correspondence:- the NASU
In response to a correspondent, we examined the reunion documentation (NASU) which is proposed to form the basis of the Unamended group in America being accepted into fellowship with Christadelphians (Central Fellowship) worldwide. Following the publication of that item, we have received communications from a number of those who are desirous of peace with the Unamended group on that basis. The following item summarises the responses received, and our reply:
- The matter is one affecting North America. What does it have to do with those in other countries—why should the matter not be left for the North American ecclesias to decide; why have you written about it?
Of course, it is for North American ecclesias to decide who they should fellowship. But the decisions they are making do not affect only North American ecclesias. Those brought into fellowship on the basis of NASU will not be merely brought into fellowship with ecclesias in America, but with ecclesias worldwide. They will expect to be able to come to the UK and enjoy fellowship with Christadelphians in the UK. In short the North American ecclesias will be expecting other ecclesias worldwide to abide by their decision, and fellowship their members wherever they may go. Hence our correspondent’s question which prompted our reply in the last issue, what will be the situation with those who do not abide by that decision? Will they themselves be extruded? The reason for our writing about the situation was because our correspondent’s question is a reasonable, yet is one that others have refused to address.
- Your article reflects a lack of understanding of the North American situation. The articles you quoted are produced and supported by only a small minority, who are not speaking for the Unamended fellowship. You fail to understand that there are many in the Unamended fellowship that do believe the BASF.
Of course, it is perfectly true that there are many in the Unamended group who do believe the doctrines described in the BASF, as correspondence over recent years has shown. That has never been in question, and has not been denied (in fact, so far as we have been able to ascertain, there have always being those in the Unamended group that accept the doctrine described by Clause 24). But there is a reason why the Unamended group call themselves “unamended.” That is, historically they have not accepted the Amendment to the Statement of Faith as being a matter of fellowship, which the BASF claims it to be. Therefore those who do believe the doctrines described by the BASF will break bread, and otherwise fellowship those who do not. Several particularly scathing correspondents from the Unamended group who are fully supportive of the NASU have cited examples of co-operation between members of both persuasions as evidence that the proposed peace and fellowship is quite workable … yet is actually evidence of the very objection made in the last issue, the basis is not one of identical belief.
The articles by members of the Unamended group specifically attacking the BASF may well be produced by a “minority,” but that is not the point at issue. At the same time as desiring fellowship with those who believe the BASF, the Unamended group as a whole also fellowship those who launch open and direct attacks on the BASF. The point being emphasised was that this is inconsistent, and that this inconsistency remains as a fact that has not been denied by the most ardent supporters of NASU. The BASF presents all the clauses therein as the basis of fellowship for Christadelphians … if the Unamended group wish to fellowship Christadelphians, to be consistent they would need to repudiate association with those who attack Christadelphians. How can one party seek terms of peace with another, whilst at the same time embracing their enemy?
There is another very much related issue. As it is the case that there are those in the Unamended group that believe the Christadelphian statement of Faith, why then do they not join Christadelphians themselves? Why instead devise a document that permits them to take as many others with them as they can (although it is recognised on all sides that there will be those who refuse to join the reunion)?
- Why is the issue of difference so important anyway? Why should Christ’s brethren be divided over what happens to the disobedient?
We would refer enquirers to an item written by Bro Thomas on the issue, reproduced in the December 2001 issue of this magazine (further copies of this article are available on request). His exposition of the Scriptures on this subject is most clear:
“If a sinner come to the understanding of the truth … he is held accountable. An enlightened sinner cannot evade the consequences of his illumination. I have known some of this class flatter themselves that they would not be called forth to judgment; but would perish as the beasts, if they did not come under law to Christ. Such reasoning, however, is simply ‘the deceitfulness of sin”.
The dogma provides for men who despise the light to know it, pour scorn upon their responsibilities it requires of them, and mock the arm of Salvation graciously laid open before them. It denies the righteousness of the Father in raising them to bear the consequences of their deeds. It teaches men that they can mock God with impunity without facing the consequences. As one write expressed it, “It is a very potent way of teaching men to break all the commands of God: for whoever is not responsible to God is not responsible to man. Such as are not bound by a duty towards God are surely not bound by a duty towards neighbours …” (The Christadelphian 1894). Bro Robert Roberts also spoke of the gravity of this:
“The reception of the truth is the first basis of fellowship. An important element of it is rejected when it is maintained that enlightened rebels against the law of God escape resurrectional punishment by reason of their omission of the preliminary obedience called for in baptism … the idea that refusal to submit in baptism will save them from the consequences of their rebellion against the light is “another gospel” which we dare not receive” (Diary of a Second Voyage, p 84).
- The NASU does state that: “Based on the intrinsically interwoven factors of knowledge and calling, God will raise to condemnation those rebels and unbelievers whom His justice demands. As humans, none can determine who has been called according to knowledge to submit to His will” As it therefore is plain that men “will be” raised on the basis of knowledge and calling, how can you claim that it is doctrinally incorrect, and not in harmony with Clause 24 of the BASF?
The original enquiry was phrased in far more robust and condemnatory terms than the above, which nevertheless expresses the sense of what is being asked. The above matter was specifically dealt with in the last issue. In fact, we have never stated that NASU is doctrinally incorrect. Neither have we stated that it is not in harmony with the BASF. What we have proved, however, is that whilst it accommodates the BASF, it also accommodates the Unamended position. It does not state that the doctrines which Clause 24 of the BASF teaches are matters of fellowship. To quote from our item from the last issue:
“Notice the reference to Baptism; the words are very explicit that those who are baptised will definitely be raised. But also notice the reference to ‘knowledge’, which nowhere near as definite. God will raise those “whom his justice demands”!!! No-one but those in the darkest of apostasy would disagree with the fact, that Yahweh can raise anyone whom His Justice demands to be raised. But the BASF is far more explicit in stating that His Justice does indeed require the “Responsible, namely, those who know the revealed will of God, and have been called upon to submit to it” to be raised to judgement. Those words are echoed in the NASU above, but in a much diluted form that allows for the enlightened rejecter not to be raised.”
The Re-union documentation does not exclude the fact that knowledge (light) is the ground of judgement, but it does not teach that it is so. It teaches that it is so if God’s Justice Demands it. That “God will raise to condemnation those rebels and unbelievers whom his justice demands” The BASF however, does state quite categorically that the Justice of God does demand it (Clause 24). As we wrote:
“The re-union documentation does not exclude the belief that God’s justice might be that enlightened rejecters will never be raised – not that “His hands are tied” from raising them, but because his justice does not require it, which is the very historical position of the Unamended fellowship that has been the reason why Christadelphians do not fellowship them. The BASF does exclude it.”