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The Teachings of Witness Lee and the Local Church
Revised Edition 2 0 0 3
2003年修订版 E . Calvin Beisner, PhD .
(说明：本文初步翻译和初步文字校订完成。但是有很多的神学术语和对引述的翻译等方面还需要很多的校订。请各位持续帮忙校订。 其实可以参考一下 骆颂恩的那篇文章中的有些引述的说法)
地方召会(Local Church)是由分布在美国的各大城市里和东方的一部分一些人群组成，他们是李常受(Witness LEE）教导的跟随者。李常受是一位东方人，他曾经是倪柝声(Watchman NEE)发起的运动的领导人之一。这个群体的名称来自于“地方主义（地方化）”的教导，这个词在这个形式上表示一地一教会，任何一个地方都有一个真正的基督身体的代表。
我们渴望教会的合一，但是合一从来不是以神的道的基要真理为代价的！保罗写到：“在你们中间不免有分门结党的事，好叫那些有经验的人显明出来。”(哥林多前书 11:19)。我们必须要跟随曾说过“我就是道路、真理、生命”（约翰福音 14:6）的那位。基于此，我们不能够牺牲他的道的真理。在后面就可以看到正是因为地方召会的错误而将基督的身体分开。他错误的教导给基督的身体带来了挑战，而我们则必须要基于圣经回应挑战（犹大书 3章，彼得后书 3：15， 以赛亚书 8：20）。
- 所以，三位一体的这个三个位格开始在神的经纶(God's economy）中变成三个有顺序的步骤的过程。3。
- 类似的，父，子和灵不是三位神，而是神为我们所拥有和享受的三个阶段4 。
- 在以前，人们要接触父那是不可能的。他独是神，而他的本质(nature）是分别的神性(exclusively divine）。在父中没有任何东西可以成为沟通神和人之间的桥梁。……但是现在他已经……道成肉身进入了人的本质（nature）。父很愿意将它自己的神性和子的人性相联合（combine）6。
- 在人不能靠近他的地方（提前 6：16），神是父。当他来到，并显明出来，他就是子。……我们知道主是子而且他也被称为父。……现在我们读到他是那灵，所以我们必须要很清楚主基督也是那灵。……作为源头，神是父。作为表现，他是子。作为传递（transmission），他是那灵，交通（communion)。这就是三一神（triune God）。10
- 父和子之间的关系是一种相互的内在（indwell）。也就是说，每个位格都与其他位格互相渗透（interpenetrate）并包含（coinhere）。这种相互的内在和互相渗透揭示了在父，子和圣灵的神性(Godhead)中的区别，并且还保持了三一神（Triune God）是独一神的事实。显示了三位一体的两个位格和之间的关系的第二类经文正式那些特别指出三一神中的一个位格就是另外一位的章节。11
系统神学家兼交易历史学家路易斯·伯克富(Louis Berkhof)是这样描述撒伯流主义形态论(Sabellianistic modalism)的：
- ……撒伯流(Sabellius)……将神性的实质（essence）的联合(unity）和他的众多的显现（manifestation）区分开来，这就提出了如下的另一位类似一个戏剧里的多个角色(part)。撒伯流有时候的确谈论到三个神性的位格，但是马上的就用使用位格(person)这个词的原意，从中它强调一个演戏的角色(a role of acting)或者一个显现的模式(a mode of manifestation)。根据他（的意思），父，子和圣灵的名字只是三个不同阶段(phase)简单的称谓，以此那一个神性的实质(essence)彰显(manifest)它自己。神在创造中将他自己启示为父，并颁布律法，在道成肉身中启示为子，而在重生（regeneration)和成圣（sanctification）中启示为圣灵。12
- 撒伯流和施莱尔马赫（Schleiermacher）认为在启示的过程中那一变成了三，而那三仅仅是其实的媒介（media）或者形态（mode）。父，子和灵只是应用到这些神性行为的的名字而已，在神性本质(divine nature）中并没有内部的区分。这就是形态论(modalism），或者说是形态三位一体论（modal Trinity）。15
- 虽然其他的神格一体论(Monarchian)将他们的探究限定在对于父和子的关系上，而撒伯流却将圣灵也加入思索(speculation)，从而得出了三位一体(trinity)，并不是实质(essence)的同时的三位一体，而只是启示的有次序的三位一体。他从区分在神性(divine nature)中的单一位（monad）和三元组(triad)开始。他的基本的想法是，神的单一个体(unity)，并不在他自己的里面相区分，在世界发展的过程中展现(unfold）或者将它自己扩展(extend)成三个不同的形式和启示阶段，而且，在完成救赎之后，又回归为一(unity)。父在颁布律法或者旧约实体（Old Testament economy）中启示他自己，子是在道成肉身中，圣灵是在启示（inspiration）中。16
这个教义在第三世纪的时候被宣布为异端（公元263年，罗马的达奥米尔斯主教Bishop Dionysius),自从这个教导在教会中时不时的蠢蠢欲动，它总是被圣经教导的本质的(essential)三位一体论所拒绝。圣经宣称父，子和圣灵并不是三个有次序的步骤(successive step)，因为他们是永恒(eternal)且是同时的(simultaneous）。希伯来书 9：14说到，基督借着“永远的灵(eternal Spirit)”将他自己献上。他们是同时存在的，且基督不是那灵。然而李常受写到，“那子为我们成为那灵就好象生命的水而供我们吃喝……” 18.约翰福音17：5显示，“在未有世界以先”，父和子是同时存在的。可是李常受却写到，“可是现在[父]已经……变成了人性(human nature)中的化身(incarnate）。父很乐意将他自己的神性和子的人性相联合(combine)”19
父变成子和子变成灵的概念跟圣经中其他方面的说法也矛盾。玛拉基书 3：6告诉我们，神是不改变的；然而形态论(modalism）却在神中蕴含了改变。在以赛亚书 44：6中，我们知道父（耶和华，以色列的王）和子（他的救赎者，万军之耶和华）同时说话，立刻确认了他们是同一位神，却清楚又直接的指出位格的不同。在路加福音 22：42中基督向父祷告，“不要成就我的意思，只要成就你的意思”。从中很清楚的看到父和子的区分，然而他们却同时存在。他们有独立的（虽然从来不矛盾）意志(will)，因此必须是独立的位格，然而却是同一位神。
在约翰福音14：26中我们发现父要差遣圣灵；在15：26我们发现基督要差遣圣灵（Jesus will send the Spirit）（另见 16：7）；而在17：8和20：21中我们发现父已经差遣了耶稣。我们看见了三位一体中各个位格之间的一个完全的区分。他们中间没有一个变成另一个，也没有一个是另一个。全部都是永恒且区别的，不是神向人启示他自己的有次序的阶段。一个位格到另一个位格，每个位格都与其他的相关联。
地方召会同时还教导对于三位一体的另外一个看法，也属于形态论范畴。为了这个小册子方便，我们将称之为“静态形态论”， 因为在这个形式中，不再有一个变成另外一个的有次序的变化了。父，子和圣灵是分别被呈现但是却是同时的形态（simultaneous mode)或者方面(aspect)，来启示那相同的一位给人。李常受写到：
威廉·纳吉尔克尔（William Nigel Kerr）写到：
- 普拉克希亚（Praxeas），借助以赛亚书 45：5，约翰福音10：30，……，好像整本圣经只有这三段构成的，他教导说到父自己变成人，饥饿，干渴，受苦，并且死在基督里。30
另外两个早期教导这个教训的思想家，罗马主教哲斐理诺（Zephyrinus）和卡利斯图斯（Callistus）,后者的观点进行了一定更改：“这腓力诺（Zephyrinus） (201-219)和卡利斯图斯（Callistus）(219-223)坚持并教导圣父受苦论异端（根据殉道者圣徒希伯里推思（Hippolytus）的“Philosophumena”），父神变成肉身并且跟子一起受苦”。31路易斯·伯克富（Louis Berkhof）写到Praxeas和Noetus，两位教导这个教义的著名的人士：
跟撒伯流主义的(或者顺序的successionalistic）的形态论(modalism）类似，静态形态论也无法与圣经一致。圣经中在父，子和灵之间的区别的表述不可弄错：父和子有分离的但不冲突的意志（路加福音 22:42）；父差遣耶稣 （约翰福音 17：8， 20：21）；耶稣和父差遣灵（约翰福音15：26，16：7，14：26）。即便是希伯来词语在告诉我们神是一（申命记 6：4；echod）时也在其中隐含复数名词的概念。33在路加福音 3:22中，父介绍子，说到“你是我的爱子”；如果父和子是同一个位格，这个就没有意义了。约翰福音 1：1那里写到“太初有道，道与神同在，道就是神，”给了一个关于父和子作为同一位神（第三个从句）的完美的阐述，而且也做出了他们的位格的区分，因为道是“与神同在”（第二个从句；希腊文pros，这里翻译成“与”，在像这样的上下文中是通常需要坚持的，是prosÇpon pros prosÇpon的缩写，是希腊文的短语面对面的意思）。甚至约翰福音10：30，在那里耶稣说到，“我与父同为一，”也内含了他们的位格的区分，因为动词是复数形式的所以可以翻译成“我们是”。
使用这些圣经证据反对次序的和静态的形态论，就很容易理解神学家W.H. Griffith Thomas关于形态论的一般评论：
道成肉身的延伸：教会作为神在肉身的显现（The Extension of the Incarnation: The Church as God Manifest in the Flesh）
作为这些异端的一个结果，我们可以预见更多的错误，而我们发现在李常受的教导中发现其中主要的一个就是：神变成了教会，或者反过来。对于大多数的基督徒来讲，这个教训是如此的令人难以置信，所以我们不愿意相信竟然有人会认真教导它。然而实际上在整个教会历史中它却一次又一次地被教导了，被拒绝了。它有时候被称作“道成肉身的延伸（extension of the incarnation）”教义。
