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Default LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous?
Nigel Tomes

Witness Lee (Li Changshou) is on record asserting “The Bible does not teach that believers will ever be deified [made God].”0 He also said, “The fact that we have the divine nature with the divine life does not mean that we shall ever be deified.” In his closing years, however, Witness Lee recanted and adopted deification, an Eastern Orthodox notion. He dubbed it the “High Peak,” saying “The high peak of the divine revelation...in the Holy Scriptures...is that God became man that man may become God in life and nature but not in the Godhead.”1 In LSM’s Local Churches this slogan is recited repeatedly. W. Lee argued, “If a cat begets kittens, those kittens are baby cats. In the same way, God begot us to make us the sons of God...to make us ‘baby gods,’ having God's life and nature but not His Godhead...Thus, we are not only the children of God ...we are also the ‘baby gods’.”2 Again he contended, “What is begotten of man is man, and what is begotten of God must be God. We are born of God; hence, in this sense, we are God."3 He challenged listeners, “We may be able to say that we ‘become like God’ in life and nature, but do we have the boldness to say that we ‘become God’ in life and nature?...since we are born of God...are we not God?”4 Expounding, W. Lee says, “God's economy...is to make Himself man and to make us...'God,' so that He is 'man-ized' and we are 'God-ized.' In the end, He and we...all become God-men.”5 Men become God by “absorbing God;” W. Lee says, when we “absorb the divine substance with the divine essence, the divine element, and the divine expression. This will cause us to be deified...to be made God in life and in nature but not in the Godhead. In this sense we may speak of the deification of the believers...”6

“The local churches hold that man may become God”--LSM’s Kerry Robichaux
Deification—man becoming God—is now a tenet of the faith in LSM’s Local Church; it is part of their creed. “We in the local churches hold that man may become God in God's salvation,”7 declares LSM’s K. Robichaux. LSM asserts this is “absolutely scriptural.”8 LSM’s K. Robichaux says “We are also confirmed by the ancient testimony of the church.” He appeals to the Roman Catholic Church & Eastern Orthodox Church for support.9 Indeed some Orthodox statements seem to echo W. Lee, such as: “The deification of the human being [is] the goal of the economy of salvation.” & “The economy of God consists in the deification of the created world…”10

“This is not just three-in-one. This is four-in-one.”—W. Lee
W. Lee’s deification dogma raises significant theological issues. The assertion that “man may become God in life and nature,” suggests many “Gods” are being produced, raising the specter of polytheism. Evidently, as a result of deification, the unique Creator God of biblical monotheism (mono—one; theos--God. Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29; 1 Cor. 8:6) is joined by many additional “Gods” (deified men) resulting in polytheism (at least in terms of Gods in “life & nature”). Moreover, although W. Lee contends that “man may become God...but not in the Godhead,” yet he is also on record asserting that the Triune God has become “four-in-one,” suggesting redeemed humankind is indeed added to the Trinity’s Godhead. He claims “Four persons—the one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one God the Father —[are] mingled together...thus, the Triune God and the Body are four-in-one.”11 W. Lee relates God becoming “four-in-one” to man’s deification; he said:12 “Man, the Spirit, the Lord, and the Father are built together. This is not just three-in-one. This is four-in-one. God became a man that we, His redeemed, might become God…But…we do not have the Godhead.”

Assertions about the “Four Persons” of the “four-in-one God” trigger alarm bells among evangelicals; W. Lee’s assertions appear to fail evangelicals’ “orthodoxy test.” They also raise the specter of divine mutation—has the ‘three-in-one’ Trinity (prior to incarnation) mutated into the “four-in-one God” (after Christ’s exaltation)? Such concerns caused scholars to publicly implore LSM and the Local Churches to disavow “statements by Witness Lee [which] appear to contradict or compromise essential doctrines of the Christian faith.”13 Even LSM admits that,14 extracted “from its immediate context…Witness Lee’s term four-in-one God can…be understood to refer to a heretical addition to the eternal and inviolable Triune Godhead.” Reading W. Lee’s statements within their context does little to allay concerns about heresy. Perhaps in response to evangelicals’ alarm, LSM’s Kerry Robichaux asserts that “man will never take part in the Godhead; he will never be a fourth person in the Trinity.”15 Yet this directly contradicts Witness Lee’s own words; plus, Kerry Robichaux’s position is not reflected in LSM’s intransigent response to the Christian scholars.

LSM’s Deification Doctrine—not Biblical, but Blasphemous
LSM asserts that its deification doctrine is “absolutely scriptural.” However, this article maintains it is not biblical, rather it is blasphemous. This last statement is not a personal attack on Bro. Witness Lee. It is not merely the author’s subjective evaluation, nor is it a ‘knee jerk’ response to a new doctrine. Witness Lee’s doctrine of deification is not Biblical in that no biblical writer ever asserted that “man may become God in life and nature but not in the Godhead.” Nor did they ever make a statement even approximating this. Scripture uses capital “G” God, to designate the eternal, transcendent Creator and Sovereign Ruler of all things; it does not recognize LSM’s “semi-Gods,” who are “God in life & nature but not in the Godhead.” None of Scriptures’ ‘overcomers’— Enoch, Elijah, etc—are deified, or called “semi-Gods.” The Bible does not designate Paul, Moses, Samuel or any other prophet as the “acting God.” W. Lee’s earlier denial--“do not for a moment think that we have deified Paul. Paul was not God”--was replaced by the assertion, “Paul was...the acting God,”16 and “It is not too much to say that Samuel...was the acting God on earth.”17 But Scripture never uses this terminology.

More importantly, respected evangelical Bible scholars conclude that the deification dogma violates the strict monotheism maintained by writers of both the Old and New Testaments which holds that a clear dichotomy exists between the unique, eternal, self-existing God, the Creator and Sovereign Ruler (on the one hand) and His creatures (on the other) including God’s people—Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church.18 The strict monotheism established by God in His revelation to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the nation of Israel, recorded in the Old Testament, is reiterated by Jesus Christ and retained by the New Testament authors—the apostles and their close associates. The distinct boundary between the unique Creator God and His creatures was ‘breached’ in only one case, by God--through the incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. Hence the New Testament authors recognize Jesus Christ (“God become man...”) as true God, while simultaneously rejecting the claims of other men to be, or to become, God. The Apostle Paul includes the resurrected Christ within the “divine identity” of Israel’s one true God.19 The New Testament theology which includes Jesus in the “divine identity,” excludes all other humans and hence rejects deification. The purported biblical basis for W. Lee’s ‘deification’ derives from eisegesis—imposing a preconceived notion on Scripture.

“Blasphemy,” “appalling,” “repellant,” & “ridiculous”
“Blasphemy,” “appalling,” and “ridiculous”—these are not my terms, but those of scholars who conclude that the Apostle Paul, other New Testament authors, and the first-century Church would have rejected the doctrine of deification as heresy. Terms such as20 “blasphemous,” “abhorrent,” “repellant,” and the object of “allergic sensitivity,” describe the anticipated response of first-century Apostles, New Testament authors, Christians and Jews to the deification dogma. Witness Lee’s deification dogma is not exempt from this unequivocal rejection.

Deification...would be appalling to the Jewish-Christian mind.” –Dr. Arie W. Zwiep
Statements by biblical scholars substantiate these assertions. Already, some 90 years ago, Divinity Professor, A. H. McNeile wrote, “The words [apotheosis, deification] represent ideas...[from] which the first Christians, who were all Jews...would have shrunk as from blasphemy.”21 He also asserted that “the notion would have been abhorrent to Jews.”22 Among contemporary scholars, Dr. Arie W. Zwiep, Theology Professor at Amsterdam University, asserts, “divinization or deification...would be appalling to the Jewish-Christian mind.”23 He also observes that, “a literalistic conception [of deification] would be near blasphemy in the Jewish mind.”24 Dr. Mark D. Nispel observes, “the earliest Christian authors explicitly and vehemently reject the idea*of any creature being considered a god as this was contrary to the church’s monotheistic confession.”25 University of Edinburgh Professor Larry W. Hurtado concludes that “the rejection of apotheosis [deification] as ridiculous and blasphemous seems...to have been characteristic of devout Jews of the Roman period...”26 He also states,27 “For Roman-era Jews the plurality of deities and demigods and the practice of deifying rulers were repellent, even blasphemous.” He designates this as a “repellant category” also to Christian Jews.28 We note that all the early apostles (including Paul) and all the New Testament authors (except Luke) were Jewish-Christians with an “allergic sensitivity,” to the notion of man’s deification, considering it “appalling,” “near blasphemy,” and a “repellant category.” Not surprisingly, Paul “keeps his distance from the idea of a deification of believers.”29

Jewish Monotheism
Dr. David Litwa notes “The most common objection to the notion of deification in early Christian sources is the concept of ‘monotheism’.”30 The distinguished scholar, Dr. Richard Bauckham of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, addresses this lacuna. He describes Jewish understanding of deity, both before and during Jesus’ era, enshrined in Scripture, as exclusive monotheism, saying:31
“Exclusive monotheism...understands the uniqueness of the one God in terms of an absolute difference in kind from all other reality. We could call it transcendent uniqueness. It means there is no class of beings to which God belongs and of which he can be the supreme instance. It takes a ‘binary’ view of reality... Early Jewish literature...is strongly committed to [exclusive monotheism] by the way it constantly understands the uniqueness of the God of Israel as that of the one Creator of all things and the one sovereign Ruler of all things...These definitions of God’s uniqueness drive an absolute difference of kind between God and ‘all things’...and create an essentially binary view of reality. This does not and need not deny the existence of many heavenly beings [‘gods’], but simply insists that they are created by God and subject to the sovereign will of God. In early Judaism, the binary distinction between God and all other reality was observed and inculcated—in daily religious observance—...exclusive worship of the one true God. Such exclusive worship was acknowledgement of the transcendent uniqueness of the God of Israel.”
‘Divine Identity’— ‘Who God is,’ not ‘What God is’
Professor Bauckham argues that Judaism focused on who God is rather than what divinity is in the abstract. He says, “For Jewish monotheistic belief in God what was important was who God is, rather than what divinity is.”32 ‘Divine identity’ answers the question, ‘Who is God?’ Scholars emphasize the importance of focusing on 33“the identity of God and not (for example) the divine essence or nature. These latter categories certainly came to dominate the [later] Patristic debate, but they are Greek metaphysical concepts, alien to the first-century Jewish understanding of God. ‘Identity,’ by contrast, encapsulates this Jewish understanding, where God has a name and character, acts, speaks, relates and can be addressed,” Dr Andrew Chester explains. Prof. “Bauckham emphasizes that a monotheism defined in terms of [God’s] personal (narrative) ‘identity’ differs greatly from a monotheism defined in the categories of Greek philosophy, namely the ‘concept of divine essence or nature’… [Judaism] was not concerned with abstract attributes but with the identity of the personal God, YHWH…Israel has learned God’s personal characteristics—who, rather than what, God is—through her history (the patriarchs & the Exodus) and through God’s revealing the divine name and its meaning to Moses (Exo. 3 & 34),”34 says, Matthew Levering. Doug Ward elaborates, “Jews during the Second Temple period knew the one God of Israel as their Deliverer and Lawgiver and also as the eternal Creator and Ruler of the Universe. He alone was worthy of worship, a fact that all creation would one day acknowledge…This understanding of God involved qualities like eternality and power, it did not include philosophical speculation about God's nature or essence. God was someone to worship and obey; his essence was assumed to be beyond understanding.”35 Professor N.T. Wright concurs, saying, "Jewish monotheism in this period was not an inner analysis of the being of the one true God. It was not an attempt at describing numerically what this God is, so to speak, on the inside. Instead it made two claims…[1] that the one God, the God of Israel, was the only God of the whole world; [2] that therefore the pagan gods were blasphemous nonsense…the true God would one day decisively defeat these pagan gods."36

Revelation vs. Reason -- Jewish, Biblical Understanding vs. Greek Philosophical Thought
The other question—what is divinity?--arose centuries later among the Greek Patristics (e.g. Athanasius) who grappled with this issue in terms of God’s essence, nature, substance, ‘person,’ hypostasis, etc. Dr. Andrew Chester links Dr. Bauckham’s thesis to the view which rejects “the whole ontological tradition emanating from Aquinas [1225-1274] (& ultimately Aristotle) with its emphasis on the nature & essence of God...[that] rejects the God of Aquinas’ natural theology...[as] something created by human reason, a philosophical construct and not the God of the Christian faith.”37 Against this later Greek theology, Professor Bauckham “emphasizes very strongly that this unique personal divine identity stands in complete contrast to that of the divine essence or nature...As he puts it, ‘Identity concerns who God is; nature concerns what God is, or what divinity is.’ Jewish understanding and Jewish tradition [reflected in Scripture] have as their focus the ‘unique identity of the God of Israel,’ in contrast to the merely philosophical abstraction that contemporary Greek thought aspired to.”38

Plus Prof. Chester points out the “divide [which] Bauckham draws between Jewish and Greek thought...the contrast between Jewish (or biblical) understanding as ‘good’ (showing God as he truly is) and Greek thought as ‘bad’...corresponds to the sharp (or absolute) contrast between reason and revelation as possible ways of knowing and understanding God.”39 For Bauckham, Jewish, biblical thought embodied in the ‘divine identity,’ represents God’s revelation; later Greek metaphysical debates were the issue of human reason, not revelation.

Dr. Richard Bauckham uses the term “divine identity,” to describe who God is, based on His acts which manifest His character. He concludes that, during the era of Jesus and Paul, “Judaism was self-consciously monotheistic and understood the unique identity of God in terms of uniquely divine characteristics. The most important were that God is the sole Creator and the sole Ruler of all things. The properly divine worship which was restricted to the one God was recognition of and response to this unique divine identity.”40

It is not enough...to define deification in terms of ‘likeness’”--Dr. David Litwa
The concept of “divine identity” has implications for the deification doctrine. Dr. David Litwa, states that “Deification—as I understand it—is sharing in a, or the, divine identity—that is, sharing in those distinctive qualities which make (a) God (a) God. It is not enough, in other words, to define deification in terms of ‘likeness’...”41 God’s “distinctive qualities,” as defined by Prof. Bauckham, include (1) being the pre-existent Creator of all things & (2) the universal Ruler, which (in turn) imply (3) being the one valid object of worship. Applying Dr. Litwa’s criterion for deification, “likeness is not enough;” it is not sufficient merely to be ‘creative,’ one must be a Creator to qualify for deification. The obvious question arises—who then can be deified?

Scripture specifically excludes other agents (angels, etc.) from God’s work of creation. “Thus says the LORD...‘I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself’.” (Isa. 44:24) University of St. Andrews Professor Richard Bauckham elaborates, “As the only Eternal One...God alone brought all other things into existence. God had no helper, assistant or servant to assist or to implement his work of creation. God alone created and no one else had any part in this activity.”42

As the Sovereign Ruler, God is “the One who is high & lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy...” (Isa. 57:15). “God employs servants, especially myriads of angels,” Dr. Bauckham says, yet “the uniqueness of God’s total sovereignty means...[they] carry out the will of God in total obedience. They do not share his rule; they serve. While God sits on his throne, the angels...stand...awaiting his command...”43 The sole exception is “one like a son of man” (Dan. 7:13) who is brought to the throne and shares God’s rule.

“In Second Temple Judaism...the throne of God in the highest heaven became a key symbol of monotheism, representative of one of the essential characteristics definitive of the divine identity,” Dr. Bauckham observes, “While a few traces of other enthroned figures associated with God’s rule can be found, the subordination of such figures to God’s rule is almost always stressed, while the overwhelming trend of the literature is towards emptying heaven of all thrones except God’s...The uniqueness of the heavenly throne of God belongs to the logic of the monotheism that dominated common Judaism....”44 God alone is on the throne of the universe.

No room for ‘semi-Gods,’ ‘partial-Gods,’ or ‘Gods in life & nature, but not the Godhead’
These traits constitute God’s “divine identity.” God is the unique Creator and universal Ruler of all things; hence He alone is worthy of worship. Dr. Bauckham asserts “These definitions of God’s uniqueness drive an absolute difference of kind between God and ‘all things’...and create an essentially binary view of reality.”45 There is no gradient allowing for degrees of deity—one is either capital ‘G’ God (absolutely) or not. There is no room here for ‘semi-Gods,’ ‘partial-Gods,’ ‘half-way Gods,’ or “Gods in life and nature, but not in the Godhead.” George Carraway asks, “How can one be almost God?” He quotes earlier scholars asking, “What kind of God is it, then, who is only God with qualifications? On any legitimate use of terms is any being who is only God with qualifications, not God absolutely, any longer truly God?”46 Along these lines, we ask: Is any human who “is God, but not in the Godhead,” truly God? This binary view of God, Prof. Bauckham asserts, is enshrined in the Old and New Testaments. David Bernard concurs, “The Hebrew Scriptures do not describe God in theoretical or philosophical terms. Yahweh [the LORD] is not an abstract object with attributes but a personal deity with emotions. He is the sole creator, ruler, and savior, and he is the one who acts in both nature and history.”47 The category, “God in life & nature, but not in the Godhead,” is a foreign category from later Greek philosophy, alien to God-inspired Scripture, which dissects the indivisible personal God which Scripture reveals. LSM’s Kerry Robichaux asks, “Can Human Beings Become God?” These scholars answer unequivocally, “No!”

Monotheism & Deification

Devout Jews might not have been clear about God’s substance, essence or hypostasis; but they knew who their God was. Twice daily they prayed the ‘Shema:’ “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Deut. 6:4). The Lord alone is Israel’s God, ‘the only one.’ It is a statement of exclusivity, not about the internal unity of God. It requires Israel to observe a practical monotheism, and stands in sharp contrast to pagan polytheism. [ESV Study Bible] It echoes the commandment: “I am the LORD your God...You shall have no other gods before (beside) me,” (Deut. 5:6-7) mandating exclusive worship. As Jesus said, rebutting Satan, “As it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, Him only shall you serve’.” (Matt. 4:9-10)
Jewish belief and practice contrasted sharply with first-century Greco-Roman society with its polytheism and idolatry. R. T. France describes the first-century situation:
“Monotheism was the hallmark of Judaism. To be a Jew was to be committed, often fanatically committed, to the maintenance of faith in only one God, in the face of a surrounding Hellenistic [Greek] culture which worshipped many gods, not to mention many semi-divine heroes, and a deified emperor. Hellenism had made great inroads in Palestine, to be sure, but not to the extent of modifying the monotheistic fervour of the ordinarily religious Jews out of whom Jesus’ first followers were drawn, still less that of the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus. For a Jew then, as now, to speak of a man of his own times as divine was as impossible as it is for a Muslim to welcome the Christian doctrine of the Trinity or of Jesus as the Son of God...No Jew would calmly listen to a man being described as divine...”48
“Humans cannot participate in this ‘unique’ divine identity”--Dr. David Litwa
Under the paradigm of ‘divine identity,’ which these scholars argue is biblical, “the distinction between belonging and not belonging within the divine identity is absolute and it is simply not possible to move gradually into this divine identity through a series of stages.”49 Deification--humans becoming God--is impossible. Israel’s exclusive worship of the LORD, the transcendent Creator and Sovereign Ruler, rules out human deification. Dr. David Litwa states, “A strong doctrine of transcendence is often based on the idea of God creating the world (especially ex nihilo)...Since God created the world out of nothing, ‘he is utterly distinct from, and other than, the world’ (Kaufmann). [Such] a God...cannot share his identity (or identity-constituting qualities)...Humans cannot participate in this ‘unique’ divine identity.”50 Humans are creatures, part of God’s creation; they did not participate in God’s creative work. So, on this score, they are disqualified from the role of Creator, an indispensible qualification for being the unique God. Hence they can never be ‘deified,’ in terms of sharing the unique “divine identity;” the biblical ‘bar’ is too high for mankind, even Christians, to be ‘deified.’

Greek Heroes were deified; Jewish Heroes were Not
In pagan Greek literature & myths deification was a common occurrence; Gods in the Greco-Roman world were a ‘dime a dozen.’ Rulers and heroes were deified by rapture to heaven to join the pantheon. Professor Zwiep refers to Romulus, the mythical founder of Rome. He says, “In a large number of Hellenistic [Greek] rapture stories we find deification vocabulary as a standard feature. The proposition, ‘Romulus has gone to heaven’ is materially identical with, ‘Romulus has become a god’ and vice versa (i.e., the proposition ‘Romulus has become a god’ implies his previous ascent to the world of the gods).”51 Plus Dr. Zwiep says, “A recurrent, if not standard feature, in the Hellenistic [Greek] rapture stories is that heavenly assumption is regarded as the gateway to immortality and the means of deification.”52 However, this was not the case in Jewish literature.

“Deification-- appalling to the Jewish-Christian mind” –Professor Arie Zwiep
The Hebrew Scriptures record cases of rapture—Enoch (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11). But neither was said to be deified or divinized in Jewish extra-biblical writings. Prof. James Dunn observes that “Patriarchs were glorified, not deified.”53 Plus, Dr. Dunn says, “Elijah is never deified in Jewish or Christian thinking...Enoch is described as one transformed into angel-like form.”54 “There is no deification involved here for these two Jewish figures”—Enoch & Elijah,55 says Dallas Theological Seminary Professor, Darrell L. Bock. Prof. Arie Zwiep concurs; referring to Enoch, Elijah, etc., he says, “The raptured saints are not being ‘deified.’ In none of the cases of rapture [do] we find a statement about an enthronement act, let alone an affirmation of divinization or deification. This would be appalling to the Jewish-Christian mind.”56 The LORD is the only God; the notion of a man (even Enoch or Elijah) being deified was scandalous to Jews & 1st-century Christians.

