Answering the critics: Answering Matt Slick's "Is Christadelphianism Christian?"
Matt Slick (the same person who wrote a list of "Questions for Christadelphians")
has written an equally pungent article that attacks the essential basis
of the Christadelphian faith. As before, his caricature of our beliefs
is both erroneous and deeply insulting.
Slick's comments appear in the quotation boxes; my rebuttal follows in regular text.
|Is Christadelphianism Christian? No, Christadelphianism is not Christian. Like all cults, Christadelphianism denies one or more of the essential doctrines of Christianity: Jesus is God, the physical resurrection, and salvation by grace. In this case, it is the deity of Christ and salvation by grace through faith are the problems with this group.|
We deny the deity of Christ, but we do not deny salvation by grace.
|In regards to Jesus, it teaches that.... |
• Jesus had a sinful nature The Christadelphians, What They Believe, by Harry Tennant, The Christadelphian, England, p. 74 - this is a Christadelphian book.)
This is not a legitimate quote. It is merely an assertion. If Slick wants to push his point, he must provide a direct quote (in context) to support it.
Meanwhile, his accusation consists of nothing more than a patently misleading statement. It attempts to ascribe a certain meaning to the term "sinful nature" that evangelicals accept but Christadelphians reject. His argument therefore begins with a deliberate attempt to misrepresent our theology.
When Slick says “sinful, fallen nature”, he do not mean what Christadelphians mean when we refer to “sinful nature.” As a Calvinist, he believes 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.
I can only assume that Slick obviously didn't read much of Brother Harry's book (The Christadelphians: What they Believe) because if he had, he would have seen this:
- 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.
|• Jesus needed salvation, (Christadelphian Answers, ed. by Frank G. Jannaway, The Herald Press, p. 25 - another Christadelphian book).|
This is not a direct quote either. If Slick wishes to press the point, he must produce a quote from Christadelphian Answers which says exactly what he claims.
Christadelphians do not teach that Christ needed salvation: we teach that he needed to be saved from death.
This is clearly affirmed by the Bible itself:
- Hebrews 5:5-7
So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
|• Jesus is not God in flesh (Answers, p. 22).|
This is not denied. We do indeed teach that Christ is not God incarnate.
• That Jesus' atonement was not substitutionary (Answers, p. 25; What They Believe, p. 71).
This is not denied. We do indeed teach that Christ's atonement was not substitutionary.
However, we also teach that instead of being substitutionary, Jesus' atoning death was representative. He died for us (on our behalf) not instead of us (in our place.)
|• Baptism is necessary for salvation (What They Believe , p. 71,72, 207-210)|
This is not denied. We do indeed teach that baptism is necessary for salvation. It is our gateway to a covenant relationship with God and Christ.
- Acts 2:37-38
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
In the words of the famous Anabaptist, Balthasar Hubmaier:
man who has the excuse of the thief on the cross will have the favour
of God. But when this excuse is lacking the word of Christ holds true
that "he that believes and is baptized shall be saved."
|Of primary importance is what the Christadelphians say about Jesus. They deny He is divine in nature.|
|According to John 1:1,14, John 8:58 (with Exodus 3:14), and Col. 2:9, Jesus is God.|
For John 1:14, click here and here.
For John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14, click here.
For Colossians 2:9, click here.
|Furthermore, Jesus said in John 8:24, "I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am, you shall die in your sins."|
Christadelphians agree. However, Christ only claimed to be the Messiah - not God.
It is interesting to note that the New English Translation (a Trinitarian version) renders this verse in the following way:
- Thus I told you that you will die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”
- Grk “unless you believe that I am.” In this context there is an implied predicate nominative (“he”) following the “I am” phrase.
What Jesus’ hearers had to acknowledge is that he was who he claimed to be, i.e., the Messiah (cf. 20:31).
