The Berean Christadelphians are a Christian denomination.
In Britain the initial cause of the 1923 schism resulting in the formation of the Berean Christadelphians was concerning service in the police. Following the leading role taken by Frank G. Jannaway of the London Clapham ecclesia with government departments in pleas for the movement's recognition as conscientious objectors during the First World War, Jannaway and other South London brethren took issue with the discovery that two members at Birmingham Temperance Hall ecclesia (so known after the location of their rented rooms) were serving as special constables. This issue was doubly sensitive since Birmingham Temperance Hall was the ecclesia of Charles Curwen Walker who had succeeded Robert Roberts as editor of The Christadelphian Magazine on his death in 1898. In his study of the Christadelphians Bryan R. Wilson suggests that Walker had deferred to Jannaway during the war, and at the end of war as Birmingham returned to its former informal status of primus inter pares, the London brethren resented this. The Birmingham Temperance Hall meeting did eventually "disfellowship" the two special constables, after opposition from two Arranging Brethren of the ecclesia, A. Davis and T. Pearce, who signalled disagreement by abstaining in the final vote on the issue. The Clapham brethren then demanded of Birmingham Temperance Hall ecclesia that they also "disfellowship" A. Davis and T. Pearce for abstaining in the vote. This the brethren at Birmingham were unwilling to do, so London Clapham issued a letter "disfellowshipping" Birmingham, and more significantly any ecclesia in Britain that would not do likewise.
In 1924 the Clapham meeting split between two groups led by Frank G. Jannaway and his older brother Arthur T. Jannaway over whether the Matt.5:32 "exceptive clause" allowed divorce in cases of adultery. Those allowing the exception, led by Arthur, formed the "Family Journal" fellowship at Clapham Common Ecclesia, but did not seek to return to the main body of Christadelphians.
In 1942 most of the British Berean Christadelphians separated from North American Berean Christadelphians to form the Dawn Christadelphians – taking a stricter line than North American Bereans on divorce and remarriage. A substantial part of this group reverted to the main body of Christadelphians in 1993–1994.
Prior to the developing dispute in Britain over special constables, in America another dispute had been simmering concerning the atonement. In 1913 Allen Strickler of Buffalo had written articles which were found by William Smallwood of Toronto and some others to contain a "substitution" theory of Christ’s death. C.C. Walker and Birmingham were unwilling to take sides and with two ecclesias at Buffalo, both claiming to follow the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith, Walker stated "We are not aware that the ecclesias named are at variance with us" although the two ecclesias did not fellowship each other.
The Berean magazine had commenced publication in January, 1923 at London, England. Following the division in Britain Frank Jannaway became involved in the dispute in the U.S. and in 1925 published a booklet against Strickler and supporting Smallwood. As a result of the disagreement a majority of Amended Christadelphians in North America withdrew from the main body and allied themselves with London Clapham as the Berean Christadelphians. In July 1927 Frank Jannaway circulated worldwide a letter The Christadelphians Then and Now appealing for ecclesias to "stand aside from" Birmingham and all who would not.
This schism held to the formation of a doctrine of congregational fellowship which required entire ecclesias (congregations), to withdraw from any other ecclesia in fellowship with individuals or ecclesias in error. In 1892 Frank Jannaway had already authored an article Ecclesial Fellowship, published in the Christadelphian, where he presented his own ideas on fellowship in contrast to the more accommodating attitude being taken by some of the London Christadelphians towards the then current problem with John Andrew.
Reunion in America
In 1952 the majority of the Berean Christadelphian Fellowship rejoined the "Birmingham Central" body of Christadelphians ("Temperance Hall" was now known as the "Central Fellowship", since Birmingham Central had ceased renting rooms at Temperance Hall in 1932), In doing so this large group of Berean Christadelphians abandoned their insistence on the Berean Christadelphian understanding of the atonement and fellowship, although the bloc disfellowship approach of the Bereans lingers in many Amended ecclesias today.
Number of adherents today
- United States - 221
- Canada - 41
- Kenya – 110
- Uganda - 5
- Nigeria - 33
- United Kingdom – 18
- Australia - 8
- New Guinea - 2
Over time the Berean Christadelphians have developed a culture which differentiates them radically from mainstream Christadelphians. They are differentiated by a number of doctrinal differences (listed after this paragraph). Some of these doctrines are shared with some of the "Unamended Fellowship" (but not the majority Christadelphian group known as the "Central Fellowship"), particularly beliefs on the atonement and what the Bible teaches about human nature (referred to commonly as 'the flesh'). Some of these doctrines are beliefs which the original Berean Christadelphians held in 1923, whilst others are later developments. A number of these beliefs are not held by any other Christadelphian fellowship, which the Berean Christadelphians take as indicative that they hold the correct understanding of the gospel.