A literalistic conception [of deification] would be near blasphemy...”--Dr. Arie Zwiep
God told Moses, “I have made you God to Pharaoh” (Exo. 7:1 RcV.)*Yet, surely this is meant in a metaphorical, not a literal, sense. “Judaism maintained [a] difference in kind between God and angels and human beings. Moses is as God to Pharaoh, and is never deified,”57 says Fletcher-Louis. This case illustrates a non-literal application of deification. Professor James Dunn observes that in extra-biblical Jewish literature, “Jewish apologists in and before the first century AD [e.g. Philo, Josephus, etc.] could use extravagant language attributing deity in some sense to particular individuals and yet not intend it to be taken literally and without wishing to diminish the distinction between God and man.”58 Dr. Arie Zwiep concludes that “Although in some quarters of first century Judaism historical figures of Israel’s past were occasionally elevated, even up to the status of theos [e.g., in Philo & the Dead Sea Scrolls] there is little evidence that this...compromised its basic belief in monotheism because it perceived this type of divinity in an attenuated, non-literal sense. A literalistic conception [of deification] would be near blasphemy in the Jewish mind...”59 These scholars conclude that, due to Judaism’s strict monotheism, even outstanding figures in Israel’s history—e.g. Enoch & Elijah who were raptured to God’s presence—were not deified or considered as ‘gods.’ Rare instances of literary deification (e.g. Moses in Philo) are judged to be metaphoric and non-literal. Hence Athanasius’ maxim of “man becoming God” is antithetical to both canonical and non-canonical Jewish writings. As Dr. Larry Hurtado states,60 “The Jewish monotheistic stance forbade apotheosis, the divinization of human figures, and thus clashed with a major theme in pagan religion of the time. Philo’s quip about Gaius Caligula’s claim to divinity aptly illustrates Jewish attitudes...: ‘Sooner could God change into a man than a man into God.’ The rejection of apotheosis [deification] as ridiculous and blasphemous seems...characteristic of devout Jews of the Roman period...”

Monotheism in the New Testament

“In the New Testament, the Christian faith presupposes Jewish monotheism,” states Dr. Bauckham. The New Testament accepts the monotheistic assumptions inherited from the Old Testament and Judaism. It accepts the basic divide in reality between all that is created and God Himself, who is utterly distinct from creation,”61 says Charles Irons. Jesus affirmed Israel’s Shema (Deut. 6:4-5). When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus responded by quoting the Shema, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart...soul...mind and...strength’.” (Mk. 12:29-30) The Apostle Paul quotes an expanded Shema: “Although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things & through whom we exist.” (1 Cor. 8:5-6) Paul rejects the so-called ‘gods’ & ‘lords’ of pagan worship; he acknowledges the one true God, ‘the Father,’ and the Creator of all. Dr. Larry Hurtado states “As a zealot for the religious integrity of Judaism and ‘the traditions of [his] ancestors’ in his pre-Christian religious life, Paul was devoted above all to the uniqueness of the God of Israel; and he continues to exhibit a firm monotheistic stance in his Christian letters. This is evident, for example in Rom. 1:18-32... & 1 Cor. 8-10...So we must remember that for Paul, as for other Jewish Christians, and also for the Gentile converts they sought to make obedient to the one God of biblical/Jewish tradition, devotion to Christ is expressed in the context of a firmly monotheistic stance.”62 Paul’s 1 Timothy contains a “remarkably strong affirmation of Jewish monotheism [e.g. 1 Tim. 2:5]...A favorite phrase is ‘God our Savior.’ That the God of Jewish monotheism is meant is clear,” Dr. James Dunn writes.63

New Testament authors show the same distaste for deifying people as Jewish writers. There are “instances where men are taken for gods...Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:20-23)...Paul & Barnabas (Acts 14:8-18)—but at a level of popular superstition which Jews and Christians would not and did not approve (as the same passages make clear),” observes Professor James Dunn.64

Many early Christians lived in pagan societies where the deification of humans was common place, yet they adamantly opposed this pagan practice. Professor David Aune observes that “Many of the [Roman] emperors beginning with Augustus were posthumously deified in emulation of the legend of the apotheosis or deification of Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome...Particularly in Roman Asia, cults in honor of living emperors were instituted in various cities (e.g. Pergamum & Ephesus)...Toward the end of the first century and beginning of the second century CE, Christians who were arrested were often required to sacrifice to the emperor to prove that they had renounced their [Christian] beliefs.”65 Prior to Emperor Constantine, faithful Christians accepted martyrdom rather than offering worship to Rome’s deified Emperors. Worship & deification were inextricably linked; early Christians rejected both. It would have been hypocritical for them to accept Christian deification.

‘Late’ Direct Affirmation of Jesus’ Deity
The combination of strict monotheism with opposition to man’s deification, explains the late and sparse direct affirmations of Jesus’ deity in the New Testament documents. It is not until John’s Gospel, written in the AD 90s, 60-years after Jesus’ crucifixion, that we have an uncontroverted statement (Jn. 1:1, 14). Dr. James Dunn “traced a development...of ideas throughout the New Testament leading to the decisive step of attributing true deity to Jesus and the enunciation of a clear doctrine of incarnation, which he believed did not fully occur until the Johannine [John’s] writings.”66 A common question faced by today’s Christians is—where does the New Testament attribute deity to Jesus? R. T. France responds “We might start...by discussing whether the New Testament calls Jesus ‘God’. We would then study a small number of passages where explicit God-language may be applied to Jesus. In that case we will find ourselves disappointed that in many cases the apparent direct attribution of divinity to Jesus melts away in the light of uncertainty about either the text, or the punctuation, or the syntax, leaving us with no undisputed (or almost undisputed!) direct attribution of divinity to Jesus outside the opening and closing declarations of the Gospel of John (John. 1:1, 14, 18; 20:28).”67

These observations about the New Testament require an explanation: [1] The New Testament has relatively few straight-forward statements directly affirming Jesus deity—stating unambiguously that Jesus is God. Once we go beyond John’s Gospel, statements linking Jesus with God are more obtuse and/or depend on inference. [2] The New Testament’s most direct affirmations are ‘late,’ appearing in John’s writing dated around the AD 90s.

Deification: Did Jesus evolve from a Jewish Prophet to Gentile God?
These data suggest the earliest Christians, mostly Jewish believers, did not find it easy to directly affirm that Jesus is God, based on their adherence to monotheism and concomitant resistance to deification. Indeed, some scholars (e.g. Maurice Casey, From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God) argue it was only after Christianity spread beyond its roots in Judaism to the wider Greco-Roman world that Deity was attributed to Jesus.68 The pagan concept of deification, it is argued, overcame Jewish inhibitions, allowing Christians to assign deity to Jesus.69 The result is an evolutionary process—Jesus (it is alleged) was a Jewish prophet, exorcist and Messiah who evolved into a ‘God,’ as Christianity spread to the Greco-Roman world where deification was common-place.

Other scholars refute the notion that Jesus evolved into a ‘God;’ they look for subtle, indirect affirmations of Jesus’ deity. R. T. France explains: “It is in this light that we must understand the fact...the explicit use of God-language about Jesus is infrequent in the New Testament, and is concentrated in the later writings, and that hardly any such language has avoided textual surgery or syntactical ambiguity. It was such shocking language that, even when the beliefs underlying it were firmly established, it was easier, and perhaps more politic, to express these beliefs in less direct terms. The wonder is not that the New Testament so seldom describes Jesus as God, but that in such a milieu it does so at all. There must have been a very strong compulsion behind such a radical conversion of language. What then was the driving force behind this...? In a word, it was Jesus Himself and the impact He made on His followers...[that was expressed in] the worship of Jesus.”70

New Testament authors include Jesus in the ‘Divine Identity’

Evangelical scholars argue that the New Testament authors were neither slow nor late in attributing deity to Jesus Christ; rather they assert that they did this in ways consistent with biblical monotheism. Professor N. T. Wright asserts that, “From the earliest days of Christianity we find an astonishing shift, for which...nothing in Jewish traditions of the time had prepared Jesus’ followers. They remained firmly within Jewish monotheism; and yet they said...Jesus was...the unique embodiment of the one God of Israel.”71 Dr. Bauckham contends that the authors had a “deliberate and sophisticated way [of] expressing a fully divine Christology”72—affirming that Jesus is truly God. In his view, “The New Testament writers, without rejecting Jewish monotheism, purposely include Jesus within God’s identity.” More specifically, Professor Richard Bauckham asserts:
“The writers do this deliberately and comprehensively by way of precisely those characteristics of the divine identity on which Jewish monotheism focused in characterizing God as unique. They include Jesus in the unique divine sovereignty over all things, they include him in the unique divine creation of all things, they identify him by the divine name which names the unique divine identity, and they portray him as accorded worship which, for Jewish monotheists, is recognition of the unique divine identity. In this way...[they view] Jesus Christ himself as intrinsic to the identity of the unique God.”73 In short, the “New Testament authors identify Jesus with the God of Israel.”74
For example, Paul expands Israel’s Shema, by including Jesus. In doing so, Paul employs the fact that the Greek Old Testament [Septuagint] uses “LORD” (Greek: Kyrios) as a proxy for the personal name of God: YHWH. Israel’s creed says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Deut. 6:4) Paul’s expanded version says: “For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist and one LORD, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (1 Cor. 8:6) Here, Professor Bauckham contends, Paul affirms Israel’s creed, but reformulates it to “incorporate the belief of the unity of Jesus and the Father. Paul is not adding to the one God of the Shema a ‘Lord’ the Shema’ does not mention. He is identifying Jesus as the ‘LORD’ whom the Shema affirms to be one. This is Paul’s quite unprecedented reformulation...the unique identity of the one God consists of the one God, the Father, and the one Lord, his Messiah.”75 R. Ciampa & B. Rosner agree that 1 Cor. 8:6 “has a creedal sound to it, leading many to believe that Paul is citing (or slightly modifying) creedal material from the early church,” adding, “N. T. Wright is not exaggerating when he asserts that the writing of this text ranks as ‘one of the greatest pioneering moments in the entire history of Christology’.”76 Also of note is the fact that “Paul’s reformulation in 1 Cor. 8:6 includes Christ in this exclusively divine work of creation by giving him the role of instrumental cause.”77 The implication is that the early “Christians said something about Jesus that Second Temple Jewish literature was not interested in saying [nor willing to say] about anyone: that he [Jesus] participates in the divine identity.”78

More generally, Dr. Richard Bauckham contends that the first Christians understood that Jesus—the man—in resurrection, was exalted to God’s throne to share in “God’s unique sovereignty over the whole cosmos.” “Jesus is...the one who exercises God’s eschatological [end-time] sovereignty over all things, with a view to the coming of God’s kingdom and the universal acknowledgement of God’s unique deity. Jesus is included, we might say, in the eschatological identity of God.”79 As we have seen, the first Christians also included Jesus in the divine identity in terms of God’s creative activity: “The participation of Christ in the creative work of God is necessary, in Jewish monotheistic terms, to complete the...inclusion of him in the divine identity,” Bauckham says.81 By virtue of this, Jesus in resurrection became a valid object of Christian worship & devotion. “Exclusive devotion is now given to Jesus, but Jesus does not thereby replace or compete with God the Father, since he himself belongs to the unique divine identity.”82 This wasn’t due to an evolutionary process; it occurred from the start.

Scholars contend it was their dynamic experiences of salvation and encounters with their risen Lord which constrained the first believers to assign such an exalted status to Jesus. Such experiences, facilitated by the Spirit, overcame their inhibitions due to their Judaic monotheism & objections to deification and issued in their worship of Jesus as they worshipped God. Dr. Larry Hurtado postulates that for the earliest Christians:
“The conviction that God raised [Jesus] from death and exalted him to unparalleled heavenly glory was the likely ignition for the explosively rapid and remarkably early development of the intense Jesus-devotion that we see...in our earliest NT writings (Phil. 2:9-11).* In its earliest form, this crucial conviction was that in raising Jesus from death, God confirmed Jesus as the true Messiah (Acts 2:35), declared Jesus as God’s unique Son (Rom 1:3-4), and exalted him as the Lord (Mar/Kyrios) who now shares the divine throne, glory and ‘the name above every name’ (Phil. 2:9-11; Heb 1:3-4). *This conviction likely erupted in the earliest days/weeks after Jesus’ crucifixion, and was generated & confirmed by... encounters with the risen /glorified Jesus, visions of him in heavenly exaltation, prophetic oracles ...declaring his status & expressing God’s will that Jesus be reverenced, and new ‘charismatic’ readings of scriptural texts that...helped believers to understand better how to accommodate Jesus in relation to God ....[Due to this, these] early believers felt obliged to incorporate the risen/exalted Jesus...in their devotional/[worship] practices, according to Jesus the sort of place that they otherwise reserved for God alone. For example...they invoked (‘called upon’) and ‘confessed’ the risen Jesus in their worship-gatherings (e.g., 1 Cor. 16:22; Rom. 10:9-13).* Their initiation rite was a baptism in Jesus’ name.”83
Certainly Paul’s conversion was not the result of resolving theological or philosophical issues; it resulted from his encounter with the risen Lord which had a seismic impact on his belief system. So George Carraway concludes that, “In Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus he came to realize that the one God as expressed in the Shema had always included the Lord...that the identity of the one God included Christ the Lord.”84 Scholars assert that this realization about Jesus Christ, reflected in the New Testament documents, characterized the faith of the Church from the very beginning. Dr. R. Bauckham states that, “The inclusion of Jesus in the unique divine identity—was central to the faith of the early church even before any of the New Testament writings were written, since it occurs in all of them.”85 These conclusions repudiate the notion that Jesus’ ‘deification’ was the result of a decades-long evolutionary process as the Christian faith spread into the pagan Greco-Roman world. For 1st-century Christians the “bar for inclusion in the divine identity” was very high; only Jesus ‘made the cut.’

Scholars emphasize the need to view these conclusions in their first-century context, rather than super-imposing later, alien theological issues on the NT documents. George Carraway summarizes Bauckham’s view that, “The New Testament writers simply identified Jesus with YHWH, God of the Old Testament, without reference to any explanation of essence. The explanation of essence was taken up by the councils and the rest of the Church has wrestled with the problem for two millennia.”86 Doug Ward emphasizes the earliest Christians did not debate the divine essence, nature or hypostasis, saying: 87“The first Christians knew what they had experienced before and after Jesus' resurrection. In the New Testament writings, they faithfully recorded what Jesus and the scriptures had taught them. Since they were not philosophers or practitioners of systematic theology, they did not engage in a philosophical analysis of the nature or essence of the unique divine identity. The theological and philosophical implications of what they wrote were left for later generations to work out.” It is therefore anachronistic to read Nicene notions of essence, hypostasis, etc., back into the New Testament documents. Prof. Wesley Hill notes that “In [later] Nicene theology the question of monotheism has receded in prominence, and the question of the internal relations of the divine persons was at issue...To read Paul’s theology from the perspective of Nicaea [Nicene Council, AD 325], then, would be to allow an alien question (intra-trinitarian divine relations) to obscure what was at stake (the exaltation of Jesus and his status in relation to God).”88 The New Testament does not countenance “man becoming God in life & nature but not in the Godhead;” it was a notion alien to both first-century Christians and the New Testament’s authors.

Jesus’ Exaltation was Not His Deification
The earliest Christians and NT authors affirmed that Jesus’ exaltation—his resurrection, ascension and enthronement—qualified him as a valid object of divine worship. This was not, however, a case of deification (apotheosis). Some 90-years ago, A. H. McNeile, objected to such identification, saying, “Some writers have used unfortunate language in speaking of the apotheosis, the deification of Jesus. The words [apotheosis, deification] represent ideas connected with pagan thought [from] which the first Christians, who were all Jews thought very differently, and from which they would have shrunk as from blasphemy.”89 Dr. Hurtado echoes this view, stating, “Jesus’ divine status was, however, not really an instance of apotheosis, but instead, a rather novel religious innovation among circles deeply antagonistic to all such pagan ideas [i.e., apotheosis], and so unlikely to have appropriated them. So, in that sense we can say that Jesus did not really ‘become a god’.”91
The same Christians and New Testament authors who now worshipped the exalted Jesus as God, were also convinced that Jesus pre-existed as God (since he participated in God’s creation work, etc.). Hence, in his exaltation, Jesus did not ‘become a God,” in the sense of attaining to something he never previously possessed. To regard this as deification (apotheosis/theosis) is a misrepresentation. Charles L. Irons explains, “Some have attempted to argue... [that Jesus’ exaltation was] the deification of a mere man, a belief that would be more at home in a polytheistic context (recall the ancient Romans' belief about the apotheosis of Romulus after his death). But the exaltation of Jesus, with its implication of divine status, cannot be interpreted as an apotheosis. Such a construction would be conceptually and theologically impossible within the context of an early Christian movement composed of Jewish believers raised in and committed to the strict monotheism inherited from Judaism... Rather than viewing his exaltation as an apotheosis, we must view his exaltation as a manifestation and confirmation of his identity as the divine Son of God.”92

Witness Lee did not hesitate to “venture where theologians fear to tread.” Hence, in contrast to the above, he asserts that Jesus’ exaltation was indeed deification. Witness Lee asserts that “By incarnation Christ, the only begotten Son of God in His divinity (John 1:18), put on the flesh, the human nature, which had nothing to do with divinity; in His humanity He was not the Son of God.”93 Subsequently, “In resurrection Christ's humanity was deified...meaning that He became the Son of God not only in His divinity but also in His humanity.”94 This exposition could be understood to mean that Jesus, as he walked the earth, was (at the cellular level) a “hybrid” —part God and part man. In his divinity he was the Son of God, yet “in His humanity He was not the Son of God,” (W. Lee asserts) and therefore Jesus’ humanity needed to be deified. Rather engaging in a metaphysical debate, we note that such issues taxed the greatest theological minds at the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451). It is anachronistic to project these issues back to the first-century believers and the New Testament authors.

Witness Lee vs. Eastern Orthodoxy
More importantly, we note that Witness Lee’s teaching contradicts Eastern Orthodoxy on this point. Eastern Orthodoxy teaches that Christ’s humanity was deified as a result of the incarnation;95 Witness Lee maintains, however, that it was only “in resurrection [that] Christ's humanity was deified.” Orthodoxy’s V. Khartamov writes, “The Logos, who is God...does not require any deification for himself. When we speak about deification in Christ we speak only about the deification of Christ’s human nature at the moment of his incarnation.”96 James Gifford elaborates:97 “The man Jesus Christ was fully God because he was hypostatically joined to the Logos, the Son. Theosis [deification] first entered human history in the deification of Christ’s human nature. Because the enhypostatic humanity of Christ was joined to the Logos, the presence of the Logos deified his human nature...This deification of Christ’s human nature is a direct result of...the interpenetration of the divine and human natures in one person,”—the man, Jesus. Emmanuel Hatzidakis also states that,98 “His [Christ’s] human nature was divinized ...upon its assumption by God the Logos”--which occurred at the incarnation. Donald Goergen declares,99 “In Christ, human nature has already experienced deification. The human nature of Jesus Christ, due to its koinonia [fellowship] with the divine nature through the hypostatic union, becomes divine...The incarnation is not an exception, but rather [a case] of that which is elsewhere possible: deification.” Indeed many Greek Fathers (e.g. Clement of Alexandria AD 150-215) argued100 that Jesus Christ was incapable of sin due to his deified human nature. Hence Eastern Orthodoxy (in contrast to W. Lee) asserts that Christ’s humanity was already ‘deified’ when he walked the earth. In this case Jesus resurrection, while clearly his exaltation, transfiguration, etc, was not his deification. Dr. Kavin Rowe contends that Luke’s Gospel, with its birth narrative identifying “Jesus as Lord [=YHWH, Luke 1:43] even from the womb…protects against a divinized interpretation of Jesus kyrios [i.e. deification]. Jesus did not after his death and resurrection become something he was not before, but rather was vindicated precisely in respect to and even because of his identity.”101 Resurrection demonstrated (proved) what Jesus Christ already was—the Son of God; it ‘designated’ (marked him out) as such (Rom. 1:4). Eastern Orthodoxy clearly rejects the view that Jesus was a part-God/ part-man ‘hybrid,’ and that Christ’s humanity was ‘deification’ via his resurrection. Witness Lee’s notion of Christ’s deification via resurrection contradicts Eastern Orthodoxy. But this is not the only contradiction.

