The Christadelphians

Christadelphians confirm Cult Status! (continued)

Palmer now quoted 2 Tim. 4:6-8:

'I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand - I have fought the good fight I have finished my course I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me....when? that day. And not to me only but to all them also that love His appearing".....Paul, when he died was dying in the hope of the resurrection of the dead to receive his reward at that day...the appearing of his master, and so he says to the Philippians that our conversation is in heaven from whence also we hope for the Saviour the Lord Jesus we believe that, if we are baptised into the Lord Jesus Christ - into his saving grace, we have remission of sins, and the hope of eternal life - which is eternal life upon this earth in God's kingdom - when Christ returns.'  Now those may not be your beliefs - but they've been the beliefs of the churches through the centuries at some stage.....and the further back in time you go the closer you get to these doctrines - and that's demonstrative'

It is the clear testimony of Scripture that heaven awaits all who believe in Jesus Christ (
Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 3: 1; 12:22; 2 Peter 1: 10-11).  Jesus promised, "If any one serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be [i.e., heaven]" (John 12:26 NASB, emphasis added).  All who believe in Christ are heirs of the eternal kingdom (Galatians 3:29; 4:28-31; Titus 3:7; James 2:5). The heretics that the CDs align with have believed a complete mish-mash of ideas, and in any given year there is the possibility that some group would absorb errors - the same is true today -  but it is not possible to demonstrate that the historic orthodox church, as a whole, ever believed these CD teachings.

Finally, Palmer reached what remains the CDs main bone of contention:

'...the doctrine of the Trinity....because this is the touchstone of whether you're a Christian as far as many people are concerned - if you're not a Trinitarian you're not Christian. You're not orthodox therefore we don't accept you....the BBC have used that word in the past and stopped the CDs broadcasting....we're not Unitarian but we're not Trinitarian. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ was - as Scripture says - the only begotten Son of God, born of the virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was the Word made flesh,
He was the perfect manifestation of the character of his Father. But he was the Son of a woman having the same nature as ourselves....just as children are partakers of flesh and blood, he likewise himself also - it says - in Hebrews Chapter 3....had the nature of his mother that he might destroy in his flesh the tendency to sin, which shall save us all. He was not a normal man - he was the son of God, filled with the holy spirit he was unique....and is elevated above all. He wasn't an angel - he was the only begotten Son of God - that's what the Bible says, and we believe it. Now the Trinity does not say that.'

Other than the sort of treatment meted out to the CDs by the BBC we are not sure why Palmer insists that
'the Trinity is the touchstone of whether you're a Christian as far as many people are concerned - if you're not a Trinitarian you're not Christian.' Again, he has made no attempt to answer our tract which laid no such emphasis. Our emphasis was on salvation and a more testing question would have been: 'Did the thief on the cross have to believe in the Trinity to be saved?' The answer is - we have no evidence that he did - he had simple faith in Christ and was saved without baptism, good works etc. The touchstone of the Trinity is that it can prevent the sincere seeker of truth from embracing error and therefore seeking an anti-Christ instead of the historical Jesus! The thief on the cross saw the Living Saviour-God dying for him - he knew who he believed in!  When we read Palmer's view of the 'touchstone' of the Trinity we need remember that the CDs have declared: 'There is no more important theme in Scripture than that of God-manifestation....Brother Thomas wrote: 'Men were not ushered into being for the purpose of being saved or being lost! God manifestation not human salvation was the great purpose of the Eternal Spirit.' He has also failed to point out that Scripture says much more about the Godhead than he mentioned here!  Quoting liberal theologians from the Church of England and claiming that they represent mainstream orthodoxy is not going to impress orthodox evangelicals, but Palmer still mis-represents the Christian church today by quoting sources that support the end he wishes to arrive at. Let us look at some of his evidence:

'A....process of theological exploration which lasted 300 years before the doctrine of the Trinity was formulated in its orthodox view....advanced by a system of trial and would be foolish to represent the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as having been achieved  by any other way' I know that fundamentalists groups wouldn't accept this, but what I am saying is this - the orthodox - you call me a cult, you see, because I don't believe the orthodox! The orthodox tells me, and I can see with my own eyes, that if you look through Strong's concordance which has every word in the Bible in it, you will not find the word Trinity. That is a matter of fact. You will not find the form of words that people like to use.  The only tools available to the intellectuals of the church were Greek philosophy and that's where their formulation came from - and history shows it. And if you don't know it I would  respectfully suggest that you don't know the history of the doctrine you believe.  I'm not wishing to be offensive but I do think that this is, as you will tell me, of fundamental importance....and I will agree.'

