Our last 30 Years
The Four Points
An Exception is not a
- In 1972, the Bereans were
again agitated by those insisting upon a particular view of divorce and
remarriage. This division, like the Dawn before them, had its roots in
the idea that Jesus would not have stated the Edenic Law in verse 6, and
then contradicted it in verse 9. A typical exchange would be as follows:
- (From a supporter of the 1972
divorce movement) "I believe we will all agree that there cannot be and
must not be any contradictions in God's Word. Christ would not say in
two places to his disciples that one cannot divorce and remarry, then in
another place contradict what Christ said..."
- (G.V. Growcott, editor of the
Berean, in direct answer to the above) "No contradiction in God's word.
Absolutely right! But we must be careful not to infer and create
contradiction when there is none, just to support a theory. I am
tremendously saddened at attempts to see 'contradiction' both in Jesus'
clear and consistent teachings, and also in the writings of our pioneer
brethren on those teachings.
- "An exception is not a
contradiction. It is axiomatic that ‘the exception proves the rule.' An
exception confirms and establishes a rule, showing the rule is not just
indefinite and general, but universal outside the stated exception. Many
rules are general and exceptions are understood to be possible, but if
we say ‘This is the only exception', we confirm the rule's universality
in every other case. This is surely an obvious and elementary fact of
language and reason, and to try to stigmatize a clearly expressed
exception as a contradiction is to make language and reasoning
- "It is recorded in Mark 8:12
that Jesus said (to the Pharisees-note) ‘There shall no sign be given
unto this generation'; PERIOD ; no exception.
- "In Matt. 16:4, the same
incident is recorded ‘There shall no sign be given unto it, BUT the sign
of the prophet Jonas.'
- "It is not essential that we
prove this is the same incident. The illustration is just as clear
otherwise, but actually this can be demonstrated to be the same incident
beyond any reasonable doubt. Why did Mark omit the exception that
Matthew recorded in the same incident?
- "Are we to throw out this
beautiful exception the sign of the prophet Jonas just because Mark does
not mention it? Are we to demand that Mark have it in before we will
believe? Are we to charge ‘contradiction' as the world is so quick to do
in any seeming discrepancy? Note again, Matt. gives the exception; Mark
recording the same incident does not. Is it conceivably possible that
the supporters of this article have any difficulty with this
These brethren ultimately issued
a Four-Point Statement that forbids remarriage while the first spouse was
still alive. It was a little more extreme than the Dawn position in the
details, but essentially the same thing. Its roots were the same. It
argues that Christ would not have restated the Divine Edenic Law, only to
have contradicted it three verses later. (This erroneous statement appears
to be the common thread of all those who attack the foundation
Christadelphian position, regardless of how the details play out later.)
The difference between the Dawn
and the new group which chose no name, but which has been referred to as
"Four Points" by others, is simply this: the Dawn believe that if a person
comes to the knowledge of the truth divorced but not remarried, they are
free to remarry. The Four Point believes that such a person would not be
free to remarry.
Another Berean Fellowship
Finally, in 1997, these old
issues combined with the changes in the worlds divorce laws to again
divide the body. The change from the divorce laws which required making
and proving charges in open court, and the submitting of evidence to a
Gentile judge for a decision had ended in some nations, and had been
greatly modified in others. The old Catholic inspired laws called, "For
Fault" law, had been replaced with various forms of "No fault" law, or the
even less litigious "Dissolution" law.
- The change had been coming for
over thirty years. In 1972, then Berean editor, G. V. Growcott, had been
asked directly about this.
- Question 3: "Can a
divorce be obtained in this (Canada) or your country (US) without going
- Answer: This question
clearly means going to law against, not just "going to law" as when
getting married. With this clear, the answer is Yes, as concerns many
states of the US (including, I now believe, Michigan). Increasingly so.
More and more states are adopting "no fault" divorce laws in which (as I
understand it) there is no accusation, no charging with sin, no suing at
law, no going to law against; any more than there is in getting married
in the first place.
- I do not have any specific
information, but this appears to be a very rapidly developing trend. And
in the light of this, it should be noted (as having a large bearing on
this whole question), that what in the world is called "marriage" today
is merely legalized, temporary, terminable fornication. If a couple,
when "married," do not regard it as for life, but merely for mutual
convenience to be terminated at will, then it is fornication, whatever
the world may call it. They are never, in any true sense, married at
- Divorce in the US appears to
be quite quickly moving in the direction of the conditions it was in
Christ's day under Roman law a purely personal affair no more regulated
than marriage was regulated. Truly there are certain regulations, and
forms to be gone through, just as there are with marriage. For instance,
with marriage, the authorities have rules as to residency, medical
examination, age, consanguinity, etc. Conforming with all this is "going
to law," but it is not "going to law against." Such seems to
increasingly be the case with divorce.
