THE north american statement of understanding
See also: NASU Replies and Responses
The following is correspondence received from a brother regarding the North American Statement of Understanding, which is a proposed basis of union between the Unamended group in America, and Christadelphians. Our reply to his question follows:
Dear brother Chris,
Please could you inform me as to what will be the position of Central brethren and sisters who are opposed to reunion with the Unamended community on the basis on the NASU and will refuse to fellowship them on that basis? Surely, if reunion occurs, they will be forced to stand aside from the new fellowship grouping or eventually they will be extruded if they stand by their convictions?
Sincerely your brother in the Messiah,
Bro Moore has forwarded his question to several “prominent” editors of other magazines, whose replies, aside from indicating an unwillingness to answer the questions, also indicate an unwillingness to accept that there may indeed be those who will refuse to accept the proposed ‘reunion’ with the Unamended group on the basis of NASU. In the absence of any clear answer therefore, it falls to us to examine the matter as requested.
For the benefit of those who may not be aware of it, NASU stands for the North American Statement of Understanding, a document which has been formulated to be a basis for re-union between Christadelphians, and the Unamended group in America. The main historical division between the two fellowships centres around the matter of what it is that makes a man responsible to judgment. The Christadelphian position is that knowledge makes a man responsible to act upon what he has learned. As the BASF expresses it: “at the appearing of Christ prior to the establishment of the kingdom, the responsible (namely, those who know the revealed will of God, and have been called upon to submit to it) dead and living—obedient and disobedient—will be summoned before his judgement-seat “to be judged according to their works …”
By contrast, the Unamended group does not believe this part of the BASF. Rather, they believe that Baptism makes a man responsible to judgment, not knowledge. That man who is baptised will be raised to judgement, but a man who knows the Gospel, yet refuses to obey it through baptism may not be raised. The reason for this position being held, is the belief that there is a “legal condemnation” to eternal death inherited by all men from Adam, and that therefore without this condemnation to death being removed by the blood of Christ, a person may not be restored to life; even for judgement. This was an idea held by JJ Andrews in the 19th Century, one which Bro Roberts vigorously resisted, and which eventually divided the brotherhood. The Unamended group are so called, because they were the party who could not accept the Amendment made to the Statement of faith that clarified the matter on this issue; their present position is still one of objection to the doctrine taught in the BASF, and also that the belief that the issue ought not be made a matter of fellowship.
The following is from our response to Bro Moore’s enquiry:
“The BASF sets forth the matter of resurrectional responsibility most plainly indeed:
“That at the appearing of Christ prior to the establishment of the kingdom, the responsible (namely, those who know the revealed will of God, and have been called upon to submit to it), dead and living – obedient and disobedient – will be summoned before his judgement seat …” (Clause XXIV).
If the Unamended group wish to enjoy the fellowship of those who hold the Truth as it is in Christ Jesus, then they must accept, endorse, and teach this point of the One Truth Faith without reservation. Part of the BASF is it’s title: “a statement of the doctrines forming the Christadelphian basis of fellowship,” those who cannot accept it in all it’s parts are not Christadelphians by definition; and neither ought they be regarded as such by those who are.
A major concern with the so-called ‘re-union’ is that its criteria for accepting the Unamendeds into the fellowship of Christadelphians is not an acceptance of the BASF, but rather an acceptance of certain documentation which seeks to harmonise the BASF with the Unamended statement. It is true that this documentation does not contain wrong doctrine, in that it does not specifically teach that enlightened rejectors of the Gospel will not be raised. But a reason why it cannot be a satisfactory ground of fellowship for lovers of the Truth, is that it glosses over, rather than emphasises the vital truth as described in the BASF, cited above. It states: “God’s hands are not tied in any way from raising for condemnation any rebels and unbelievers He deems to be so deserving, regardless of whether they are baptised or unbaptised.”
Notice, whilst this is quite true, the statement is merely to the effect that Yahweh is capable of raising whosoever he chooses—which no-one will deny. It does not say whether or not such will be raised to be judged, whereas the BASF certainly does, being something which the Unamended group do deny. The statement continues:
“those who have responded to the call of God through baptism (in this dispensation) will therefore appear at the judgement seat of Christ. His faithful servants will receive the gift of life, but the unfaithful will be condemned.
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”
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 rejector not to be raised.
The difference is this; the re-union documentation does not exclude the fact that knowledge, (or Light) is the ground of judgement, but it does not teach that it is so. The BASF teaches that it is so. 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.
In short, the re-union documentation is quite obviously worded in such a manner that both positions can be accommodated; it contradicts neither, and teaches neither. It is a compromise document specifically designed to bring together two groups, whilst taking into account the position held by each, and without emphasising which is right.
It is being claimed by some prominent brethren that the documentation merely sets out principles of the BASF, and that re-union on it’s terms will involve an unreserved acceptance of the BASF. We find it very strange, however, if the Unamended group do accept the BASF, why it is that they are still publishing material specifically opposing it!
