THE BASF - ITS IMPORTANCE AND TEACHING
– DOCTRINES TO BE REJECTED (1)
1— That the Bible is only part of the work of inspiration—or if wholly so, contains errors which inspiration has allowed.
Having carefully examined each of the positive aspects of the “truth to be received”, we now turn in our considerations to the “Doctrines to be Rejected” section of the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith.
There are those who maintain that an affirmation of Truth is itself sufficient, and that there is therefore no need to also detail doctrines which are incompatible with the Truth. However, Bro Robert Roberts gives good reasons why false doctrine be specifically denied as well as the Truth affirmed.
“At first sight, it might appear superfluous, and even unwarrantable , to set forth points of non-belief as a basis of faith, but a moment’s reflection will dissipate this impression, and reveal the negative side of faith to be of equal value with the positive. Every affirmative proposition has a converse. Every “yes” has a “no”; and if a man is not prepared to boldly accept that “no”, it shows his “yes” is not worth much. For instance, if a man professed to believe in the God of Israel, he is bound to be able to say that he does not believe in the gods of the heathen. If he were to be timorous about affirming the latter, would it not show that his belief in the God of Israel was no belief in the real sense, but merely a fragment of ancient polytheism, which recognised different gods for different nations? Is it not part of a true profession of faith in Jehovah to be able to say boldly that we do not believe in any of the deities of heathen imagination? Would any even “Christian” community recognise the faith of a man who hesitated to commit himself to his negative? Does not the acceptance of any truth involve the repudiation of everything opposite to it? And would not hesitancy to repudiate the opposites, show uncertainty and indecision with regard to the positives? There is but one rational answer to these questions, and that answer falls in with Paul’s exhortation, that in maintaining the Truth, we must “refuse profane and old wives fables.”
Now in the present day there are many profane and old wives’ fables abroad in the earth in the name of the Gospel. Paul predicted that such would be the case—that the time would come when men, professing the Name of Christ, would turn away their ears away from the Truth, and be turned aside unto fables (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Now, is it not of the first importance that these fables should be repudiated? Can anyone hold the Truth without rejecting them? Is it not a part of a true profession of faith in our time to reject the traditions that make the Word of God of none effect? Common sense will supply the answer. There is a negative as well as a positive side to the faith in our day, for the simple reason that there is a spurious faith to be destroyed before the true faith can enter the mind. In the Apostle’s days, the work was more simple. There was no counterfeit Christianity to obstruct the operations of the Truth. The apostles had only to propound their doctrines constructively. There was no necessity to go out of the way and deal with the dogmas of Paganism. Paganism was paganism, and the gospel was the gospel.
They did not stand on the same ground. There was no competition between them. If Christ was received Paganism was rejected as a matter of course, but it is a different thing now. We have to deal with Paganism in the garb of Christianity. We have to deal with another gospel preached in the name of Christ and His apostles; and it therefore forms one of the first duties of intelligent and faithful testimony to protest against and expose the imposture. One of the first acts of a valid profession of the Truth is to repudiate “the profane and old wives’ fables” which abound in the guise of Truth. In fact, in times like these, the repudiation of false doctrine is almost a criterion of the reception of the Truth. If a man shrink from the rejection of the fictions of so-called Christendom, it is a sure sign that his appreciation of the verities of the Gospel is very weak, if it is not altogether non est. Positive belief—(that is full assurance of faith) – on one side necessitates and produces positive non-belief of the other. A man heartily believing the Truth will heartily reject error; and if he does not heartily do the latter, it is an infallible proof that he is incapable of heartily doing the former. Hence the propriety and necessity of exacting the non-belief of truth-nullifying fable as a corollary to the reception of the Truth in its positive form. On this foundation, the Birmingham ecclesia take their stand, and will have fellowship with none who are not prepared with themselves to maintain the purity of the Truth.
R Roberts, The Ambassador
of the Coming Age, 1866
The first “doctrine to be rejected” is symmetrical with the first Truth to be received, called “The Foundation” clause—namely that all Scripture is wholly inspired by God. In addition to the frequent “Thus saith the Lord” of the prophets of old, there are two key passages from which this clause is derived:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16)
“ … no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20-21).
