"They received the Word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.  Therefore many believed."--Acts 17:11

The Berean Christadelphians

Index

 

 

Page 4:  Our last 30 Years

Berean History Home Page

Page One:  The Resistance of Error
Page Two:  The Corruption of the Body
Page Three: Since the Formation of the Bereans

The Four Points

An Exception is not a Contradiction

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 meaningless.

"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 contradiction?"

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 to law?"

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 all.

 
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 continue.

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 stated:
 
"...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 alternative.

 
"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 agreement.

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):

 
"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 head coverings.

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 Roberts:
 
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.

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