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The Teachings of Witness Lee and the Local Church

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李常受和地方召会的教导

Revised Edition 2 0 0 3

2003年修订版 E . Calvin Beisner, PhD .

E·加尔文·贝斯那 博士

(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)

引言

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。

我们爱这个运动的成员;正因为来自这个内心的爱,所以当他们教导圣经出现严重错误的时候,我们必须要真诚的为了那从前一次交付给圣徒的真道竭力争辩(犹大书3章)。我们并不是要攻击地方召会的具体个人,但是我们必须要指出、并且纠正他们所接受的异端教训。

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)。

地方召会的教导以及经文的对照

地方召会(译注:中文称为地方召会)有着独特的教导,以至于将它自己和基督的身体有差别,而我们的目的就是要调查并将这些教导与圣经相比较。非常重要的一点是,首先要理解地方召会对于其他基督教派别的态度,不论是对于天主教还是对于新教,这样我们就能够看出这些教训是多么的重要。李常受写道“不要保持中立。不要尝试跟他们调和。……。你们知道宗派是错误的,然而你们却仍要保持,因为你们怕别人谈论”.1[1]因为李常受和地方召会认为所有的宗派都是错误的。(我们稍后会回到这个话题)。是什么把地方召会和其他宗派区分开来的呢?关键点就是教导和实践。因为地方召会的实践来自于其教导,为了方便我们这两方面一并处理。

我们将要讨论地方召会的教训的五个主要方面,并且跟神的道做比较:(1)神的本性(Nature),尤其是三位一体的教义;(2)救赎的方式;(3)教会,集中在“本地化”和教会跟神之间的关系;(4)圣经的实质(Nature)和使用;(5)罪和撒旦的实质(Nature)。


神的本质(Nature)

三位一体的教义通常从从实质上是这样陈述的:“这一位真神的本质(nature)中,有三个永恒的不同的位格(person),父,子和圣灵。这三位是同一个神,全部完全的神,然而父既不是子也不是灵,子既不是父也不是灵,而灵既不是父也不是子”[2]。然而地方召会的教导却与此相悖。


顺序形态论(Successive Modalism)

地方召会教导父,子和圣灵都是同一个位格,同时是同一位神,而且在神向人的启示中,每一位都采用有次序的步骤和阶段。李常受写道:

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[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 [4]
在诸天之上,那里人眼不能见,神是那父;当他在人们中间显现他自己的时候,他就是那子;而当他进入人的时候,他就是那灵。父以子的形式显现在人们中间。那父在子中,而子成为那灵——这三位就是一位唯一的神。5[5]
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[6]
在受死和升天以后他(子)成为了那灵被门徒呼吸进去。7[7]
……子成为那灵像生命之水那样被我们喝下去。8[8]
父,作为万物无尽的源头体现(embody)在子中。9[9]
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[10]

我们从这些段落中可以看出,关于父,子和圣灵的非常清楚的被教导成是神向人类启示的三位相继的阶段。因此子不是真正的与父不同的位格(person),而是父“来到并显明(manifest)他自己”。圣灵也不是一个与父和子所不同的位格,而是“传递(transmission)”,是“相交(communion)”;他实际上是父和子在不同阶段对人类的显现。正如地方召会前成员比尔·弗里曼(Bill Freeman)写到“李常受和地方召会对于‘圣经回答人’的回复”中的:

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[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[12]

系统神学家亚伯拉罕·凯波尔(Abraham Kuyper)这样描述撒伯流主义(Sabellianism):

撒伯流(Sabellius)……得到的结论是父,子和圣灵最终只是一个位格(Person);他首先作为父行创造之工,然后借着救赎之工变成子,而现在作为圣灵使我们的成圣可以完全。13[13]

神学历史学家威廉·凯利(William Kelly)写到:

名字取自第三世纪的撒伯流,这个……将父,子圣灵的三个位格压缩成神格(Godhead)成为(assume)的三个角色(character),形态(mode)或者的联系(relation),这个是为了处理神性和人的目的。所以神是永恒的并且实质性(essentially)的那一位(的存在),但是从结构上(economically),例如,为了特定的目标,他取了(take)父子和圣灵的形式(form)……14[14]

系统神学家奥古斯都·斯特朗(Augustus Strong)写到:

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[15]

教会历史学家菲利普·薛夫(Philip Schaff)写到:

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[16]

请记住李常受是这样教导的:”所以,那三位一体中的三个位格成为了神的经纶(economy)的过程中的三个有次序的步骤(step)。“ 17[17]

毫无疑问,李教导的这方面是撒伯流层面的形态论:就是,父,子,和圣灵是三个顺序的(successive)形态(mode)(这就是”形态论“(变形说,modalism)名字的由来),或者说是神向人显示的阶段(stage),而不是三个内在的实质性的有区别的位格。

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[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[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。

静态形态论(Static Modalism)

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:

尽管他是一神,然后事实上确有三个层面(three-foldness),也就是说,三层的(threefold)位格——父,子和圣灵。20[20]
他[父]是那一位隐藏在里面的,而子是那一位彰显(manifest)在外面的;而那一位彰显在外面的就是那一位隐藏在里面的——这二者就是一。21[21]
感谢主,他还有两个头(end):一头在天上他是父,而另外一头在地上他就是子;在天上的那一头的他是那位听祷告的,而在地上这头的他是那位进行祈祷的。他既是那一位在地上祷告的也是那一位在天上听祷告的。22[22]
祷告的子就是听祷告的父23[23]
因此圣经清楚的启示给我们子就是父,而子也是那灵。否则这三位怎么能成为一位神?24[24]
子就是父,子就是那灵25[25]
主耶稣就是圣灵26[26]

非常明显,李常受还教导父,子和圣灵同时彼此都是另外一位。在一个和相同的时间,子是父而且是圣灵。这个关于父和子他们“二就是一”的陈述实际上是非常晦涩:我们不得不问,“一什么?”李的回答是他们是相同的位格(Person),因为他告诉我们在神里面的三层性(threefoldness)就是“三层的位格”。27[27]这也暗示了圣灵也是在这一个位格里面。事实上这个教导同时的非顺序的形态论也是被拒绝的,尽管事实上它其实是间接的跟刚刚谈到的李的发展的形态论(developmental modalism)教导相矛盾。


在基督教教义史上通常使用圣父受苦说(Patripassianism)这个词来表示这个教导(词的构成是patr表示圣父,patior表示受苦),因为他逻辑上暗示了圣父作为基督在十字架上受苦。Shaff写到了这类思想:

第二类的神格唯一论(Monarchians),被特土良(Tertullian)称作圣父受苦论(Patripassians)……连同他们对独一位神论(unitarian)的热情,感觉到更深的基督徒的必须要紧抓著基督的神性的动力;但是他们却牺牲了他的独立的位格,他们将这位格合并到父的实质(essence)中去了。他们教导说那一位至高无上的神借他自己的自由意志,使用自我限制的方法而变成人,所以子只是父披戴了肉身(flesh)的面纱。他们知道没有其他的神,只有那在基督中彰显(manifest)的一位,并且用善恶二神论者(ditheism)指控与他们观点不同的人。28[28]

威廉·纳吉尔克尔(William Nigel Kerr)写到:

圣父受苦论者(Patripassianist)……带着形态论者(modalist)混淆三位一体的位格,拒绝基督两个本性(nature)在一个位格中的联合(union)。为抗辩一神论(monotheism)观点他们认为既然神是一个本质(essence),就不可能有三个位格,而是三个形态(mode)的彰显(manifestation)。因此子就是父以人形的显现。Noetus教导说,基督就是父因此父就被生出,且受苦并死在十字架上,这就是圣父受苦论名字的由来。29[29]

早期比较著名的教导这个教义的一个人是普拉克希亚(Praxeas),关于他沙夫(Schaff)是这样写的:

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[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[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:

普拉克希亚(Praxeas)……看起来已经避免了父受苦断言,但是奴爱达(Noetus)在这点上却毫不犹豫。借用希伯里推思(Hippolytus)的话:“他说耶稣他自己就是父,而父他自己被生并且受苦并且死了。”根据这同一位教父,他甚至做了一个大胆的假定即父借着改变他的文字上的存在的形态(mode)而变成了他自己的子(Son)。而引用奴爱达(Noetus)的陈述则如下:“当父还没有被生的时候,他可以被正确的称呼为父;但是当他乐意将他自己交付(submit)而出生,并且已经被生,他就变成了子,他自己的他而不是另外一个的他”。32[32]