- 教会——神在肉身的显现……这教会是神在肉身显现的延续和倍增……我们于是就是神在肉身的显现的增长和扩大。神又一次在肉身中显现他自己，却是使用一个更宽广的方式……换句话说，神和人混合（mingle）了，不是在向外的方式（outward way)内而是在向内(inward way)的方式内。这教会是神的彰显而不是教义或者恩赐(gift)的彰显。35
- 随着道成肉身，分配（dispensation ）开始了，在其中神和人，人和神开始混合（blend）成一个。39
- 第一个创造（The first creation)，尽管是被神他自己带进来的，是被神他自己受苦并且穿过死亡，这样从复活中出现，作为一个有双本性(nature)的被造物，也就是说，将神和人的本性（nature)联合起来了。40
保罗在谈论那些对神和其创造的认识糊涂的人时说：“罗 1:20 自从造天地以来， 神的永能和神性是明明可知的，虽是眼不能见，但借着所造之物，就可以晓得，叫人无可推诿。 罗 1:21 因为他们虽然知道 神，却不当作 神荣耀他，也不感谢他。他们的思念变为虚妄，无知的心就昏暗了。 罗 1:22 自称为聪明，反成了愚拙； 罗 1:23 将不能朽坏之 神的荣耀变为偶像，仿佛必朽坏的人和飞禽、走兽、昆虫的样式。……”[罗马书 1：20-23]
救赎的道路（The Way of Salvation）
另一方面，在李常受和地方召会的著作中，很清楚的指出他们相信一个人如果他不是在地方召会中是不能得救的。《在活星中寻找基督(Finding Christ by the Living Star)》说到三种星的事：“活星(Living Star)”，就是基督他自己；那些“活星们(living stars)”就是地方召会的成员；而“流浪的星们（wandering stars)”就是所有那些在地方召会之外的人。李常受写到：
根据圣经，哪个都不对。那些相信只要说“哦主，哦主，哦主”的，不管他是不是相信的都会得救，这个说法不是真的。基督说到“凡称呼我主啊，主啊的人，不能都进天国；惟独遵行我天父旨意的人，才能进去。当那日必有许多人对我说：‘主啊，主啊，我们不是奉你的名传道，奉你的名赶鬼，奉你的名行许多异能吗？’我就明明地告诉他们说：‘我从来不认识你们，你们这些作恶的人，离开我去吧！’”（马太福音 7：21-23）。这个陈述的上下文显示了不是简单的做好行为或者求告主名，就能得救。相信(belief)或者信仰(faith)是必不可少的。（约翰福音 6：29；约翰福音你 8：24；使徒行传 16：31）。人非有信，就不能得 神的喜悦（希伯来书 11：6）。
教会：地方化信仰（The Church: The Belief in Localism）
- 从那时候起的每一个世纪虔诚的人都跟随他们的步骤，在灵（spirit）和生命（life）中迫害那些主真正的寻求者和跟随者，却以为他们自己是在保护神的利益。罗马天主教(Roman Catholicism)和基督教新教(Protestantism)，以及犹太教（Judaism)，全都落入此类，变成了撒旦的组织成为了他破坏神的经纶(economy)的工具。54
- 对于特殊家庭敬拜的最初的追溯工作在特土良（Tertullian）（的著作中），他谈到去教会；和在他同时代的亚历山大的革利免（Clement of Alexandria），他提到了ekklesia这个词的双重的意义。在大约230年的时候亚历山大塞维鲁（Alexander Severus）给予了基督徒在罗马一个地方来反对客栈管理人(travern-keeper)，因为不管什么形式的敬拜上帝总比做客栈管理(travernkeeping)要好。根据优西比乌（Eusebius），第三世纪中叶之后，建立教堂就开始越发重要，当时基督徒有超过40年（260-303）的休息期可以享受，并且人数发展非常快，更加宽敞的灵修场所在各处都变得必不可少。……罗马被认为是在40年代早期开始的时候，就有多余40处教堂。57
地方召会的圣经和推理（The Bible and Reason in the Local Church）
- 假设地方召会的聚会除了说“哦主，阿们，哈利路亚！哦主，阿们，哈利路亚！”之外我们什么都不做。如果主要带领我们花两个小时来做这件事情，我相信我们都会被放到火上(set on fire)。每个人都会被烧。这是一个比任何其他的流行的信息好的多得多的信息。为什么是这样？这是因为当我们说这四个词的时候我们就在摸那在宝座前面的神的七灵。去试试看看是否那七灵不会烧你？62
- ……我们没有闭上眼睛祷告的必要。更重要的是要闭上心祷告！……不要仅仅尝试学习圣经。我们必须要认识到这是一本关于生命的书，不是一个关于知识的书。这本书是活灵的神性的体现（divine embodiment)，而他就是生命。63
对知识的反感跟保罗的祷告也矛盾，祷告说：“因此，我们自从听见的日子，也就为你们不住地祷告祈求，愿你们在一切属灵的智慧悟性上，满心知道 神的旨意，好叫你们行事为人对得起主，凡事蒙他喜悦，在一切善事上结果子，渐渐地多知道 神，” （歌罗西书 1：9-10）。让我们“忘记阅读、研究、理解和学习道”的建议跟提摩太后书2：15相悖，那里说到“ 你当竭力在 神面前得蒙喜悦，作无愧的工人，按着正意分解真理的道。”
进而，那持续重复且强调的标记了对道的“祷读”实践，通过跟圣经中教导的对比，可以发现跟保罗写的相反，“但要远避世俗的虚谈，因为这等人必进到更不敬虔的地步。他们的话如同毒疮，越烂越大，……”（提摩太后书 2：16-17）。也被耶稣的关于祷告的陈述所反驳“你们祷告，不可象外邦人，用许多重复话，他们以为话多了必蒙垂听。你们不可效法他们，因为你们没有祈求以先，你们所需用的，你们的父早已知道了。”（马太福音 6：7-8）
地方召会关于罪和撒但的信仰(Local Church Belief About Sin and Satan)
当我们要谈论地方召会关于罪和撒但的教导的时候，我们就打击到了李氏教义的根了，而且有可能找到从其自然流出的所有的他的教义的主干。 李氏从保罗对“肉体”作为有罪的人的本性的引用开始，并且拘泥于字句解释这样罪自然而然的就是人的肉体。我们在“上帝的经纶（Economy of God)”中看到李氏思想从这点开始的脉络：
- 神自己愿意被中性的、无辜的人将神接收到他自己里面进去(take God into himself)，这样神和人，人和神，就混和(mingle)成一体……当然，另外一种可能性是人被诱导去吃第二颗树，那死亡的源头。因此，人就接着跟第二颗树混和了（mingle)。哦，让我们的眼睛打开能看见整个宇宙中重要的，不是伦理或者行善而是是否接受神做为生命还是接受撒但作为死亡。68
- [人堕落之后]撒但很喜乐，鼓吹他已经胜利的夺取了人。但是神，还在人之外，看起来要说：“我也要成为肉身。如果撒但将他自己变成了人，那么让我也进入人并且把人放到我自己上面（put man upon Myself）”71
- 当主耶稣将他自己在肉体中道成肉身时，他就成了“在罪的肉身的样式中。”……当基督在十字架上的时候他是在毒蛇(serpent)“样式中”的人。这毒蛇就是撒但，那魔鬼，神的敌人，但在是基督已经肉身成人时，他已经有了有罪的肉体的样式，这就是撒但的样式……当神变成人并且把那个连同他里面的撒但的那个人放到他自己之上（ put that man with Satan within him upon Himself）之后，他将那个人带到了十字架前。撒但以为他成功了，可是他只是给了主一个把他置于死地的简单方法。……借着成为人他[撒但]被抓住并且被局限在人中。接下来，主来了并且把人放在他自己上面(put man upon Himself)并把他带到十字架前……同时，堕落的人里面的撒但也被置于死地……基督将人连同撒但都带入死和坟墓中然后将人不带撒但带出死亡和坟墓。他将撒但埋葬在坟墓中。现在这位复活的人跟基督是同一位……通过这个复活人和神成为了一体。通过道成肉身神进入人，而通过复活人和神成为一体。现在神就是人里面的灵。74
神和撒但平行的成了肉身(Parallel Incarnations of God and Satan)
李氏教导的主干源于他对罪和撒但的标识。很难看出来李氏是想要借着使罪成为撒但而将罪人格化，还是要通过将撒但变成罪而使撒但去人格化。不论哪种情况，这两种观点都是不符合圣经的。圣经清楚的明示了罪和撒但的区别。罪显示为违反且不忠于神和他的道的态度或者行为（罗马书 3：20；4：15；7：7-25， 特别是15-16）。虽然有时候圣经中罪被拟人化，好像它有它自己的意志(will)，但是这个可以很容易地看出是比喻性的语言（figurative language)。撒但，相反地，被展现出来的是一个特定的位格（personal)的存在(being)，堕落的天使（哥林多后书 11：14-15；哥林多前书 5：5；雅各书 4：7；彼得前书 5：8）。因此把罪称作撒但是不正确的。
然而这个错误导致了一个更加严重的错误。因为人是在他吃禁果的时候成为罪人的，李氏暗示他因此就把撒但接收到他自己里面；他的文字意义上的肉体(flesh)变成了撒但的化身（embodiment)的居所。人于是变成了撒但的显现(manifestation)。但是这个又一次与圣经矛盾。他错误的解释了保罗的对肉体作为有罪的人的本性的比喻说法，使得“肉体（flesh）”它自己实际上成为那邪恶者（actually evil)。但是保罗这样说不是指我们的字面意义上的肉体：相反地他把它看成是道德上的中性（morally neutral)且，因为他是神的一个创造物，一般来讲是好的。他简单的把肉体看成是在罪的捆绑之下（罗马书7：17，18，24）且因而顺服在堕落之下（罗马书 8：18-23）。这就是他称为“自然的身体（natural body）”（哥林多前书 15：44）。但是当被从死人中复活并且带上永恒性之后，肉体它本身将变成“属灵的身体（spiritual body）”（路加福音 24：39；约翰福音 2：19-21；哥林多前书 15：44-54；罗马书 8：11）。肉体并不邪恶，也不是罪的显现(manifestation）。
我们的结论只能是李常受和地方召会的教导是异端。我们敦促所有的其他的基督徒为那些还在地方召会中的人祷告，帮助他们认清李常受的错误并且归回到真正的福音，真正的耶稣，真正的圣灵和那纯正的神的道中来，那道是我们脚前的灯。地方召会的教导是错误的，那些错误的教训来自撒旦（约翰福音 8:44）。这样的教训是黑暗（以弗所书 6：12），而基督徒却不能行在黑暗中（约翰一书1：5-7）。让我们行在光中，就像他行在光中一样（约翰一书 1：7）。
