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If you really Nee to know Who was Watchman Nee? Discussions regarding the life and times of Watchman Nee, the Little Flock and the beginnings of the Local Church Movement in Mainland China

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Old 09-07-2012, 05:15 AM   #1
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Default Problems with Watchman Nee

I'm starting a new thread on this topic, as separate from the issues related to Nee's excommunication, and the issue of sexual abuse in the church. Here's a quote from the other thread, to get the conversation started.

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"You know a tree by its fruit." In some ways Nee has borne bad fruit. For example, it's not just Witness Lee who misused Nee's teachings in regard to complete submission to spiritual authority. I know people who were involved in the "shepherding/discipleship" movement in the 70's, and Nee was a large part of that. I've also met other people who were in spiritually abusive environments, where Nee's writings had been used to justify the authoritarian approach by the church leaders.

I personally got a lot out of Nee when I first read him, and there are many things to appreciate about him. Clearly the Lord used him in a great way in China. But over the years being immersed in both Nee and Lee was damaging. And while Lee was definitely more extreme, certainly many aspects of what defined the Local Church began with Nee.

Here are examples of what I consider negative aspects of Nee's ministry, that Lee then took to another level. Some of this has been commented upon by others already.

1) hyper-spirituality and asceticism
2) extreme separatism from the world (Brethren style)
3) overemphasis on authority and submission
4) pride and exclusivity (the one true church, the consummation of the Lord's move)
5) contempt for other Christian groups, including charities
6) uplifting of the "church life" over normal human life and family life
7) introspection and subjectivity (especially trying to discern the spirit from the soul)
8) a warped view of humanity (rejecting anything "soulish," "natural" or "worldly")
9) using trainings to correct people's spirituality
10) a harsh and rebuking style of shepherding (M.E. Barber as the model)

I think all of this deserves to be reconsidered, in view of how this laid the foundation for Lee's own teachings and practices.
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Old 09-07-2012, 07:43 AM   #2
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I listened to the tape that Ohio and Terry referred to in the other thread, where Stephen Kuang discusses the history of the LC in China.

A phrase was used that I think was one of the most damaging concepts in the LC: when Nee was excommunicated, he "bore the cross." The implication is that Nee didn't respond to false accusations, and didn't try to vindicate himself. He suffered in silence, so that his "flesh could be dealt with."

I realize that "bearing the cross" is a Biblical concept. Jesus Himself said that we must bear the cross in order to follow him. But what does that really mean?

I know how I applied it in my own life, based on Nee's and Lee's perspective: If you are abused, if you are bullied, if you are falsely accused, if you are stressed out from too many demands being imposed on you, then don't react, don't be honest, don't try to change the situation. Instead, suffer the circumstances and "bear the cross." If you react to the authorities over you, or if you try to change the environment, that is the flesh, or the self. It can't possibly be the spirit.

Many saints in the LC thought this way. And I just don't think this can be a true application, because it enabled and legitimized so much abuse. If an older brother rebukes you improperly, then just bear the cross. If the elders make a decision that is unfair to the rest of the saints, they should just bear the cross. People's consciences became sensitized to repress any reaction, any opinion, any conflicting emotion, in the name of bearing the cross, dealing with the flesh, and just becoming more "spiritual."

Do others here have the same perspective? What does it mean to bear the cross, in a way that doesn't permit these kinds of abuses?
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Old 09-07-2012, 08:38 AM   #3
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Do others here have the same perspective? What does it mean to bear the cross, in a way that doesn't permit these kinds of abuses?

formermember,

The problem, I think, is perspective. Bearing the cross means being willing to suffer and die for the Lord. It means having an attitude of sacrifice for the Lord's sake. The common term these days is "dying to self." It means being willing to put oneself and one's comfort and safety aside for the sake of the Kingdom.

