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THE DANGER OF WITNESS LEE BOOKS

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THE DANGER OF WITNESS LEE BOOKS

By Jeremiah J. Sargent

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ

unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and

would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any

other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”

Never before in the history of Christianity have there been so many religious writings and

commentaries on the Word of God. Books have been written and are being written on every

subject imaginable. Just check out Amazon.com or Christianbooks.com and you will see what I

am taking about. This abundance of “Christian” literature can be a tremendous blessing to an

individual who desires to increase their knowledge and understanding of the scriptures, but it

can also be a great detriment. Satan uses the religious writings of men to deceive, confuse, and

distract people from the truth. It reminds me of the apostle Paul’s warning to the church in

Corinth — “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” Throughout

history, religious writings have been used to captivate the hearts of people and cause them to

walk away from the truth of God’s Word. In recent years, we have seen a perfect illustration of

the power that “Christian” writings can have on churches and individuals with the publishing of

Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life.

So with the endless resource of “Christian” material comes a challenge to those who want to be

edified in their faith, but don’t want to be lead astray by false doctrine. I am sure you have

heard it said or have even said it yourself, “This is a great book, but it doesn’t use the King

James Version;” or “The author holds to a ‘Universal church’ view;” or “It has a Charismatic

flavor to it.” So how does one discern if a Christian book proclaims the truth of God’s Word and

not just the author’s opinion?

When discerning whether or not a Christian book is worthwhile, the first thing I do is find out

some information about the author (the internet can be a good resource, though not always

accurate). I want to know what kind of church or denomination he/she is associated with;

where he/she received his/her training and teaching; what his/her testimony of salvation is,

and what beliefs he/she holds to on major biblical doctrines? Now of course there are many

other questions we could ask, but I believe the answers to these questions are sufficient to

discern the basic flavor of the book. Taking these steps is wise because it protects the reader

from allowing error to corrupt their mind. God’s Word exhorts us to only think upon those

things which are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report.

Several weeks ago, a lady in our church gave me a book entitled The World Situation and God’s

Move by Witness Lee. She asked that I read it and then give her my option about the author

and the book. She had received it from a friend and wanted to make sure it was biblically

accurate before reading it herself. Not knowing the author or book, I began my research. Here

are my findings:BACKGROUND OF WITNESS LEE

In 1905, Witness Lee was born into a Southern Baptist family in Northern China. He grew up in

the Province of Shandong, and was educated in both American Southern Baptist and

Presbyterian schools. At age 19, he was invited to attend a Chinese Independent ‘Church’ and

after hearing the preaching of Sister Peace Dang Wang, he made a profession of salvation and

declared that from that moment on he was “Fully captured for Christ.” Immediately Witness

Lee consecrated the rest of his life to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here is a portion of

his salvation testimony from his website.

After about two and a half months, they baptized me into their membership by

sprinkling. But it was not until a short time later that I was actually saved and turned to

the Lord through the preaching of Sister Peace Wang in April of the same year. At that

time I was exceedingly ambitious as a young man for my education and my future. But

after I was saved under Sister Peace Wang’s preaching that afternoon, while I was

walking home, I stopped and prayed to God, according to Sister Wang’s message,

somewhat as follows: “God, I don't like being usurped by Satan as Pharaoh, through the

world as Egypt; I would like to serve You and preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus through

the villages at any cost for my whole life.”

Soon after his profession, Witness Lee started attending a Brethren Assembly and studied with

them for the next seven years until he read an article in the local paper entitled “The Morning

Star” by Watchman Nee. Watchman Nee was a prominent preacher in China during the early

1920s who published a monthly paper called, The Christian. His articles inspired Witness Lee,

and soon after they began corresponding.

Lee moved to Shanghai in October of 1933 and worked under the supervision of Watchman

Nee. Nee became Witness’s mentor and teacher, testing him in the scriptures and challenging

him in his way of life. After four months of testing, Nee invited Lee to move to Shanghai

permanently and join him in the work there. Nee entrusted him with the responsibility of

operating their publication ministry called the “Shanghai Gospel Bookroom.”

In 1940, with the politics in China moving towards Communism, Watchman Nee called an

urgent meeting of all his ministry co-workers. He wanted them to pray and seek God’s direction

as to whether or not they should stay in China. On the last day of the prayer meeting, Nee

announced that Witness Lee should leave the country. Here is Lee’s account of the meeting:

“Regardless of whether he likes it or not, he must be asked to go abroad.” There was

prayer, and Watchman closed with these words: “Let us bring this matter to the Lord

and see how the Lord will lead us.” That was the decision.

