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#1 Evangelion

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Posted 25 January 2003 - 10:50 AM

From time to time, mainstream Christians take it upon themselves to write a few pages of anti-Christadelphian polemic, in the hope of "educating" and "warning" others about what we believe and practice. Nine times out of ten, this will be done without any proper research, or any regard for the facts. In the vast majority of cases, material is simply borrowed from other mainstream Christians (sometimes referenced; sometimes not), and copy/pasted onto a Website. Selective quoting (without reference to context) is par for the course with anti-Christadelphian polemic, and we will see an example of it here.This article has been written in response to a piece of anti-Christadelphian polemic on a Website calling itself the Christian Study Center. The polemicist's comments appear in the quotation boxes; my rebuttal follows in regular text.

1.  Christ had a sinful nature. (What They Believe, p. 74)Biblical Proof of Falsehood: 2 Cor. 5:21, Isaiah 53

A classic example of ignorance and misrepresentation. Without making any attempt to understand what Christadelphians mean by this expression, the author has mere superimposed his own ideas onto it, and pretended that this is "what Christadelphians believe. Furthermore, he has totally ignored the proper context of Brother Harry Tennant's remarks in The Christadelphians - what they Believe and Preach, to which he alludes here. Before we move on, therefore, some clarification is required.When mainstream Christians say “sinful, fallen nature”, they do not mean what Christadelphians mean when we refer to “sinful nature.” Mainstream Christians believe in the dogma of “Original Sin”, which states that all men are sinners by virtue of their fallen nature, regardless of whether or not they have sinned. Christadelphians do not believe this. Christadelphians believe that men are only counted as sinners when they have sinned. For this reason, we see Jesus as a man who possessed sinful nature (a nature that is both capable of sin, and prone to performing it), but one who never actually sinned.This is shown to us by Scripture:Hebrews 2:18.Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.Christ was subject to that same “bondage of death” – for he (like us) was mortal. And yet, he was utterly sinless.Hence article #9 of the Christadelphian Statement of Faith:9. That it was this mission that necessitated the miraculous begettal of Christ of a human mother, enabling him to bear our condemnation, and, at the same time, to be a sinless bearer thereof, and, therefore, one who could rise after suffering the death required by the righteousness of God.References9. MAT 1:18-25, LUK 1:26-35, ISA 7:14, ROM 1:3-4, ROM 8:3, ROM 8:3, GAL 4:4, 2CO 5:21, HEB 2:14-17, HEB 4:15Finally, from Brother Harry's own book:Christ was "made sin" for us by sharing our human nature and, though sinless, by being treated as a sinner by sinful men. He "knew no sin" because he never sinned, but not because he was never tempted.In order to bind sin and take it captive, Jesus met it on its own ground, human nature. Thus his victory was both true and unique: true in that he overcame sin though tempted precisely as we are; and unique in that he is the only one who has been totally sinless even though tempted. Christ did not demonstrate righteousness and holiness in a detached way; he brought his sinless life to God in this earthen vessel of human nature.A little more research on the part of the polemicist (or perhaps a little more honesty...?), and this first objection would never have been raised in the first place.
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#2 Evangelion

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 02:17 PM

2. God is only one, that Christ is not considered part of Him and Him. (Isaiah 43-45)Biblical Proof of Falsehood: John 1:1-4


I see no mention of Christ in John 1:1-4.
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#3 Evangelion

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 02:19 PM

Rev 19:13


A reference to Christ and one of his eschatological titles. No mention of the alleged "fact" that he is God or a part of God.
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#4 Evangelion

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 02:20 PM

1 John 1:1-4


See above. Christ was indeed the logos-ginomai-sarx. ("Word-made-flesh.") But this does not say that he is God, nor does it say that he is a part of God. (See here for an analysis of John 1:1-14.)
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#5 Evangelion

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 02:22 PM

Matthew 1:23


A reference to Isaiah 7:14, of which Trinitarian theologian Albert Barnes writes in his Notes on the Bible:Immanuel - Hebrew ‘God with us’ -
עמנואל immanu'el - from אל 'el, “God,” and עמנוּ ‛ımmanu, “with us.” The name is designed to denote that God would be with the nation as its protector, and the birth of this child would be a sign or pledge of it. The mere circumstance that this name is given, however, does not imply anything in regard to the nature or rank of the child, for nothing was more common among the Jews than to incorporate the name, or a part of the name, of the Deity with the names which they gave to their children.

