On Attaining A Milestone

The proverb states, The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness (Proverbs 16:31). What is true of individuals may also be personified and applied to the Truth's magazines. There is no virtue in old age unless the condition specified in the proverb is met: "if" it be found in the way of righteousness. The fact that The Advocate has been in exis-tence for one hundred twenty-five years is not in and of itself noteworthy unless it is found in the way of righteousness.

The apostle Paul warned against the practice of self-commendation:

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by them-selves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise... For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth (2 Corinthians 10:12, 18). Whether our Lord commends or is grieved by any effort in his name will not be known until he makes known his decisions at his judgment seat. The Lord is clear in his teaching that no one ought to boast: So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do (Luke 17:10). In calling attention to the milestone of the one hundred twenty-fifth anniversary of The Advocate, it is not the committee's intention to engage in self-commendation. It is the Lord's pre-rogative to extend or withhold his approval when he comes to make up his jewels. In this period in the closing days of Gentile times, it is our duty to testify to the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ and to assist in preparing our fellow-believers that we might share together in the glory that shall be revealed.

The milestone of one hundred twenty-five years provides an opportu-nity for reflection on the work that has been done and for contempla-tion of the work that needs to be done in whatever time remains. It is constructive to look back and consider how believers from prior generations worked to preserve the things most surely believed among us. It is also im-portant to look forward and determine what role The Christadelphian Advo-cate can take that will honour the name of the Father and the Son. Speaking of the Lord's second coming, the apostle Paul wrote, When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:10-12). It is the desire of The Christadelphian Advocate committee that the magazine be a source of testimony to that which is right and true and that it may be an instrument to confirm faith, that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ might be honoured and glorified among his brethren.

A Christadelphian magazine must not exist solely for the purpose of pleasing its readers. It should not be a political instrument to respond to the currents among the ecclesias and go with their flow. It has a purpose for which the accountability is not, in the end, to the readers, but to the Lord. The committee therefore must answer first to their own conscience before the Lord and conduct themselves, as best as they are able, according to their understanding of His will. Thus, it is the committee's most important re-sponsibility to conduct the magazine in the way of righteousness.

The Christadelphian Advocate emerged in the late nineteenth century as the primary representative voice for the community of ecclesias in North America. The Unamended ecclesias have used The Advocate as an ecclesial magazine, as the primary place where they would report news about their affairs - baptisms, marriages, deaths, and gatherings. In recent years, the importance of this role for The Advocate has declined because such news is widely communicated through electronic channels much more swiftly. Serving as the representative for a community of ecclesias is a role which The Advocate came into as a result of historical circumstances but it has always been a voluntary role both for The Advocate and the ecclesias so represented. The Christadelphian Advocate has always properly respected the autonomy of the various ecclesias and is not and has never sought to be an authority over any ecclesias.

In recent years, The Christadelphian Advocate has been criticized for being too "liberal" by some for not being sufficiently strident in its condem-nation of deviations, while also considered by others as too conservative for not endorsing unity proposals whose purpose is to bring Amended and Una-mended ecclesias in North America together. The Christadelphian Advocate committee should not be overly concerned regarding these perceptions, as those terms are drawn from political reference points and are not befitting brethren in Christ. The fact is that there are times when brethren in Christ must be conservative, or, as we would prefer to express it, preservative, that is, acting vigorously to preserve the truth and refute error; and there are times when brethren in Christ must be liberal, that is, generous and kindly disposed towards those in need, whether the needs are spiritual or temporal.

The present committee is committed to carrying on the work of The Christadelphian Advocate, God willing. The committee does not expect that this task will be easy in the time ahead. As interest in the printed word declines across western civilization in favour of electronic and social media, there is the challenge of sustaining sufficient interest in the magazine to en-able it to be carried on. There is a need to engage the coming generation through the pages of the magazine, as currently The Advocate depends pri-marily upon the support of the more mature segment of readers in our eccle-sias, and thus it faces the prospect of decline to the point where there are no brethren willing to serve on the committee or write for its pages. Some of the greatest expressions of support for The Advocate, at the time when 2010 renewals were received, came from believers who were in their eighties and nineties.