The Patristics’ Appropriation of Pagan Terms
We commenced our study from a biblical base. However our attention has gradually turned from the Scriptures to secular Greek society & literature which spawned the deification concept. None of the key terms the Greek fathers used for deification are found in Scripture; all originate in pagan society where they were used for the deification of Greek heroes, Roman emperors and illustrious citizens. In the early centuries there were no specifically “Christian terms” for deification; both Christians and pagans drew on the same vocabulary pool. Nicholas Bamford gives a brief overview of the concept & terminology. He says:102
“The concept of deification initially evolved from the pagan language of apotheosis [apo- ‘from, away from’ plus theosis], to Platonic language and came to be incorporated into Clement of Alexandria’s [~AD 150-215] use of theopoieo [verb: ‘God’ plus ‘make’] and theopoisis [noun]. The language of deification was later developed by Gregory Nazianzen [AD 329-390] through the term theosis …[Norman] Russell argues that deification ‘only became fully assimilated with Maximus’ (Maximus the Confessor [AD 580-662]) who…develop[ed] a dynamic…theology of deification.’ Later the medieval Byzantine Bishop, Gregory Palamas [AD 1296-1359] used the term theosis with great effect…”103
Thus the second-century Church father, Clement [~AD 150-215], appropriated the pagan terms apotheosis & theopoieo and employed them for Christian purposes. We briefly consider these words and related terms:
Theosis: The noun theosis, rendered ‘deification’ or ‘divinization,’ does not correspond to any New Testament word. In later Eastern Orthodoxy it became a “Christian technical term” for deification. The word, theosis was first used in AD 363 by Gregory of Nazianzus [AD 329-390]; so theosis first appeared in the fourth century. Norman Russell also notes, “Although this [theosis] became the standard term for deification in Byzantine theology, it is the rarest of the various expressions employed by the earlier [Greek] fathers.”104 The related verb, theoo (to deify) was first used by secular Greek writers in reference to Heracles. Later, Clement of Alexandria (d. ~AD 213) employed it. Frederick Norris notes that theosis (via its cognate verb) “was not first a Christian word nor always employed by only Christians after they made it central...the Theologian [Gregory of Nazianzus, AD 329-390] picked it up, cleaned it up and filled it with a Christian sense.”105
Apotheosis: Again this was not first a “Christian word;” apotheosis was used ~100 BC to describe the deification of Alexander the Great. The first Christian usage of apotheosis was by Clement of Alexandria (d. ~213 AD) and Origen (d. ~253 AD). Norman Russell says, “The first Christians to use apotheoo [‘to deify’ (verb)] and apotheosis [‘deification’ (noun)] Clement and Origen...follow a recognizable contemporary [secular] usage which their [Christian] successors extend…”106 This term also had pagan connotations; “While not all emperors in the Roman Empire were deified…[the concept was democratized, so that] it also became common for ‘apotheosis’ to be used for the ‘solemn burial of ordinary [Greco-Roman] citizens’.”107
Theopoieo: The verb, theopoieo (‘God’ plus ‘to make’) was used as early as Clement of Alexandria (~AD 150-215). Among Church Fathers, Athanasius popularized it. “In the thirty instances [in his Orations] where Athanasius speaks of deification in Christ, he uses the verb theopoieo, and the noun he coins, theopoiesis.”108 This verb was the “favorite word of Athanasius [AD 296/8-373], theopoieo, with the element poieo, ‘to make,’ ‘to produce,’ implies agency, something done to someone. It can be translated, ‘to make god’...Even though theopoiesis and later theosis became the choice expressions for Christians, other deification vocabulary was retained,” writes V. Kharlamov.109 We conclude that during the early Christian era, sacred (Christian) and secular (pagan) writers largely shared the same vocabulary concerning deification. Any differences were not linked to the use of a specialized “Christian” versus “pagan” terms; that was a much later development.

Anachronistic Error—Christian ‘Theosis’ versus Pagan ‘Apotheosis’

The conclusions above are based on careful analysis by qualified scholars. They imply it is erroneous to project the later dichotomy of sacred/secular terms back into the early Christian era. Jordan Cooper makes this mistake when he says: “A distinction, which the [Greek Church] fathers were careful to make, must be drawn between theosis and apotheosis.”111 He also says “As long as deification has been taught, theologians have been careful to distinguish a biblical form of deification from pagan concepts of apotheosis.”112 Taken together J. Cooper’s statements suggest that theosis was a “Christian” and “biblical” term, while apotheosis was a pagan, secular term, reflecting distinct deification concepts. Allegedly, “as long as deification has been taught,” it has been straight-forward to distinguish “biblical” from “pagan” versions.113 In fact the data show that during the first centuries AD, sacred and secular (pagan) writers used both these terms (plus others). This explains why discerning between the Christian and the pagan concepts of deification was by no means as simple & clear-cut as some deification-apologists suggest. Plus it suggests a well-founded Christian aversion to using pagan terms.

Dangers of the Deification Doctrine

Deification was a doctrinal innovation of the Greek Church Fathers. The early formulations, expressed in terms of sharing God’s essence, nature &/or substance (hypostasis), were fraught with pitfalls. The eminent historian of Christian doctrine, Jaroslav Pelikan, observes that “The idea of deification in the Greek fathers had run the risk of obscuring the distinction between Creator and creature.”114 Modern presentations can be innocuous; Kelly Kapic and Bruce McCormack, for example, focus on Eastern Orthodoxy’s “central...claim that humans participate quite literally in the divine life. Humans, in this qualified sense, become divine. They do not take on the full range of divine attributes, but rather share in the actual divine life of the Triune God. This is often called deification.”115 The obvious question which arises, in this case, if—‘humans participate in the divine life’--why use the term, ‘deification’? Why aren’t biblical terms, like “God’s children,” or “sons of God” adequate?

However, a ‘strong version’ of the deification dogma is often presented which runs afoul of problems. Kelly Kapic and Bruce McCormack maintain that “the Eastern Orthodox often speak of theosis as an ontological or metaphysical change. Humans share in the divine being itself...The ontological claim of theosis...often carries a Neo-platonic cast whereby the creature takes on actual characteristics of the Creator, and the distinction between creature and Creator is minimized ...[so that] There is no fundamental ontological chasm between creature and Creator. On this rendering, the Western churches (Protestant & Catholic) parted company with Eastern Orthodox. They [Western churches] are ill-disposed to think of the creature’s relation to God as one of ontological union [i.e., union, ‘in a real sense’].”116

This problematic category advocating a ‘strong version’ of deification includes Greek Fathers who taught deification in terms of sharing God’s essence, nature &/or substance (hypostasis), formulations which are fraught with pitfalls. Ex-Orthodox scholar, N. N. Trakakis explains:117
If “the process of deification involves participation in, or sharing of, the very essence, nature and inner being of God...In that case, theosis would amount to...divinization in the sense of being transformed into a god (in a literal, ontological sense)...Deification, on this construal, could take one of two forms:
(1) a crude polytheism, as those who are deified become gods in their own right retaining some sense of personal identity and thus introducing many hypostases into the divinity as there are human beings; or
(2) a form of monism, where union with God amounts to absorption and fusion with the divinity, thus annihilating any trace of individuality or autonomy.” “To avoid such a slide into polytheism or monism [absorption]...the distinction between the divine essence and energies is often introduced...The solution to the problem lies in the notion of the ‘divine energies.’ Although God is unknowable and unapproachable in essence, we can come to know God insofar as we participate in his divine energies....including such attributes...as goodness, power, wisdom and love.”
The twin pitfalls of deification--humans becoming God in his essence, nature, or hypostasis, thereby obscuring the Creator-creature distinction--are that it issues in either (1) polytheism—wherein many Gods are produced or (2) “absorption into God,” if deified humans lose their personal identity. Both outcomes are objectionable. Hence the Patristics introduced “the distinction between the divine essence (what God is in himself) and divine energies (God interacting with creatures)... Between the utterly transcendent Creator and creatures there is a link, and the link is God himself in action”—his ‘energies’ or activities.118 In this scenario God’s energies can be known (experienced); his essence cannot. “The unknowability of God’s essence [is] a consequence of the ontological gulf between God and creation which results from the doctrine of creation out of nothing, while it is through the energies [activities] which are God himself, that God encounters his creatures personally.”119

Scholars of Orthodox theology emphasize the crucial “distinction between God’s energies and essence. Human beings can participate in the former [God’s energies] but not the later [God’s essence]. Modern Eastern Orthodox theologians typically make the essence/energies distinction sine qua non [i.e., an indispensable condition] for any doctrine of deification,” says Professor Carl Mosser.121 Reflecting this dichotomy, the eminent Orthodox scholar V. Lossky says, “God is knowable on the economic level in his operations or energies but unknowable on the eternal level of his essence.”122 In this context “divinization (Greek theosis)” represents, “The view of Eastern theologians that sees salvation as the penetration of the human condition by the divine energies (2 Pet. 1:4).”123 Dr. David Fagerberg explains that in this scenario,124 “Deification means that we participate in the energies of God (which are really divine), but the divine essence does not substitute for our human essence. No human being turns into a divine being; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit alone possess the divine nature (consubstantially). Nevertheless, in divinization, the energies of God extend from him as rays extend from the sun and their warmth divinizes us.” The essence/energies distinction was often illustrated by the medieval example of a sword in the fire. “A steel sword is thrust into a hot fire until the sword takes in a red glow. The energy of the fire interpenetrates the sword. The sword never becomes the fire, but picks up the properties of fire [e.g. heat, color, glow].”125 Every illustration is inadequate; the important point is that the essence/energies distinction restores the fundamental ontological chasm between Creator and creature.

Deification in terms of God’s Essence vs. His Attributes
Orthodoxy’s distinction between God’s essence and His energies is alien to Western theology. Dr. Ben C. Blackwell makes this distinction more “user friendly,” by expressing it in terms of God’s essence and His attributes. Thus he contrasts “essential deification” with “attributive deification,” saying: “With essential deification, the human shares ontologically in the essence of the divine [God]...Those who are transformed or changed by taking on the divine element experience an essential-transformational deification...[They are] constituted by a divine element.”126 In contrast, “Those proposing attributive deification maintain that humans remain ontologically separate from the divine [i.e., God] primarily due to the distinction between the Creator and the created, but humans are ontologically changed as they share particular divine attributes such as immortality.”127 Hence Blackwell’s “attributive deification” equals Orthodoxy’s deification by divine energies.

Professor Ben Blackwell argues that, consistent with the central tenet of Eastern Orthodoxy, the deification of the Greek Fathers [Irenaeus (AD 130-202) & Cyril of Alexandria (AD 376-444)] was not “essential deification,” but, rather “attributive deification” as believers express more of God’s attributes. Dr. Ben Blackwell writes:128

“Deification [in Irenaeus & Cyril is] the process of restoring the image and likeness of God primarily experienced as incorruption and sanctification through a participatory relationship with God mediated by Christ & the Spirit. Through the Son and the Spirit believers become adopted sons of God, even gods, by grace and not by nature, because they participate in divine attributes. Accordingly, we characterized this ontological transformation as attributive deification in contrast to essential deification. That is, since Irenaeus and Cyril maintain a fundamental Creator-created distinction as well as the distinct agency of the Spirit, deified believers do not consubstantially or connaturally share in the divine essence; rather deified believers are ontologically transformed by the personal presence of the Spirit and therefore experience the divine attributes,” he says.

W. Lee’s Essential Deification vs. Orthodoxy’s Attributive Deification by Divine Energies
Orthodoxy’s central tenet129 is deification via God’s “energies” and not His essence. In Dr. Blackwell’s terms, it is “attributive deification,” and not “essential deification.” Thus Kallistos Ware says: “‘Deification’ on the Orthodox understanding, is to be interpreted in terms of the distinction between the divine essence and the divine energies. Human beings share by God’s mercies in His energies but not in His essence, either in the present age or in the age to come. That is to say, in theosis [deification] the saints...never become God in essence.”130 How does W. Lee’s doctrine compare? Does it conform to or contradict Orthodoxy’s deification?

“We...absorb the divine substance with the divine essence, the divine element”—W. Lee
In his ministry Witness Lee constantly emphasized God’s dispensing of Himself into the believers. God’s dispensing, plus the believers receiving (‘enjoying’) produces deification. W. Lee states that “In our spiritual breathing by the exercise of our spirit, we enjoy, receive, and absorb the divine substance with the divine essence, the divine element, and the divine expression. This will cause us to be deified, that is, to be constituted with the processed Triune God to be made God in life and in nature but not in the Godhead. In this sense we may speak of the deification of the believers.”131 He also says: “The Father’s life and nature, the Son’s element, and the Spirit’s essence are dispensed into our being to saturate us thoroughly....We...are the same as He [the Triune God] is in the sense that we have His life, His nature, His element, and His essence. We are absolutely the same as He is in this respect, but not in His Godhead. We do not possess any part of the Godhead, but we do possess His life, His nature, His element, and His essence. We are divine in the sense of the divine life, the divine nature, the divine essence, and the divine element, but not in the sense of the Godhead.”132 Such quotes could easily be multiplied; the main point is clear—Witness Lee’s version of deification emphasizes believers receiving (possessing) God’s “substance, essence, & element.” It is “essential deification,” acquiring God’s own essence or substance; it is distinctly not deification in terms of God’s ‘energies’ or attributes. Hence we conclude that Witness Lee’s doctrine of deification is radically different from Eastern Orthodoxy’s theosis. In fact, Witness Lee’s own deification doctrine is exactly the version which Eastern Orthodoxy repudiates!
The Orthodox Study Bible (Thomas Nelson Pub. 1993) states the following:133
“Theologically, human deification understood ontologically is objectionable in most Western Christian traditions. How can human beings become divine without negating the essential divine-human distinction in classical theological reasoning? Progressively perfected human beings may assume some qualities, attributes or ‘energies’ of divinity (namely holiness, love & wisdom), but never become divine in substance or essence...Whatever Athanasius meant when he declared ‘God became man so that Man could become God,’ he could not have meant it ontologically [i.e. in a ‘real sense’].”
Thus today’s Orthodoxy distances itself from Athanasius’ maxim which LSM reiterates so tirelessly.

Witness Lee’s Deification Doctrine is Heterodox
We can “close the circle” by relating these conclusions back to Professor Bauckham’s concept of God’s “divine identity.” Dr. David Litwa observes that scholars—both western evangelical scholars and Eastern Orthodox scholars—maintain that for the Apostle “Paul, humans do not share the [divine] identity (or essence or nature) of God, but only God’s energies (or powers or ‘attributes’ non-essential to God’s deity). When I speak of God’s ‘essence’ and his ‘energies’, Professor Litwa says, “I am using the later (medieval) language of Gregory Palamas —but [Ben C.] Blackwell’s distinction between ‘essence’ and ‘attributes’ seems to me to amount to much the same thing.”134 Although different terms are used, a scholarly consensus maintains that deification consistent with biblical theology is divinization in terms of divine attributes or ‘energies.’ Conversely deification in terms of God’s ‘essence, substance, element’ or God’s ‘divine identity’ is heterodox. Witness Lee’s own deification dogma falls within this latter category; it is not ‘kosher,’ it is objectionable, plus, it has been judged heterodox.

LSM’s Disingenuous Sleight of Hand
LSM attempts to portray Witness Lee’s deification doctrine as consistent with Eastern Orthodoxy’s. LSM’s Kerry Robichaux compares W. Lee’s maxim, “...man might become God in life & nature but not in the Godhead’ with the Eastern Orthodox distinction between God’s essence and His ‘energies.’ LSM’s K. Robichaux states,135
“In the writings of Witness Lee…the distinction has been expressed more casually by the formula ‘God became man that man may become God in life & nature but not in the Godhead.’ Comparing this to the classical expressions, the distinction [1] ‘God in life and nature’ should correspond to the economic Trinity in the West and the energies of God in the East and [2] ‘the Godhead’ [should correspond] to the immanent Trinity in the West and the essence of God in the East.”
This formulation, each line [1] & [2], is transitive, taking the form: A = B = C, which logically implies A = C.
Eliminating the intermediate items, the “economic/ immanent Trinity,” LSM’s Kerry Robichaux asserts that:
[1] Witness Lee’s “‘God in life and nature’ should correspond to...the energies of God in the East” and [2] Witness Lee’s “‘the Godhead’ [should correspond] to...the essence of God in the East.”
Thus, according to Kerry Robichaux, Witness Lee’s doctrine matches the currently accepted Orthodox theosis doctrine. However, this alignment ought to strike the reader as curious.136 The alleged correspondence (in fact) is contrived, the result of a disingenuous sleight of hand.137 Orthodoxy’s deification occurs in terms of God’s energies (attributes) and not in terms of His essence. In contrast, Witness Lee repeatedly emphasizes God’s dispensing of His essence (element) into the believers. He says, “We are divine in the sense of the divine life, the divine nature, the divine essence, and the divine element, but not in the sense of the Godhead.”138 What is communicable (dispensed) in W. Lee’s version is “God’s essence;” in Orthodoxy’s it is “God’s energies.” Stated differently, in Orthodoxy “God’s essence” is non-communicable; for W. Lee “God’s essence” is communicable (dispensed). Both employ the term, “essence,” with, we assume, a similar (if not identical) meaning. Yet the two schemes differ, in fact, they contradict each other in terms of communicability. Given this contradiction both deification theologies cannot be true simultaneously. LSM’s dogma does not neatly align with Orthodoxy.

The Scandal of LSM’s Scholarship

A straight-forward comparison shows that LSM’s Kerry Robichaux misrepresents the correspondence, falsely claiming W. Lee’s scheme matches that of Orthodoxy. According to W. Lee, believers become “God in life and nature,” and are made “divine in the sense of the divine life...nature...essence and...element.”139 This surely corresponds to “the essence of God in the East,” and not to the “energies of God.” However, LSM’s Robichaux alleges W. Lee’s “‘God in life & nature’ should correspond to...the energies of God in the East.” The divine ‘energies’ are defined by Orthodoxy as sharable divine attributes, such as God’s holiness, love, wisdom, and immortality. In contrast, W. Lee does not refer to God’s energies (attributes); they don’t play a role in his scheme. We conclude that the alleged concord, claimed by LSM’s K. Robichaux, between Eastern Orthodoxy’s and W. Lee’s versions of deification, does not exist. Kerry Robichaux’s claim appears to be disingenuous sleight of hand; if this is the case, it is intellectual dishonesty. Not only the author, but also the publisher & publication are implicated in this misrepresentation. If LSM’s Affirmation & Critique was truly a scholarly journal, academic integrity would prevent or correct such misrepresentation. In practice, LSM’s journal, Affirmation & Critique, affirms Witness Lee and critiques everyone else; this is the scandal of LSM’s scholarship.

Deification Contextualized?

The notion of divinization belongs, not to the first-century, ‘apostolic Church,’ but to the subsequent, ‘post-apostolic’ era during which the gospel spread across continents and cultures. The deification doctrine was developed and found resonance in one particular culture—the Greco-Roman culture of the Eastern Mediterranean, represented historically by the “Greek patristic tradition,” from whence it blossomed in Eastern Orthodoxy. It never had the same appeal in the Latin Western region of the Roman Empire. Adherents perceive patterns of contextualization. “Both Irenaeus & Athanasius contextualize the gospel,”141 asserts Daniel Wilson. He contends that, “Irenaeus and Athanasius...contextualize the unchanging gospel in the terminology of the Greeks and Romans to make it more palatable for their respective audiences.”142 Hence Dr. Wilson states that “Irenaeus and Athanasius follow the various Greek philosophers in relating humanity’s deification to union with the divine…”143 Similarly, V. Kharlamov asserts that theosis is contextualized in Clement’s theology144 and also in that of Gregory of Nyssa [AD 335-394/5].145

Contextualization Relativizes the Gospel
There are two problems with this “contextualization” argument: [1] it produces a relativized form of the gospel & [2] it risks sacrificing or diluting the absolutes of the gospel.

This “contextualization” rationale relativizes the deification doctrine, in contrast to Scriptural absolutes. If we concede that ‘deification’ was an acceptable and productive means of contextualizing the unchanging gospel to the Greco-Roman society of the E. Mediterranean in the early centuries CE, why should it work today? If we accept the notion that the Greek Fathers used ‘deification’ to ‘translate the gospel’ into the Hellenistic culture of the early centuries, why should the same concept works for 21st–century western society? And why should it resonate in Asian or African society? There’s no reason to expect a depiction which successfully contextualized the gospel for one society in one era to succeed in another. Any “contextualized version of the gospel” is necessarily relativized in comparison to the absolutes of the New Testament gospel (Gal. 1:7-9). This leaves deification as an interesting curiosity in historical theology, potentially devoid of contemporary relevance. At a minimum, deification’s relevance to 21st-century society needs to be demonstrated, rather than assumed.

We note that LSM’s Tony Espinosa reviewed Daniel Wilson’s Deification…: The Communication of the Gospel in Hellenistic Culture for Affirmation & Critique.146 The review was extensive; yet, strikingly, not a single word was mentioned about “contextualization.” Daniel Wilson asserts that “Both Irenaeus and Athanasius contextualize the gospel,” by presenting it in terms of the deification paradigm. Yet LSM’s Tony Espinosa never acknowledges this issue—a curious omission. A skeptic might suggest that this reviewer realized that the “contextualization argument” undercuts LSM’s position that ‘high peak’ deification is an absolute the gospel!