Thus, “Isaiah” denotes the salvation of Yahweh; “Jeremiah,” the exaltation or grandeur of Yahweh, each compounded of two words, in which the name Yahweh constitutes a part. Thus, also in “Elijah,” the two names of God are combined, and it means literally, “God the Yahweh.” Thus, also “Eliab,” God my father; “Eliada,” knowledge of God; “Eliakim,” the resurrection of God; “Elihu,” he is my God; “Elisha,” salvation of God. In none of these instances is the fact, that the name of God is incorporated with the proper name of the individual, any argument in respect to his rank or character.

It is true, that Matthew Matthew 1:23 uses this name as properly expressing the rank of the Messiah; but all that can be demonstrated from the use of the name by Matthew is, that it properly designated the nature and rank of the Lord Jesus. It was a pledge, then, that God was with his people, and the name designated by the prophet had a complete fulfilment in its use as applied to the Messiah. Whether the Messiah be regarded as himself a pledge and demonstration of the presence and protection of God, or whether the name be regarded as descriptive of his nature and dignity, yet there was an “appropriateness” in applying it to him. It was fully expressive of the event of the incarnation.

Jerome supposes that the name, Immanuel, denotes nothing more than divine aid and protection. Others have supposed, however, that the name must denote the assumption of our nature by God in the person of the Messiah, that is, that God became man. So Theodoret, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Lactantius, Chrysostom. Calvin, Rosenmuller, and others. The true interpretation is, that no argument to prove that can be derived from the use of the name; but when the fact of the incarnation has been demonstrated from other sources, the “name is appropriately expressive of that event.” So it seems to be used by Matthew.

It may be quite true, that no argument can be founded on the bare name, Immanuel; yet that name, “in its connection here,” may certainly be regarded as a designed prediction of the incarnation of Christ. Such a design our author allows in the prophecy generally.

Common sense tells us that there is no need to read anything more into this name than that which is already apparent to the naked eye.
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#6 Evangelion

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 02:23 PM

John 17:5


This does not say that Jesus is God, nor does it say that he is a part of Him. Indeed, Jesus himself refutes any such notion in John 17:3.
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#7 Evangelion

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 02:24 PM

Phil 2:5-11


This does not say that Jesus is God, nor does it say that he is a part of Him. (See here for a detailed analysis of Philippians 2:5-11.)

For more on the alleged pre-existence of Christ, see here.
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#8 Evangelion

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 02:25 PM

Isaiah 45:22-23 and Romans 14:11


Neither of these passages say that Jesus is God, nor do they say that he is a part of Him.
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#9 Evangelion

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 02:27 PM

Col 1:19-22


This passage (a reference to the "new creation") does not say that Jesus is God, nor does it say that he is a part of Him. Indeed, it is wholly unsuited to the purpose. (See here for a detailed analysis of Colossians 1:19-22.)
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#10 Evangelion

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 02:31 PM

John 17:11


This does not say that Jesus is God, nor does it say that he is a part of Him. Indeed, it is diametrically opposed to the idea:John 17:11.
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
"That they may be one, even as we are."
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#11 Evangelion

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 02:32 PM

Isaiah 9:6


...of which the footnotes in the New English Translation have this to say:El Gibbor is probably an attributive adjective (‘mighty God’), though one might translate ‘God is a warrior’ or ‘God is mighty.’ Since this title is apparently used later (10:21, but cf. Hos. 3:5) for God, some have understood it as pointing to the king’s deity. Others argue that the title portrays the king as God’s representative on the battlefield, whom God empowers in a supernatural way (see Hayes and Irvine, Isaiah, 181-82). The latter sense seems more likely in the original context of the prophecy. Having read the NT, we might in retrospect interpret this title as indicating the coming king’s deity, but it is unlikely that Isaiah or his audience would have understood the title in such a bold way. Ps 45:6 addresses the Davidic king as ‘God’ because he ruled and fought as God’s representative on earth.

