On Tuesday, June 30th 1998, the Christadelphians (hereafter abbreviated to CDs) held a meeting at the Memorial Hall in Wentloog Road, Rumney, Cardiff, with the declared intention of replying to our tract - "Beware the Cults". Before CD spokesman Stephen Palmer began his 'rebuttal,' Acts Chapter 17 was read with the clear intention of emphasising verse 11:
And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.
Most people purporting to be Christians will acknowledge that this verse affirms the need to check out the gospel presented to you - no matter what the source - with Scripture. Palmer began by describing the tract in the following way: "We believe the quite biased and unreasonable picture presented in this document....." and then pointed out that disciples of Christ should expect to be attacked. Unfortunately this can be applied to all claiming to be true Christians - and even other religions. Ask the other cults described in our tract if they believe they are ever attacked for their beliefs! Palmer then made the assertion that people will link the accusation that the CDs are a cult to this view:
"Most people when they think of cults..they think of Waco in America...they think of mass suicides....groups of weirdoes who take people away from their families...brainwash them...indoctrinate them...cause them to give up all their wealth...that sort of thing...we don't want to be in with them because they will deceive you, steal from you....and so on....Now that's what's been put in people's minds in association with Christadelphians....it's not just happened here it's happened in other parts of the world...I'll just give you a case (in Serbia)...."
Now you will immediately notice by reading our definition that it is Palmer who has made this association with such as the Waco (break-off from the Seventh-Day Adventists) incident in the USA which resulted in many deaths. We wrote:
The word cult is from the Latin word cultus - to worship, or show reverence to something - but specifically describes people who base their beliefs on the world view of an isolated leadership which always denies the central doctrines of Christianity as taught from the Bible. All of these groups - and many others - present a "different gospel" from the historical gospel preached by the apostles (Galatians 1v6-9)......Do not be taken in by any counterfeit! If you are already studying with any of these groups - or others who exhibit the same "marks of the cults" - we advise you to contact us for more details and conclusive proof of any facts we quote.
Those reading our tract will not find us linking the CDs with bizarre Waco type incidents in any way. By appealing to the house arrest and persecution of a CD in Serbia for belonging to a suicide cult (when all the man was guilty of was stating his belief in Christ and His 'death and resurrection') Palmer continued his appeal to emotion - one of the signs of a false teacher (2 Peter 2). It was indeed interesting that Palmer searched Walter Martin's classic work, "The Kingdom of the Cults," to use the full definition of all the signs of the dominant cult leader. Equally interesting was his remark:
"Interesting that Christadelphians are not in here - probably because they're not large enough a group.....the Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Mormons, Buddhists - and so on - are."
Some would call referring to an expert definition of a cult, denying that it applies to your group and then pondering why you're not in the book, a Freudian slip! We wouldn't - because Freud was an occultist and this would be appealing to emotion. We intend to appeal only to the provable FACTS of history and the Bible - and to address these other cults in due course. Palmer made further reference to Martin's book in comparing the CDs:
"We are a religious group which does differ significantly in more than one respect in matters of belief from those religious groups which are regarded as the norm in this country...we would not, however, accept that we are orientated around a personality - unless you accept the personality of the Lord Jesus Christ....or a revelation, unless you accept the revelation of the word of God.....or the interpretation of one individual....so that definition does not apply in its entirety. Now I suspect that those who labelled us didn't want us to be seen as a benign Christian group that holds some non-traditional religious beliefs. Rather as a much more sinister group than that...but this is what the Kingdom of the Cults is about. The dangerous thing from my point of view is this - that all the Wacky Waco people and all the suicide people, all the charlatans, are encompassed in that label with people who are trying to lead respectable lives as part of this country... we pay our taxes and so on. Who believe that the Word of God is all important and will not accept the interpretation of one individual....whoever he is. Whether he be the Pope or Archbishop, Billy Graham - or anybody. That will insist that every individual tests the truth against the Word of God. And if you want to know about Christadelphians then you will find that that thing is true. That that is our approach - we believe it is unique. We believe we are the only group that dares to say that. Do not believe what we say - test what we say against the Word of God. Let me add a caution for those who are concerned about the smallness of a group such as ourselves. Turn to Acts Chapter 24....let us recall what they said about the first Christians..and what the Lord Jesus Christ said about the narrow way and few there be that find it and about the broad way of which there were many. Acts 24v14...."But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law, and that is written in the Prophets'....they were labelled as a sect and despised as troublemakers, so there's a caution isn't there about using labels to determine truth and falsehood.