- Actually, governmental
prohibition and regulation of divorce is a hangover from Papal Catholic
rule of the "Christian" world. In one way it has been a very helpful
shield for us against the problem, but in another way it has greatly
complicated and obscured it, and prevented us from facing the real
issues of the matter. When the trend (to looser legal divorce) started,
I greatly feared it, feeling it would strip away our outer line of
defense against the divorce evil, but more and more I feel it is the
hand of God making us face the deeper issues involved, which is much
healthier and safer.
The change in national laws
brought out questions concerning which of the new laws were truly "going
to law against another" which is forbidden by Paul, and which laws were
"going to law, but not "going to law against another." Most were satisfied
to leave this question up to the local ecclesia involved. Some were not.
A small group of brethren decided
that all others must agree with them that a specific Texas No Fault law
was, in every instance, going to law against another because of the legal
language involved. Others pointed out to them that while they agreed that
the legal language was aggressive, still, there were no charges of sin, no
presentation of evidence, and no decision to be made by a judge (beyond
verifying that the paperwork was correctly filled out). These felt it was
dangerous to take such a technical approach to the matter, to call this
"going to law against another." But, for the sake of peace, the latter
agreed to submit to the sensitivities of the former so unity could
This was not satisfactory to
those wanting complete agreement that this matter was definitely "going to
law against another." This argument, which began about which law is or
isn't "going to law against another," soon aroused those who still held
aspects of the Dawn/Four Point position on the subject.
To those who held the old
arguments pertaining to "legal divorce," the type of law didn't matter.
Rather than accept the simple clear meaning that "legal divorce is a
divorce not illegal in the land," the arguments of the Dawn division were
brought back that "legal divorce" is "any mans-law-related divorce."
It was argued that if everywhere the pioneer brethren wrote "divorce," you
understand that as "separation" and never "legal divorce," then their
ideas could be supported by the pioneer brethren. This is probably true.
And if everywhere that the pioneer brethren wrote "defiled" and ‘sin in
the flesh" we understand this as a symbol, instead of a physical
principle, A. D. Strickler's views would harmonize with the pioneers.
But these men had defined these
terms. There is no reason that we should give their words a meaning they
never did. It would only make sense to use their own definitions to define
their words. As G. V. Growcott wrote, "Legal Divorce" is one that does not
contravene the laws of the land. Never had the pioneer brethren wrote that
divorce only means "separation." .
Nevertheless, these men forced
their definition that all of man's-law-related divorce was going to law
against another. They argued that any divorce which goes through
the law is forbidden, and they demanded agreement by all others on this
point. This set the stage for a further division.
- Further, the old argument that
Jesus would not give the "Edenic Law" in verse 6, and contradict it in
verse 9 of Matt. 19 was brought back. They changed the words from
"contradict to "reverse himself", but the argument was the same.
(See Above discussion.)
One circular of the times against the established Berean position
- "...Jesus said, '...Have ye
not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and
female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother,
and shall cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh?
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath
joined together, let not man put asunder' (Matt 19:4-6). Having put
forth this argument, Jesus is not going to reverse himself just 3
verses later, when he says, '....whosoever shall put away his wife,
except if be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth
adultery...' (Matt. 19:9)"
These two arguments from the past
combined in such a way to say that if anyone believed that Matt. 5:37 &
19:9 permitted ones to initiate a legal divorce for adultery, even
if there is no "going to law against another", that such an one is
not fit for fellowship.
- This position that ones may
never initiate a legal divorce struck full force against the established
Christadelphian position. An example of this had clearly been given by
then Berean Magazine editor, G. V. Growcott. He wrote:
- "2. But I do not believe in
divorce. I believe it is an 'evil,' as the Restatement says. I believe
cutting off your arm is an evil. It can never be anything else but evil.
Every effort should be made to heal it. But if it is hopelessly
corrupt, and corrupting the rest of the body, there may be no other
- "It is only in this light that
I can see the possibility of anyone using the Ex Cl (provided no laws of
God are broken -- as Suing at Law).
- "If someone said to me: 'My
partner is utterly corrupt in whoredom, and determined to continue in
it. I must put her (or him) away, and I am so constituted as to come
under the description of Paul in 1 Cor 7:5,9, etc. I must choose either
corruption or remarriage.' If they said this, I would find it
difficult to condemn them.
"My own private thought would be that if they sought strength from God
in constant prayer, they would be given the ability to endure any
condition they found themselves in. This would be my private inner view,
but in the light of what Paul says, and not being able to judge how
others are constituted, I could not force this view upon them as a
matter of First Principle, and therefore of fellowship. I would
leave the judgment to God. God has made a provision. I believe (with
Paul) that they would be 'happier' if they did not feel they had to use
it, but it is very easy to get 'holier' than God in our regulations upon
our fellow servants.
