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Apologetic discussions Apologetic Discussions Regarding the Teachings of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee

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Old 02-26-2012, 03:59 PM   #1
John
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Default Self-control vs. Lee's Economy

Witness Lee’s Living Stream Ministry view of what he called “God’s economy” was his controlling perspective of the Bible. As most who were in the Local Church know, God’s economy consisted of what he termed “divine dispensing”; and, divine dispensing, as it was introduced, was begun and maintained by either “calling on the Lord” or “pray-reading.” (Later, other behaviors were added, like attending Local Church meetings and reading Lee’s “Life Studies.”) These were the ways to practice a proper Christian life and fulfill God’s purpose according to Lee.

To go along with Witness Lee’s divine dispensing methodology, he passed on a theology that those in the Lord’s Recovery should not try to do good, because that would be merely a human work under law. He warned us that good, as well as evil, is part of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; so, just doing good was not to be done. In Lee’s view, upon being born again, the Spirit came to live inside the believer’s human spirit. Over time, as the believer sought and received more divine dispensing, the Spirit would gradually spread into the human soul (consisting of mind, emotions, and will) and renew it. What a believer should do, he emphasized, was to stay involved with calling and pray-reading so as to keep taking in the element of God, which would, over time, cause the believer to spontaneously live a spiritual Christian life and express Christian virtues without even trying.


Felix’s fear

As I was reading the Bible, I came across these verses, which are at odds with Witness Lee’s economy:
But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.” (Acts 24:24–25, NASB, emphasis added)
What I found interesting is that Felix became afraid when Paul spoke about righteousness, self-control, and judgment. Paul’s gospel message of faith in Christ Jesus included a discussion of the necessity for righteous living, which meant that it behooved a person to exercise self-control in order to be ready for the coming judgment. Since Paul’s thought here is different from what I was indoctrinated with by Witness Lee and Local Church leaders, I decided to investigate the word “self-control” in the Greek language of the New Testament.


Vine’s definition

In the Blue Letter Bible (online), I checked Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words and found the following definition for self-control. The Greek word for self-control is egkrateia (G1466) and is
from kratos, "strength," occurs in Act 24:25; Gal. 5:23; 2 Pet. 1:6 (twice) … "self-control" … the various powers bestowed by God upon man are capable of abuse; the right use demands the controlling power of the will under the operation of the Spirit of God; in Acts 24:25 the word follows "righteousness," which represents God's claims, self-control being man's response thereto; in 2 Pet. 1:6, it follows "knowledge," suggesting that what is learned requires to be put into practice.
As Vine pointed out, the Greek word for self-control is formed from the root word for strength, and it is used in three passages in the New Testament. He noted that, in Acts 24:25, the righteousness of God comes first and is followed by the believer’s response of self-control. He goes on to state that self-control is the use of the power of the human will under the operation of the Spirit of God. I do not see where Paul preached to Felix and Drusilla divine dispensing through calling on the Lord and pray-reading, and I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t a discussion of those things that scared Felix.


Spirit’s fruit

The next passage in which egkrateia occurs is in Galatians, and here it is with plenty of context:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus [crucify (Grk)] the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. (Gal 5:16–26, NASB, emphasis added)
Here is my shortened paraphrase of what Paul wrote: Live by the Spirit so as not to carry out the desire of the flesh. The Spirit and the flesh are at odds with each other, so you cannot do anything you please. If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the burden of the Law. Immorality, etc., are deeds of the flesh, and those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Self-control, etc., are deeds of the Spirit, and there is no law against such things. Also, those who belong to Christ Jesus crucify the flesh with its passions and desires; and, since we are alive by the Spirit, let us also behave by the Spirit.

Consider the main points of this Galatians 5 passage according to its literary style. If we make the syntax parallel, it would look something like this:
  • The deeds of the flesh are immorality, etc. Do not practice them.
  • The deeds of the Spirit are self-control, etc. Do practice them.
  • Deal drastically with your flesh.
  • Behave yourself by the Spirit.

Witness Lee taught that a person should not try to practice Christian virtues; because, to do so, would be to do something just from the person’s self in the principle of observing right and wrong by human strength. He taught that the Christian just needs to do things like calling on the Lord until spiritual virtues spontaneously issue forth from the person. According to the Bible, however, one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control; so, a person under the control of the Spirit is one who controls himself in the power of the Spirit. We can say, then, that a Christian who decides to control himself and does so is one who is under the control of the Holy Spirit. In the same way, we could say that the other virtues in the same list come to fruition in like manner: A Christian can practice them, trusting by faith that the Spirit is initiating and empowering him to practice those virtues. In this way, a person can avoid the confusion of questioning whether or not a behavior is initiated by the Spirit, which undermines the believer’s confidence and ability to take action, even when the action is to practice a spiritual virtue from the list in Galatians 5.