This view is also reflected in English translations like NIV (“if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be”), NLT (“unless you believe that I am who I say I am”), and CEV (“if you don’t have faith in me for who I am”).
|Also, John the Apostle said in 1 John 4:2-4, "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world."|
Christadelphians agree. However, this verse does not say that Jesus is God, nor does it say that we must believe he is God.
|You can see that denying that Jesus has come in the flesh (that He is God in flesh per John 1:1,14), is the spirit of antichrist.|
This is absolute nonsense. Saying that "Jesus has come in the flesh" is not the same as saying that he is God in the flesh. If John had wanted to say that Jesus is God in the flesh, he would have done so. However, he did not.
|Since we are justified by faith (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9), it is crucial to crucial to have the proper object of faith. All Satan has to do is to get someone to believe in a false Jesus and the person is lost (Matt. 24:24). A false Jesus cannot save and only the true Jesus reveals the true God (John 14:6; Luke 10:22; John 17:3).|
Astute readers will notice that Slick is carefully setting up another argument here. By saying that "we are justified by faith", he is subtly laying the foundation for his belief that we are saved by faith alone (an assertion that he will produce shortly.)
Fortunately, we have the inspired words of the apostle James on our side:
- James 2:24
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
|Since Jesus is actually God in flesh (John 1:1,14; 20:28; Col. 2:9; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 1:8), it follows that those who deny His divine nature --|
Most of these passages have been dealt with in a previous post.
For Philippians 2:5-8, click here. For Hebrews 1, click here.
|and ascribe a sinful one to Him as the Christadelphians do -- cannot have the true Jesus and are, therefore, serving a false God.|
This is absolute nonsense. Again: when we say that Jesus had a sinful nature, we mean that he had a nature which was capable of sinning. However, we believe that he was totally sinless throughout his entire life because he never actually sinned.
|Second, the Christadelphians deny the substitutionary atonement of Jesus. They say that He did not take our place on the cross|
Correct. We say that Christ's atoning death was representative, not substitutional.
that He did not bear our sins. This is in direct contradiction to
Scripture. 1 Pet. 2:24 says, "He Himself bore our sins in His body on
the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by
His wounds you were healed."|
Instead, they teach a kind of representation that was not effective to remove sin and say, "Christ did not die as our substitute, but as our representative" (Answers, p. 25).
Totally false. We teach that Christ died as our representative (not as our substitute), that he bore our sins and that his death is effective to remove our sins.
Our Statement of Faith makes this abundantly clear:
- 8. That these promises had reference to Jesus Christ, who was to be raised up in the condemned line of Abraham and David, and
who, though wearing their condemned nature, was to obtain a title to
resurrection by perfect obedience, and, by dying, abrogate the law of
condemnation for himself, and all who should believe and obey him.
8. 1CO 15:45, HEB 2:14-16, ROM 1:3, HEB 5:8-9, HEB 1:9, ROM 5:19-21, GAL 4:4-5, ROM 8:3-4, HEB 2:15, HEB 9:26, GAL 1:4, HEB 7:27, HEB 5:3-7, HEB 2:17, ROM 6:10, ROM 6:9, ACT 13:34-37, REV 1:18, JOH 5:21-22, JOH 5:26-27, JOH 14:3, REV 2:7, REV 3:21, MAT 25:21, HEB 5:9, MAR 16:16, ACT 13:38-39, ROM 3:22, PSA 2:6-9, DAN 7:13-14, REV 11:15, JER 23:5, ZEC 14:9, EPH 1:9-10
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.
9. 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 4:15
|Additionally, in Answers, page 24, it says, "But it is equally true that, being 'made sin for us' (2 Cor. 5:21), he himself required a sin offering..." In other words, they are saying that Jesus Himself also needed to be saved. This is absolutely unbiblical and heretical and needs to be labeled for what it is: false doctrine.|
|Jesus was without sin (1 Pet. 2:22), the exact representation of the nature of God (Heb. 1:3).|
Christadelphians agree - and as you can see, this is exactly what our Statement of Faith teaches.
|Since God is sinless and Holy, so is Jesus in nature and essence.|
Christadelphians agree. Prior to his death, Jesus was sinless though yet capable of sin. After his resurrection, Jesus was both sinless and incapable of sin.
|Furthermore, the Christadelphians, by having a Jesus who has a sin nature, cannot have a proper sacrifice by which their sins are atoned for. According to the Old Testament, the sacrifice for sins had to be without blemish (Deut. 17:1). Having a sin nature would definitely be a blemish which would invalidate the sacrifice.|
Totally false. Jesus had a nature which was capable of sin, but since he never sinned he was a perfect sacrifice.
