Who are the Christadelphians?
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©1999|
|Christadelphians claim to comprise the only true church, and that only those who accept Christadelphian doctrine and its interpretation of the Bible will be saved.|
Who are the Christadelphians?
Info at a Glance
Name: The Christadelphians.
Purpose: To disseminate the true interpretation of the Bible.
Founder: John Thomas (1805-1871).
Source of authority: The Bible.
Revealed teachings: No.
Claim: To comprise the only true church; only those who accept Christadelphian doctrine and its interpretation of the Bible will be saved.
Example of Key literature: John Thomas, Elpis Israel; Robert Roberts, Christendom Astray; A Declaration of the Truth Revealed in the Bible.
Attitude toward Christianity: Rejecting.
“Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is not the ‘second person’ of an eternal Trinity.” 
God: One Person only (Unitarian)
Jesus: A created being in need of redemption.
Holy Spirit: The impersonal power of God.
Trinity: A pagan teaching.
Salvation: By faith in Christ and works of righteousness.
Man: A physical being without an immortal soul.
Sin: Transgression of God’s law.
Satan: Synonym for sin; any adversary.
Second coming: Jesus will return to reign on earth.
Fall: Sexual in nature.
Bible: The Word of God, the final authority for faith and practice.
Death: Unconsciousness or annihilation.
Hell and Heaven: Myths.
Introduction and History
The founder of the Christadelphians (“brethren of Christ”) was John Thomas, a physician turned Bible teacher, born in London on April 12, 1805. In 1832, during a brush with death in a shipwreck, he resolved to look into the truth about the afterlife and vowed to dedicate his life to religion if he was spared. His first experience with “Christianity” was with the often unbiblical Campbellite movement (today known as the “Church of Christ,” “Christian Church” or the “Disciples of Christ”). In 1833 Dr. Thomas had met Alexander Campbell and was influenced by his teachings. Eventually he left the Campbellites and continued studies on his own. In 1847, he claimed that he had arrived at “the truth of the gospel.”  His best known works are Elpis Israel (“Israel’s Hope,” 1849) and Eureka (1862), a 2,000 page study of the book of Revelation. Both are published and used by Christadelphians today. The Christadelphian is the principal periodical of the Church. It was originally titled The Ambassador of the Coming Age and begun by Robert Roberts, one of Thomas’ earliest converts. Roberts became the leader of the Christadelphians after Thomas died in 1871.
Like Joseph Smith in Mormonism, John Thomas seems to have derived many of his ideas from the theological climate of the day. Although he believed that he was reviving “original Christianity,” some of his teachings paralleled the early Unitarians, while other teachings were drawn from diverse sources. In The Protesters, Christadelphian writer Alan Eyre expresses his surprise up on learning of Dr. Thomas’ many borrowings: “The writer, once naively and unquestioningly accepted the popular view that Dr. John Thomas ‘discovered,’ as if from a void, the totality of Bible truth as believe by Christadelphians, was amazed to discover source after source which showed that this was at least a serious misrepresentation.” 
The Christadelphians meet in “Ecclesias” or local congregations. The first were established by Thomas in 1838 in Illinois and Virginia. The church was officially incorporated in 1864, being registered at the county court house in Oregon, Illinois. Today the church is scattered around the world and is principally found in the United States, Europe and Africa.
Many modern religious cults claim not only that they are Christian but also that they represent the restoration of original Christianity. Along with Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Scientists, this is also true for the Christadelphians. For example, Christadelphian author Alan Haywood quotes skeptical philosopher Bertrand Russell, author of Why I Am Not a Christian, in alleged support of Christadelphian apostolic Christian claims: “The best representatives of the primitive [Christian] tradition in our time are the Christadelphians.” Other Christadelphians declare, “In short we are people of the Bible.” “First-century Christianity was thoroughly Bible based, and so we try to make our faith like that, too.” “The Bible is our only authority, and we teach that it should be read prayerfully and with care at every opportunity.”
The truth is that Christadelphians oppose historic orthodoxy and view biblical Christianity as a pagan religion. This is why it is declared to be “paganized theology,” and even “meaningless.” Christadelphians are told that the true church of Jesus “and modern Christianity are as different as night and day.” “The creeds of Christendom are based on false doctrines, compounded of a little Bible teaching, but mostly composed of fables, based upon pagan mythology.” 
