Question asked of Watchman Nee in China 1947, “If a servant of the Lord from another Christian group gives us more or higher spiritual light, do we receive it?” Watchman Nee thought for a while and then said: “God did not give us all the light. If somebody gives us more light, we should be very glad to receive it!”
A question for Witness Lee followers
Nevertheless, if you go to such a church you will find literature displayed which was written exclusively by Lee and Watchman Nee and no others. Why is that? And their Bible - the "Recovery Version" - includes a commentary on every page written by Witness Lee. Their weekly Bible readings ialso include a teaching by Lee or Nee. I also attend a weekly Evangelistic Bible study in which at times the Bible is used very little, but rather in which the readings have consisted almost exclusively of Witness Lee's comments and opinions. Much as they affirm the Bible, they tend to filter everything through Witness Lee's Theology, and many times read his opinions as if they were the Bible.
Now there are also those outside the local church with the opinion that Witness Lee is off on points, but Watchman Nee's stuff is OK. But I have not found a significant difference between these two men other than Lee expressing his ideas in more extreme and irrational ways than Nee. Though I haven't read Nee widely. But Watchman Nee hold's a purgatory idea, for example, as does Witness Lee, of which I'll elaborate upon later.
Then again, I have a similar accusation against many other churches who treat dogmatic teachings of their own founders or leaders as if they represented Biblical truth and have an unBiblical condescending elitist attitude towards other legitimate churches and Christians attending other churches. However, what is particular disturbing is when their opinions are far contrary to Biblical truth. I will comment on Lee's theology further on.
On the other hand, they also presume that just about anyone with any trivial faith in Christ is saved and a brother in Christ, even if a person has fallen away and no longer believes, or even if they are living a lifestyle of sin. However, such people they believe will face purgatorial suffering, which I elaborate on later. They hold an elitist division among even those who are born of God. The overcomers who won't go to purgatory and the non-overcomers who will.
And once again I have to reiterate that the beliefs of Witness Lee and Watchman Nee do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of all the members of the local church. But this is what they are being taught there.
There are some deviations which are more unique to the Recovery Movement, or find their origin in more deviant forms of Christianity.
Feel-Good Popular Christianity
Overcomer vs. Non-Overcomer division.While there is a Biblical basis for categorizing the Christian community as for example the parable of the sower indicates, the manner in which the Recovery Movement does so I don't believe to be consistent with Biblical Theology. In Biblical theology, the categories are1. Nominal Christians versus true ChristiansBut the Recovery makes very little recognition of the first category, interpreting most passages which deal with nominalism, as if they were dealing simply with the maturity of those born of God. Thus they believe that there are people who have been born of God who might continue to live a lifestyle of sin, or whose lives may be otherwise characterized as non-Overcomers, contrary to the teachings of such passages as 1John 3:9,10 and 1John 5:3,4. But as I later elaborate on, I would say that the Bible categorizes such people as merely nominal Christians.
2. Mature Christians versus Immature Christians
They also do not presume that everyone in their movement necessarily is an overcomer.
The Recovery's PurgatoryTheir doctrine of eternal security does not include salvation from purgatory during the 1000 year Millennial reign. That salvation is reserved for the elite overcomers. However, they do not view their purgatory as a judicial matter dealing with justification (eliminating the guilt of sin), but rather for sanctification (in order to become a sinlessly perfect person). Or one could say it is not to cleanse one of sin, but to cleanse one of one's sinfulness. As such they believe that after death, the non-overcoming Christian does not become sinlessly perfect automatically, but must go through purgatorial suffering to achieve that. But I asked the leaders also the obvious question as to how it is that the overcoming Christians who are not sinlessly perfect in this life achieve sinless perfection automatically without having to go through a purgatorial suffering. But they had no answer.
I have been quite frank about by disagreement with the position of the Recovery on issues as I have mentioned, and even in the open assembly have at times stood up and made my disagreements known, but have so far experienced only a limited degree of hostility against me. I compare this with my experience at more orthodox churches. For even when I was an official Sunday school teacher at such churches and made my disagreements concerning the pastor's teaching or the church's practice known, I was greeted with much more hostility than I was as a stranger at the local church. That says something.
