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Reviews | The Christadelphians

The Christadelphians: What they Believe and Preach

Harry Tennant

Paperback, hardback or e-book (ePub)

304 pages

The Christadelphians: What they Believe and Preach

The Christadelphian review (from November 1986)

An important new publication

INFORMATION has been sent to Recording Brethren of ecclesias throughout the world about the important new book which will be available at the beginning of December. Entitled The Christadelphians—What they Believe and Preach, and written by Brother Harry Tennant, this is a book which will stand alongside God’s Way, Christendom Astray and Elpis Israel as a foundation work describing the distinctive elements of our faith. Soundly and extensively based on Scripture, the book contains over one thousand two hundred and fifty separate references. These have been quoted in full, recognising that we are now in an age which is bankrupt in its knowledge of God’s Word. Certain modern religious developments unknown in earlier generations, such as the ecumenical movement, are also examined.

Designed primarily as a book to give to anyone enquiring concerning our beliefs and Bible doctrines, it is also highly recommended for the bookshelf of every Christadelphian household. We should constantly remind ourselves of the interdependence of all the elements of Scriptural teaching, and this is one of the great factors inherent in this work as it examines the great breadth of compass of God’s message of salvation.

MICHAEL ASHTON

The Testimony review (from June 1987)

Magnum Opus

BROTHER Harry Tennant will need little, if any, introduction to Testimony readers, very many of whom will have benefited over the years from his herculean labours as a speaker of outstanding quality. Yet the publication of his latest book may, in course of time, come to be seen as his most valuable single contribution to the life and welfare of the Brotherhood. It is undoubtedly a major work of Christadelphian literature, and may well prove to be the Truth’s most important publication of the twentieth century. The Christadelphians does not set out to supersede Elpis Israel, Christendom Astray, or God’s Way – in fact Brother Tennant modestly expresses the hope that his “lesser volume will prove to be an encouragement to read the others” – but it is a book from the same stable, with similar aims, and is a companion volume of which the authors of those earlier books would surely have approved wholeheartedly. In addition, it has the supreme advantage of being written specifically for our generation by one who, pre-eminently, shares the unchanging values and standards of those stalwarts of the past. In the words of Brother Michael Ashton’s preface, “The author, who has been a Christadelphian all his adult life, has always sought to set forth Scripture’s distinct teachings. He has now written compellingly and honestly about the great hope it contains”.

The book’s full title is self-explanatory: it deals “with the things which Christadelphians believe and do, and what their organisation and way of life are like”. It is carefully written to serve both the Brotherhood and the world outside. For those who know little or nothing of the Truth, it provides a clear survey of the foundations of a true – that is, of a Biblical – faith in God. For those who already share the writer’s faith, it is a much-needed reminder of our common heritage, coming as it does at a time when too many, alas, are tempted to despise their birthright, as Esau did. Brother Tennant invites us “to pursue a path through the Word of God” in his company; and though he half-apologises that” some parts of the journey will be over familiar ground”, he succeeds in making the reader’s progress a pleasant and profitable one by a combination of clarity of expression and the deep conviction and easy and eloquent authority which so characterise his spoken style. When such abilities are added to the accumulated experience of a lifetime’s ‘contending for the faith’, the outcome is a work of signal importance from which the reader cannot help but benefit.

The chapter headings (there are 27 chapters in all, mostly between eight and twelve pages long) present a well-camouflaged summary of a typical Christadelphian statement of faith. To simple headings like “Man” and “Death” are added sub-titles in the form of questions inviting answers: “Good or bad?”, “Friend or foe?”. Important doctrines, like the sacrifice of Christ and baptism, are personalised, drawing the reader in: “The Lord who bought me”, “Why should I not be baptized?”. Difficult and controversial themes like the kingship of Christ and his nature are also approached as questions, avoiding the appearance of dogmatism before the Scriptures have been opened: “Who will be King?”, “The Christ, whose Son is he?”. Other themes, largely neglected by the ‘Christian’ world, are confronted head-on, without frills: “God’s covenant with Abraham”, “A world of evil”, “Resurrection and judgement”. Especially tricky topics, requiring detailed and unequivocal treatment, are given space in their own appendix: “Holy Spirit gifts and Holy Spirit guidance”, “Fallen angels and Satan”. And the whole is rounded off with helpful and positive chapters about the life in Christ (“Walking with God”, “The disciple and the world”, “Fellowship”) and about the signs of the nearness of Christ’s return.