It is clear that Palmer does not wish to consider why the Trinitarian doctrine was formulated - and his sources are never shown to consider the reasons for the early church to set out to encapsulate the beliefs about the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit so we will consider the reasons in a moment. What he fails to realise is that the apologists who had accepted Christ wrote much of their defence of the faith to people who were still steeped in Greek philosophy and therefore their arguments and choice of words are often couched in terms and concepts that would be comfortable and readily understandable to those they were addressing. It is therefore clear why the lawyer Tertullian (
before 200AD!) described the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as the "Trinity" (Latin - trinitas) in the definition of the Godhead as being "one substance (Latin - substantia) in three persons (Latin - persona)." What also needs emphasising is the fact that the Latin persona was readily intelligible at the time but, in ordinary parlance today the word "person" has come to mean much more than the persona ever did; its theological use can therefore be misleading to people who have had no theological training. This is why, when people hear of three persons in the Godhead, they naturally tend to think of three personalities in such a way as to give colour to the charge that trinitarianism is actually tritheism - a belief in three distinct Gods! It is clear from the cults literature that they repeatedly make this mistake. Other words have also changed in the same way, e.g. substance still has a similar meaning to philosophers today - but has a material sense to physical scientists and lay people in today's world.  We will return to these points later.

Palmer had to throw in more false material  to strengthen his play for the sympathy vote, so he declared that
'members of my community over the centuries have died' because they denied the Trinity. This is sheer fabrication, as we have shown in his attempt to claim Rawlins White.  Everyone has been persecuted at some time, but persecution complex is a cult speciality - ask JWs or Mormons if they have been persecuted for their truth. Ask them how much sympathy they get from the Christadelphians.

He continued with another false statement;
'Of course the Roman Catholic church is the original orthodox church - it invented the doctrine.' This is simply untrue. Research the early Church Fathers who expressed an opinion about this relationship - and see how many the Roman Catholics can claim as their own.  To quote from a Roman Catholic book with the so-called  Imprimatur (free from doctrinal error), and claim them as 'orthodox,' would be amusing if it were not sad - for the Roman Catholics began deifying Mary many years ago. The term "Mother of God" was first applied to her by the Council of Ephesus, 431 A.D. and she is now considered joint mediator with Christ - with more prayer offered to her than to the Son or the Father - despite the complete absence of Scriptural support.  Hippolytus (third century writer) recorded that 'Pope' Callistus (221-227 AD) was Unitarian. 'Pope' Liberius (358 AD) embraced Arianism and anathematised the great Trinitarian defender, Athanasius, 'Pope' Zozimus (417-418 AD) embraced the Pelagian heresy, and 'Pope' Honorius (625-638 AD) specifically taught the Monothelite heresy (that Christ had only one will & therefore denied either His deity or His humanity) - which makes him a CD bed-fellow - and he was subsequently anathematised & condemned by Popes and their councils for 800 years! Rome has been an enemy of orthodoxy!  Palmer continued:

'The orthodox tells me that I'm correct in my understanding about the Bible and the Trinity....and because my authority is on the Bible and not on the church...of course, you say, well how can the Catholic church say that....quite easily, because it does not require the Bible for its authority. It has another pillar on which it builds, which is the pillar of tradition. You say, well, how can the Church of England say that, well the Church of England has so far gone from the Bible that it doesn't really matter, it seems, what you believe....when you can have a bishop saying that the resurrection is a 'trick with bones' you wonder who the cults are!'