In addition, Christadelphians see little difference between Protestants and Catholics, almost as if the Reformation had never occurred. In essence, Christadelphianism condemns Protestantism because it has many of the same doctrines of Rome:
The principal doctrines of the churches of Christendom are these same Romish doctrines. They are as follows: 1. The Trinity, 2. The pre-existence of Christ, 3. Christ the Creator, 4. The immortality of the soul, 5. Eternal torments, 6. Heaven-going, 7. A supernatural, fallen-angel Devil and Satan, 8. A substitutionary Christ…. The popular churches of Christendom teach some, if not all of the Romish doctrines. Therefore they come under the same condemnation as Rome.
Of course, biblical teaching alone determines what is true and what is false doctrinally. Protestant Christianity can hardly be in error if the above doctrines are established as biblical teaching. Clearly, as we documented in Protestants and Catholics (Harvest House, 1995), Catholic doctrine is unbiblical at many important points, especially the doctrine of salvation. Nevertheless, for Christadelphians, because Protestantism accepts some of the same doctrines as Catholics, it is declared to be just as “iniquitous” and “false” as Catholicism. But obviously, we could apply the same reasoning to Christadelphian beliefs. As we will see, Christadelphian teaching bears certain important doctrinal resemblances to traditional Armstrongism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses: rejection of the Trinity as Satanic; Christ’s atonement for past sins only; the necessity of good works for salvation; the impersonality of the Holy Spirit; a denial of eternal punishment and so on. Would Christadelphians consider it fair of Christians to conclude that Christadelphians were in error solely because of some similarity in doctrine to other religions?
Further, when Christadelphianism rejects Protestantism on the basis of similarity to Catholicism, it uses a double standard. Catholicism also believes in works-salvation, the authority of the Bible and other Christadelphian teachings. But Christadelphians will never classify their own church as “pagan” and “iniquitous” on this basis. So why argue it in such a manner with Protestantism?
Nevertheless, when Christadelphians maintain that “traditional church teachings do not reflect the truth of the Bible in a number of key areas,”  this is precisely what they have never established. Nor can they, since basic biblical doctrine is accepted as established by almost everyone but cultists. Still, as in Mormonism, the Christadelphian church claims that after 1,800 years of apostasy it alone has restored the true gospel. To emphasize this point to the faithful, again as with Mormonism, it attacks the Christian church uncharitably and undeservedly. John Thomas asserted that biblical preachers were the epitome of evil:
What base views must such men have of the God whose ministers they pretend to be! Their “consolations” are unmitigated blasphemy, and false from first to last…. It is the preachers that make men infidels by the preposterous absurdities they preach in the much-abused name of Christianity…. Their ministries have no vitality in them, and leave their flocks in their own predicament, “dead in trespasses and in sins.” Therefore “come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean, and I will receive you, and will be a Father to you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” 
Citing Galatians 1:8, the Christadelphian Messenger declares that the Gospel Christians teach will only curse those who preach it or accept it. “The conglomerate mixture of Christianity, paganism and assorted doctrines of men preached by the popular churches of Christendom is not the Gospel of Salvation which Christ and the apostles preached, and it contains not enough salvation to save one human soul. It is error, and will accurse all who preach it, and all who accept it.” Christadelphians even argue that Christians are so deceived that they will, at the Second Coming, reject Jesus Himself as the Antichrist:
No one desires to be in the position where he or she might reject Jesus when he comes because of an incorrect understanding of the prophetic events related to his second coming. Yet the framework has already been laid throughout Christianity for most Christians to do exactly that…. This false teaching is preparing millions of Christians throughout the earth to reject Jesus at his return because they will be convinced, by the things he will do, that he is “the Antichrist” and will oppose him.
And Christians will die with a lie on their souls. “Neither Protestants nor Papists ‘believe in God.’ They have a system of faith which bears no affinity to the religion of God; and hence they hope for things which He has not promised; and consequently the most pious of them die with a lie.” Not surprisingly, John Thomas believed that Christian churches do not teach the Gospel:
Let the reader search the scriptures from beginning to end, and he will nowhere find such systems of faith and worship as those comprehended in the Papal and Protestant systems. The gospel of the Kingdom of God in the name of Jesus is not preached among them…. They are dead, twice dead, plucked up by the roots, and therefore the time is come to cut them off as a rotten branch from the good olive tree…. By remaining in them, a man partakes of their evil deeds, and subjects himself to their evil influences.
For Thomas, the Christian churches represented a “thousand-headed monster” that was “devoted to mammon” and the commandments of men, wallowing in “its ignorance of the Scriptures.” 
- ↑ A. Hayward, Great News for the World, p. 41.
