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Resurrectional responsibility

ASF: "After his return, Jesus will raise many of the dead, the faithful and the unfaithful. He will also send forth his angels to gather them together with the living to the great judgment" (13). "The unfaithful will be punished with a second, eternal death. The faithful will be rewarded, by God's grace, with everlasting life on the earth, receiving glorified and immortal bodies" (14).

BASF: "That at the appearing of Christ prior to the establishment of the Kingdom, the responsible (namely, those who know the revealed will of God, and have been called upon to submit to it), dead and living -- obedient and disobedient -- will be summoned before his judgment seat 'to be judged according to their works'; and 'receive in body according to what they have done, whether it be good or bad' " (XXIV).

"That the unfaithful will be consigned to shame and 'the second death', and the faithful, invested with immortality, and exalted to reign with Jesus as joint heirs of the kingdom, co-possessors of the earth, and joint administrators of God's authority among men in everything" (XXV).

Like the original Birmingham Statement (before the Amendment of 1898), the ASF does not attempt to define the "responsible" -- except to say, in Clause 14, that the "faithful" and "unfaithful" will appear at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is equivalent to the BASF in XXV, which uses the identical words "faithful" and "unfaithful". [For that matter, Clause XXIV of the BASF originally read: "the responsible (faithful and unfaithful), dead and living of both classes". The parenthetical phrase was dropped out of the original Clause XXIV to make room for the parenthetical amendment.]

This ASF 14 is absolutely Biblical, being based upon a "first principles" passage (Act 24:15) which uses terms of identical meaning in defining those who are "responsible" to a resurrectional judgment:

"There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust..." (KJV).

"...the dead, both the righteous and the wicked..." (NIV).

"...the dead, both the just and the unjust..." (RSV).
It is true that one early Christadelphian Statement of Faith (by John Thomas) seemed to limit the resurrectionally "responsible" to those of "the household" (see chapter 10). But surely the description "unjust" (or "unfaithful") always allowed for the possibility that, besides all the unfaithful who are validly baptized or otherwise in covenant with God, some unbaptized (who are "unjust"/"unfaithful" too) will also be raised to condemnation. In Act 24:15, the word translated "unjust" is the Greek "adikos"; other uses of the same original word plainly include the unbaptized:

Again in the immediate context of Act 24:15, the Gentile ruler Felix, who heard these words of Paul about a "resurrection of the wicked", grew fearful when -- only a few days later -- Paul spoke to him again of "the judgment to come" (Act 24:25). If a resurrection of the "wicked" or the "unjust" (Act 24:15) plainly held no threat at all for any unbaptized Gentile, why did Felix tremble when told of the judgment?

The analysis of "essential doctrines" demonstrates that Deu 19 and its context formed part of the teaching presented as a preliminary to baptism: "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken... I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him."

It is true that these words were spoken by Moses to the children of Israel, and not to Gentiles, and that -- likewise -- they are quoted by Peter when addressing the children of Israel again (Act 3:22,23). But... the warning includes the serious, all-inclusive "whosoever"! It is the same inclusiveness used by Peter in Act 2:39: "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."

The promise of blessing, even when spoken to Jews, is also to "all that are afar off" (ie, Gentiles: Eph 2:13,17; 3:5-8; Isa 57:19). Surely -- if those same "all" knowingly and willfully refuse the offer of such a promise -- they cannot expect to avoid the effect of such refusal: "Whosoever will not hearken to my words... I will require it of him."

The history of the "resurrectional responsibility" division indicates that the original Clause XXIV was at the time of its drafting understood to allow for the unbaptized responsible, who had refused to give heed to the words of Christ. But a prominent English brother (JJ Andrew of London) began to teach, in the 1890s, that those responsible to a resurrectional judgment could not possibly include any who were either uncircumcised (in the Mosaic dispensation) or unbaptized (in the Christian dispensation), because such were not cleansed from "Adamic condemnation" by the "blood of the covenant", and thus could not be delivered, even briefly and by Divine decree, from the curse of an "eternal death". The controversy from this new (or, if not so "new", then "newly prominent") teaching led the Birmingham Christadelphian Ecclesia to change its Statement of Faith in an attempt to rule out the teaching that Christ could not raise and judge any who were unbaptized.

However, the brief analysis above suggests that a careful reading of the original clause (even before the Amendment) -- with its reference to the "unfaithful" -- should have ruled out such teaching in the first place. Then there would have been no need for an amendment of doubtful meaning and application.