It is the poorly researched liberal writers claiming orthodoxy who give Palmer the idea that he is correct in his 'understanding.'  The CDs attack Christendom's theology saying it was derived from the Greek philosophical & metaphysical approach; they forget that their own approach owes much to modern comparisons and philosophies, e.g. the Holy Spirit is compared in their writings with "electricity", "radiant invisible power or energy;" Robert Roberts believed that God has a physical body with all its organs, and that the Father is a tangible person (see "Christendom Astray', p.79), and brought into existence the Son. In this respect their doctrines are immediately found to resemble both the JWs and the Mormons. What would the ancients have made of the use of "electricity" to describe the Holy Spirit? Would they have had as much trouble understanding as we have today with persona & substance?  The existence of isolated heretical bishops is particularly obvious in the high-profile Church of England - although this doesn't excuse it for lacking in discipline - but we doubt that the CDs have never had a heretic in their midst for, if you believe Palmers statements, we are all free to come to our own truth of what the Bible teaches!

'The Apostles creed is the earliest creed and Christadelphians wholeheartedly accept it. The Nicene creed - that's where we have difficulty - date? 325AD. The Athanasian creed....great difficulty - 500AD. The Apostles creed - first century, no problem at all....'The Catholic Encyclopaedia: 'the doctrine of the Holy trinity is not taught in the Old Testament' - so what did Abraham believe? What did David believe? What did all the prophets which the apostles say they are fulfilling - what the prophets taught - what did they believe?' 'The doctrine of three persons in the Godhead....a doctrine which in the three preceding centuries had happily escaped the vain curiosity of human researches.....Cardinal Newman: 'the doctrine of the Trinity had never been learned merely from Scripture'....Matthews, Archbishop of Canterbury: "the doctrine of the part of the original message.....Saint Paul knew it not and would have been unable to understand the meaning of the terms used in the theological formula on which the church ultimately agreed....Richardson: 'The Trinity - it is not contained formally in Scripture' - and so it goes on.  Brunner - The Christian Doctrine of God: "We must honestly admit that the doctrine of the Trinity did not form part of the early Christian New Testament message." And that's all we're saying.'

Why can the CDs agree with the apostles' creed and not the later creeds? Because heretics such as Arius were easily able to practice their beliefs within the confines of the first creeds and that is why the Athanasian creed was formulated - to exclude all possible contradictions and heresies.  Cults claim it is because apostasy crept, or galloped, into the church. The word trinity (or an equivalent form) is indeed absent from the pages of Scripture and does not appear in the patristic literature until Tertullian & Theophillus used it,
before 200AD. Is this the end of the argument? CDs and JWs would like you to believe it is. However, the absence of the word from the Scriptures poses no difficulties for the Christian defending his faith because the term is purely a functional one. The word expresses the church's belief in the full, uncreated deity of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit - co-eternal, co-equal, yet individually distinct. We have already seen the CDs use a term, "God-manifestation", in the same way to try and encapsulate their view of God; JWs use "theocracy" to describe their view of God's kingdom on earth - they are function words, but neither word or word-group occurs in one place in Scripture!  Having researched the work of the early Fathers carefully we recognise that the emphasis on the Trinitarian doctrine developed out of the need of the church to respond to the speculative heresies (which are today represented by such as the JWs and CDs) which attempted to encroach the church. Current space does not permit us to go into this subject in depth - but it will be dealt with in due course. We will content ourselves with a few examples of the evidence for now. It is clear from the patristic literature that the ideas brought together in that doctrine - the deity and distinct personality of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - were nearly universally accepted by church leaders during that period - but there will always be heretics in, or on the fringe of, the church (ref. 1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:17; 3:1; 4:10; Titus 1:10-14) While some individual authors tended to subordinate the son to the Father, there is simply no conclusive evidence from the body of early Christian literature that the uncreated deity of Christ or the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit were ever seriously questioned much less denied. Converted philosophers such as Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria often tailored their theological arguments to suit their pagan audiences, which left some of their statements - when taken out of context - open to misinterpretation. However, their work, when taken as a whole, is consistent with and supportive of the orthodox faith accepted by Christians today. By contrast, no author prior to Arius in the Fourth century developed a theology of the Son and the Spirit even remotely similar to that of the JWs or CDs. No doubt they could strain to put their emphasis on some of the early writings - and this is exactly why the doctrine of the Trinity was formulated to totally eradicate any attempt by heretics of yesterday and today to force their views of the Godhead onto the orthodox church. This is clearly shown by the historical evidence.