But as I'm on the subject, I must exhort the more bold among us to also be polite if they go to such meetings. For we should behave in a Christlike manner looking towards the edification of others, sharing not only what we disagree on when the time is appropriate, but also what we agree on, as the Spirit leads.If the local church humbly allows its leaven to be removed, then I think it could indeed become a great movement of God. For most other churches ministry is limited to their leadership while the congregation are treated like stupid sheep, but the local church tends hold a deeper vision for the usefulness of the individuals, which I commend.
Furthermore, if its own anti-dogmatic stand ("that we may forsake all of those teachings, regardless of whether they are right or wrong" Witness Lee) could be applied to Lee and Nee's teachings themselves as it is applied to non-local church teachings, viewing them simply as their opinions rather than Biblical truth, then local church people might be more open to consider more Biblical interpretations without simply viewing them through the local church theological filter. And thus they may be more open to change than the more dogmatic orthodox churches, which are nonetheless deviant themselves on certain points.
"Watchman Nee was a third-generation Christian; his grandfather was a Congregationalist minister in China. He grew up in a Christian home, went through his adolescent rebellion period, but then professed conversion. He then became associated with a number of people who had broken away from the formal Christian missions in China and were operating as independent evangelical Christians.http://www.emanna.com/faq.htm
As he continued to move in those circles, he eventually encountered the Plymouth Brethren and became affiliated with them. They brought him to England where he fellowshipped with a branch of the so-called Exclusive Plymouth Brethren. As he was wandering around, he began to fellowship with some other evangelists, people who had in the nineteenth century been associated with the Brethren but had broken away. Because of his association with them, the Exclusive Brethren broke their tie with him. At that point he became fully independent because he was back in China and he was not geographically close to the other independent evangelicals except through their books, and he began his own movement. He also, at that time, developed several peculiar ideas that were kind of exclusive to him, the main one being the idea of the local church, that the unity of Christianity, which was a problem on the mission field because there were so many different groups, was best established by a New Testament principle, as he put it, of having only one church in each geographic location or each city. That is how the group eventually got its name. It was a name put on it rather than one that it had accepted." JOHN GORDON MELTON, Ph.D.
"Witness Lee received the Lord Jesus in a personal way in 1925 at the age of 19. Eight years later, he started serving the Lord full-time. He met Watchman Nee in 1932 and became his closest co-worker. He was sent by Watchman Nee to Taiwan in 1952 to continue their ministry; rather than both being imprisoned by the Communists. In 1962, he was led by the Lord to begin his speaking and writing for Him in the United States. He has labored faithfully in his ministry to unveil God's New Testament ministry and His eternal economy. Some of his representative works are The All-Inclusive Christ, God's New Testament Economy, The Experience of Life, and The Life-Study of each book in the entire Bible, consisting of over thirty volumes. Through his ministry more than twenty-five hundred churches have been raised up throughout the world. Witness Lee went to be with the Lord on June 9, 1997 at the age of 91. He was faithful in loving and serving the Lord all the way to the end of his days on earth. His ministry is still spreading and building up believers throughout the world."
Also, compared to traditional evangelicalism, there is somewhat a lack of interpreting the Bible according to standard hermeneutical principles, but rather reading Nee's and Lee's works one gets more of a gnostic and subjective sense of the Christian message, which is not uncommon in Charismatic literature. Witness Lee derived his theology from Watchman Nee. And to see where he got if from I recommend the article: Watching Out for Watchman Nee.
The following is from a transcript on a
local church web site in which Dr.
Melton who is the
President of the Transylvanian Society of Dracula and a
supporter of Scientology as well, though not an attender of
"Local Church", defends them in a law suit against slander.
|MR. MORGAN: Let's talk about the `'Local Church.'' Is the
listed in your Encyclopedia?
DR. MELTON: Oh, certainly.
MR. MORGAN: Can you tell the court under what category it is listed?
DR. MELTON: It is listed under what I call Independent Fundamentalist Churches and the subcategory under the Plymouth Brethren.
MR. MORGAN: Can you explain to the court what you mean when you say Independent Fundamentalists?
DR. MELTON: Well, fundamentalism is the thought world that runs through much of the evangelical church in America. Mainline Christianity in America is the evangelical movement. The main part of that movement grew out of the British movement called the Plymouth Brethren, started by a man named John Nelson Darby.
Both Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, who are among the founders of what we call the `'Local Church'' here, were formerly members of one branch of the Plymouth Brethren, so the thought world is very much the same.
Along with the basic doctrine they have practices similar to the Plymouth Brethren.