E·加尔文·贝斯那(E., Calvin Beisner) 是诺克斯(Knox）神学院的讲授历史神学和社会伦理学的副教授。他在20世纪70年代和80年代早期在基督教研究所（Christian Research Institute)花了七年的时间研究和写作，主题是关于教义和针对邪教的护教学，他后期在Walter Martin博士的指导下，并且在CARIS(基督徒护教学：研究和信息服务中心，之前和现在的以行动的回答）与邪教护教学者Bob和Gretchen Passantino合作。他参与编写了Martin的《新兴的邪教（The New Cults)》，并且写了研究报告并且在CRI发表。在他诺克斯的教学工作中，有一门课程是关于邪教的神学。在他的十一本书中，他的《三个位格中的神（God in Three Persons》（丁道尔出版社，1984），是研究三位一体早期教义历史的；而《“只见耶稣”的教会（"Jesus Only" Churches）》（Zondervan, 1998），是一本批驳独一神格灵恩派（Oneness Pentecostalism）的形态论(modalist)神学的书，这个派别在某些方面和李常受和其地方召会教导类似。他在1978年从南加州大学以优异的成绩（magna cum laude）获得了宗教学和哲学跨专业的学士学位，他的论文是关于三位一体的早期教义历史的，并且获得了最高荣誉。1983年他从国际学院以优异成绩获得了经济伦理方向的社会学硕士学位；而2003年在苏格兰的圣安德鲁大学获得了历史专业的哲学博士学位。
- Witness Lee. The Practical Expression of the Church (Anaheim: Stream, 1974), 92, 111.
- For more detailed statement and scriptural proof, see Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 volumes (Grand R apids: Eerdmans, 1 973), 1:442 ff.
- Witness Lee, The Economy of God (Los Angeles: Stream, 1968), 10.
- Witness Lee, "Concerning the Triune God" (Los Angeles: Stream, n.d.), 3 1.
- Ibid., 8-9
- Lee, The Economy of God, 11.
- Lee, "Concerning the Triune God," 8; brackets added.
- Ibid., 8.
- Lee, The Economy of God, 11.
- Witness Lee, The All-inclusive Spirit of Christ (LosAngeles: Stream, 1969), 4, 6,8.
- Santa Ana Register, Saturday, October 22, 1 977, D.
- Louis Berkhof, The History of Christian Doctrines (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1975), 79: cf. 78-79.
- Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 45.
- William Kelly, "Sabellianism," in Baker's Dictionary of Theology, edited by Everett F. Harrison (GrandRapids: Baker, 1975),465.
- Augustus Strong, Systematic Theology (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1976), 327.
- Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 8 volumes (USA: Associated Publishers and Authors, n.d.), 2:262.
- Lee, The Economy of God, 1 0.
- Lee, “Concerning the Triune God” 8
- Lee, The Economy of God, 11
- Lee, “Concerning the Triune God” 11
- Lee, "Concerning the Triune God," 11.
- Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 2:260.
- William Nigel Kerr, "Patripassianism," inBaker's Dictionary of Theology, 396-7.
- Shaff, History of the Christian Church, 2:260.
- Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, 3 volumes (Grand Rapids: Baker, 197 7), 2:1 77.
- Berkhof, History of Christian Doctrines, 79.
- William Gesenius, Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures, trans, and ed. S. P. Tregelles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1 974), 28-29.
- W. H. Griffith Thomas, The Holy Spirit of Cod (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 129.
- Lee, The Economy of God, 199.
- Wintnes Lee, "Life-Study in Matthew, Message One" (Los Angeles: Stream, n.d.), 3.
- Witness Lee, The All-inclusive Christ (Los Angeles: Stream, 1969), 103.
- Lee, The Practical Expression of the Church, 43.
- Witness Lee, The God of Resurrection (Los Angeles: Stream, n.d.), 4.
- Lee, The God of Resurrection, 12.
- Lee, The Economy of God, 206-7. 请注意在这里李常受谈到了三个位格在一个神中，这个不能成为对他形态论的指责的借口。这里只是要明确他必须要重新定义位格这个词这样才能够有该词的真正意思有点像。伯克富（基督教义史，70）写到“撒伯流的确有时候会提到三个神的位格，然后却使用这个词的原始的时态，以此来强调一个行动的角色或者一个显现的形态。”很明显，李常受也在做同样的事情
- Ibid., 113.
- Life-Study in Genesis, Message 10, 121-2.
- "Christ as Life (2 3) Christ's Increase-His Bride," excerpt of Life Study in John (Stream, 1977),on John3:29-30.
- "A Response to False Teachings," Santa Ana Register, date unknown.
- Bill Freeman, The Testimony of Church History Regarding the Mystery of the Mingling of God with Man (Anaheim: Stream, 1 977), 5.
- John C Ingalls, "The Truth Concerning God manifest in the Flesh," in "The Response of Witness Lee and Local Church To a Recent Meeting Held at Melodyland” Santa Ana Register, October 8, 1977.
- J.H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Wheaton: Evangel, 1974), 345.
- Witness Lee, Stream Magazine 8:1 (February 1,1970), 6.
- Witness Lee, Finding Christ By the Living Star (Los Angeles: Stream, 1970), 27-28.
- Witness Lee, The Vision of the Church (Los Angeles: Stream, n.d.), 9.
- Witness Lee, Satan's Strategy Against the Church (Los Angeles: Stream, n.d.), 6, 8.
- Witness Lee, The Recovery Version of Revelation (Anaheim: Stream, 1976), 17.
- Witness Lee, The Churches (Los Angeles: Stream, n.d.), 12.
- Stream, vol. 4, no. 4.
- Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 2:93.
- Lee, The Economy of God, 23
- Ibid., 24
- Witness L ee, Christ vs. Religion (Los Angeles: Stream, 1971), 14-15.
- Stream Magazine 8:1 (February 1, 1970), 5.
- Witness Lee, A Time with the Lord (Los Angeles: Stream, n.d.), 10, 11.