[…]

Everlasting Father. This title must not be taken in an anachronistic Trinitarian sense. (To do so would be theologically problematic, for the ‘Son’ is the messianic king and is distinct in his person from God the ‘Father.’) Rather, in its original context the title pictures the king as the protector of his people. For a similar use of ‘father’ see Isa 22:21 and Job 29:16.

This figurative, idiomatic use of ‘father’ is not limited to the Bible. In a Phoenician inscription (ca. 850-800 b.c.) the ruler Kilamuwa declares: ‘To some I was a father, to others I was a mother.’ In another inscription (ca. 800 b.c.) the ruler Azitawadda boasts that the god Baal made him “a father and a mother” to his people. (See J. Pritchard, ANET, 499-500.)

The use of ‘everlasting’ might suggest the deity of the king, but Isaiah and his audience may have understood the term as royal hyperbole emphasizing the king’s long reign or enduring dynasty (for examples of such hyperbolic language used of the Davidic king, see 1 Kgs 1:31; Pss 21:4-6; 61:6-7; 72:5, 17). The New Testament indicates that the hyperbolic language (as in the case of the title ‘Mighty God’) is literally realized in the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy, for Jesus will rule eternally.

See also Exodus 7, Psalm 45 & Psalm 82.
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#12 Evangelion

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 02:32 PM

John 17:21.


This does not say that Jesus is God, nor does it say that he is a part of Him.

But it does say...
John 17:21.
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
...which totally precludes any Trinitarian argument which might have made from this verse. (See also my previous comments on John 17:11.)

There is more, but that should suffice.


It does not even come close to sufficing.
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#13 Evangelion

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 02:36 PM

3.  There has been an apostasy and that Christianity is a false religious system. (A tract titled “Christendom Astray Since the Apostolic Age, Detroit Christadelphian Book Supply)Biblical Proof of Falsehood:  Acts 11:26

Let's have some context, please!The subtitle of Christendom Astray is:Popular Christianity (both in Faith and Practice), Shown to be Unscriptural; and the True Nature of the Ancient Apostolic Faith Exhibited.The author of Christendom Astray is highlighting the contrast is between popular Christianity, and true, Apostolic Christianity. The author of Christendom Astray is not attacking Christianity qua Christianity, but only that flawed version of it which currently passes for "orthodoxy."
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#14 Evangelion

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 02:37 PM

4. It denies salvation by grace through faith alone. (What they Believe, p. 204)  Biblical Proof of Falsehood:  John 3:16-18, 2 Timothy 1:9


False. We do not deny salvation by grace.

From the Christadelphian Bible Postal Course:

In the Bible God's grace means His loving kindness towards men. It is totally undeserved by any man or woman and is entirely the free gift of God. It is understood most clearly in God's gift of the Lord Jesus to achieve salvation.


[...]

Many people think that the good things they do and the bad things they do are added up to see how they stand before God. They think that, so long as there is more good than bad, they have a right to God's favour. This is simply not true!

Even many who claim to be Christians and acknowledge that God has paid a great price to bring about salvation, feel they have to earn this blessing by the things they do. It is very easy for us to think we have to earn God's gifts. But a gift cannot be earned. Only wages are earned, and Paul tells us:

"The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6: 23)

It is very easy for us to fall into this wrong way of thinking. God has done so much for us, we want to show our thanks by pleasing Him: and so we come to think that the things we do "pay for" God's blessings. It is one of the most important teachings of Scripture that forgiveness of sins and eternal life in Godís Kingdom are gifts of God, and cannot be earned or paid for.

Read these words carefully:

God loves us abundantly, even though we are sinners, and has made us alive together with Christ. (This salvation is a gift.) He has given us this high place in Jesus, so that in the future He might bless us even more (with life in His kingdom).

This salvation is God's gift. We need to believe Him. We cannot do anything to earn salvation, so no-one can boast.

Now read Romans 3: 20-28 very carefully. You will see that the message is the same. Nothing the Jews could do by keeping the law, and nothing we can do in our lives, can make us appear righteous in God's sight. We are all sinners.

But by His grace, God counts as righteous those who trust in Jesus. Only God and the Lord Jesus are righteous, but if we believe Jesus died for us, and accept the sacrifice he made for us, God will forgive our sins and count us righteous. Notice again the apostle repeats the vital truth that all is of God, and no man can boast about being saved.

"Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5: 1-2)


through faith alone. (What they Believe, p. 204)Biblical Proof of Falsehood:  John 3:16-18, 2 Timothy 1:9


Yes, we deny faith alone (otherwise known as Sola Fide); a doctrine which was totally unheard of until Luther invented it in the 16th Century.

Furthermore, when we come to examine this alleged "Biblical Proof of Falsehood"...
  • John 3:16-18.
    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
    For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
    He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

  • II Timothy 1:9.
    Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began
...we find absolutely no mention of Sola Fide.

Notice also the parallel with John 17:3; we were given this holy calling "before the world began." Did we, too, pre-exist? The very suggestion is ludicrous! And yet, such is the logic upon which Trinitarians base their claim that Christ also pre-existed.
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#15 Evangelion

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 02:38 PM

5. It denies the existence of the fallen angel Lucifer as the devil. (Answers, p. 100)Biblical Proof of Falsehood: Isaiah 14


Irrelevant. Let's ask a few mainstream Christians for their opinion on this chapter.

From Adam Clarke's Commentary:Isa 14:12 - O Lucifer, son of the morning -
The Versions in general agree in this translation, and render הילל heilel as signifying Lucifer, Φωσφωρος, the morning star, whether Jupiter or Venus; as these are both bringers of the morning light, or morning stars, annually in their turn.

And although the context speaks explicitly concerning Nebuchadnezzar, yet this has been, I know not why, applied to the chief of the fallen angels, who is most incongruously denominated Lucifer, (the bringer of light!) an epithet as common to him as those of Satan and Devil. That the Holy Spirit by his prophets should call this arch-enemy of God and man the light-bringer, would be strange indeed. But the truth is, the text speaks nothing at all concerning Satan nor his fall, nor the occasion of that fall, which many divines have with great confidence deduced from this text.

O how necessary it is to understand the literal meaning of Scripture, that preposterous comments may be prevented! Besides, I doubt much whether our translation be correct. הילל heilel, which we translate Lucifer, comes from ילל yalal, yell, howl, or shriek, and should be translated, “Howl, son of the morning;” and so the Syriac has understood it; and for this meaning Michaelis contends: see his reasons in Parkhurst, under הלל halal.

Also John Gill, in his Exposition:Isa 14:12 - How art thou fallen from heaven,....
This is not to be understood of the fall of Satan, and the apostate angels, from their first estate, when they were cast down from heaven to hell
, though there may be an allusion to it; see Luk_10:18 but the words are a continuation of the speech of the dead to the king of Babylon, wondering at it, as a thing almost incredible, that he who seemed to be so established on the throne of his kingdom, which was his heaven, that he should be deposed or fall from it.

So the destruction of the Roman Pagan emperors is signified by the casting out of the dragon and his angels from heaven, Rev_12:7 and in like manner Rome Papal, or the Romish antichrist, will fall from his heaven of outward splendour and happiness, of honour and authority, now, possessed by him:

O Lucifer, son of the morning!
alluding to the star Venus, which is the phosphorus or morning star, which ushers in the light of the morning, and shows that day is at hand; by which is meant, not Satan, who is never in Scripture called Lucifer, though he was once an angel of light, and sometimes transforms himself into one, and the good angels are called morning stars, Job_38:7 and such he and his angels once were; but the king of Babylon is intended, whose royal glory and majesty, as outshining all the rest of the kings of the earth, is expressed by those names; and which perhaps were such as he took himself, or were given him by his courtiers.

The Targum is,

"how art thou fallen from on high, who was shining among the sons of men, as the star Venus among the stars.''

Jarchi, as the Talmud ©, applies it to Nebuchadnezzar; though, if any particular person is pointed at, Belshazzar is rather designed, the last of the kings of Babylon. The church of Rome, in the times of the apostles, was famous for its light and knowledge; its faith was spoken of throughout all the earth; and its bishops or pastors were bright stars, in the morning of the Gospel dispensation:

Also John Wesley, in his Explanatory Notes:Isa 14:12 - Fallen -
From the height of thy glory.

Lucifer -
Which properly is a bright star, that ushers in the morning; but is here metaphorically taken for the mighty king of Babylon.