Deification “a natural connection with…Hinduism & Buddhism”--Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen
A danger of “contextualization” is that the gospel’s distinctive elements (essentials) are sacrificed or diluted in order enhance its appeal. Some scholars’ enthusiasm for deification appears to reflect a desire to assimilate the Christian message to other religions so that “all rivers flow to the sea and all religions lead to God.” Thus Fuller Theological Seminary professor, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, suggests that “deification may find natural connection with religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism with their less guilt-ridden spiritualities. The same applies to spiritualities in the West such as New Age and Eastern religiosity…Could [the Bantu pagan notion of ‘vital participation’] be ‘the Orthodox concept [theosis] contextualized for Africa?’” he quotes one scholar asking. Another suggests deification is probably “more congenial to an evolutionary perspective than the traditional, often Western language of redemption, salvation, sanctification, etc’.”147 For Fuller Professor Kärkkäinen the historic gospel, which talks about sin, judgment & redemption, is an unfortunate, “guilt-ridden spirituality.” He prefers the Eastern guilt-free “doctrine of salvation [which] is not focused on guilty concepts and sin—as in the West—but focused rather on a gradual growth…culminating in deification, becoming like God’.”148

The Orthodox notion of deification shifts the emphasis away from humanity’s fall and Christ’s atoning death, towards the more optimistic notion of “becoming God.” Dr. James Dunn notes there was a “shift in emphasis regarding the decisive saving event, from Jesus’ death as atonement for sin, to his birth and incarnation as the divine taking the human into itself,” via deification.149 As a result of this shift, de-emphasizing Christ’s death, Orthodoxy’s theosis, says Fuller Theological Seminary Professor Kärkkäinen, has a natural affinity to Hinduism, Buddhism, New Age and other forms of Eastern religiosity! Are we to conclude that all these religions are talking about the same thing—theosis? Deification, it seems, is admirably suited to a post-modern world that is devoid of absolutes, where people can create God in their own image and even become that God! Plus the idea of “evolving into God” resonates with the evolution taught by science. These views, articulated in the literature, ought to warn Christians against the undiscerning adoption of the deification doctrine.

Athanasius—the Deification of Creation?

Like most advocates of theosis, Witness Lee & LSM’s Kerry Robichaux both start from Athanasius, deification’s ‘poster boy,’ who is highly commended due to his association with Nicaea. However, they stop short of full disclosure. They fail to mention that for Athanasius & other scholars the deification signalled by Christ’s incarnation encompasses not only humankind, but also other creatures, even the whole cosmos. Andrew Louth says, 151 “Orthodox theologians think of the great arc of the divine economy as stretching from creation to deification.” Thus, “the economy of God,’ writes Dumitru Stanloae, ‘consists in the deification of the created world…”152 and “To speak about creation is to speak about the cosmos that God created to be deified.”153

Dr. Denis Edwards indicates that “Athanasius speaks...of the deification of creation...not just of the deification of human beings, but of the deification...of the whole creaturely world. Athanasius points to the texts in the Wisdom of Solomon... ‘The Spirit of the Lord fills the whole world’ (Wisdom 1:7) and ‘Your incorruptible Spirit is in all things’ (Wisdom 12:1).”154 We note the non-biblical notion that God’s Spirit is in all things—created matter and living things, which smacks of Panentheism. Dr. Edwards quotes Athanasius: “In him [the Holy Spirit]...the Logos glorifies creation, and deifying it [i.e., creation] and adopting it, brings it to the Father.”155 Edwards comments, “This text is remarkable because it speaks of the creation being deified and adopted.”156 Athanasius is not alone among the Greek Church Fathers advocating the deification of the whole creation. Maximus the Confessor (AD 580-662) is on record proclaiming, “the grace that deifies the universe is at work.”157 Some modern Orthodox scholars hold similar views. Dumitru Stanloae’s statement, “The economy of God consists in the deification of the created world…”158 seems fairly innocuous. But, Andrew Louth explains that for Stanloae “To speak [thus] about creation is to speak about the cosmos that God created to be deified.” This is not merely deification of humankind; it is the deification of the whole created world, the cosmos.

This notion might appeal to Christian environmentalists and proponents of “eco-theology.” Denis Edwards illustrates this view:159 “Each sparrow and each dog exist because it partakes of the Word in the Spirit, [each] participates in its own way in deification in Christ and is eternally held and treasured in the life of the Trinity.” Here, even dogs can be deified—since “each dog... participates in...deification in Christ”! Contemporary Eastern Orthodox theologians promulgate the idea of creation’s deification. Edwards cites Boris Bobrinskoy speaking of “a deification that is both personal and cosmic.”161 An obvious question is raised, in view of LSM’s appeal to Athanasius: Does LSM endorse or disavow Athanasius’ notion of the deification of the whole creation?

W. Lee Defends his Deification Doctrine

Witness Lee justified his deification doctrine on the grounds that it was taught by the Church Fathers. He says,162 “In the 2nd to the 5th centuries, the church fathers found three high mysteries in the Bible: (1) the Triune*God, the Divine Trinity, the highest mystery; (2) the person of Christ; and (3) the deification of*man—that*man*could*become*God in*life*and in*nature*but not in the*Godhead. However, after the 5th century the truth concerning this last mystery was gradually lost…Much of Christianity does not see anything about the 3rd mystery— the mystery of*God*becoming*man*that*man*may*become*God…But I feel strongly the Lord is going to recover this truth.” However, contrary to this statement, deification is not a “high mystery in the Bible.” Its origin is not in the first-century apostles’ teaching contained in the canon of Scripture. W. Lee admits that “The high truth of God becoming a man that man might become God in life and nature but not in the Godhead was discovered by the church fathers in the second century.”163 This statement is important because it recognizes that deification—man becoming God—is not part of the first-century apostles’ teachings and writings which ultimately became Scripture. Rather it is a 2nd-century ‘discovery’ of the church fathers. It was popularized by Athanasius (AD 296-373). W. Lee acknowledges it was “Athanasius, a young theologian who participated in the Council of Nicaea [325 AD, who], said concerning Christ, ‘He*became*man that we*might*be made*God’."164 The doctrine of deification (theosis) was developed, mainly by Eastern Orthodox theologians, based on that insight. Deification is certainly not on par with the Trinity and the Person of Christ; those doctrines are based directly on Scripture and defined in orthodox terms by the early creeds (Nicaea 325 AD & Chalcedon 451 AD). At best, deification is an Eastern Orthodox theological innovation produced derivatively from Scripture. The deification doctrine was not included in the crucial ecumenical creeds--Nicaea 325 AD and Chalcedon 451 AD.

Deification (theosis) was finally endorsed by the Eastern Orthodox Councils of Constantinople in AD 1341, 1347, 1351 & 1368; that is 1,000 years after the Council of Nicaea which was ‘universal’ in scope. In the intervening millennium, various Church Councils venerated Mary as “Mother of God” & “God-bearer” and adopted other statutes, bankrupting their credibility. Rejecting the creeds’ definition of the Trinity and Christ’s Person constitutes heresy; rejecting deification does not. In fact, certain versions of deification are heretical.

W. Lee’s Appeal to the Church Fathers
A notable feature of LSM’s defense & confirmation of their deification dogma is their appeal to authority of the Church Fathers. In promoting and responding to critiques of deification, W. Lee and LSM do not mainly appeal to Scripture, but rather to later, post-apostolic writings of the church fathers. As W. Lee writes, “The high truth...that man might become God...was discovered by the church fathers in the second century.”165 Who are these “church fathers”? LSM refers to Justin Martyr (c. 100-165 AD) as “one of the earliest witnesses,” supporting deification. He is followed by Irenaeus (early 2nd century to 202 AD), Clement of Alexandria (150--215), Athanasius (296--373), Origen (184/185–253/254), Hippolytus (170–235) and the Cappadocians—Basil the Great (329/330–379), Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–c. 395), & Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329–389/390). These are notable “church fathers” from the 2nd to 4th centuries; they are not first-century apostles. Moreover their writings do not constitute Scripture, neither are they on par with the Bible. It is ironic that Witness Lee, who lambasted the church Fathers’ creeds and traditions, should cite them as vindication of his deification doctrine.

Return to the Apostles’ Teaching or 4th-Century Church Fathers’ Teaching?
Witness Lee taught that the principle of Recovery is to go back to the beginning, back to the Bible, God’s pure Word. He said, “To be recovered is to be brought back by the Lord to the beginning. At the beginning, there was the Lord Himself and the pure, living Word. Christianity, however, has deviated both from the Lord and from the living Word and has become a religion of doctrine...We in the Lord's recovery do not care for creeds; we care only to follow the whole Bible. No matter how good or how accurate a creed may be, it can never contain the entire Scripture.”166 Plus he declared, “we do not care for the creeds; we care only for the Bible. The creeds are not wrong, but because they are incomplete, they unavoidably cause people to err in their under-standing.”167 Moreover, W. Lee berated those calling for a “return to the so-called historic church.” He declared, “There can be no reconciliation between the Lord's living testimony and the traditional church...We must come back to the pure Word and not care for the traditions of the historic church...Our critics say, ‘You don't honor the ancient councils which formulated the creeds...’ We respond, ‘We don't follow the creeds. They are man's teaching and tradition. Instead, we come back to the pure Word...’.”168 We ask--why did W. Lee contravene this stand when promoting his deification doctrine? He asserts that recovery is a return to the beginning, to ‘God’s pure Word,’ the 1st-century apostles’ teaching. It is not a return to the 4th-century teachings of the ‘church fathers,’ to the traditions of the historic church. According to W. Lee, the deification taught by the 4th-century church fathers (Athanasius, Basil, Gregory, etc) is the “high peak of the divine revelation.” If that is the case, hasn’t the “Recovery” returned to the 4th-century church fathers’ teachings, rather than returning to the beginning—to the first-century apostles’ teaching canonized in Scripture?

W. Lee denigrates theology and the creeds. He says, “The term theology is misleading. We have only the Bible; we do not have theology. The problems in Christianity began around the 2nd or 3rd century when the church fathers developed a theology from the Bible...On the one hand, the [Nicene] creed was written according to the New Testament...On the other hand, the creed was written according to the teachings of the church fathers.”169 We note that W. Lee distinguishes between theology and the Bible, saying, “We have only the Bible; we do not have theology.” His point is that a theological system can develop way beyond Scripture. As a theology it may be internally consistent and intellectually attractive. Yet we ought to distinguish between that theological system and Scripture itself. W. Lee observes that, “The problems in Christianity began around the 2nd or 3rd century when the church fathers developed a theology from the Bible.” Evangelical scholars concur. Professor James Dunn indicates that, in their efforts to address Greek philosophical issues, the Fathers developed “ever more complex creeds, climaxing in the Nicene creed and Chalcedonian definition, in which the attempt to define the indefinable, to express the inexpressible, forced metaphor and analogy beyond what they could adequately express…The ecumenical creeds made a…mistake of thinking they could…define the indefinable.”171

This critique applies to the deification doctrine; paraphrasing Witness Lee, “problems...began around the 2nd or 3rd century when the church fathers developed a [Theosis] theology—[about deification, apart] from the Bible.” Given W. Lee’s distinction between theology and the Bible, isn’t it contradictory of him to appropriate the Greek Fathers’ theosis theology and make it the “high peak of God’s divine revelation”? Deification is a theological construct of the church Fathers, developed by the Eastern Orthodox Church; it does not derive directly from Scripture. Witness Lee proclaimed, “We have only the Bible; we do not have theology.” In this case, doesn’t the Recovery’s appropriation of Eastern Orthodoxy’s deification doctrine smack of hypocrisy?

Strange Bedfellows—W. Lee Appeals to the Roman Catholic Church
This hypocrisy is heightened when W. Lee, having denigrated the Roman Catholic Church for decades, appeals to their teaching as endorsement for his doctrine. He says, “the Catholic Church is also paying attention to this matter of deification. Not long ago a brother showed me that the Catechism of the Catholic Church,*recently published by the Roman*Catholic Church. [It] presents the following: ‘...Why Did the Word Become Flesh? The Word*became*flesh to make us “partakers of the divine*nature” (2 Pet. 1:4)...“For the Son of*God*became*man so that we might become God” (St.*Athanasius,*De inc.,*54, 3).*“The only-begotten Son of*God...assumed our*nature, so that he...might*make*men*gods”*(St. Thomas Aquinas,*Opusc. 57:1-4).” Witness Lee then comments, “Here we see that the Catholic Church teaches that the believers in Christ can*become*God...”172 LSM’s Local Church and the Roman Catholic Church make strange bedfellows; yet they both endorse a doctrine of deification. W. Lee consistently vilified the Roman Catholic Church as “apostate”, “satanic,” “religious Babylon,” and the “great prostitute.” Now he uses their teaching to support his doctrine, saying, “We see that the Catholic Church teaches that the believers in Christ can*become*God.” But what is the value of that endorsement—the endorsement of the “apostate, satanic, religious Babylon”? Isn’t it hypocritical, on the one hand to denounce Roman Catholicism and, on the other hand, to appeal to their teaching as an endorsement?

Deification’s Prototype –the Virgin Mary becomes God
The appeal of LSM & Witness Lee to the Ancient Church’s deification teaching puts them among surprising company; LSM’s Local Church, the Roman Catholic Church & the Eastern Orthodox make strange bedfellows. W. Lee credits the church fathers as discovering “three high mysteries in the Bible”: (1) the Triune*God; (2) Christ’s person & (3) the deification of*man. The Ancient Church (both East & West) adds a fourth mystery—the Virgin Mary. Mary—the “Mother of God” and “God-bearer”—is the obvious candidate for deification! Hannah Hunt explains that for Eastern Orthodoxy, “Humanity’s potential to become God...raises the key issue of the Mother of God, another distinctive aspect of...Byzantine Christianity...Whilst the Western Church venerates Mary as the ever-virgin mother of God, the Eastern Church focuses, through the title Theotokos [‘God-bearer’], on how her humanity expresses that of Christ—who is also divine...The term Theotokos strongly affirms Mary as the bearer of God in Christ is far more than a human incubator of a divine seed.”173 The “far more” includes Mary’s deification; in fact the Virgin Mary becomes the prime example for Orthodoxy’s theosis doctrine. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is not deification’s archetype, since He was God’s Son from eternity. The Virgin Mary, having no eternal pre-existence, offers a better prototype for deification’s advocates. So Jaroslav Pelikan writes: “Mary the Mother of God...did not have a pre-existent divine nature, as Christ did, but was completely human in her origin, just as all other human beings are. Yet because she had been chosen by God to be the Theotokos, ‘the one who gave birth to the One who is God,’ that completely human nature of hers had been transfigured; and already in this earthly existence she had in a special way ‘come to share in the very being of God,’ as the 2nd Epistle of Peter had promised that who believed in her divine Son would.”174 The assertion Mary came ‘to share in the very being of God,’ (in this context) means she was deified, made God.

For Catholics too, Mary’s veneration follows from their deification dogma. Brian Reynolds observes, “The glorification (doxa) of Mary in the Greek Fathers was influenced by the notion of deification, that is, that the Incarnation opened the way for humans to unite themselves to God (theosis), or to become like God (homoiosis theoi), and none more so than the Virgin [Mary].”175 The same logic applies: If God’s incarnation was so “man might become God,” who could be more qualified than the Virgin Mary, through whom God became man?

Eastern Orthodoxy’s Virgin Mary--already Deified, She Rules the World
It is news to most evangelical Christians, but Eastern Orthodoxy claims that Mary, Jesus’ mother, has already been deified and is reigning alongside her Son! I guess that makes her part of the “Four-in-one God”! The notion of Mary’s deification is promulgated among 260 Million Eastern Orthodox adherents worldwide. The influential 20th-century Orthodox theologian, Vladimir Lossky (1903-58) wrote, “Whilst the Church still awaits the advent of the world to come, [Mary] the Mother of God has crossed the threshold of the eternal kingdom, and, as the sole person to be deified—token of the final deification of creatures—She presides, at the Son’s side, over the destinies of the world which yet unfold over time.”176 Professor Fairbairn comments, “According to the Orthodox [Mary] was the only person whose final deification does not need to wait for the return of Christ and the advent of the Kingdom of God. Mary has already completed the process of deification...She was bodily resurrected [the ‘Virgin Mary’s Assumption’] after her death & burial, rather than waiting for the general resurrection as other believers do.”177 According to Orthodoxy, the Virgin Mary’s deification was ‘fast tracked;’ she is now ‘God’ and currently rules with her Son, Jesus Christ. Mary’s elevated status is reflected in icons depicting her, the Theotokos, richly adorned, enthroned, holding the ‘Christ-child’—Madonna and Child. Hence according to Eastern Orthodoxy, applying their deification doctrine, the Virgin Mary has joined the ruling Godhead—the “three-in-one, Trinity” which (apparently) has morphed into the “four-in-one God”!

Ironically, we arrive where we began. LSM and Eastern Orthodoxy have their own deification doctrines. Each claims to respect the ultimate deity of the triune God. Yet, taken to their logical conclusion, both produce a “four-in-one God.” In Orthodoxy’s case the “Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokos,” already resurrected as a “first-fruit of deification,” has joined the ruling Godhead of the Trinity. In LSM’s case, the “fourth person”178 added to the Trinity is “Man” or “the Church, the Body.” W. Lee asserts there are now “Four persons—the one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one God the Father— mingled together as one entity to be the organic Body of Christ; thus, the Triune God and the Body are four-in-one.”179 Yes, the ‘usual caveat’ applies—“These are four-in-one. However, only the first three are worthy of our worship; the fourth, the Body, should not be deified as an object of worship.”181 Despite that caveat, in LSM’s scheme, both the believer and the Church are deified--they become capital ‘G’ God. W. Lee asserts that “except for the Godhead, we are exactly the same as God,”182 & “God's*redeemed people have become absolutely the very*God*in*life, in*nature…but not in His*Godhead [not as an object of worship].”183 So LSM-adherents can assert, “I’m absolutely the very*God*in*life and*nature; just don’t worship me”! For most evangelicals these assertions smack of polytheism and heresy. Such “statements by Witness Lee appear to contradict or compromise essential doctrines of the Christian faith.”184 In view of this, LSM’s “Blended Brothers” might rethink their deification dogma, plus their notion of the “four-in-one God.”

Conclusions
Evangelical scholars contend that deification is not a biblical concept; it is a Greek philosophical innovation of Church fathers in the post-apostolic era. Scripture defines God in terms of the “divine identity”–who God is. He is the eternal, transcendent Creator and the universal Ruler who alone is worthy of worship. Deity’s “binary identity” in Jewish monotheism creates a boundary between God and His creation. Deification—man becoming God—sharing the “divine identity” is impossible. That boundary was crossed only once—by God through Jesus Christ’s incarnation, death, resurrection & ascension. In response first-century Christians and NT authors recognized Jesus as God, sharing the “divine identity,” and worshipped Him. Through faith in Christ, believers are God’s children, Christ’s brothers & co-heirs, members of His Body, possessing the eternal life and divine nature. However, they do not become capital ‘G’ Gods, semi-Gods, partial-Gods or “Gods in life & nature but not in the Godhead.” Scholars deduce such claims would have been “blasphemous,” “appalling,” “repellant,” and “ridiculous” to first-century Christians and the NT authors and would have been unequivocally rejected.

Witness Lee’s deification dogma is radically different from Eastern Orthodoxy’s. To avoid heretical polytheism, pantheism & absorption into God, Orthodoxy defines deification via God’s ‘energies’ (attributes, qualities) and not His essence (substance or inner being). Men do not become God in His essence or nature. Yet, in direct contradiction, W. Lee asserts unequivocally that man becomes God in nature, essence, element, & substance. LSM’s portrayal of W. Lee’s deification dogma as consistent with Orthodoxy is deceptive and disingenuous.

W. Lee asserted “I have not been influenced by any teaching about deification, but I have learned from my study of the Bible that God does intend to make the believers God in life & in nature but not in the Godhead.”185 Skeptics might doubt this statement’s veracity; I do not. It is essentially true. W. Lee did not adopt Orthodoxy’s theosis; this explains his radically different version. W. Lee clothed his own homespun theological system with the mantle of deification. The sole item he appropriated from Orthodoxy was Athanasius’ maxim. Witness Lee’s theology (like Watchman Nee’s) is a ‘patchwork quilt,’ cobbled together from Keswick ‘higher life,’ Brethren186 dispensationalism, typology. Cloaking this potpourri with deification gives an aura of respectability & novelty.

Nigel Tomes,

Toronto, CANADA
April. 2016


Notes: Thanks to those commenting on earlier drafts. The author alone is responsible for the contents of this piece. The views expressed here are solely the author’s and should not be attributed to any believers, elders, co-workers or churches he is associated with. Some other issues related to Deification are addressed in a previous piece, entitled: “Song of Songs is not about ‘Man becoming God’.” Here we engage primarily with W. Lee’s teaching on deification. The writings by LSM’s authors are addressed only selectively. Since W. Lee’s teachings are the “interpreted word,” they are more crucial than LSM’s authors’ interpretation of “the interpreted word.”

