The Southern California Division
We observed that bro. Dennis Davis, sis. Marie Davis and sis. Laura Baumgartner, which constitute the former Southern California Berean ecclesia, have elected to withdraw from the Bereans. These brothers and sisters have always been friends of ours, having in the past been in the same ecclesia with them for around three years.
It is always especially sad when brethren enter into extreme and unreasonable positions in regards to fellowship. It is sad enough to find ourselves forced to defend the truth from those who once walked faithfully, but now whose goals appear to be the introduction of error. It is doubly sad when brethren who are otherwise sound, enter into these extreme and unreasonable positions in regards to fellowship.
Bro. Davis writes (at www.antipas.org) the following:
Beginning of bro Davis’ letter:
May 1, 2001
Dear brothers and sisters of the Berean Fellowship,
Our ecclesia has reached a decision concerning the issues of "Going to Law" and "Marriage and Divorce." We have considered all of the information sent to us from the various ecclesias, individuals, the Pioneers and most importantly from God's Word. We have not rushed to a conclusion, but have carefully prayed and studied that we might come to a proper understanding of God's word.
1.) Our ecclesia does not agree with article 6 of "The Berean Basis Of Fellowship: The Restatement as Approved in 1960" which states:
6. Divorce - in relation to the brethren and sisters of Christ.
We believe that all divorce is contrary to the commands of Christ. We believe that divorce and remarriage after divorce is contrary to the commands of Christ.
"And unto the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: Let not the wife depart from (korizo: put asunder, Matt 19:6) her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife." (1 Cor. 7:1011)
"We believe further that THESE TWO EVILS are not only CONTRARY TO DIVINE COMMAND, but are IN DIRECT VIOLATION of the deep principles of the mind of Christ. They will be eschewed as unthinkable by all brethren and sisters of Christ." [emphasis added]
The Law of Christ, as recorded in Matt 5:22, describes all divorce and remarriage as adultery, EXCEPT in the case of fornication. Our ecclesia believes that all divorce and remarriage not in harmony with Christ's exception is against his commandment. When divorce and remarriage are founded upon Christ's exception they are not evil. Furthermore, they are not against his commandments and they are not in direct violation of the deep principles of the mind of Christ. To say otherwise contravenes not only brethren Thomas and Roberts but also the Scriptures.
In saying this, bro. Davis appears to be charging us with a denial of the Exception Clause. If this is his intent (and we do not know that it is) the charge is utterly false. Bro. Davis quite unfairly omits the following explanation from the Berean Restatement itself to those in the past who preceded bro. Davis’ in making these same, identical charges against us.
"(This is a statement of basic principles only. It goes without saying it was not intended to contravene the teachings of brethren Thomas and Roberts.)"
This added explanation was necessary to meet those from the opposite extreme of bro. Davis, who also claimed that our position as stated in Clause 6 excludes the Exception Clause. Our position does not exclude the Exceptive Clause, (as defined by brethren Thomas, Roberts and Growcott) nor was it ever intended to do so. Indeed, it is quite easy to demonstrate that there were brethren at the time the Berean Restatement was drawn up who desired to exclude it, but were completely unsuccessful.
Like the extremist on the opposite end of the spectrum, (the Dawn, Four Point and New Bereans) bro. Davis appears to limit the term "Divorce" to the legal act of ending the marriage. The position of the Berean Fellowship has been much more thorough and complete than this. Divorce must be considered at it’s root to be the act of adultery. That is when the divorce occurs. What follows after the adultery/divorce is either the physical separation, or the healing of serious wounds, according to the judgment of the offended party. But from the position of the Scriptures, the person getting the divorce is the person committing adultery, and such an one is not free to remarry, but is an adulterer.
Therefore, when the brethren of old wrote...
"We believe further that THESE TWO EVILS are not only CONTRARY TO DIVINE COMMAND, but are IN DIRECT VIOLATION of the deep principles of the mind of Christ. They will be eschewed as unthinkable by all brethren and sisters of Christ."
...they were saying that it is unthinkable that a brother or sister could commit adultery in their marriage, thereby "divorcing" their spouse, and it is even more unthinkable that such an one after committing adultery, would marry again.
Anyone who does not agree with this principle, is not a true Christadelphian, and should not seek fellowship with Christadelphians, regardless of how one views Clause 6. That this is the correct interpretation of the Clause is self evident. The Clause would be entirely contradictory if it stated that all divorce is wrong (and meant the securing of any legal divorce was wrong) and then went on to agree with the teaching of bre. Thomas, Roberts, and Growcott who all agreed that the commands of Christ allowed divorce and remarriage by the offended party (provided other commands like going to law against another were not violated.)