Also James Burton Coffman, in his Commentary:We are glad that our version (American Standard Version) leaves the word "Lucifer" out of this rendition, because it was the cause of misunderstanding based on Luke 10:18 and Ezek. 28. Satan does not enter into this passage as a subject at all! Kelley approvingly quoted some scholars who believe that Isaiah here made use of a mythological story from Canaanite religion to illustrate the fall of the king of Babylon. This tale, largely an invention by critics, tells how a minor god of the Canaanites

"sought to ascend to heaven and sit on the mount of the assembly of the gods, but was cast down to Sheol." (Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), p. 239.)

How ridiculous critical commentators make themselves when they resort to ancient mythology to explain Bible texts. This alleged Canaanite myth is an invention. Kidner flatly stated that,

"If such a tale ever existed, it has not come to light." (The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 600.)

The same author also pointed out that,

"The idea of storming heaven, however, was certainly connected with Babylon, i.e., Babel (Gen. 11)." (Ibid.)

It was the avowed purpose of the rulers of Babel (Babylon) to build a tower high enough to reach heaven itself (Genesis 11:4). Thus God's Word substantiates Babylonian ambition, and it needs no supplement from Canaanite mythology.

Barnes pointed out that the true meaning of the passage in Gen. 11:4 is that,

"the king of Babylon did not intend to acknowledge any superior either in heaven or earth, but designed that himself and his laws should be regarded as supreme." (Albert Barnes' Commentary, p. 272.)

Also the footnotes of the New English Translation:What is the background for the imagery in vv. 12-15? This whole section (vv. 4b-21) is directed to the king of Babylon, who is clearly depicted as a human ruler. Other kings of the earth address him in vv. 9ff., he is called “the man” in v. 16, and, according to vv. 19-20, he possesses a physical body. Nevertheless the language of vv. 12-15 has led some to see a dual referent in the taunt song.

These verses, which appear to be spoken by other pagan kings to a pagan king (cf. vv. 9-11), contain several titles and motifs that resemble those of Canaanite mythology, including references to Helel son of Shachar, the stars of El, the mountain of assembly, the recesses of Zaphon, and the divine title Most High. Apparently these verses allude to a mythological story about a minor god (Helel son of Shachar) who tried to take over Zaphon, the mountain of the gods. His attempted coup failed and he was hurled down to the underworld. The king of Babylon is taunted for having similar unrealized delusions of grandeur.

Some Christians have seen an allusion to the fall of Satan here, but this seems contextually unwarranted (see J. Martin, BKCOT, 1061).

I see no problems here for the Christadelphian community.

Indeed, I see only a series of ringing endorsements for our interpretation.
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#16 Evangelion

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 02:39 PM

6. It denies the existence of hell and eternal punishment. (What They Believe, p. 188-189)Biblical Proof of Falsehood: Rev. 20:10


Ah, but read on...Revelation 20:14.
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Clearly, the lake of fire is not hell! Furthermore, the "torment" of the "devil, beast and false prophet" is not literal torment of literal beings.

After all, the book of Revelation is a book of symbol, not 100% concrete fact.
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#17 Evangelion

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Posted 17 March 2003 - 02:40 PM

7. It denies that a person exists after death. (What They Believe, p. 17)Biblical Proof of Falsehood: John 3:16


Irrelevant. John 3:16 does not refer to "existence after death", but to the eternal life that we are promised after resurrection from the dead.

Hence article #25 of the Christadelphian Statement of Faith:25. That the unfaithful will be consigned to shame and 'the second death', and the faithful, invested with immortality, and exalted to reign with Jesus as joint heirs of the Kingdom, co-possessors of the earth, and joint administrators of God's authority among men in everything.


References
25. MAT 7:26, MAT 8:12, MAT 25:20-30, DAN 12:2, GAL 6:8, GAL 5:21, 2TH 1:8, HEB 10:26-31, 2PE 2:12, REV 21:8, MAL 4:1, PSA 37:30-38, PRO 10:25-29, 1CO 15:51-55, 2CO 5:1-4, JAM 1:12, ROM 2:7, JOH 10:28, MAT 5:5, PSA 37:9, PSA 37:22, PSA 37:29, REV 5:9, DAN 7:27, 1TH 2:12, 2PE 1:11, REV 3:21, 2TI 2:12, REV 5:10, PSA 49:7-9, LUK 22:29-30


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