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Old 04-12-2017, 09:11 AM   #1
askseek
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Default Who Was The "Real" Witness Lee?

I'd like to know more about Witness Lee's imprisonment by the Japanese during the later stages of World War 2.

I vaguely recall WL's own account from a video message years ago. There was some form of water torture that caused a really bad case of tuberculosis requiring about a year to recover from. (If I'm not mistaken, the long-term effects of his TB is why he would often cough during his messages.) In the midst of his imprisonment he had some sort of dream, which became the guiding vision for his ministry. I don't recall any details of the length of imprisonment, the torture details, or the dream. Can someone elaborate on this?

I also recall reading his account of the fabled Chefoo revival. I'm thinking it had to be sometime in the early-mid 1940s prior to his imprisonment. One specific thing I recall is that the big increase was virtually all war-displaced migrants to the city, not the native inhabitants. (There may have been some sort of ethnic/regional/language distinction here that I can't remember.) This made sense to me; people displaced by war are likely going to be the seekers.

A Rutledge post here mentioned that a rival Christian preacher in Chefoo was the one who started the rumors of WL's insurgency, for which the Japanese occupiers arrested him. The rival preacher is news to me. Can somebody elaborate? (Rutledge also speculated it may have been a source of bitterness that caused WL to speak so harshly about "Christianity" in later years.)
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Old 04-12-2017, 05:52 PM   #2
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Default Re: WW2 and Lee's imprisonment

I didn't think to google it earlier, but doing so only yielded the LSM version of the story:

Quote:
Because of the Japanese invasion, Witness Lee returned to Chefoo in November 1937, and until 1943 spent most of his time caring for the church there as well as the church in nearby Tsingtao. At the end of 1942 a great revival occurred in Chefoo through his personal shepherding of the believers and his faithfulness in closely following Watchman Nee's ministry. Beginning on January 1, 1943, the church met continuously for one hundred days. As a result, over 800 believers consecrated their all to the Lord, some even offering to migrate to remote northwestern China for the gospel. Toward the end of that time, in May 1943, Witness Lee was arrested by the Japanese army and was imprisoned for one month. Shortly after his release he developed tuberculosis, his health having been greatly weakened by the imprisonment. In order to rest and fully recuperate, he moved to Tsingtao in 1944 and remained there for two years.
So he was "closely following Nee's ministry" even though Nee was excommunicated in Shanghai in 1942. Are there any non-LSM versions of these old events in China?
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Old 04-12-2017, 07:53 PM   #3
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Default Re: WW2 and Lee's imprisonment

Was reading another thread, and Rutledge once again supplied the goods! This little curiosity of mine is now satisfied.

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Originally Posted by Hope View Post
I have learned to take a big grain of salt regarding the tall tales of dragons that come out of China. Same if they are pro WL or anti WL. I have heard the same stories told from very different angles. One side portrays WL as the key co-worker of WN who was commissioned and sent out to carry out and preserve their work. The other side portrays WL as a fearful man who wanted to escape the persecution of the communists. In addition, WN allegedly warned them of WL and his strong natural disposition and dominating tendencies.

One side portrays the imprisonment of WL by the Japanese as a cruel ordeal through which the Lord miraculously preserved dear brother Lee for the great work he was destined to carry out. The other side tells another tale. The Japanese held him until bribes were paid by members of the church.

Brother Lee had a dream while in prison which was regarding his future ministry. In 1975, he told some of us that the work in Anaheim would be the fulfillment of the dream. Yet, Anaheim did not work out at all the way WL portrayed it to us according to his dream.
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Old 04-12-2017, 08:11 PM   #4
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Default Re: WW2 and Lee's imprisonment

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Originally Posted by askseek View Post
Was reading another thread, and Rutledge once again supplied the goods! This little curiosity of mine is now satisfied.
Lee built his ministry supposedly on "God's Economy," but nearly every story we heard was later deemed to be "myths and unending genealogies which only produce controvercies." See I Timothy 1.4
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Old 04-13-2017, 10:33 AM   #5
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Default Who Was The "Real" Witness Lee?

That's a question I found myself wondering yesterday. Four days ago I wrote this:

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Originally Posted by askseek View Post
Witness Lee was a delusional, puffed-up fraud. His skewed teachings and cult of personality and domineering power trips and corrupt nepotism resulted in an exclusivist, dysfunctional Local Church system.
Obviously I've arrived at a rather strong opinion in the matter, but yesterday I was wondering just how bad he was. I was reminded of his WW2 imprisonment and how tough an ordeal that must have been. (WL died before I got heavily involved in the LC, so what I know of him comes from this website, along with his publications, some video messages, and the stories others told back in my LC days.)

