George Booker
What Are The First Principles?

17. An Alternative

As a religious community, Christadelphians are known — and enjoy being known — as “the people of the Bible”. Our appeal to others is always: ‘Put aside your traditions; read and believe the Bible.’ It would be a pity for our community to allow itself to become enslaved to a particular statement of faith simply because it has become “traditional”, if a more Biblical alternative were available. [To characterize the ASF as “more Biblical” is not to imply that the BASF is non-Biblical. Instead, it is to assert (1) that there are Biblical (and not merely traditional) reasons for the inclusion of every ASF teaching in the “first principle” category, but (2) that the same cannot be said for the BASF — even if it may be said that its teachings are derived from the Bible.]

Is it possible, or desirable, then, for our community (or individual congregations) to consider an alternative to our most commonly used Statement of Faith? Some traditionalists will say that even to ask such a question is to invite charges of “heresy”. It is appropriate therefore to quote from an article written by the Committee of The Christadelphian:

“It is the word of God alone and not the Statement of Faith which produces faith. When someone wishes to become a Christadelphian, the question is not primarily whether he accepts the Statement of Faith but whether he holds the Bible teaching on which it is based. It is important to have our priorities right and not impute to any human writings, whoever wrote it, the power to produce saving faith and to be the authoritative basis for it. This is not to underestimate the value of the Statement: it is simply to put it in perspective.”

And, again, from the same source:

“Statements other than the Birmingham Amended Statement have always been regarded as acceptable amongst ecclesias in the Central Fellowship, provided they uphold the same Bible Teaching.” 2

The “other” such statements in the above quotation cannot be identical to the BASF; if they were, they would, of course, not be other statements but the same statement. This is so simple as to seem trite. However, it is useful to express the matter in such words. Why? Because brethren may admit the possibility that another “statement of faith” contains saving truth, who will then — almost in the same breath — fight fiercely against any such statement on the sole ground that it is different from the BASF. And the slight difference or differences (either by addition or deletion) will — in their minds — render any “other” statement, by that very fact, unacceptable.

Here, then, is the conclusion:

The BASF contains saving truth. But not everything in the BASF is saving truth. And not every saving truth is contained in the BASF. Nor is the BASF necessarily the best or the most complete statement of saving truth. Other statements, such as the Apostolic Statement of Faith (designated as ASF above) may more perfectly define the One Faith.

The alternative Apostolic Statement of Faith embodies the results of the inquiries outlined earlier, and thus merits its designation of “Apostolic”. This Statement has no “doctrines to be rejected” section, although the false doctrines that are most common around us today (and which truly pervert positive essential teaching) are dealt with in the body of the document. The proposed Statement is also intended to embody the Commandments of Christ, as the last clause implies.

The BASF is not wrong, while the ASF is right. Rather, the BASF is good, while the ASF (it is to be hoped) is better. (And one might hope that further research, carried out in an open-minded fashion, will improve the ASF even more.)

Brethren, then, should not quibble that one statement (the ASF) is slightly different than the other (the BASF). They should seek to understand where and why it is different, and — following the arguments presented — they will be pleased to accept the former when it is an improvement upon the latter.

They should no longer fight for those minor matters contained in the BASF but omitted from the ASF, when they come to recognize that such — even if Bible Teaching — are not saving or essential Bible Teaching.

And, likewise, they should be pleased to accept, and utilize, as saving or essential truths those items which the ASF includes that were, wrongly or by oversight, omitted from the BASF.

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