我们能看到在奴爱达(Noetus)教义中的顺序主义(successionism),其中的主要的教导和其他的引用都是关于同一个作为父和子的位格的同时存在的标识(identity),这个也正是李常受所传播的。

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[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:

撒伯流主义不论是古代还是现代都被证明无法长久。即便是没有连续性(Successionalism)的形态论也完全与圣经的见证不一致。教会历史中很少能够有任何事比对于撒伯流主义的不断的循环出现并被拒绝更重要了,因为它很明显的简单,且很快就可以看到认为父,子和圣灵仅仅是一位神的不同方面(aspect)或者彰显(manifestation)是绝对不可能的。34[34]

李常受的两个形态论的教义毫无意外的也是这个结果。他们与经文的见证不符。他们是两个古代异端的重现。他们不仅与圣经矛盾而且彼此矛盾。所以他们必须要被所有的基督徒所拒绝,因为玛拉基书 3:6宣告了神的不变性。

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。

从很多李常受的文字中可以明显的看到他在讲授这个教义:

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[35]
这位基督已经从一个位格(Person)扩展到成千上万的位格们(persons)。他曾是一个个体的(individual)基督,但是在使徒行传中他成为了一个团体的(corporate)的基督。36[36]
[谈到教会和基督:]在数量上我们是不同的,但是在本质上我们是完全相同的。37[37]
父在子里面,子在灵里面,而灵现在在身体(Body)里面。他们现在四合一了:父,子,灵和身体(Body)。38[38]


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[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[40]


在十字架被钉死之后紧跟着复活。复活回复并且提升了被神早的人性的标准,并且将人性带给神。借着道成肉身神性带入人;借着复活人性带入神。现在人就有可能有多于一个的被造的人性……神被人调和(mingle)而人被神调和……神在他的三个位格中他自己跟我们调和了。41[41]
然后那天就会到来,那时候这位三一神和复活的人就会成为一个表达(expression)……42[42]
最后神会变成我们43[43]
基督会通过我们增长因为他在我们中被复制44[44]

正如地方召会成员Ron Kangas写到,“那很多的弟兄和这位首生的子在生命(life)和本性(nature)上是一样的”,而且“首生的子和很多其他的儿子都是在神性的生命(life)和本性(nature)中一样的”45[45]

我们已经没有办法不怀疑地方召会教导的教会成为神和反过来的说法。这点不仅仅是李常受提到,也被地方召会的一位护教人员Bill Freeman提到,他写到“基督的隐秘和教会是一个实体(entity)”46[46]另外一个地方召会护教人员 John C. Ingalls写到“基督不仅仅是头(Head),也是身体[即教会]”47[47]

这样的思想必然伴随着那位神的本性的变化。神必须要变成教会,而每当有人加入教会,神就必须增长一次。事实上,当李常受写到教会作为“神在肉体中的显现的增长,扩大”的时候,在如上引用的其他作品的上下文中,他清楚的暗示了神他自己的增长。可是这样的教导在玛拉基书3:6的光照下是不可能的,那里神宣称,“因我耶和华是不改变的……”。

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]

歌罗西书 1:18宣称基督是“身体即教会的头,”在这里头这个词是kephale,用比喻的方式意味着那一位是超越教会,且但是不是教会的一部分。48[48]所以他不是身体,而是(“掌管”)身体的头。

地方召会关于神的教导,因而是跟神的道矛盾的。他教导说神是变化的,首先,从父到子到灵,然后到教会自己。他拒绝那位真实的父子灵之间的有区别的位格,相反地却说这些不同是作为神向人彰显的不同阶段。这样做,他就真正的拒绝了父,子和圣灵。他必须要被基督徒所拒绝。

救赎的道路(The Way of Salvation)

地方召会在救恩方面的信仰是非常复杂甚至出现矛盾。李常受首先教导救恩是简单的只是一个求告(译注:地方召会用”呼求“这个词)主名的事情。但是在其他的文字中李常受有强烈的暗示除非参加地方召会是不可能得救的。来看看他是如何陈述两个立场的,这能够帮助了解:

