I think it’s fair to say there’s quite a bit of mutual misinformation about what other churches believe. When I read online about what Christadelphians believe, I often find that my own beliefs are quite some distance from what Christadelphians apparently believe (e.g. “salvation by works”). I suspect strongly that other Christians have exactly the same issue. Part of this problem is that there will be a large range of views within each denomination on a particular issue. Take any issue, and you will probably find Christians in a different denomination who feel the same about the issue as you, whereas Christians within your denomination differ completely.
So how and where do we draw the line between Christian denominations? Should there be any distinction at all? It is probably useful to think about what is distinct about Christadelphians:
- An attempt to recreate the principles of simple first century Christianity, without traditional embellishments (although, even in 150 years, we have adopted some of our own traditions!).
- Doctrinal differences (e.g. nature of Jesus (‘son of God’ vs. ‘God the son’), metaphorical heaven and hell, no supernatural devil, literal 2nd coming of Jesus and bodily resurrection, adult baptism, Kingdom of God on earth, mortality of the soul).
- No central administration or paid clergy.
There is biblical evidence that there should be some degree of exclusivity about who we choose to share Christian fellowship with. There are passages to support segregation of some kind based on beliefs (Acts4:12, Rom16:17, Gal1:6-12, Eph4:4-5, 1Tim6:3-4, 2Tim4:2-5, 2Jn9-11) and conduct (Matt18:15-17, 1Cor5:11, 2Thes4:6-14, Titus3:10-11, 1Jn1:6-8). It is not clear how this advice, given in a time before the established Christian denominations that we see today were formed, should be applied in this day and age. Also, in many of these passages, it is not clear to me whether the writer is advocating short-term suspension of fellowship to make a point (as seems to be the case in some passages, notably 1Cor5:1-5) or drawing hard denominational lines between different Christian groups.
I think the rules have changed in the last 100 years or so. Go back 100 years and pretty much everybody in the UK had an active faith and went to church regularly (or, at least, went to church regularly). Nowadays, very few people have an active faith and attend church regularly. So, in a sense, the theological ‘enemy’ has changed from those in other Christian denominations to those without any belief in God or Jesus.
This blog raises more questions than answers because, whilst I think some sort of denominational lines between Christian groups are supported by the Bible and useful, I don’t know where they should be drawn, or how they should affect our Christian practice. Finally, and most importantly, it is not for us to judge who will be saved – who we choose to share Christian fellowship with is not a judgement on anybody’s chances of salvation. Salvation is, and forever will be, to do with individual faith and relationship with God.