"Earnestly contend for the faith "

Foreward

to The Spirit of God by Alfred Nicholls CMPA 1976
A Critique by Aleck W. Crawford

This foreward adds some very relevant points to my 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 book.

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:

  1. Is it correct that two of the booklets/books published during his editorship were effectively withdrawn by CMPA?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.
  2. 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 the time.
  3. 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' own pen.
  4. 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.
It is my considered conviction from several decades of 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 many 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.




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 time
1
. 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 –

A Critique
by
Aleck W. Crawford

This review is in two parts:

Exposed by his own pen
  1. The first (and major) point we wish to emphasise from the first paragraph of the letter2 is the evidence from Alfred Nicholls' own pen admitting 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 effectively withdrawn.
  2. 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 demonstrates 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.
  3. The 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 Nicholls 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 rather 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.
  4. 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 Spirit there was very little difference between the conclusions of the two authors?


ahn



Critique
It was once said that England has produced 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 of view.

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 garden path by one who plays skillfully upon the harp--that we must be on our guard.

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 views.

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 wrong
6. 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 book.

Another annoying and misleading thing about this book is that where "L
ORD" 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 examination
7 of the 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 Shekinah glory.

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 alternative
8 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
baptism 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 function
11 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 Church
13, 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 presence.
"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 properly defined
15, 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 incorrect
16. Also we have shown that the Parakletos of 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 explanation
17, 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:

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 incorrect
19. Courage 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 is misleading.

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 stated).

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 reasonable discussion.

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. 12:7
21? This invalid translation is then the basis upon he 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 definition
22 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 'all that 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 semantic conjuring.
 
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 means
23
.

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.


Endnotes

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 still remain.

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 point 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 General 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

http://www.christadelphia.org/books/spirit/index.html or

http://www.thechristadelphians.org/htm/books/the_spirit/index.html

8 ibid., page 66.

9 See page 78 last paragraph.

10 'Spirit' in the New Testament, by brethren Edward Whittaker and Reg Carr, page 14, published by The Testimony.

11 The Spirit page 72-90.

12 ibid. page 59 and 60.

13 Why not use "Ecclesia"?

14 ekcheo s/b "poured". See 2:17, 18; Acts 10:45. This is a clear reference to Joel 2:28 (LXX).

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 :

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 for proof.

21 P. 117.

22 P. 124 "The truly spiritual gift--rather than the practical gifts"!

23 See The Spirit page B:15.



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: replies@chariot.net.au