我们已经看见,要接触信徒,讲道不是必不可少的。如果我们帮助他们说“哦,主”三遍,他们就会得救。如果他们打开窗户,空气就会进来。所有的人必须要做的就是张开他们的罪说,“哦,主,哦,主”。即便他们还没有想相信,他们仍然会被抓到。不管他们是不是有这个意向,只要他们打开窗户,空气就会进来。那不是教导的问题,那是一个摸着神的七灵的问题。49[49]

这个暗示非常清楚。所有的得到救赎的必要条件就是一个人说“哦主,哦主,哦主”。其他的都不是必须的。真的不需要相信或者接近(eve)想要相信?救赎真的跟个人的信仰无关系,而只跟他嘴上说的话相关么?

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:

如果我们跟随那些流浪的星们,最后我们的地位(position)就会跟他们的相同——永远的黑暗。
……如果有人就近你却没有一个确定的立场和特定的路线(course),远离他。恰当的立场是地方召会,正确的路线是进到在地方召会的中的灵中去。50[50]永远不要做一个流浪的星,也永远不要跟随一个流浪的星。
……今天对于你我和任何要寻找基督的人的唯一的道路就是看那个活星。哈利路亚!今天那星离我们不远……他就在各个地方召会中……今天那活星和活星们在地方召会里。让我们跟随他们并且让我们成为他们中的一员。51[51]

李常受和地方召会中的人认为所有在地方召会之外的人都是“流浪的星”。而这些“流浪的星”的命运是“永远的黑和暗”。很明显,只有在地方召会中,人才能得救。这个和他教导说一个人只要说“哦主,哦主,哦主”就会得救相矛盾。那么,那个是对的呢?

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)。

因为地方召会关于神的有错误教义,只有在地方召会中的人才能得救的说法就它不能是正确的。我们看到李常受关于救恩的两方面的教导都与神的道矛盾。然而,即便地方召会的确有对神正确的信仰,而不是它目前拥有的错误的信仰,和一个正确的关于教会的信仰,而不是它的错误的信仰,它也不能是唯一的一个团体而人只有在这个团体中才能得救,因为圣经反对这样的排外主义(exclusivism)(哥林多前书 1:12-13)。地方召会的排外主义将基督的身体分开,是不符合圣经的。

教会:地方化信仰(The Church: The Belief in Localism)

跟一个人只有必须在地方召会中才能得救的讲道相对应,李常受教导“地方话(localism)”的教义,也就是说,任何一个城市里只能有一个基督身体的真代表。而这个自然而然的就是指地方召会了。地方召会自顾自的宣称他们是基督的身体的真的代表,而其他的教会都是假的:

如果你进入一个城市里除了地方召会以外的任何地方,你就进入了分裂(division);如果你进入那个城市的教会,你就进入了联合(unity)。52[52]
[撒旦]在采取另外一个步骤,建立所有的派别,教派并分裂基督的身体……这些天神在运动以便恢复。他的恢复的方式是什么?……恢复到一个恰当的联合中。只有等到我们中间这三件事都恢复了,我们才能够有一个恰当合适的教会生活。53[53]
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[54]
教会生活必须今天就实行,除了地方召会之外没有其他的方式。55[55]
犹太教是属于撒旦的,天主教是属于魔鬼的,基督教新教是不信奉基督的(Christless)56[56]


地方化

这个教导有两个方面。首先,李常受讲了一个地方化(localism)教义。而这个却被神的道所反驳,保罗在罗马书16:3-5a写到:“问百基拉和亚居拉安。他们在基督耶稣里与我同工,也为我的命将自己的颈项置之度外。不但我感谢他们,就是外邦的众教会也感谢他们。又问在他们家中的教会安。”。保罗写给一个罗马的教会,然而他让那个教会的圣徒向在百基拉和亚居拉家里的教会问安。因此即便还是在那么早期的时候,在罗马至少就有两所教会。 教会历史也显示一个城市里有多间教会是非常正常的,甚至在使徒时代也是。关于早期教会沙夫(Schaff)写到:

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[57]

非常清楚一个社区的教堂的数量的多少,是简单的增量正比于该社区中的基督徒人数的,要看他们的需要。如果早在公元300年的就有40间教堂,在在短短的使徒时代和稍后的时候,那是有不止是一部分教堂的。

