"Earnestly contend for the faith "
to The Spirit of God by
Nicholls CMPA 1976
A Critique by Aleck W. Crawford
This foreward adds some very relevant
review done in 1977. Some of these points were not published until 20
years later but have a direct bearing upon the author's views and the
One does not have to be much of a historian to know or discover that
there were serious problems on the subject of the Holy Spirit under the
editorship of Alfred Nicholls. Just ask a few questions:
It is my considered conviction from several
investigation that the writings on the subject of the Holy Spirit by
Alfred Norris, Alfred Nicholls, Edgar Wille and several of Harry
Whittaker's books (e.g. Bible Studies and Ephesians)--together with
of the hymns in the 1964 book that contain false doctrine on this
subject--laid the foundation for widespread false doctrine in the
brotherhood on that subject and grace, for the so called "Charismatic
Christadelphians", and even for those who left the brotherhood.
- Is it correct that
two of the booklets/books published during his editorship were
effectively withdrawn by CMPA? A: Yes, The Holy Spirit and
the Believer Today by Alfred Norris and The Epistles of John
by Neville Smart.
- Is it correct to say that
Alfred Nicholls had the same views as those presented by Alfred Norris
in the CMPA publication mentioned above? A: Yes the attached
letter is proof as is other historical matter produced by the editor at
- Is it correct to say that the
views presented by Alfred Nicholls in The Spirit of God were
viewed by its author as the same as those taught and published by
Alfred Norris? A: Again the answer is yes from Alfred Nicholls'
- Is it a valid argument to say
the book must stand on its own? A:
No. One cannot ignore the facts above any more than one can ignore the
controversial books on prophecy by Alfred Norris and Harry Whittaker in
any marketing proposal.
This last point can be seen in the arguments used today on the Internet
by ex-Christadelphians. It can also be seen in printed correspondence
contained in ex-Christadelphian Branson Hopkins' second book against
Christadelphians [From Christadelphianism to Christ, 1997
Wellington, New Zealand] indicating
that James Norris and Melva Purkis believed the same as Alfred Norris
[who believed the same as Alfred Nicholls]. Not only did James believe
the same as his cousin Alfred "with certain slight reservations" and in
1976 had done so "for at least thirty years", but he went so far as to
say that Edgar Wille's book was witness to "a distinct and widespread
move towards recognising the work of the Spirit today" (p. 73)!
In a letter dated July 1976 published on page 75 of Hopkins' book we
have the following shocking revelation; "After [John Carter's] death I
sought an interview with Alfred Norris and I hope and have some reason
for believing that his booklet on the work of the Holy Spirit in the
life of the modern Christian was in some small measure the result. Then
Edgar Wille's controversial booklet on the Holy Spirit was published
and he rang me to say that it came about to no small extent because of
my constant encouragement... While James, Alfred and Arthur Dagg are
all for going forward, the preponderance of opinion is for caution [on
the CMPA]...So although you [i.e. Branson Hopkins] have left us as
members of a community, you are still one with us in the deeper
fellowship of the Father and the Son and is how we shall always accept
you... Elsie and Melva [Purkis]"!!!
Since Alfred Nicholls' own pen proved he had the same views as Alfred
Norris on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit it is very obvious that there
were not only serious problems with his editorship but we might
add--from observation of the above extract--with several of the CMPA
committee at that time1.
There is no way that a person knowing these facts can accept his book
on the subject. One only has to read it carefully to come to the same
conclusion as he himself has stated in the attached letter. His message
was the same as Alfred Norris' on the subject of the Spirit.
Aleck Crawford 2005
The Spirit of God by Alfred
Nicholls CMPA 1976 –
Aleck W. Crawford
This review is in two parts:
Exposed by his own pen
- the preamble, Exposed
by his own pen, which
makes foundational observations upon a very relevant [but little known
about] fact admitted in the letter written by brother Alfred Nicholls
that appears below, and
- the critique proper
of The Spirit of God as it appeared subsequently in book form.
