There is an article on this site dealing with the Process of Conversion and how the community seeks to convert people. This article is about the process of becoming a believer from the perspective of those who are looking into the Christadelphians.
The first thing to appreciate is that unlike many Christian churches there is rarely any appeal to emotion and little effort is made to engage the emotions of visitors. The nature of conversion therefore is primarily intellectual. From a Christadelphian perspective this has been described as “conviction rather than emotionalism.” Some people can find this very cold and rationalistic, others find the emphasis on logic and intellect more satisfying.
For the newcomer it is therefore a church which presents the convert with an intellectual challenge. The claim is to “have the Truth” and the challenge to the newcomer is to search it out from scripture. To become a believer it is therefore necessary to reach a certainty on a whole series of doctrinal statements, which historically have been summarised in statements of faith such as the Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith.
Since no group held Christadelphian beliefs prior to the founder John Thomas setting out his unique views it is rather difficult to actually do what potential believers are told to do. In short they are commended to independently search and check scripture. At the same time those associated with them are expected to do that under the constant pressure of having positions “proven” to them. As someone who was brought up in a Christadelphian family that pressure can be very intense. It also has the effect of reducing the individual ability to be fully independent minded and the Christadelphian belief that individuals can in fact be totally independent minded is one worthy of further consideration.
The difficulty in becoming converted as a Christadelphian is therefore that of becoming fully convinced that they hold “the Truth.” This is not simply a difficulty for outsiders, it is also a real challenge for those who are brought up as Christadelphians who can experience extreme pressure. In the community it is not unusual for potential friends to attend for years before “committing.” It is not simply the commitment in fact that presents all the difficulty, it is the difficulty in becoming convinced.
To understand this we have to look at what is entailed in the process.
The historical claim of the Christadelphians is that salvation is predicated upon having correct beliefs. Repentance for sin and faith in Jesus are insufficient. Having the right spirit and leading a good life will not save. The position is that intellectual correctness is essential for salvation and the method taught generally is a method which is based upon proof texting. In other words Christadelphians will jump around the Bible and bring up verses to prove doctrinal statements.
Christadelphians are strong believers in the infallibility of the Bible and the sufficiency of the Bible alone. If the newcomer accepts this position they face an obvious first job if they are to carry out what they are encouraged to do. In short they need to read it to find out what it truly does say. In fact if they are to do this in an unbiased manner they have to avoid any undue emotional or intellectual pressure from the Christadelphians too. If they listen to the Christadelphians they will also find that this has to be done in very specific ways and they have to be careful about a huge number of factors.
This task is hugely difficult for most people to do and Christadelphians run courses on “How to Read the Bible Effectively” which themselves take many sessions to complete.
In reality no one becomes a Christadelphian without coming under the influence of Christadelphians and “working the truth out for oneself” in fact is more often a case of becoming persuaded by proof texts extended rather than a total and absolute and independent exhaustive search of every possible perspective.
The real convert to the Christadelphian position in fact is taught to believe they have “gained the Truth” and is trained to become a dogmatist forever contending against other possibilities. The real emphasis is about proving rather than about being independent minded. The more independent minded a person is in fact the more difficult is it to believe the Christadelphian positions absolutely and the more likely if converted they will later change. Those who need a form of emotional expression will also find the diet of intellectual proving very unsatisfying after a while.