But it is not an end in itself. It is to a purpose. In other words, it is relative to the situation. The LC, tending to be about spirituality, made it both an end in itself and an absolute. To them, dying to self was a state to be achieved because, well, that's what spiritual people did. But dying to self is actually for the sake of others. It's relative to the situation.

I can take my wife out on a fun date, enjoy good food and drink and some entertainment and still be a good Christian. Why? Because enjoying happy times with your wife is part of a healthy relationship. People who have no fun are not healthy and are to be pitied.

However, if there are needs in the community and church and I spend all my time partying, then I'm not dying to self, I'm indulging myself needlessly.

So how we apply "bearing the cross" is relative to everything else. It's not an end in itself. If you make it an end in itself then you just end up thinking you need to be beat up all the time. That's not healthy nor is it life abundant.
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Old 09-07-2012, 08:51 AM   #4
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Default Re: Problems with Watchman Nee

I recall Witness Lee in a training saying "give up anything that makes you happy." This is the absolute, end-in-itself, losing the soul, crushing the self, perspective on bearing the cross.

It's wrong. It's unhealthy. It's not biblical. It's actually an insult to God.
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Old 09-07-2012, 09:00 AM   #5
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Many saints in the LC thought this way. And I just don't think this can be a true application, because it enabled and legitimized so much abuse. If an older brother rebukes you improperly, then just bear the cross. If the elders make a decision that is unfair to the rest of the saints, they should just bear the cross. People's consciences became sensitized to repress any reaction, any opinion, any conflicting emotion, in the name of bearing the cross, dealing with the flesh, and just becoming more "spiritual."

Do others here have the same perspective? What does it mean to bear the cross, in a way that doesn't permit these kinds of abuses?
"Just bear the cross" was used to give license to LC coworkers and elders to do whatever they wanted without recourse. "Get out of your mind" was another such term. "Drop your opinion" was yet a third term. These and other such terms were used to shut the mouths of anyone with legitimate concerns or questions that normal adults would typically have about situations. And such license is a field day for those with bullying and abusive personalities.

The problem is it ignores the reality of what it is to be a person who wants to operate intelligently and make wise choices in a social setting e.g. a church and to be respected and valued as a member. If the elders want to build a new meeting hall what's wrong with having an opinion about it? Why shouldn't you use your mind to ask intelligent questions about the proposal? And if for valid reason you disagree with it why not openly express that disagreement? That's just being normal.

If someone rebukes you unjustly or even with cause but inappropriately in language, setting or whatever why not set him or her straight on it? You are not a doormat. You are a human being made in God's image.
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Old 09-07-2012, 09:19 AM   #6
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I know how I applied it in my own life, based on Nee's and Lee's perspective: If you are abused, if you are bullied, if you are falsely accused, if you are stressed out from too many demands being imposed on you, then don't react, don't be honest, don't try to change the situation. Instead, suffer the circumstances and "bear the cross." If you react to the authorities over you, or if you try to change the environment, that is the flesh, or the self. It can't possibly be the spirit.

Many saints in the LC thought this way. And I just don't think this can be a true application, because it enabled and legitimized so much abuse.
If this were true, then why would the Lord Himself provide necessary instruction as in Matt 18.15-20? These are specific instructions about brothers who wrong us. The problem I saw was so much abuse occurred in the context of trainings by "the work," and somehow that did not involve "the church." How does one go to the elders in Cleveland about being publicly shamed by Titus Chu, the senior apostle who appointed all of those elders years ago?