- ↑ In his Campbellism: Its History and Heresies, Bob L. Ross cites a number of unbiblical teachings providing original sources (all page references are from the fourth edition, 1976, published by Pilgrim Publications, Pasadena, TX, 77501). A few examples include : (1) an exclusivistic attitude resulting in the condemnation of all other denominations. Campbell (called “the Master Spirit”) allegedly believed he was infallible in understanding the Scriptures, automatically making everyone who disagreed with him wrong (pp. 8, 30-35, 171); (2) restorationism: the true gospel was lost in the dark ages and not restored to its original state until 1827 by Campbell (pp. 78, 132); (3) works-salvation through e.g., the teaching of baptismal regeneration. Baptism in water provides forgiveness of sins and is equivalent to regeneration or being ‘born again’ (pp. 78-81, 157); (4) the natural man does not re-quire the assistance of the Holy Spirit to believe (p. 153); (5) the Holy Spirit is not sovereign (p. 156); (6) God is not omniscient (p. 173).
- ↑ John Thomas, Elpis Israel, p. xiii.
- ↑ Ibid., p. xiv.
- ↑ Alan Eyre, The Protesters, p. 7.
- ↑ A. Hayward, Great News for the World, p. 82, cf. p. 87.
- ↑ A. Norris, The Things We Stand For, p. 6.
- ↑ A. Hayward, Great News for the World, p. 83.
- ↑ “Answering Your Questions About the Christadelphians,” pamphlet, p. 2.
- ↑ R. Roberts, Christendom Astray, p. 55.
- ↑ H. A. Twelves, The Only Day of Salvation, p. 8.
- ↑ Christadelphian Messenger, No. 50, “The Church of the Living God,” p. 4.
- ↑ Ibid., No. 47, “Christendom’s Creeds Not Christianity,” p. 2.
- ↑ Ibid., No. 47, p. 4.
- ↑ Ibid., pp. 3-4.
- ↑ “God Cares What We Believe,” p. 6.
- ↑ John Thomas, Elpis Israel, pp. 319-320.
- ↑ Christadelphian Messenger, No. 11, “A Refuge from the Judgment Storm,” p. 3.
- ↑ The Great Delusion, p. 6; cf. pp. 5-10, 30-31.
- ↑ John Thomas, Elpis Israel, p. 278.
- ↑ Ibid., pp. 7-8.
- ↑ Ibid., p. 140.
Thankyou for your article. I am a Christadelphian. your article was correct on the whole. Rejection of the Trinity is because it was a development of philosophical thought leading up to the increasingly complex wording of the faith in the Nicene & Athanasian creed. This can be verified from many independent scholarly works on the development of Christianity. We accept the Apostles Creed & would describe our belief as monotheistic rather than unitarian. We do not therefore devalue the success of Jesus in dying on the cross which is how it would appear if Jesus was God incarnate…& we do not therefore water down the infinite power of God!
Regarding the issue of “who will be saved” it is undeniable that some Christadelphian writers in the past may have indicated that only Christadelphians will be saved. However, speak to any Christadelphian today and he/she would most likely say that the final say of salvation and receiving eternal life is not ours to make but of God and that Salvation is by grace when coupled with the fruit of the spirit. We encourage Bible study and are willing to answer questions on our faith from the word of God.
I hope this short note has been helpful.
well let’s look at the founders grave site why is an obelisk on top of it that’s very odd seeing how we know what that represents
Photograph of the grave of John Thomas, M.D.:
Steven Thaw: “Regarding the issue of ‘who will be saved’ it is undeniable that some Christadelphian writers in the past may have indicated that only Christadelphians will be saved.”
In reality, the issue of “who will be saved” is undeniably definitely stipulated as a central part of your statement of faith written by the founders of Christadelphianism.
Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith:
Doctrines to be Rejected:
To say otherwise is a disfellowship (excommunication) offence from a Christadelphian point of view.
I was raised Christadelphian, and I must correct you on one point. You say Christadelphian believe the fall to have been sexual in nature, but that is totally incorrect. They believe the traditional, literal teaching that humans fell when they eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Nothing remotely sexual at all.
Melanie: “[Christadelphians] believe the traditional, literal teaching…”
The “traditional” biblical teaching is that Satan deceived Eve. In the book of Revelation, Jesus ties four words together: dragon, snake/serpent, devil, Satan.
“He seized the dragon, that ancient snake, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” – Revelation 20:2 (NIVUK)
In stark contrast to the words of Jesus, Christadelphians deny the existence of a literal Satan, instead believing that “Satan” merely means personification of human sin. This separates the four words Jesus tied together, thus falling foul of the warning in Revelation 22:18-19 about adding to and taking away from the prophecy of that scroll.