如上引用的其教导的第二个层面,是对于地方召会之外所有的宗派的定罪。58[58]新教和天主教都被称作撒旦的组织。这里只能看到对基督身体的极端的分裂。这个教导跟基督的祷告相反,那个祷告是为基督的身体即教会做的,说“使他们都合而为一;正如你父在我里面,我在你里面,使他们也在我们里面,叫世人可以信你差了我来。”(约翰福音 17:21)。地方召会的分裂主义是反基督的,并且基于此世人就更难看到基督真的是被父差遣的。

地方召会声称它也只有它自己才是任何社区中真正的教会;所有其他的都是撒旦的组织;在地方召会之外没有可能会有正确的观点或者站在正确的立场。因为这个原因势必的基督的身体必须要强烈并且迅速的反应并且指出地方召会的错误,警告其他人要反对它,并且帮助那些在地方召会中的人认识到李常受的错误并返回到圣经真理。我们一定不能以个人定罪的形式来回应他们的定罪。我们必须要指出该团体教导的异端,热心的根据神的道纠正他们,帮助地方召会的成员理解圣经上正确的教导这样他们才不会再被错误的教训所搅扰。

地方召会的圣经和推理(The Bible and Reason in the Local Church)

虽然地方召会的教导承认圣经是启示的并且是无误的神的道,但是圣经看起来并没有成为指导(govern)多数地方召会成员的的信仰。他们的信仰很明显是被他的的经历所主导,而不是因为圣经的学习。记住这点,我们就可以更容易的理解地方召会的内部的矛盾了。地方召会的人被告知不要去研究、理解、或者学习道。这个在意识和思想中的拒绝解释了地方召会的教训混淆的本质。

地方召会不鼓励获得教导的主题或者教义。李常受写到,“教义在神的孩子们之间带来分歧(division)”。59[59](不过李常受正如他自己常做的,会跟他自己矛盾,“……我们当然可以从教义得到帮助……”60[60])这个态度使得地方召会成员很难认真考虑他们每个人自己信仰的重要性并且谨慎的跟圣经对照。这是一个跟神的道相悖的教导,经上说,“务要传道;无论得时不得时,总要专心,并用百般的忍耐,各样的教训,责备人、警戒人、劝勉人。因为时候要到,人必厌烦纯正的道理,耳朵发痒,就随从自己的情欲,增添好些师傅,并且掩耳不听真道,偏向荒渺的言语。”(提摩太后书 4:2-4)。

这是一个地方召会常常强调的,用来反对教导、对圣经或者神的知识,和研读神的道:

只要[耶稣]与我们同在,我们就不需要校正(regulation),礼仪(ritual),教义(doctrine)或者形态(form)……你来聚会是来教导的还是来学习的?我们来聚会必须是要为了宴席(feasting)。61[61]
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[62]

李常受对于研经的态度非常重要,因为这就解释了为什么在地方召会成员中对圣经的混淆和误解是如此之普遍。与之相联系的是一个叫做“祷读”道的教义,李常受是这么解释的:

……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[63]
在早上或者傍晚的时候简单拿起那道并进行祷读几节经文。没有必要训练你的大脑以便能挤出一些话语,也不需要仔细思考你读的是什么……我们最好关上我们的心!例如,祷读加拉太书2:20简单的看看打印好的页面,上面写着,“我与基督同钉十字架”。然后眼睛看着道开始从内心深处祷告,说“赞美主,‘我已经与基督同钉十字架!’哈利路亚!‘同钉十字架’阿们‘我’哦,主,‘我被钉十架’赞美主!‘与基督同钉十字架’阿们!‘我与基督同钉十字架’哈利路亚!阿们!‘尽管如此’阿们。‘尽管如此’阿们!‘我活着。’哦,主,‘我活着!’哈利路亚!阿们!‘然而不再是我而是基督,’等等”……并不需要完整的形成几个句子或者建立一个祷告。只要祷读那道。祷告我们正好读到的圣经上的文字。最后,你将会看到整本圣经都是一本祷告书!你可以打开圣经的任何页面就开始祷告经文的任何部分……没有必要解释或者详细说明道的意思,只要用道来祷告。要忘记对道的阅读、研究、理解和学习。你必须祷读那道。64[64]