How to be Born Again
While to many Christians today, this sounds pretty good, it is not a sufficient presentation of the gospel, but rather taken alone advocates easy-believism. That's about as extensive as they get in presentation of the gospel. In actual practice it's even more condensed. Notice in particular the absence of any mention of sin and Christ's atoning work on the cross. The person is portrayed simply as a victim of circumstances rather than guilty of sin and worthy of condemnation as such. And there is no mention of the forgiveness of sins. Contrast this with How the Bible Preaches the Gospel. Now consider also their obsession with the pharse "O Lord Jesus".
"We have seen that to reach the unbelievers, no preaching is necessary. If we help them say "O Lord" three times, they will be saved. If they open the window, the air will get in. All they have to do is to open their mouths and say, "O Lord, O Lord." Even if they have no intention of believing, still they will be caught! Regardless of whether they have the intention or not, as long as they open the window, the air will get in. It is not a matter of teaching; it is a matter of touching the seven Spirits of God." Witness Lee, Stream Magazine, Vlll: l, Feb l, 1970, 6.I was recently at a gospel meeting when one was sharing about a story of a man in China who used to ride his bike around and simply call out "O Lord Jesus" and tried to get other people - who had no knowledge of Christ to do the same so that by doing so they would be saved, having "called on the name of the Lord." Ac 2:21 "And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." In this phrase they take "calling on the name" out of context, not considering the figure of speech being used. But they should have realized their error if they simply read Romans 10
"for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'To call on someone's name is not simply to mouth the words, as they advocate. One must first know the person. In reality what happens in such conversions is that a person is given the phrase "O Lord Jesus", and then sticks it on whatever idol the person has built in their own mind of what a "Jesus" is, rather than conforming their definition of Christ to the Bible. (But then again I find similar practices quite common in other evangelical churches too)
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?
And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?"
Secondly in teaching unbelievers to say "O Lord" they are teaching people to lie. To call Jesus "Lord" without the intention of doing what he said, that is to practice lying. Jesus said,"Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?"Luke 6:46 According to Jesus what he thinks calling him "Lord" means is that, perhaps among other things, you are agreeing to to what he said. In fact there are perhaps many Christians who likewise are lying, not having the right to call Jesus "Lord", as allegedly "believing in Christ" but without the intention of doing what he said.
"Then the fourth thing that we must see in order to participate is life! We all must know life. Revelation is a book of life. Do not pay attention to the forms, the regulations, the teachings, the doctrines, Christianity and religion. No, we must pay our full attention to life.
Today, if you were to ask me how to be victorious, I would tell you that there is no need for you to try to be victorious. Just say from deep within, "O Lord, Amen, Hallelujah! O Lord, Amen, Hallelujah! O Lord, Amen, Hallelujah!" and you will be so victorious."
Recently (Jan 2000) I stood up in a meeting, which is my habit, and as the topic was on the leaven of the Pharisees, I noted that Lee and Nee's teachings also contained a degree of leaven. The response was interesting. For I had heard that not long ago, another brother had spoken in the assembly also criticizing Lee or Nee and the next week the church apparently had called the police who met him at the door and prevented him from entering the church again. But as I have developed a good reputation in the church to a degree, and while I am known for being frank, clear, direct and sincere, yet also polite, I don't think it will be easy for them to deal with me in the same manner. One of the elders got up and said first of all that we should not use names, but in doing so, he used my name to make sure people understood he was criticizing me. Secondly as I was in the habit of quoting the Bible and in particular in this case I quoted 2Cor 10:5"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." He tried to use 2Cor 3:6 against me which says, "the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." He first went on to say that the Bible can be used to kill people, implying that's what I was doing. But the interesting thing was what he said next. He said that the way you evaluate whether a teaching is true or leaven is whether it makes you feel good, which again affirmed my impression of the "feel-good" Christian philosophy. Of course he was interpreting the verse out of context, as Paul was referring to the Law of Moses, and himself not keeping in step with the spirit of Paul's letter, which was also hypocritical. For as I pointed out to a number of people, what Paul a few chapters later:
"Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it-- I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while-- yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." 2Cor 7:8-10But according to the local church philosophy, Paul most have been sinning by causing such sorrow in the Christian community! But this is nothing new. There is a good deal of hypocrisy in doctrine and practice, which is just simply an indication of the degree to which the leaven pervades the local church.