Divine nature’s participants

Now, let’s look at the last passage that uses the Greek word for self-control, once again, with plenty of context:
Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become [participants (Grk: koinonos)] of the divine nature, [fleeing from (Grk)] the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. (2 Pet 1:1-11, NASB, emphasis added)
Here is my shortened paraphrase of what Peter wrote: God has given us faith and everything for life and godliness. He has given us promises so that we may become participants of the divine nature. For this reason, we need to do some things: In our faith, supply moral excellence; in that, supply knowledge; in that, supply self-control; and so forth. If these qualities are ours and increasing, they render us fruitful in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Practice these things, and the entrance into the kingdom will be supplied to us.

From this passage, in which Peter tells us to supply self-control, Witness Lee pulled out verse 4 (become partakers [KJV] of the divine nature) to support eating and drinking Jesus to receive divine dispensing for spontaneous growth into a new man. In fact, this eating and drinking sometimes became rather out-of-control in Local Church meetings. In contrast, Peter tells us how, fleeing the corruption that is in the world by desire, we may be participants of the divine nature. How are we participants? He doesn’t tell us to eat and drink Jesus to receive divine dispensing. He tells us to do something with all diligence. He tells us to begin with our faith and supply moral excellence (something Lee rarely talked about), to that, we supply experiential knowledge, and to knowledge, we supply self-control, etc. These are the things we are to practice, not the eating and drinking that Witness Lee promoted.


Lee’s economy or apostles’ virtues

Living Stream Ministry practitioners would, apparently, rather pursue their eating and drinking than practice a Christian virtue, like goodness (uprightness of heart and life [Grk]). Rather than walking by consciences enlightened by the word of God, they actually stop up their ears by what they call eating and drinking Jesus, all the while hoping to receive a divine dispensing that would cause some goodness to be expressed later on. Rather than practice self-control by the aid of the Spirit, they would seemingly rather call on the Lord and trust that self-control would somehow make an appearance at some time in the future. Not only does their practice not work, the very meaning of the word, self-control, is against the idea behind their practice.

The writings of Peter and Paul do not support the kind of Christian living that Living Stream Ministry promulgates. As Paul told Felix, faith in Christ Jesus involves righteousness, self-control, and judgment. He told us in Galatians to deal severely with the deeds of the flesh and to act by the Spirit to exhibit virtues such as love, kindness, and self-control. Peter told us that we have escaped the corruption to become participants [partners, associates (Grk)] of the divine nature, and we participate by supplying Christian virtues in our faith, things such as moral excellence, self-control, and love. Christian virtues are to be practiced, and we as Christians are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so. It is this that prepares an entrance for us into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, not blind investment in Witness Lee’s economy.
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Old 02-27-2012, 04:58 AM   #2
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Default Re: Self-control vs. Lee's Economy

For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 14:17)
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Old 02-27-2012, 12:14 PM   #3
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Default Re: Self-control vs. Lee's Economy

As I was leaving the Recovery system in 2005, reading the stories (e.g. Ingalls, So, Mallon, Anderson, etc.) of others who had successfully exited, one glaring observation stood out to me -- the Recovery as a whole is abusive on all levels. I had read about and witnessed first hand far too much real "bully behavior" from all areas of the program. I had long been instructed that much of this was simply "our unique way to perfect the brothers."

Nothing I have learned since then has changed my early conclusions. Despite our endless claims to be Philadelphia, the church of brotherly love, the opposite was mostly true, especially when it came to the leadership in the Recovery. Brothers in the Recovery have never learned how to treat one another according to our Lord's commands recorded in the scripture. When it comes to the leading brothers, mistreatment is the norm, not the exception. The pattern of abuse was learned from the top down, with WL himself as the source, the archetype of how not to treat other believers.

I still remember my shock within when one time brother Hope asked me if there was a single verse in the N.T. to justify our methods of public shaming and humiliation. What? It has to be in there somewhere! We had for so long prided ourselves in returning to the pure word, doing all things according to the scripture, and yet in the most rudimentary arena, how we treat one another, we were verse-less. The best we could do was to repeat the story of the mannerisms of some missionary sister in China.

Once we were able to discard the basic respects afforded one another, so much more of scripture was eventually discarded. Temper tantrums were not a loss of self-control, but a portrait of genuine honesty being expressed in the spirit. Lawsuits were not abject failures as Paul warned the fleshly Corinthians, but noble vehicles of righteous action reserved for those, like Apostle Paul, who were fighting the good fight of the faith, by appealing to Caesar. Similarly financial improprieties, moral lapses, and so forth were all covered up and justified by new Recovery "discoveries," without scriptural justification, and based on "new teachings."