On the internet (open to all to view), the Unamended group have an article, headed: A Summary of Reservations Concerning the Amended Statement of Faith, which plainly states:
“There are seven reasons we shall provide to explain why we do not believe the Amended Statement of Faith is an acceptable basis for fellowship”
This, we suggest, is not the language employed by those who “unreservedly accept” the BASF as a basis of fellowship! In addition to this, the Advocate Publishing Committee, the central publishing office for the Unamended group, continues to distribute literature directly attacking Christadelphians (which it describes as the “amended” group), and the BASF. One example of this, is it’s booklet entitled Doctrinal Consequences of Clause 24 B.A.S.F. Speaking of 1Thess 4:13-17, it is stated:
“This information fits the Unamended Model exactly but lends no support whatever for the Amended Model. This must be a source of embarassment to Amended apologists”.
And again, in speaking of Rom 14:10, and 2Cor 1:1:
“this information fits perfectly with the Unamended Model but forms a serious defect in the Amended Model”
Again, on Hebrews 13:20,
“This grand explanation of the resurrection of the dead saints, given by the writer to the Hebrews, is highly consistent with the Unamended model. Where does the Amended Model fit into this elaborate exposition offered in the epistle to the Hebrews? … this key verse … is so damaging to the Amended Model of resurrection that Amended apologists agonize to find an explanation that avoids the clear implications of the text”
Actually, the explanation is quite clear, and with no “agony” involved, if the Father permits, we shall consider this passage in the next issue of this magazine.
The booklet concludes:
“we have also called into question the scriptural support for the Amended model. However much support for the Amended model can be inferred from the Scriptures, it is not sufficient in our opinion to raise it to the level of a first principle and hence should not be made a matter of fellowship amongst believers of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God”.
This is the key point, as this is the very basis upon which union between the Unamended group with Christadelphians is being proposed, as is well recognised by Unamended members with whom we have had contact.. The fact that the Unamended fellowship continue to publish material attacking the Christadelphian position on the matter is proof that the difference in belief still remains, and that, contrary to what we are being told, union is not on the basis of the principles of the BASF that forms the Christadelphian basis of fellowship, but rather upon the belief that this difference is not important. Re-union founded upon such a dishonest portrayal of the situation cannot last.
The Unamended Fellowship’s position is that it is baptism into Christ that makes a man responsible to judgement, and therefore possible rejection at the judgement-seat of Christ—and thereby they make the blood of Christ the ground of wrath, and casting out, rather than of love and reconciliation to the Father. Yet Scripture never so speaks. Thereby, they make the ordinance of Baptism designed to enable a man to be associated with the Salvation that comes through identification with the death of Christ, the means of condemnation. The Scriptures do no so speak. There can be no fellowship between the brethren of Christ, and those who present such a distorted view of the Sacrifice of the Slain Lamb as this – and the BASF makes that clear.
You ask: What will be the position of Central brethren and sisters who are opposed to reunion with the Unamended community on the basis on the NASU? Will they be forced to stand aside from the new fellowship grouping?
As our series of articles entitled “The BASF—it’s importance and Teaching” seeks to show, the fellowship of Christadelphians is founded upon the doctrines taught by Christ and His Apostles, which are epitomised in the BASF. The Unamended group, far from believing those doctrines, continue to attack the BASF, whilst at the same time desiring fellowship, and “union” with those whom they call it’s “Apologists”! There can be no fellowship with such, even if it does become sanctioned by a committee, and their carefully formulated truth-nullifying documentation. True, many are likely to abide by the decision of the committee, and will accept those into their midst who reject this clause of the BASF. But it is not compulsory—lovers of the Truth will not support re-union on such a basis as this. But this is not an age of Truth-lovers. Those who earnestly contend for the faith will vigorously oppose the wrong doctrines being accepted, if not embraced, by the NASU documentation, even if by doing this, they are brought into direct conflict with the ‘prominent’ brethren – and magazines – who may lend their support to such a faithless enterprise. But this is not an age for contenders for the faith. It is inevitable that re-union (but certainly not unity) will be brought about. It remains for the faithful remnant to decide where they will stand, and how they will react to it. Those who follow the Christ will stand “against all” (antipas) forms of apostasy from the Truth, and will vigorously resist those who seek to compromise fundamental principles for the sole purpose of the social niceties of association with others who have different beliefs. Those who desire fellowship and association only with those of like precious faith will be against the basis of this so-called re-union, and will continue to vigorously oppose the heresy which it is designed to permit entry to, even if they find themselves being despised and rejected of men. Should they find themselves being cast out for steadfastly adhering to the Apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, they may rejoice exceedingly, for they will be in good company—that the prophets of old who lifted up their voices as a trumpet against the iniquities of the people (Is 58:1).
Your brother longing for the day when the unenlightened rejecters shall be judged according to the Righteousness of Yahweh, and when those who have held fast the Truth will be rewarded according to their deeds,