- Witness Lee, Pray-Reading the Word (Los Angeles: Stream, n.d.), 8-10
- Lee, The Vision of the Church, 10-11.
- Lee, Christ vs. Religion, 13.
- Lee, The Economy of God, 108.
- Ibid 106-7
- Ibid 109.
- Ibid 109.
- Ibid, 109.
- Ibid, 109.
- Ibid, 108.
- Ibid, 109-112.
- Ibid., 109.
The Teachings of Witness Lee and the Local Church 英文全文
The Teachings of Witness Lee and the Local Church
E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D.
The Local Church is composed of groups of people in cities around the United States and parts of the Orient who follow the teachings of Witness Lee. Lee is an Oriental who once was among the leaders of the movement begun by Watchman Nee. The name of the group is derived from the teaching of "localism," which in this form says that there is only one true church, one true representative of the Body of Christ, in any locality.
We love the people in this movement. It is because of this deep love that when serious errors are presented to them as the teachings of Scripture, we must respond by earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). We do not attack the persons in the Local Church, but we must identify and correct the heretical teachings they have received.
We desire the unity of the Church, but unity is never to be taken at the expense of the essential truths of the Word of God. Paul wrote, "No doubt there have to be difference among you to show which of you have God's approval" (1 Corinthians 11:19). We must be followers of the One who said, "I am the way. the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), and to do so, we must not sacrifice the truth of His Word, it will be seen below that it is the Local Church that is dividing the Body of Christ by its errors. Its false teachings challenge the Body of Christ, and we must answer that challenge with Scripture (Jude 3: 1 Peter 3:15; Isaiah 8:20).
The Teachings of the Local Church Compared with Scripture
The Local Church has distinctive teachings that set it at variance to the Body of Christ, and it is our purpose to survey and compare these teachings with the Bible. It is important to understand first the attitude of the Local Church toward all the denominations, both Catholic and Protestant, so that we will see just how important these teachings are. Witness Lee writes, "Do not try to be neutral. Do not try to reconcile them. . . . You know the denominations are wrong, yet you still remain because you are afraid of what others will say."' For Lee and the Local Church, then, all denominations are wrong. (We shall return to this subject later.) What sets the Local Church apart from the denominations? The primary points are teaching and practice. Since the practices of the Local Church stem from its teachings, the two can, for practical purposes, be treated together.
We shall discuss five primary areas of teaching in the Local Church and compare them with the teaching of the Word of God: (1) the nature of God, particularly the doctrine of the Trinity; (2) the way of salvation; (3) the Church, focusing on "localism" and the relation of the Church to God; (4) the nature and use of the Bible; (5) the nature of sin and Satan.
The Nature of God
The doctrine of the Trinity is usually stated essentially thus: "In the nature of the one true God, there are three eternally distinct Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three are the same God, all fully God, yet the Father is neither the Son nor the Spirit, the Son is neither the Father nor the Spirit, and the Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son."2 The Local Church, however, teaches contrary to this.
Successive Modalism. The Local Church teaches that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all the same Person as well as the same God, and that each is a successive step or stage in the revelation of God to man. Witness Lee writes:
Thus, the three Persons of the Trinity become the three successive steps in the process of God's economy.3
Likewise, the Father. Son. and Spirit are not three Gods, but three stages of one God for us to possess and enjoy.4
In the heavens, where man cannot see, God is the Father; when He is expressed among men, He is the Son; and when He comes into men, He is the Spirit. The Father was expressed among men in the Son, and the Son became the Spirit to come into men. The Father is in the Son, and the Son became the Spirit—the three are just one God.5
Formerly it was impossible for man to contact the Father, he was exclusively God and His nature was exclusively divine. There was nothing in the Father to bridge the gap between God and man. . . . But now He has . . . become incarnate in human nature. The Father was pleased to combine His own divinity with humanity in the Son.6 After death and resurrection He [the Son] became the Spirit breathed into the disciples.7
... the Son became the Spirit for us to drink in as the water of life.8 The Father, as the inexhaustible source of everything, is embodied in the Son.9
In the place where no man can approach Him (I Tim. 6:16), God is the Father. When He comes forth to manifest Himself, He is the Son. . . . We know the Lord is the Son and that He is also called the Father. . . . Now we read that He is the Spirit. So we must be clear that Christ the Lord is the Spirit, too. ... As the source, God is the Father. As the expression, He is the Son. As the transmission, He is the Spirit. The Father is the source, the Son is the expression, and the Spirit is the transmission, the communion. This is the triune God.10
We can see in these passages the clear teaching that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three successive stages in the revelation of God to mankind. Thus the Son is not really a Person distinct from the Father, but is the Father "come forth to manifest Himself." Neither is the Holy Spirit a Person distinct from the Father and Son, but "the transmission," the "communion"; He is in fact the Father and the Son in a different stage of expression to man. As former Local Church member Bill Freeman put it in "Witness Lee and Local Church's Reply to the 'Bible Answer Man' ":
The relationship between the Father and the Son is one of mutual indwelling. That is, each Person interpenetrates and coinheres the Others. This mutual indwelling and interpenetration reveals the distinction within the Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and also preserves the fact that the Triune God is uniquely One. The second type- of Scriptures showing the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity is the verses that specifically state that one Person of the Triune God is Another.11
Systematic theologian and historian of doctrine Louis Berkhof described Sabellianistic modalism thus:
. . . Sabellius . . . distinguished between the unity of the divine essence and the plurality of its manifestations, which are represented as following one another like the parts of a drama. Sabellius indeed sometimes spoke of three divine persons, but then used the word 'person' in the original sense of the word, in which it signifies a role of acting or a mode of manifestation. According to him the names Father, Son and Holy Spirit are simply designations of three different phases under which the one divine essence manifests itself. God reveals Himself as Father in creation and in the giving of the law, as Son in the incarnation, and as Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification.12
Systematic theologian Abraham Kuyper wrote of Sabellianism:
Sabellius . . . came to the conclusion that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were after all but one Person; who first wrought in creation as Father, then having become the Son wrought out our redemption, and now as the Holy Spirit perfects our sanctification."13
Historian of theology William Kelly wrote:
Taking its name from the third century Sabellius, this . . . reduced the three persons of Father, Son and Holy Ghost to three characters, modes or relations of the Godhead assumed for the purpose of the divine dealings with man. Thus God is eternally and essentially one, but economically, i.e., for specific purposes, he takes the form of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. . . .'4
Systematic theologian Augustus Strong wrote:
Sabellius and Schleiermacher hold that the One becomes three in the process of revelation, and the three are only media or modes of revelation. Father, Son, and Spirit are mere names applied to these modes of the divine action, there being no internal distinctions in the divine nature. This is modalism, or a modal Trinity."15
Church historian Philip Schaff wrote:
While the other Monarchians confine their inquiry to the relation of the Father and Son, Sabellius embraces the Holy Spirit in his speculation, and reaches a trinity, not a simultaneous trinity of essence, however, but only a successive trinity of revelation. He starts from a distinction of the monad and the triad in the divine nature. His fundamental thought is, that the unity of God, without distinction in itself, unfolds or extends itself in the course of the world's development in three different forms and periods of revelation, and, after the completion of redemption, returns into unity. The Father reveals Himself in the giving of the law or the Old Testament economy . . .; the Son, in the incarnation; the Holy Ghost, in inspiration."16
Remember the teaching of Lee: "Thus, the three Persons of the Trinity become the three successive steps in the process of God's economy."17 There can be no doubt that this aspect of Lee's teaching is modalistic in the Sabellian sense: that is, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three successive modes (hence the name "modalism") or stages in the manifestation of God to man, rather than three internally, essentially distinct Persons.
This doctrine was declared heretical in the third century (A.D. 263 under Bishop Dionysius of Rome), and has since crept into the teaching of the Church from time to time, always to be rejected in favor of the Scriptural teaching of the essential Trinity. Scripture affirms that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not three successive steps, for they are eternal and simultaneous. Hebrews 9; 14 tells of Christ offering Himself through the "eternal Spirit." They both existed at the same time, and Christ was not the Spirit. Yet Lee wrote, "the Son became the Spirit for us to drink in as the water of life. . . ,"18 John 17:5 shows that the Father and the Son existed simultaneously "before the world was." Yet Lee wrote, "But now [the Father] has . . . become incarnate in human nature. The Father was pleased to combine His own divinity with humanity in the Son."19
The concept of the Father becoming the Son and the Son becoming the Spirit is contradicted in other ways in Scripture. Malachi 3:6 tells us that God does not change; yet modalism would entail changes in God. In Isaiah 44:6 we have the Father (Jehovah, the King of Israel) and the Son (His Redeemer, Jehovah of Hosts) speaking simultaneously, affirming at once that they are the same God, yet presented clearly and directly as distinct Persons. In Luke 22:42 Christ prays to the Father, "not my will, but thine be done." there is a clear distinction between the Father and the Son, yet they exist simultaneously. They have separate (though never conflicting) wills, and hence must be separate Persons, yet are the same God.