We have emphasised in bold the essential errors in Palmer's statements as well as the important admission that CDs "are a religious group which does differ significantly in more than one respect in matters of belief from those religious groups which are regarded as the norm in this country...". Our definition of a cult included the point that the term "specifically describes people who base their beliefs on the world view of an isolated leadership which always denies the central doctrines of Christianity as taught from the Bible. All of these groups - and many others - present a "different gospel" from the historical gospel preached by the apostles (Galatians 1v6-9)." It is not the label 'cult' that determines truth & falsehood - it is the gospel preached that determines the label - and we never suggested otherwise, so Palmer's 'strawman' tumbles again. CDs are certainly 'sinister' as far as the definition includes 'devilish, harmful, wicked' for they clearly oppose the historic gospel of Christ and Paul therefore declares them 'accursed'!
Palmer claimed that CDs are not orientated around a personality, revelation, or interpretation of one individual and claimed that they are the only group which believes in individual interpretation of the Bible. We will see in due course if this claim is true. Despite their claims it is impossible for the CDs to prove their existence before their foundation brought about by Dr John Thomas in the 1850's. He gave up practicing medicine to work full time to propagate his religious views, founding the Christadelphians ('brothers in Christ'). He was sure that his own interpretation of "difficult" sections of the prophets and the book of Revelation, in the Bible, was right. So much so that he was ready not merely to reject many of the tenets of orthodox historic Christianity, but also to maintain that only those who accepted his views and became Christadelphians could be saved. The fellowship to which he was attached, the Disciples of Christ, attempted to discipline him for his "strange doctrines" but he refused to accept the discipline and drew away his own followers and maintained that only those who accepted his views and became Christadelphians (he first named his group The Royal Association of Believers in New York) could be saved. Thus he followed the pattern of absorption of "doctrines of demons" (1 Timothy 4v1-2), rebellion, quickly followed by the seeking of a personal following which emerges when the origins of any cult are examined - and therefore qualifies as having formed 'an isolated leadership!' Thomas wrote "Eureka", a 2,000 page commentary on "Revelation", in which he claimed he had solved the problem of interpretation which had baffled Biblical scholars for years.
Thomas' also wrote 'Phanerosis - An Exposition of....the manifestation of the invisible eternal God in human nature' (published 1869) which is still used in teaching today in Christadelphian circles and often, if not always, given to freshly baptised converts. A reading of the foreword of the 1969 edition (by H.P. Mansfield) repeats the views expressed in 1881 (by J.W. Thirtle) and makes it abundantly clear that if you choose to disagree with Thomas' views expressed in 'Eureka ' and 'Phanerosis' - concerning the name "Yahweh" and 'the subject of God-manifestation' - then this work is considered:
'beyond the compass of those who have not seen their way to be content with dealing with things which are within their reach.....others, however, convinced of the impregnability of Dr Thomas's position, have been thankful for plainly expressed results of his labour and study, and grateful for the light he shed upon the doctrine of God-manifestation in its many revealed phases; and this, notwithstanding their individual inability to follow him in every stage of his reasoning, owing to their own lack of the qualifications necessary to support them in an adventure on the field of Biblical criticism....It will be patent to any reader of Dr Thomas's works that he did not find his problems already worked out, neither were the difficulties he encountered already solved and only waiting to be 're-hashed up.'.....hard study and careful investigation were required before he could, in the lucid way he did, 'open up the Scriptures' to enquirers after the way of life....
Notice that these very quotations, in a book we know is commended by speaker Palmer, deny his very statements! Read each portion carefully and you will see clearly that the CDs claim that Thomas' works were 'beyond the compass' of others, that they were 'grateful for the light he shed upon the doctrine of God-manifestation.' Clearly no one before Thomas was capable of finding this 'light' because of 'their individual inability to follow him in every stage of his reasoning, owing to their own lack of the qualifications necessary to support them in an adventure on the field of Biblical criticism....'. Further, it is made clear that no one before Thomas had shed this light or understanding because it is stated that: 'he did not find his problems already worked out, neither were the difficulties he encountered already solved and only waiting to be 're-hashed up.'.....hard study and careful investigation were required before he could, in the lucid way he did, 'open up the Scriptures' to enquirers after the way of life....