The following is a list of beliefs which differentiate the Bereans from mainstream Christadelphians:
- The Berean Christadelphian position on congregational fellowship (described above)
- That sin is a physical substance which is the cause of moral transgression, disease and death
- That babies die because they are made of this physical substance which is sin (and so inherit the wages of sin)
- That although the Bible uses the word 'sin' in two different senses, it always refers to only one thing and not two separate things since sin and the cause of sin are one and the same
- That God treats both sin and the cause of sin in the same way
- That Jesus earned the wages of sin
- That John Thomas (founder of the Christadelphian movement), was raised up by God to restore the Truth to the earth, and was chosen by God because of his unique fitness to the task
- That God requires a sacrifice for "sinful nature", and that Christ therefore had to make a sacrifice both for his sinful nature and for the sinful nature of humanity
- That human nature is physically defiled by sin even before personal transgression has taken place
- That even without personal transgression, man is an abomination unto His Creator and has need for redemption through the shedding of blood
- That those who do not value the writings of the "Pioneers" (John Thomas and Robert Roberts, early Christadelphians who were influential in the formative years of the movement), are on their way back to "the apostasy"
- That the "Pioneers" should be the first reference for any interpretation of Scripture, and are authoritative in their interpretation of Scripture
Berean Christadelphians believe that true Christadelphians are those who agree with the beliefs of John Thomas and Robert Roberts (two early Christadelphians whose writings were influential in the formative years of the movement), and also believe that true Christadelphians are those who learn the gospel from the writings of these men rather than personal study of the Bible.
The Berean Christadelphians believe that the Bible should be interpreted according to the writings of these two early Christadelphians (to whom they refer as "the Pioneers"), and that all Scripture must be harmonized with the interpretations in these writings. Whilst denying that they believe either man was inspired, they state both men were raised up by God, and that John Thomas in particular was specifically chosen by God as being unique among men on the earth in his day.
Many Berean Christadelphians refer to John Thomas as 'Doctor Thomas' rather than 'Brother Thomas' (as male members of the Christadephians usually are). Please refer to online Berean Christadelphian archives for evidence of the Berean Christadelphian use of the phrase Brother Thomas, Bro. Thomas and other such references number in the thousands in the Berean Christadelphian magazine. Bereans doubt that the Bible alone is sufficient to teach the gospel, believing that the writings of either John Thomas or Robert Roberts are not only necessary but vital for a correct understanding of the Scriptures (considering the writings of John Thomas and Robert Roberts authoritative expositions of the Bible), and it is taught that neglect of the regular reading of these writings is 'to put our own salvation at risk!'. Bereans are typically suspicious of interpreting the Bible without the aid of the writings of John Thomas and Robert Roberts. The writings of John Thomas and Robert Roberts are considered authoritative expositions in the Berean fellowship, and Bereans will often quote them in discussion of Biblical issues instead of quoting the Bible.
Berean Christadelphians sometimes use a method of Biblical interpretation which is highly anagogical, with a heavy emphasis on typology and conjectural exposition. This is the method used commonly by early Christian expositors such as Origen and Augustine, and Berean Christadelphian exposition often resembles that of Origen in its appeal to anagogue and typology. Whilst this method of exposition is also found in the main Christadelphian community, it does not predominate there as it does among the Berean Christadelphians Again, whilst in the main Christadelphian community it is used as a method of illustrating existing doctrines taught explicitly by the Bible, in the Berean Christadelphian fellowship it is frequently used as the foundation of doctrines not revealed explicitly in the Bible but which the Berean Christadelphians view as 'first principles', foundation doctrines which are necessary for salvation. Literal events described in the Bible are commonly declared to be typological of later events, and there is much speculation over the identity of the 'anti-type'. Discussions of this kind of exposition sometimes take place on online forums in a 'Mars Hill' format, in which conjectural exposition is proposed and encouraged.
References and footnotes
- This suggestion is made in Wilson, B. Sects and Society, 1961, and while not explicitly documented with primary evidence, has some basis in the increased then decreased prominence given to Clapham in ecclesial intelligence in 1914–1918 and after.
- see A DISCREDITED BIRMINGHAM ATTRACTION. in The Berean Christadelphian June 1925. See PDF
- 1911 Census lists "Arthur Thomas Jannaway, born 1854, Wandsworth London" and "Frank George Jannaway, born 1860, Lambeth London"
- The Remnant of Christ's Ecclesia magazine, January 1994 p13
- The Berean Christadelphian October 1942
- Ecclesial News, The Christadelphian Magazine, Birmingham 1993–1994
- Smallwood, William Bible teaching concerning sin and sacrifice Toronto 1913
- Wilson, B Sects and Society p.225
- The Christadelphian 1915 VII p335
- Lippey C. The Christadelphians in North America p75-76
- Jannaway F. Christ Our Passover 1925 p. 61
- Copies in North America were distributed by W. Smallwood, who had written the 1913 booklet against A.D. Strickler, and B.J. Dowling, later co-editor of the Berean Christadelphian magazine.