Witness Lee submitted to Nee’s leadership and left for Taiwan in 1949. He continued the

publishing ministry under the new name of “Taiwan Gospel Bookroom” and was instrumental in

starting hundreds of Recovery local ‘churches’ in Taiwan and the Philippines. These churches

grew to over 40,000 followers in just five years. While in Taiwan, Lee also began publishing his

own monthly magazine called The Ministry of the Word.Then in 1962, Lee felt led to come to the United States to expand his training ministries, book

publishing, and to start the Living Streams Ministry (based in Anaheim, California.) He has

published over 400 titles, many of which have been translated into other languages. Two of his

most well known pieces of literature are the Recovery Bible (a verse-by-verse commentary on

the Bible) and The Life Study of the Bible (his interpretation of the scriptures). Witness Lee’s

ministry emphasized the experience of “Christ as life” and “the practical oneness of the

believers as the Body of Christ.” He also believed Christians should not be segregated or

organized into denominations, as seen in his commentary on Matthew 16:18, “The Lord is not

building His church in Christendom, which is composed of the apostate Roman Catholic Church

and the Protestant denominations. This prophecy is being fulfilled through the Lord’s recovery

(meaning their movement), in which the building of the genuine church is being accomplished.”

Lee held to a “Universal Church” and a “Local Church” belief that teaches all Christians make up

the body of Christ; (though they should meet together in local assemblies to declare that “we

are the church,” while maintaining the understanding that the “we” is inclusive not exclusive of

some). He believed that belonging to a denomination such as Baptist, Methodist or Catholic

was divisive and contrary to the oneness people have inherited in Christ.

Witness Lee died June 9, 1997 at his home in Southern California. His teachings are still widely

published and followed around the world, primarily in the Chinese “Christian” circles.

MAJOR INFLUENCE UPON WITNESS LEE

Witness Lee’s greatest influence came from the teachings of Nee Shu-Tsu, who is commonly

known as Watchman Nee. Watchman Nee was a Chinese Christian author and church leader

during the early 20th Century. He founded the “The Church Assembly Hall,” which would later

be known as the “Local churches.” At the age of 17, Nee heard the gospel while listening to the

preaching of an evangelist by the name of Dora Yu. He responded to the gospel and afterwards

set out to reach all of China for Christ.

During Nee’s college years a Miss Margaret Barber, an independent British missionary/teacher,

taught him the Keswick concept of being filled with the Spirit, and in February of 1922, Nee

claimed he was “baptized in the Spirit.” Nee was an avid reader and student of the Bible, but

much of his doctrinal influence came through the reading of authors such as Jessie Penn-Lewis,

Robert Govett, D. M. Panton, and John Nelson Darby. These authors range in religious

background from Methodist, Anglican, and Brethren, and are well known for their books

supporting Calvinism and a selective or partial-rapture. Through his studies of these books, Nee

developed a “perfectionist theology,” a “partial rapture/Christian purgatory” belief, a belief

that pastors are unscriptural, and several Charismatic doctrines. While imprisoned in China

during the 1940s, Nee was asked this question: “If a servant of the Lord from another Christian

group gives us more or higher spiritual light, do we receive it?” After he thought for a while, he said:

“God did not give us all the light. If somebody gives us more light, we should be very glad to receive it!”

Like Witness Lee, Nee wrote many books, and is best known for His book entitled The Normal

Christian Life. His writings continue to have a large influence in the “Recovery Churches.”DOCTRINAL BELIEFS OF WITNESS LEE

Some have claimed that the “Lord’s Recovery” movement is a cult; saying that more emphasis

is put on Watchman Nee’s and Witness Lee’s writings than on the scriptures. In 2001, Living

Stream Ministry filed a $136 million libel lawsuit against Harvest House Publishers. Authors

John Ankerberg and John Weldon wrote the Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions and listed

Lee’s movement among the cults and new religions. In 2006, the Court of Appeals for the First

District of Texas dismissed the lawsuit against Harvest House Publishers and many leading

Evangelical groups called on the “Recovery Churches” to renounce the doctrinal teachings of

Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. To this day, they have not.