Thankfully last night I came across this post from Ohio that provided the perspective I was looking for:

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Originally Posted by Ohio View Post
It's difficult for most of us "common folk" to understand the complexities of gifted, talented men, since they seem to possess enormous powers which, for the most part, are foreign to us. We tend to think and understand people in more simplistic terms -- i.e. "he was a good man" or "he is a bad man." But when we look at great men, and I mean those who possess greater talents and natural powers, such reasoning cheats us from properly understanding them in context.

During my LC tenure, I heard many complementary stories and adulations concerning WL, such as the story provided here by Hope. One given by the late Francis Ball, years ago in the face of rigorous opposition, stands out in my memory, "He is just an old preacher whom we all love." I believe all of these stories and complements, e.g. "Brother Lee is like the sweetest Grampa you'll ever meet," are all true. I don't discredit any of them. I'm sure he could be far more charming than I could even dream of being. But ... if you get the impression, like I once did, that you know the whole story about this person, then you are are potentially vulnerable.

I basically held this simplistic view of people until several years ago, when I began studying Brethren history and LC history. John Darby became an enigma to me. How could a brother be so well loved, gentle as a lamb, charming in the gospel, tender to all the weak, etc. ... also be a ferocious tiger, an indefatigable assailant, undaunted attacker, mercilessly and publicly berating ... upon any and all those who appeared to him as a rival. Newton and Muller were just examples of those who never even suspected they had become rivals to Darby, nor could they possibly have ever prepared themselves for the onslaught which subsequently came their way.

Who is the real Darby? Who is the real Lee? If you only know one side of the equation, then you don't know "the half of it," as they say. Both men were extremely ambitious to serve God, build the church, edify the saints, and all positive things, but ... both men were also extremely ambitious for leadership, for expansion, for church impact, for lasting legacy, etc. with all the associated benefits, and herein lies the danger. Great men are capable of doing the greater good, and also the greater bad, especially when they go years unchecked, unbalanced, and untempered.

One historian said, "I have never seen in one man, the two natures so powerful, as in Darby." Another historian said, "In Darby, we see so much good, and yet so much more wrong." I suppose these two sayings could apply to WL also. The unbiased historical record of these two men must be fair to present all sides. The story should be told.
So who was the "real" Lee? For me the question no longer really matters. Bottom-line is to judge the tree by the fruit, so my quoted opinion hasn't changed.

As for all the old stories of Lee... thankfully Don Rutledge had a very helpful thing to say about that in the next post after Ohio's:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hope View Post
Paul was not joking when he declared, 1 Tim 1:3-6, As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, NASB

I have learned to take a big grain of salt regarding the tall tales of dragons that come out of China. Same if they are pro WL or anti WL. I have heard the same stories told from very different angles. One side portrays WL as the key co-worker of WN who was commissioned and sent out to carry out and preserve their work. The other side portrays WL as a fearful man who wanted to escape the persecution of the communists. In addition, WN allegedly warned them of WL and his strong natural disposition and dominating tendencies.

One side portrays the imprisonment of WL by the Japanese as a cruel ordeal through which the Lord miraculously preserved dear brother Lee for the great work he was destined to carry out. The other side tells another tale. The Japanese held him until bribes etc were paid by members of the church.

Brother Lee had a dream while in prison which was regarding his future ministry. In 1975, he told some of us that the work in Anaheim would be the fulfillment of the dream. (On another occasion, I will share the dream.) Yet, Anaheim did not work out at all the way WL portrayed it to us according to his dream.

I have heard the “chariots of fire,” stories. I have heard the elders coming to town in a fleet of flying saucers stories. If you are pro LSM, the “chariots of fire,” tales are accurate and God’s vindication. If you are anti-LSM and can claim you have been hurt, then the flying saucer stories are okay.

Once upon a time, I was a three sport athlete. I attended college on an athletic scholarship. On some rare occasions some of the old players get together. How interesting as to which set of memories are rehashed. Once I made two miraculous touchdown catches, (the real truth not an exaggeration.) On another occasion I dropped a pass in the end zone. I was wide open and it hit me in the hands right in stride. As a result we lost the championship game. I talk up the former not the latter. One of my Baylor baseball buddies, Don Looper, liked to talk about the time he was Five for five against Texas A&M. He never brought up the time that his throwing error on a simple routine play cost us a game against the Uni. Of Texas and consequently allowed them to tie us for the conference championship and we were denied the chance to go to the College World Series. We humans are that way. We do remember and report history with a personal bias. By the way, I never reminded him of that dark day.

But I do agree that we need background research in order to grasp some aspects of our history. Just remember, Solomon had his good points and his bad points. Both are recorded in the Bible. Oh that we could be as fair as the Bible.
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Old 04-13-2017, 10:35 AM   #6
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Default Re: WW2 and Lee's imprisonment

The one thing I remember WL saying about his imprisonment at the Japanese is that "they would kill you like killing a chicken" and everyone would chuckle nervously, and stir. In this statement WL was trying to portray his peril, which was undoubtedly real. I heard him say this repeatedly.

