What should a Christadelphian believe?

For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.

Romans 14:2-6

I have a vast collection of books about what the Bible says about same-sex relationships. I suspect all my collection could easily take up ten feet of bookshelf space. In those books, just about every point of view is expressed. I’m not going to summarise them all here: there simply isn’t the space.

Within the Christadelphian community there is actually diversity of opinion (see Homosexuality? What a Christadelphian should believe on this site). Even though there are some very loud socially-conservative voices, every shade of belief is represented: from people who believe that even celibate gay people should not be allowed to be members, to people who, like me, believe that same-sex relationships are on the same footing as opposite-sex relationships.

How can this be? Why is there not unity?

The answer to that lies in what brings us together as Christadelphians. We are brought together by a common set of beliefs that are outlined in the BASF, the Commandments of Christ, and the Doctrines to be Rejected. The general policy is that as long as you share those common beliefs you can be Christadelphian and you can believe whatever else you want to believe. Following the advice in Robert Roberts’s Ecclesial Guide, my own ecclesia welcomes into fellowship anyone who accepts the beliefs described in those three documents.

What do those documents say about same-sex relationships? They say absolutely nothing. That is why there is a diversity of beliefs within the Christadelphian community on same-sex relationships.

What does the Bible say? As I said, I don’t have the space to go through all the passages that are traditionally used to ‘prove’ that all same-sex relationships are wrong (but see What the Bible says about same-sex relationships on this site). I will quickly look at one:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not decieved: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

In that passage, “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind” are often taken to mean gay men, and some, but by no means all, modern translations translate that passage in a way that seems to make this clearer. Sadly, as is so often the case with modern translations, the complexity of the underlying Greek is hidden in the name of clarity. (See Same-Sex Relationships: 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy on McFarlandCampbell.co.uk.)

But what does that passage prohibit? What translation is best? The key to understanding 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is the phrase “inherit the kingdom”. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul is writing about what sort of people will not inherit the kingdom. In Matthew 25:31-46, Christ spoke about the same thing. He said what sort of people will inherit the kingdom (vv. 35-39) and what sort would not (vv. 42-43). Same-sex relationships do not feature in Christ’s list of sins that will exclude from the Kingdom: if we choose to interpret 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 so that it does, then we are saying that Paul disagreed with Christ.

Exercises

  • Think about your own beliefs. Write down one thing that you believe that most Christadelphians don’t. Do you think it is OK to be a Christadelphian and believe that?
  • Think about the beliefs of a Christadelphian friend. Do they believe anything that most Christadelphians don’t?
  • If you tell a gay Christadelphian that they cannot be in a relationship, what burden does that put on them?
  • If a Christadelphian believes that same-sex relationships are wrong, what burden is put on them if their ecclesia accepts gay members in relationships?

Next page: Moving forward
Previous page: It is OK to be scared

Andrew McFarland Campbell

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