Thursday, October 8, 2015

Book Write-Up: Pure God, by Gregory Wayne Edwards

Gregory Wayne Edwards.  Pure God: Finally, Answers to Your Questions!  Bloomington: Westbow Press (a Division of Thomas Nelson), 2013.  See here to buy the book.

According to the “About the Author” section of the book, Gregory Wayne Edwards has been an engineer, a reserve-deputy sheriff, a church elder, and a Sunday school teacher.  In Pure God, Edwards addresses questions about the Bible and Christianity.

Some of Edwards’ answers are pretty standard, from a conservative Christian standpoint: Edwards defends the deity of Christ, justification by grace through faith, and the inerrancy of the Bible.  Edwards also gives the customary conservative Christian justifications for why God ordered the Israelites to kill the Canaanites.  Nothing new there.

Where Edwards got interesting was when he was propounding interpretations that I had never heard before.  Edwards seemed to be arguing, for example, that I Corinthians 15, which is about the resurrection, is actually about souls leaving their physical bodies to get new spiritual bodies, going to heaven if they are saved and to hell if they are not.  There were more things like this.

Sometimes, Edwards did not appear to justify his arguments.  Edwards said, for example, that the number of the Beast is 666 because that is the number of perfection minus God.  The number of perfection is 777, and the number of the Trinity is 111, and when you subtract the latter from the former you get 666.  The point is that 666 is about being without God.  But why assume that 111 is the number for the Trinity?  Is there any evidence for this in the Bible?  Edwards also said that the 144,000 in the Book of Revelation were unsaved Jews whom God will protect and give the opportunity to be saved in the end times.  But why does Edwards think that the 144,000 will be unsaved, when there seem to be Christian things that the 144,000 do in the Book of Revelation (i.e., they follow the Lamb, according to Revelation 14:4)?

At other times, Edwards appeared to be making good points and asking good questions, but his answer fell flat because it was wrong.  Edwards was addressing the question of where Cain got his wife.  He made a good point about there being other people out there besides Adam, Eve, and Cain, since Cain was afraid that someone would kill him, which is why God gave Cain a protective mark.  Edwards also astutely raises the possibility that Cain met his wife in the land of Nod: Cain goes to dwell in Nod in Genesis 4:16, and in the next verse he has a wife.  Edwards’ conclusion is that Cain’s wife was descended from Adam’s son Seth, and that Adam and Eve had Seth before Cain killed Abel.  Before Cain killed Abel, Edwards maintains, descendants of Seth, including the woman who would become Cain’s wife, were in the land of Nod.  The problem here is that Genesis 4:25 seems to indicate that Seth was born as a replacement for Abel, after Abel had been killed.

There was one interesting discussion that somewhat convinced me, but not entirely.  Genesis 6:4 refers to nephilim who were in the pre-Flood days, and also after that, and the pre-Flood nephilim were presumably born from the sexual union of the sons of God and the daughters of men.  People have wondered how there were nephilim after the time of the Flood, when the Flood destroyed everyone except for the people and animals on the Ark.  Edwards argues that the post-Flood nephilim were descended from Noah’s son Ham and Ham’s wife.  Ham’s wife, according to Edwards, was from the nephilim.  The Canaanites, after all, were descended from Ham and his wife, and there were nephilim among the Canaanites (Numbers 13:33).  Does that mean that Ham was married to a giant, since many translations (including the Septuagint) and Jewish traditions regard the nephilim as giants?  Was the Ark big enough to accommodate a giant?  Edwards’ answer is that Ham’s wife was not a giant, and that there is no indication that the nephilim in Noah’s day were giants.  But many Jewish traditions say that they were.

Pinpointing Edwards’ denominational affiliation or the branch of Christianity to which he adhered was impossible for me.  He believes in Once Saved, Always Saved (yet he says that God may “take someone’s life to save his or her soul from utter destruction,” and I wonder why utter destruction of a believer’s soul would even be a possibility if eternal security were true).  He interprets the baptism in the Holy Spirit as all believers receiving the Holy Spirit when they believe, not as a second blessing or spiritual empowering that some believers have but others lack (and, because of this view, he disputes that the Samarians in Acts 8 who were baptized in the name of Jesus but had not yet received the Holy Spirit had authentic Christian belief).  He thinks that tongues continue to be a spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit and regards the tongues of I Corinthians as ecstatic utterances rather than as human languages.  He equates prophecy with preaching.  It is difficult to stereotype Edwards, for I do not know anyone who has held all of these positions simultaneously.

Because Edwards was saying things that were new to me, as well as defying stereotypes, I was glad that he ended most discussions with a summary of his argument.  Otherwise, I would not always have been clear about what he was driving at.

This book was an interesting read, not so much from a scholarly perspective, but from the standpoint of reading an intelligent layperson trying to make sense of the Bible.  He had some good anecdotes, too, and his love of the Lord is attractive.  I did wish in reading the book that he manifested more humility—-that he acknowledged that he was presenting his own opinion rather than the unequivocal position of the Bible.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers, in exchange for an honest review.

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