19th September, 2004 - TCE replies:
thank you for taking the time to e-mail us again.
we regret that it has taken longer to reply than we hoped, but we now enclose our thoughts on the points you brought up.
You write: 'the christadelphians do not base their entire beliefs upon Brother John Thomas and in no way is he a leader, he just had a great understanding for the scriptures (as many bretheren have today.)
he is certainly not the leader in the Christadelphians. we have no leader except Christ. i would like to stress that heavily.'
TCE: we have supplied enough facts to show that Thomas was not just the founder and leader of the Christadelphians, but was also responsible for the aberrant and heretical doctrines which he taught his disciples so that these errors have, at the most, been embellished by those who followed. Our invitation remains for Christadelphians to prove otherwise with facts!
The Christadelphian booklet, 'Preparing for Baptism' (printed December 1983 and October 1984 for Christadelphian Scripture Study Service, 17 Braemar Road, Torrens Park, South Australia, 5062 - and used here in Cardiff) is a clear teaching tool used to prepare the innocent to become Christadelphians. It clearly sets out 15 lessons divided into notes and 'it is suggested that written answers to these questions would be done in between teaching periods ... this ensures that the subjects dealt with are thoroughly digested, repetition being a great aid to memory and instruction.' It also includes the appendices: the Statement of Faith, Doctrines to be Rejected, and an Epitome of the Commandments of Christ. Thus, without adequately supplying the counter arguments to these Christadelphian indoctrinations, it effectively blinds the unwary to the truth of the Biblical gospel. And which books are recommended reading throughout the booklet?:
Elpis Israel (J. Thomas)
Christendom Astray (R. Roberts)
God's Way (J. Carter)
First Principles - Bible Marking Course (J. Luke and P. Weller)
The Declaration (R. Roberts)
A Life of Jesus (Melva Purkis)
Nazareth Revisited (R. Roberts)
Thus we are surprised to read claims from other Christadelphians that 'all their doctrines could be proven ... without using commentaries from ... John Thomas and Robert Roberts.' This is clearly untrue.
You (partially) quote us: "TCE: Your statement here is incorrect and obviously unprovable and we will happily explain the teaching of the 'Triune' God from Scripture - starting from basic"
You write: 'i am certain that the is no first record of the trinity (be it in the Bible or the Apostles Creed) The trinity is a man made device which has advanced over time.'
TCE: we will supply a summary of the doctrine of the Triunity of the Godhead in an accompanying e-mail;
You (partially) quote us: "also notice that we have already shown that the fact that the word 'Trinity' does not appear in the Bible is as irrelevant as the fact that the term 'God-manifestation' does not appear in the Bible. "
i would look at
John 17.6 (Jesus manifesting his name through himself)
1John1.2 clearly shows that the word was with God and was manifested in the flesh (and God was the word in John 1.)
so i think u will find that what u said about God's manifestation is incorrect (but what u said about the trinity not being in the bible is right)
TCE: you need to read more carefully, Tim. We were comparing the word 'Trinity' with the term 'God manifestation'. We repeat - neither the word 'Trinity' nor the term 'God manifestation' appear in the Bible. We were simply making a slightly tongue-in-cheek point which you have missed. But, of the more important matter, we will supply evidence for the existence of the Triune God in Scripture and we expect you to supply evidence for the 'God manifestation' you believe in.
We note that Christadelphians say of Jesus:
'He was the Son of God, the manifestation of God by Spirit power, but not God himself' (Christendom Astray pp.159/160)
'to say that Jesus was a perfect moral image of God ... is very different from saying ... that he was himself the 'very Godhead'* (Dawn Fellowship: Jesus Christ - God or Man, p.14)
Christadelphians refer to Jesus as being 'Emmanuel - God with us,' but actually believe Jesus is an exact representation of God, but not God. We have heard Christadelphians even agreeing that there is no attribute found in God that is not represented in Christ, while somehow still insisting He is not God.