Theophilus (
died circa 181 AD.), bishop of Antioch, sixth in line from the apostles, is the first of the fathers to use the term "triad" in a recorded reference to the Godhead. In his principal work to his pagan friend, a three-volume apology, "To Autolycus," he attempts to convince him of the truth of Christianity and the nature of the Logos:

'The divine Scripture itself teaches us that Adam said he had heard the voice. And what else is this voice, but the Word of God, which also  is His Son - not as poets and writers of  myths  tell  us  the  sons  of  gods begotten of intercourse, but...This is  what  the  Holy Scriptures teach us, as do all the inspired men, one of whom, John, says, 'In the beginning was  the  Word,  and  the  Word was with God,' showing that at first  God  was  alone,  and the Word was in Him. Then he says, 'And  the  Word  was God; all things were made through Him,  and  without  Him  was made nothing.' The Word, then, being God and  being generated from God, is sent to any place at the  will of the Father.'  (Theophilus, To  Autolycus,  2.22.  Jurgens,   "The   Faith   of  the  Early  Fathers," Vol.1)

Theophilus clearly represents the voice in the garden as the  voice  of  God,  clearly  identified  as  the  Word  with an unequivocal denial  of  any  origin  for  the  Logos who he  recognises on a purely  Scriptural  and apostolic basis to be God, not some angelic pseudo-deity! Remember, like all the early Christian writers, Theophilus refers to the teachings of the apostles as the standard that validates his beliefs and the criterion against which they are to be measured.

Melito, the bishop of Sardis, who died about 190 A.D., was a  prolific writer.  Little  of  his  writing  survives,  but a  fragment from his work titled 
"Guide," makes it clear how  he understood the Deity of Christ:

"The activities of Christ  after  His Baptism, and especially His miracles, gave indication and  assurance to the world of the Deity  hidden  in  His  flesh.  Being  God  and likewise perfect  man,  He  gave  positive  indications  of  His  two natures: of His  Deity,  by  the  miracles  during the three years following after His  Baptism;  of His humanity, in the thirty years which came before His Baptism, during which, by reason of His condition according to the flesh, He concealed the signs  of  His  Deity,  although  He  was  the  true God existing   before   the   ages."  (Melito, "Guide," 13. Jurgens, "The Faith of the Early Fathers," Vol. 1)

What could be clearer?  Hippolytus was an eminent  writer  who  died a martyr in the  mines of Sardinia in 236 A.D. A prolific writer in about 198-236 A.D., his  principal  surviving work is the  multi-volume treatise, 
"Refutation  of  All  Heresies." He  portrayed the orthodox teaching  of  Christ appearing as God  in the flesh, and there is  no evidence that he believed Him to be a created being:
"Only His Word is from  Himself,  and is therefore also God, becoming the substance  of God." (Hippolytus, "Refutation of All Heresies," 10.33.  Jurgens,  "The  Faith of the Early  Fathers," Vol. 1)  "For Christ is the God  over  all,  who has arranged to wash away  sin  from  mankind,  rendering  the  old  man new." (ibid., 10.34) "Let  us  believe...according   to   the  tradition  of  the apostles, that God the Word  came  down from heaven into the holy Virgin Mary...He came forth  into the world and, in the body, showed Himself to be  God,  although it was as perfect man that He came forth." (Hippolytus, "Against the Heresy  of a Certain Noetus," 17.  Jurgens,  "The Faith of the Early  Fathers," Vol. 1)

The writings of Hippolytus do not support a theology that  denies the deity of Christ and can  be  shown  to  be 
supportive of the Trinitarian position, as in this quote:

"God, subsisting alone,  and  having nothing contemporaneous with Himself, determined  to  create  the world...Beside Him there was  nothing;  but He, while existing alone, yet existed in plurality.. If, then, the Word was with God, and was also God, what follows? Would  one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed  speak of two Gods, but of one; of two Persons however,  and  a third economy (disposition), viz., the grace of the Holy  Ghost. For the Father indeed is One, but there are  two  Persons,  because there is also the Son; and then there is the third, the Holy Spirit..whosoever  omitted  any  one  of  these,  failed in glorifying God perfectly.  For it is through this Trinity (triados) that the Father is glorified. For  the Father willed, the Son did, the Spirit manifested. The whole Scriptures,  then, proclaim this truth." (W.B. Eerdman, "The Ante-Nicene Fathers," Vol. 5, p.228)