The amendment defines the responsible as "namely, those who know the revealed will of God, and have been called upon to submit to it". (It does not say, as some suggest, that the "responsible" are all who know the Gospel; it might even be argued that it pointedly avoids saying such a thing.)

The amendment was, and is, doubtful as to its meaning, since who can truly know (a) if another has not only known enough of the will of God, but especially (b) if that same person has been called upon (by God? by man? and in what manner?) to submit to it. And thus, of course, it was, and is, doubtful as to its application in individual cases: Few if any Christadelphians ever try to apply the Scriptural warnings about resurrectional judgment to specific individuals -- and that is as it should be.

More might be said about the ambiguities of the amendment. For example, what does "those who know" really mean? Some might say, 'What a foolish question! The answer is obvious!' But is it? There are two primary Greek words translated "to know":

(a) oida = to know from observation, to know theoretically and, perhaps, rather imperfectly;

(b) ginosko = to know experimentally, by direct personal contact, and generally to know fully and intimately.

Understandably, there is not always a perfectly clear demarcation between these two Greek words -- gray areas do exist. However, depending on which of the above definitions is given the word "know" in the Amendment, the statement can be made to mean very different things. In other words, in order to be responsible to resurrectional judgment, how much need one know? And how well need one know it? Who can say for sure?

Secondly, there is of course uncertainty about the phrase "called upon to submit to it". The very reasonable questions have been asked: 'How does God call men?' 'How can we ever know which -- if any -- among the unbaptized today have been truly called by God?' In fact, to be "called" -- Scripturally -- goes far beyond "knowledge":

"Those he called, he also justified" (Rom 8:30).

"...Live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory" (1Th 2:12).

"...As members of one body you were called to peace" (Col 3:15; also see Rom 8:28; 9:23,24; Eph 4:1; Jud 1).
Such examples could be multiplied many times over. In fact, out of more than 100 passages, the concept of "calling" is almost invariably associated with those who have been or go on to be baptized.

What does all this mean? Among other things, it means that the Amendment was and is so worded that one might accept it while still not believing that all "enlightened rejecters" (whatever that means, exactly) will be raised and judged by Christ at his coming.

And, to stretch the point a bit further, it means that the amendment is so worded that one might accept it while having reservations about the resurrection to judgment of any "enlightened rejecters" in this modern age, when the Holy Spirit is not openly manifest. How? Because, in the absence of Holy Spirit guidance, none of us can determine how much an unbaptized person must "know" or, indeed, whether that "knowledge" must be theoretical or practical, impersonal or personal, objective or subjective. And, finally, because none of us can really determine how and when, or even if, any unbaptized person has been Scripturally "called" by God.

The following point needs to be made, and stressed: The original Birmingham Statement of Faith (used by many ecclesias even today, and generally referred to as the "Unamended Statement") is not in opposition to the "Amended Statement". How can this be said? Because the original Clause XXIV, along with Clause XXV, plainly teaches that the resurrectionally "responsible" includes the "unfaithful", and because -- as the passages above, such as 1Co 6:1 and 1Pe 3:18, indicate -- there is no Biblical warrant for limiting the "unfaithful" to the baptized class only.

Are the unbaptized raised upon a different "basis" than the baptized? Such a question implies that, for fellowship purposes, we must know the means (the "why" and the "how") as well as the end (the "who"). To ask such question is to move the discussion from a "first principles" matter to a non-essential matter. And so, to pursue such a question as though it were a "first principle" is to create an artificial barrier where none need exist. The course of wisdom? Agree on the essential doctrine, and then discuss further details only with other "experts" who need -- or think they need -- to know!

So, should there have been a division in the first place? While making allowances for our lack of firsthand knowledge of those times, one may be tempted to think that, had the Christadelphian body given due prominence and weight to the (unarguably) fundamental Bible teaching of the One Body, they might have found a way to prevent a serious and destructive division.

The more responsible (!) question now is: What can be done about such a division? And the simple answer is: The minority (i.e., the "Unamended" in North America) -- if not truly believers in what may be called the JJ Andrew error -- should ask themselves, in the spirit of the fundamental Bible teaching on the One Body: 'Why have we resisted for so long a statement which essentially occurs in our own ("Unamended") Statement of Faith anyway?'

And, going one step further, the majority (ie, the "Amended") might ask themselves: 'Why have we made our own special interpretation of a vague amendment [Remember, it does not say, "All who know will be raised"!] the test of fellowship for everyone else -- thus raising a relatively minor matter to such an extraordinary level?' And... 'Have we used our Statement of Faith as a weapon to punish (or a wall to exclude) those who differ from us only slightly and on a secondary matter?'

See Lesson, Responsibility principles.

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