So, despite the claims of Palmer, no one before Thomas had this 'light' because they were simply incapable through lack of 'ability/qualifications'. History had to wait for this man to ''open up the Scriptures' to enquirers after the way of life.' This makes it clear that no one reading the Bible on their own, since the days of the apostles, can possibly know this Thomas truth - and particularly the "truth" of "God-manifestation"! CDs have often made it clear that they are very reliant on the teachings of such as Thomas and Robert Roberts (who succeeded Thomas and continued in the same doctrines) to sustain them:
We thank God that we are privileged to live in times when the Bible may be read in conjunction with the light thrown upon it by *Eureka...We have only to try and imagine ourselves without the invaluable aid to the understanding ...of scriptures...to realise how helpless our position would be..." (Light and Shades of the Truth's History, p.61) (emphasis added)
How can one state "....to realise how helpless our position would be..." without making it clear that Bible sufficiency is not enough! CDs today continue in their teachings. Readers of 'Phanerosis' will notice that the foreword makes plain that the CDs viewpoint was that:
There is no more important theme in Scripture than that of God-manifestation. In fact, the two basic doctrines of the Bible comprise: (a) - The nature of flesh; and (b) - God manifestation. The former teaches us what we are, and what we must guard against; the latter outlines what we can become, and what we must aim for."...."Brother Thomas wrote: 'Men were not ushered into being for the purpose of being saved or being lost! God manifestation not human salvation was the great purpose of the Eternal Spirit. The salvation of a multitude is incidental to the manifestation, but was not the end proposed. The Eternal Spirit intended to enthrone Himself on the earth, and in so doing, to develop a Divine family from among men, every one of whom shall be Spirit, because born of the Spirit, and that this family shall be large enough to fill the earth, when perfected, to the entire exclusion of flesh and blood (1 Cor. 15:28)." (emphasis added)
The foreword to 'Phanerosis' concludes by claiming that:
".....those who constitute the true Ecclesia of God should manifest an interest in the Name which has been named upon them (John 17:26), and thus learn to be able to pray with greater meaning and intensity: 'Hallowed be Thy name.'" (emphasis added)
Finally the foreword quotes Malachi 3:16-17 and claims:
"These words of the prophet surely emphasise the importance of the subject that engages our attention, and should provide sufficient encouragement to cause the student of the Word to refuse to hearken to those who would "despise the name" (Mal. 1:6) by deprecating the consideration of this important theme. It will enable us with understanding to fulfil the exhortation of Psalm 68:4: "Extol him...by His name Yah." (emphasis added)
Thus it is made clear that the CDs are indeed 'orientated around a personality - and not 'the personality of the Lord Jesus Christ.' It is also clear that Palmer's words that they do not 'accept that they are orientated around a personality....or a revelation.....or the interpretation of one individual...and will not accept the interpretation of one individual....whoever he is...Whether he be the Pope or Archbishop, Billy Graham - or anybody' is FALSE! Despite their protestations our definition of the word cult does 'apply in its entirety'.
It is Palmer who has encompassed 'all the Wacky Waco people and all the suicide people, all the charlatans.....with people who are trying to lead respectable lives as part of this country... we pay our taxes and so on.' Where does he get the idea that to be in a cult means that you don't lead a respectable life or pay your taxes - by reading only the definitions that he wishes to use to gain sympathy? I'm sure that he offends many others who join groups such as Waco and consider themselves in his 'respectable' brackets - none of these things were mentioned in our tract! It is also untrue that the CDs are 'unique' in insisting that '....every individual tests the truth against the Word of God....we believe it is unique. We believe we are the only group that dares to say that. Do not believe what we say - test what we say against the Word of God.' We will be returning to this point in summation.
Palmer referred to the 'smallness' of the CDs and quoted from Acts Chapter 24 while pointing out 'what the Lord Jesus Christ said about the narrow way and few there be that find it and about the broad way of which there were many.' We would emphasise to all concerned that these points could be made by any group calling itself 'Christian.' But one of the marks of a cult is the claim to be 'unique', as Palmer claimed for the CDs. He forgets the words of Jesus in Mark 9v38-40:
38 John said to Him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to hinder him because he was not following us." 39 But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who shall perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. 40 "For he who is not against us is for us."
Since the CDs deny miracles today there is little chance of this applying to them, but a clear mark that sets them out as a cult is the fact that they are against those who still carry out the work of Christ today. They claim the Protestant Reformers failed when they broke away from the Church of Rome and merely produced 'the religious chaos in Christendom today. One of the reasons for the modern ecumenical movement is the awareness that the existence of so many different churches is a reproach to Christianity itself.....Supposedly centred around one Bible, the Protestant churches have in the course of the centuries multiplied their differences" (Christadelphian G.D. Gillett, 'One Bible Many Churches - does it matter?' p. 3,4). What CDs won't tell you is that the denominations of Christendom agree on ALL major points of doctrine - which is why they can meet under many banners and demonstrate such harmony. We are not concerned over the minor points of doctrine which cannot be proved absolutely. Indeed, another mark of the cults is the ability to major in minors, such as baptism - Christendom is not concerned whether the believer is sprinkled or immersed for the thief on the cross proves it is not essential to salvation - but it is an absolute must for the CD, to the extent that he will twist Scripture to try and prove the thief was baptised!
