The Spectrum of Belief

Belief                                     Unbelief
By John Bedson

Christadelphians tend to think in terms of absolutes. They either believe something or they don't. God either exists or he does not. Christ either rose or he didn't. The Bible is entirely true or entirely false.

But out here in the real world there are no absolutes; merely degrees of certainty. Things are either more likely to be true, or less likely to be true; or false. It is a spectrum of certainty with conviction spread at different points along the spectrum.

And in reality that's how Christadelphian belief does work although it is not acknowledged by Christadelphians. At one end of the spectrum some Christadelphians have an overwhelming conviction that their beliefs are true. At the other end of the spectrum some Christadelphians are going along for the ride and don't seriously believe at all. In between, scattered along the spectrum, are thousands of Christadelphians who believe to a greater or lesser extent. Some are close to the belief end and some are close to the unbelief end. Many are somewhere in between.

The interesting thing is that they are not fixed in their positions along the spectrum of belief. They move backwards and forwards, up and down the spectrum in a dynamic distribution that fluctuates on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. Sometimes their faith increases. At other times it might reduce. Sometimes they move to positions of complete unbelief. But give them time and don't pressure them and they may well swing back towards the belief end of the spectrum.

Moreover they have different spectrum of belief for all of the different things that they believe. For example Spalding ecclesia disfellowshiped Joseph Strong because he wrote on this blog that he did not believe what the Christadelphians believed. But they did not think to ask him quite WHAT it was that he did not believe and what he still DID believe. If they had, they might have found that he believed more or less what their arranging brethren believed. But there were certain aspects of Christadelphian tradition that he did not go along with. Much of that appears to do with the way that they go on and is not related to doctrine or Theism.

My strong belief veered into unbelief thirty years ago. But it did not go all the way. It took twenty five years to fully move to the far end of the spectrum of belief which is Atheism and then it rebounded slightly to Agnosticism, which is where I am now.  

Therefore Theistic belief is not a simple matter of switching a light on or off. It's more of a dimmer switch that can attenuate the light from fully bright down through an infinite number of brightness settings down to zero. And just because the dimmer is on zero it does not mean that it can't turn up the brightness at a future time.

This is why I am accepting of Theistic belief. I argue that Agnosticism is the most likely position to be correct. But varying degrees of belief don't upset me at all.

I see no sense in Christadelphians disfellowshiping people for unbelief, or for non-attendance; which is more or less the same thing. It serves no purpose and only causes bitterness and estrangement. They should allow people who are struggling with their faith all the time in the world to bounce around the spectrum of belief. Even if people choose to stay at the unbelief end of the spectrum I still see no advantage in disfellowshiping them. There is more chance that they will return if people are not disfellowshiped.

Take Rob Hyndman for example. You could tell in his resignation letter that he was most upset about having to leave the Christadelphian fellowship, even though he had reached the far end of the unbelief spectrum and called himself an "unbeliever." His wife and kids were still in fellowship and it grieved him to have to resign. But he felt that he had to do it because he had been honest and told everyone that he no longer believed.

But in really the whole painful business should have been unnecessary. Ringwood ABs should have been big enough to allow him to declare his unbelief and yet still allow Rob to remain in fellowship - until his eventual death if necessary. Maybe he would have moved back along the spectrum of belief? But if that never happened it still would not matter. If there is a God, then Christ would sort him out at some time in the future. And who knows? Maybe Christ would be merciful to Rob for all the good that he did for the Christadelphians when he did believe?  

Disfellowshiping people for unbelief and/or non-attendance demonstrates a lack of forgiveness, a lack of tolerance and an immature way of looking at things. It creates a much bigger mess than if nothing was done.

We Ex-Christadelphians don't disfellowship or fall out with our members if they start believing again. It does not worry us in the least. We accept them for whatever they are. Christadelphians should understand that this is a better way of behaving. It is a much needed reform that they need to adopt.

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