (and with "learning" and "seminars" I might wonder about whether I would have to sit for an exam), while the other sign suggests that I'm likely to find a nurturing environment ("caring and sharing") with more group support and the potential for friendships and relationships.*

One sign tells us that war is inevitable (and to most people this is a bad thing, although the sign leaves us wondering if the people who run the seminars here think this is good or bad) while the other sign tells us that they are about "caring and sharing". One promises death and destruction, the other offers hope.

One sign tells me that the Bible contains unpleasant information (war is inevitable) while the other sign tells me that there are people who care about me (and my kids). The people at the worship centre have obviously found something which they think is good, which is why they want to worship the One who has shown them "the way, the truth and the life", and why they want to share it with me. I'm not sure why the other folks are telling me that a war is coming. Are they trying to help me avoid it (but can I avoid it if it's "inevitable"?) or are they prophets of gloom and doom? I wonder if they have long beards and wear signboards like the guys in the cartoons ("The end is nigh!")?

Neither of the two signs use many words, but in their choice of words they tell us a great deal about the different groups that meet there.

* Because I do know about Logos ecclesias - and was actually raised in one, so I know a great deal about them - I know that this ecclesia would believe that you must have all the right beliefs, down to the details, in order to be saved. Correct knowledge is a life and death matter to them, so if you get the slightest thing wrong then you would be unwelcome there.


Unknown said...

My mother tells me a story of a CDN gathering she attended when she was a kid. Some strangers came in, but then left. She overheard them say as they left "these people worship the Bible, not God".
"Bibliolatry" is a word meaning "worship of the Bible". Idolatry means worship of the created rather than the Creator. The Bible is a created thing. It is a finger pointing to God. The CDN culture seems to focus so much on the finger, rather than what it is pointing at.

Steve said...

Thanks for that comment. I am frequently contacted by Christadelphians who tell me that although they have been attending meetings 'religiously' for years, reading their Bible every day, and going to Bible schools, etc, they feel they don't have a relationship with God and have no kind of intimacy with Him. They are often desperate for help.

The 'Bible learning' approach simply doesn't work in bringing people into relationship with God or in knowing Him.

Anonymous said...

Good points made. I have also seen a curious sign, outside a Queensland Christadelphian meeting hall, this one bore the words "He who is not for me is against me (Matthew 12 v 30)" These are words of Jesus when he was speaking to Pharisees. Jesus also said "Whoever is not against us is for us" (Mark 9 v 40), but on that occasion he was talking to his disciples. I wonder who the sign was aimed at and what reaction it was expected to generate. To me the sign meant "Agree with us or don't come in". As I was planning on going in I ignored the sign and discovered that the people inside were actually quite friendly, and I did't even need to tell them whether I was agreed with them or not.


Anonymous said...

Steve, I certainly agree with your last paragraph as to having to 'know' right to the last detail. We (my former husband and I) went 'through' for baptism (which took a good part of 18 months)sometimes twice a week tuition, then the 'examination came. I had avidly read and reread material given to us, as well as diligently 'doing the readings' every day. But, alas, after 4 gruelling hours of my first examination I was found wanting.....! I didn't know enough of the history of Israel and her kings!!
My baptism was put off for another 2 weeks whilst we swatted up on the Kings of Israel and Judah. The next thing was that a brother who examined my former husband, noticed we had a Television in the spare room, although we had taken it out of the lounge room and turned it to face the wall in the spare room, he told us that of course we couldn't get baptised until we 'got rid of that'.
I look back now and realize what a 'cult' type of system or institution I had gotten my self into. As the weeks and months and years went by, I found doors closing in on me in every direction. Not until nearly 30 years later, I began to emerge from my cacoon of darkness (I didn't know it was dark, until I truly saw the light!) I realised too that Romans 6 (which always puzzled me as it was rarely expounded) that we WERE the slaves to sin and BECAME servants to Righteousness - we were made free, but instantly became bondaged to another system, no true religion should dictate to its members how and what and where they worship. One cannot develop a personal relationship with God in this system.
Keep going Steve,it is about time we started to truly 'get it right' and be right with God.I attend the Worship Centre!! A place to Grow, not just to go to.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve, Your article got me thinking about names, labels and words and the meaning we put to them. I recently read in a book, "a new earth", that the finger pointing to the moon isn't the moon. This got me thinking about our holy scriptures. The word pointing to the truth isn't the truth. It is indeed the inspired word of our Father and it is truthful but it was given for the purpose of pointing lost and found souls to the truth. The fulfillment and truth is found of course in our saviour and lord, Jesus. Love, Michael

Anonymous said...