It is quite extraordinary that Slick insists on deliberately misrepresenting our theology at every turn. He knows he is not telling the truth about what we believe, yet he persists in doing so.
Let the reader judge if this is Christian behaviour.
|Third, the Christadelphians add a work to salvation. They say that baptism is part of the saving process. But, baptism is not necessary for salvation.|
Baptism is not counted as "work." If Slick genuinely believes this, he must present passges which show that baptism is a "work" and therefore not necessary for salvation.
Predictably, he will do no such thing.
|Instead, it is a representation of the inward reality of regeneration (1 Pet. 3:21), a covenant sign of God's work upon the heart (Col. 2:11-12).|
Christadelphians agree that it is all of these thing.
|Gal. 5:1-12 speaks of the grave error of some people who thought that they needed to partake in some part of the Law (circumcision) to be saved. Paul quickly denounced them with very strong words (Gal. 5:12).|
|Additionally, Rom. 5:1 says that we are justified by faith, not by faith and baptism.|
That is a lie. Romans 5:1 does not mention baptism at all:
- Romans 5:1
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
|Rom. 3:23 says we are saved not by the works of the Law; that is, not by anything that we do.|
Christadelphians agree. However, as Martin Luther so eloquently explained in his Large Catechism, baptism is not our work but God’s!
these words you must note, in the first place, that here stand God's
commandment and institution, lest we doubt that Baptism is divine, not
devised nor invented by men.
For as truly as I can say, No man has spun the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer out of his head, but they are revealed and given by God Himself, so also I can boast that Baptism is no human trifle, but instituted by God Himself, moreover, that it is most solemnly and strictly commanded that we must be baptized or we cannot be saved, lest any one regard it as a trifling matter, like putting on a new red coat.
For it is of the greatest importance that we esteem Baptism excellent, glorious, and exalted, for which we contend and fight chiefly, because the world is now so full of sects clamoring that Baptism is an external thing, and that external things are of no benefit.
But let it be ever so much an external thing here stand God's Word and command which institute, establish, and confirm Baptism. But what God institutes and commands cannot be a vain, but must be a most precious thing, though in appearance it were of less value than a straw.
But if they say, as they are accustomed: Still Baptism is itself a work, and you say works are of no avail for salvation; what then, becomes of faith?
Answer: Yes, our works, indeed, avail nothing for salvation; Baptism, however, is not our work, but God's (for, as was stated, you must put Christ-baptism far away from a bath-keeper's baptism).
God's works, however, are saving and necessary for salvation, and do not exclude, but demand, faith; for without faith they could not be apprehended.
For by suffering the water to be poured upon you, you have not yet received Baptism in such a manner that it benefits you anything; but it becomes beneficial to you if you have yourself baptized with the thought that this is according to God's command and ordinance, and besides in God's name, in order that you may receive in the water the promised salvation. Now, this the fist cannot do, nor the body; but the heart must believe it.
|Since our righteous deeds are filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6), we must completely rely upon the grace of God for our salvation --|
Christadelphians agree. And to that end, we must demonstrate our faith by obedient works.
- James 2:14-24
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
- Matthew 7:21
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
- John 15:14
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
- I John 2:3-4
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
- I John 3:22, 24
And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
- I John 5:2-3
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
- II John 1:6
And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.
|which is by faith in Jesus who is God, the creator, in flesh.|
There is not a single passage in the Bible which says this.