- The first (and
major) point we wish to emphasise from the first paragraph of the letter2 is the evidence from Alfred Nicholls' own pen
the fact that "what he [brother
Norris] has written3 is in my view consistent with my own series on The
Spirit of God…".
How many people know about this fact that these two authors believed
the same thing on this subject? The uncovering of this admission is a
major point in favour of those who did find significant doctrinal error
in the book under review. Why? Because brother Norris' view in The
Holy Spirit and the Believer Today was subsequently recognised by
the CMPA as not containing official Christadelphian doctrine and was
- The second point we wish to
make is the connected admission, "and this series has been well
received by many who have attacked brother Norris", which
the ignorance of most readers of the fact revealed in point 1. If they
had known that brethren Alfred Norris and Alfred Nicholls had the same
views on the subject of the Holy Spirit then they would have received
roughly the same treatment by lovers of the Truth. What was the
treatment? As we have already said the offending publication was
effectively withdrawn. How was it "many" readers didn't know? The
answer is in the next point.
third point that is also obvious from a reading of the letter is that
while the writers believed the same thing on this subject and wrote
essentially the same message, what brother
wrote was written is such a way--in such a style--that "many" could not
discern that fact, otherwise they would have done something about it.
So brother Nicholls
charismatic and fence-sitting style has been acceptable to his
evangelical friends and, more significantly, unknowingly swallowed by
"many" of those who actively opposed that apostate trend in the
writings of others in the brotherhood.
- In the third paragraph brother Alfred
Nicholls, at that time the editor of the Christadelphian, says he
"cannot accept responsibility for the views of [the then4] brother Edgar Wille".5
What kind of shepherd was he to basically ignore the most radical book
on the subject ever to be written by a Christadelphian up to that time
(1975)? Could it be that although brother Wille wrote radical things on
other subjects [e.g. redefining the gospel], when it came to the subject of the
was very little difference between the conclusions of the two authors?
It was once said that England has
many capable writers but very few capable artists. Take out of that
what you wish but my meaning will become clear after you have read
this, if it is not already clear from the preamble. It is evident that
brother Nicholls is a capable writer, that is from a persuasive point
This book has many good points. An endeavor is made to make the study a
positive one. A fairly detailed study of several different themes in
the Old Testament is undertaken in an attempt to obtain a solid
foundation before beginning in the New. A fairly comprehensive list of
themes in the Contents shows that the author has attempted to give a
broad-brush treatment to this most exalted subject. In the first 12
chapters there is much food for thought.
However, from chapter 13 onwards to the end of the book there is a
great deal wrong with the book, and for this reason the book is not
recommended. It is as if the author was won over to a new way of
thinking at this point.
When this reviewer read this material for the second time, he was
almost prepared to join the higher critics and say that because the
writing style is so different and the doctrine so different from
previous chapters it must have been written by another Alfred. However,
on the third (and most careful) reading it became evident that the
author had led up to this section by subtlety in earlier chapters. It
is against this very type of charisma--that of being led down the
path by one who plays skillfully upon the harp--that we must be on our
There are some errors in the earlier chapters and these will be dealt
with in the order in which they appear. But first some remarks of a
more general nature are in order. The author recognizes that there are
modern views about the Holy Spirit and that they are widely divergent.
Therefore, the study could not really be wholly positive. The reader
will recognize this to be the case when he sees that previous views on
the subject are altered where it pleases the author and anyone who
objects is called a troublemaker. It has always been the case. This is
a well-known pattern that anyone who "contends earnestly for the faith"
is called a troublemaker by those advancing new or rehashed apostate
The author treads the devious path of advancing hymns (at the end of
four chapters) as evidence that the foregoing exposition is supported
by these hymns. This tactic of using extra-biblical sources can prove
nothing except that either both the exposition and the hymn are right
or both are wrong6.
When recourse is made to words written in the main by the apostasy then
something is wrong. We may use scripture to explain hymns but it is
wrong to interpret scripture by hymns.