1. The first quote “The Bible does not teach that believers will ever be deified” is from W. Lee, Life-Study of Philippians, Ch. 36, Sect. 1 (emphasis added). The second quote—“The fact that we have the divine nature with the divine life does not mean that we shall ever be deified,” is from [W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus & Philemon, Ch. 9, Sect. 1 (emphasis added)] LSM’s Lesson Book says: “To say that we are one spirit with the Lord definitely does not mean that we are deified.” [LSM, Lesson Book, Level 3: Two Spirits, Ch. 17, Sect. 1] In doing so they echo W. Lee: “To say that our spirit is mingled with the divine Spirit does not mean that we shall ever be deified.” [W. Lee, Divine Dispensing of the Divine Trinity, Ch. 30, Sect. 3] The first quote in the main text, in context, says, the believers are “divine,” yet they will never be “deified”—“2 Pet. 1:4 indicates clearly that we are partakers of the divine nature. Because we partake of the divine nature, it can rightly be said that we are divine. However, this definitely does not mean that we are evolving into God or that we shall ever become God as an object of worship. The Bible does not teach that believers will ever be deified.” [W. Lee, Life-Study of Philippians, Ch. 36, Sect. 1] W. Lee says, the believers are “divine,” yet they will never be “deified.” But, exactly what the difference is between being “divine,” and being “deified” is not specified. Elsewhere W. Lee also stated: “we do not possess His [God’s] deity.” The quote in context reads: “Godhead (Gk. Θεóτης), used in Col. 2:9, refers to what God is as the Deity and as an object of worship. We, the children of God, are born of Him and therefore possess His divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). But we do not participate in His Godhead; we do not possess His [God’s] deity.” [W. Lee, Concerning the Person of Christ, (1971) Ch. 1, St. 1 (emphasis add)] In another e.g. from W. Lee’s earlier ministry we read: “The perfect living of Paul was the expression of Christ; therefore, for him, to live was Christ. However, do not for a moment think that we have deified Paul. Paul was not God, but he was able to express God. We do not deify ourselves;” [W. Lee, Subjective Experience of the Indwelling Christ, (1983) Ch. 8, Sect. 1 (emphasis added)] In his early years, W. Lee cautioned that care was needed in the use of terms like “deify,” & “deification.” He said, “Certain early church fathers went so far as to speak of the ‘deification’ of the believers in Christ. We need to be careful in using such a term. To say that the believers are deified to become objects of worship is blasphemy. But it is correct to say that the believers are deified in the sense of possessing the divine life & the divine nature. We may use the word deification in a limited sense to convey the fact that we have been born of God to become sons of God.” [W. Lee, Life-Study of Galatians, Ch. 20, Sect. 2 (emphasis added)] Later “caution” was thrown to the wind, and the “limited sense” was abandoned in favor of rhetorical impact.
2. W. Lee, Practical Way to Live a Life According to the High Peak of the Divine Revelation in the Holy Scriptures, Ch. 2, Sect. 2. It is also termed “the high peak of the divine revelation of God's eternal economy.” [Ed Marks, Truth Concerning the Ultimate Goal of God's Economy, Ch. 1, Sect. 1]
3. W. Lee, The Issue of the Dispensing of the Processed Trinity & the Transmitting of the Transcending Christ, Ch. 2, pp. 25-26 also Truth Concerning the Ultimate Goal of God's Economy, Ch. 1, Sect. 2 (emphasis added) Elsewhere W. Lee also uses the term “baby gods”: “John 1:12-13 says that we were born, regenerated, by God with His life. As God's children we are ‘baby gods,’ having God's life and nature but not His Godhead. The Godhead is unique; He is the only One who should be worshipped.” [Life-Study of 1 & 2 Samuel, Ch. 25, Sect. 2] On another occasion W. Lee said: “Thus, in regeneration God begets gods. Man begets man. Goats beget goats. If goats do not beget goats, what do they beget? If God does not beget gods, what does He beget? If the children of God are not in God’s kind, in God’s species, in what kind are they? If they are not gods, what are they? We all who are born of God are gods. But for utterance, due to the theological misunderstanding, it is better to say that we are God-men in the divine species, that is, in the kingdom of God.” [W. Lee, Crystallization-study of the Gospel of John, p. 124 (emphasis added)]
4. W. Lee, A Deeper Study of the Divine Dispensing, p. 53 (emphasis added). I am aware of LSM’s response to Scholars on this issue--A Defense of 17 Quotations from the Ministry of Witness Lee. LSM repeatedly objects to selected quotations being culled from W. Lee’s publications. They complain that quotations are taken out of context. LSM alleges that “a false impression has been created by excising and clustering together a few carefully chosen quotations from Witness Lee’s ministry, and…the impression created is shocking and not consistent with Witness Lee’s actual understanding of the doctrine in question.” I would respond by saying, “Yes, indeed a ‘shocking impression’ was made by W. Lee. On occasion, it seems, that is exactly what was intended!” At times W. Lee made radical statements knowing that they had “shock value,” and would therefore have impact and be remembered—e.g. his talk about the ‘four-in-one God.’ Those kinds of statement are equivalent to the “10 second sound bite” in the newscast. These “memorable quotes” are not negated or diluted by other “off-setting quotations” from W. Lee. They ought to be addressed as such.
5. W. Lee, The Move of God in Man, Message 2, pp. 20-21 also Truth Concerning the Ultimate Goal of God's Economy, Ch. 1, Sect. 2
6. W. Lee, A Deeper Study of the Divine Dispensing, p. 54 (emphasis added). With regard to this quote LSM states, “Our readers should note the specific carefulness that Witness Lee employs in Quotation 9 by placing the words God and God-ized in quotation marks, indicating that he is using the terms in nonstandard senses.” [LSM, A Defense of 17 Quotations from the Ministry of Witness Lee (emphasis added)] We should also note that in many quotations the word, God appears without quotation marks –e.g. “that man might become God”--implying a “standard sense.”
7. W. Lee, Life-study of Job, Message 22, p. 122 & Truth Concerning the Ultimate Goal of God's Economy, Ch. 1, Sect. 1
8. Kerry S. Robichaux, Truth Concerning the Ultimate Goal of God's Economy, Ch. 1, Sect. 10. The quote in context reads: We in the local churches hold that man may become God in God's salvation. We are persuaded by our study of the Word of God and by our understanding of God's economy. We are also confirmed by the ancient testimony of the church.” [Kerry S. Robichaux, Truth Concerning the Ultimate Goal of God's Economy, Ch. 1, Sect. 10]
9. “The high peak of His divine revelation...can be summarized in the following statement: God became man that man may become God in life and nature but not in the Godhead. This statement embodies the entire revelation of God's New Testament economy in an absolutely scriptural and careful.” [LSM, Truth Concerning the Ultimate Goal of God's Economy, Ch. 1, Sect. 1 (emphasis added)] Note that W. Lee asserted that his deification doctrine derived from the Bible; he said: “I have not been influenced by any teaching about deification, but I have learned from my study of the Bible that God does intend to make the believers God in life and in nature but not in the Godhead.” [W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Samuel, Ch. 25, Sect. 2]
10. On behalf of Eastern Orthodoxy, Bishop Timothy (Kallistos) Ware is cited, affirming that, “deification...according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, is the final goal at which every Christian must aim: to become god, to attain theosis, ‘deification' or ‘divinization'. For Orthodoxy man's salvation and redemption mean his deification.” Kallistos (Timothy) Ware, The Orthodox Church, p. 236 quoted by Kerry Robichaux, Truth Concerning the Ultimate Goal of God's Economy, Ch. 1, Sect. 10
11. Both statements come from the writings of Dumitru Stăniloae (1903-93) a Romanian Orthodox Christian priest, theologian & professor. The first quotes Athanasius’ maxim, then Stăniloae states that this postulates the “deification of the human being as the goal of the economy of salvation.” [Emil Bartos, Deification in Eastern Orthodox Theology, p. 318, n. 8] The 2nd quote appears as: “The economy of God,’ writes Dumitru Stanloae, ‘consists in the deification of the created world…” [Elizabeth Theokritoff (ed.) Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology, p. 69]. As the opening statement of his Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, Stanloae writes: “God’s economy or His plan for the world is the deification of the created world and, because of sin, this implies its salvation.” [Dumitru Staniloae Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, p. 1 quoted (slight changed) by Emil Bartos, Deification in Eastern Orthodox Theology, p. 122]
12. W. Lee, Crystallization-Study Outlines—Ephesians, Ch. 1, Sect. 12. The quote, in context, says: “Four persons—the one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one God the Father— [are] mingled together as one entity to be the organic Body of Christ; thus, the Triune God and the Body are four-in-one.” [W. Lee, Crystallization-Study Outlines—Ephesians, Ch. 1, Sect. 12 (emphasis added)] This is not an isolated statement. Also, W. Lee says: "Because the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all one with the Body of Christ, we may say that the Triune God is now the 'four-in-one' God.' These four are the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and the Body. The Three of the Divine Trinity cannot be confused or separated, and the four-in-one also cannot be separated or confused." [W. Lee, A Deeper Study of the Divine Dispensing, (LSM, 1990), Ch. 15, St. 3 pp. 203-204] Note the phrases “Four persons,” “four-in-one” & “'four-in-one' God.” Witness Lee was well aware that “mingling” (inter-penetration) has been a contentious issue in Church history, especially in relation to deification. In this regard he noted (earlier in his ministry): “In the early part of the Christian era, there was much debate about the matter of the mingling of divinity with humanity. Some theologians thought that to speak of being mingled with God implied the belief that a person could become God, the belief that a human being could be uplifted to such an extent that he was deified. Those who had this kind of understanding of the teaching concerning mingling condemned this teaching [i.e. the notion of ‘mingling’]. Eventually, theologians did not dare to use the word mingle or to teach concerning the mingling of humanity and divinity.” [W. Lee, Life-Study of Leviticus, Ch. 12, Sect. 3 (emphasis added)] Here W. Lee tells us that scholars (theologians) stopped using the terms “mingle, mingling,” due to the association of these terms with “deification.” Later he told us that the early Christians did indeed teach “deification.” So. ironically W. Lee ended up teaching both “mingling” & “deification”—the very same controversial combination.
13. This quotation, which puts the “four-in-one” in the context of deification, reads: “Man, the Spirit, the Lord, and the Father are built together. This is not just three-in-one. This is four-in-one. God became a man that we, His redeemed, might become God. With Him there is the Godhead. But regardless of how much divine life and divine nature we have to be the same as God, we do not have the Godhead.” [W. Lee, Practical Points Concerning Blending, p. 24 (emphasis added)] Regardless of the wider context, the issue of “Four persons,” “four-in-one” & “Four-in-one God” ought to be addressed.
LSM asserts that (in making the ‘Four-in-one’ statements above) “Witness Lee…did not compromise the inviolability of the Godhead, and he did not understand and teach that the Body of Christ shares the deity of God.” [LSM, “A Defense of the 17 Quotations from the Ministry of Witness Lee”] Despite LSM’s denial, it certainly appears that W. Lee’s “Four-in-one” statements, taken at face value, imply that “the Body of Christ shares the deity of God”—the “Three-in-one” Trinity has become “Four-in-one;” the “Three Persons” of the Trinity have become “Four Persons”! LSM offers a ‘countervailing quote’—“To say that the church is the embodiment of the Triune God is not to make the church a part of deity, an object of worship...” [W. Lee, Basic Revelation in the Holy Scriptures, p. 67] However, this quotation (with its caveat) does not nullify or cancel the other “Four-in-one” quotes. W. Lee’s “Four-in-one” quotes are more memorable, with greater “shock value,” which (we suspect) is why they were made.
We note also the contrast (contradiction?) between the quotes above and W. Lee’s earlier assertion that “In Ephesians 4:4-6 there are four persons...there are the Father, the Lord, the Spirit, and us, the Body. This is not to make ourselves deified, to make ourselves God. We are divine only in life, in nature, in element, & in essence, but not in the Godhead. Only one in this universe is God in the Godhead—that one is the Triune God.” [W. Lee, Five Emphases in the Lord's Recovery, (1991) Ch. 4, Sect. 2] W. Lee asserts that, “This is not to make ourselves deified, to make ourselves God”—seemingly to deny deification. Yet, he immediately asserts that “We are divine only in life, in nature, in element, & in essence, but not in the Godhead.” So, apparently, to be “divine only in life, in nature, in element, & in essence” is not the “be deified”? Yet “deification” & “divinization” are synonyms!
14. The 2007 “Open Letter” from 60 Scholars to LSM & the “Local Churches” says: “Because the following statements by Witness Lee appear to contradict or compromise essential doctrines of the Christian faith, we respectfully call on the leadership of Living Stream Ministry and the ‘local churches’ to disavow and cease to publish these and similar declarations.” Including statements about the “four-in-one” God [60 Scholars, “An Open Letter to the Leadership of Living Stream Ministry & the ‘Local Churches’.” (Jan. 9, 2007)]
15. The quote, by LSM, in context, reads: “Ripped from its immediate context and from the larger context of his entire ministry, Witness Lee’s term four-in-one God can, of course, be understood to refer to a heretical addition to the eternal and inviolable Triune Godhead. But doesn’t simple decency require that we ask, ‘Is that really what he meant, especially since he puts the term in quotation marks and since the sentences in which the term is found have been severed from their context’?” [LSM, “A Defense of the 17 Quotations from the Ministry of Witness Lee” (emphasis added)] We substituted “extracted” for LSM’s “Ripped,” since the latter is a ‘loaded term’ (as LSM’s writers are well aware). Neither W. Lee nor LSM ought to be surprised when the phrase “Four-in-one God” triggers ‘alarm bells’ concerning heresy within the wider evangelical Christian community. Nevertheless W. Lee used the term repeatedly. W. Lee’s use of the phrase “Four-in-one God” is not counter-balanced by his frequent use of the term, “Triune God.” An analogy would be a failed drug test by a professional athlete is not cancelled or counter-balanced by hundreds of drug tests which he/she passed. Witness Lee’s “Four-in-one God,” taken at face value, fails the test of Christian orthodoxy. W. Lee protested (when expounding on ‘the Vine’ in John 15) saying “Does this mean that we are deified? I have been accused of teaching that there are four in the Godhead—the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and the church!” [W. Lee, Mending Ministry of John, Ch. 4, Sect. 4] Yet his “Four-in-one God,” certainly suggests “there are 4 in the Godhead.”
16. The quote, in context, reads: “Because of God’s incommunicability, man will never take part in the Godhead; he will never be a fourth person in the Trinity...” [Kerry S. Robichaux, “That We Might be Made God,” Affirmation & Critique, Vol. 1, No. 3 (July 1996) p. 24 (emphasis added)] A virtually identical statement says: “Because of the incommunicable aspect of God’s existence, human beings will never take part in the Godhead; they will never constitute an additional person or persons in the Trinity...” [Kerry S. Robichaux, “Can Human Beings Become God?” Affirmation & Critique, Vol. VII, No. 2, (Oct. 2002) p. 38 (emphasis added)] Yet we note LSM has published a 36,000-word treatise, a significant part of which defends/justifies Witness Lee’s statement about the “four-in-one God.” [LSM, “A Defense of the 17 Quotations from the Ministry of Witness Lee”]. Isn’t it hypocritical of LSM to affirm man “will never be a 4th person in the Trinity...” and (on the other hand) defend Witness Lee’s statements about the “four-in-one God”?
17. W. Lee’s earlier denial appears in his statement: “The perfect living of Paul was the expression of Christ; therefore, for him, to live was Christ. However, do not for a moment think that we have deified Paul. Paul was not God, but he was able to express God. We do not deify ourselves;...” [W. Lee, Subjective Experience of the Indwelling Christ, (1983) Ch. 8, Sect. 1 (emphasis added)] The later statement is found in LSM’s Crystallization-Study which asserts that: “As an ambassador of Christ, Paul was ‘the acting God’— 2 Cor. 1:3-4, 12, 15-16; 2:10; 10:1; 11:2:” and also, “Paul was one with Christ to be the acting God in comforting the believers [W. Lee, Crystallization-Study Outlines—2 Corinthians, Ch. 1, Sect. 9 (emphasis added)] Of course W. Lee’s deification doctrine applies to all believers who are being “made God…”
18. “It is not too much to say that Samuel, a man according to God, was the acting God on earth.” [W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Samuel, Ch. 5, Sect. 2 & Raising Up the Next Generation for the Church Life, Ch. 8, Sect. 2 (emphasis added)] He also says, “As God's representative, Samuel was the acting God. God intended to move, to act, yet He needed a representative. Samuel thus became a prophet, a priest, and a judge. He was God's oracle and God's administration. As such, he was the acting God on earth.” [W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Samuel, Ch. 7, St. 1 (emphasis added)] This choice of terminology is unfortunate, since the adjective “acting” has the connotation of “serving temporarily, especially as a substitute during another's absence...e.g. ‘acting mayor’.” [Dictionary.com] Skeptics could ask: Is God expecting to be temporarily absent or incapacitated?
19. A major task of this paper is to substantiate the statements made in this paragraph (see below).
20. The concept of “divine identity” is introduced & applied in the writings of Richard Bauckham. According to Theopedia, “Richard Bauckham is a New Testament scholar & professor of NT studies at St. Mary's College, University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Bauckham is perhaps best known for his studies of the Revelation & for his commentaries on Jude & 2 Peter...In his book God Crucified (1999), [incorporated into Jesus & the God of Israel (2008)], Bauckham displays the craft of both a careful exegete & a deft theologian as he explores the riddle of how the radically monotheistic Jews who composed the earliest church could have come to call Jesus 'Lord'."
21. The source, context & other details regarding these terms is presented below.
22. A. H. McNeile (1871-1933) New Testament Teaching in the Light of St Paul's, (first pub. 1923) p. 126 (emphasis added). Note: we contend below that apotheosis was not a specifically pagan term. This Greek word, and other terms, are used by Church Fathers in the early centuries AD when discussing (Christian) deification/divinization.
23. The quote in context reads: “The idea of deification, apotheosis of human beings was common among the pagans, and because many were deified their theotes did not approach what Jews meant by God-ship, Divinity. Thus the notion would have been abhorrent to Jews...The fact that Christianity arose out of Judaism but embraced Hellenism accounts for the difficulty that we feel in the early Christian use of Greek terms.” [A. H. McNeile, New Testament Teaching in the Light of St Paul's, (pub. 1923) pp. 33-34 (emphasis added)] Note: the majority of 1st-century Christians were Jews. Professor Bas Van Os observes that “It seems that for most of the first century, Gentiles were a minority in most churches.” [Bas Van Os in Stanley E. Porter (ed.) Paul: Jew, Greek, & Roman, p. 52] Hans Klavbein argues that (even if they were a minority by the end of the 1st century) still, Jewish-Christians were the most influential demographic segment in the Church. He says “Towards the end of the first century...the Jewish Christians were still a powerful & influential group in most churches. Even if they numerically were a minority they were respected because of their relation to Jesus & the apostles & their knowledge of the*Scriptures” [Hans Klavbein in Jostein Ĺdna, Hans Kvalbein (eds.) The Mission of the Early Church to Jews & Gentiles, p. 56]
24. Arie W. Zwiep, Christ, the Spirit & the Community of God: Essays on the Acts of the Apostles, pp. 60-61. In the context Dr. Zwiep is referring to the rapture of Enoch, Elijah, etc “The raptured saints are not being ‘deified.’ In none of the cases of rapture [do] we find a statement about an enthronement act, let alone an affirmation of divinization or deification. This would be appalling to the Jewish-Christian mind.” [Arie W. Zwiep, Christ, the Spirit & the Community of God: Essays on the Acts of the Apostles, pp. 60-61 (emphasis added)]
25. Arie W. Zwiep, Ascension of the Messiah in Lukan Christology, pp. 39-40, quoted in Zwiep, Christ, the Spirit & the Community of God: Essays on the Acts of the Apostles, p. 51] In context: “Although in some quarters of first century Judaism e.g., historical figures of Israel’s past were occasionally elevated, even up to the status of theos [e.g., as in the writings of Philo & the Dead Sea Scrolls] there is little evidence that this...compromised its basic belief in monotheism because it perceived this type of divinity in an attenuated, non-literal sense. A literalistic conception [of deification] would be near blasphemy in the Jewish mind...” [Arie W. Zwiep, Ascension of the Messiah in Lukan Christology, pp. 39-40, quoted Zwiep, Christ, the Spirit & the Community of God: Essays on the Acts of the Apostles, p. 51]
26. Mark D. Nispel, “Christian Deification in Early Testimonia,” VC 53, (1999) p. 271 quoted by M. David Litwa, We Are Being Transformed: Deification in Paul's Soteriology, pp. 229-230
27. Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, pp. 91-92
28. Larry Hurtado, Review of Bart Ehrman's*How Jesus Became God, Christian Century, July 22, 2014
29. Prof. Hurtado challenges “any scholar...to provide a cogent description of the specific process by which Christian Jews could have adopted this repellant category...” [Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, pp. 92-93 (emphasis added)] On this point Professor Larry Hurtado says: “Earliest ‘Christianity’ was originally a Jewish religious movement, and it remained dominated by Jews through the crucial first decades. Jews who identified firmly with their people and their religious tradition, such as those named Jewish Christians of the earliest years, were scarcely likely to accommodate Jesus in such lofty terms under the influence of pagan notions of apotheosis. By all accounts, loyal Jews of the time ...found precisely these features of the Roman religious environment [i.e., apotheosis] particularly repellant. (Note for e.g. Philo of Alexandria’s extended critiques of apotheosis [n. #27]).” [Larry W. Hurtado, How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?: Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus, p. 41 (emphasis added)]
30. George Carraway, Christ is God over All: Romans 9:5 in the Context of Romans 9-11, p. 14
31. M. David Litwa, We Are Being Transformed: Deification in Paul's Soteriology, p. 229
32. Richard Bauckham, Jesus & the God of Israel, p. 109
33. Richard Bauckham, “Monotheism & Christology in Hebrews 1,” p. 167
34. Andrew Chester, Messiah & Exaltation: Jewish Messianic & Visionary Traditions & NT Christology, p. 18
35. Matthew Levering Scripture & Metaphysics: Aquinas & the Renewal of Trinitarian Theology, p. 116 (emphasis original)
36. Doug Ward, “CHRISTOLOGICAL MONOTHEISM OF THE FIRST CHRISTIANS”
37. N. T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, p. 63 Prof. Wright offers his own description of the “divine identity” which differs from that of Prof. Bauckham, but reaches similar conclusions. N. T. Wright states that “The Jews believed in a quite different ‘god.’ [than Greco-Roman concepts] This god, YHWH, ‘the One Who Is,’ the Sovereign One, was not simply the objectification of forces and drives within the world, but was the maker of all that exists. Several biblical books, or parts thereof, are devoted to exploring the difference between YHWH and the pagan idols: Daniel, Isaiah 40-55, and a good many Psalms spring obviously to mind. The theme is summed up in the Jewish daily prayer: “YHWH our God, YHWH is one!” Classic Jewish monotheism, then, believed that (a) there was one God, who created heaven and earth and who remained in close and dynamic relation with his creation; and that (b) this God had called Israel to be his special people. This twin belief, tested to the limit and beyond through Israel’s checkered career, was characteristically expressed through a particular narrative: the chosen people were also the rescued people, liberated from slavery in Egypt, marked out by the gift of Torah, established in their land, exiled because of disobedience, but promised a glorious return and final settlement. Jewish-style monotheism meant living in this story and trusting in this one true God, the God of creation and covenant, of Exodus and Return.” [N. T. Wright, “JESUS AND THE IDENTITY OF GOD” Originally published in Ex Auditu 1998, Vol. 14, pp. 42–56.]
38. Andrew Chester, Messiah & Exaltation: Jewish Messianic & Visionary Traditions & NT Christology, p. 20
39. Andrew Chester, Messiah & Exaltation: Jewish Messianic & Visionary Traditions & NT Christology, p. 20
40. Andrew Chester, Messiah & Exaltation: Jewish Messianic & Visionary Traditions & NT Christology, pp. 20-21
41. Richard Bauckham, ABSTRACT: "THE THRONE OF GOD & THE WORSHIP OF JESUS" (1998)
42. M. David Litwa, We Are Being Transformed: Deification in Paul's Soteriology, p. 32
43. R. Bauckham, Jesus & the God of Israel, p 10
44. Richard Bauckham, Jesus & the God of Israel, p. 10
45. R. Bauckham, Jesus & the God of Israel, p. 164
46. Richard Bauckham, Jesus & the God of Israel, p. 109
47. George Carraway, Christ is God Over All: Romans 9:5 in the Context of Romans 9-11, p. 93. George Carraway quotes G. H. Boobyer, “Jesus as Theos in the New Testament,” BJBL, Vol. 50 (1967-68) pp. 249-50
48. DAVID KANE BERNARD, “MONOTHEISTIC DISCOURSE & DEIFICATION OF JESUS IN EARLY CHRISTIANITY AS EXEMPLIFIED IN 2 COR. 3:16–4:6,” UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH AFRICA (Dec. 2014) p. 66
49. R. T. France, “The Worship of Jesus―A Neglected Factor in Christological Debate?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981) p. 25 (emphasis added)
50. Andrew Chester, Messiah & Exaltation: Jewish Messianic & Visionary Traditions & NT Christology, p. 18
51. M. David Litwa, We Are Being Transformed: Deification in Paul's Soteriology, p. 258. In order to accommodate the possibility of humans being deified, Dr. Litwa adjusts his criterion/definition, saying, “There are sharable and unshareable aspects of the divine identity. The power to create the physical world...is an unshareable aspect of the Jewish God’s identity...Deification involves participating only in those shareable aspects of god’s identity (e.g. immortatilty & ruling power) not the unshareable aspects (such as the power to create physical worlds).” [M. David Litwa, We Are Being Transformed: Deification in Paul's Soteriology, p. 262 (emphasis added)]
52. Arie W. Zwiep, in Friedrich Avemarie, Hermann Lichtenberger (eds.) Auferstehung, p. 336
53. Arie W. Zwiep, Ascension of the Messiah in Lukan Christology, p. 39
54. James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making: A NT Inquiry into the...Incarnation, (2nd ed.) Foreword, p. xxviii
55. James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making: A NT Inquiry into the...Incarnation, (2nd ed.) p. 19
56. Darrell L. Bock, A Theology of Luke & Acts: God’s Promised Program, Realized for All Nations, p. note #8
57. Arie W. Zwiep, Christ, the Spirit & the Community of God: Essays on the Acts of the Apostles, pp. 60-61
58. Crispin Fletcher-Louis, Luke-Acts: Angels, Christology & Soteriology, p. Richard Bauckham “agrees...that [for Philo] Moses was only a Theos [god] in the sense of being a philosopher-king...Moses the theos is not god (or a god), and thus not deified.” [M. David Litwa, “The Deification of Moses in Philo of Alexandria,” David T. Runia, Gregory E. Sterling (eds.) Studia Philonica Annual XXVI, 2014, p. 4 (emphasis added)]
59. James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making: A NT Inquiry into the...Incarnation, (2nd ed.) p. 19 (emphasis added)
60. Arie W. Zwiep, Ascension of the Messiah in Lukan Christology, pp. 39-40, quoted in Zwiep, Christ, the Spirit & the Community of God: Essays on the Acts of the Apostles, p. 51 (emphasis added)
61. Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, pp. 91-92 (emphasis added)
62. The first quote in this paragraph—“In the New Testament, the Christian faith presupposes Jewish monotheism,”-- comes from Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, p. 32. The quote immediately following is from: Charles Lee Irons, “A Trinitarian View: Jesus the Divine Son of God,” in Charles L. Irons, Danny A. Dixon, & Dustin R. Smith, Son of God: 3 Views of the Identity of Jesus, pp. 16-17
63. Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, p. 93 It’s worth noting here that we should not make the elementary mistake of thinking that “monotheism” excludes the possibility of the Trinity. As N. T. Wright says, “theologians would of course remind us at once, the point of trinitarian theology is precisely that it is monotheistic, not tri-theistic.” [N. T. Wright, “JESUS AND THE IDENTITY OF GOD,” Originally published in Ex Auditu 1998, Vol. 14, pp. 42–56]
64. James D. G. Dunn, Neither Jew Nor Greek: A Contested Identity, pp. 680-1
65. James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making: A NT Inquiry into the...Incarnation, (2nd ed.) p. 20 (emphasis added)
66. David E. Aune, “The World of Roman Hellenism,” in D. E. Aune (ed.) Blackwell Companion to the NT, p. 26. Professor N. T. Wright elaborates on pagan deification, saying: “Some within the ancient pagan world believed in the apotheosis of heroes and kings. The mythological Hercules began as a mortal and was exalted to quasi-divinity. Kings and emperors, from Alexander to the Julio-Claudians and beyond, were regularly deified, using various legitimating devices, mostly to do with witnessing the departed person’s soul ascending to heaven, perhaps in the form of a comet, as with Julius Caesar, or an eagle, as depicted on Titus’s Arch [in Rome]. Ordinary mortals did not expect this treatment, of course. And Seneca’s merry parody of the apotheosis of Claudius, though itself of course written to highlight Rome’s good fortune in having Nero as his successor, makes us question how many Romans believed that emperors, or at least good ones, were now alive and well alongside Jupiter, Apollo and the rest.” [N. T. Wright, Jesus’ Resurrection and Christian Origins,” Gregorianum, 2002, 83/4, pp. 615–635].
67. James D. G. Dunn, Theology of the Apostle Paul, pp. 259-260
68. R. T. France, “Worship of Jesus―A Neglected Factor in Christological Debate?” Vox Evangelica, Vol. 12 (1981) p. 24 (emphasis added)
69. Adherents to this “evolutionary view” (with some variations among them) include James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making: A NT Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation (2nd ed., London: SCM, 1989), pp. 239-245, 248-50; Maurice Casey, From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God: The Origins & Development of NT Christology (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co, 1991), pp. 23-40, 156-159; A. E. Harvey, Jesus & the Constraints of History (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1982), pp. 158, 158 n.29.
70. For e.g. Bart Ehrman, in his How Jesus became God, “notes that the Roman world was full of gods and deified humans (especially deified rulers), and he suggests that this phenomenon helps explain the emergence of beliefs about Jesus as divine. But,” Dr. Larry Hurtado points out, “he fails to indicate that for Roman-era Jews the plurality of deities and demigods and the practice of deifying rulers were repellent, even blasphemous.” [Larry Hurtado, “Lord and God,” Review of Bart Ehrman's*How Jesus Became God, in Christian Century, July 22, 2014] Such allegations led Dr. N. T. Wright to comment: “Some…have suggested that it was only when the early Church started to lose its grip on its Jewish roots and began to compromise with pagan philosophy that it could think of Jesus in the same breath as the one God.” [N. T. Wright, “JESUS AND THE IDENTITY OF GOD,” Originally published in Ex Auditu 1998, 14, 42–56]
71. R. T. France, “Worship of Jesus―A Neglected Factor in Christological Debate?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981) pp. 25-26
72. N. T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (2006), p. 117
73. Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, p. 58
74. Richard Bauckham, Jesus & the God of Israel, pp. 26-27. The introductory quote is from Matthew Levering, Scripture & Metaphysics: Aquinas & the Renewal of Trinitarian Theology, p. 117, who quotes most of this paragraph. Rhonda G. Crutcher, That He Might Be Revealed: Water Imagery & the Identity of Jesus in the Gospel of John (2015) p. 14 quotes this entire paragraph.
75. Matthew Levering, Scripture & Metaphysics: Aquinas & the Renewal of Trinitarian Theology, p. 118, expounding Richard Bauckham, Jesus & the God of Israel,
76. Richard Bauckham, Jesus & the God of Israel, p. 28 (emphasis original). Along the same lines Prof. N. T. Wright says: “Paul, in other words, has glossed ‘God’ with the ‘the Father’, and ‘Lord’ with ‘Jesus Christ’, adding in each case an explanatory phrase: ‘God’ is the Father ‘from whom are all things and we to him’, and the ‘Lord’ is Jesus the Messiah, ‘through whom are all things and we through him’. There can be no mistake: just as in Phil. 2 and Col. 1, Paul has placed Jesus within an explicit statement, drawn from the Old Testament’s quarry of emphatically monotheistic texts, of the doctrine that Israel’s God is the one and only God, the creator of the world. The Shema was already, at this stage of Judaism, in widespread use as the Jewish daily prayer. Paul has redefined it christologically, producing what we can only call a sort of christological monotheism. This fact is becoming more widely recognized in recent scholarship, though its omission from some of the older literature remains remarkable." [N. T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant, Christ and Law in Pauline Theology (Fortress Press, Minneapolis 1993) pp. 128-129] Evangelical scholar Gordon D. Fee says: "What Paul has done seems plain enough. He has kept the 'one' intact, but he has divided the Shema into two parts, with theos (God) now referring to the Father, and kurios (Lord) referring to Jesus Christ the Son... He insists that the identity of the one God also includes the one Lord," [Gordon D. Fee, Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Commentary [Hendrickson Publishers, March 2007], pp. 90-91] Dr. Fee also writes: "In the striking passage where Paul reshapes the Jewish Shema to embrace both the Father and the Son while as the same time emphasizing his inherited monotheism, Paul asserts that the 'one Lord' (=Yahweh) of the Shema is to be identified as the Lord Jesus Christ ... In a still more profoundly theological way, by his inclusion of the pre-existent Son as the agent of creation, Paul has thus included him in the divine identity at its most fundamental point, since the one God of the Jews was regularly identified vis-ŕ-vis all other 'gods' as the Creator and Ruler of all things. Thus, it is one thing for Christ to be the means of redemption, but for him likewise to be the divine agent of creation is what clearly includes him within Paul's now adjusted understanding of 'the one God,' ... One of the reasons for naming Christ as 'the Lord' = Yahweh of the Shema [is] to place Christ as already present with the Israel to whom the Shema was originally given," [Gordon D. Fee, Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Commentary, pp. 502-504]