- The article "arose out a private verbal discussion between W. and F." and takes the form of a dialogue between "F" for false ("W." has not been identified with certainty but may be his brother William John Jannaway) and "T" for true (Frank Jannaway). In 1978 G.V. Growcott produced his own reedited version – not credited to Frank Jannaway – in the Berean Magazine.
- Julio Scaramastro and Jim Phillips, The Doctrine of Fellowship 1982
- See The Post-War period: 1945–present section in Wikipedia's Christadelphians article.
- 'The Evolving Berean Fellowship Position', Steven Genusa, September 2007
- 'On our part, both careful research and personal contact has revealed that on the whole, as a fellowship, Berean brethren are more oriented toward original Christadelphian beliefs than are the other respective groups on the whole, as a fellowship: Even on their worst day, Bereans appear to be better off doctrinally than virtually anything else that we have been able to find, on its best day'Christadelphian History and The Biblical Fellowship
- "This page will contain a history of the Christadelphians as it pertains to the Berean Christadelphian fellowship, along with specific doctrines which separate us from other Christadelphian groups" Why the Bereans?
- 'Sin's Flesh, the flesh in which the Diabolos, SIN, resided in every cell and fibre', G.V. Growcott, The Purifying of the Heavenly 1978
- "As a race, we ARE Sin. Everything we do naturally is Sin. Sin is the very fiber of our being", G.V. Growcott, The Purifying of the Heavenly 1978
- "The term sin is scripturally extended by the process called metonymy (extending a name to include a related thing) to include the evil, corrupt, death-bringing principle in every cell and particle of human flesh – the diabolos – that causes all diseases and death and disharmony with God", G.V. Growcott, The Purifying of the Heavenly 1978
- G.V. Growcott, The Purifying of the Heavenly 1978
- 'Let us not be squeamishly afraid to give the name SIN to the very root of sin', GV Growcott, The Purifying of the Heavenly 1978
- "We are told by some that we must not link transgressions and sin-in-the-flesh in the same "category," as two "aspects" of the same basic sin constitution. That is, we must not link "the Devil" (Diabolos) "and his works." But the Scriptures do", G.V. Growcott, The Purifying of the Heavenly 1978
- "When God condemned Sin by condemning the Diabolos in the sinless Christ, He inseparably linked all aspects of sin together – or active sin was not condemned", G.V. Growcott, The Purifying of the Heavenly 1978
- "And seeing that the wages of sin is death—whether it be physical or moral sin—all must die",Simplified Atonement", adapted from "God’s Way Of Atonement", by Frank Jannaway
- "brother Thomas was providentially selected as the best instrument for the work at hand, namely, the recovery of the Truth within the Divinely foreordained limits of the non-inspirational era in which he lived. For the accomplishment of this task, we wholeheartedly believe that the Lord chose one who possessed great spiritual capacity, and was totally meet for the challenge", Bob Widding, "Contending for the Faith: A Command for 21st Century Saints" from the Berean Bible Journal, January 2008
- "Many years ago I came to the firm conviction, daily strengthened ever since, that bre. Thomas and Roberts were divinely and providentially raised up to revive the Truth of God and the Body of Christ in these last days, and that they laid a sound foundation of Truth – all the Truth – as regards fellowship and salvation", G.V. Growcott, article What does the Scripture Teach about Divorce and Remarriage?, July 1971
- "It was necessary that Jesus should offer for himself for the purging of his own nature, first, from the uncleanness of death", G.V. Growcott, The Purifying of the Heavenly 1978
- "God ordained sacrificial blood-shedding for the cleansing of mankind from the defilement brought on the race through Adam", G.V. Growcott, The Purifying of the Heavenly 1978
- "There are two kinds of Christadelphians: those who recognize and appreciate the value and soundness and stability afforded by the writings and labours of brethren Thomas and Roberts-and those who do not. Not much can be done to help the latter kind. They are on their way back to the old Apostasy', GV Growcott,Search Me, O God[permanent dead link]
- "We urge all to deeply study the sound writings of our pioneers on this subject, in their faithful expounding of Scripture", GV Growcott, The Purifying of the Heavenly 1978
- "Given brother Thomas' place in the revival of God's Truth, it is only logical that we thoughtfully consider his works when contending for the faith becomes necessary", Bob Widding, "Contending for the Faith: A Command for 21st Century Saints" from the Berean Bible Journal, January 2008
- "A careful study of their works reveals a depth in understanding that is scarcely found in this age", Bob Widding, "Contending for the Faith: A Command for 21st Century Saints" from the Berean Bible Journal, January 2008