To summarize the impact of an increasingly corrupt world, as con-trasted to fifteen or twenty years ago, our days are properly compared unto the days of Noah. These worsening conditions of the world have clearly contributed to observable harmful influences within our ecclesias. In view of these developments, we would further identify the following as among the factors that need to be seriously considered and addressed:

  1. Long anticipated prophetic expectations for the return of Christ within this generation have not yet materialized. This perception of delay has impacted some as foretold in 2 Peter 3: scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, where is the promise of his coming? As expectations related to the second coming of Christ decline, there is correspondingly more interest in the "here and now" as reflected in growing believer in-volvement with the temporal causes of the world.
  2. The world-wide web, email, facebook, blogs and chat rooms have taken the place of the printed word. Bible reading and periodicals on the Truth are no longer a part of the norm for our young people as they seek other avenues (often from their peers or non-Christadelphian sources) to fulfill their need to be connected. As a result, the truth is not well studied and understood, leaving a whole generation more vulnerable to being moved from the foundations.
  3. Prophecy, which was given to be a source of light, hope and comfort, has become a growing source of disputation. Some have rejected the Christadelphian prophetic paradigm of the nineteenth century, others have modified it to reflect historical developments, and others continue to expound it vigorously. These differences are most evident in under-standing the role of the state of Israel in fulfilling God's purpose.
  4. There is less consensus on core beliefs than in the past. Unity efforts have resulted in new alliances, traditional understanding of the Truth is increasingly being questioned and new ideas are being promoted. Some ecclesias have responded by adopting more restrictive fellowship provisions to the Unamended Christadelphian Statement of Faith, while oth-ers have chosen alternative bases for fellowship that provide access to more Christadelphians internationally.
  5. Ecclesias are becoming more isolated as more restrictive positions are adopted and the community becomes increasingly fragmented. The pre-cious bonds of the truth are too often lightly esteemed. Of great con-cern is the degree of acceptance of the state of disunity within the Unamended household and the lack of sustained support for efforts to address it. The attitude which the apostle Paul expressed for his Jew-ish brethren from whom he was estranged is not one often reflected to-day: I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh (Romans 9:1-3). Is there great heaviness and continual sorrow in our hearts for the brothers and sisters who have left our community?
  6. Youth are dismayed and confused by the strife and bitterness they ob-serve. If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare him-self to battle? They may respond by seeking out less stressful but too often spiritually dangerous associations and unscriptural forms of wor-ship. The effects of our communal discord on the coming generation and on our community's capacity to bring the plan of salvation to a perish-ing world need to be urgently considered and addressed.

The Advocate invites the active participation of our readers to address the impact of these changes consistent with a scripturally based com-mitment to the beliefs and the principles that our pioneers promoted in former generations. The Advocate committee's hope is to face these chal-lenges by following a course that has been historically defined in our consti-tution. The present constitution, copied in part below, expresses these as follows:

BASIS: The Christadelphian Advocate Publishing Committee stands as its founder, the late Brother Thomas Williams, stood: upon the Scriptural basis set forth in the Bible which we believe to be the Word of God; and which is conveniently summarized in the Christadelphian Unamended Statement of Faith. The Committee is dedicated to the task of encouraging its readers to faithfully uphold the original Faith once delivered to the Saints; and to re-flect their dedication to these doctrines by leading a life set apart from the world by close observance of the Commandments of Christ, without which holiness unto the Lord is impossible.

OBJECTIVES: The Christadelphian Advocate Publishing Committee exists for the purpose of bringing the following services to the Christadelphian Brotherhood:

  1. Publication of a monthly magazine, The Christadelphian Advocate, in-tended for the strengthening and enlightening of those who profess the Name of Jesus Christ, and as a bond of inter-communication between those of like precious Faith.
  2. A publishing service making available to Brethren of Christ and inter-ested friends books and pamphlets published by the Committee, or lit-erature published by others and deemed useful in the cause of the Truth.
  3. Strengthen the Brotherhood by supporting activities such as preaching efforts that will hold forth the word of life to a perishing world while providing purpose for those who are involved in related activities. Such activities will include the use of any appropriate medium of distribution, including in this generation, a wise use of the World Wide Web (Internet).
  4. Strengthen our young believers through support of their efforts to serve in the vineyard of the Lord. These efforts will include the publication of articles and papers by and for our young people as well as the generation of tasks that will enable them to exercise their developing talents and help them to be prepared for future activity in more responsible roles within our community.

In summation, for The Christadelphian Advocate to carry on its work with effectiveness until the Lord comes, it requires engaged Bible students and writers who are willing to share the fruits of their studies. We are blessed with a contingent of both among the magazine's current subscribers for which we are most thankful. We look forward to continuing this form of service on our subscribers and contributors behalf and with their active as-sistance, God willing.

The Christadelphian Advocate Publishing Committee

Few Numbers No Barrier To Zealous Proclamation

Four Christadelphians make up the quantum of the truth's representatives in the town of Galt [a town in southern Ontario], yet one would think from the measures to have the truth placed before the public that there existed a large Ecclesia there. Quite a large and commodious hall was procured and the lec-tures very extensively advertised. Four lectures were given, commencing with a rather small audience, but closing with a crowded house.

Thomas Williams, Our Summer Tour, March, 1885 (the first issue), p. 17