(This and following articles are digests of five talks given in the Midland Institute, Birmingham, on Thursdays during June and July, 1964.)
[The subject and matter still relevant almost 50 years on - Librarian]
1—What Does the Plain Man Do?
I do not like such subjects as this. I do not like them because I think they are of little profit to most of us. I do not like them because they bring perplexity to many minds which could be much better employed. I do not like them because I know I have not the competence to deal adequately with the complex scientific questions involved. All this I said to those who invited me to give the series.
And in spite of this I accepted the invitation. This is briefly why I did so, and I think the reason why the invitation was given was the same:
The Brotherhood stands in considerable peril. Religious instruction in schools and colleges takes an evolutionary and liberal attitude to the Scriptures for granted—in most cases, at all events. Children know what their teachers tell them, and parents—again, in most cases—do not know the answers. Our Bible reading, and therefore our Bible knowledge, has declined alarmingly. As a community, in addition to lacking the scientific knowledge to meet the unbeliever on his ground, we are in a fair way to lack the scriptural knowledge to meet him confidently on our own.
Something had to be done about this, and those who decided on this series were right to try to do it.
Before the Second World War, the mind of the Brotherhood as a whole could have been summed up in simple answers to direct questions, thus:
a. Do Christadelphians accept the theory of evolution? — No.
b. Do Christadelphians accept the Genesis record as good science and sober history? — Yes.
c. Do Christadelphians accept that Moses wrote the “Books of Moses” under divine inspiration? — Yes.
d. Do Christadelphians believe that the Lord Jesus Christ spoke truly and with authority on all matters with which he deals? — Yes.
e. Do Christadelphians believe that a New Testament pronouncement is final on matters of Old Testament fact? — Yes.
Now, 25 years later, most of us would still say the same. Acknowledging, as we always have done, some liberty of interpretation on non-fundamental issues, we should still give substantially the same answers. But we might not be so well equipped to defend them. And in so far as this is concerned with our scriptural sloth, this is our grievous fault.
But other voices are heard, in whispers sometimes, in the printed word sometimes. Is it certain that the Genesis record denies the evolutionary theory? If it does, must we continue to accept it as good science and sober history, or must we accept the science of the scientists and give up the historicity? Are we sure that “the critics” are wrong about the Books of Moses? And does it matter if they are right? Did the Lord Jesus always speak with knowledge, and does it matter if his information on history and the like may have been faulty? Was Paul necessarily right in what he wrote about the Old Testament, and does it matter if he were not?
This last paragraph was not a quotation. Not all these questions are asked at once, perhaps. But they are all in the air. This is part of the atmosphere in which those who are touched by such matters at all are living.
Those who are not living in such an atmosphere may be perplexed by even hearing such questions mentioned. I am sorry. If it were possible to ignore them, many of us would be only too happy to do so. But it is not.