Notice also Lee's discouraging of teaching and doctrine above and in the what follows:
We do not need the Bible study classes; we need the weeping classes to weep for the spiritual poverty and deadness. We must listen to the Spirit--not just read what is written. We must listen to the present, instant speaking of the living Spirit.By "heads cut off", he discourages people from thinking and discourages Bible study. He sees a problem in the practice of Christianity in other places, and tries to correct it, but manages simply to swing the pendulum in the other direction. I sense that Lee has good intentions, but he's simply creating his own form of artificial Christianity as he deviates from Biblical truth and guidelines. But again I have to say, that such deviations are not uncommon in the Christian community. Popular Reformed Theology is also deviant from Biblical Theology on a number of points too. He thinks the problem is "different teachings and doctrines" and thus attempts to eliminate all teachings and doctrines, but in reality attempts to replace them with his own teachings and doctrines.
Why have Christians been divided? It is simply because of the different teachings and doctrines. The more teachings there are, the more divisions there will be. All the various teachings and opinions have done much damage to the recovery of the church. I fear that some of us are still under the influence of the Babylonian doctrines. May the Lord have mercy upon us that we may forsake all of those teachings, regardless of whether they are right or wrong. Let us go back to Jerusalem with the Spirit. We all must have our "heads cut off."
My solution would rather be to get people away from mere dogmatism and back into a personal Bible study which is application oriented. Both unity and maturity can be achieved if people would focus not simply on their feelings, nor on human dogmatism, but on doing the Word. Intimacy with God is a function of obedience to God. (John 14:21) And God has spoken through the Bible.
I've noted also from all this the strong emphasis on feelings and the elimination of thinking. Many times people have stood up and said such things as their mind is their enemy and that they gave up reasoning and thinking. But countless times people express how they feel - what good feelings they have. It is because of the suppression of thinking that I perceive that a degree of their unity is simply artificial. For it is not in the realm of one's feelings but in the realm of one's ideas which constitute the substance of one's beliefs. But to talk of beliefs is to invite division. Therefore their songs and sermons are clouded with ambiguous expressions, like a piece of modern art, which can be interpreted however one wants.
I've asked one of the regulars - who is of some reputation there - whether he believed a person could be saved without the knowledge of Christ's atoning work, or the concept of the necessity of the forgiveness of his sins. He said that he knew people that were simply saved by calling on the name of Jesus, who had not such knowledge. This came as no surprise to me, as that's how I've seen them do evangelism. They don't clearly communicate who Jesus is according to the Bible, but rather try simply to get people to call on someone name "Jesus", whom they know little about. Of course in reality what happens is that people will use the word "Jesus", but then define who Jesus is according to their own ideas - inevitably making him in their own image.
I infer also that it is in the neglect of the preaching of the atoning work of Christ and the forgiveness of sins along with their anti-thinking philosophy that has caused their purgatorial doctrine to exist unhindered, which I deal with further on.
But in conversations with Free Grace theologians, talk of repentence and obedience and you're labeled a legalist. I was at an evangelistic meeting in which the subject of repentance came up, and two of the leaders were quick to stand up and make sure that everyone understood that repentence can not be from human effort, God does the repentance in the person. Thus actual effort and change in behavior is discouraged. I brought up the issue of a person actually changing his sinful behavior, and was told that such a person should wait and not do anything until he is sure of what God wants him to do.
Different than the Charismatic churches, the Local church simply tends to redefine the Holy Spirit as being Jesus. Those I've pressed on the matter acknowledge the difference between Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but reluctantly. When I brought it up publically, I was denounced. So this is a hot issue with them.
One verse they use to support this is 1Cor 14:45"The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.", presuming this to mean the Holy Spirit. But that is not what it means in context. 1Corinthians 15 is talking about the nature of the resurrected body and basically says that we'll have the same type of resurrected body as Christ had - a life-giving spiritual body. But if you look at what Jesus himself says of his body in Luke 24:39 "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have."He says he is not a spirit. His body was corporeal. It was limited in space. It was in that body that he rose to heaven. And it is with that body that he will return at the second coming. It is not the same as the Holy Spirit. Thus this verse in 1Cor 15 cannot be used as a basis for Jesus becoming the Holy Spirit.
2Co 3:17 "Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (kjv) This is also used to try and equate Jesus with the Holy Spirit. But again if you read it in context, Paul is referring to an incident in Exodus in which Moses went into the Tabernacle to speak to the Lord. In view of the fact that this very verse contains the phrase "the Spirit of the Lord", this indicates that he does not consider the two to be equivalent. Rather he is speaking metaphorically in saying that the Lord is that Spirit.