As I said before, "any truth taken to an extreme can become a falsehood." What makes this LC teaching so insidious to discern is when taking the proper course of action counters the teaching of bearing the cross. How manipulative is that? Is that not a self-serving vehicle to justify unrighteous behavior and thus lord it over the elect? In this way abusive leaders can abolish scores of New testament teachings with one distorted one.
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Old 09-07-2012, 09:52 AM   #7
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Hey formermember (the one who started the thread)
When you get a chance please shoot us an email at LocalChurchDiscussions@Gmail.com and we'll set you up as a member. This will make posting and following your posts much easier.
Thanks!
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Old 09-07-2012, 10:02 AM   #8
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I recall Witness Lee in a training saying "give up anything that makes you happy."
Too bad Witness Lee never taught his boys that lesson. Apparently he gave them anything they wanted to keep them happy.
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Old 09-07-2012, 11:09 AM   #9
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Hey formermember (the one who started the thread)
When you get a chance please shoot us an email at LocalChurchDiscussions@Gmail.com and we'll set you up as a member. This will make posting and following your posts much easier.
Thanks!
Thanks, UntoHim. I'll think about it. I'd rather not send an email because my address contains my name, and I prefer to be anonymous for now (even from moderators). I could create a new email, but I'd rather not go to the trouble, at least not yet.
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Old 09-07-2012, 11:38 AM   #10
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Default Re: Problems with Watchman Nee

As I am reading this thread it seems to be one of what is the Cross and what the Cross is not?
What the cross is not:
Practicing Ascetisim
Keeping silent to protect another's reputation
Keeping silent in order to "remain one with the brothers"
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Old 09-07-2012, 11:54 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by formermember View Post
I know how I applied it in my own life, based on Nee's and Lee's perspective: If you are abused, if you are bullied, if you are falsely accused, if you are stressed out from too many demands being imposed on you, then don't react, don't be honest, don't try to change the situation. Instead, suffer the circumstances and "bear the cross." If you react to the authorities over you, or if you try to change the environment, that is the flesh, or the self. It can't possibly be the spirit.

Many saints in the LC thought this way. And I just don't think this can be a true application, because it enabled and legitimized so much abuse. If an older brother rebukes you improperly, then just bear the cross. If the elders make a decision that is unfair to the rest of the saints, they should just bear the cross. People's consciences became sensitized to repress any reaction, any opinion, any conflicting emotion, in the name of bearing the cross, dealing with the flesh, and just becoming more "spiritual."
As I've seen some of the LC practices of what it is to bear the cross borders on asceticism.
Let's take false accusations or bearing false witness. It's expected in the local churches that you remain silent and bear the cross. To tell it to the church is likened to spreading leprosy. I'm sure there are some in the LC who secretly read Speaking the Truth in Love. They may think John Ingalls should have taken the cross instead of writing the book? As the book may be viewed as self-vindication.

In my own experience I witnessed at a Young People's conference in Yucaipa, CA peers being subjected to an overreacting serving brother. Even when a brother overreacts it's expected the younger brothers and sisters to take the cross as victims of the overreaction.
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Old 09-07-2012, 12:34 PM   #12
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Thanks, UntoHim. I'll think about it. I'd rather not send an email because my address contains my name, and I prefer to be anonymous for now (even from moderators). I could create a new email, but I'd rather not go to the trouble, at least not yet.
Ok, very well then....for now.

What I would ask then is if you could us a little less of a generic name than "formermember". There have been a lot of guests post under that moniker, and it can get confusing. Could you please think of another moniker so we can follow and respond to your posts a little better?

Thanks
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Old 09-07-2012, 12:54 PM   #13
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Thanks, UntoHim. I'll think about it. I'd rather not send an email because my address contains my name, and I prefer to be anonymous for now (even from moderators). I could create a new email, but I'd rather not go to the trouble, at least not yet.
It takes about two minutes to set up a completely free, totally anonymous Gmail account. www.gmail.com.
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Old 09-07-2012, 01:21 PM   #14
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"Just bear the cross" was used to give license to LC coworkers and elders to do whatever they wanted without recourse.
Stephen Kaung's message on Nee mentioned how Chinese parents never apologized to their children regardless of how badly the parent misbehaved. Nothing could change that stronghold of Chinese custom. Watchman Nee only got saved because the mighty power of the resurrected Christ as the indwelling Spirit moved his mother to apologize to him for how she wrongly accused and disciplined him. Otherwise Nee would have been a successful Gentile, and we would not be here on this forum.