The last chapter employs the undesirable and questionable method of
grouping a series of quotations at the end of a paragraph rather than
placing them within the paragraph. This only suggests that the
historical and contextual contexts have been disregarded. Indeed the
previous sentence pinpoints the root cause of most of the errors in the
Another annoying and misleading thing about this book is that where "LORD"
should be printed in small caps, it is printed as "Lord". This is a
departure from common Biblical translation practice and is confusing to
the reader, who must decide whether God or Christ is meant.
On page 10 there is a reference to 1 Peter 4:14 in a paragraph
describing, "the confidence which their fellowship with the Lord could
bring". There is no explanation of the verse but it appears that the
author wants us to understand "the spirit...resteth upon you" as a
promise currently available to those in fellowship with the Lord.
However a careful examination7
context demonstrates that the promise has a future application, not a
current or past.
In Chapter two we believe the faulty foundation is beginning to be
constructed. Under the subtitle the "Abiding and the Transient" p. 14,
we have the statement "the gifts were necessarily transient, while the
Holy Spirit was to abide". This sentence becomes central to the
argument as the author proceeds. This will be pointed out later in this
review. It should be pointed out that God's presence was clearly
visible in the cloud and the pillar of fire. The dwelling place of
God's Holy Spirit was over the mercy seat and was evident as the
On page 15, Eph. 4:12 is quoted in such a way as to attempt to show
that it has a direct application today. However, this verse occurs in a
context that describes the reason for the gifts (evident in apostles,
prophets, etc.) and can not refer directly to us because of the word
"till". As a result of the labors of the Spirit gifted brethren, the
maturity of the ecclesia was accomplished. Therefore the gifts were no
longer required and ceased.
In the first paragraph on page 26 it is implied that the only valid
translation of the first occurrence of pneuma in John 3:8 is
"wind". It should have at least been pointed out that there are
alternative8 ways of translating this word9 and
that the AV was probably wrong.
On page 28 it is stated that "it is worthy of note, in passing, that
with the exception of Elijah and Elisha ... the men who brought the
word of the Lord to Israel did no miracle". What then are we to make of
the miracles that Moses performed? Can not Daniel's interpretation of
Nebuchadnezzar's dream (though revealed by God) be termed miraculous?
Indeed, as the author demonstrates by alternative terms in this very
chapter, the whole process of inspiration was miraculous.
On page 63 it is unfortunate that the latter part of the phrase
"baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire"
is not explained. If the author had bothered to explain the term he
would have realized that it was not "the church" that was baptized with
fire but the chaff.
The alleged distinction on page 67 between the receipt of the gifts and
"the baptism with the Holy Spirit" is built on faulty premises. First
of all, when Acts describes the fulfillment of the promise in Acts 1:5
it never uses the Lord's phrase but rather "filled with
Holy Spirit" is substituted. Secondly the terms
in Holy Spirit (Acts 11:16) =
receiving the Holy Spirit (10:47) =
receiving a miraculous gift (10:46).
The second paragraph on the comforter (p. 82) is misleading because the
grammar used suggests that Parakletos is variously translated
by comfort beseech (etc.) whereas it is the word parakaleo
which is so translated.
It is in chapter 13 that the inaccuracies of the book become quite
evident and dangerously misleading. It has been well stated that "the
doctrine of the Holy Spirit cannot be properly understood if the
promised abiding presence (John 14:23) and the Comforter are seen as
synonymous terms for only a single phenomenon namely, the spiritual
presence of the Father and the son 'for ever' in the lives of all true
believers"10. This is the author's enigma.
The AV use of 'Comforter' is the basis for unscriptural interpretations
on the meaning and function of the Parakletos. This is evident
on page 83. The context of John's Gospel does not require the idea of
someone whose function11
was to console the disciples as is suggested. The use of the present
tense ("are") on page 84 in describing the "other Comforter" is invalid
because the mission of the Parakletos was only temporary--i.e.
for as long as the Apostles lived12.