Our statement in Clause 6 deals with the root problem only. Our statement was always intended to be limited in this manner. Our critics in the past have wanted us to go farther, to try to lay framework for how each and every problem might be handled, and to set down hard and fast rules (which would only prove unworkable over time anyway:) This we have steadfastly refused to do. Some critics wish us to exclude all members who accept the Exceptive Clause. Other critics wish us to exclude all members who deny the Exception Clause. For our part, we simply state the obvious universal principle, that all true divorce (the act of adultery) is wrong, and that each ecclesia will have to work out the details of these sad problems according to the best judgment and wisdom that they possess.
Bro. Davis goes on to list the ways his ecclesia agrees with the various details in the teachings of bre. Thomas and Roberts. We take no issue with this, should this simply be the position of his ecclesia. If bro. Davis is setting this up as a standard for fellowship which all must agree to, we leave him to his various interpretations. He himself correctly states in his fifth clause, that bre. Thomas and Roberts (and we might add bro. Growcott) were not all in complete agreement with these details. He therefore cannot set his third point up as a test of fellowship without withdrawing fellowship from bre. Roberts and Growcott. Indeed, in the extreme position bro. Davis has entered into, he cannot even fellowship bro. Thomas, as bro. Thomas readily fellowshiped bro. Roberts, though they disagreed on this point. If he is comfortable in setting his judgment over the judgment of bre. Thomas, Roberts and Growcott in matters pertaining to fellowship, he will not be comfortable with the Berean fellowship.
* * * * * * *
Bro. Davis wrote:
"6.) Our ecclesia agrees with those of the Majority who have stated that each member of the Minority has a different explanation when asked why they have withdrawn fellowship from the Majority. We believe that the same problem exists in the Majority."
It is very true that we do not have a dictatorial head which tells each member how to think. By the grace of God, we never will have, though the efforts on the part of some to "rule over us" has always been, and appears always will be a source of continual unrest.
But in the area of concern mentioned by bro. Davis, there is no excuse for his confusion. Our position in very well defined. The Berean Christadelphians meet on the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith with the Commandments of Christ and the Doctrines to be Rejected. The Berean Restatement is not an addition to the BASF. It is an explanation of how the BASF is understood by the Berean Fellowship in areas in which there has been contention in the past. In this sense, we also meet on the Berean Restatement.
We know that there are brethren in the Bereans who, like bro. Davis, say they do not agree with the Berean Restatement in Clause 6. Upon further examination, however, these brethren do agree with the true meaning of Clause 6, but labor under the same false impression of the Clause as does bro. Davis (vis. that "divorce" refers to the legal act of ending of the marriage, and not the act of adultery itself.) What does the course of wisdom dictate? Should we withdraw from these otherwise sound brethren because they cannot agree to the meanings of words in a human document? Such would be giving "legalism" it’s finest hour. By the grace of God, the Berean Fellowship will never reach the point where the technical definitions of words over ride the importance of Scriptural meanings and concepts in defining our fellowship positions--whether in our Restatement, or the BASF.
As for bro. Davis’ comments concerning our relationship to the New Bereans, (the minority who have withdrawn from us but kept our name) there is plenty of time for this to be worked out, should the New Bereans wish to return to us. In any of these sad occurrences, there is a lot of wrong information circulated as to the respective beliefs of both sides. The official position of the New Bereans is quite clear. They wrote in their circular their two objections to us:
"[New] Berean Christadelphians do not believe that what is known as the ‘Exceptive Clause’ (Matt.5:32 and 19:9) permits brethren and sisters of Christ to ‘legally divorce’ their partner. They believe the ‘Exceptive Clause’ is a permission, not a command, for the injured partner to remarry.
"[New] Berean Christadelphians do not believe that they may initiate ‘legal divorce’ of any description, regardless of the country in which they live, or in whatever way ‘legal divorces’ are stated. ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery’ (Matt. 5:32)."
As long as the New Bereans hold these points as essential to fellowship, they will not be happy with our position, anymore than bro. Davis is. The New Bereans and bro. Davis are merely opposite extremes of the same problem. Both focus on the separation (the result of sin), rather than the adultery (the sin itself), which is the true divorce. But should either group drop their demands on these details as they apply to fellowship, we would be very surprised if there were any objection to fellowshipping either group even if their personal beliefs remain the same.