None of the other points made by Palmer can determine the truth and Direction never claimed that they could - but Palmer has promptly added other riders of his own making to 'determine truth and falsehood.' We did not despise the CDs as 'troublemakers' in any form - our only criteria was Scripture and, at this meeting, no attempt was made to answer the Scriptural points we emphasised. The reader may notice that in private the CDs freely talk and write (as we have just shown) about the Protestant churches of Christendom in words such as those of Gillett - but object to labels being put on their group! The known history of the CDs shows that Robert Roberts is renowned for his vitriolic attacks on other churches and we find the same unchanged views in their writings today.
Amazingly, after quoting this "favourite" CD Scripture (Acts 24:14), Palmer turned his attention to trying to claim the local fisherman Rawlins White, who was burnt at the stake in Cardiff in 1555, as one of their own to try & support his defence of Christadelphianism against the cult label. Palmer claimed that White was martyred:
"because he was not orthodox...because he was a member of a religious group which differs significantly in one or more respects as to belief or practice from those religious groups which are regarded as the normative expressions of religion in our (current) culture. Now near this spot he died for the truth....we've been into the history of Rawlins White and I tell you I believe that he was a Christadelphian. I think there is some historical evidence that the things he believed are the things that we also believe - and I'll come onto my reasons for that in a moment."
We would love to see this evidence that he was burnt at the stake for being a CD. For those who are unaware of the history of Rawlins White we can tell you that this testimony appears in Foxe's Book of Martyrs and you will find without exception that he was named as a Protestant martyr1-6 and one of three men named as being burnt at the stake in Wales during the reign of Queen Mary for holding faithfully to his evangelical belief and teaching and refusing to deny the Protestant faith and bow down to idolatrous Romish doctrines. These references repeatedly describe White as "altogether unlearned....withal very simple....so uneducated as to be unable to read....ignorant....illiterate, he had learnt by heart passages of the Bible read out to him by one of his sons, and had become a Protestant....'a great searcher out of truth' when 'God of his mercy had raised up the light of his gospel through the blessed government of Edward VI'....'notable and open professor of the truth....' and the possessor of 'a singular gift of memory......' which he made good use of in his witnessing to the Protestant truth. The accumulation of the historical records rely on the evidence of White's eye-witness and friend, John Dane. ALL accounts tell one story!
So where does Palmer glean his evidence for the claim that White was 'a Christadelphian?' Since there are no other records than those quoted from - and we have no evidence that White learned CD doctrines from memorising the readings of his son - it is clearly foolish to sink into the realms of supposition and invention to try and generate a martyr for a cause. It is here again that the CDs reveal their proximity to the other cults: Mormons baptise for the dead of other faiths to try and claim them for their own, JWs try to claim the apostle Paul for their own - now we have Palmer attempting to snatch Rawlins White for the CDs purposes. Perhaps Palmer would like to rely on statements such as 'a great searcher out of truth'....'notable and open professor of the truth....' since he would like to draw the conclusion that anyone seeking these things could not possibly believe in the Protestant doctrines of Christendom - because Palmer believes that they are not found in the Bible! Again, this is not appealing to evidence but to emotionalism - a cultic speciality.
Palmer claims that '....we've been into the history of Rawlins White and I tell you I believe that he was a Christadelphian. I think there is some historical evidence that the things he believed are the things that we also believe." We ask again - what history and what doctrines - where is the proof and the 'reasons' you were going to come to 'in a moment' - but never did? Palmer uses the word 'benign' to describe Christadelphianism - look this word up in a dictionary for it includes the meanings 'fair, generous, innocent, good.' Certainly 'generous' with the truth.
It is also interesting to observe that when the latest Memorial Tablet (see illustration on this page) was unveiled on Wednesday, April 3rd 1907, the Reverend W. E. Winks' pamphlet was available for distribution and the whole service was instigated by the National Protestant Federation and the adverts stated: 'All who desire to do honour to the name of Rawlins White, the Protestant Martyr of Cardiff, are cordially invited to attend.' This was reported in the Western Mail, April 4th, 1907, p.4 (see reference 3) and clearly shows that Protestant, Baptist and St Johns reverends, rectors and churchwardens were represented - but no mention of Christadelphians! The plaque bears the inscription on the right of this page!
The quote emphasised in bold italics is from the mouth of Protestant Bishop Hugh Latimer and was spoken to Bishop Ridley as the two stood back to back at the stake: "Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day, by God's grace, light such a candle in England as I trust shall never be put out." Palmer went on from his non-evidence to state: "So to be different is dangerous but it doesn't mean to say we're wrong." No Stephen, we are relying on evidence - most of it Biblical - to determine whether you're wrong.