On page 88 it is stated that the Lord "having received of the Father
the promise of the Holy Spirit sent it forth upon the assembled company
at the foundation of the Church13,
which was to ... share together the paraklesis of
the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31). What the disciples then received was in
addition to and more important than the powers which the bestowal of
the Holy Spirit gifts brought... The true consolation (paraklesis)
consisted of the opportunity for repentance, the gift of forgiveness,
salvation and ... the abiding fellowship of the Father and the Son..."
The above line of reasoning is muddled and more important--invalid. The
Apostle Peter clearly describes what was "shed"14 (not 'sent'). It was something they could both "see
and hear" (Acts 2:33). In other words it was the gifts promised
by Joel (v. 16-21) and received by the 120. They had seen the
fire and heard the tongues.
As for Acts 9:31 paraklesis
is translated by "exhortation" in Acts 13:15. Rom. 12:8; and
1 Cor. 14:3 and probably refers to the gift of prophecy which
enabled them to give an exhortation without preparation. Page 89
indicates more careless writing. "Candlesticks" should be "lampstands".
The combining, in the same sentence, of the last verse in Matthew
(which has a definite time limitation) with the Father's omnipresence
which is not limited by time is both bad grammar and very bad
exposition. [It is noted that at least the tenses are correct ("is" and
"was") but this is not of much help.]
Page 90 "cannot be a person" contradicts the author's own statements on
pages 49 and 99 where he allows that it can be the angel of the
"The gift of consolation", as used in the context, implies a special
gift of the spirit as defined on page 88. This reasoning is invalid for
the reasons already specified for that page.
It is unfortunate that "a fellowship of the Holy Spirit" is not
but the drift of the sentence seems to be that it is a fellowship
comprising those believers who have responded to the divine provision
and have received the gift of the spirit (Acts 2:38) i.e. the Parakletos!
However, we have already demonstrated that the author's definition of
"the gift of the Holy Spirit" in Acts 2:38 is incorrect16. Also we have shown that the Parakletos
John's gospel has no direct application to us. The Parakletos
of John's Gospel certainly wasn't "passive" as the author claims on
page 90. He convinced the world of sin, of righteousness and of
judgement. He taught the disciples all things, showed them things to
come and was the active defense council in courts of law.
The quotation without explanation, of Romans 8:26-28 proves nothing
except that the author probably does not understand their meaning. This
habit of quotation without explanation is quite common in this book. It
is really only assuming what he must prove. Anyone can read these words
for himself in their proper context in the Bible. What is needed is
explanation17, not merely repetition.
Ambiguous and unproven footnotes such as we find on page 99 are of very
little, if any, value. What is needed is proof.
The unqualified reference on page 100 to the Parakletos appears
to be to the one in John's gospel. If this is the case then the use of
the present tense is invalid, as we have already mentioned.
There is no need to go into a long detailed explanation of Phil.
2:12-13 when Paul clearly explains in 1 Thess. 2:13 that it is the
"word of God" which works in us, not some direct "work of the Spirit"
as the author suggests. On the other hand no explanation is given of 2
Cor. 4:6. At least 2 Pet. 1:19 could have been referred to.
The first paragraph on page 103 clearly indicates just how far the
author has gone out on the apostate Evangelical limb. In his
redefinition of "the gospel" we find the exact kind of phraseology that
we would find in Evangelical publications.18
The author would have us believe that Paul's words in Romans 1:16 mean
'we read the word to find out the good news that God will work directly
in us by His Spirit to redeem us, sanctify us, quicken us, create a new
heart in us and illuminate our hearts.' How are we to reconcile this
idea to the next-- "What God does not do is... in any way operate on us
so that we are better able to" believe?
And how are we to reconcile that idea with the scriptural testimony:
- that we are sanctified through the truth
revealed in God's word (John
- that the ecclesia is sanctified and
cleansed "with the washing of
water by the word" (Eph. 5:26)?
- that new hearts are created in us by
"taking heed to thy word"
- that we are quickened by God with His precepts
Indeed the only verse cited in proof of the theory (2 Pet. 1:19) shows
rather that God shines in the dark places of our heart by the "more
sure word of prophecy".