In John 14:26 we find that the Father will send the Holy Spirit; in 15:26 we find that Jesus wills end the Spirit (see also 16:7); and in 17:8 and 20:21 we find that the Father has sent Jesus. We see a complete distinction among the Persons of the Trinity. None of them becomes another, none is another. All are eternally distinct, not successive stages in God's revelation of Himself to man. All relate to each other as one Person to another Person.
Static Modalism The Local Church also teaches another view of the Trinity, also modalistic. For the purposes of this booklet, we shall call this "static modalism," because in this form there is no succession of one becoming another. Father, Son, and Spirit are presented as separate but simultaneous modes or aspects of the revelation of the same One to man. Lee writes:
Although he is one God, yet there is the matter of three-foldness, that is, the threefold Person—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. 20
He [the Father] is the One hidden within, and the Son is the One manifested without; yet the One who is manifested without is the One who is hidden within—the two are just one. 21
Thank the Lord, He also has two ends: at the end in heaven He is the Father, and at the end on the earth He is the Son; at the end in heaven He is the One who listens to the prayer, and at the end on earth He is the One who prays. He is both the One who prays on earth and the One who listens in heaven. 22
The Son who prays is the Father who listens. 23
Therefore the Bible clearly reveals to us that the Son is the Father, and the Son is also the Spirit. Otherwise, how could these three be one God? 24
The Son is the Father, and the Son is also the Spirit.25
The Lord Jesus is the Holy Spirit. . . ,26
It is clear that Lee also teaches that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are simultaneously each other. At one and the same time, the Son is the Father and the Holy Spirit. The statement concerning the Father and the Son that "the two are just one" is actually unclear: we are forced to ask, "One what?" Lee's answer is that they are the same Person, for we are told that the threefoldness in God is the "threefold Person."27 This implicates the Holy Spirit in this one person as well. The fact that this teaches simultaneous, non-successive modalism cannot be denied, regardless of the fact that it is therefore in direct contradiction to Lee's teaching, shown above, of developmental modalism.
The term applied to this teaching in the history of Christian doctrine is generally Patripassianism (from pater, Father, and potior, to suffer), because it logically implied the suffering of the Father on the Cross as Christ. Schaff wrote of this class of thinkers:
The second class of Monarchians, called by Tertullian "Patripassians" . . . together with their unitarian zeal felt the deeper Christian impulse to hold fast the divinity of Christ; but they sacrificed to it his independent personality, which they merged in the essence of the Father. They taught that the one supreme God by His own free will, and by an act of self-limitation became man, so that the Son is the Father veiled in the flesh. They knew no other God but the one manifested in Christ, and charged their opponents with ditheism.28
William Nigel Kerr wrote:
Patripassianists . . . with the modalists confused the persons of the Trinity and denied the union of the two natures in the one person of Christ. Defending monotheism they held that since God was one essence there could not be three persons but instead three modes of manifestation. Thus the Son was the Father appearing in human form. Noetus taught that Christ was the Father and so the Father was born, suffered and died upon the cross, hence the name patripassian.29
One of the most famous early teachers of this doctrine was Praxeas, of whom Schaff wrote:
Praxeas, constantly appealing to Isaiah Is. 45:5; Jno. 10:30 . . ., as if the whole Bible consisted of these three passages, taught that the Father Himself became man, hungered, thirsted, suffered, and died in Christ.30
Two other early thinkers taught this doctrine, bishops of Rome Zephyrinus and, with some modifications, Callistus: "Zephyrinus (201-219) and Callistus (219-223) held and taught (according to the "Philosophumena" of Hippolytus, a martyr and saint) the Patripassian heresy, that God the Father became incarnate and suffered with the Son."31 Louis Berkhof wrote of Praxeas and Noetus, the two most prominent teachers of this doctrine:
Praxeas . . . seems to have avoided the assertion that the Father suffered, but Noetus did not hesitate at this point. To quote the words of Hippolytus: "He said that Christ is Himself the Father, and that the Father Himself was born and suffered and died." According to the same Church Father he even made the bold assertion that the Father by changing the mode of his being literally became His own Son. The statement of Noetus referred to runs as follows: "When the Father had not yet been born, He was rightly called the Father; but when it pleased Him to submit to birth, having been born, He became the Son, he of Himself and not of another.32
While we can see the beginning of successionism in Noetus's doctrine, the primary teaching represented in these and other quotations is the simultaneous identity of one Person as Father and Son, which Witness Lee also propagates.
Like Sabellianistic (or successionalistic) modalism, static modalism also fails to conform to Scripture. The presentation of distinction among the Persons of Father, Son, and Spirit in Scripture is unmistakable: Father and Son have separate, though never conflicting, wills (Luke 22:42; the Father sends Jesus (John 17:8; 20:21); Jesus and the Father send the Spirit (John 15:26; 16:7; 14:26). Even the Hebrew word that tells us that God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4; echod) has implicit within it the concept of plurality.33 In Luke 3:22 the Father addresses the Son, saying, "Thou art my beloved Son"; if Father and Son are the same Person, this makes no sense. John 1:1, which reads, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God," gives a perfect presentation of the unity of Father and Son as the same God (third clause), and yet also of their personal distinction, since the Word was "with God" (second clause; the Greek pros, here translated with, is usually held to be, in contexts like this, an abbreviated form of prosbpon pros prosbpon, the Greek phrase for face to face). Even John 10:30, where Jesus says, "I and the Father are one," carries within it their personal distinction, since the verb is plural and may be translated "we are."
With such scriptural evidence against both successionalistic and static modalism, it is easy to understand the conclusion of theologian W.H. Griffith Thomas in regard to modalism in general:
Sabellianism both ancient and modern has always proved impossible in the long run. Modalism even without Successionalism is wholly inadequate to the Scripture testimony. There is scarcely anything more significant in the history of the Church than the recurrence and also the rejection of Sabellianism, for it is at once apparently easy, and soon seen to be utterly impossible to consider the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as mere aspects or manifestations of one God.34
Lee's two doctrines of modalism are no exception to this conclusion. They disagree with the testimony of Scripture. They are revivals of two ancient heresies. They are contradictory not only to Scripture but even to each other. Thus they must be rejected by all Christians, since Malachi 3:6 declares the unchangeableness of God.
The Extension of the Incarnation: The Church as God Manifest in the Flesh. As a result of these heresies, we expect more errors, and the primary one we find in Lee's teaching is that God becomes the Church, or vice versa. For most Christians such a teaching is so incredible that we tend to refuse to believe that anyone could seriously teach it. Yet it has actually been taught, and rejected, time and again throughout the history of Christianity and has sometimes been referred to as the doctrine of the "extension of the incarnation."
That Lee teaches this is clearly seen in many of his writings:
The Church—The Manifestation of God in the Flesh. . . . This Church is the continuation and the multiplication of God manifest in the flesh. ... We are then the increase, the enlargement, of the manifestation of God in the flesh. God manifests Himself again in the flesh, but in a wider way. ... In other words, God is mingled with human beings, not in an outward way, but in an inward way. The Church is the manifestation of God not the manifestation of doctrines or gifts.35
This Christ has expanded from one Person to thousands and thousands of persons. He was once the individual Christ, but in Acts He has become a corporate Christ.36
[Speaking of the Church and Christ:] In number we are different, but in nature we are exactly the same37
The Father is in the Son, the Son is in the Spirit, and the Spirit is now in the Body. They are now four in one: the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and the Body.38
With the Incarnation a dispensation began in which God and man, man and God were blended into one.39
The first creation, though brought into being by God Himself, is by God Himself suffered to pass into death that it may emerge in resurrection as a creation of dual nature, i.e., combining the natures of God and man.40
The resurrection followed the crucifixion. The resurrection recovered and uplifted the standard of humanity created by God and brought the human nature into God. By incarnation the divine nature was brought into man; by resurrection the human nature was brought into God. Now it is possible for man to have more than a created human nature. . . . God mingled with man and man mingled with God. . . . God in His three Persons mingles Himself with us.41
Then the day will come when the Triune God and the resurrected man will be one expression. . . ,42
"Eventually God will become us."43
"Christ will be increased through us because He is reproduced in us”44
As Local Church member Ron Kangas wrote, "The many brothers and the firstborn Son are the same in life and nature," and "Both the firstborn Son and the many sons are the same in the divine life and nature."45
We are left with no doubt that the Local Church teaches that the Church becomes God, and vice versa. This is stated not only by Lee, but also by one of the apologists of the Local Church, Bill Freeman, who wrote of the "mystery of Christ and the Church as one entity."46 Another Local Church apologist, John C. Ingalls, wrote that "Christ is not only the Head, but also the Body [i.e., the Church]."47
Such an idea as this necessarily involves a change in the very nature of God. God must become the Church, and every time someone is added to the Church, God must increase. Indeed, when Lee writes of the Church as the "increase, the enlargement, of the manifestation of God in the flesh," in the context of the other writings quoted above, he clearly implies an increase in God Himself. But such a teaching is impossible in the light of Malachi 3:6, where-God proclaims, "For I am the Lord, I change not. . . ."
