Lovelock wasn’t a unanimous decision or a binding precedent

The case of Bro Ralph Lovelock and his disfellowship is often publicised as demonstrating our community has dealt with, once and for all, the question of EC.  However the full picture is rarely conveyed.  Bro Lovelock was a prominent English brother noted for his intelligence.  He gave a series of talks in 1964 on the origin of man which caused significant disquiet.  He proposed a form of EC.  His notes were subsequently published – I have read a copy.  With the benefit of hindsight, Bro Lovelock’s science was astray and his scriptural reconciliation I cannot agree with.  It was brave but ultimately disastrous move as eventually Bro Ralph Lovelock was disfellowshiped in 1966 by the Watford ecclesia.  They wrote to the Christadelphian Magazine explaining their decision in detail.  In doing so they also acknowledged the challenges in interpreting Genesis 1-3 stating:

we are strongly of the opinion that the problems that undoubtedly exist should be frankly admitted by us as a community, for we do naught but dishonour to the word of God by pretending that these problems are not there. Our Brotherhood bears a responsibility to those in search of Scripture truth, and especially to those of tender years, to turn its attention to the solving of these difficulties in an atmosphere of calm, sincere, conscientious study, unhindered by the rumours, mistrust, suspicion and hasty judgments that have been all too prevalent among us in recent times”[1]

The decision of the Watford meeting was an individual decision, while it was widely supported it was not universally agreed and is not a legal precedent which forever shuts the door on resolving “the problems that undoubtedly exist” and have magnified a thousandfold in the last 50 years with further amazing advances in gene technology, dating, ice core measurement etc (all of which point one way – against the creationist).  These problems are not acknowledged let alone explored today by the special creationists.

Evidence of a variety of views was even on display in the Christadelphian Magazine where brethren who specifically disagreed with disfellowshiping bro Lovelock had letters to this effect published.  Bro WF Barling appealed that the matter would not be a fellowship one and highlighted the existence of those sympathetic to EC, stating:

Traditionally, we have vigorously declared them [creation and evolution] to be contradictory. Now, a growing number among us are not so certain that this is so. What is not generally realized is that this section of our community is not an organized, self-confident group bent on converting the remainder to a new opinion, but a number of perplexed individuals, deeply loyal to the community, desperately anxious not to offend those who do not share their anguish—let alone transfer it to their minds—but who feel that they must be intellectually honest. What they ask of their brethren and sisters is not a change of viewpoint but a change of attitude. None would rejoice more than they if incontestable evidence were finally produced to warrant the most literal acceptance of the opening chapters of Genesis. Meantime, what they seek is not approval but tolerance” [2]

(See his full letter here)

Bro Peter Reynolds also writing in response to the Lovelock issue rather forthrightly stated of the problems with Genesis and the reconciliation of ancient men:

“…It is therefore quite disheartening to find a section of the brotherhood poised like a vulture ready to swoop down and devour anyone who has the temerity to try to tackle them.

The early chapters of Genesis present problems to the most faithful student if he is prepared to think about them. The most sincere acceptance of the inspiration of the text does nothing to remove them. They cannot be resolved by sticking our heads in the sand and pretending they are not there. Can we not accept bro. Lovelock’s studies as a sincere attempt to explore some possibilities? We can question his arguments, call for the evidence behind his “facts”, or reject his conclusions. What we cannot do is charge him with dangerous and subversive teaching which raises a question of fellowship.[3]

 

[1] Watford Ecclesia Statement, (1966). The Christadelphian, 103(electronic ed.), 543–544.

[2] Barling WF (1965)  “Letters to the editor” The Christadelphian Volume 102, 1965, page 463-465

[3] Reynolds, Peter (1965). “Letters to the Editor”  The Christadelphian, 102(electronic ed.), 462.

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1 thought on “Lovelock wasn’t a unanimous decision or a binding precedent

  1. Pingback: By One Man – a misleading incomplete picture of Christadelphian positions | Christadelphians Origins Discussion

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