这样的教导自然就不鼓励地方召会成员认真的研读神的道,因此也就鼓励他们没有分辨的接受他们群体的教导。这个暗示本身就跟帖撒罗尼迦前书 5:21矛盾:“但要凡事察验,善美的要持守”。但是还有更深入的困难。

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。”

在读圣经和祷告的时候关上心的观点也与神的道违背,保罗写到,“这却怎么样呢?我要用灵祷告,也要用悟性祷告;我要用灵歌唱,也要用悟性歌唱。”.他也完全与诗篇的作者的灵相反,那里写到“你的法度奇妙,所以我一心谨守。你的言语一解开,就发出亮光,使愚人通达。我张口而气喘,因我切慕你的命令。……求你用你的话,使我脚步稳当,不许什么罪孽辖制我。……求你用脸光照仆人,又将你的律例教训我。你的法度永远是公义的,求你赐我悟性,我就活了。”[诗篇 119:129-131,133,135,144]这与那些说“忘掉对于道的阅读、研究、理解和学习”明显相对。

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)

很清楚地方召会使用圣经和祷告的方法都跟圣经相悖。他可能会导致对于神的道本身、对于道讲什么、对于神自己和对个人跟神的关系等等都有一个常见的混乱。可是更进一步的,他还会导致对于地方召会的教导的毫无疑问的接受程度超过其他的教导包括那些圣经中的教导。这个和李氏关于他自己的教导的声称相耦合:

这些话不仅仅是教导而是有力的见证,见证了我超过35年的实践和经历。我被这个异象抓住。靠着主的恩典我从来没有改变我的方式和腔调。而且我已经真实的看见在很多城市中地方召会被抬举,他们就是无可争议的见证,这就是主的道路。65[65]
不要以为这是我的教导;这是主的启示。主要恢复它,而且现在他正在这么做。我们必须要改变。悔改!改变你的观念!埋葬你自己!享受作为新郎的耶稣!66[66]

这些关于李氏教导的高举,加上不鼓励认真研究思想圣经,导致了对地方召会的坚定不移的忠诚。这些声明是极难同其他人员交通的源头,然而他们确实完全不符合圣经的。这些教导不仅在关于神、救恩、和教会方面错误,而且还跟圣经上关于祷告和研读神的话语矛盾,而且鼓励对于信仰毫不怀疑的就接受的实践,跟帖撒罗尼迦前书5:21矛盾。在关于任何宗教信仰方面没有一个不需要试验的事情。我们鼓励地方召会成员们能够像贤于帖撒罗尼迦的庇哩亚人(Bereans)那样“甘心领受这道,天天考查圣经,要晓得这道是与不是”(使徒行传 17:11)。路加在这里告诉我们庇哩亚人“贤”是因为他们甚至对于保罗传的福音也要试验,地方召会的成员和对其感兴趣的人们也应该试验李常受的教导。

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:

人的身体(body)最开始时被神造的且甚好,但是他现在变成了肉体(flesh)。身体是纯正的,因为他被造是好的,但是身体被撒但给腐败了,它就变成了肉体。67[67]
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[68]
亚当吃了知识树果子的重要性在于他把撒但接收到他自己里面……。撒但在亚当中成长就变成了他的一部分。69[69]
身体(body)简单的变成了罪(Sin,大写)的居所,罪又是撒但的体现(embodiment)……。这堕落的(corrupted)、变质的(transmuted)身体被称作“罪的身体”,和“死亡的身体”,因为身体变成了撒但的特别居所。70[70]
[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[71]
身体是属于撒但和魔鬼的,因为撒但就住在这身体里。所有的引诱都在这个腐败的身体里,被称为肉体……。撒但,从人类堕落开始,就住在人里面。这个事情当人去吃第二颗树的时候就发生了……既然撒但和人借着第二颗树成为了一体,撒但就不再在人外面,而在人里面了。72[72]
基督是神的体现(embodiment),但是罪是撒但的体现……罪可以成为胜过我们的主;因此,罪必须是那恶的一位,撒但。借着堕落,撒但作为罪进入人里面,来掌管、破坏、腐败、和征服他。在哪部分?撒但是在人的身体的一个成员里面。73[73]