In this same paragraph on page 103 we have the theory expressed that
courage, comfort and hope are gifts given to those whose personal
relationship with God is the correct one [i.e. they co-operate in
receiving it]! This theory is incorrect19.
is not some gift given to us. Rather it is a characteristic we
develop by knowing (through the written word) that God is on our
side and no wicked thing can prosper against us. Also hope is
never termed a gift of the Spirit. Again it is a characteristic which
we must develop because of what God has revealed.
The quotation on pages 104 and 105 of two long paragraphs is of no help
because they are not explained. Indeed their appearance in this context
Another example of bad exposition is to be found on page 107. The
reason is again because the author fails to consider the overall
context of Romans 8. There is clearly a divine selection of terms used
in Romans on the subject of the Spirit. In the context of the Epistle
as a whole; "spirit", as used in chapters 6, 7 and 8, carries a
meaning(s) different from "Holy Spirit". Paul defines spirit in verse 2
as ("of life in Christ Jesus").
The definition of "fellowship of the Holy Spirit" (p. 111) misses the
essential point that the genitive case is subjective.20 If indeed the phrase "gift of consolation" is a
reference to the Parakletos
(cf. p. 90) of the gospel of John, then even that definition cannot be
applied to us as is done in the next sentence (for reasons already
On page 115 we are treated to some more faulty logic. After stating two
incorrect minor premises, the author then incorrectly concludes that
the meaning of "the gift of the Holy Spirit" is "all that God has given
in Christ through the Holy Spirit." When such inexact generalizations
as this are advanced then there almost ceases to be any grounds for a
It is a well-known principle of interpretation that you cannot prove
the meaning of a word by reference to other writers and other books (as
the author has attempted to do with dorea).
Dorea is used in Acts 2:38 and in all places throughout Acts for the
Holy Spirit gifts as a contextual examination will prove.
Why is it that in a book which should define precisely its terms, we
find such invalid translations as for example the AV of 1 Cor. 12:721? This invalid translation is then the basis
constructs other theories. [I.e. That the "manifestation
of the Spirit is [i.e. presently] ‘given to every man to profit
withal'" and that this special gift was not the whole gift of God].
The definition22 given
of charisma as
it occurs in 1 Cor. 1:4-9 is manifestly incorrect. The whole attitude
and record of the actions of the Corinthians is clearly against it as
is the immediate context. The gifts are defined as "utterance" (either
tongues and prophecy or both) "knowledge" and "the testimony of Christ"
(a reference to miracles, signs and wonders).
Love and hope are defined as "marks of the true pneumatikos" (p. 127)
but none of these are ever termed gifts of the Spirit in Scripture.
They are spiritual qualities that we must develop in ourselves as a
response to the divine revelation we call the Bible.
On page 127, in a paragraph on Romans 12, we see an attempt to reduce
the seven gifts there mentioned to activities that occur today.
However, a tabular comparison of the gifts mentioned in the four books
demonstrate that what Paul mentions in Romans 12 are indeed the same
gifts as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. The same comment applies to the
quotation on page 129 of 1 Peter 4:10.
The application of John's prologue (v. 16) as applying to us and the
author's repeated use of the phrase "the gift of the Spirit" as meaning
God has given in Christ through the Holy Spirit' indicates clearly how
far out on a tangent he really is. In fact unless the reader constantly
keeps this definition clearly in mind, he will be convinced that the
phrase is used in an ambiguous and misleading way.
We see on page 142 that "to have" the spirit is the same (as far as the
author is concerned) as "to receive the Spirit" and that both of these
are a "response to grace" which results in being "influenced by the
mind of the Lord" and thus enjoy the gifts of the Spirit. Thus we see
those who argue that they do not believe in "possession" of the Spirit
are really only attempting to soft-pedal their views. They will argue
at length that they do not possess the Spirit but they claim rather "to
have" or "to receive". This alleged distinction is only a bit of
On page 146 in a paragraph on "Baptism of the Spirit" we find the
author hedging his argument by the key word "more". "Filled with" is
equivalent to "baptized" in the New Testament and this is the reason
why the latter is "rare". This is a crucial point to an understanding
of what "Baptism in Holy Spirit" really means23.