While he was showing something of his situation, I think that he also showed something of a cultural "freudian slip" - the Chinese will also kill you like killing a chicken. Today they kill people just to harvest their organs.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/wo...-a7107091.html

http://www.smh.com.au/world/chinas-g...07-1mgabb.html

http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/rea...a1cc5b39f223b7


It's a culture where the individual isn't valued that much, while the collective is everything. We thought giving into the collective of WL, the "glorious church life" was the proverbial road to Zion. It wasn't; we were just getting sucked into someone's mind-set. And WL's culture wasn't any more spiritually evolved than the culture we left. Just different.

And we thought that repeating stilted, hackneyed verbiage was a fast track to spiritual transformation. It wasn't; it just made us peculiar.
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Old 04-13-2017, 11:03 AM   #7
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Default Re: who was the "real" Witness Lee?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hope:

But I do agree that we need background research in order to grasp some aspects of our history. Just remember, Solomon had his good points and his bad points. Both are recorded in the Bible. Oh that we could be as fair as the Bible.
I like this conclusion by Don.

The "real" Witness Lee was a huge collection of good and bad points.

Same for all of us.
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Old 04-13-2017, 03:56 PM   #8
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Default Re: WW2 and Lee's imprisonment

I would say that there is something about the church as a collective that is often overlooked in our "God, my Bible, and me" mentality. But not to such a degree that you become a chicken that is just a snap to kill.

And not to such a degree that you find yourself in something looking anything like Lee's "glorious church life."
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Old 04-13-2017, 04:06 PM   #9
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Default Re: who was the "real" Witness Lee?

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The "real" Witness Lee was a huge collection of good and bad points.
And this is a very true statement.

But the evidence that the bad may have been with him in his ministry even before he made it to Taiwan leads me to think that if Paul had been the one he was supposedly coworker to, he would have been silenced and either sent packing or at least set down on the back row. His potentially significant Christian/bible knowledge (which I still question at times) and gift for teaching was undermined almost from the beginning by traits that Paul would have refused him access to the "pulpit" over. Wouldn't deny him fellowship. But not the place to teach.

And the questionable teachings are just more reason to underscore that the disqualifiers may too often save us from more than just getting fleeced. It may save us from the unqualified who have natural gifts that would have us under their spell. The kool aid we drank may not have had real poison, but it had spiritual poison.
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Old 04-13-2017, 05:51 PM   #10
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Default Re: who was the "real" Witness Lee?

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And this is a very true statement.

But the evidence that the bad may have been with him in his ministry even before he made it to Taiwan leads me to think that if Paul had been the one he was supposedly coworker to, he would have been silenced and either sent packing or at least set down on the back row. His potentially significant Christian/bible knowledge (which I still question at times) and gift for teaching was undermined almost from the beginning by traits that Paul would have refused him access to the "pulpit" over. Wouldn't deny him fellowship. But not the place to teach.

And the questionable teachings are just more reason to underscore that the disqualifiers may too often save us from more than just getting fleeced. It may save us from the unqualified who have natural gifts that would have us under their spell. The kool aid we drank may not have had real poison, but it had spiritual poison.
Great point. Lee always warned us about the one-talented members burying their talent, but we also needed to be warned about the ten-talented member like in Acts 20:30. These ones were far more concerning to Apostle Paul, hence his admonition with tears, and his strict policy towards money. (20.31-33)
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Old 04-14-2017, 12:46 PM   #11
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Default Re: who was the "real" Witness Lee?

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Originally Posted by OBW View Post
And the questionable teachings are just more reason to underscore that the disqualifiers may too often save us from more than just getting fleeced. It may save us from the unqualified who have natural gifts that would have us under their spell. The kool aid we drank may not have had real poison, but it had spiritual poison.
This hits close to why "everyone speaking" in a Sunday morning service is scrutinized in non-LC Christianity as it's not safe. Without formal training in the Word there is increased likelihood someone can speak errantly. Having witnessed errant speaking in LC prophesying meetings, there's no oversight to put a halt to it. Rather getting as many people to speak is encouraged even when it is off.
Unqualified with natural gifts can easily transform the speaking platform into "groupthink".
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Old 04-15-2017, 12:44 PM   #12
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Default Re: Who Was The "Real" Witness Lee?

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Originally Posted by askseek View Post

Obviously I've arrived at a rather strong opinion in the matter, but yesterday I was wondering just how bad he was.
Thankfully last night I came across this post from Ohio that provided the perspective I was looking for:

So who was the "real" Lee? For me the question no longer really matters. Bottom-line is to judge the tree by the fruit, so my quoted opinion hasn't changed.
Yes, this point settles it. When I compare what I saw in TLR after reading Matthew 7:15-20
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage...atthew+7:15-20 and Galatians 5:22-23 https://www.biblegateway.com/passage...3&version=NASB together

Witness Lee was a bad tree.
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