I don't think we can stress enough the dangers of authority in the hands of fallen man. Nee's model of deputy authority and his writings on spiritual authority were written from the background of the Old Testament in the context of an authoritative culture. 5,000 years of Chinese dynasties seems to have jaded his views on Biblical authority. He himself might have treated the brothers and sisters with the love of Christ, but his teachings on submission became dangerous weapons to many of those who practiced them.

Submission means different things in different cultures, especially among young believers. To one person it may mean, "give this guy the final say," but in a different culture it may mean, "this elder watches over my soul, he is like God to me." The Recovery definitely leans toward the latter understanding, and that is why so many have been hurt. Just think about how few saints have walked away from the Recovery without a shred of damage. And all LC leaders, at least the ones we have discussed on this forum, are like those old Chinese parents who would never apologize to their children no matter how badly they were treated.
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Old 09-07-2012, 02:32 PM   #15
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Stephen Kaung's message on Nee mentioned how Chinese parents never apologized to their children regardless of how badly the parent misbehaved. Nothing could change that stronghold of Chinese custom.
I didn't know this but it explains a lot!

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I don't think we can stress enough the dangers of authority in the hands of fallen man. Nee's model of deputy authority and his writings on spiritual authority were written from the background of the Old Testament in the context of an authoritative culture. 5,000 years of Chinese dynasties seems to have jaded his views on Biblical authority.
I agree with this and in Western terms consider his views and those practiced in the LC system to be akin to medieval Europe when the divine rights of kings was the prevailing philosophy and way of life.

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And all LC leaders, at least the ones we have discussed on this forum, are like those old Chinese parents who would never apologize to their children no matter how badly they were treated.
If you stitch several pieces of Witness Lee's teachings and practices together it certainly matches this parental idea from the culture he was immersed in. He was the authority and even if he did something wrong that was none of your business because it's his ministry so he can do whatever he wants. This was his attitude when confronted with the behavior of his son who was the General Manager of LSM and to whom elders were eventually expected to submit because he was his "top coworker". Even in a legal sense this was not true IF the LSM board members would band together and vote against having the son run the place but of course they didn't. In John Ingall's words Witness Lee made all the decisions and the board members just rubber stamped it (sad commentary at so many levels). But socially and morally in the context of an American company and especially a ministry for Witness Lee to have this kind of attitude and to knowingly keep someone so abusive in charge and exposing women to him on a daily basis is unconscionable. Innocent lambs being put in the lions den with the den owner's full knowledge of the risk.
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Old 09-07-2012, 02:35 PM   #16
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Nee fell in my estimation three or so years ago. It was when I realized that he was as bad about just saying Red was Grey as Lee was. And he just went on as if it would be accepted as the gospel truth. There is much reference lately to his book Authority and Submission (or Spiritual Authority, depending on the publisher). I recall discovering that he began by re-translating "power" into "authority" in several verses. Once you bought into it, the rest was easy. He made the switch so effortlessly. He just said it was so (and there was much rejoicing Monty Python) and moved on.

He said of himself in one of his prefaces to The Spiritual Man that no one else had ever seen the things he was seeing. There is usually a reason for that. Usually that it is not really there.

I think that Nee's appeal in the US is that his more "inner life" books fit in with a trend among seekers in Christianity. And the number of early LRC converts that had heard of Nee was fairly sizable. So linking Lee to Nee was a plus.

We got in the kettle and Lee turned on the heat. Many stayed in long enough to be the flavoring for the LSM stew. Some got out with only minor cuts and burns.
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Old 09-07-2012, 04:46 PM   #17
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This was his attitude when confronted with the behavior of his son who was the General Manager of LSM and to whom elders were eventually expected to submit because he was his "top coworker". Even in a legal sense this was not true IF the LSM board members would band together and vote against having the son run the place but of course they didn't.
John Ingalls wrote about his final board meeting at LSM. IIRC Lee, his wife, and Ingalls were the board. Did you expect Lee's wife to side with Ingalls?
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Old 09-10-2012, 07:30 AM   #18
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Another problem with Nee, which fits the context of what we've been discussing, is the breaking of the outer man and the release of the Spirit (or spirit). Of course, there was even a book with that title. This kind of perspective appears throughout Nee's writings.

