Teaching Students About Sandemanians Beliefs
The Sandemanians, also known as Glassites, were a Christian sect founded in the 18th century by John Glas and later developed by his son-in-law, Robert Sandeman. Despite its historical significance, the beliefs and practices of this religious group are fairly unknown today. By teaching students about Sandemanianism, educators can introduce them to diverse views within Christianity and enhance their understanding of the many facets that comprise our religious legacy.
John Glas (1695-1773) was a minister in the Church of Scotland who began expressing doubts about the established church’s doctrines and practices. He initially focused on the idea of a national church backed by civil authority, which he felt contradicted Jesus’ teachings about not relying on political power. Robert Sandeman (1718-1771), Glas’ son-in-law, joined him in this movement and took it beyond Scotland’s borders into England and America.
Some key beliefs of the Sandemanian sect revolved around biblical interpretation, faith versus works, and church organization:
1. Strict adherence to New Testament authority: Sandemanians believed that all religious practices should be based solely on the guidance provided in the New Testament. This approach often led them to question mainstream Christian practices that were not explicitly based on biblical texts.
2. Faith is intellectual assent: The group emphasized that faith was an intellectual recognition of Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross rather than an emotional or personal experience. Salvation was achieved by understanding and believing in the written word of God.
3. Rejection of human authority: Sandemanians rejected any form of clergy or human leadership within the church. Congregations were self-governing with decisions made by consensus among members.
4. Observance of rituals: This sect practiced adult baptism, the Lord’s supper, foot washing, and the holy kiss, denoting unity among believers. These rituals were observed according to the New Testament’s instructions.
5. Ethics and morality: Sandemanians valued a simple and moral lifestyle, exemplifying honesty, integrity, and selflessness. They also believed that Christians should not swear oaths or participate in warfare.
When introducing students to Sandemanian beliefs, educators can adopt various strategies:
1. Historical context: Place the emergence of the sect within its broader historical setting, exploring the religious and political climate in 18th-century Scotland.
2. Comparative approach: Compare and contrast Sandemanian beliefs with those of mainstream Christianity or other denominations that arose during the same period.
3. Debates and discussions: Encourage classroom debates around key Sandemanian beliefs such as strict adherence to New Testament authority or faith as an intellectual recognition.
4. Cultural impact: Discuss the influence of Sandemanianism on literature or art. For example, noted English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was briefly a member of the sect.
Although less well-known today than many other Christian denominations, Sandemanianism played a critical role in shaping religious thought during a time when diverse perspectives were emerging within Christianity. By investigating this intriguing yet relatively obscured belief system, students can develop a broader understanding of the diversity that characterizes religious history and learn to appreciate contexts beyond mainstream practices.