77. Roy E. Ciampa & Brian S. Rosner, First Letter to the Corinthians (Pillar NT Commentary), pp. 380-381 (emphasis added) Prof. N. T. Wright also says: “In 1 Corinthians 8:6, within a specifically Jewish-style monotheistic argument, [Paul] adapts the Shema itself, placing Jesus within it: ‘For us there is one God—the Father, from whom are all things and we to him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and we through him.’ This is possibly the single most revolutionary christological formulation in the whole of early Christianity, staking out a high christology [i.e. recognizing Jesus as God] founded within the very citadel of Jewish monotheism.” [N. T. Wright, “JESUS AND THE IDENTITY OF GOD,” Originally published in Ex Auditu 1998, Vol. 14, pp. 42–56.] In contrast to the emphasis these scholars devote to this passage, Witness Lee virtually ignores it.
78. Richard Bauckham, Jesus & the God of Israel, p. 29
79. George Carraway, Christ is God Over All: Romans 9:5 in the Context of Romans 9-11, (2013) p. 13
80. Richard Bauckham, Jesus & the God of Israel, p. 26
81. [Blank]
82. Richard Bauckham, Jesus & the God of Israel, p.
83. Richard Bauckham, Jesus & the God of Israel, p. 106
84. Larry Hurtado, “YHWH’s ‘Return to Zion’,” in Christoph Heilig, J. Thomas Hewitt, Michael F. Bird (eds.) God and the Faithfulness of Paul:*A Critical Examination of the Pauline Theology of N. T. Wright,*(Tubingen:* Mohr-Siebeck, 2016, forthcoming).* pp. 417-38.*
85. George Carraway, Christ is God over All: Romans 9:5 in the Context of Romans 9-11, p. 92. Whether Paul would have articulated the change in his belief system in those words at that time, or at some later time, is beside the point. N. T. Wright points to the first Christians’ experience of Jesus’ death & resurrection in the light of the OT promises of Israel’s God. He writes: “Whereas in the modern period people have come to the New Testament with the question of Jesus’ ‘divinity’ as one of the uppermost worries in their mind, and have struggled to think of how a human being could come to be thought of as ‘divine’, for Jesus’ first followers the question will have posed itself the other way round. It was not a matter of them pondering this or that human, angelic, perhaps quasi-divine figure, and then transferring such categories to Jesus in such a way as to move him up (so to speak) to the level of the One God. It was a matter of them pondering the promises of the One God whose identity, as Bauckham has rightly stressed, was made clear in the scriptures, and wondering what it would look like when he returned to Zion, when he came back to judge the world and rescue his people, when he did again what he had done at the Exodus. Not for nothing had Jesus chosen Passover as the moment for his decisive action, and his decisive Passion. It was then a matter of Jesus’ followers coming to believe that in him, and supremely in his death and resurrection – the resurrection, of course, revealing that the death was itself to be radically re-evaluated – Israel’s God had done what he had long promised. He had returned to be king. He had ‘visited’ his people and ‘redeemed’ them. He had returned to dwell in the midst of his people. Jesus had done what God had said he and he alone would do. Early christology did not begin, I suggest, as a strange new belief based on memories of earlier Jewish language for mediator-figures, or even on the strong sense of Jesus’ personal presence during worship and prayer, important though that was as well. The former was not, I think, relevant, and the latter was, I suggest, important but essentially secondary. The most important thing was that in his life, death and resurrection Jesus had accomplished the new Exodus, had done in person what Israel’s God had said he would do in person. He had inaugurated God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven. Scholars have spent too long looking for pre-Christian Jewish ideas about human figures, angels or other intermediaries. What matters is the pre-Christian Jewish ideas about Israel’s God. Jesus’ first followers found themselves not only (as it were) permitted to use God-language for Jesus, but compelled to use Jesus-language for the One God.” [N. T. Wright, Paul & the Faithfulness of God, pp. 654-5]
86. Richard Bauckham, Jesus & the God of Israel, p. 19
87. George Carraway, Christ is God over All: Romans 9:5 in the Context of Romans 9-11, p. 189
88. Doug Ward, “CHRISTOLOGICAL MONOTHEISM OF THE FIRST CHRISTIANS”
89. Wesley Hill, Paul & the Trinity: Persons, Relations, & the Pauline Letters, p. 19 summarizing James D. G. Dunn, Christology in the Making, pp. xxxi-xxxii
90. A. H. McNeile, New Testament Teaching in the Light of St Paul's, (pub. 1923) p. 126
91. [Blank]
92. The quote, in context, says: “Jesus’ divine status was, however, not really an instance of apotheosis, but instead, a rather novel religious innovation among circles deeply antagonistic to all such pagan ideas [i.e., apotheosis], and so unlikely to have appropriated them. So, in that sense we can say that Jesus did not really ‘become a god’.” Instead, he was given devotion that expressed the distinctively Christian recognition that Jesus was God’s unique emissary, in whom the glory of the one God was singularly reflected and to whom God ‘the Father’ now demanded full reverence ‘as to a god’.” [Larry W. Hurtado, How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus, p. 30] Dr. Hurtado also reminds us that: “Earliest ‘Christianity’ was originally a Jewish religious movement, & it remained dominated by Jews through the crucial first decades. Jews who identified firmly with their people & their religious tradition, such as those named Jewish Christians of the earliest years, were scarcely likely to accommodate Jesus in such lofty terms under the influence of pagan notions of apotheosis. By all accounts, loyal Jews of the time ...found precisely these features of the Roman religious environment [i.e., apotheosis] particularly repellant. (Note for e.g. Philo of Alexandria’s extended critiques of apotheosis [n. #27]).” [Larry W. Hurtado, How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God?: Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus, p. 41]
93. Charles Lee Irons, “A Trinitarian View: Jesus the Divine Son of God,” in Charles L. Irons, Danny A. Dixon, & Dustin R. Smith, Son of God: 3 Views of the Identity of Jesus, pp. 16-17
94. W. Lee, Crystallization-Study Outlines—Gospel of God, Ch. 1, Sect. 12 (emphasis added)
95. W. Lee, Crystallization-Study Outlines—Building of God, Ch. 1, Sect. 12 (emphasis added)
96. Notice that this reflects (in part) the difference in overall emphasis between “Eastern” and “Western” Christianity. “Eastern [Orthodox] Christians emphasize the incarnation, while Western theologians stress Christ’s death and resurrection.” [Winfried Corduan, Pocket Guide to World Religions, p. 44] We note that this characteristic of Eastern Orthodoxy—that it maintains that Christ’s humanity was deified at the incarnation (as opposed to his resurrection) is curiously ignored by LSM’s Kerry S. Robichaux in his piece, “That We Might Become God” [LSM’s Affirmation & Critique (July 1996)]. LSM’s Robichaux asserts that “The notion that Christ’s humanity was deified through His resurrection is prominent in the work of Athanasius.” [Kerry S. Robichaux, “That We Might Become God, LSM’s Affirmation & Critique (July 1996) p. 27] To focus solely on Athanasius yields a highly selective presentation of the evidence for Eastern Orthodoxy in general. (See for e.g. the quotes which follow in the main text.)
97. Vladimir Khartamov, “Rhetorical Application of Theosis in Greek Patristic Theology,” in Michael J. Christensen, Jeffery A. Wittung (eds.) Partakers of the Divine Nature: The History & Development of Deification ... p. 121
98. James D. Gifford, Perichoretic Salvation: The Believer's Union with Christ as a 3rd Type of Perichoresis, p. 79. The quote in context reads: “The possibility of theosis [deification] begins in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In one person two natures dwell—the divine & human...The man Jesus Christ was fully God because he was hypostatically joined to the Logos, the Son. Theosis [deification] first entered human history in the deification of Christ’s human nature. Because the enhypostatic humanity of Christ was joined to the Logos, the presence of the Logos deified his human nature...This deification of Christ’s human nature is a direct result of...the interpenetration of the divine & human natures in one person [the incarnate Jesus Christ].” [James D. Gifford, Perichoretic Salvation: The Believer's Union with Christ as a 3rd Type of Perichoresis, p. 79]
99. Emmanuel Hatzidakis, Jesus Fallen? The Human Nature of Christ Examined from an Eastern Orthodox Perspective, p. 501
100. Donald Goergen, Jesus, Son of God, Son of Mary, Immanuel, p. 34
101. John E. McKinley, Tempted for Us: Theological Models & the Practical Relevance of Christ's Impeccability and Temptation Impeccability and TemptationImpeccability & Sinlessness, discusses alternative models, including deification.
102. C. Kavin Rowe, Early Narrative Christology: The Lord in the Gospel of Luke, p. 206. The quote (in context) reads: Luke’s Gospel presents “Jesus as Lord [=YHWH, Luke 1:43] even from the womb. Luke presents the totally human Jesus as the heavenly Lord upon earth [via incarnation]…It is doubtful that this move was made to explicitly combat a (generic) pagan view of apotheosis in which a mere human is divinized or deified after death; yet, in substance the theological move…protects against a divinized interpretation of Jesus kyrios. Jesus did not after his death and resurrection become something he was not before, but rather was vindicated precisely in respect to and even because of his identity.” [C. Kavin Rowe, Early Narrative Christology: The Lord in the Gospel of Luke, p. 206]
103. Nicholas Bamford, Deified Person: A Study of Deification in Relation to Person & Christian Becoming p. 108.
104. Nicholas Bamford, Deified Person: A Study of Deification in Relation to Person & Christian Becoming (2011) p. 108. Interior quote: Norman Russell, “Doctrine of Deification…” p. 215
105. Norman Russell, Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition, p. 341
106. Frederick Norris, “Deification: Consensual & Cogent,” p. 415 quoted by M. David Litwa, We Are Being Transformed: Deification in Paul's Soteriology, p. 33, note 120
107. Norman Russell, Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition, p. 337. It is also worthwhile noting Russell also observes that “Jewish writers in Greek, unlike Christians, never apply these [deification] terms to the human telos [destiny].” [Norman Russell, Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition, p. 342]
108. Norman Russell, “Doctrine of Deification…” pp. 25, 27, quoted in Wayne Morris, Salvation as Praxis: A Practical Theology of Salvation for a Multi-Faith World, p. 112
109. Denis Edwards, “Athanasius: The Word of God in Creation & Salvation,” in E. M. Conradie (ed.) Creation & Salvation: A mosaic of selected classic Christian theologies, p. 44
110. Vladimir Kharlamov, Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology (Volume 1) p. 7
111. [Blank]
112. Jordan Cooper, Christification: A Lutheran Approach to Theosis, p. 4
113. Jordan Cooper, Christification: A Lutheran Approach to Theosis, p. 122. The quote (in context) reads: “As long as deification has been taught, theologians have been careful to distinguish a biblical from (sic) of deification from pagan concepts of apotheosis. However, early Christians did not feel the need to make a strict distinction between God’s essence and energies...neither Irenaeus, nor Athanasius...make such a distinction, nor do most patristic sources.” [Jordan Cooper, Christification: A Lutheran Approach to Theosis, p. 122]
114. The writings of LSM’s Kerry Robichaux convey much the same impression. Under the heading “Pagan Meanings,” K. Robichaux says, “...in the ancient pagan religions men became gods by mere declaration. The process was called apotheosis in Greek...” [Kerry S. Robichaux, “That We Might be Made God,” Affirmation & Critique, (July 1996) p. 23] He also says, “It is easy to confuse Christian deification with some of the very pagan notions that preceded it, such as apotheosis...” [Kerry S. Robichaux, “Can Human Beings Become God?” Affirmation & Critique, Vol. VII, No. 2 (Oct. 2002) p. 37] These are the only occurrences of the Greek term, apotheosis, in Robichaux’s articles, and both link this term to paganism. Meanwhile, theosis is presented as a theological term—“theosis or deification, as it is called in theology...” [Kerry Robichaux, “That We Might be Made God,” Affirmation & Critique, (July 1996) p. 2] Such statements convey the impression that theosis was a “Christian” term, while apotheosis was a pagan term, reflecting different concepts of deification. Why then was “easy to confuse Christian deification with…very pagan notions”—as Robichaux suggests?
115. Jaroslav Pelikan, Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 1, p. 345
116. Kelly M. Kapic, & Bruce L. McCormack, Mapping Modern Theology: A Thematic & Historical Introduction, p. 285
117. Kelly M. Kapic, & Bruce L. McCormack, Mapping Modern Theology: A Thematic & Historical Introduction, p. 285
118. N. N. (Nick) Trakakis is Senior Lecturer at the Australian Catholic University. “Why I am not Orthodox,” explains why he severed relations with the Orthodox Church. http://www.abc.net.au/religion/artic...07/4367489.htm the quote is from: N. N. Trakakis, “The Sense & Reference of the Essence & Energies,” Chapter 8 in Constantinos Athanasopoulos, Christoph Schneider (eds.) Divine Essence & Divine Energies: Ecumenical Reflections on the Presence of God in Eastern Orthodoxy (2013) pp. 214-5 (emphasis added)
119. Mary B. Cunningham, Elizabeth Theokritoff (eds.) Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology, p. 67
120. Mary B. Cunningham, Elizabeth Theokritoff (eds.) Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology, p. 194
121. [Blank]
122. Carl Mosser, Deification: A Truly Ecumenical Concept, Perspectives
123. Vladimir Lossky, Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. In a similar statement, V. Lossky says: “This distinction is between the essence of God…which is inaccessible, unknowable & incommunicable; and the energies or divine operations…In which He goes forth from Himself, manifests, communicates & gives Himself.” [Vladimir Lossky, Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, p.] Also he says: “God, anonymous in His ousia [substance, essence], is the mystery of the entire inner Trinity, while in the economic Trinity, God is manifest in His energies or activities.” [Stĺle Johannes Kristiansen, Svein Rise (eds.) Key Theological Thinkers: From Modern to Postmodern, p. 386] Note here the “economic Trinity” is related to God’s energies or activities (which are communicable), not His essence (ousia).
124. Donald K. McKim, Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, p. 80 (emphasis added)
125. David W. Fagerberg, “From Divinization to Evangelization,” in Andrew Hofer (ed.) Divinization: Becoming Icons of Christ through the Liturgy, p. 19
126. “Deification,” Orthodox Study Bible, NKJV, (Thomas Nelson, 2008) p. 1692
127. Ben C. Blackwell, Christosis: Pauline Soteriology in Light of Deification in Irenaeus & Cyril, p. 104
128. Ben C. Blackwell, Christosis: Pauline Soteriology in Light of Deification in Irenaeus & Cyril, p. 104
129. Ben C. Blackwell, Christosis: Pauline Soteriology in Light of Deification in Irenaeus & Cyril, p. 253 (emphasis added)
130. We note here that the deification dogma is a central tenet of Eastern Orthodox theology. However, Evangelicals reject this dogma as central to the Apostolic Faith as taught in the New Testament. Thus Prof. Michael F. Bird, says, “We can disqualify...theosis as a primary structure for a salvation framework...Theosis is based almost exclusively on 2 Peter 1:4, and though prominent in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, it has never really been a serious contender for the organizing theme of soteriology.” [Michael F. Bird, Evangelical Theology: A Biblical & Systematic Introduction, p. ]
131. Eastern Orthodox Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware, quoted by Bill McKeever & Eric Johnson, Answering Mormons' Questions: Ready Responses for Inquiring Latter-Day Saints, p. 118 (emphasis added)
132. W. Lee, Life-Study of Job, Ch. 22, Sect. 2 (emphasis added)
133. W. Lee, Five Emphases in the Lord's Recovery, (1991) Ch. 4, Sect. 4 (emphasis added)
134. Orthodox Study Bible (Thomas Nelson Pub. 1993) p. 28
135. M. David Litwa, We Are Being Transformed: Deification in Paul's Soteriology, p. 298 (emphasis original). Litwa begins by saying: “scholars—maintain that for the Apostle “Paul, humans do not share the [divine] identity (or essence or nature) of God, but only God’s energies.” [M. David Litwa, We Are Being Transformed, p. 298] A related (but different) point is made by Norman Russell who “argues that a Christian soteriological perspective on deification cannot really be found in the New Testament, or, in particular…in the Pauline corpus [Paul’s writings].” [Nicholas Bamford, Deified Person: A Study of Deification in Relation to Person & Christian Becoming (2011) p. 108 referring to Norman Russell’s Doctrine of Deification…] N. Russell contends that the Apostle Paul does not teach deification.
136. Kerry S. Robichaux, “Can Human Beings Become God?” Affirmation & Critique, Vol. VII, No. 2, (Oct. 2002) p. 42 The quote in context reads: “In the writings of Witness Lee…the distinction has been expressed more casually by the formula ‘God became man that man may become God in life & nature but not in the Godhead’ Comparing this to the classical expressions the distinction ‘God in life and nature’ should correspond to the economic Trinity in the West and the energies of God in the East and ‘the Godhead’ [should correspond] to the immanent Trinity in the West and the essence of God in the East.” [Kerry S. Robichaux, “Can Human Beings Become God?” Affirmation & Critique, Vol. VII, No. 2, (Oct. 2002) p. 42 (emphasis added)]
137. LSM’s Kerry Robichaux gives some indication that this alignment is problematic, nevertheless he makes it. Shortly after making these statements he writes, “Those familiar with the history of the distinction may recognize some problems with applying ‘nature’ to the energies of God…” [Kerry S. Robichaux, “Can Human Beings Become God?” Affirmation & Critique, Vol. VII, No. 2, (Oct. 2002) p. 42 (emphasis added)] As indicated earlier, in Orthodoxy terms relating to the “essence, nature, & inner being” of God, tend to be used inter-changeably. Thus N. N. Trakakis states that: If “the process of deification involves participation in, or sharing of, the very essence, nature & inner being of God...In that case, theosis would amount to...divinization in the sense of being transformed into a god (in a literal, ontological sense),” resulting in, either, “a crude polytheism” or “monism, where union with God amounts to absorption & fusion with the divinity.” Both outcomes are problematic & unacceptable theologically. [N. N. Trakakis, “Sense & Reference of the Essence & Energies,” Ch. 8 in Constantinos Athanasopoulos, Christoph Schneider (eds.) Divine Essence & Divine Energies: Ecumenical Reflections on the Presence of God in Eastern Orthodoxy, pp. 214-5] This use of terminology is also confusing; in Orthodoxy, God’s essence/nature is contrasted to His energies, but LSM’s Robichaux equates God’s ‘nature’ (in W. Lee’s scheme) to God’s energies! Clearly something is seriously wrong! Dr. David Fagerberg explains the Orthodox scenario, “Deification means that we participate in the energies of God (which are really divine), but the divine essence does not substitute for our human essence. No human being turns into a divine being; the Father, Son & Holy Spirit [Trinity] alone possess the divine nature (consubstantially).” [David W. Fagerberg, “From Divinization to Evangelization,” in Andrew Hofer (ed.) Divinization: Becoming Icons of Christ through the Liturgy, p. 19 (emphasis added)] In Orthodoxy, God’s (real) ‘nature’ is incommunicable; not for W. Lee.
138. LSM’s Kerry Robichaux is obviously intelligent and shows a clear grasp of this body of literature, as evidence by his publications on this topic. This author finds it (literally) incredible that this statement is the result of an inadvertent mistake. (Moreover any such ‘mistake’ ought to have been caught by LSM’s A&C editors.) Hence, we conclude that it is most likely the result of deliberate misrepresentation.
139. W. Lee, Five Emphases in the Lord's Recovery, (1991) Ch. 4, Sect. 4. The quote (in context) reads: ““The Father’s life and nature, the Son’s element, and the Spirit’s essence are dispensed into our being to saturate us thoroughly....We, the church as the issue of the Triune God, are the same as He [the Triune God] is in the sense that we have His life, His nature, His element, and His essence. We are absolutely the same as He is in this respect, but not in His Godhead. We do not possess any part of the Godhead, but we do possess His life, His nature, His element, and His essence. We are divine in the sense of the divine life, the divine nature, the divine essence, and the divine element, but not in the sense of the Godhead.” [W. Lee, Five Emphases in the Lord's Recovery, (1991) Ch. 4, Sect. 4 (emphasis added)] As a further e.g. of believers sharing God’s essence, consider the following: W. Lee says God’s Son “is awaiting the opportunity to saturate us with His element. We must cooperate with Him by living according to His nature & moving according to His Person…[God’s] nature constantly remains the same, working within us to spread His element into our being.” [W. Lee, Life-Study of Hebrews, Ch. 67, Sect. 4 (emphasis added)]
140. “We are divine in the sense of the divine life, the divine nature, the divine essence, and the divine element, but not in the sense of the Godhead.” [W. Lee, Five Emphases in the Lord's Recovery, (1991) Ch. 4, Sect. 4 (emphasis added)]
141. [Blank]
142. Daniel E. Wilson, Deification & the Rule of Faith: The Communication of the Gospel in Hellenistic Culture (2010) (back cover)
143. Daniel E. Wilson, Deification & the Rule of Faith: The Communication of the Gospel in Hellenistic Culture (2010) p. 119. It is argued that this follows the Apostle Paul’s pattern while in Athens. Referring to Dean Flemming’s writings, it is asserted that “the methodology of Irenaeus and Athanasius in their strategy to communicate to a Hellenistic world,” is correlated with Paul’s strategy, where “In Acts 17, Paul presents an evangelistic message to a pagan audience…” [Daniel E. Wilson, Deification & the Rule of Faith: The Communication of the Gospel in Hellenistic Culture (2010) p. 119]
144. Daniel E. Wilson, Deification & the Rule of Faith: The Communication of the Gospel in Hellenistic Culture (2010) p. 155
145. V. Kharlamov argues that “theosis is contextualized in Clement’s trinitarian theology” [Vladimir Kharlamov, Theosis: Deification in Christian Theology, p. 16]
146. “The deification theme was contextualized further in the theology of Gregory of Nyssa [AD 335-394/5].” [Vladimir Kharlamov, Beauty of the Unity & the Harmony of the Whole: Concept of Theosis in the Theology of Pseudo-Dionysios (2015) p. ]
147. Tony Espinosa “A Balanced Refutation,” Affirmation & Critique, Vol. XVII, No. 2 (Fall 2012) pp. 103-5
148. Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, “Deification, Theosis,” in William A. Dyrness, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (eds.) Global Dictionary of Theology: A Resource for the Worldwide Church, p. 229
149. Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Introduction to Ecclesiology, p. 18 quoted by Joshua D. A. Bloor,*“New Directions in Western Soteriology,” Theology, Vol. 118 (3) (2015) p. 183
150. James D. G. Dunn, Neither Jew Nor Greek: A Contested Identity, p. 822. Prof. Dunn note there was a “shift in emphasis regarding the decisive saving event, from Jesus’ death as atonement for sin, to his birth & incarnation as the divine taking the human into itself,” via deification. He adds: “Despite the Pauline insistence that central to the gospel was the affirmation that ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Cor. 15:3), the creeds shift the focus from the atoning death to incarnation.” [James D. G. Dunn, Neither Jew Nor Greek: A Contested Identity, p. 822] The shift in the creeds’ emphasis reflects (& is reflected in) a changed emphasis in the Church Fathers’ teaching viz-a-vi the New Testament.
151. [Blank]
152. Andrew Louth, Modern Orthodox Thinkers: From the Philokalia to the Present, p. 135
153. Elizabeth Theokritoff (ed.) Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology, p. 69
154. Andrew Louth, Modern Orthodox Thinkers: From the Philokalia to the Present, p. 135 expressing the views of Dumitru Stanloae
155. Denis Edwards, “Athanasius: The Word of God in Creation & Salvation,” in E. M. Conradie (ed.) Creation & Salvation: A mosaic of selected classic Christian theologies, pp. 49-50
156. Athanasius, First Letter to Serapion 1.25. cited by Denis Edwards, “Athanasius: The Word of God in Creation & Salvation,”
157. Denis Edwards, “The Redemption of Animals in an Incarnational Theology,” in Celia Deane-Drummond, David Clough (eds.) Creaturely Theology: On God, Humans & Other Animals, p. 90 (emphasis added)
158. E. M. Conradie (ed.) Creation & Salvation: A mosaic of selected classic Christian theologies, p. 96 (emphasis added)
159. Elizabeth Theokritoff (ed.) Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology, p. 69. Emil Bartos writes that the eminent Orthodox scholar Dumitru “Staniloae follows Gregory of Nyssa and Maximus in asserting that the whole cosmos and all humanity participate in the infinity of God…He [Staniloae] boldly declares that ‘to eternity God will never cease to deify the world’.” [Emil Bartos, Deification in Eastern Orthodox Theology, p. 98 (emphasis added)]
160. Denis Edwards, Partaking of God: Trinity, Evolution, & Ecology, p. 52
161. [Blank]
162. Boris Bobrinskoy, The Mystery of the Trinity (1999) p. 5 quoted by Denis Edwards, “Final Fulfillment: The Deification of Creation,” p. 8
163. W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, & Esther,*Ch. 4, Sect. 3
164. W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Chron., Ezra, Nehemiah, & Esther, Ch. 26, Sect. 1, (emphasis added)
165. W. Lee, Issue of the Dispensing of the Processed Trinity & the Transmitting of the Transcending Christ,*Ch. 3, Sect. 4
166. W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Chron., Ezra, Nehemiah, & Esther, Ch. 26, Sect. 1, (emphasis added)
167. W. Lee, Kernel of the Bible, Ch. 12, Sect. 1
168. W. Lee, Proper Aggressiveness of the Lord's Serving Ones, Ch. 2, Sect. 1
169. W. Lee, Life-Study of Matthew, Ch. 45, Sect. 1
170. W. Lee, Proper Aggressiveness of the Lord's Serving Ones, Ch. 2, Sect. 1
171. [Blank]
172. James D. G. Dunn, Neither Jew Nor Greek: A Contested Identity, p. 822
173. W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Chron., Ezra, Nehemiah, & Esther,*Ch. 7, Sect. 2 The Roman Catholic document is cited as: (Catechism of the Catholic Church,*pp. 115-116).
174. Hannah Hunt, “Byzantine Christianity” in Ken Parry (ed.) Blackwell Companion to Eastern Christianity, p. 81
175. Jaroslav Pelikan, Imago Dei: The Byzantine Apology for Icons, p. 145 Mary was also venerated as a “'hyperdulia', [super-saint]...above all the saints and all the celestial hierarchies."
176. Brian Reynolds, Gateway to Heaven: Doctrine & Devotion, p. 334
177. Leonid Ouspensky & Vladimir Lossky “The Meaning of Icons” (1969) p. 77; quoted by Donald Fairbairn, Eastern Orthodoxy Through Western Eyes, p. 102
178. Donald Fairbairn, Eastern Orthodoxy Through Western Eyes, p. 102
179. Witness Lee definitely talks of a “Fourth Person” in the “four-in-one” God. He says: “Four persons—the one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one God the Father— mingled together as one entity to be the organic Body of Christ; thus, the Triune God and the Body are four-in-one.” [W. Lee, Crystallization-Study Outlines—Ephesians, Ch. 1, Sect. 12] On the other hand, W. Lee is also on record saying: “We absolutely cannot become the Person of God or the Godhead. We can never share the Godhead. The opposers say that in our teaching we say that we can become the Godhead; this is slander. We are not transformed to be a part of the Godhead; rather, we are transformed to have the divine nature. Today we do have God’s divine nature within us, but we cannot share His Godhead.” [W. Lee, One Body, One Spirit, & One New Man, Ch. 4, Sect. 5 (emphasis added)] It is not my job to reconcile these apparently contradictory statements. LSM routinely defends/justifies any & all statement by W. Lee. Evidently (according to W. Lee) “we cannot become the Person of God,” but we can become the fourth person in the “four-in-one God”—the expanded Trinity!
180. W. Lee, Crystallization-Study Outlines—Ephesians, Ch. 1, Sect. 12. Again this is not an isolated assertion. Consider the following: "Because the Father, the Son, & the Spirit are all one with the Body of Christ, we may say that the Triune God & the church are four-in-one. Because the Father, the Son, & the Spirit are all one with the Body of Christ, we say that the Triune God is now the 'four-in-one' God. These four are the Father, the Son, the Spirit, & the Body. The Three of the Divine Trinity cannot be confused or separated, and the four-in-one also cannot be separated or confused." [W. Lee, A Deeper Study of the Divine Dispensing, (Anaheim: Living Stream Ministry, 1990), Ch. 15, Sect. 3 pp. 203-204 (emphasis added)] “Man, the Spirit, the Lord, and the Father are built together. This is not just three-in-one. This is four-in-one. God became a man that we, His redeemed, might become God. With Him there is the Godhead. But regardless of how much divine life and divine nature we have to be the same as God, we do not have the Godhead.” [W. Lee, Practical Points Concerning Blending, p. 24 (emphasis added)] “The Body of Christ, the church, is four in one: the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and the Body. Eph. 4:4-6 speaks of one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, & one God the Father…God is the origin, the Son is the element, the Spirit is the essence, and the Body is the very constitution. These are four-in-one. However, only the first three are worthy of our worship; the fourth, the Body, should not be deified as an object of worship.” [W. Lee, Central Line of the Divine Revelation, Ch. 11, Sect. 7 (emphasis added)]
181. [Blank]
182. W. Lee, Central Line of the Divine Revelation, Ch. 11, Sect. 7
183. W. Lee says: “we, the believers, are made the same as God in life and in nature but not in the Godhead. This means that except for the Godhead, we are exactly the same as God.” [W. Lee, Life-Study of Jeremiah & Lamentations, Ch. 26, Sect. 2 (emphasis added)]
184. W. Lee, Practical Points concerning Blending,*pp. 45-46, (emphasis added) Witness Lee repeatedly equates “not in the Godhead” with “not as an object of worship.” He says, “On the one hand, the New Testament reveals that the Godhead is unique and that only God, who alone has the Godhead, should be worshipped. On the other hand, the NT reveals that we, the believers in Christ, have God's life and nature and that we are becoming God in life and in nature but will never have His Godhead.” [W. Lee, Life-study of 1 & 2 Samuel, Message 25, pp. 166-167 also Conclusion of the NT, (Msgs. 388-403), Ch. 2, Sect. 3 also Truth Concerning the Ultimate Goal of God's Economy, Ch. 1, Sect. 2 (emphasis added)] He also says, “The NT reveals that the Godhead is unique & that only God, who alone has the Godhead, should be worshipped. On the other hand, the New Testament reveals that we, the believers in Christ, have God's life and nature and that we are becoming God in life and in nature but will never have His Godhead. [The same as above.] Regeneration does not make us part of the Godhead. To say that believers become part of the Godhead as objects of worship is to blaspheme God. We cannot share in the Godhead, but we can partake of the divine nature. What a great blessing it is to be one with God in His life & nature!” [W. Lee, Conclusion of the NT, (Msgs. 388-403), Ch. 2, Sect. 3 (emphasis added)] LSM’s Ron Kangas elaborates explaining, “not in the Godhead” means “not in rank or position and not as an object of worship.” [Ron Kangas, “Becoming God,” Affirmation & Critique, Vol. VII, No. 2 (Oct. 2002) p. 3]
185. Quote from the 2007 “Open Letter” from 60 Scholars to LSM & the “Local Churches” which says: “Because the following statements by Witness Lee appear to contradict or compromise essential doctrines of the Christian faith, we respectfully call on the leadership of Living Stream Ministry and the ‘local churches’ to disavow and cease to publish these and similar declarations.” Including statements about the “four-in-one” God [60 Scholars, “An Open Letter to the Leadership of Living Stream Ministry & the ‘Local Churches’.” (Jan. 9, 2007)] To date LSM has not disavowed any.
186. W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Samuel, Ch. 25, Sect. 2. W. Lee also emphasizes that “he saw” this “high peak truth.” It was not something he learned or appropriated from Eastern Orthodoxy: “Since the ministry began in the US in 1962, I have actually ministered only one matter—God becoming a man that man may become God in life & in nature. However, it was not until Feb. 1994 that I received such a clear view with a heavy burden to tell God's people that we all are God in life & in nature but not in the Godhead.” [W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Chron.,..Ch. 2, Sect. 2] “Beginning from 1984 I released many messages on the economy of God. Then in the spring of this year [1994] (actually I saw it last year [1993]) I continued to go higher. I saw that it is only by God's becoming man to make man God that the Body of Christ can be produced. This point is the high peak of the vision given to us by God. Actually, early in the fourth century Athanasius, who was present at the Nicene Council, said that ‘He was made man that we might be made God’.” [W. Lee, High Peak of the Vision & the Reality of the Body of Christ, Ch. 1, Sect. 4]
187. Alexander Chow says, Watchman Nee’s “theology came largely through a re-articulation of two schools of fundamentalist thinking: Keswick sanctification and Brethren dispensationalism...Nee’s eschatology [was] developed from Brethren dispensationalism.” [Alexander Chow, Theosis, Sino-Christian Theology & the Second Chinese Enlightenment, p. 42]