In our age, it is not just the case that there are those who outrightly deny the inspiration of the Scriptures. As time goes by there is increasing wooliness of thought that obscures this simple Truth with the reasoning of men. For instance, it is sometime said that John “had a deeper understanding” than the other gospel writers on the basis of what is contained in both the Gospel and the Epistles which bear his name. Again, it is thought by some that the writer to the Hebrews must have been the Apostle Paul, because of his style of writing being similar to other epistles that bear his name. And again still, it is said in the context of David, that he often drew upon his own experiences as a shepherd for inspiration in order that he might pen the Psalms that bear his Name. All of these ideas miss the overall theme of Scripture that “all Scripture is given by inspiration”. The themes of the Gospel and Epistles as recorded through John are not expressive of his own mind, or depth of thought—they are the product of the operation of the Spirit, and teach those things that Yahweh wishes to teach, in the way in which it Pleases Him. The Epistle to the Hebrews was produced by Yahweh—to speculate on who was the penman that inscribed the book misses the point that it is entirely a work of the Spirit. And again, the Psalms were written by God, drawing upon and enunciating principles that he, not David wrote.
The case of David is particularly instructive. It is said that he drew upon his own life’s experiences to pen the Psalms. But what saith David himself?
“The Spirit of Yahweh spake by me, and his word was in my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2).
There is an appropriateness that Yahweh chose a shepherd through which Psalms which bear the theme of shepherding should come. But David himself specifically stated that “his word was in my tongue” – he was directly inspired by God to speak. It was not the case that David drew upon his experiences: it is rather that the Spirit drew upon David’s experiences, producing an infallible word that related as directly to the penman as to those for whom he wrote.
There are those who voice protest against calling the first Clause as being “THE FOUNDATION”. They say that the only Foundation is Christ, and not the Word. So it is claimed:
“The key to where Christadelphian teaching goes astray is their insistence that the Bible is the True Foundation of their Faith. Jesus should be”.
Of course, Christadelphians do not reject Jesus as being the foundation of the ecclesia. But Christ is “the word made flesh” (Jno. 1:14) and it is as such that He is the foundation of our faith. Hebrews 6:1 states:
“ … therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God”
According to this passage therefore, the foundation is “repentance from dead works and of faith toward God”.
Again, Ephesians 2 states:
“ye are no more strangers and foreigners but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20)
According to this passage, “the apostles and prophets” form “the foundation” as well as Jesus Christ himself. But how so? How can these be part of the foundation? Surely by virtue of the Gospel they preached (see Rom. 15:20). The only means by which “the apostles and prophets” can have anything relating to the ecclesia today is the inspired record of faith and courage that we have to strengthen ourselves.
There is another point which ought not be overlooked. Often in today’s humanistic world, there is an emphasis on being “objective” when studying texts, including the Bible. But whilst that is ok so far as it goes, there is a real danger that we treat the Bible as being simply a piece of text to study in a detached manner, like the works of men. The Bible is inherently different: it is more that words on the page—it is a “power”: “it is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). It is also living: “the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword …” (Heb. 4:12).
What this means is that when we come to Scripture, rather than to be detached in our studies, we ought to allow the Word to draw us unto itself, to impart unto us a power that the words of men can never achieve. It is testified that:
“all flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word by which the Gospel is preached unto you” (1 Pet. 1:24-25).
“All flesh is grass”, and withereth. What then remains? For those who seek to be “detached” in their objectiveness before the word, there is nothing! As grass, they shall wither. But for those who seek to fill themselves with the Word, eager to absorb its precepts and principles, what remains is a “new creature” within themselves, “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:10). Being made in the “image” of our Creator is the purpose of Bible Study. It elevates our mind from the carnal inclinations of the Flesh to become after the Spirit of God. Only when we recognise the Power that the Word has to transform us, can this be accomplished. And only then will there be something within us worthy of perpetuation into the Kingdom and Age to come.