Here's a brief description: God dwells in a believer's spirit. The body/flesh and the soul/self are the outer man. In order for the Spirit of God, through the spirit of the believer, to be released, the outer man needs to be broken.

So when difficult circumstances come, including through false accusations, or abusive authorities, this is to be received as an opportunity for the outer man to be broken.

In experience, this leads to receiving abuse unnecessarily, refusing to confront or attempt to change unhealthy environments, and repressing both opinions and emotions. (IMHO)

Incidentally, I no longer believe in the tripartite man as a doctrine. I have found it much healthier not to divide up the parts of man in that way. A dichotomous view (outer man and inner man) makes more sense, and leads to less introspection.
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Old 09-10-2012, 07:52 AM   #19
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I felt to add to my previous post to explain more.

In the Nee/Lee view, the spirit of man, once it is regenerated, is always good.

The soul of man is neutral, but it is corrupted by "self".

The body of man is also the "flesh," and is always bad.

The emphasis is on rejecting the flesh, and exercising and living by the spirit, where the Spirit of God is.

There is truth here, but it's mixed in with something false. Namely, the Christian life becomes a matter of rejecting the "natural" mind and emotions, and endeavoring to be led by the spirit/Spirit. In the Local Church, you were always in danger of "being in your self," or allowing your self to manifest. So angry reactions from authorities above you were to be received as putting the self to death. Even good reactions and healthy responses could be characterized as "self," or of "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

What this led to in my own experience was massive condemnation. Every opinion, every emotion, every attempt to improve, every concern, was possibly the "self" or the "soul-life", and the only thing that was trustworthy was submitting to more spiritual authorities.
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Old 09-10-2012, 07:56 AM   #20
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Another problem with Nee, which fits the context of what we've been discussing, is the breaking of the outer man and the release of the Spirit (or spirit). Of course, there was even a book with that title. This kind of perspective appears throughout Nee's writings.

Here's a brief description: God dwells in a believer's spirit. The body/flesh and the soul/self are the outer man. In order for the Spirit of God, through the spirit of the believer, to be released, the outer man needs to be broken.

So when difficult circumstances come, including through false accusations, or abusive authorities, this is to be received as an opportunity for the outer man to be broken.

In experience, this leads to receiving abuse unnecessarily, refusing to confront or attempt to change unhealthy environments, and repressing both opinions and emotions. (IMHO)

Incidentally, I no longer believe in the tripartite man as a doctrine. I have found it much healthier not to divide up the parts of man in that way. A dichotomous view (outer man and inner man) makes more sense, and leads to less introspection.
FM,

To me, the problem with this doctrine and the way it was taught is that it made it sound like this "breaking" was something that was fundamentally structural to the soul. I always pictured the soul actually cracking in some kind of way, like a coconut shell. The way Nee and Lee taught this encouraged this kind of thinking.

Actually, "breaking" is simply learning to be humble and to trust God. We needn't see it as structural thing, but rather an attitudinal thing. It's learning more and more that there is a God and I ain't him.

This points to what is to me a BIG, BIG problem with these ministries, they too often made everything about process rather than relationship.
To them, breaking wasn't learning to trust God more, it was having something fundamental happen to the structure of your soul. It became about this impersonal thing call "transformation" that God was doing to you. Your soul was getting "broken," your spirit was getting "released," God was getting "infused" into you. It was all about this (for lack of a better word) physical thing that was going on with your inner being. It made everything very impersonal, mechanical and process-oriented.

