Brother Edward Turney in 1873 and Brother JJ Andrew in 1893/4 introduced two contrasting doctrinal errors into the brotherhood. Both had previously been faithful allies of Brother Roberts in the work of the Truth, especially Brother JJ Andrew, which made their defection all the more lamentable.

Divisive theories

In differing ways they both misrepresent the purpose for which Christ died: failing to perceive the scriptural balance between his benefit from his own sacrifice, and its primary purpose that we might be saved. In the wake of these controversies we have been left a glossary of unscriptural phrases such as, ‘clean flesh’, ‘free life’, ‘forfeited life’ and on the other hand ‘physical sin’, ‘atonement for human nature’, ‘provisional atonement’ etc.

Brother Roberts makes a pertinent point in The Slain Lamb lecture when he says “invented phrases contain invented fallacies” (The Christadelphian 1873, p435).

This is true of most errors in the Truth’s history.

The ‘clean flesh’ theory

Brother Edward Turney “renounced” his past beliefs in a pamphlet The Sacrifice of Christ and his published “32 questions”. Hence this controversy is often called the “Renunciationist controversy”. In a lecture on July 29 in Birmingham he publicly outlined his theory and Brother Roberts responded the next night in what is known as the ‘Slain Lamb lecture’.

In brief, his primary idea was that there was no change in the condition of Adam’s nature as a result of the transgression in Eden. He denied that Adam’s descendants inherit the inclinations to sin, teaching that subsequent sins are a matter of deliberate choice, whilst discounting the fact that our nature is now biased in that direction.

He further taught that Jesus (though descended from Adam), by virtue of his birth of the Spirit upon Mary, had a clean or “unforfeited life”, whilst Adam had a “forfeited life”. Therefore being sinless and unaffected by inherited proneness to sin, Jesus had the choice of offering his “unforfeited life” to save us who have “forfeited” our lives because we are sinners, or entering in to eternal life achieved without his need of sacrifice.

This was classic ‘substitution’ and Robert Roberts picked the major flaw straight away in the ‘Slain Lamb lecture’. He said, “It is a fallacy to speak of ‘life’ as distinct from ‘nature’ or the man himself” (The Christadelphian 1873, p439).

Sin had to be conquered in the sin-biased nature and the character of God displayed. He had authority from the Father to lay down his life, which he did voluntarily, and to take it again. He made the choice to do his Father’s will that others might be saved whilst being involved himself in every step of the process (John 10:18; Phil 2:8).

He was tried in all points as we are yet without sin (Heb 4:15). He needed himself to be saved out of death, whilst accomplishing salvation for others (Heb 9:12,24).

Andrewism

In 1893 and 1894 JJ Andrew publicly proclaimed his theory proposing that only the baptized (covered by covenant blood), could rise from the dead (see The Christadelphian 1894, p111). The controversy escalated upon the publishing of the pamphlet The Blood of the Covenant, which was answered by Brother Roberts in the pamphlet “The Resurrection to Condemnation – Who Shall Come Forth?” There ensued the famous debate known as the Roberts/ Andrew debate which made it abundantly clear that this issue was about the atoning work of the Lord and the efficacy of blood-shedding sacrifice to justify man and make them amenable to a resurrection.

In 1895 Brother Roberts wrote The Blood of Christ to clarify the Scriptural doctrine.

A brief summary of JJ Andrew’s foundation premise will again highlight that most errors begin with the Eden account in Genesis 2 and 3.

Brother Andrew said that the transgression in Eden generated two forms of sin:

  1. moral sin, ie personal transgressions
  2. physical sin, ie those impulses in our nature which lead to sin.

The transmission of both forms of sin in Adam’s posterity place them under ‘Adamic condemnation’, alienated from God by both moral and physical sin and they are considered to have ‘sinned in Adam’. Because the latter form of sin is ‘physical’ it follows that resurrection to life is impossible without justification from it. He said that both forms of sin need atonement through sacrifice. In Christ’s case it was necessary only for ‘physical sin’ (The Blood of the Covenant p7,25). Baptism provisionally covers our nature in this theory, whereas the Scripture says baptism is for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38 etc). Also Brother Andrew interpreted the Edenic law, “in the day thou eatest thereof”, to mean that Adam would suffer a violent death that day (Gen 2:17). In his theory Christ had to expurgate that law by suffering a violent death. Scripture evidence says his death was to declare God’s righteousness in condemning man to death because of sin and to demonstrate the worthlessness of human nature (Rom 3:24; 1 Pet 2:24), His resurrection opened the way through forgiveness of our sins to life and immortality (2 Tim 1:10). The Law of Moses by Robert Roberts, pages 176,177 is highly recommended reading on the subject.

Much was made of the celebrated quotation from Elpis Israel page 126: “The word sin is used in two principal acceptations in Scripture.” Brother Thomas repeats it, but more clearly, in the Herald of the Kingdom, August 1852, when he says, “The word sin is used in two senses”; and this second sense is used to describe the impulses which lead to sin (eg Rom 7:17). Other Christadelphian writers have explained that this is a figure of metonymy, where a word is put for something to which it is related. The testimony of Scripture is that “when lust has conceived it bringeth forth sin” (James 1:15). Brother Thomas said, “This sinful nature we inherit. It is our misfortune not our crime that we possess it. We are only blameworthy when, being supplied with the power of subduing it, we permit it to reign over us” (Elpis Israel, p77).

The Andrew doctrine is structured in legal and ritualistic terms often ignoring the plain countermanding Scriptures. It negates the moral principles of God. He will hold some responsible on the basis of knowledge, enlightenment and conscience (John 12:44–48). Brother Collyer pointed out that this doctrine in its “efforts for legal logic ended by teaching justification for sin without faith” (Unity Book, p71).