2.1.1 Benjamin Wilson And The Diaglott
I would like to begin my presentation by thanking Pastor Ray Hall and the Garden Park Church of God for letting us meet here this afternoon.
I consider it an honor to be able to participate in this important meeting between Church of God folk and Christadelphians. I think that this gathering is significant because it represents more dialogue between these two sister churches.
The Church of God and Christadelphia share more than common doctrines; we share a common heritage as well, having both emerged from the nineteenth century American Adventist phenomenon. Touching on this point, I would like to read the first two and-a-half paragraphs from the foreword of the book, 'The Devil and Satan', which is a transcript of a debate held between Mr. Duncan Heaster and my friend Pastor Jeff Fletcher in England in 1989.
In 1855 when Benjamin Wilson published the prospectus for the " Emphatic Diaglott" he was associated with John Thomas, who earned the accolade from Wilson as being " our learned and esteemed brother."
They were both members of the " The Brethren" . In due course, it became necessary for religious organisations to have more distinctive titles and those associated with Benjamin Wilson became known as the Church of God of Abrahamic Faith, and those with John Thomas as the Christadelphians.
When the " Emphatic Diaglott" was translated, Benjamin Wilson did not believe in a personal being called the Devil. This Debate on The Devil and Satan, between the successors of these two men, becomes particularly interesting as it shows how these two groups have grown apart.
Now this can be interpreted to mean a couple of things: first, that Benjamin Wilson was the founder of the Church of God, and second, that the members of the Church of God originally did not believe in a supernatural devil but eventually accepted this doctrine and thereby drifted away from their historical convictions.
Of course we know that is not the case. Though the Wilsons were important figures in Church of God history, the idea of the Church of God was being propounded by Elder Joseph Marsh as early as 1840. In fact Marsh, undoubtedly the most important of our church's founders, had been publishing our truths long before the 'Diaglott' ever appeared. It is also known that Marsh did believe in a supernatural devil.
Thus, we see that from the very beginning, both views have existed within our Church. Throughout our history, many of us have admitted that the Bible teaches the existence of an actual, literal, supernatural person called " the Devil" , but some of us have not. We can tolerate both views. This is significant, because that is the issue that Mr. Heaster and I are here to discuss this afternoon.
My point is that these differences are not significant enough to prevent fellowship. Our two Churches have so much in common, such as our understanding of the one God, the human Messiah Jesus, the conditional immortality of man, and the precious promise of the Kingdom of God to be established on the earth. Our theological affinities far outweigh our theological differences. That is why I believe we must at the very least meet face-to-face, dialogue on these issues, build bridges, and get to know one another better. I know that there will be some differences of opinion here about that, but I believe it had to be said.