Ask Norm!

By Norman S. Edwards

From SVM – Spring 2012

Dear Norm, (February 11, 2012)

[Please send me Shepherd’s Voice Magazine.]

I was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland. Joined the British Army, Royal Army Medical Corps, and took a nursing degree. I stayed in Germany 10 years. When I returned to the UK it was very difficult to speak English again! I went to Portland Bible College and got my BA in Theology and then stayed another 3 years to complete a ministry training course.

My religious beliefs would brand me as a heretic:

  1. I believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone for Christ’s sake alone.
  2. I am a committed Five Point Calvinist.
  3. I hold the doctrine of Supralapsarianism.
  4. I am an Evangelical Unitarian (I believe the doctrine of the Trinity is utter blasphemy and that those who worship Jesus as God are committing idolatry)
  5. I keep the seventh day Sabbath.
  6. I observe the Biblical Clean and Unclean food laws.
  7. I believe in Conditional Immortality.
  8. Postmillennialist
  9. I believe in Replacement Theology (the church has replaced Israel).
  10. I am against Christian Zionism and do not believe that Christians should support the state of Israel.
  11. I am a continuationist (spiritual gifts still function in the church today).
  12. I have a very low Satanology.
  13. I am against celebrating pagan feast days i.e. Christmas, Halloween, and Easter.
John, Vancouver, Wash

Dear John:

Well, you certainly are a heretic. As you may well know, our word “heresy” is from the Greek hairesis, which means making a choice or division. You have certainly made a choice as to what you believe, and yours may well be different from any other believer on earth! But, alas, your choice #1 puts you in company with a great many believers throughout the world.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of your- selves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God pre- pared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Salvation is not based upon our works, whether those works be how we treat our neighbor, or how we study our doctrines. The Bible does not contain a doctrinal list required for salvation, nor is there any place where it indicates people will lose salvation because they had some lesser point of doctrine wrong. Nevertheless, if Christ is in us, we will do His works (Colossians 1:27; Philippians 2:13). Truth is important. Many other verses, like 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, show that salvation and reward for works are different. We know that there is a “better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35; Luke 12:42-48; Revelation 20:4-6).

Sabbath, Meats and Holidays

I will deal with some of the other easy ones first, #5, #6 and #13. I believe that the seventh day Sabbath, the Biblical Feast days, and the clean food laws continued right through the New Testament on to today. They do not earn salvation, but Christ and the apostles followed them, so we can also. I believe Christ was born during the Feast of Tabernacles: “And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us…” (John 1:14; YLT). We should teach His birth then, not in December or with Yule logs, mistletoe kisses and other Pagan traditions. Believers should remember the death of Christ at Passover and his resurrection on the Feast of First fruits or Wave sheaf day, not Easter. Halloween is a night commemorating demonic practices and has no place in Christianity.

Trinity & Nature of Christ

On #4, it is obvious that the word “trinity” is not in the Bible and the major KJV verses that support the concept were late additions that nearly every modern translation properly leaves out (1 John 5:7-8). When Stephen saw into heaven, he saw the Father and Jesus, not three (Acts 7:56). Nearly every letter of Paul is written in the name of “God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ”. The Holy Spirit is God’s power in us, not a separate entity.

Because Christ humbled himself as a human servant (Philippians 2:7), it is understandable why some people, both in the Bible and now, do not see Him as God. This writer has seen errors made on both sides of arguments about the deity of Christ. But I am convinced by these and numerous other scriptures that Christ is God and is worshiped as God (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 14:33; 28-18, Luke 24:52; John 5:23; 9:38; 10:30;12:45; 14:6, 9-10; 17:5; 20:28; Acts7:59; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:6;9-11, Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3-8; Revelation 5:9-14).

When we pray in Christ’s name, He promises to answer the prayer Himself (John 14:13-14). If we have a question about a biblical commandment we can always look at the examples. In the scriptures where people worshiped Christ, they were never corrected. Whereas, when John mistakenly worshiped an angel, he was gently corrected (Revelation 22:9)

Prophecy, Spiritual Gifts and Nation of Israel

We will do #8 and #11 together because the latter answers the former. The biblical spiritual gifts must be continued to our time. We cannot understand the functioning of the Church without them. There is no hint in the Bible that they will somehow end. Rather, “…you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3). For many, the church is either a place of book learning or a political party, not the radically different way of life the Bible describes. Once we accept that God still places spiritual gifts in the church (Romans 12:6, 1 Corinthians 12 & 14; Ephesians 4; 1 Peter 4:10-11), we do not need to adopt a school of prophetic interpretation, but can rely on our Father to show us what He will do through His prophets (Amos 3:7; 1 Corinthians 4:31, 39). The nature of prophecy is conditional, based upon the repentance of the people involved (Jeremiah 18:7-10). God even changed one prophecy at the request of Moses (Numbers 14:11-20). What good is it for us to lay out a prophetic scenario from the Bible when our Father may not yet have decided how He will fulfill all His prophecies?

#9 and #10 also go together. The Old Testament covenants promise prosperity and posterity for physical obedience. The New Testament teaches eternal life resulting from faith in Christ and total submission to God. These teachings are not mutually exclusive. God can fulfill his promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve tribes (Genesis 48-49; Deuteronomy 33), David (2 Samuel 7:12-16) and many others, and still offer salvation to both Israel and all mankind. I agree that Christian Zionism is a mistake. It is generally based on prophetic ideas that the Jews must return to the land of Palestine, and maybe build a temple before Christ returns, so we have to hurry them up and help them do that. God is not anxious for us to fulfill prophecy for Him; He wants us to be righteous! The nation called Israel today is not appreciably more righteous than Israel under the kings or than the Jews at the time of Christ. They are as likely to be judged for their sin now as the nations were in the past.

Who’s Good and Who’s Bad

I will not discuss #2, #3 and #7 in any detail. While it is not inherently wrong to consider complex questions of the nature of sin and who will be saved, the clear teaching of the Bible is not to render judgments on the reward or punishment of certain classes of people, but to teach and practice righteousness as we understand it (Luke 9:49-50; Romans 14:1-4; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Philippians; Revelation 2-3). I have observed that those whose studies take them into great detail about which group of people will be saved or receive the greatest reward, invariably find themselves to be in the best group. It seems that their humility and diligence to serve God with their whole heart wanes, because after all, they are already in the best group of believers. When people asked Christ, “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven,” He did not name names or give them a doctrinal definition, but taught them something they needed to learn to better obtain the Kingdom (Matthew 18:1-14). We should do the same.

Lastly, in regard to # 12, a “low satanology”: Satan is about as low as one could go! We are looking forward to his thousand-year imprisonment! (Revelation 20:2-3).

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