We have detailed the following facts further in 'The Trinity', but mention briefly that the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is:
Omnipresent Matthew 18:20; 28:20; 2 Corinthians 13:5.
Omniscient Luke 5:22; Matthew 9:4; John 2:25.
Omnipotent Matthew 8:26-27; 9:23-26; 28:18; Ephesians 1:21.
Unchangeable Hebrews 13:8; Psalm 102:25-27.
Note: all of these are attributes ONLY found in GOD.
Paul proclaimed, 'In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily' (Colossians 2:9). We also read that the Son is to be honoured in the same way as the Father (John 5:23) and that Jesus accepted worship (Matthew 14:33; 2:2, 11; 28:17; John 9:35-38; Hebrews 1:6), even though we are to worship only God (Luke 4:8). In fact, Jesus said that you are to worship God (the Father) only (Matthew 4:10). Yet, Jesus receives worship and never rebukes anyone for it. Anyone else accepting worship would be guilty of blasphemy and subject to death (Acts 12:20-23). This confirms, therefore, that Jesus is God in the form of a man (Philippians 2:6-7).
There are many verses which make it clear that the Lord Jesus Christ is God and which simply do not fit into Christadelphian theology. We would be interested to hear how you handle Scripture - better than Christadelphian leaders in Cardiff? Here is a real account of our second encounter with Christadelphian leaders in this city - an account we have already supplied to other Christadelphians who wished to comment on our treatment of their faith. We have received no explanation for this supposed treatment of clear evidence for the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ:
'[the Christadelphians] advertised another open invitation lecture in which they proposed to discuss 'The Trinity'. At the beginning of the meeting Stephen Palmer, the speaker, claimed that the meeting was in response to the 'tracting' efforts of a few members of a local Baptist church who had remained outside the previous meeting when I caused such upset with a simple Biblical question. Anyone familiar with the Christadelphians treatment of the subject of the 'Trinity' would recognise the same appeal to dictionaries and quotes from the like of former Anglican, 'Cardinal' Newman, who proved his inability to detect the truth from Scripture when he defected to Rome. The 'Trinity' is considered a mystery by these 'authorities,' without appeal to Scriptural warrant for the doctrines. All of their claims are easily refuted.
No 'tri-unitarian' - to use the correct expression - worth his salt would have been concerned at the early objections being expressed by Stephen Palmer. However, when he began to deal with Scriptures that clearly speak of the Deity of Christ in unequivocal terms, a new approach was used. He read John20v28:
'Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!'
The verses show clearly that the monotheistic Jewish believer Thomas addressed the Lord Jesus Christ as his Lord and God! It does not matter what games you try and play with the languages for the meaning is inescapable.
To my astonishment Palmer declared: 'I expect what Thomas really said was: 'My Lord and my elohim.'
This was too much to go unchallenged and I quickly asked him if he could 'present a single piece of New Testament manuscript evidence to support this claim!'
His reply? He snappily asked 'if I considered myself to be an expert on the subject.'
I replied: 'No - but I do claim to know what experts say about the manuscript evidence!'
Needless to say, Palmer never did supply any evidence to support this claim. After the meeting I asked him if he would reply to a letter if I wrote to him explaining the position of 'Trinitarians.' I spent some months supplying a fairly comprehensive outline of the Deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit and the general 'Tri-unitarian' position.
A received a fairly cursory reply in which he admitted that he had merely gone to the library and found these quotes 'on the 'Trinity' shelf.' In reply to my endeavours to explain the 'Trinitarian position' from every reasonable angle possible, I received the accusation of tautology! He made no comment on his own deception regarding John 20:28.
