My name is Tim Woodall and I am a former Christadelphian. I was born to Christadelphian parents. My father also had Christadelphian parents and I have other Christadelphian relatives too. So I am from what is known as a “Christadelphian family”. We were hardcore Christadelphians and therefore were involved to the degree and in the way that that entails. We read from the Bible every day as children, had no TV, attended meetings wherever possible, Sunday school, youth and preaching activities. We entertained visiting speakers and my parents helped with many church responsibilities. This means I understand very fully both the culture and the mindset of the community from an insiders perspective.
I was baptised late for a Christadelphian, but once I did get baptised I have took on many roles from playing the organ to speaking, to reading, cleaning, preaching and being on committees. In total I have over 40 years of association from attending Sunday School and youth activities to later being baptised as a full member.
I was disfellowshipped by the Christadelphians over the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Christadelphians have generally believed we only change to the degree that we understand the Bible and apply it. In other words spiritual progression comes down to how much we read the Bible, how good we are at theology and how much “will” we exert. It is therefore a very intellectual religion. It gives little place to experience or emotion in understanding or how God may use those. Certain personal experiences and also comprehensive reading of the Bible made me question these beliefs as well as their ability to reach the heart and effect real inner change. I also found copious references to the direct work of the Holy Spirit dwelling in believers and strengthening them in the Bible itself and experienced the presence of God. Such experiences are dismissed in the community and are in conflict with their theology. They believe that verses which speak of the direct work of God’s Holy Spirit do not apply to believers other than through the Bible as God’s “spirit-word.”
Since that point I have learnt that the “influence of the Holy Spirit” has always been a contentious issue and that although denial of any direct influence was the position of the Christadelphian founders, many congregations do not make belief in the historical position a matter of fellowship. In practice too some Christadelphians kind-of believe in more than the scripture. They may for instance believe God strengthens as a result of prayer. They may believe if we have faith he strengthens us. Prayers are given that God may help the speaker or the sick sometimes. They do not make the Holy Spirit connection to these requests as Christadelphian founders did. Ironically, though, if the speaker claimed he felt God guiding him, the sick person claimed to be healed or someone claimed they were given inner strength it can lead to disfellowship.
The theological difficulty is this belief does not come alone and there was concern over where that belief would lead. This led to me being questioned by the “arranging brethren” and asked to provide proof verses. Whilst able to do this, the relevant verses and proofs were reinterpreted through Christadelphian glasses making my job all but impossible. In addition many of the questions which were asked me I had yet to work through. How, I was asked, could other churches be wrong about everything else, but be right on that issue? The obvious answer to that was not a favourable one. If we were wrong about an issue that was at the centre of the New Covenant, then we were probably wrong on many other issues – or at least attached importance to aspects which were small in comparison.
It was inevitable I would be disfellowshipped, although it was suggested I could remain if I kept silent and stepped down from all duties. Having discovered certain things never fitted I could not agree to this. For my whole life I had been told how Christadelphians were the only freethinkers and how like the Bereans we should be honourable and search things out. I believed the community should abide by the measure it had itself set and be open to reconsidering its stance. I also believed their approach created some obvious weaknesses, in particular an intellectual approach that never satisfied the heart. This is why I have devoted significant space to how the community works in practice.
I did not wish to reject the community, but it became obvious they could not accept anyone being free to express variance or to question their beliefs. I did not resign, because Christ said whoever was not against him was for him and I did not want to set myself against them. I felt acceptance of the issues I raised could help the community and I raised them as one who cared, not as an enemy. Nor do I hold disfellowshipping me against them. They were simply maintaining their traditions. I think it was inevitable they could not accept me unless I could be conformed, but I never changed to offend anyone and it was a process accompanied by time, experience and thought. In addition their demand for proofs from scripture brings about some unfavourable comparisons. It is a belief set which requires discussions about the head-heart, the Pharisees, legalism, empathy, the limitations of words and even autism. These topics tend to end up with very angry Christadelphians whose root mindsets are usually intellectualising and over rationalistic. They want to be disproved by someone who adopts the same mindset. They do not want to discuss what mindsets and assumptions we bring to any search for truth.
I had a number of discussions with “the arranging brethren” whose intent was clearly to force me to conform by collectively seeking to contend with me. The problem with contending is it doesn’t work all that well. Ultimately people need to understand things within themselves, not simply be mentally forced into compliance. It can also be very aggressive, forceful and unpleasant. What can be helpful is discussion and empathy, not just disputation and the position I found myself in was one where people challenged me to prove myself, but could not bring themselves to listen. They were so ready to disprove, they never took any time to consider why someone might change or indeed gain deeper insights. Consequently, when I declined further fruitless discussions, they made a decision to disfellowship me.
Questions about the Spirit and the Heart are probably the major theological reasons why people leave to join other churches. There is a sense that the Christadelphian approach is cold, over-analytical and spiritless. That it lacks an understanding of grace. It should be noted that not everyone feels that, although some can be satisfied initially and later get tired of it.
Those who leave do struggle to find their way outside the community and are often uncomfortable in other churches. My own experiences have mirrored that and to some extent this site has been written to work through this process. I find it helpful to write my thoughts out and others have expressed thanks to me for doing so. I believe this is due to the mindset that those brought up in the movement develop. I have also set up a support group for former members, the Out of Fellowship Christadelphian Support Group and wrote an exploratory guide to help those who have left, whatever the reason.
