George Booker
What Are The First Principles?

2. Introduction

So the question has often been asked, in discussions about fellowship matters: “How do we define first principles?”

One answer is obvious: “Why, of course, first principles are those Bible teachings listed in the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith.” (This should not imply that this present study has nothing to say about the Birmingham Unamended Statement of Faith. With the exception of BASF Clause XXIV (see chapter 14m), the two statements are practically identical. So, virtually all of the following analysis will equally apply to the BUSF.) However, the phrase “first principles” is used throughout this work as it is commonly used by Christadelphians: to mean fundamental, essential, or saving Bible Teaching. This answer may sound a bit like: ‘How dare anyone even suggest that our venerated Statement of Faith, which has been handed down to us by our forefathers, which has withstood more than 100 years of assaults by the wicked, is not completely satisfactory!’

But is this definition of first principles Biblical, or merely traditional? To define “first principles” Biblically, we must ask: “What makes some doctrines essential, while others are not?” To answer this question is to attempt to distinguish, on a Biblical basis, between:

  1. matters of exposition on which a difference of opinion may — and should — be tolerated, and
  2. those fundamentals of our faith where it is critical that there be a unity of view.
It may well be that, in attempting to define first principles, we confirm and validate the generally-accepted answer (‘the BASF, of course!’). But it may also be that Bible-based research may suggest reasonable improvements upon the BASF (and, to a similar degree, upon the BUSF also).

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