Several beliefs, while not
unique to the Bible Student movement, when taken collectively, outline a
doctrinal position that is distinct from mainstream Christianity. Some of these
Inspiration of the Bible: Bible Students are
united in holding that the sacred Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments,
are inspired and are the final authority for authentic truth. Correct
doctrine is to be established in beliefs that harmonize all scriptures on
each subject. No non-scriptural words may be made an article of faith.
Creation: Bible Students believe in creation,
while admitting for some evolution in the animal creation, and that man
(and thence, women) are a direct creation of God, physically and mentally
Original Sin: Believing that Adam and Eve were
created perfect, the Bible Student position is that the sin of
disobedience in the Garden of Eden resulted in all their posterity being
born under the blight of sin, imperfection, and death.
Nature of God: The Bible Student position is
neither Trinitarian nor Unitarian. While they believe that Jesus is the
Son of God and possesses the nature of God, the divine nature, since his
resurrection, they do not accept the position of co-eternity or
co-equality between the Father and the Son. Rather than accepting the
doctrine of incarnation, they hold that Jesus was wholly flesh while on
earth, having divested himself of his spiritual nature. Nor do the accept
the concept of the holy spirit being a person; it is the disposition or influence
Nature of Man: In distinction from inherent
immortality, the Bible Student view is that man is mortal by nature, and
that immortality is available only by meetings conditions of obedience.
They hold that the human soul is not a distinct entity, but is the result
of the union of the body and the breath, or spark, of life, and that death
is the dissolution of these two elements.
State of the Dead: Because death is the
dissolution of body and breath, the soul that sins dies goes out of
existence until the resurrection process begins in the future kingdom of
Messiah. The Bible “hell” is the grave, and is neither a place of eternal
fire or conscious separation from God.
Virgin Birth: While Jesus was miraculously
begotten by God through the holy spirit in the womb of Mary, the Bible
implies that she did not remain a virgin thereafter and probably had
children by Joseph after the birth of Jesus. Her nature was the same as
others of the fallen race, and there is no indication of an “immaculate
conception” by Mary.
Ransom and Restitution: The main purpose of
Jesus’ first advent was to provide a ransom, or substitutionary atonement
for Adam, and hence the entire race descending from him. This Ransom was
provided at the cross of Calvary, and is efficacious for all who have ever
died. It promises resuscitation for all humanity in Christ’s 1000-year
kingdom, along with the opportunity to obtain and maintain perfect human
life for eternity. The ransom also provides for the rehabilitation of
planet earth to perfect Edenic conditions.
Resurrection: After Jesus Christ was
crucified, he was raised to spiritual life by his Father, God, and given a
divine body in the express image of God’s person.
The Heavenly Calling: At his first advent,
Jesus began calling out from mankind a special class to be his church, or
bride. To these he promises a part in heaven with himself and the Father,
and a kingdom role of reigning over mankind with himself for blessing all
the families of the earth. Those who accept this invitation make a
complete consecration or commitment to do the will of God as they see it
revealed and at the cost of a surrender of the right to a life on earth.
This consecration is witnessed by a baptism (complete water immersion,)
Second Advent: As with most Christians, the
expectation that Jesus Christ would return to finish the work that he
began two thousand years ago is an important part of their faith. Most
Bible Students share the following beliefs in the second advent:
Object: That the object of the return is the
resurrection of the dead and the establishment of a new world order of
peace and righteousness, in which all sin, sorrow, and death will be
Manner: That Jesus returns invisibly, at
first unnoticed by the world at large, though eventually manifesting that
presence to all.
Time: Though not in universal agreement, the
majority of Bible Students believe that the time for his return was in
the near past (1874), and that he is in process of finishing his church,
evicting the old regime of the adversary, and supervising the preparation
of Israel for kingdom work.
Return of Israel: The establishment of the
nation of Israel and the return of the Jewish people to their ancestral
homeland is an indication of the restoration of the favor of God to that
nation, and an indication of the nearness of Messiah’s kingdom. Bible
Students anticipate a return of Israel to the borders promised to Abraham;
and a final conflict in the Middle East, in which their ancient prophets
will be resurrected and God will, through them, bring about an
unprecedented miraculous deliverance, introducing the worldwide kingdom of
Christ, expanding thence to a worldwide dominion of peace.
Church Organization: The Bible Student
community is organized on a strict congregational basis, with each local
group totally autonomous. Each group selects its leaders (elders and
deacons) by a total vote of their consecrated members, and cooperates with
other congregations as determined by that local group. All expenses are
paid entirely by freewill voluntary offerings with no collections of
mandated costs, The ministry serves on a non-paid and voluntary basis.