Tertullian, who was born  in Carthage about 155-160 A.D.,  was  a  lawyer  who   also   defended  the  Christian  faith  vigorously:

"We hold that this which  was  uttered by God, and which was  begotten  in  that  utterance, because of the unity of substance is called  God  and  Son  of  God;  for God too is Spirit...[Christ]  was   born    God   and   man  combined." (Tertullian, "Apology," 21.13.  Jurgens,  "The  Faith of the  Early Fathers," Vol. 1).  "God alone is  without  sin.  The  only  man  without sin is Christ; for Christ is also God." (Tertullian, "The Soul,"  41.3. Jurgens, "The Faith of the Early Fathers," Vol. 1)  "We do indeed believe  that  there  is only one God...He was sent by the Father into the Virgin and was born of her, God and man, Son of Man and  Son  of  God, and was called by the name Jesus Christ." (Tertullian, "Against Praxeas," 2.1 -  ibid.)

Claims that Tertullian  and Theophilus propagated and introduced the threefold unity  of God  into  Christianity  is  ridiculous  and hardly worth  refuting,  but  to  claim  that  "the  Trinity"  is  a Roman  Catholic doctrine is even more  ludicrous - as the quotes from  the  early  Church  Fathers  show.
Any unbiased  study of the FACTS  will convince the impartial investigator  that before Tertullian or  Theophilus lived the doctrine was  considered sound and that it  was only when Arius and others  began their heretical teaching that the Councils met to formulate a definitive creed.  No one  doubts  that  among  the  heathens  (Babylonians and  Egyptians) demon "gods" were  worshipped in various forms of  "trinity" - but none of these  taught the truth as the WHOLE  of the Bible expounds it -  that there are three Persons all  of the same Substance, co-equal, co-existent and co-eternal.  Christians do not believe that  the Trinity was incarnate in  Christ and that  they  were  "three  in one" during Christ's  ministry. Christ voluntarily limited  Himself in his earthly  body, but heaven was always open  to Him. At His baptism the  Holy Spirit descended like a  dove, the Father spoke and the  Son was baptized. What  further  proof  is  needed to show a  three-fold   unity?   Compare    the   baptism   of   Christ  (Matthew3v16-17)  with  the  commission  to  preach  in  the  threefold Name of the Father and  of the Son and of the Holy  Spirit (SINGULAR NAME  for  threefold unity!) (Matthew28v19)  and the evidence is clear  and undeniable.

The fact that  a  simple  faith  was  believed  by the early  church doesn't alter  the  fact  that  it  had to provide an  intellectual answer to those who  began to challenge it.
The  apostles found it necessary to  further define doctrine as a  hedge against false  teachers:  Jude  3;  2 Peter 3v16. Paul  further defined the doctrine  of the bodily resurrection for  the same reason (1  Corinthians  15).  The writer of Hebrews  attacks the idea that Jesus is an angel or lesser being (Heb  1v1-14) and John attacked  the  Gnostic  idea that Jesus was  not actually flesh and blood  (1  & 2 John). The battle that  John began against Gnostics  and  Docetists was continued by  his  pupils  (including  Polycarp  and  Ignatius)  after his  death. 

While the  Gnostics  and  Docetists  had  no  trouble seeing  Christ as God, or as an  emanation from God, they denied His  humanity and claimed that He  materialised in some form, but  was not human.  Today, 
CDs (who could be described as modern-day  Adoptionists) and  Jehovah's  Witnesses (who have combined such errors as Arianism and dynamic  Monarchianism/Monothelitism,  as well  as  touching on other  heretical branches  with  strange  interpretations, such as,  "when  Christ  became  Christ"  -  a  semi-Docetic view)  struggle with the same "warmed-up" heresies of yesterday.

It  is  clear  from  both  his  own  writing  and the  depiction of his heroic death,  that Polycarp (died 155 AD!) and his fellow  believers worshipped Christ  as  God, and even those who  killed him allude to this  clearly  in their fear that
'they  should abandon the crucified one and begin to worship this man.' They  clearly  knew  that  Polycarp  and  his church  WORSHIPPED CHRIST!

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