But if the contents page could serve on its own as a handy introductory outline of the Truth, it is the comprehensive and direct treatment of each of the various topics discussed which is the true hallmark of the book’s value. This ‘no nonsense’ approach, liberally supported by Scriptural quotations, is handled with a deftness and sureness of touch which makes even the most difficult subject areas a delight to explore. This is exemplified in the following extract, in which Brother Tennant sets out to explain the paradox whereby the love of God leads directly to the death of His Son: “Love and death meet in the Lord Jesus Christ in a way which is redemptive. The New Testament rings with this message of hope: ‘The Son of God … loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20). It is the greatness of this love which makes it transforming for others. It is the difference of this death which provides deliverance beyond all imagining. It becomes the source of everlasting life, the wellspring of salvation. This is the confident and glad message of Scripture.”

On the vexed question of the work of the Holy Spirit in relation to salvation, too, the same positive and uplifting tone is heard, and the following passage deserves reproducing at length: “… the way of salvation in Christ is the way of the Spirit. It is God’s way. Salvation comes from God. The whole purpose and plan of salvation and its execution are of God. Man was altogether impotent and sterile. There was no goodness in him. God has made compassionate and gracious provision in Christ. God’s will was brought into action by his Spirit. None of this is known other than by the Word of God which is the message of the Spirit: ‘Who hath ears to hear, let him hear’ (Matthew 13:43). ‘He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches’ (Revelation 2:7). The message of salvation is the power of God (Romans 1:16) which brings man into contact with the mind of God, the Spirit of God. An entirely new force enters into his life when he hears or willingly receives the Word of God. Meekness in receiving the Word leads to faith. The Word illumines the mind and understanding, and commences a process of change which leads to repentance and conversion … God’s Word written on the heart of man in this way by believing the written message in the Bible is said to be: ‘written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart’ (2 Corinthians 3:3). This is a marvellous happening. It is truly the work of the Spirit of God engendered by a faithful acceptance of the glad tidings of the Gospel.”

Or again, in facing up squarely to such problems as ‘demons’ in Scripture, the ‘awkward’ questions are answered not by a defensive or negative gloss on difficult passages, but by a powerful appeal to a true understanding which can lead to a holy way of life: “But, someone may say, is not the language of Ephesians 6 … sufficient to indicate that the believer is in fact fighting a spirit world? No! Paul is using a straightforward figure of speech to describe the Ephesian believers, who were surrounded by heathen beliefs in all kinds of evil powers, the kind of war we are waging. We are Christ’s soldiers. But we are not fighting carnal warfare; we are engaged in spiritual conflict, the battle for the mind. On the one side there is the Word of God and on the other the religious systems of heathendom and heresy. These systems have their own hierarchies of authority which Paul describes as ‘principalities … powers … rulers of the darkness of this world … spiritual wickedness in high places’.

“There are other Scriptures saying the same thing: ‘The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ’ (Acts 4:26). ‘We speak wisdom … yet not the wisdom of this world, but … the wisdom of God … which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory’ (1 Corinthians 2:6-8). Therefore, we can safely apply the same kind of speech to the words of Paul to the Ephesians. The battle of the believer was, and is, against all that would destroy his faith … The concerted attacks of all that was evil would be broken upon the divine armour of the spiritual soldier and the weapons of the Word of God and prayer. There is nothing in the passage in Ephesians which requires the belief that a disciple’s battle is really against extra-terrestrial spirit beings ranged against him. The Christian is seeking to preserve a true faith and a godly character against the onslaughts of the world in all its powers and influences”.

Such extracts are typical of the book, and could be easily multiplied a hundredfold: the selection only barely indicates its range and quality. Seen as a whole, the book has a satisfying sense of completeness, reflecting the source of its subject matter, the Word of God itself. The Christadelphians will undoubtedly commend itself to many by its readability; others will appreciate its intellectual rigour. Those who count themselves already familiar with the Word of God will enjoy its freshness of approach and its many new insights; others to whom the Word of God is less well known will be stimulated to test the book against its source. Sunday school scholars, interested friends, candidates for baptism, brethren and sisters – novices or old hands – will all find it a means of enlightenment and help. With indexes by subject and by Scripture reference, the book will serve many as a quarry for learning, preaching, or debate. It is a book from which none will turn away empty – a work of truly abiding worth.

REG CARR

(Originally published in the June 1987 edition of The Testimony Magazine (pages 181-183), and is reproduced by kind permission.)

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