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Christadelphians and Sustainability

In general Christadelphians have little interest in sustainability issues. The theological reason for that is that they believe human nature is totally flawed. They often talk about how man is destroying the world, how he cannot direct his own steps, and how things will inevitably get worse. They believe this can only be corrected by the return of Jesus, generally paint the worst possible scenarios and play down any ability we have to make any meaningful difference. This mindset is also due to their belief in separation from the world, which prevents involvement in working with others on such issues. Connected to this is also the deep seated belief that the only worthy activities are promoting the Christadelphian mindset. The ironic thing is that talking about “how man is destroying the world” but living in sympathy with the prevailing paradigm and not challenging it is in fact to be equally a part of it.

The belief set is therefore apocalyptic in nature. The end hope of this is not, because it is believed that when Jesus returns he will set up a kingdom ruled by the saints under his command. He will correct everything and enforce a state of righteousness, plenty and holiness on the planet. What Christadelphians are unsure of is just how bad it will get before Jesus returns to correct everything. They generally believe that as things get worse, the hearts and minds of everyone else will be “failing them for fear,” whilst they will be able to live with confidence knowing it is the time of the fulfilment of all things. They do not have a strategy on how to live during this period. They generally preach the time is short and Jesus will return soon, but in practice do not fully adopt that in their own lives. They develop careers, make investments, take on long mortgages and so forth. Privately they will acknowledge that this is prudent “if Jesus does not come as expected.” This incongruity was noted by Bryan Wilson in his book “Sects and Society” and he noted the disparity between beliefs and activity had grown from its foundation.

These actions demonstrate the belief that if Christ does not return in the timescale expected the best bet is to rely on the prevailing paradigm. The weakness with this is that it is this very paradigm that makes it unsustainable. These are the very elements we would expect to collapse.

We have to agree the state on Earth is grim. Our industrial civilisation is based upon growth, increasing consumption and the use of finite resources. These are clearly entering a critical phase. When the Christadelphian movement started their apocalyptic emphasis was primarily based upon interpretations of Bible prophecy and to some extent the changes in Europe as a result of the French revolution. Today the threats are more general.

Ultimately Christadelphian beliefs rely on a divine pullout from the situation, which is also true for many other Christian groups. They do not see God indwelling them to make a positive change in the world now. In fact each bit of bad news is often indulged in because it supports the view that things are necessarily getting worse.

The spiritual problem of going along with the current paradigm is that it is based upon a power structure which revolves around consumerism and who owns the things. Not only that, it no more cares about people than the environment. This creates a consumer model which is at odds with concepts of spirituality. It also is at odds with real community, puts us into competition with each other and often rewards the wrong qualities of character. In our system very little happens unless someone makes a profit and most effort goes into those activities which are most profitable, not necessarily most beneficial. The prevailing model revolves around a closed economic system based upon the organisation of human labour and little consideration is given for human satisfaction or concepts of work/ life balance. Ironically as a community the Christadelphians do not separate from the world in favour of simple living and its stance does nothing to help the oppressed. Rather it supports those who have power.

This is a brief introduction to a topic which is relevant for many Christian groups and needs in-depth examination of each separate element.






Christadelphian Quotes

You lay a great stress upon facts throughout your letters, and are incessant in your demand that I should attend to them. This is good; but facts have to be rightly put together, and then you must have all the facts. I do not think you put the facts rightly together, and you leave out some, I am sure.

(Robert Roberts, a Christadelphian Pioneer, quoted

by Ruth McHaffie in Brethren Indeed)

The Spirit of liberty, based upon the law of faith, is the Spirit of Christ; and this spirit all the Sons of God are privileged to possess, and having it, to breathe. I claim the right of exercising this privilege, as well as my contemporaries; and I require of them that they should do to me as once they loudly required others to do to them…

(written by John Thomas, the founder of the Christadelphians, when he was against creeds in 

The Apostolic Advocate magazine, August 1836)

(John Thomas, from Apostacy Unveiled, p. 137,

quoted in The Christadelphian Magazine, January 1906)

Must a man never progress? If he discovers an error in his premises, must he for ever hold to it for the sake of consistency? May such a calamity never befall me! Rather let me change every day, till I get right at last.

(from a letter written by John Thomas in 1848, quoted by Robert Roberts, in Dr. Thomas: His Life and Work)

Do what is right; be valiant for the Truth; teach it without compromise, and all lovers of the Truth will approve you. For all others you need not care a rush!

(from a letter written by John Thomas to Robert Roberts and published in The Christadelphian magazine, February 1866)