On a personal level, the predictable response to those who might question these abusive means, was the expected, "aren't you a man, is not the divine dispensing enough for you, what are you here for anyway, did not our Lord suffer silently opening not His mouth, etc.?" For a people who boasted so much of partaking of the divine nature, we were so sorely short of expressing love to one another, the very centerpiece of God's nature.
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Old 02-27-2012, 01:12 PM   #4
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Default Re: Self-control vs. Lee's Economy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ohio View Post
As I was leaving the Recovery system in 2005, reading the stories (e.g. Ingalls, So, Mallon, Anderson, etc.) of others..
In essence Ohio, your post speaks of virtue I was going to touch on...love.
Before I get there to respond to several of you comments:

temper tantrums-that alone indicates a brother is ill-equipped to lead. Contrary "genuine honesty being expressed in the spirit" tends to land a brother or sister out of fellowship.

Shaming and humiliation-whether it's done publicly or privately, the practice and understanding is this is how you experience the cross.

How ironic it is you bring up Mallon, Anderson, So, Ingalls, etc. As it was New Years day weekend an elder from the Church in Vista could not shake John Ingalls hand at a coincidental meeting at a restuarant. After Ron Kangas speaks about forgiveness at a Puget Sound blending conference. Where is forgiveness to brothers who had left? I had sent an email encouraging Ron and Benson to visit John Ingalls. Actions or a lack of will speak volumes.

Getting into my post where is the virtue of love?

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-2

In all fairness in the local churches that follow LSM, there is love, but it's love according to those who love the ministry. In other words, if you're a seeking one going to a local church and see "the vision" LSM publishes, you'll be loved and shepherded. But if you're a seeking one going to a local church and don't see "the vision", you'll be considered not worth the time to labor. As I know several whom that has happened to. What happened to the love I see in scriptures; a love without bias?
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Old 02-27-2012, 03:37 PM   #5
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Default Re: Self-control vs. Lee's Economy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ohio View Post
On a personal level, the predictable response to those who might question these abusive means, was the expected, "aren't you a man, is not the divine dispensing enough for you, what are you here for anyway, did not our Lord suffer silently opening not His mouth, etc.?"
This is such a great example of how ignorant the LSM ministry is. Once the Lord entered into the phase of suffering and dying for our sins, he remained silent. But before that He was very vocal in exposing sin, unrighteousness and hypocrisy, even when they were directed at Him.

As usual, LRCers use half the truth to make a twisted and self-serving point.

"What are you here for?" indeed. This is flatly treating the people Christ died for as means to an end.
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Old 02-28-2012, 01:15 PM   #6
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Default Re: Self-control vs. Lee's Economy

Quote:
Originally Posted by Igzy View Post
Once the Lord entered into the phase of suffering and dying for our sins, he remained silent. But before that He was very vocal in exposing sin, unrighteousness and hypocrisy, even when they were directed at Him.
We have in Matthew 23 and indicting word by Jesus against the pharisees. Jesus didn't dilute His speaking to gain an endorsement or for any man's acceptance. Nor as Igzy said, did Jesus remain silent.

We see Proverbs 17:15 in practice through many local churches who adhere to fellowship given by LSM co-workers. Where righteous brothers end up being condemned (and subsequently quarantined) for speaking according to the conviction of their conscience. Which is essentially a reaction to unrighteousness.

Read the book of Proverbs. Throught the book there is chapter after chapter a contrast of the righteous and the wicked. One verse in concluding my post,

In the way of righteousness is life, And in its pathway there is no death. Proverbs 12:28
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Old 02-28-2012, 04:29 PM   #7
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Default Re: Self-control vs. Lee's Economy

That we can only live the Christian life by the power of the Holy Spirit is something that most Christian groups can agree upon. Where they differ is their interpretation of what it means to live by the Holy Spirit.

As John clearly stated, Witness Lee's view of living by the Spirit encompassed all the necessary prescriptions he gave us. He was not shy on many occasions to proclaim that such and such (prayreading, calling, etc.) is "The Way."

Bill Freeman, although he splintered off from the LSM Church, held tightly to all the teachings of Witness Lee. He came out and boldly stated that when the Apostle Paul talks of putting on Christ, he meant putting on the "Church-life." So then your access to the power to live this ascended Christian life becomes very narrow. You are also led to believe that if you are doing anything outside of those parameters, regardless of how much success you might be enjoying, it is invalid and means very little or nothing to the Lord.

This is why many Christians after leaving the local Church, and many other groups for that matter, are for a time looking over their shoulders. Every enjoyment of Christ is called into question, because we have been programmed to believe that all things come from God only through "The Ministry," and can only be enjoyed in the highly charged atmosphere of the Living Stream Church-life.

It takes a while for the kool-aid to get fully out of your blood stream. It's been 12 years for me since first trying to walk away from the LSM induced zombie state. As time goes on I see more and more how freely the Lord gives of himself to any of his true seekers, no matter where they are. But I can tell you that for a long time there were visceral reactions to anything coming out of another source besides Witness Lee.

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