The viewed communicated to me is that Jesus is a non-corporeal spirit that pervades everywhere and you take him in by breathing saying the words, "O Lord Jesus." There's also alot of emphasis on his teachings in John 6 about eating Jesus. But in practice these tend to be thought of as taking him into one's feelings, but not into one's mind. As you can see above from Lee's emphasis, thinking is discouraged. And also, taking him into one's body tends to become simply charismatic expressions of one's feelings, even jumping up and down, speaking loudly and so forth, rather than emphasizing actual obedience to the Word of God and changing one's lifestyle on substantive matters. "Release your spirit" is a common phrase used. But in practice this simply means to release your inhibitions. In these things, they are similar to Charismatism. In his book "Glorification - The Completion of Sonship", Lee notes, "Having passed through the teachings and the Pentecostal things, I can testify that they neither work nor supply us." Interesting to note that his reliance on his experience, rather than the Bible. He seems to be experimenting with different things and see what "works". In the same work he also says, "In the past, I taught many people how to speak in tongues". So he was not only a follower of Charismatism, but a teacher. And his Charismatic background is clearly evident from the beliefs and practices of the Local Church.
The main problem I have with this is that the Bible makes no such distinction among those who have been born of God.
But in order to reject this concept, it was necessary for Lee to use different definitions of words for different verses so as to fit his theology into the Bible. I'm not questioning his sincerity in doing so, for it is common to unconsciously interpret the Bible in the context of our own theological assumptions. Concerning Rev 21:7 he writes:
But as I interpret the Bible, in accordance with the Bible's way of saying things, if a person claims to be a Christian but is not an "overcomer" in the Biblical sense, then such a person has not been born of God. The apostle Paul writes:
"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Gal 5:19-21
He does the same thing when in comes to the phrase "the kingdom of God" and "kingdom of the heavens". He simply defines it, not based on the context, but based on his view of eschatology. He has a dispensational theology and simply defines "kingdom" to refer to the particular dispensation that fits the rest of his theology.
Thus in Matt 19:25, just after these verses it says:
"If a person has become a Christian but his hands or feet sin all the time, he will suffer the punishment of the eternal fire in the kingdom of the heavens. He will not suffer this punishment eternally, but will suffer it only in the age of the kingdom" (Meaning the 1000 year Millenial Kingdom)These are contrary to two aspects of Biblical Christianity. First it is contrary to the forgiveness of sins which Jesus provided by his atoning sacrifice. It is also contrary to the fact that there is no such thing as one who has been born of God, but lives a lifestyle of sin, as John writes: "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him." 1John 3:6 And John is speaking in a lifestyle sense, as Nee is also speaking when John says: "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:9,10 But Nee doesn't accept this concept.
Nee goes on to say: "If a Christian has any unrepented of and unconfessed sins, which are not forgiven, he will suffer the Gehenna of fire." And he also says "In the coming age, there is still the possibility of forgiveness, but one cannot come out until he pays the last quadrans and clears up everything with his brother."
So he teaches that there are certain sins which those who have been born of God may have which are not forgiven, but must be payed for in a purgatorial cleansing. Indeed in the same book he says, "All the unconfessed sins and all the sins that have not passed through the blood of the Lord Jesus leave their uncleaness on the person. This uncleanness will cause one to lose his share in the coming kingdom" (Meaning they get thrown into the eternal fire for a time)
"All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification..." (Catechism p.268, para #1030, 1031).And also with this Catholic statement:
The Second Vatican Council, p. 63, says, "The truth has been divinely revealed that sins are followed by punishments. God’s holiness and justice inflict them. Sins must be expiated. This may be done on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and trials of this life and, above all, through death. Otherwise the expiation must be made in the next life through fire and torments or purifying punishments."And here is another Catholics view on the Catholic Purgatory
The final purification may take place in the immediate presence of God (to the extent that God's presence may be described in spatial terms). In fact, in his book on eschatology, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger describes purgatory as a fiery, transforming encounter with Christ and his love:Or this Catholic statement made at http://www.catholic.com/answers/tracts/purgator.htm
"Purgatory is not, as Tertullian thought, some kind of supra-worldly concentration camp where one is forced to undergo punishments in a more or less arbitrary fashion. Rather it is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God [i.e., capable of full unity with Christ and God] and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. Simply to look at people with any degree of realism at all is to grasp the necessity of such a process. It does not replace grace by works, but allows the former to achieve its full victory precisely as grace. What actually saves is the full assent of faith. But in most of us, that basic option is buried under a great deal of wood, hay and straw. Only with difficulty can it peer out from behind the latticework of an egoism we are powerless to pull down with our own hands. Man is the recipient of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord is this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re-forms us to be vessels of eternal joy."