There are about 14 factions of Christadelphianism with about 50 sub-factions each claiming to be “the one true church” and all out of fellowship with each other.
Melanie, which sub-faction were you raised in?
If this group is not a cult, it is nonetheless “cult-like” in many regards, and it is in few ways traditionally Christian. Because there is no central administration with oversight for this denomination, the characteristics and rules fluctuate from one Christadelphian church to another, and it was my experience that some of their congregations are decidedly unpleasant and destructive places. In the company of some of these “Christians,” I watched my family members defect, become atheists, or go insane en masse. There are strong restraints on behavior, permissible beliefs, matrimonial prospects, etc. The atmosphere is not one that promotes freedom of behavior and thought, and in time, any normal person remaining in possession of their brain feels imprisoned. I found it to be an extremely oppressive environment, and I ultimately fled. I did not do so without paying a large cost, and these “Christians” made sure I paid it.
Thank you for this highly insightful and articulate and accurate expose of the Christadelphians. A standing ovation.
The criteria as to what constitutes a cult can vary. Here is a sample list, with my thoughts as to how the criteria relate to Christadelphians. Regarding other similar lists, I’ve also found most of the criteria can be applied to Christadelphians.
1. Opposing critical thinking.
We were allowed to question doctrine, but only up to a certain point. Beyond that, you became a problem for them, and they’d work to have you disciplined or expelled from the sect. In essence, you learned not to insist on any holding any particular doctrinal disagreement with them, because they’d kick you out or treat you like a heretic.
2. Isolating members and penalizing them for leaving.
To reiterate, as a punishment, they’d expel you from the group, or withdraw communion from you. Shunning was commonplace. Members were instructed to be in the world, but not a part of it. Almost all cultural and religious life was centered around the group/”ecclesia.” If you left or were forced to leave, most people experienced becoming a “non-entity.” With some exceptions, you’re gone, invisible, dead to them. If you are shunned while trying to remain inside the group, that can be pretty horrible also.
3. Emphasizing special doctrines outside scripture.
Members are forbidden to vote. Forbidden to hold political office. Forbidden to do jury duty. Forbidden to own weapons. Forbidden from becoming too involved in the outside world. Lawsuits against other people, inside and outside of the group, are forbidden. Etc. There are spoken and unspoken codes for behavior. A relative of mine was upbraided for wearing “improper” attire. Another was upbraided for smoking cigarettes outside the ecclesial hall’s front doors. A friend was upbraided for going to lunch and returning for an afternoon lecture and having the smell of a beer on him.
Most of these things could only be flimsily connected to Scriptural beliefs.
4. Seeking inappropriate loyalty to their leaders.
Because there is no living “leader,” and because all Christadelphian churches function independently, little self-appointed Caesars often arise, and obedience to them is often mandatory. No one elects such individuals, they usually evolve organically in some Christadelphian groups. Their control and authority can often become problematic. In one “ecclesia” I belonged to, run by a vitriolic monster, everyone in the group lived in terror of incurring his wrath. As a result, members often fled to other groups in our area.
5. Dishonoring the family unit.
Punishments and shunning occur at the group’s direction, and take priority over family loyalties and ties. One member’s son filed a lawsuit against another member, who had caused him an injury. The “head” of their church paid an unannounced visit to the son, to berate him and demand the lawsuit be withdrawn. They were all members of the same group, and the son was living with his father. What the father and son wished was considered irrelevant to the continued smooth functioning of the group.
6. Crossing Biblical boundaries of behavior (versus sexual purity and personal ownership).
These biblical rules were often observed only as a matter of convenience and manipulation, and when it was perceived as being necessary for individuals to nullify or cross Biblical dictates for behavior, they often did so. “Do as I say, not as I do.” “I’m the Alpha Dog, therefore, the rules are open to my interpretation.”
7. Separation from the Church
Not sure what this means. Except Christadelphianism — no matter what it pretends — is in no way mainstream Christianity.
I spent decades in this cult group, and was irretrievably harmed by it, along with all of my family’s members. Note that in such groups, bizarre ideologies and behaviors become the members’ new normal. It is what they know. To them it is all ordinary, mundane, and rational stuff, and, therefore, contesting anything becomes an aberration.
This cult nearly cost me my life, on more than one occasion. It caused such horrific damage in my family that none of us now communicate with one another, and the support system that most people experience with their families doesn’t exist for any of us. We were left with nothing. I went on and had a family of my own, and made a life for myself. But the injury that this cult did to me and my loved ones will never be forgotten — nor should it be forgotten.