This quote has been given to illustrate the unwillingness of Christadelphians to consider possible interpretations which don’t fit their traditions. In this case the Christadelphian belief that the devil and demons are not to be found within scripture came up against a passage which seems to show their existence very clearly in the minds of the writer. Rather than accept the possibility this is what the author meant and believed we see an unwillingness to question. We also see that even where that is recognised there is a fear of speaking out. This is because rather than openly considering possible interpretations the mindset is one of defending positions. Suggesting other possibilities may be reasonable can also lead to the suspicion of having changed position and unless rejected convincingly can lead to being disfellowshipped:
“Prior to the Sunday morning, a Sunday School for children, and a Bible Study Class for adults were held in the Khyber Pass Ecclesial Hall. The Study Class was led by a Stalwart of Christadelphianism, an active public speaker and undoubted zealot who guided the group through a study of Robert Roberts’ book Nazareth Revisited. There were some six adults in attendance.
Possessed of the idea and fear of being found weak in the faith, and because my security rested in THE HOPE precluded any identity with any alternative religious group, I was always held in check against publicly posing questions where I felt there was scriptural conflict with Christadelphian doctrines. I had concluded that those older and longer in the truth would have it clear for themselves, and heeding Dr Thomas’s encouragement to study, thought I would eventually come to the confident place of assurance.
Studies with the group continued, the leader commenting paragraph by paragraph as we progressed, eventually reaching page 155. - the account of the visit of Jesus into the country of the Gadarenes where he met the man Legion.
“The narrative”, wrote Robert Roberts, “is necessarily tinged with the notion universal in the world at that time, that madness was due to the presence of malignant beings:” What Robert Roberts had confirmed was that the people of Jesus’ day DID believe there were demons - evil spirits.
The implications upon Christadelphian doctrine by Robert Roberts’ comment is obvious. Dr Thomas and Robert Roberts had “in their magician’s tricks” made the Devil disappear into what they concluded was sin in the flesh and changed spirits into optical illusions.
Robert Roberts had written, “tinged with the notion universal in the world at that time”. It was dis-information. A twist aimed at supplanting the real message conveyed by the biblical record.
In reading biblical accounts I have imagined myself in the circumstance of that time, sensing the life of the day and visualising the events. I had therefore already reached the conclusion there was a Devil and demons, and that the Bible truly expressed that belief. In fact, right up until the nineteenth century people had unquestionably believed the same. To actually give an alternative meaning to the account is to challenge the authenticity of the Scriptures, making the record nothing more than folklore. It had been the issue of the Bible being accurate, infallible, inspired, that Robert Roberts had used to create the Birmingham Central Christadelphain Fellowship!
What effect did it have on an individual’s mind if straight records were twisted and the result presented as truth? It must be deception, and the insistence that the deception was truth, must make it a lie! Who is the Father of lies?
In three recorded gospel accounts of the deliverance of the man Legion each writer records that there were devils present. They are recorded as communicating with Jesus. They asked Jesus not to cast them out into the deep.
They challenged Jesus declaring that it was not the right time (in history) for them to be cast out!
Eventually, the demons left the man. At the command of Jesus they fled into a herd of more than two thousand swine!
No doubt the swine, classed under the Jewish Law as unclean creatures, had feasted on bodies from the graveyard. The people of the locality were shattered by the events. The man who had been Legion was whole and able to communicate. The herds of swine were dead! Humans unable to handle consequences, particularly sin, react. The people of this part of the land did. They requested Jesus to go away. Obviously they did not want to hear the words of Life!
Overcoming my fears of any consequences I observed to the group leader that the biblical record of the deliverance account seemed to indicate that the people of Christ’s day believed there was a Devil and demons.
What happened next changed my whole perspective of Christadelphian authority. The leader responded, move on to the next page please, and immediately turned over the page of his book and started reading. At that very moment I knew he didn’t know. I knew he didn’t have an answer. He was unwilling to face truth.”