- 'If they do not agree with the exposition of the glorious Gospel of Salvation he has given us in Elpis Israel and Eureka, faithfully followed by brother Robert Roberts in his lifelong labors, then they should be honest and cease using the name Christadelphian: for they have no right to it, any more than the various religious denominations have the right to call themselves Christians, not believing and teaching what Jesus and the apostles taught in the first century', George Gibson, 'The Right To A Name'
- 'Why cannot all who call themselves Christadelphians realize that, without any effort on our part, bro. John Thomas gave us the Truth concerning the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Anointed?', George Gibson, 'The Right To A Name'
- "The man was not infallible, but providentially chosen for this work of re-establishing the Truth in these latter days", Stephen Male, article Esteem Them Very Highly In Love For Their Works Sake, in Berean Christadelphian Ecclesial News, December, 2003
- "There is not a current brother that I know, or whose writings I have read, that has a tenth of the Scriptural knowledge that these pioneer brethren had, and I freely and happily include myself in this comparison. The comparison is so lop-sided it is pitiful. There is no comparison", G.V. Growcott, article What does the Scripture Teach about Divorce and Remarriage?, reprint July 1971
- 'Let us make sure we make up part of that small number of Christ s beloved friends and brethren, who will be found studying the Scriptures with the aids that Yahweh has mercifully provided for us, in the writings of the Pioneers. Let us read and re-read and re-read them. To fall short in this study and reading is to put our own salvation at risk!', Stephen Male, article 'Esteem Them Very Highly In Love For Their Works Sake', Berean Christadelphian Ecclesial News, December, 2003
- '"Give us Only the Bible" This has a noble sound doesn't it? One of truth and righteousness. Honesty. Integrity. Freedom from the traditions of men. A safe harbor for men and women of faith. Unfortunately, this claim is more specious than true.' Give us Only the Bible article by Bob Widding, 23 January 2008
- 'This lack of reading and respect for the pioneer's knowledge and values has led to the near collapse of the brotherhood today', Stephen Male, article 'Esteem Them Very Highly In Love For Their Works Sake', Berean Christadelphian Ecclesial News, December, 2003
- 'I have personally witnessed some Christadelphians who have rejected the pioneers and as a result have completely fallen away from the Truth', Stephen Male, article 'Esteem Them Very Highly In Love For Their Works Sake', Berean Christadelphian Ecclesial News, December, 2003
- 'Those who disagree with brethren Thomas and Roberts are often very coy about revealing this openly. They very much prefer to make a big show of "going right back to Scripture," brushing aside brethren Thomas and Roberts without openly repudiating them', GV Growcott, The Purifying of the Heavenly 1978
- 'This cry we hear so much today in defense of this new theory, raised against the teachings of bre. Thomas and Roberts, "We want the Scriptures, not the teachings of men!" this has been the battle-cry of error right from the beginning. When you hear that piously proclaimed, be well on guard!', GV Growcott, article 'What does the Scripture Teach about Divorce and Remarriage?', July 1971
- 'We quote brethren Thomas and Roberts profusely and unashamedly because the Christadelphian Body has had this elementary first principle matter firmly settled in its mind for over 100 years, based on the providential labors of these two brethren', GV Growcott, The Purifying of the Heavenly 1978
- 'If we did not have the brilliant, stable, providentially-provided light of the works of these brethren – if we had to depend for help on the poor little flickering candles in the earth today – what pitiful straits we would be in!', GV Growcott, article 'What does the Scripture Teach about Divorce and Remarriage?', July 1971
- A typical example is GV Growcott's,The Purifying of the Heavenly 1978
- 'A sacrifice must be offered at his birth. Why? What did it mean? They were very poor. It was just two common little birds. But what tremendous import! He was one of us, and we are one with him. What was the fulfilled REALITY of that typical, shadowly, forward-pointing offering that Mary made because HE was born of Adam's race? He fulfilled on Calvary the offering made at his birth', GV Growcott, The Purifying of the Heavenly 1978
- 'The pre-eminent antitype of the Nazarite is Christ, and every sacrifice of the Law is a type of his sacrifice, and has no meaning apart from that sacrifice. Do you get the picture? You will, and will rejoice in its beauty and fittingness, if you understand the Truth that sound Christadelphians have always believed and insisted on, that Christ, though personally sinless, was redeemed and cleansed by his own sacrifice, in the God-appointed way, from the defilement of his physical relationship to the Sin-and-Death constitution – and that THIS was the essential link between him and us that makes his death a testimony to God's righteousness, and effectual for our salvation', GV Growcott, The Purifying of the Heavenly 1978