Paul commented on others who confused God with His creation: "For the invisible things of him [God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man. . . ." [Romans 1:20-23]
Colossians 1:18 declares that Christ is "the head of the body, the church," where the word for head is kephale, used metaphorically to mean the One preeminent over, but not a part of, the Church.48 He is not, then, the Body, but the Head of (or "over") the Body.
The Local Church doctrine of God, therefore, is contrary to the Word of God. It teaches that God is changing, first, from Father to Son to Spirit, then to the Church itself. It denies the real, distinct personalities of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, speaking instead of these as stages in the manifestation of God to man. By so doing, it really denies the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. It must be rejected by Christians.
The Way of Salvation
The Local Church's believes in regard to salvation are complex and even appear contradictory. Lee first teaches that salvation is simply and only a matter of calling on the name of the Lord. But in other literature he strongly implies that it is impossible to be saved unless one attends the Local Church. It is helpful to see how he states both positions:
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.49
The implications of this are clear. All that is necessary for salvation is that one say, "O Lord, O Lord, O Lord." Nothing else is necessary. Is it truly not necessary to believe, or eve to intend to believe? Does salvation have nothing to do with the belief of the individual, but just with words he says?
On the other hand, there is clear indication in the writings of Lee and the Local Church that they believe that one cannot be saved if he is not in the Local Church. Finding Christ by the Living Star tells of three kinds of stars: the "Living Star," which is Christ Himself; the "living stars," which are members of the Local Church; and the "wandering stars," which are all those who are outside the Local Church. Lee writes:
If we follow the wandering stars, eventually our portion will be the same as theirs—the blackness of darkness forever. .... If anyone comes to you without a definite standing and certain course, avoid him. The proper standing is the local church, and the right course is to go on in the Spirit in the local church.50 Never be a wandering star, and never follow a wandering star. .... Today the only way for you and me and for anyone to find Christ is to see the living star. Hallelujah! Today the star is not far from us—it is with the local churches. . . . Today the living star and the living stars are in the local churches. Let us follow them and let us be one of them.51
Lee and those in the Local Church consider all those outside the Local Church "wandering stars." And the destiny of these "wandering stars" is "the blackness of darkness forever." Apparently only by being in the Local Church can one be saved. This contradicts his teaching that all one need do to be saved is to say "O Lord, O Lord, O Lord." Which, then, is true?
According to the Bible, neither is true. The belief that all who say "O Lord, O Lord, O Lord," regardless of belief, will be saved, is not true. Christ says: "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:21-23). The context of this statement shows that it is not simply the doing of good works, or the calling on the name of the Lord, that saves one. What is necessary is belief, or faith (John 6:29; John 8;24; Acts 16:31). Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Since the Local Church has also a false doctrine of God, it cannot be true that one must be in the Local Church to be saved. We see that both aspects of Lee's teaching on salvation are contrary to God's Word. Yet even if the Local Church did have a true belief about God, instead of the false belief it has, and a true belief about salvation, instead of its false belief, it would not be the only group in which one could be saved, for Scripture opposes such exclusivism (1 Corinthians 1:12-13ff). The exclusivism of the Local Church divides the true Body of Christ and is contrary to the Bible.
The Church: The Belief in Localism
In accord with the teaching that one must be in the Local Church to be saved, Lee teaches the doctrine of "localism," that is, that there is only one true representative of the Body of Christ in any city. This, of course, is said to be the Local Church. The Local Church alone is alleged to be the true representative of the Body of Christ, and all other churches are false:
If you get into anything other than the local church of the city, you get into a division; if you get into the church of that city, you get into unity.52
[Satan] has taken another step by creating all the sects, denominations and divisions in the Body of Christ. . . . God is moving in these days to recover. What is the way of His recovery? . . . the recovery of the proper unity. Not until these three things are recovered among us will we have a proper and adequate church life.53
Through all the centuries since then, religious people have followed in their steps, persecuting the genuine seekers and followers of the Lord in spirit and life, while still considering themselves to be defending the interests of God. Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, as well as Judaism, all fall into this category, becoming an organization of Satan as his tool to damage God's economy.54
... the church life must be practiced today and there is no other way but the local churches.55
Judaism is satanic, Catholicism is demonic, and Protestantism is Christless.56
Localism. There are two primary aspects to this teaching. First, Lee teaches a doctrine called localism. This, however, is refuted in the Word of God when Paul writes in Romans 16:3-5a: "Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house." Paul wrote to a church in Rome, yet he asked that group of saints to greet the church that was in Priscilla and Aquila's house. There were therefore at least two churches in Rome, even at that early time. Church history shows that it was common to have more than one church in a city, even in apostolic times. Schaff wrote of early churches:
The first traces of special houses of worship occur in Tertullian, who speaks of going to church, and in his contemporary, Clement of Alexandria, who mentions the double meaning of the word ekklesia. About the year 230, Alexander Severus granted the Christians the right to a place in Rome against the protest of the tavern-keepers, because the worship of God in any form was better than tavern-keeping. After the middle of the third century the building of churches began in great earnest, as the Christians enjoyed over forty years of repose (260-303), and multiplied so fast that, according to Eusebius, more spacious places of devotion became everywhere necessary. . . . Rome is supposed to have had, as early as the beginning of the fourth century, more than forty churches.57
It is clear that the number of churches in a given community simply increased proportionate to the number of Christians in the community, as they had need. If there were forty in Rome by a.d. 300, surely there were more than a few during and shortly after the apostolic age.
The second aspect of the teachings quoted above is that of the condemnation of all denominations other than the Local Church.58 Protestantism and Roman Catholicism are called organizations of Satan. This can only be seen as extreme divisiveness in the Body of Christ. This teaching opposes Christ's prayer on behalf of the Church, the Body of Christ, that "they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:21). The Local Church's divisiveness is against Christ, and because of this it is harder for the world to see that Christ truly is sent of the Father.
The Local Church claims that it, and it alone, is the true Church in any community; that all others are organizations of Satan; that it is impossible to be in a right standing, or on correct ground, outside the Local Church. Because of this it is imperative that the Body of Christ respond strongly and quickly by showing the errors in the Local Church, warning others against it, and helping those in the Local Churches to understand Lee's errors and return to Biblical truth. We must not meet their condemnation by condemning them personally. We must point out the heresies taught by the group, correct them lovingly according to the Word of God, and help members of the Local Church to understand the true teachings of Scripture so that they will no longer be confused by false teachings.
The Bible and Reason in the Local Church
While the Local Church teaching recognizes the Bible as the inspired and inerrant Word of God, the Bible does not seem to govern the beliefs of most Local Church members. Their beliefs apparently are governed by their experiences, not by a study of Scripture. With this in mind, we can more easily understand the inner contradictions in the Local Church. Members of the Local Church are told not to research, understand, or learn the Word. This rejection of the mind and thought explains the confused nature of much Local Church teaching.
The Local Church approaches the subject of teaching, or doctrine, negatively. Lee writes, "Doctrine only works divisions among the Lord's children."59 (But Lee, as he does so often, contradicts himself. He writes, ". . . we can certainly receive help from doctrine. . . ."60) This attitude makes it hard for Local Church members to consider seriously the importance of their own beliefs and compare them carefully with Scripture. It is an attitude contrary to the teachings of the Word of God, which says, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine . . . and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:2-4).
