Are the Christadelphians a Cult?
When Christadelphians are described by opponents, the word 'cult' is frequently made us of. The purpose of this article is to examine the validity of this claim.
A dictionary definition calls a cult "a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies." A secondary definition is "an instance of almost religious veneration for a person or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: a cult of Napoleon."
When we think of a cult, we generally think of a group of religious fanatics of some kind; and often this group of people does have a leader who they hold in great reverence.
In our time, a cult is usually thought of in a negative context. People who do drugs, rave like wild animals and commit suicide en masse are described as being cultists. However, going strictly by the primary definition above, the Christadelphians must concede to being a cult. However, every other religion in the world is a cult as well. The early Christian church was a cult: it was a group of religious worshippers who admired Christ. The Catholic church is a cult: a group of worshippers who admire the pope. The Christadelphians are therefore a cult as well, since they are a group of worshippers who admire Christ, though they consider themselves to be His brethren, as their name indicates.
However, those who call the Christadelphians a cult do not usually have Christ in mind as the leader and founder of the cult. They point to a man named John Thomas and call him the founder and charismatic leader of the Christadelphians. Is this a valid criticism?
The Christadelphians do not revere Dr. John Thomas. They do not view him as possessing any supernatural powers. He was merely a man who cast aside the church tradition which plagued the Catholic and Protestant churches, and went directly to the Source for his beliefs: the Bible. He accepted Jesus' invitation, "And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17). So, while we have great respect for Dr. Thomas and his lifelong efforts to spread the true gospel throughout England and North America, we do not see him as any higher or greater than ourselves; we do not revere or worship him in any way. He was not the founder or discoverer of a religious system, but rather a diligent Bible student who was able to grasp the simple Bible truths without including the perversions of the Apostasy. While some Christadelphians may believe that Dr. Thomas was guided by God in his work, we have never claimed that he introduced any new revelations from God, nor do we think of the Doctor as infallible.
What about literature? Cults usually have some literature that they regard as being holy, with which they back up their beliefs. Critics point to John Thomas's writings, notably Elpis Israel and Eureka, and call them the "divine writings" of Christadelphians. However, this is not so. The Christadelphians view the Bible as being the only writings with any sort of divine origin which are now in existence, and have not attempted to add thereto with the writings of Christadelphians. Christadelphian literature is attempting to lay out what the Bible teaches; it is not attempting to lay out any new ideas. Elpis Israel is an exposition of the Kingdom of God as found in the Bible; it is not an exposition of the Kingdom of God that John Thomas dreamed up on a rainy day.
The Christadelphians have never introduced any brand new ideas. What they have done is, they have gone back to the Source which the early Christians used to foster their beliefs: the Bible. The early Christians were not plagued by centuries of "Church tradition" and man-made creeds; neither should we be: we ought to gather our beliefs from the Bible, and the Bible alone; which has been a rule which the Christadelphians have always tried to follow.
What is our conclusion then? In a society where people recoil with thoughts of suicide, alcohol, drugs, nudists, crazed fanatics and frightening leaders at the very mention of the word 'cult,' the Christadelphians would prefer not to be referred to by that misleading word, which always carries a negative connotation. It fits as a description of the Christadelphians less than of the "orthodox" churches.
The Christadelphians have no reverence or veneration for any mere man; only for God, the Creator and Controller of everything in the universe, and they reverence God through His Son, who was anointed with the Holy Spirit of God without measure, and raised from the dead, both of which attest to His Divine Paternity and to the truth of His claims about His return to the earth. The Catholics have reverence for their clerical hierarchy, especially that man to whom they make reference with the phrase "Holy Father," which is the same term Christ used when worshipping the real Holy Father (John 17:11). The Protestants claim to venerate only God, but at the same time they call their ordained ministers "Reverend" and must therefore be guilty of reverencing men. In addition to this, Protestants frequently view their pastors as great authorities on theology and will therefore practically take their word as law. Perhaps they should heed Paul's warning about "heaping after themselves teachers" (II Tim. 4:3).
By strict definition, a cult is a system of religious worship, and so all religious peoples of the earth are guilty of cultism. If worshipping God in the way God has appointed in the Bible is cultism, then the Christadelphians are a cult; but then other "Christians" cannot deny that they too are cults, unless they are prepared to openly reject God and the Bible.
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