The Christadelphians

Sorry about the lack of activity around here but I don’t have net access at home at the moment.

On my last night in sunny Wirral I decided to go to a meeting called “Jerusalem, the spark that will set the world on FIRE!!” by the Christadelphians. I’d got a leaflet through my door about it, it was only 5 minutes down the road and I had nothing better to do, so off I went.

The talk was in a tiny little conference room with a screen at the front with a powerpoint presentation on it, so I thought it would be the same as the Edinburgh Creation Group (btw, hopefully they’ll be doing more talks this semester so stay tuned), but really it wasn’t much the same at all. It wasn’t very interesting or illuminating so I’m not going to discuss it much, there are other more interesting things. In any case the second I walked in 20 minutes early, a girl about my own age called Sarah came over and sat next to me, asking me questions (assuming I was a Christian, actually. I can see why these meetings only attract Christians though). She seemed genuinely surprised when I told her I believed in evolution, and asked me the ever-so-common question “so why are humanists moral if they don’t believe in God?” I retorted with the usual “so you’re only a good person because God’s watching you, you wouldn’t be so otherwise?” and when she replied that there wouldn’t be any point, I was flabbergasted. Normally that question puts Christians on the back foot, but her dedication to her position and all that it implies (however scary) was extraordinary.

We also spoke a lot about prophecies in the Bible (something which I gather the Christadelphians are very interested in), and I explained that the prophecies are always so very vague, that you can’t really call it a miracle when it’s fulfilled (particularly because there’s no timescale involved, it literally gives itself eternity for its own prophecies to be fulfilled), and she replied that it’s the way it has to be, otherwise it would be too easy to believe and everyone would do it. Why do Christians have this obsession with making things hard for themselves? Now I appreciate that she’s young and a more experienced Bible reader probably would have answered differently, but it’s still totally the wrong attitude to take. I asked her the question I always ask religious types, why she trusts the Bible as evidence, but not other books like the Q’uran? She replied that the Bible is full of proof and evidence, such as the fulfilled prophecies she’d already mention, and others aren’t. “So how much of the Q’uran have you read?” I asked. As I expected she’d never even opened it, excusing herself because she had so much Bible reading to do. Apparently the Christadelphians assign themselves certain reading schedules each day, so they read the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice each year, analysing it closely. I quickly saw the problem with taking all your authority with one source, as the whole talk was just “this is in the Bible, and it’s true”, with no kind of outside evidence.

Anyway Sarah glimpsed a page out of my ‘loony book’ that I take to all these kinds of meetings to take notes (for some reason I don’t have it with my right now but I’ll check it when I get home to make sure my memory’s reliable from last week), which mentioned the role of women. Ironically enough, in the next minute or so, all the women in the room started covering their heads with veils! I asked her what they were doing, and she said they had to cover their heads and sit in silence so as to not “usurp the authority” of the man! I quickly noticed all the veiled-covered heads were sitting at the back too, and as an explanation of sorts she pulled a passage out of Timothy (she’d referred to her Bible several times during our conversation) which said pretty much exactly what she’d just said. For some reason the version linked is slightly different but it has the same gist. I asked her how any woman could dedicate their life to a sexist organisation like that, and she replied that men and women weren’t being treated unequally, they just had different roles in worshipping God. Nevertheless she contradicted herself later when she spoke about something she’d learned in Bible study about the head of a woman being a man, and the head of a man being God. I was weirded out, to say the least. I hope one day she leaves the Christadelphians because she’s obviously been brainwashed into it.

Anyway, to at least brush on the topic of Israel I’ll mention the talk. Basically the speaker outlined the history of Israel, claimed that the Christadelphians weren’t a pro-Israeli group (just a group interested from a Biblical perspective), and showed how the prophecies had come true. He basically fit his interpretation of the Bible around current events. There was no question and answer session at the end, much to my surprise. At the end I went up to him and asked him in no uncertain terms why the Israelis had any more right to be in Israel than anyone else, and he replied “because the Bible says so. From the start God is very much concerned with the Iraeli people, the descendents of Jacob.” I said that it was kind of self-fulfilling that the Jewish God is going to be concerned with the Jewish people, so why do you believe that and not other self-fulfilling books like the Q’uran? He said the Bible is a book of prophecy (kind of what Sarah said, isn’t it?). I entertained the idea by asking, like what? He said, well, Israel itself is a miracle! “Excuse me? No it’s not. A miracle is something that cannot happen naturally, a supernatural event. Israel reformed because people wanted it to.” “Yes but it hasn’t happened anywhere else in the entire history of humankind!”

After debating that point with him and getting nowhere, I took some of their literature to read and went home, thoroughly deflated. As soon as I’ve read it (one of them is entitled “proof that God exists”, so that should be interesting), I’ll get something about it up here.

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8 Responses to The Christadelphians

  1. […] in silence with their heads covered [10-15], which encountered when I went to a seminar by the Christadelphians. This whole ‘equal but different’ bullshit was used to justify segregation in America […]

  2. Delphmuncher says:

    My friend the Christadelphians are just the same as mormons and JW’s. Take away their proofs, prophesies and bullshit and they all operate in the same manner causing the same harm to individuals, family & society.

    http//recoveringcultist.blogspot.com

  3. Tim Woodall says:

    As someone brought up as a Christadelphian it is interesting to read your impressions. I’ve been to lots of talks like the one you describe and prophecy is the no 1 recruiting tool of the Christadelphians for non-Christians, at least historically.