Thus according to Ratzinger's way of explaining the doctrine, as we are drawn out of this life and into direct union with Jesus, his fiery love and holiness burns away all the dross and impurities in our souls and makes us fit for life in the glorious, overwhelming light of God's presence and holiness.
It is entirely correct to say that Christ accomplished all of our salvation for us on the cross. But that does not settle the question of how this redemption is applied to us. Scripture reveals that it is applied to us over the course of time through, among other things, the process of sanctification through which the Christian is made holy. Sanctification involves suffering (Rom. 5:3-5), and purgatory is simply the "finishing touches" stage of sanctification that some of us need to undergo before we enter heaven--required since "nothing unclean can ever enter heaven." Purgatory is the final phase of Christ applying to us the purifying redemption that he accomplished for us by his death on the cross.Nee's position seems not much different than the Catholic idea of purgatory. Indeed Watchman Nee makes sure to make that distinction. And he makes 3 distinctions on pages 460 and 461
1. "God's discipline happens in the millenium, but Catholics say that there is a purging going on today."However, I take issue with him on this point. For first of all of given the often ambiguous terminology of Catholic writings, as well as Nee's own writings it can be argued that Catholics actually believe in the same function of their purgatory as Nee does his. As I have read the Catholic writings, they can be interpreted as meaning the suffering being a purging from one's sinfulness, and not simply a judicial paying for one's sins. On the other hand I even asked one of the older members who often lectures at the local church I've attended, and he acknowledged that their concept of suffering in the eternal fire during the Millenial reign is a judicial matter, which arguably can be reckoned more heretical that many a Catholic's position. And the Catholics use the same arguments and same verses to support their purgatory idea as Nee does.
2. He doesn't believe in Catholic praying nor paying for the dead.
3. That contrary to the Catholic concept, his purgatory is for discipline and chastisement which are not for salvation, but for sanctification.
Secondly, how does a person get saved from Watchman Nee's purgatory? Can a person honestly say that he is saved, if he still faces hell fire for a period of time?
And along this line, thirdly consider this absurdity. Nee interprets "The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers." as applying to one born of God. Of course it's really referring to a nominal Christian, as being assigned a place with unbelievers, meaning that he is really an unbeliever. But to Nee, here is a "saved Christian" geting thrown into the "eternal fire" along with unbelievers. So you have this "believer" surrounded by unbelievers, all suffering in the same fire. Now can the "believer" say to these unbelievers, "I'm suffering God's discipline, but you're suffering God's wrath"? But they're in the same place going through the same suffering in the same fire. If a person were to suffer in hell fire for 1000 years, could he come out saying that he wasn't suffering God's wrath. But the salvation the Nee preaches appears to be a salvation from an eternal hell as opposed to salvation from a temporary hell.
And furthermore, if perfect sinlessness is obtained through being tormented in hell fire, then why not set up torture chambers in the churches to perfect the saints, much as the Catholic church in the Dark Ages? Interesting that I have seen just the opposite practice in the local church. Because of its "feel-good" emphasis, you are not really allowed to talk about sin or anything that would make other people feel bad. In a recent sermon I heard preached there it was said that the way you measure correct doctrine is whether it makes you feel good. Except, of course, you can criticize other non-Recovery churches and Christians who don't attend the local church. But God forbid that you should criticize local church people!
And what if after the 1000 years of purgatorial suffering, the saints still aren't sinlessly perfect? Where do they go then? And if they become sinlessly perfect through suffering, then, having removed the suffering, what is to prevent to them from becoming sinful again?
And what about the unbelievers in hell? If suffering in hell fire brings perfect sinlessness, then will the unbelievers also become perfectly sinless people eventually?