To some degree being a Christadelphian has shaped and has partly made me whom I am. I see no point fighting that, instead I use it as a base to develop my worldview from. I therefore correspond freely with Christadelphians, former Christadelphians and people from similar religious movements such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’ve also broadened my worldview so I am able to work more freely with people who think very differently to how I do. What matters more to me now is treating people well and I value friendship which isn’t dependent on others thinking exactly the same as I do.
I am a Christian whom Jesus formed a personal relationship with when I was a child, and He has taught me and guided me ever since without once letting me down.
I was also raised in very conservative Christadelphian ecclesia that eulogised Doctor John Thomas and his book entitled ‘Elpis Israel.’ As a child I wondered whether he was worth all that praise, so I searched out the history of the Christadelphians and its pioneer founder. I was eager to compare the Root of Christianity with the root of Christadelphianism. As part of that research I avidly read ‘Elpis Israel’ from cover-to-cover and discovered John Thomas had played fast and loose with the first and last books of the Bible. Here are a couple of examples:
The first example is about Creation:
The Sun was created millions of years before Day 4 of the Creation week, but nobody noticed this because Days 2 and 3 of Creation were foggy!
– John Thomas, Elpis Israel, 1983, 14th Edition, pages 10-13.
(Discussion and summary on Christadelphians Worldwide.)
This contradicts the following Scriptures:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
– 2 Timothy 3:16
…God, who does not lie…
– Titus 1:2
…it is impossible for God to lie…
– Hebrews 6:18
The second example is about Relevation:
the three frogs of Revelation are France
– John Thomas, Elpis Israel, 1983, 14th Edition, page 381.
This falls foul of the following warning:
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.
– Revelation 22:18-19
It also falls foul of his own words:
Men should never prophesy of the future from present appearances.
– John Thomas, Elpis Israel, 1983, 14th Edition, page 384.
The simple fact is that Genesis and Science irreconcilably contradict each other, e.g. Genesis says life began on Earth before the creation of the Sun, Moon and Stars whereas Science says the opposite.
I realised John Thomas had attempted to compromise between the Scriptures and his own personal understanding of contemporary Science circa 1840; plus Science had moved on significantly by the time I read all of Elpis Israel in 1991. He had wrested the Scriptures towards Science; and wrested Science towards the Scriptures. The result was neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. Revelation 3:15,16.
As a child this made me stop and think (even scared me):
How could he take such liberties with the Holy Scriptures?!
If I couldn’t trust him with a simple story in Genesis combined with clear warnings in Revelation, how could I trust him with the rest of the Holy Scriptures containing things I couldn’t understand?!
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
– Luke 16:10
…some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
– 2 Peter 3:16
This lack of trust in John Thomas combined with my trust in Jesus opened my eyes and broadened my mind to other points of view.
During my teens, my school friends and I did a small amount of research into Christadelphians and Jehovah’s Witnesses at the local library. We were an eclectic mix: children of atheists, Trinitarians (Roman Catholics and Protestants), Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christadelphians. We wanted to know whether competing claims about “The One True Church” and various “prophecies” could be substantiated because we didn’t want to see good friends being deceived. We had a lot of laughs at some of the recurring false predictions about Christ’s return. Those false predictions are like a dog returning to its vomit. We were astonished at how easily delusions could be passed down from one generation to the next.
At the time I thought that someone would realise it was all a big misunderstanding and shout it from the rooftops. Since then I’ve learnt that people do realise they’ve been duped after they’ve studied the Bible more carefully and prayed to God for His help, but the cost of leaving deluded family and friends behind is enormous. For those that have the courage to leave and follow Christ, the rewards in this life—never mind the next—far outweigh the losses.
Then I left the Christadelphians without being baptised despite the pressure to conform.
Nevertheless, I have had a personal relationship with Jesus since childhood to the extent that He has worked miracles in my life. I’ve related my spiritual testimony to the Christadelphians and some of the churches of my home town. The churches accepted me and my testimony after testing it. Only the Christadelphians rejected it en masse though some individuals have accepted it and reciprocated with their own testimonies.
Eventually I joined Greenfield Baptist Church in my hometown in 2010.
More recently I’ve written a short document entitled The Essence of Christianity with an accompanying Heart Truth Table. I wrote these to find common ground between factions and to promote unity, having suffered the heartbreak of needless division. I’ve also written another document entitled Scriptural Parallels to inspire people to think for themselves and ask reasonable questions about their belief-set. Several Christadelphians have thanked me for them over the last few years.
– Tim Mathias
I would also like to thank readers of this site for submissions they have sent and which have been included. Some of these are current Christadelphians, some are not. This includes a book of historical significance, “The Early History of the Kingdom of God in Britain” that was not available anywhere online at the time. It details a critical stage following the preaching of the Christadelphian founder, John Thomas, and prior to the wide adoption of the name “Christadelphian.” This shows an early diversity which later Christadelphian accounts have often downplayed. We can see also from other historical documents submitted such as “High Church Christadelphians” and “Dr Thomas on Free Enquiry” how changing positions by the founder and successors contributed to schism within the movement. These were not available to me initially. There have also been a number of corrections as a result of feedback by Christadelphians, which led me to purchase a CD-ROM to check source references of quotes.
I was also forwarded clippings on the fraudulent activities of the former editor of The Christadelphian Magazine and also a comprehensive critique that considers whether the Christadelphian view of the devil is consistent with the Bible. I also received permission to print some Letters of Disfellowship.
There have been many alterations done in response also to feedback and I would like to thank everyone who has helped us to improve the accuracy of this site as a resource.