The Agora
Biblical Fellowship

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This writer, with the uninhibited zeal of youth, felt for a number of years that he knew all that was worth knowing about “fellowship”. But changing circumstances provoked a serious and prolonged re-examination of the foundations of his “pure fellowship” position, and he was led at last to conclude that there is a “better way” consistent with the commandments of Christ. He now holds a different understanding of “fellowship”, with not quite the certainty of earlier times, but rather what he believes is a more realistic awareness of the imperfection of all things human (including this book!).

Some of the results of those studies are now offered to the brotherhood, with the prayer that they might somehow encourage brethren of all “fellowships” to embrace the true “purity” that is never distinct from “peace”. May the Lord when he returns find his disciples endeavoring, in all humility, to keep the “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).

Certain chapters in this study were first published as articles in The Christadelphian, The Testimony, The Logos, and The Tidings. They are now somewhat modified for inclusion here.

I wish to express my gratitude to the many brethren whose thoughts and expositions appear herein. I have tried always to give references, so that verification and further study may be possible.

Several articles are worthy of special citation:

Robert Roberts: “True Principles and Uncertain Details; or, The Danger of Going Too Far in our Demands on Fellow-Believers”, The Christadelphian, Vol. 35, No. 407 (May 1898), pp. 182-189. This article has been reprinted at least twice in the same magazine: by C.C. Walker (Vol. 60, No. 708 — June 1923, pp. 248-256) and by John Carter (Vol. 92, No. 1097 — Nov. 1955, pp. 414-418).
Robert Roberts: A Guide to the Formation and Conduct of Christadelphian Ecclesias (commonly referred to as The Ecclesial Guide), published in several editions. Of particular relevance are Sections 32 and 36 through 42.
Islip Collyer: At least four articles are extremely important:

An Appeal to Christadelphians, published in booklet form by the Christadelphia Newsletter.

“True Principles Governing Fellowship”, The Christadelphian Vol. 61, No. 721 (July 1924), pp. 294-299.

“The Scriptural Principles Governing Controversy”, The Christadelphian, Vol. 61, No. 722 (Aug. 1924), pp. 342-345. These last two articles are also reproduced in the book Principles and Proverbs.

“A Pure Fellowship”, The Christadelphian, Vol. 68, No. 807 (Sept. 1931), pp. 408-410. This article was reprinted in Vol. 95, No. 1128 (June 1958), pp. 258-260.
Alan Eyre: “Problems of Fellowship in the First Century Ecclesia”, The Christadelphian, Vol. 108, 1971. This is a series of five articles commencing in the January issue.
The Committee of The Christadelphian: “Fellowship: Its Spirit and Practice”, The Christadelphian, Vol. 109, No. 1291 (Jan. 1972), pp. 7-13. This is also available separately in pamphlet form from The Office of The Christadelphian.
H.A. Whittaker: “Block Disfellowship: Is It Taught in the Bible?”, The Testimony, Vol. 43, No. 512 (Aug. 1973), pp. 310-313, and No. 513 (Sept. 1973), pp. 340-345.

The above articles, as well as all the others cited in the body of this book, should be read in their entirety if possible.

In truth, however, we must realize there is only one authority in spiritual matters; it is only insofar as the writings of brethren illuminate the principles of God’s Word that they are useful. Otherwise, they may become a snare; today, we are confronted with a sad spectacle: We see almost a dozen mutually exclusive “pure” fellowships, each appealing to the names of the same “pioneer” brethren almost as though they were inspired prophets. Thus they seek to justify their separation from the other eleven “groups”, but especially from the “Central” or “Reunion” Fellowship.

In arbitrarily choosing the Scriptures to be emphasized in any study, the writer leaves himself open to the criticism of being less than objective. This charge may be inescapable in a subject as volatile as “fellowship”. How does one walk the “tightrope” between an intolerable leniency on the one hand, and the vehement censure of any and every deviation on the other — a habit that has become all too common among us? I ask you, the reader, to give due weight to every relevant passage, and balance all arguments according to their Biblical evidence. Perhaps if we approach the Word of God as we should, humbly, prayerfully — and with just a hint of godly fear — then we will achieve that balanced approach where justice and mercy, goodness and severity, patience and action walk hand in hand.

I have attempted to consider, as far as possible, only the Scriptural aspects of “fellowship”, and not the circumstances of the many previous divisions. These would themselves constitute material for a sizeable volume, but in my estimation this would not be nearly so profitable a study. No “fellowship” of today is precisely what it once was. And experience shows us the impossibility of judging perfectly even present-day situations. How much less can we be certain of all our “facts” (i.e., motives and circumstances) in a 50- or 100-year-old controversy? It is next to impossible to know the circumstances as they truly existed at the time of these divisions, or the minds of the brethren involved. Therefore, it would be very difficult for us to make an unbiased judgment as to the particular fellowship issues as they may have existed in their days. A little more Christadelphian humility in such matters might very well be the wisest course for all of us.

What does require further investigation is the very concept of “first principles”: What precisely are “first principles”? And how can they be Biblically determined? These are important questions because, no matter how well Biblical principles of fellowship may be understood, there is still the matter of where and how they should be applied. And being able to draw clearly defined and consistent lines between first principles and matters of lesser importance is crucial in this process. It is my hope to deal with these important but difficult matters in a further work — to be published, God willing, within the next year or so. [This has since been published, as What Are The First Principles?]

It is to the Bible that we turn, then, to determine the responsibilities of true “fellowship”, both individual and ecclesial, in our present-day circumstances. And yet is not “fellowship” distinctly more than a mere responsibility?

“Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write unto you, that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:3,4).
                                                                                                George Booker

                                                                                                May 1990

Further preface to internet edition

Please see also the special addendum to Biblical Fellowship, at the end of this work, entitled THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE ONE BODY. The author feels this statement is necessary, to provide a necessary corrective and corollary to the general thesis of Biblical Fellowship. To put it another way, whereas Biblical Fellowship stresses our duty, individually and collectively, to recognize in fellowship, and to treat as brethren, those who share our fundamental beliefs -- The Implications of the One Body stresses our obligations toward those whose fellowship we do share.

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