Contrary to Nee's teachings, a person cannot achieve sinlessness through torment. But rather sinlessness is given as a free gift, just as justification is. For salvation includes both justification and sanctification. But because sin dwells in the flesh, though one is justified now, perfect sinlessness is not achieve until one's death and resurrection, and not through hell-fire. Nee's concept of salvation is not the Biblical concept of Salvation.
While it may not be so to Nee, to the rest of the Protestant Christian community as far as I know, such purgatorial suffering is constituted as God's wrath. As such the local church does not teach that believers in Christ are necessarily saved from God's wrath, but rather may have to suffer in a purgatorial fashion in hell fire during the 1000 year Millenial reign because of their unforgiven sin.
Matt 8:12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mt 22:13 "Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Mt 24:51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Mt 25:30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'
Lu 13:28 "There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.
Heb 10:29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
In other words they will suffer a worse punishment than under the Law of Moses when people were stoned to death or burned alive.
A basic problem with the purgatory idea is that it contradicts the basic concept of the forgiveness of sins. I understand the distinction he tries to make between discipline and condemnation. But having been raised from the dead, there is no point to discipling these people. They have already been reckoned innocent by the blood of Christ, and although discipline would be helpful while they were in the flesh (as sin dwells in the flesh and they have to learn obedience), having been raised from the dead they are perfect. There's no point to discipling them. Does tormenting them make them any more perfect? Such torment would not be simply for discipline to help them learn, but as a penalty for sinning. Hasn't God saved us from such condemnation? Is this what Christ has earned for us - to be thrown into a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth? Is it by our good works that we escape from such a place of torment? Is this rather not the kind of judgment that unbelievers will experience:
"The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers." Luke 12:46
Lee denies the purgatory idea in its Catholic sense when he comments on 1Cor 3:15 "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
Lee comments: "Through fire surely indicates punishment. However, this is altogether not the purgatory heretically taught by Catholicism in its superstitious twisting of this verse. Nevertheless, this word should be a solemn warning to us today concerning our Christian works."
However, as I interpret this verse, it seems to me that it is not the man who is burned, but his works. God has to burn up our sins so as to forget our past sinful lives in accordance with His promise. What remains of our past are the times when we obeyed God. And for these we will be rewarded.
Let's take an example.
Matthew 7:21-23 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
Here are people that called Jesus Lord and according to local church dogma which proposes that even a nominal faith saves, just calling Jesus Lord saves a person as Witness Lee says:
"We have seen that to reach the unbelievers, no preaching is necessary. If we help them say "O Lord" three times, they will be saved. If they open the window, the air will get in. All they have to do is to open their mouths and say, "O Lord, O Lord." Even if they have no intention of believing, still they will be caught! Regardless of whether they have the intention or not, as long as they open the window, the air will get in. It is not a matter of teaching; it is a matter of touching the seven Spirits of God." Witness Lee, Stream Magazine, Vlll: l, Feb l, 1970, 6.
And thus the local church proposes that these people whom Jesus says he never knew are saved. But Jesus never knew them, so how could they have been born of God? Secondly he casts them away from himself, but Jesus said, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out." John 6:37 Is he speaking of the treatment of "immature Christians"? Certainly this is not the way God treats his children. And as I said if it's a matter of maturity then it's a matter of degree, but here it's not a matter of degree. Either the person is in or out. And if Jesus drove them away from him, then where did the Holy Spirit go? For if they were born of God then they have the Holy Spirit in them, but if Jesus cast them away, then also the Holy Spirit would not go with them. And furthermore is this the kind of rhetoric Jesus uses to indicate that he's sending "immature Christians" to a kind of purgatorial hospital to make them better people? No, his rhetoric is that of condemnation.
In addition to all this is the fact that Jesus characterized them as "evildoers." And indeed if we view the context further we notice this is preceeded by the following:
Matt 7:15-20 Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Are these "false prophets" those who have been born of God but are merely "immature" in their faith? Are these "bad trees" children of God or "false Christians"?
What does the Bible says characterizes those born of God?
1John 3:6-10 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
Since the Bible teaches that those who have been born of God cannot be characterized as "evildoers", therefore these sections in Matthew are not referring to those born of God but the false Christians, those who merely have a nominal faith in Christ; those who identify themselves with the Christian community but who have not been born of God. They are children of the devil. For 1st John teaches us how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are. And so also even Jesus alludes to this is Matt 7:20 "Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." which is consistent with 1st John.