We can't fathom what God is really doing to us on a subatomic spiritual level. What we can observe is that through being in relation with him and loving him more, we are becoming more like him--not necessarily in "life and nature," but certainly in disposition. We are learning to love what he loves and hate what he hates.

Whether all this metaphysical stuff that Nee and more so Lee talked about is actually taking place we cannot know; and it is really irrelevant anyway because it totally misses the point. We are becoming more like God by knowing God. Through that, by the Spirit in us, he somehow can be seen through us. That's all we need to know.
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Old 09-10-2012, 09:33 AM   #21
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Another problem with Nee, which fits the context of what we've been discussing, is the breaking of the outer man and the release of the Spirit (or spirit). Of course, there was even a book with that title. This kind of perspective appears throughout Nee's writings.
I read Nee's book Release of the Spirit in 1979 with others in the church in Columbus, at a time as a young brother when I was passing thru immense pressures on a number of fronts. Every morning I would wake up and felt like I was putting on a lead suit to carry with me all day. The pressures upon me at the time seemed almost mind-boggling. There was nothing I could do to change them, other than running from my life.

At the time Nee's book and the church fellowship was a great encouragement to me because I believed that my heavenly Father was thoroughly involved in all my circumstances, and that He was operating within to help me grow. I can distinctly remember walking to school one day, bemoaning my inabilities and shortcomings, and a voice from heaven spoke to me, "yes, but I love you." It was as clear as can be, and it was both undeniable and unforgettable. I don't think I ever told any one before.

But, let's face it, books such as this one can be used in the wrong hands to become manipulative. Without a healthy balance, the message can make the hearer extremely introspective and under condemnation. For me, reading the book happened to be positive experience, based on my circumstances, but I never did go back and read it again, nor did I share to others about the "breaking of their outer man."
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Old 09-10-2012, 11:08 AM   #22
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I felt to add to my previous post to explain more.

In the Nee/Lee view, the spirit of man, once it is regenerated, is always good.

The soul of man is neutral, but it is corrupted by "self".

The body of man is also the "flesh," and is always bad.

The emphasis is on rejecting the flesh, and exercising and living by the spirit, where the Spirit of God is.
Herein lies several problems. IMHO the biblical view is not as simplistic as Watchman Nee and Witness Lee taught because their idea was too mechanical as it pertains to man/woman and this led to a mechanical relationship with God and to a great extent with each other.

In the early church the Gnostics believed that the human body was inherently bad/evil and they extrapolated this into their understanding of Christ and eventually for them Christ was just spirit without a body. For good reason this teaching was considered heretical.

We know the body is not inherently bad/evil although it corrupts/breaks down with time. It is inanimate. Once the soul/spirit leaves the body it turns to dust. In the meantime the body is the temple of the soul/spirit and should be honored and taken care of as much as possible.

To draw 3 circles on the board to explain man/woman is really just Micky Mouse. The mind bogglingly complexities of man/woman is dismissed out of hand with this sort of teaching.
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Old 09-11-2012, 05:22 PM   #23
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Default Re: Problems with Watchman Nee

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Originally Posted by formermember View Post
Incidentally, I no longer believe in the tripartite man as a doctrine. I have found it much healthier not to divide up the parts of man in that way. A dichotomous view (outer man and inner man) makes more sense, and leads to less introspection.
My dad, still a regular in the LRC, even says this in so many words. He doesn't deny body, soul, and spirit. But he sees the doctrinal separation as an intrusive fabrication (my words, not his).

There have been a couple of times that many of us here have concluded that the spirit is more like an aspect of the soul than something so separate. If it was really as easy to find all the distinctions between soul and spirit that Nee/Lee claim, it wouldn't take a sharp two-edged sword to divide them. I know. Someone is going to say that the sharp sword is the Word and then note that all of Nee's divisions come from scripture.

Yeah. But so many of those verses do not support the alleged distinction that is claimed. I am constantly amazed at how many things I simply took as true because they were written by Nee and repeated by Lee.
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