It is clear from this Scripture that Thomas had no doubt that Jesus was 'My Lord and my God' and, indeed, he addressed the reply to Jesus. Suggesting that Jesus was called 'My Lord and (my) elohim' is purely wishful thinking. We are not advised to presume anything about God's Word, and to begin to apply interpretations and additions to Scripture so that it fits your theology is completely unacceptable. I was well aware of the reason for inserting this thought into John 20:28. Since, in the Old Testament, elohim can refer to angels, pagan 'gods,' objects of 'worship', men who act in a 'god-like' manner (e.g. Psalm 82:1-6 - a Scripture referred to by Christadelphians to try and prove 'God-manifestation', even though it clearly says that these 'gods' will die!) etc., this word would allow the Christadelphians to claim that Thomas was not declaring the Lord Jesus Christ to be the One True God. This application of elohim is found in the writings of Thomas and Roberts and I do not believe for a moment that anyone reading a good translation of the Bible on its own would ever think of a subterfuge of this kind. There are many good translations around which, read literally, will lead the sincere seeker into the basic truths that even a child can understand.'
1. If Jesus is not God, then why is He called God by Thomas? Jesus didn't correct him for his 'error.'
Consider the clear testimony of Hebrews 1:5-8:
For to which of the angels did He [God] ever say: 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You'? And again: 'I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son'? 6But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: 'Let all the angels of God worship Him.' 7And of the angels He says: 'Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire.' 8But to the Son He says: 'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom.'
Jesus is clearly called God by God the Father!
2. If He is not God, then why does the Father call Him God? Is the Father wrong? Is the writer of Hebrews wrong? Or, are the Christadelphians wrong?
You quote: 1 Timothy 3:16 which reads:
16 Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. (NIV)
16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. (KJV)
Greek expert E.A. Vines defines the Greek word phaneroo, interpreted manifest:
phaneroo (5319), akin to No. 1, signifies, in the active voice, 'to manifest'; in the passive voice, 'to be manifested'; so,regularly, in the RV, instead of 'to appear.' See 2 Cor. 7:12; Col. 3:4; Heb. 9:26; 1 Pet. 5:4; 1 John 2:28; 3:2; Rev. 3:18. To be manifested, in the Scriptural sense of the word, is more than to 'appear.' A person may 'appear' in a false guise or without a disclosure of what he truly is; to be manifested is to be revealed in one's true character; this is especially the meaning of phaneroo, see, e.g., John 3:21; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10-11; Eph. 5:13.
In the KJV the first word of the creed is 'God' (theos). But the oldest Greek manuscripts have hos, 'he who' as the subject of 'appeared.' The verb (phaneroo) means, in the active voice, 'make visible, clear, manifest, or known.' The eternal Son of God, existing as pure spirit, was made visible, was manifested, in his incarnation. 'Incarnation' is from the Latin and literally means 'in flesh,' which is exactly what the Greek has here (en sarki).
So the verse is interpreted:
God was manifest in the flesh: Jesus was revealed in human form.
Justified in the Spirit: The Holy Spirit vindicated Jesus in that His true nature was disclosed and His Messianic claims substantiated.
Seen of angels: They witnessed Jesus' whole earthly career.
Preached unto the Gentiles: The gospel of Jesus has been proclaimed to the nations.
Believed on in the world: Multitudes have accepted the gospel, trusting in Jesus.
Received up into glory: Jesus was divinely taken back into heaven.
So in reading: 'God was manifest in the flesh', Paul is teaching the Virgin birth of Christ, but he is also speaking of Christ's existence before His incarnation. That existence was spiritual for: He was '… in the form of God …' (Philippians 2:6). Hebrews speaks of Christ as: '… being the brightness [effulgence] of his [God's] glory, and the express image of his person …' (Hebrews 1:3). The Lord Jesus Himself said, 'God is a Spirit …' (John 4:24).