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Old 04-12-2016, 08:25 PM   #2
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

In Tomes' first footnote, he provides numerous quotes from Witness Lee which highlight the contrast between the teachings of "Early-Lee" and those of "Later-Lee." Foot Note 1 shows the more orthodox teachings of an "Early-Lee" ...
Quote:
1. The first quote “The Bible does not teach that believers will ever be deified” is from W. Lee, Life-Study of Philippians, Ch. 36, Sect. 1 (emphasis added). The second quote—“The fact that we have the divine nature with the divine life does not mean that we shall ever be deified,” is from [W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus & Philemon, Ch. 9, Sect. 1 (emphasis added)] LSM’s Lesson Book says: “To say that we are one spirit with the Lord definitely does not mean that we are deified.” [LSM, Lesson Book, Level 3: Two Spirits, Ch. 17, Sect. 1] In doing so they echo W. Lee: “To say that our spirit is mingled with the divine Spirit does not mean that we shall ever be deified.” [W. Lee, Divine Dispensing of the Divine Trinity, Ch. 30, Sect. 3] The first quote in the main text, in context, says, the believers are “divine,” yet they will never be “deified”—“2 Pet. 1:4 indicates clearly that we are partakers of the divine nature.
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Old 04-12-2016, 08:41 PM   #3
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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In Tomes' first footnote, he provides numerous quotes from Witness Lee which highlight the contrast between the teachings of "Early-Lee" and those of "Later-Lee." Foot Note 1 shows the more orthodox teachings of an "Early-Lee" ...
Thanks Ohio, I did not read that far. Why could Lee drastically change his teachings and not be asked to explain? I know, it's because his followers consider him the MOTA who is right whenever he is wrong. I've been reading the history of Hitler and there seems to me to be a similarity between the devotion of his followers to those of Lee. A fanatical belief in his teachings and inerrancy.
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Old 04-15-2016, 05:20 AM   #4
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Default LSM’s Deification Doctrine