There is a general emphasis in the Local Church against teaching, knowledge about the Bible or God, and study of the Word:
As long as [Jesus] is with us, we need no regulations, no rituals, no doctrines or forms. . . . Do you come to the meetings for teaching or for learning? We must come to the meetings for feasting." Suppose in the meetings of the local church we did not do anything but say: "O Lord, Amen, Hallelujah! O Lord, Amen, Hallelujah!" If the Lord were to lead us to do this for two hours, I believe we would all be set on fire. Everyone would be burned. This is much, much better than any kind of prevailing message. Why is this? It is because when we say these four words we are touching the seven Spirits of God which are before the throne. Try it and see if the seven Spirits will not burn you.62
Lee's attitude toward studying the Bible is significant, in that it explains much of the confusion and misunderstanding of the Bible prevalent among members of the Local Church. It is connected with a doctrine called "pray-reading" the Word, which Lee explains:
. . . there is no need for us to close our eyes to pray. It is better for us to close our mind! . . . Do not try only to leam the Bible. We must realize that this is a book of life, not a book of knowledge. This book is the divine embodiment of the living Spirit, and He is life.63 Simply pick up the Word and pray-read a few verses in the morning and in the evening. There is no need for you to exercise your mind in order to squeeze out some utterance, and it is unnecessary to think over what you read. ... It is better for us to close our mind! For example, n pray-reading Galatians 2:20 simply look at the printed page, which says, "I am crucified with Christ." Then with your eyes upon the Word and praying from deeply within say: "Praise the Lord, 'I am crucified with Christ!' Hallelujah! 'Crucified with Christ.' Amen. 'I am.' Oh, Lord, 'I am crucified.' Praise the Lord! 'Crucified with Christ.' Amen! 'I am crucified with Christ.' Hallelujah! Amen! 'Nevertheless.' Amen. 'Nevertheless.' Amen! 'I live.' Oh, Lord, 'I live!' Hallelujah! Amen! 'Yet not I but Christ,' etc." . .. There is no need for you to compose any sentences or create a prayer. Just pray-read the Word, pray the words of the Bible exactly as they read. Eventually, you will see that the whole Bible is a prayer book! You can open to any page of the Bible and start to pray with any portion of the Word. . . . There is no need to explain or expound the Word, simply pray with the Word. Forget about reading, researching, understanding, and learning the Word. You must pray-read the Word.64
Such a teaching discourages careful study of the Word by Local Church members, and therefore encourages them to accept without questions the group's teachings. This implication alone would be contrary to 1 Thessalonians 5:21: "Test all things, hold fast that which is good." But there are further difficulties.
The dislike for knowledge is contrary to Paul's prayer that we "might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding . . . and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Colossians 1:9-10). The advice that we "forget about reading, researching, understanding, and learning the Word" is against 2 timothy 2:15, which says to "show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
The idea of closing our minds when reading Scripture and praying is against the Word of God when Paul writes, "I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also" (1 Corinthians 14:15). It is completely contrary to the spirit of the psalmist, who wrote: Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them. The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple. I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments, order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me. . . . Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes. . . . The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live. [Psalm 119:129-131, 133, 135, 144] This certainly presents a contrast to the one who says, "Forget about reading, researching, understanding, and learning the word!"
Furthermore, the constant repetitions and exclamations that mark the practice of "pray-reading" the Word are comparable to what Paul taught against when he wrote, "But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker . . ." (2 Timothy 2:16-17). it is refuted by Jesus' statement about prayer: "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them . . ." (Matthew 6:7-8).
It is clear that the Local Church method of using the Bible and of prayer is contrary to Scripture. It can contribute to a general confusion about the Word of God itself, about what it teaches, about God Himself, and about the individual's relationship to God and others. But furthermore, it can contribute to an unquestioning acceptance of Local Church teachings over all others, including those of the Bible. This is coupled with Lee's claims about his own teachings:
These words are not merely a teaching but a strong testimony to what I have been practicing and experiencing for more than 35 years. I have been captured by this vision. By the mercy of the Lord I have never changed my way or my tone. And I have seen truly local churches raised up in many cities as an incontrovertible testimony that this is the way of the Lord.65
Do not think this is my teaching; it is the Lord's revelation. The Lord is going to recover it, and He is doing it now. We must have a change. Repent! Change your concept! Be buried! Enjoy Jesus as the Bridegroom!66
These high claims about Lee's teaching, plus the discouragement of serious study and thought about the Bible, lead to unswerving allegiance to the Local church. Such claims are a source of great difficulty in communicating with members, yet they are completely nonscriptural. Not only are these teachings wrong about God, salvation, and the Church, but also they are contrary to Scripture concerning prayer and the study of God's Word, and encourage the practice of accepting beliefs without questioning them, contrary to 1 Thessalonians 5:21. There is nothing that should not be tested in relation to any religious belief. We encourage members of the Local Church to be like the noble Bereans "received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11). Here Luke shows that the Bereans were "noble" because they tested even the gospel Paul preached by the Scriptures. Certainly if the Bereans were "noble" for testing the preaching of Paul by Scripture, members and those interested in the Local Church should test the teachings of Witness Lee also.
The Local Church Belief About Sin and Satan
When we approach the teachings of the Local Church about sin and Satan, we strike at the root of Lee's doctrine, and perhaps find the stem from which all his doctrines naturally flow. Lee begins with Paul's references to the "flesh" as the sinful nature in man and literalizes them so that sin actually is the flesh of man. We see the flow of Lee's thinking from this point in The Economy of God:
Man's body as originally created by God was something very good, but it has now become the flesh. The body was pure, since it was created good, but when the body was corrupted by Satan, it became flesh.67
It was God's intention for this neutral, innocent man to take God into himself, that God and man, man and God, would be mingled together as one. . . . Another possibility, however, was that man would be induced to take the second tree, the source of death. As a consequence, man would then be mingled with the second tree. Oh, that our eyes might be opened to see that in the whole universe it is not a matter of ethics and of doing good, but a matter of either receiving God as life or Satan as death.68
The significance of Adam taking the fruit of the tree of knowledge was that he received Satan into himself.. . . Satan grew in Adam and became a part of him.69
The body simply became the residence of Sin, which is the embodiment of Satan. . . . This corrupted, transmuted body is called the "body of sin," and the "body of death," because this body became the very residence of Satan.70
[After the fall] Satan was joyful, boasting that he had succeeded in taking over man. But God, who was still outside of man, seemed to say: "I will also become incarnated. If Satan wrought himself into man, then let Me enter man and put man upon Myself."71
The body is something satanic and devilish, because Satan dwells in this body. All the lusts are in this corrupted body which is called the flesh. . . .Satan, from the time of the fall, dwells in man. This is what happened when man partook of the second tree.. . . Since Satan and man became one through the second tree, Satan is no longer outside of man, but in man.72
Christ is the embodiment of God, but sin is the embodiment of Satan. . . . Sin can be lord over us; hence, Sin must be the evil one, Satan. Through the fall, Satan came into man as Sin, and is ruling, damaging, corrupting and mastering him. In what part? Satan is in the members of man's body."
The problem for man, then, is sin. Sin, according to Lee, is Satan. Satan has come into man's flesh and masters him. In this way, Satan has taken complete control of man, and this control can only be broken by God coming into man in the same way Satan has come. We see the following step in Lee's teaching:
When the Lord Jesus incarnated Himself in flesh, He was "in the likeness of the flesh of sin." . . . When Christ was on the cross, He was a man "in the likeness" of the serpent. The serpent is Satan, the devil, the enemy of God, but when Christ was incarnated as a man, He had even the likeness of the sinful flesh, which is the likeness of Satan. . . . After God became a man and put that man with Satan within him upon Himself, He brought that man to the cross. Satan thought he had succeeded, but he only gave the Lord an easy way to put him to death. ... By taking man, he [Satan] was caught and imprisoned in man. Subsequently, the Lord came and put man upon Himself to bring him to the cross.... At the same time, Satan within this fallen man was put to death also. . . . Christ brought man with Satan into death and the grave and brought man without Satan out of death and the grave. He left Satan buried in the grave. Now this resurrected man is one with Christ. . . . [T]hrough this resurrection man with God became one. By incarnation God came into man, and by resurrection man with God became one. Now God is in man's spirit.74
Parallel Incarnations of God and Satan. The line of thought here is clear: God first intended to create man for the purpose of manifesting Himself; Stan tempted man, so that man took of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; by so doing, man took Satan into himself, and so long as Satan is there, man cannot manifest God; God therefore purposed to put Himself into man, which He first accomplished through the incarnation in Christ (and later extends this incarnation to all believers); He then brought Christ to the cross so that the man and Satan died; finally He raised the man and Christ (Himself) from the dead, so that man could at last fully express God. Let us see how all of this stands in relation to Scripture.
Lee's teaching stems from his identification of sin with Satan. It is difficult to see whether Lee intends to personify sin in making it Satan, or to depersonify Satan by making him (it) sin. Whichever is the case, neither view is Biblical. The Bible shows a clear distinction between sin and Satan. Sin is revealed as the attitude or acts of disobedience and disloyalty to God and His Word (Romans 3:20; 4:15; 7:7-25, esp. 15-16). While sin is sometimes personified in Scripture, as if it had a will of its own, this can be easily seen to be figurative language. Satan, in contrast, is presented as a particular personal being, the fall angel (2 Corinthians 11:14-15; 1 Corinthians 5:5; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8). It is incorrect, therefore, to call sin Satan.
Yet this error leads to a more significant one. Because man became a sinner when he took of the forbidden fruit, Lee infers that he therefore took Satan into himself; his literal flesh then became the abode and embodiment of Satan. Man then became the manifestation of Satan. But again this is contrary to Scripture. It misinterprets Paul's use offlesh as a metaphor for the sinful nature of man, making the "flesh" itself actually evil. But Paul says no such thing of our literal flesh: instead he thinks of it as morally neutral and, because it is a creation of God, generally good. He sees the flesh simply as being under the bondage of sin (Romans 7:17, 18, 24) and therefore subject to corruption (romans 8:18-23). This is what he calls the "natural body" (1 Corinthians 15:44). But flesh itself will become the "spiritual body" when it has been raised from the dead and has put on immortality (Luke 24:39; John 2:19-21; 1 Corinthians 15:44-54; Romans 8:11). The flesh is not evil and is not the manifestation of sin.