In the last sentence on page 147 the difference between the two
definitions is free will. We are much nearer a precise definition with
the view that God works indirectly through the angels controlling
circumstances in what we term divine providence than with the latter
which has overtones of Plato and his apostate theological offspring.
On page 151 we have a redefinition of terms where the relationship
between the Father and His children is called "fellowship of the Holy
Spirit". This use of the phrase is objective genitive but its only use
in 2 Cor. 13:14 is subjective genitive.
In a book that is filled with expositional mistakes and ambiguities as
well as dozens of verses left unexplained, it is not surprising to find
brother Graham Pearce quoted out of context. Nor is it surprising to
find that the author thinks he is in agreement with brother Robert
Roberts on the subject.
1 Fortunately much of this was
corrected or eliminated over time. Unfortunately Alfred Nicholls' book The
Spirit of God and Peter Fisher of Men by Alfred Norris
2 To protect our source the
person to whom the letter was written has been deleted.
3 In such publications as The
Holy Spirit and the Believer Today.
4 He later left the Truth.
5 Another very significant
emerges from bro Alfred's pen, though not in the letter which follows.
Not only did he fail to oppose bro Wille's book on the Holy Spirit;
more significantly he failed to oppose bro Wille's articles [which
contained false doctrine on the Holy Spirit] that appeared in the Glad
Tidings, when a concerned group appealed to him to do so. [The Glad
Tidings is the official preaching magazine in the UK and many countries
overseas]. Instead he attacked those who opposed bro Wille.
6 For those who wish to examine
the evidence there was plenty of doctrinal error in the 1964 Hymnbook.
Ask the reviewer for his notes.
7 The Spirit--A
Exposition on New Testament Usage
by Aleck W. Crawford, Second edition 1976 marketed jointly by
Christadelphian Scripture Study Service and Logos, available from most
good Ecclesial libraries, or the author at 6 Ingomar Court, Hallett
Cove, South Australia 5158, page C: 223.
Now available on the Net
8 ibid., page
9 See page 78 last paragraph.
10 'Spirit' in the
Testament, by brethren Edward Whittaker and Reg Carr, page 14,
published by The Testimony.
11 The Spirit
12 ibid. page 59 and 60.
13 Why not use "Ecclesia"?
14 ekcheo s/b "poured".
2:17, 18; Acts 10:45. This is a clear reference to Joel
15 It is this style of
indefiniteness which makes this a fence-sitting publication which can
be swallowed, if one is not careful, by both those who believe the
truth and evangelicals.
16 It was something which they
could both "see and hear" as is evident by referring back to Acts 2:33.
For more evidence see The Spirit pages 99-106.
17 This is done by :
- bro. John Carter in his Romans
published by CMPA,
- brothren E. Whittaker and Reg Carr in their ‘Spirit'
Testament published by The Testimony, pages 115 & 116,
- bro. G. E. Mansfield in "The Christadelphian Expositor" Romans
- myself in both of my books on The Spirit. See pages
present edition The Spirit--a general exposition on New Testament
Usage, and pages 116-118 of my first book The Holy Spirit.
- others including Ian Leask and C. Gwillian. Other
Romans have the same conclusion, e.g. Paul's Epistle to the Romans,
Alphega Productions, 1973.
18 And some Christadelphian
redefinitions such as Edgar Wille's.
19 See The Spirit page
F:293 for proof that "comfort" was not a gift.
20 See ibid. page 176
21 P. 117.
22 P. 124 "The truly spiritual
gift--rather than the practical gifts"!
23 See The Spirit page
The Spirit of God by A. Nicholls: A Critique by Aleck W.
Crawford, 1977 comments or orders for The Spirit
by A. W. Crawford email: firstname.lastname@example.org