对人来讲,问题就是罪。罪,根据李氏,是撒但。撒但已经进入了人的肉体中并且掌管他。这样,撒但就取得了对人的完全控制权,这个控制只能够被像撒但进入人一样方式的神进入人才能解除。我们看李氏后面的教导:

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[74]

神和撒但平行的成了肉身(Parallel Incarnations of God and Satan)

神和撒但并行的成了肉身。

这行的想法很清楚:神首先想要创造人是为了显明(manifest)他自己的目的;撒但引诱人,于是人吃了分别善恶树;这样做,人就将撒但接收到他自己里面,而且只要撒但还在那,人就不能显明(manifest)神;神因而有目的的将他自己放到人里面,他首先通过基督的道成肉身完成这事(然后将这个道成肉身推广到所有的信徒);他然后将基督带到十字架上,这样人和撒但就死了;最后他使人和基督(他自己)从死中复活,这样人能最终完全的表达(express)神。让我们来看看这些观点根据圣经是否能站住脚。

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)。

相信肉体是邪恶的的这个错误引入了另外一个错误,后者更加严重。李氏相信撒但借着变成他们中的一个而使所有的人都堕落了;这就是他写到:“神……看起来要说:‘我也要道成肉身。如果撒但使得他自己变成人,那么让我也进入人并且把人放到我自己上面’” 75[75]。按照李氏信仰的逻辑就是,撒但进入到在所有人中成了肉身,必然神将要在进入所有的那些变成基督徒的的人中道成肉身,然后接着的就是李氏要教导的教会本身就是神在肉体中的彰显,这点我们前面谈过了。

运行在李氏关于神、人、救恩、教会、罪和撒但的教导中有两根平行线:

首先,罪和撒但成为一体且相同,人堕落的时候撒但在人体中成了肉身,所有人的肉体因此都是撒但成了肉身,这个只能意味着要救赎人,对于神来讲只能是进入他们成为肉身而取代撒但,神首先在基督中成为肉身,然后通过圣灵他又在教会,基督的身体,里面成了肉身。

第二,神为了彰显他自己的目的而创造了人,人堕落,父变成了子成为了神道成肉身的第一个人,他死了,把撒但留在坟墓里,然后复活了,变成了圣灵,圣灵进入到信徒中,使得他们持续的道成肉身这样教会就是神在肉体中的彰显。

所有的这些都和神的道相悖,因为它需要神在变化,与神的本性(nature)矛盾。它将基督的独一性夺去,与约翰福音3:16相矛盾。他混淆了罪和撒旦之间的关系,并且采用了不符合圣经的称之为邪恶的物质身体的观点。他使用神将得救的人和神混淆,与以赛亚书43:10,玛拉基书3:6,民数记23:19矛盾,并且接受了创世记3:5中撒旦对夏娃的错误的引诱。

结论

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)。

关于作者

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。

参考

本文地址: http://godwithus.cn/wiki/The_Teachings_of_Witness_Lee_and_the_Local_Church

原文地址: http://ecalvinbeisner.com/freearticles/TeachingsofWitnessLee&LocalChurch.pdf

文字版 原文: http://localchurchdiscussions.com/vBulletin/showthread.php?t=397

副本: http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_622134fd01013e1z.html

  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.
  12. 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. Ibid.,8
  22. Ibid.,28
  23. Ibid.,25
  24. Ibid.,2
  25. Ibid.,17
  26. Ibid.,20
  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. 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
  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. 请注意李常受从来不用地方召会这个词的常用形式来只某一个地方的基督徒的聚会;相反地,它总是特质那些跟从他的教导的那些地方的信徒
  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. 有意思的是地方召会中的人竟然认为其不是一个宗派。一个宗派只是一个带有名字的一个简单的(主要是宗教的)群体。这个描述同样适用于地方召会。
  59. Lee, The Economy of God, 23
  60. Ibid., 24
  61. Witness L ee, 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. Ibid 106-7
  69. Ibid 109.
  70. Ibid 109.
  71. Ibid, 109.
  72. Ibid, 109.
  73. Ibid, 108.
  74. Ibid, 109-112.
  75. Ibid., 109.

The Teachings of Witness Lee and the Local Church 英文全文

The Teachings of Witness Lee and the Local Church

Revised Edition2003

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D.



Introduction

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.

Conclusion

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.



References

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