George Booker
What Are The First Principles?

15. General Weaknesses of the BASF

We summarize, then, some of the more general weaknesses of the BASF:

(1) The BASF uses uncommon and difficult words, suitable perhaps for a legal document of the Victorian era, but not nearly so suitable in a document we hope will be read (and understood!) by people in general today. (If any reader feels inclined to exclaim, “Why in the world should we want people in general today to understand it?”, then it may be because he has not seriously considered our body’s duty to proclaim the gospel to the world!) Probably many readers can define such words as these, but can our neighbors (or even our Sunday School scholars) define them?:


(2) In addition to archaic and difficult words, the BASF uses lengthy and complex sentences — which obscure the meanings of some wonderfully simple concepts. (This may be seen — for one example — in the Foundation clause of the BASF, as considered previously, under the more detailed evaluation. Examples of this sort could be multiplied.)

(3) The BASF omits any clear statement of the fundamental Bible teaching of justification by faith. Corresponding to this is its failure to mention conversion or repentance in connection with baptism. These oversights may reinforce an unfortunate Christadelphian tendency: to understand, and perhaps to proclaim, salvation as a mechanical process (‘learn the facts, and then be baptized’) more than as a moral awakening (‘change your life, and then be reborn’).

(4) The failure to teach the doctrine of the One Body has reinforced a sad Christadelphian tendency: to divide too quickly, too often, and too easily. This lack of specific teaching on the subject has encouraged us to put far more weight on, and more effort into, maintaining the purity of the Truth than maintaining the unity of the Body!

(5) The BASF is characterized by a complete absence of “love” as an attribute or motivation of God or Jesus Christ in their work. Also, there is a complete absence of “mercy” in connection with either the Father or the Son.

(6) The BASF tends to say too much in stating a principle, and (sometimes) to suggest inadvertently what is plainly wrong: i.e.,

(7) The BASF puts excessive emphasis (in Clauses XXVI through XXX) upon events of the Last Days, for which our Scriptural approaches to defining “essential doctrine” yield no evidence for inclusion. Considering the scant evidence from any part of the Bible for the literality of the thousand years reign of Christ, and for a “general resurrection and judgment” at the end of that period, these statements might well have been omitted from a statement of faith purporting to define fundamental and saving truth. (This is not to say that these two items, or any other points in the last five clauses, are wrong — only that they are not nearly so well-attested as most of the earlier portions, and that they are demonstrably not of the same “first principles” status. It should go without saying that other, more detailed interpretations of Last Days prophecies must likewise be kept out of “first principles” status, even if some brethren might wish to lift them there.)

Despite the undeniable fact that the BASF embodies saving truth, the above weaknesses emphasize the need for a simpler, more readable, and less confusing statement of faith — not so much for long-time Christadelphians as for the young and the newly-baptized and the interested friends.

By tacit agreement, the Christadelphian body has long used substitutes for the BASF: pamphlets and other outlines and summaries of first principles for the “outsider” and the Sunday School student.

It is a pity that, when asked “What do you Christadelphians believe?”, we must (for some of the reasons above) hesitate to give an inquirer our (more-or-less) official statement of faith!

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