The local church uses the term "overcomers". They propose that those born of God who are not "overcomers" will suffer hell fire. But the Bible says, "everyone born of God overcomes the world." 1John 5:4 And the context speaks of a person's behavior, not simply position. "This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world."
1John 5:18-20 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true- even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
But the local church proposes that among these are those whom Jesus would condemn saying 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
Watchman Nee says:
"If a person has become a Christian but his hands or feet sin all the time, he will suffer the punishment of the eternal fire in the kingdom of the heavens. He will not suffer this punishment eternally, but will suffer it only in the age of the kingdom" The Gospel of God, Volume III
Yet the Bible declares that there exist no such people who have been born of God yet live a lifestyle of sin.
Thus when we read
1Cor 6:9,10 "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
Not a single person born of God is among them. Thus when the Bible speaks of "the wicked" "evildoers" or other such people who live a lifestyle of sin, these must be interpreted in light of what the Bible explicitly states concerning those born of God. Reading the Bible in this manner leads one to reject other interpretations, such as those of Lee and Nee as unBiblical in this matter.
Indeed we see Nee's incorrect interpretation also alludes to another significantly deviant interpretation, namely that not all a believer's sins are necessarily forgiven, but that he has to pay them off in hell fire.
"If a Christian has any unrepented of and unconfessed sins, which are not forgiven, he will suffer the Gehenna of fire." And he also says "In the coming age, there is still the possibility of forgiveness, but one cannot come out until he pays the last quadrans and clears up everything with his brother."
And thus his purgatory idea is not simply a place of sanctification, but a place of justification in which one pays off their sins which had not been forgiven.
The reason why he must come to this conclusion is because he assumes the unforgiving servant of Matt 18:23-35 who was "turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed" was born of God. Thus he casts aside the atoning work of Christ and quality of faith acceptable to God for salvation in favor of his purgatorial idea.
Now in the local church's Recovery Version Witness Lee comments concerning the parable of the Wheat and Tares, "It was when the Lord's servants were sleeping and were not watching that the Lord's enemy, the devil, came and sowed false brethren among them." Well the local church is sleeping. Through its unbiblical dogma the devil is sowing false brethren among the Christian community. Wake up!
Out for Watchman Nee
Local Church Information Site
Read your comments on Watchman Nee's writings and they are sadly written from an ignorant, uneducated view. I cannot understand how people purporting their dead religion can write such without their conscience bothering them.
Thank you for your comments, though it would be good if you could me more specific as to what in particular you disagree about.
Watchman Nee details the carnality of man. For your website to cut him down and discredit him, says your organization does not like someone who exposes the carnal vs spiritual. As the sin problem in mankind is man's greatest problem, works like Nee's, Shamblin's and others which focus on building the relationship and crucifying the flesh should be studied. To work to discredit others who God has given to be an inspiration is working to undermine the church. This is just plain wrong. No source outside the bible is perfect, but , Nee does pretty good. It is one thing to expose heresies and another to cut down efforts our puffed up fleshly minds do not understand. I would suggest you remove you slander of Nee and study his works with an honest heart before considering adding anything about him to your web site. I do not know the background of your organization, but obviously if the bible is not your focus, then you have the right to post any thing you wish.
Maybe you could elaborate upon what particular thing I have written that offends you, and give the Biblical basis as to why it offends you. After all you have accused me of slander. So it seems to me only reasonable that you should clarify what in particular you find slanderous. Doesn't that sound reasonable to you?
Lambs come to your website, looking for spiritual food, and you discredit some of the best writings that can help someone overcome the destructive life centered on self, that old nature that has blasted their life with sin, and you do not see the error of your ways?????????????????????????????
This is why Jesus called them blind, hypocrites, and vipers. People have to get past man's religion in order to find God. Don't make their trip harder by turning them into a religious pasture controlled by the old nature.
For three times you have accused me and each time I've asked you to specify what it is in particular that I have written that you find offensive. Yet you fail to point out any such things to substantiate your accusations. If you have no basis for your accusations, which apparently you don't, then I would have to point out that you yourself are hypocritically doing the very thing which you accuse me of doing.
John 18:23 "If I said something wrong," Jesus replied, "testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?"
You just don't get it do you? This is pride. The bible describes it like the scales on Satan's back. I am not going to waste any more time with you. You see what you want to see and ignore the rest. You cut down the image of Nee who has done a tremendous job of exposing sin and carnality, of which you don't want to face. Let God judge you in his time!
Edition: Jul 25,2013