Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.
~ Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791 ~

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Why are you a Christadelphian?

Perhaps you've thought long and hard about it. Or perhaps you've taken it for granted and never really considered it. Either way, it's a vital question and I'm going to step you through it right now.

Let's have a little chat about who you are, and what it means to you.

Why are you a Christadelphian?

Just a little question, but a very deep one. It's worth pausing for a moment before attempting to answer it. Have you ever really thought about it?

There are two ways to interpret this question, and I think both are important to think about.

Firstly, you may be a Christadelphian because your parents brought you up within a Christadelphian environment, and your religion has essentially been chosen for you. If this applies to you, how likely do you think it is that out of all the religions in the world, the religion of your parents would turn out to be the one that is true? On the other hand, how many people in other religions think their parents' religion is the one true religion?

Or perhaps you may have "come in from outside" (as if there was another place from which to come in, but I digress), i.e. you may have converted to become a Christadelphian for one reason or another. No doubt those in this second category have probably spent more time thinking about the events that led to their membership as a Christadelphian, but I recommend that all Christadelphians give this some thought. Do you think you were chosen to become a Christadelphian? What about the 99.999% of people in the world who are not Christadelphians?

The second way to interpret the question is, why are you still a Christadelphian? Why do you consider this to be the way you want to spend the rest of your life (perhaps I'm assuming too much - do you want to spend the rest of your life this way) ?

I think both interpretations of this question are very important to think about.

If you were born into a Christadelphian family, it's worth considering where you'd be today if you had instead been born into a Hindu family, or a Mormon family. Many people who are raised in those families are convinced they have the truth as well. If you converted, realise that many more people convert to other religions than to Christadelphia, and most of them seem just as convinced that their new religion is the one true faith.

Are there any other beliefs you were taught as a child, but have since changed your views on? Or have you ever discovered a new idea or product that you were initially obsessed with, only to realise its flaws later on? It might be useful to reflect on those things too.

Do you think the Christadelphians are (exclusively) right about everything? Do they alone have "the truth"?

How certain are you that what the Christadelphians claim about the world is true? Are there any aspects of Christadelphian teaching that you feel might not be true? Have you thought about how you might find out for yourself?

For example, did an invisible, magic being really write the Bible? What about similar claims in the Quran and the book of Mormon? Was there really a talking snake in a garden of Eden? Did 2 million Israelites really cross the Red Sea? Did the sun really appear to stand still in the sky? Did people really come back to life after being dead for days?

Would you say you are 100% certain? or would you rate your certainty as maybe a bit lower, perhaps also involving faith? How did you arrive at this figure? Would you be open to revising your beliefs if you discovered more evidence or information? What would such information look like?

Can you remember a time in your life when you were absolutely certain of something, only to later discover you were mistaken? Do you think a feeling of certainty is good evidence that a claim is true?

If you discovered that some Christadelphian claims were actually false, would you be prepared to change your beliefs?

Do you think a god or supernatural being personally works in your life?

How certain would you say you are, that a god (or perhaps some other supernatural being such as an angel) works in your own personal life?

Does this invisible being really speak to you? Is it via telepathy or some other method? Does it listen to you when you pray? How would you know?

How did you come to the conclusion that there really is an invisible being acting in your life? Is there evidence? Does it act the same way in everyone's life? Or only some people? How would you go about finding out?

Is there another explanation? What would you expect to see if there were no invisible beings acting in your life? Is this something you could test?

Is it possible to rule out coincidence?

If there was an alternative explanation, would you give up your belief in invisible beings working in your life?

Have you considered the personal cost attached to being a Christadelphian?

Being a Christadelphian comes at a great cost to one's personal life. It requires giving up significant amounts of time on Sundays, and often several nights or even days in the week. You are encouraged to also give up additional hours of your personal time for Bible study and/or Bible reading.

In many Christadelphian groups, you may also be discouraged from seeking higher education, from taking certain career paths, and from engaging in certain popular activities. Being a Christadelphian may limit who your friends are, and even who you can date or marry.

This means that being a Christadelphian is not simply about having faith in an afterlife. You are wagering a huge amount of your current life on a chance at a better life later. How good is that chance? What are the odds? Is there even a way to know?

How well did you question the salesperson before selling the farm?

The Bible sums this up quite well, but I'm going to put a twist on it.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he found a pearl of great value, he went out and sold everything he had and bought it."
Matthew 13:45-46 NET

Have a long think about what this is asking from you, and why.

Further, in the parable, you're supposed to think that it makes good business sense. Supposedly you're getting the pearl at a discounted rate, otherwise you haven't really advanced your financial position, and instead you have a fancy gemstone and nowhere to live. So the suggestion is that you're trading something of known value for something else of known, yet much greater, value. The other implication is that you could sell the item of greater value in order to replace the things you sold.

But if you relate it to what the parable is about, consider that the "selling all you have" part is meant to happen now, while the "buying the pearl" part is at some undetermined time in the future. In a business sense, you'd probably want to hang onto your stuff a little while longer until you had a bit more to go on. Let's see the pearl first...

Suppose that when you asked to see this "pearl of great value" you were told you couldn't see it until after you died. Wouldn't you be a little suspicious of the deal? A lot of people have apparently taken this deal, but still there is no evidence of such a pearl even existing.

But I think there's a far more realistic twist to this parable. Suppose that you already had the most precious jewel there ever was. It was in your possession the whole time, though you perhaps weren't aware of its true value, believing that you could easily acquire another (after all, there are plenty of salespeople trying to sell you a better one).

What if you gave this jewel away for an empty promise? What if you had given your current precious life away for something that turned out to be false?
How would you feel about that?

I want you to think about what you're being sold. It's an incredibly high-stakes gamble. It might make you proud in front of your peers to throw everything you value away, but this is your own life you're gambling with.

Think of what you've been shown as evidence that it's true. In the context of the parable, no one has even seen the pearl!

How certain are you that these extraordinary claims are true?

Other religions make similar claims, but with different requirements. Can they be true as well?

Some religions say that you will go to hell if you don't accept their particular claims. Could they be true? Would it be better to accept their version, just in case?

If your religion turned out to be false, how would you discover it?

With so much of your identity, culture, history, and world view tied up in your religion, it can be daunting to even begin to consider this question.

But what if your religion was false?

Think of all of the time you put into it. All of the time you spent talking to what you thought was your god. If your religion was false, what would that mean? Would you wish you had spent your time differently? Would you carry regrets?

It can seem scary to question your religion, but isn't it scary to not question it, too? Imagine living your entire life for a lie!

If your religion turned out to be false, would you still live the same way as you do now? What might you do differently?

If you had been mistaken about any of this, wouldn't you want to know? Isn't it worth doing everything you can to find out, while you still have your life ahead of you?