You quote: John 17.6 (Jesus manifesting his name through himself)
TCE: The verse reads:
6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. (KJV)
The glory of God has been visible in Christ in yet one more way. Jesus has revealed (made known - 'manifested') the Father's name (Gk. onoma, name; NIV you, 17:6). In his own person (John 1:18, 14:9), Jesus revealed more directly than ever before God's authority, power and character. Paul says the same: this Christ who emptied himself is the bearer of 'the name that is above every name' (Philippians 2:9f.). The name of God is a vital Old Testament concept beginning with Moses' experience on Sinai (Exodus 3:13-15; Deuteronomy 12:5; Isaiah 52:6 - see 'The Trinity') and Jesus has given this throughout his public ministry in the great 'I Am' sayings (e.g., John 8:24, 58). In the Old Testament possessing God's name is precious; it implies relationship, obedience, and knowledge. Only Christians possess God's name in this Old Testament sense (v6) and they alone draw the correct inference: the Son who bears this name has come from God and is God.
You quote: 1John1.2 clearly shows that the word was with God and was manifested in the flesh (and God was the word in John 1.)
TCE: bearing in mind the real meaning of 'manifestation,' we find that this verse does not help the Christadelphian case at all.
1 John 1:1-3 reads:
1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) 3That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
The first four clauses in verse 1 lead from eternity ('the beginning'; not the beginning of the gospel) through history to the resurrection. We are clearly pointed back to John 1:1: 'In the beginning was the Word', and from there to Genesis 1:1: 'In the beginning God' - with this difference: the Gospel deals with the 'personal Word' (ho logos), of His eternity, and His entrance 'in the flesh' into time as we know it. The Epistle centres on the life heard and in turn proclaimed (cf. Acts 5:20; Philippians 2:16). This message, the gospel, is from 'the beginning' because it is of God. It precedes creation, time, and history. This is why William Barclay translated John 1:1-3 in his New English Bible:
'When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was. The Word then, was with God at the beginning, and through him all things came to be; no single thing was created without him.'
'The beginning' is God's message of life which finds its culmination in Jesus. In Him the Word of life becomes incarnated, manifested, and hence can be seen, touched, and even handled. The use of the pronoun 'we' (v1) assures the reader that the message is being proclaimed by those who had heard the gospel with their own ears and who had touched him with their own hands (perhaps a reference to the Resurrection appearances: Luke 24:39; John 20:24-29). Already the writer is mounting his polemic against the heretics who denied that Christ came, literally, in 'the flesh' (John 1:14) - in a human body.
John's authority is derived from experience and from commission. He emphasizes the eternal nature of the 'life' which was 'with the Father' - alluding to Christ's pre-existence (John 1:1). Verses 1-2 express a high view of both the deity and humanity of Christ. Because this is the nub of John's argument, in verse 2 he takes pains to restate that 'was manifested' means 'appeared': The life to which he bears witness, the life that was with the Father, is precisely the life manifested in the historical person of Jesus. That is why John can say he has seen it (heorakamen), can bear personal witness to it (martyroumen), and can make an apostolic declaration concerning it (apangellomen). Westcott (p. 9) says, 'The three verbs give in due sequence the ideas of personal experience, responsible affirmation, authoritative announcement, which are combined in the apostolic message.' The phrase 'eternal life' underscores the divine character of the life described, not its length.
The life John and others saw (cf. John 14:6) is what 1 John seeks to convey to its readers. John says this life, which is summed up and was shown forth in Jesus Christ, was with the Father; this statement echoes John 1:1 and points to Christ's pre-existence, His eternal presence and oneness with God the Father. That which was - not 'began to be,' but was essentially (Greek, 'een,' not 'egeneto') before He was manifested (1 John 1:2); answering to 'Him that is from the beginning' (1 John 2:13) and so John's Gospel can be understood from this clearly (John 1:1): 'In the beginning was the Word.'
John expresses his purposes for writing (1:3-4): as an envoy he announces that the readers may have Christian fellowship which is both 'with us' (the apostles) and 'with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.' The incarnation of the Son makes possible eternal life (v2) and human-divine fellowship, as well as the knowledge of God as Father (John 5:21-27; 10:36). Throughout the letter the name Jesus stresses his human nature; the terms his Son and Christ stress his divine nature. The parallelism ('with the Father... with his Son') shows Jesus Christ to be one with God. Christ is not less than man or less than God.
(Continued on page 239)