* * * * *
Bro. Davis wrote:
5. Our ecclesia is aware that bro. Thomas and bro. Roberts did not completely agree on the on the Pauline Privilege. Bro. Thomas maintained that if the unbeliever departs the believer is at liberty to remarry. Bro. Roberts believed they were commanded to remain unmarried:" (1 Cor. 7:11 ) He writes in the Ecclesial Guide Section 45. Marriage:
"The truth may come to man or woman in the married state: in that case, the man or woman is not to leave the unbelieving wife or husband if there be willingness on the part of the partner to continue the association. This, Paul plainly lays down (1 Cor. 7:12-13). But if the unbelievers depart, he says, "Let them depart: a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: God hath called us to peace." This departing, however, does not release from the matrimonial bond. "Remain unmarried" is, in such a case, the apostolic command (verse 11).
Our ecclesia does not agree to the way in which some Bereans have used this difference of understanding to disregard the validity of these commands.
It is wrong to view the exceptive clause and the Pauline Privilege as anything less then Divine Law simply because the pioneers did not agree. Bro. Roberts clearly defines this as an apostolic command. Bro. Thomas infers that this is an Apostolic command: "The apostles whose authority he declared equal to his own in teaching the things of the Deity..."
Isn't their disagreement strong grounds to diligently search the Scriptures with the prayer that we come to the correct understanding of these Commandments of Christ? It is not right to take the position that Christ will judge these matters upon his return, and remain silent for the sake of present peace. Christ has already judged what is and what is not an acceptable divorce and remarriage. He will judge the uprightness or unrighteousness of abiding in, upholding and declaring his commands at his return. God's word must come first.
End Bro. Davis Quote:
Finally, we would address bro. Davis’ contention that anyone who does not agree with him on his interpretation of the Exceptive Clause and the Pauline Clause is in violation of Christ’s commands. As one who does agree with bro. Davis on his conclusions concerning these clauses, we would still point out that our position is not the result of specific commands as bro. Davis alleges, but of implied arguments, and it is never fair or reasonable to make implied arguments into commands, or tests of fellowship, regardless of how comfortable we may be with those arguments.
Consider 1 Cor. 7:15. "But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace."
Bro. Davis outlines the differences between bro. Roberts and Thomas. Bro. Thomas felt that the term "bondage" referred to the marriage bond, and bro. Roberts did not. One man "implied" one meaning to the word, the other "implied" something different. The Scriptures do not define the term for us in this verse. We can go outside the verse, and argue that the word is used in relation to the marriage bond, or we can just as accurately argue that the word is used merely in relation to our obligations in the marriage, not the marriage bond itself. But either way, we are making "implied arguments," not an argument based on "Thou shalt...". To take a fellowship position on this, and to allege commands where they do not actually and clearly exist, is simply wrong, and contrary to the doctrine of fellowship.
The Berean Christadelphians do not view the Exceptive Clause and the Pauline Clause/Privilege as less than Divine law simply because the pioneer brethren did not agree. We do so because every explanation of these clauses (whether for or against) are based upon an implied argument somewhere, not on a strict command. Brethren who are completely honest, and not blinded by their own prejudices will all admit this. Bre. Thomas and Roberts throughout their lifetime showed themselves as very capable students of the Scriptures, willing to deal honestly and faithfully with any and every Divine command placed before them. That they did not agree on these matters, yet remained in fellowship with each other, does not demonstrate a lack of diligence on their part as suggested by bro. Davis, but rather shows just how subject to implied reasonings these concepts truly are.
Neither should the fact that we will not legislate on these things be interpreted as a lack of diligence on our part. The truth is that we have spent many, many hours on these subjects and have concluded that the justification to disfellowship one of the pioneers for being wrong, and then the other for fellowshiping with the wrong one, is not in harmony with the divine commands concerning fellowship.
The same thing is true concerning the head covering, bro. Davis’ final objection. We have a clear command that the sisters must be covered. To this we in the Berean fellowship humbly obey. What is not clear is what the covering is, and this is where the area of disagreement lies. Some imply it is a hat, scarf, or garment over the hair. Others imply that the covering is the hair itself. The Scriptures do not say. We have strong personal ideas about what the covering is, and they can be found on this web site. But as regards the doctrine of fellowship, we can never allow our own reasonings to exclude individuals apart from a clear and precise command from the Scriptures. We must never allow our own prejudices to be elevated to such a position.
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