Just because a religious group is called a cult does not necessarily mean they are one. The

church I pastor has been called many different names throughout the years — some are

accurate and others are just spoken out of ignorance or hatred! I would like to allow Witness

Lee to speak for himself. A man’s true beliefs never come from his critics, they come from own

words — “…those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart;” “For as he

thinketh in his heart, so is he:” I have included a few statements Witness Lee made concerning his

beliefs of the scriptures and I will allow you to decide for yourself concerning the reading of his

books.

ON THE NATURE OF GOD

“...the entire Godhead, the Triune God, became flesh.” — God’s New Testament

Economy (1986, p. 230)

“The traditional explanation of the Trinity is grossly inadequate and borders on

tritheism. When the Spirit of God is joined with us, God is not left behind, nor

does Christ remain on the throne. This is the impression Christianity gives. They

think of the Father as one Person, sending the Son, another Person, to accomplish

redemption, after which the Son sends the Spirit, yet another Person. The Spirit,

in traditional thinking, comes into the believers, while the Father and Son are left

on the throne. When believers pray, they are taught to bow before the Father

and pray in the name of the Son. To split the Godhead into these separate

Persons is not the revelation of the Bible....” — Life Messages, p. 164 (1979)

“The Son is the Father, and the Son is also the Spirit.... and the Lord Jesus who is

the Son is also the Eternal Father. Our Lord is the Son, and He is also the Father.

Hallelujah!” — Concerning the Triune God, pp. 18-19 (1973)

ON THE NATURE OF HUMANITY

“Christ is of two natures, the human and the divine, and we are the same: we are

of the human nature, but covered with the divine. He is the God-man, and we are

the God-men. He is the ark made of wood covered with gold, and we are the boards made of wood covered with gold. In number we are different, but in

nature we are exactly the same.” — The All-Inclusive Christ, p.103 (1989)

“God can say to His believers, ‘I am divine and human,’ and His believers can

reply, ‘Praise You, Lord. You are divine and human, and we are human and

divine’.” — The Triune God to Be Life to the Tripartite Man, pp. 51-52 (1990)

“My burden is to show you clearly that God’s economy and plan is to make

Himself man and to make us, His created beings, ‘God,’ so that He is ‘man-ized’

and we are ‘God-ized.’ In the end, He and we, we and He, all become Godmen.”— A Deeper Study of the Divine Dispensing, p. 54 (1990)

“We the believers are begotten of God. What is begotten of man is man, and

what is begotten of God must be God. We are born of God; hence, in this sense,

we are God.” — A Deeper Study of the Divine Dispensing, p. 53 (1990)

“Because the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all one with the Body of Christ,

we may say that the Triune God is now the ‘four-in-one’ God. These four are the

Father, the Son, the Spirit, and the Body. The Three of the Divine Trinity cannot be

confused or separated, and the four-in-one also cannot be separated or

confused.” — A Deeper Study of the Divine Dispensing, p. 203-204 (1990)

ON BEING “BORN AGAIN”

“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, p.6 (1970)

To be regenerated, simply come to the Lord with an open and honest heart and

say to Him: “Lord Jesus, I am a sinner. I need You. Thank You for dying for me.

Lord Jesus, forgive me. Cleanse me from all my sins. I believe You rose from the

dead. I receive You right now as my Savior and life. Come into me! Fill me with

Your life! Lord Jesus, I give myself to You for Your purpose.” After regeneration, a

believer needs to be baptized (Mark16:16). Then God begins the lifelong process

of gradually spreading Himself as life from the believer’s spirit into his soul (Eph.

3:17). This process, called transformation (Rom. 12:2), requires human

cooperation (Phil. 2:12). The believer cooperates by allowing the Lord to spread

into his soul until all his desires, thoughts, and decisions become one with those

of Christ. Finally, at Christ’s return, God will fully saturate the believer’s body with

His life. This is called glorification (Phil. 3:21). Thus, instead of being empty and

damaged in each part, this man is filled and saturated with the life of God. This is God’s full salvation! Such a man expresses God and fulfills God’s plan! — The

Mystery of Human Life, Living Stream Ministry Gospel tract (1997)

ON THE AUTHORITY OF THE SCRIPTURES

“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. 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.” — The Stream

“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.” — The Stream

Research Resources:

www.witnesslee.org

www.watchmannee.org

www.lsm.org

The Recovery Movement by Steve Amato

Understanding Watchman Nee by Dana Roberts

The World Situation and God’s Move by Witness Lee

The Recovery Bible

Concerning the Triune God by Witness Le




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