    Israel in particular is brought up and I find your observation that “it was kind of self-fulfilling that the Jewish God is going to be concerned with the Jewish people” thought-provoking. From a Christadelphian perspective this would need more in-depth answers because (although natural reasons for their return are there) the prophecies referred to were written well before Christ and are amazing in view of the fact that for 2000 years the Jews lived outside of Israel and for most of history there were few there.

    Christadelphians believe by nature we naturally do what is wrong in God’s eyes (this is called sin-in-the flesh) and they therefore do not believe in humanism. They see it as a deceptive and naturally conducive idea to disobedience to God. Hence the strong dedication of Sarah to that position. She would not believe incidentally without scripture people actively “try” to be bad, but that since by nature we are flawed, selfish and self-interested that would occur. We would have no self-intest in taking steps that would damage our personal interest.

    This is incidentally more complex than what you suggest. What does motivate people to do what is right when society or social pressures are against doing that? In addition, if we evolve by an uncontrolled process, how can there be a moral basis to life?

    Yes, Christadelphians are conditioned, but in a way, aren’t we all?

  4. grammarking says:

    No, no we’re not, not unless you think questioning what you’re told and trying to find out what is true is a form of ‘conditioning’. It is not the case that everyone comes at the world from a different perspective and the truth lies somewhere between all these viewpoints. Some viewpoints are closer to reality than others, and the method that has repeatedly shown itself to be the best one available for determining whether your beliefs are true or not is the scientific method. The Christadelphians think that reading one book is the best way to determine what is truth.

    “In addition, if we evolve by an uncontrolled process, how can there be a moral basis to life?” Very simply. Populations that do not have some kind of morality soon fall apart because they’re screwing each other over all the time, whereas the populations with a sense of morality survive.

    Regardless, that question is completely irrelevant. Morality is not just what we feel inside, it is a way in which we scorn behaviour which causes genuine harm, and allow behaviour which doesn’t. Seeing homosexuality as immoral may be justified in a primitive evolutionary sense, but it is not at all justifiable in a modern setting. That’s why a humanist morality is infinitely superior to a Biblical one; because it can change with the advent of new evidence, whereas a Biblical set of morals involves obeying an entity which may or may not exist anyway.

    Biblical ‘morality’ is not really morality at all, it’s just obedience. And since God was negligent enough to ignore up and coming moral controversies like nanotechnology, and seeing as he was so short-sighted as to allow slavery, looks like we’re going to have to figure out this morality malarkey on our own. Fortunately some of us have been doing that for quite some time so we have the tools available.

    • Tim Woodall says:

      It’s a bit deeper than that. I certainly don’t believe that questioning what we’re told and trying to find out what is true is a form of ‘conditioning’. What I would suggest is that our questioning and trying to find out is done within such factors as our upbringing, society, environment, social pressures and so forth.

      The scientific methodology and its wide acceptance hasn’t come out of a void and nor does it explain everything either. It can itself be a form of conditioning to accept one methodology of thought.

      I’m not sure morality as you describe is morality and it certainly hasn’t worked nor works the way you decribe even in secular societies. Politicians cheat on their expenses, leaders can prove corrupt, individuals steal and businesses pay accopuntants to devise legal ways to avoid tax. And societies can have all these elements and more and yet survive hundreds of years.

      Surely in practice there is no such thing as good or evil in a world which evolves without any God, just as there is no such thing as purpose or morals. Its all just chemistry and physics.

      • grammarking says:

        This is a common misconception and I don’t understand why people don’t see through it more easily. Just because some people take their morality from their belief in God, doesn’t mean that people without God have no other basis for morality.

        Morality is a social construct, and one that generally serves us very well. To claim that without God there’s no such thing as good and evil you would have to be claiming that without God there is no such thing as an act that helps or harms other people. Clearly those things are independent of whether God exists. An ‘evil’ act to me is one that causes harm (yes it’s more complicated than that, but this is a simple way of demonstrating that morality is independent of God’s existence without having to go into morality of ethics). As you say, it’s not perfect, but reason – guided by a set of values that we all share – is bringing us closer and closer to a better version of morality which religious obedience evidently
        does not do. And in the same way, the scientific method is bringing us closer to a better model of reality.

  5. Tim Woodall says:

    I accept its very different if evolution has a theistic base, but that has its own set of difficulties

  6. Tim Woodall says:

    Surely that’s a belief system rather than something factual without a God. What is “right” to you or “society” isn’t a moral fact but a personal construct. Who is to say even evil is better than good in evolutionary terms. Evolution cares nothing for such things because it has no purpose or direction without a God. We may “make” our ouwn morality, but surely that would be all that it is.

    Maybe each of us has a varying natural sense of morality with some abstaining more things than others, but how could it be more concrete that?

    I would also question the scientific method brings us to a “better model of reality”. Rather it often starts with a belief in a clockwork world and believes all knowledge is learnt through one particular way of examining the world. In other words it often used a preconcied concept of reality.

    It is simply one way of studying the world and it isn’t the only way either. The myth is that the scientific model given enough time can explain everything. Even if it could it would take something more to utilise that knowledge in a constructive manner.

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