- And if they added the fact
that they had several young children that needed a mother (or a father),
I would not see in this of itself any proof of their right to remarry,
but I would be impressed by the fact that what bre. Thomas and Roberts
understood to be God's way and provision in such a case would have the
merit of bringing possible good out of evil, and creating a normal
family relationship with hope for the future. Compare this with the
dangerous, unnatural condition the new theories create."
So here was the clear and
consistent Christadelphian teaching on the matter. If someone said they
must put their spouse away and remarry, providing they did
not go to law against them as forbidden by the apostle Paul, that this
should not be forced as a First Principle or a matter of fellowship.
In spite of this clear example, those agitating that there can be no
"legal divorce" ran roughshod over these principles and demanded
- As the debate moved forward,
the original cause of the unrest fell further into the background. When
the final document was prepared defining the division, it was clear that
division was over the initiation of any divorce, not just what laws can
or cannot be used. In the letter declaring the division those
withdrawing wrote (and remember, they continue to call themselves
- "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).
- "If there is adultery, and if
there is man's-law-related divorce (legal divorce), then there may be
remarriage by the injured partner, without any sin or stigma..."
The above statement would seem to
have excluded those who originally began the debate on the matter. They
originally appeared to be concerned with which law could or could not be
used, but this states that no mans-related-law could be used. In any case,
they agreed to the above, and the division went forward.
As the established Berean
position was that each ecclesia should work out its own sad problems
within the framework of the teachings of Christ and the apostles, these
new demands were not readily accepted by the body, and a division took
place. This new group, a minority of brethren, have taken the unusual step
of leaving the body but not dropping the name. They allow themselves to
continue to be identified with us as Bereans. While this is most unusual,
there is nothing that can be done about it.
When the Bereans were formed in
1923, the Berean brotherhood was quite anxious to disassociate itself from
the Central group and the errors of A. D. Strickler. Apparently, the new
group does not feel the same need to disassociate themselves from those it
feels are in error, as did the faithful brethren of old.
From the standpoint of the
divorce issue itself, the Bereans have no problem in identifying with the
new group, as we take no fellowship stand on these things, one way or the
other. We allow each ecclesia to resolve its own sad problems. The Bereans
do have a problem with their behavior pertaining to the doctrine of
fellowship. If they wish to continue to be "Bereans", they should then
fellowship "Bereans" and not refuse the fellowship of those with whom they
share a name. If they do not wish to associate with us, they should choose
a new name and move on.
In any case, while it is
embarrassing, it is not within our power to do anything about it. As bro.
John Thomas said, "What cannot be cured must be endured."
There have been other men with
other issues who walked with us for a time, but who came to believe they
had some new point of truth and insisted on all others excepting their
position, and moving away from the guidance and council of the
Christadelphian movement. These too have separated from us, but never
created the divisions that the divorce question has. You can even find one
such article on the Web entitled
"A matter of Fellowship." All of the
reasons given by this brother (whom I personally have a great deal of
admiration for) are reasons upon which we have never legislated in the
past, and refused to legislate now. One article on his site even has a
direct attack on the fellowship position of an early editor, Robert
Roberts, pertaining to
Those who wish to add to our
original foundation, and those who wish to take from our original
foundation will not find the Bereans a satisfactory movement. We believe
we are too close to the return of Christ to go changing our movement at
this late date. The foundations laid 150 years ago have served us well to
this point, and I doubt any see any need to change now.
* * * * *
Conclusions Concerning Bereans
- As has been demonstrated in
this history, the path chosen by the Berean Christadelphians has not
been smooth. The words of the Scriptures have rung so very true:
- LUK 12:51-53 "Suppose
ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather
division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided,
three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided
against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the
daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against
her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law."
It has been through much effort
and many tears that the original position of those who rediscovered the
Truth from the superstitions of Christendom has been maintained. Some have
wished to take away from it. Some have tried to add to it. To the best of
our ability, we have tried to maintain the narrow and confined path that
leads to life.
- We know that our detractors
say we "follow men, not God." To those we simply say that we maintain
the original foundation, not because it is the original, but because we
believe that the position these men took was the proper position in
relation to divine things. We don't follow men, but we do respect men
for their work's sake in uncovering the truth from the darkness that is
in the world. After nearly 150 years of sincere brethren examining the
foundation that was laid down by John Thomas, we can say with Robert
- Christadelphian 1898, p.
128. "To the charge of holding 'that the knowledge of
Scripture, in the writings of Dr. Thomas, have reached a finality,' we
plead guilty...Our judgment is distinctly to the effect imputed-- that
in the writings of Dr. Thomas the Truth is developed as a finality, and
that they are a depot of the Christian doctrine. In this sense we are
'committed to Dr. Thomas.' God used him in the doing of His work. In His
sight, and with His help, we shall hold fast to the Truth brought to
light by his means."
We encourage all who are like
minded to come and walk with us.