This error of believing flesh to be evil leads to another error, still more significant. Lee believes that Satan corrupted all men by becoming one with them, by being incarnated in them. It follows that he must believe that God can only save men by becoming one with them, which is what he wrote: "God . . . seemed to say: 'I will also become incarnated. If Satan wrought himself into man, then let Me enter man and put man upon Myself.'"75 It follows logically from Lee's belief that Satan was incarnated in all men that God will become incarnated in all those who become Christians, and it follows that Lee would teach that the Church itself is God manifest in the flesh, as we saw before.
There are two parallel lines that run through Lee's teaching about God, man, salvation, the Church, sin, and Satan:
First, sin and Satan are one and the same, Satan became incarnate in man at the fall, the flesh of all men is therefore Satan incarnate, the only means of redeeming men is for God to become incarnate in them instead of Satan, God first became incarnate in Christ, and through the Holy Spirit He becomes incarnate in the Church, the Body of Christ.
Second, God created man for the purpose of expressing Himself, man fell, the Father became the Son to be the first man in whom God was incarnate, He died, leaving Satan in the grave, and rose, becoming the Holy Spirit, the Spirit comes into believers, making them the continuation of the incarnation so that the Church is God manifest in the flesh.
All of this is contrary to the Word of God, for it requires that God be changing, contradicting God's nature. It robs Christ of His uniqueness, contrary to John 3:16. It confuses sin with Satan and takes an unbiblical view of the physical body by calling it evil. It confuses saved men with God, contradicting Isaiah 43:10; Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19, and accepts the error proposed to Eve by Satan in Genesis 3:5.
Our conclusion can only be that the teachings of Witness Lee and the Local Church are heretical. We urge all Christians everywhere to pray for those in the Local Church and to help them see Lee's errors and return to the true gospel, the true Jesus, the true Spirit, and the pure Word of God, which is the lamp unto our feet. The teachings of the Local Church are false, and false teachings originate with Satan (John 8:44). Such teachings are darkness (Ephesians 6:12), and the Christian must not walk in darkness (1 John 1:5-7). Let us walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7).
About the Author
E. Calvin Beisner is associate professor of historical theology and social ethics at Knox Theological Seminary. He spent seven years as a researcher and writer on doctrinal and cult apologetics in the 1970s and early 1980s with the Christian Research Institute under the late Dr. Walter Martin and with CARIS (Christian Apologetics: Research and Information Service, the precursor to the present Answers in Action) in cooperation with cult apologists Bob and Gretchen Passantino. He contributed to Martin's The New Cults and wrote research reports published by CRI. Among his teaching responsibilities at Knox is a course on the theology of the cults. Among his eleven books is his God in Three Persons (Tyndale House, 1984), a study of the early history of the doctrine of the Trinity, and "Jesus Only" Churches (Zondervan, 1998), a refutation of the modalist theology of Oneness Pentecostalism, which is in some respects similar to that of Witness Lee and the Local Church. He earned a B.A. in interdisciplinary studies in religion and philosophy, magna cum laude, in 1978 from the University of Southern California, where his thesis on the early history of the doctrine of the Trinity was awarded highest honors; an M.A. in society with a specialization in economic ethics, magna cum laude, in 1983 from International College; and a Ph.D. in history in 2003 from the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland.
1 Witness Lee. The Practical Expression of the Church (Anaheim: Stream, 1974), 92, 111.
2 For more detailed statement and scriptural proof, see Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 volumes (Grand R apids: Eerdmans, 1 973), 1:442 ff.
3 Witness Lee, The Economy of God (Los Angeles: Stream, 1968), 10.
4 Witness Lee, "Concerning the Triune God" (Los Angeles: Stream, n.d.), 3 1.
5 Ibid., 8-9.
6 Lee, The Economy of God, 11.
7 Lee, "Concerning the Triune God," 8; brackets added.
8 Ibid., 8.
9 Lee, The Economy of God, 11.
10 Witness Lee, The All-inclusive Spirit of Christ (LosAngeles: Stream, 1969), 4, 6,8.
11 Santa Ana Register, Saturday, October 22, 1 977, D.
I2 Louis Berkhof, The History of Christian Doctrines (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1975), 79: cf. 78-79.
13 Abraham Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 45.
14 William Kelly, "Sabellianism," in Baker's Dictionary of Theology, edited by Everett F. Harrison (GrandRapids: Baker, 1975),465.
15 Augustus Strong, Systematic Theology (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1976), 327.
16 Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 8 volumes (USA: Associated Publishers and Authors, n.d.), 2:262.
17 Lee, The Economy of God, 1 0.
18 Lee, “Concerning the Triune God” 8
19 Lee, The Economy of God, 11
20 Lee, “Concerning the Triune God” 11
21 -26 Ibid
27 Lee, "Concerning the Triune God," 11.
28 Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 2:260.
29 William Nigel Kerr, "Patripassianism," inBaker's Dictionary of Theology, 396-7.
30 Shaff, History of the Christian Church, 2:260.
31 Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, 3 volumes (Grand Rapids: Baker, 197 7), 2:1 77.
32 Berkhof, History of Christian Doctrines, 79.
33 William Gesenius, Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures, trans, and ed. S. P. Tregelles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1 974), 28-29.
34 W. H. Griffith Thomas, The Holy Spirit of Cod (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 129.
35 Lee, The Economy of God, 199.
36 Wintnes Lee, "Life-Study in Matthew, Message One" (Los Angeles: Stream, n.d.), 3.
37 Witness Lee, The All-inclusive Christ (Los Angeles: Stream, 1969), 103.
38 Lee, The Practical Expression of the Church, 43.
39 Witness Lee, The God of Resurrection (Los Angeles: Stream, n.d.), 4.
40 Lee, The God of Resurrection, 12.
41 Lee, The Economy of God, 206-7. Note that while Lee here speaks of "three Persons" in God, this does not excuse him from the charge of modalism. It merely makes clear that he must redefine the word person so that it bears little resemblance to the true meaning of the word. Berkhof (History of Christian Doctrines, 79) wrote that "Sabellius indeed sometimes spoke of three divine persons, but then used the word 'person' in the original sense of the word, in which it signifies a role of acting or a mode of manifestation." It is apparent that Lee has done the same thing.
42 Ibid., 113.
43 Life-Study in Genesis, Message 10, 121-2.
44 "Christ as Life (2 3) Christ's Increase-His Bride," excerpt of Life Study in John (Stream, 1977),on John3:29-30.
45 "A Response to False Teachings," Santa Ana Register, date unknown.
46 Bill Freeman, The Testimony of Church History Regarding the Mystery of the Mingling of God with Man (Anaheim: Stream, 1 977), 5.
47 John C Ingalls, "The Truth Concerning God manifest in the Flesh," in "The Response of Witness Lee and Local Church To a Recent Meeting Held at Melodyland” Santa Ana Register, October 8, 1977.
48 J.H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Wheaton: Evangel, 1974), 345.
49 Witness Lee, Stream Magazine 8:1 (February 1,1970), 6.
50 Note that Lee never uses the phrase local church in a general sense as denoting any local congregation of Christians; rather, in his use it always denotes specifically the one local congregation of believers who follow his teachings.
51 Witness Lee, Finding Christ By the Living Star (Los Angeles: Stream, 1970), 27-28.
52 Witness Lee, The Vision of the Church (Los Angeles: Stream, n.d.), 9.
53 Witness Lee, Satan's Strategy Against the Church (Los Angeles: Stream, n.d.), 6, 8.
54 Witness Lee, The Recovery Version of Revelation (Anaheim: Stream, 1976), 17.
55 Witness Lee, The Churches (Los Angeles: Stream, n.d.), 12.
56 Stream, vol. 4, no. 4.
57 Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 2:93.
58 It is interesting that those in the Local Church do not consider the Local Church a denomination. A denomination is simply a group (usually religious) with a name. This description fits the Local Church.
59 Lee, The Economy of God, 23.
60 Ibid, 24
6l Witness Lee, Christ vs. Religion (Los Angeles: Stream, 1971), 14-15.
62 Stream Magazine 8:1 (February 1, 1970), 5.
63 Witness Lee, A Time with the Lord (Los Angeles: Stream, n.d.), 10, 11.
64 Witness Lee, Pray-Reading the Word (Los Angeles: Stream, n.d.), 8-10
65 Lee, The Vision of the Church, 10-11.
66 Lee, Christ vs. Religion, 13.
67 Lee, The Economy of God, 108.
68-75 Ibid, 106-112