Regarding the lecture title, you;ve stated 'does any other kind of ecclesia flog this prophetic dead horse?'

I;m wondering what is meant by this statement about the prophecy being a dead horse?


Phil Forster

Steve said...


It's not so much that this prophecy is a "dead horse", but rather their particular interpretation of it. The Hebrew word rosh is a very common word and occurs about 600 times in the Bible, but in only one or two places did an earlier generation of Christadelphians make it to mean "Russia". I called it a "dead horse" because I thought most Christadelphians had stopped looking for a conflict between Russia and Britain/USA in Ezekiel 38-39. It simply isn't there!

Anonymous said...

I had no idea.
I'll have to check the other 600 times rosh is used.

Whats your take on ezek 38, and who rosh, meshek and toobul is refering to?

Thanks Steve,


Unknown said...

I haven't heard a CDN (or any) lecture on prophecy for a very long time, but I remember that one of the reasons Russia was supposed to come down upon Israel was because Israel was going to find lots of oil, and Russia, having no oil, was going to swoop down and steal Israel's oil.

The irony is that Russia has the world's largest deposits of fossil fuels and is an energy superpower, exporting vast quantities of oil elsewhere. Israel...still has no oil.

Do CDN lectures on prophecy still bring that up?

The geopolitics of the Middle East has changed a bit also. Some of Israel's biggest enemy neighbours (Egypt and Jordan) have signed peace treaties with Israel. In part because they recognised a strategic reality that still applies: the Israeli military is stronger than any of its neighbours. It is better armed, better funded, better educated, better led, has better morale and almost always fights with the home advantage and the everhanging fear of annihilation if they fail. This is unlikely to change, the Arab neighbours of Israel are still mired in ways of running their military that didn't work 35 years ago, and the Israeli military is still one of the 10 best in the world. Not to mention that it is a nuclear power now, and the rest of the world understands that Israel may very well exercise the "Samson Option" if it faces annihilation, as a deterrent.

In addition, both Israel and the Arabs at this point see Iran as their biggest threat. The Arab street is full of anti-Israeli propaganda and hate and Muslim solidarity, but in government buildings, where cooler heads often prevail, the Arab governments worry most about Iran. There has never been much love lost between Arabs and Persians, and that is still the case.

So I don't see the old "all the Arab nations gang up on Israel" scenario happening. Alot of things would have to change, which is not impossible. But I don't think we can point to the current situation and make the sort of predictions we used to based on the facts on the ground.

Steve said...


"I'll have to check the other 600 times rosh is used."

You'll find that it is most frequently translated "head" (as in a literal head on a body). It can also mean "chief" (head of a clan), or refer to the "head" (source) of a river, etc. There is not a single place in the Bible where we can say with any certainty that the term is referring to a country.

"Whats your take on ezek 38, and who rosh, meshek and toobul is refering to?"

There is no nation called "rosh" in Ezek 38. The KJV has it right when it translates rosh as "chief" (i.e. chief prince). This is a common use of the Hebrew word in the OT.

Meschech and Tubal were tribes which, in Ezekiel's day, probably occupied the area of the Caucasus - the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Today that area includes the predominantly Islamic states of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. They are part of a confederacy of tribes described by Ezekiel. All these tribes occupied territories which today are predominantly Islamic nations.

You may want to read my posts on Psalm 83 and its relationship to Ezekiel 38 here. Just click on "Middle east" in the right sidebar.

In Waiting said...

Just a thought, would you find a mixture of knowledge and worship fitting?

Does our Lord Creator not wish for accuarate knowledge?

Acts 2v42 - "They continued stedfastly in the Apostles doctrine and fellowship in breaking bread and prayers...all that believed were together and had all things common.

Here is a beautiful blend of sound (and consistent) doctrine and worship our Heavenly Father together.

How can we serve the master without knowing how to?

Thats the trick isnt it? Getting it right.