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LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous?
Nigel Tomes
W. Lee asserted “I have not been influenced by any teaching about deification, but I have learned from my study of the Bible that God does intend to make the believers God in life & in nature but not in the Godhead.” Skeptics might doubt this statement’s veracity; I do not. It is essentially true.-
Dear Confused Skeptics,

Back to an earlier topic, Did not anybody notice that Nigel Tomes completely agrees with Witness Lee on the notion of "God becoming Man that Man may become God in life and nature but not in the Godhead"...You are all such gainsayers, yet I haven't heard a single robust defense or read a single word from any of you (other than that we should all try and be good people and model citizens, then die and go to heaven to play harps with the angels) that even comes close to exhibiting a firm grasp of the overall arc of the Scriptures and of God's chief intention in creation.

So why all the hullabaloo?!!

Why cut off your noses to spite your faces?!!

Come back to your senses, bothers and sisters!
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Old 04-15-2016, 08:43 AM   #5
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Default LSM’s Deification Doctrine

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Dear Confused Skeptics,

Back to an earlier topic, Did not anybody notice that Nigel Tomes completely agrees with Witness Lee on the notion of "God becoming Man that Man may become God in life and nature but not in the Godhead"...You are all such gainsayers, yet I haven't heard a single robust defense or read a single word from any of you (other than that we should all try and be good people and model citizens, then die and go to heaven to play harps with the angels) that even comes close to exhibiting a firm grasp of the overall arc of the Scriptures and of God's chief intention in creation.

So why all the hullabaloo?!!

Why cut off your noses to spite your faces?!!

Come back to your senses, bothers and sisters!
This may be the wrong thread for this, but I can't bear to slog through Nigel Tomes' tedious articles anymore. I usually feel like he intentionally tries to misunderstand or misrepresent certain things, not realizing that in the eyes of LCers, this kind of misunderstanding or misrepresentation only justifies their stance and invalidates everything else that he might have to say.

My conclusion about "man becoming God in life and nature but not in the Godhead" is that it is an unnecessarily "shocking" (and possibly in-artful) way of expressing the idea that the believer is born of God with God's life to grow up into that life without inviolating or compromising God's "God-ness."

I know from experience that rejecting this idea out of hand--without an actual attempt at understanding what is meant--completely turns off many LCers.
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Old 04-15-2016, 12:12 PM   #6
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Default LSM’s Deification Doctrine

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LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous?
Nigel Tomes
W. Lee asserted “I have not been influenced by any teaching about deification, but I have learned from my study of the Bible that God does intend to make the believers God in life & in nature but not in the Godhead.” Skeptics might doubt this statement’s veracity; I do not. It is essentially true.-
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Dear Confused Skeptics,

Back to an earlier topic, Did not anybody notice that Nigel Tomes completely agrees with Witness Lee on the notion of "God becoming Man that Man may become God in life and nature but not in the Godhead"...You are all such gainsayers, yet I haven't heard a single robust defense or read a single word from any of you (other than that we should all try and be good people and model citizens, then die and go to heaven to play harps with the angels) that even comes close to exhibiting a firm grasp of the overall arc of the Scriptures and of God's chief intention in creation.

So why all the hullabaloo?!!

Why cut off your noses to spite your faces?!!

Come back to your senses, bothers and sisters!
Hey Unregistered, sounds like you have some very strong opinions regarding things that are posted on our little forum. Seems like you have a lot to say. Why not take a few minutes and register for the forum. This way your postings will not have to go through the moderation que, and you will have access to the Private Messages system. I think I have implored you to register in the past. Let's get it done today!

In any event...I don't think you have fairly represented Nigel's position here. Let's take a look at the entire context by reviewing the entire paragraph:

Quote:
W. Lee asserted “I have not been influenced by any teaching about deification, but I have learned from my study of the Bible that God does intend to make the believers God in life & in nature but not in the Godhead.”185 Skeptics might doubt this statement’s veracity; I do not. It is essentially true. W. Lee did not adopt Orthodoxy’s theosis; this explains his radically different version. W. Lee clothed his own homespun theological system with the mantle of deification. The sole item he appropriated from Orthodoxy was Athanasius’ maxim. Witness Lee’s theology (like Watchman Nee’s) is a ‘patchwork quilt,’ cobbled together from Keswick ‘higher life,’ Brethren186 dispensationalism, typology. Cloaking this potpourri with deification gives an aura of respectability & novelty.
What Tomes was contending as "essentially true" is NOT that Lee's teachings regarding man's deification are biblical or orthodox (small o), rather that Lee did not necessarily adopt them from Orthodoxy's theosis.

The rest of your post here is a little bit on the blustery side, and I wouldn't normally care if it was from a registered poster, but as it is, it's kind of a hit and run job. Don't be that way bro. Stick around! Register as a member and give us a "robust defense" of your positions. And while you're at it, you can provide some quotes from any of us who have contended that everything is as simple as "we should all try and be good people and model citizens, then die and go to heaven to play harps with the angels". Were you perhaps just funnin with us? Ether way, I for one, would be interested in hearing from you regarding the "overall arc of the Scriptures and of God's chief intention in creation." Sounds fascinating and should be great discussion material for the forum! Again, please consider registering as a member. It's super simple and super fast. Simply send an email requesting registration and your desired UserName to: LocalChurchDiscussions@Gmail.Com

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Old 04-15-2016, 01:00 PM   #7
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Default LSM’s Deification Doctrine

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This may be the wrong thread for this, but I can't bear to slog through Nigel Tomes' tedious articles anymore. I usually feel like he intentionally tries to misunderstand or misrepresent certain things, not realizing that in the eyes of LCers, this kind of misunderstanding or misrepresentation only justifies their stance and invalidates everything else that he might have to say.

My conclusion about "man becoming God in life and nature but not in the Godhead" is that it is an unnecessarily "shocking" (and possibly in-artful) way of expressing the idea that the believer is born of God with God's life to grow up into that life without inviolating or compromising God's "God-ness."

I know from experience that rejecting this idea out of hand--without an actual attempt at understanding what is meant--completely turns off many LCers.
In regard to Nigel most of his writings are from a scholarly view that tend to address teachings. If there's one I'm hopeful to read one day is if/when Nigel addresses deputy authority. Until then I'll be reading his articles as they become available and glean from them what I can.
In regard to "man becoming God in life and nature but not in the Godhead", in experience I saw an congregation in Bellevue made uneasy by such a speaking. Whatever the basis is for the teaching, do not add nor take away from what the Bible says. Following are just several verses on adding or taking away from the Bible

Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32
Proverbs 30:5-6
Revelation 22:18-19
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Old 04-15-2016, 02:24 PM   #8
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In regard to Nigel most of his writings are from a scholarly view that tend to address teachings. If there's one I'm hopeful to read one day is if/when Nigel addresses deputy authority. Until then I'll be reading his articles as they become available and glean from them what I can.
Personally, I do not find Nigel's articles "scholarly." I find them pedantic.
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Old 04-15-2016, 02:50 PM   #9
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Whatever the basis is for the teaching, do not add nor take away from what the Bible says. Following are just several verses on adding or taking away from the Bible

Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32
Proverbs 30:5-6
Revelation 22:18-19
Forgive me, but I think this is too simplistic. You have to grapple with the idea, not just the wording. The idea may be wrong, but it is not wrong simply because the exact wording used is not found in the Bible.
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Old 04-15-2016, 03:59 PM   #10
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I haven't heard a single robust defense or read a single word from any of you... that even comes close to exhibiting a firm grasp of the overall arc of the Scriptures...
I find this to be droll. What, pray tell, did Witness Lee ever exhibit a firm grasp of, save the local churches and the lives of the parishioners therein?

Second, who here has asserted that they have the proverbial last word on matters? Those who claim the most should be judged the most severely. To whom is not given so much; well then let's lay off, shall we?

Third, I recall repeatedly asking questions like, "If the seven-fold intensified Spirit was needed to overcome the degradation in the NT churches, why were there seven flames burning before the throne (cf Rev 4:5) at least as far back as Exodus 25?" Resounding silence.

Or, why was an angel of the LORD in Acts 8:26 called "the spirit" in verse 29, even "the spirit of the LORD" in verse 39? Or are they all different? If so, why do we have angels zipping in and out, and the (S)pirit following hard upon? What is the spirit of the angel, if an angel is a spirit? Angels are ministering spirits, no? Are there then two spirits, contrary to Ephesians 4?

No one answered. One poster said, "Do you study angelology?" I replied that I read the Bible, and recommend it. All of it, not just the bits that align with your theology.

Do I have the answers? No. But I don't presume to, either. So I'm at least possibly teachable. Which seems to be more than I can say for the True Believers of the Final Oracle to End the Age, who remind me so much of myself when I was 18. Back then, I was so smart that nobody could teach me anything. I already knew it all - what more was there left to learn?
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Old 04-15-2016, 04:53 PM   #11
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

"True Believers of the Final Oracle to End the Age"

You need to write sit-com dialog! You know, if BP was right we would all be burning for mocking the oracle. Good thing it's a lie! Jesus called the religious ones blind leaders of the blind, and asked them several times if they had ever read the scriptures. Sure sounds like mocking to me.
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Old 04-15-2016, 07:23 PM   #12
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Personally, I do not find Nigel's articles "scholarly." I find them pedantic.
Quite necessary, though, due to LSM's life-long obsession with lawsuits. Surely you can differentiate basic CYA thoroughness from Tomes' excessive meticulousness.
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Old 04-16-2016, 04:46 PM   #13
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Personally, I do not find Nigel's articles "scholarly." I find them pedantic.
Yes, you could say Nigel is nitpicking and I'd say that's necessary since too often what comes from LSM is received as gospel regardless if it's accurate or errant.
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Old 04-16-2016, 04:57 PM   #14
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Personally, I do not find Nigel's articles "scholarly." I find them pedantic.
I rarely read his entire articles, but I think Nigel's work is very scholarly and greatly exceeds the "scholarship" put out by the sophists from LSM.
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Old 04-16-2016, 05:17 PM   #15
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Forgive me, but I think this is too simplistic. You have to grapple with the idea, not just the wording. The idea may be wrong, but it is not wrong simply because the exact wording used is not found in the Bible.
Years I met with the local churches as an adult, with the exception of quarantines I tried to receive whatever came out from the ministry even if it did defy logic and normal Christian behavior.
I have grappled with the idea. All brothers and sisters do have a sonship, but not the same sonship Jesus had. When the Word became flesh has referenced in John 1:14, none of us can make that claim. We can say we have "received a spirit of adoption as sons".
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Old 04-16-2016, 06:42 PM   #16
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I know from experience that rejecting this idea out of hand--without an actual attempt at understanding what is meant--completely turns off many LCers.
The fact that the LC is unwilling to drop a doctrine that is so confusing and vulnerable to misinterpretation and cling to and defend it only because Witness Lee taught it is what completely turns me off.

Let's face it. The only reason LCers believe the doctrine is that Lee taught it. If he hadn't taught it they wouldn't believe it. If he had dropped it, they would have dropped it.

They certainly don't cling to because it makes sense, or because the know what is "meant" by it.

So they go around acting like they understand what it means, and dismiss those who disagree with it as not "understanding it." But LCers don't "understand" it either. They've just convinced themselves they do so they can go along with Lee and not become outcasts in the LC.
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Old 04-16-2016, 07:05 PM   #17
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Default LSM’s Deification Doctrine

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Originally Posted by Igzy View Post
The fact that the LC is unwilling to drop a doctrine that is so confusing and vulnerable to misinterpretation and cling to and defend it only because Witness Lee taught it is what completely turns me off.

Let's face it. The only reason LCers believe the doctrine is that Lee taught it. If he hadn't taught it they wouldn't believe it. If he had dropped it, they would have dropped it.

They certainly don't cling to because it makes sense, or because the know what is "meant" by it.

So they go around acting like they understand what it means, and dismiss those who disagree with it as not "understanding it." But LCers don't "understand" it either. They've just convinced themselves they do so they can go along with Lee and not become outcasts in the LC.
If you are trying to help most LCers, none of this matters. Like I said, your approach will turn most LCers off completely. If you more interested in venting than in appealing to them in a way that will help them break through, then that's fine. Most LCers do believe in this teaching, and acting as though they are idiots for doing so will not serve to help them.
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Old 04-16-2016, 07:21 PM   #18
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Default LSM’s Deification Doctrine

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If you are trying to help most LCers, none of this matters. Like I said, your approach will turn most LCers off completely. If you more interested in venting than in appealing to them in a way that will help them break through, then that's fine. Most LCers do believe in this teaching, and acting as though they are idiots for doing so will not serve to help them.
Hi bro K. This is very important. Part of what I do here is venting and safely saying what I'm learning. I know when I was a hard core LC believer I would have run from a site like this. It was when I saw the unrighteousness of the elders and suspected some of the LC teachings that I started reading here.
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Old 04-16-2016, 09:25 PM   #19
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine

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Hi bro K. This is very important. Part of what I do here is venting and safely saying what I'm learning. I know when I was a hard core LC believer I would have run from a site like this. It was when I saw the unrighteousness of the elders and suspected some of the LC teachings that I started reading here.
Why would a little thing like unrighteousness bother you, when you can have elders that suckup to today's "apostles," and ministers who will turn the age?
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Old 04-16-2016, 10:24 PM   #20
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine

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Originally Posted by Igzy View Post
The fact that the LC is unwilling to drop a doctrine that is so confusing and vulnerable to misinterpretation and cling to and defend it only because Witness Lee taught it is what completely turns me off.

Let's face it. The only reason LCers believe the doctrine is that Lee taught it. If he hadn't taught it they wouldn't believe it. If he had dropped it, they would have dropped it.

They certainly don't cling to because it makes sense, or because the know what is "meant" by it.

So they go around acting like they understand what it means, and dismiss those who disagree with it as not "understanding it." But LCers don't "understand" it either. They've just convinced themselves they do so they can go along with Lee and not become outcasts in the LC.
I'll reiterate what I said earlier today on another post:
1. Whatever came from Witness Lee and comes from LSM is received as gospel. Thus on par or regarded superior to scripture,

In addition:
2. Regardless if it makes sense or not, there's no exhibiting comprehending what it means. Just Prayread, Study, Recite, and Prophesy.
3. What has turned me off is in respect to quarantines. As an analogy, if the LSM/LC leadership say sweet is bitter, then sweet is bitter.
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Old 04-17-2016, 07:37 PM   #21
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine

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Originally Posted by Igzy View Post
The fact that the LC is unwilling to drop a doctrine that is so confusing and vulnerable to misinterpretation and cling to and defend it only because Witness Lee taught it is what completely turns me off.

Let's face it. The only reason LCers believe the doctrine is that Lee taught it. If he hadn't taught it they wouldn't believe it. If he had dropped it, they would have dropped it.

They certainly don't cling to because it makes sense, or because the know what is "meant" by it.

So they go around acting like they understand what it means, and dismiss those who disagree with it as not "understanding it." But LCers don't "understand" it either. They've just convinced themselves they do so they can go along with Lee and not become outcasts in the LC.
Well spoken, and I completely agree.

If LC members had heart-felt convictions about what Lee taught and wanted to defend it, I could at least respect that. The fact that LC members insist on promoting and defending ridiculous teachings because it was something that WL taught just shows how shallow the whole system is.

They insist on 'affirming' anything and everything that he taught and then they proceed to 'critique' everyone who disagrees. I know for a fact that many members have no clue what half of the stuff that WL taught really means, yet they go along with it. I honestly can't understand how such a system can survive. But it does.
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Old 04-17-2016, 09:12 PM   #22
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Default The Local Church’s Links with Eastern Orthodoxy - TOMES

***Note from Admin: Every effort was made to keep this document in its original format, however due to limits of the forum software some of the original format could not be retained. As soon as possible, the original PDF document will be posted at the end of this post***

The Local Church’s Links with Eastern Orthodoxy
Nigel Tomes

Most current “Local Church” members are unaware of the past links between the “Local Church” and Eastern Orthodoxy in the US. Given Witness Lee’s belated adoption of Orthodoxy’s “deification” [i.e., “man becomes God”] and LSM’s defense of this dogma via its Affirmation & Critique journal, it is interesting to trace the “intersecting paths” of the “Local Church” and Eastern Orthodoxy in the US.Consider the following entry from Wikipedia on the Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC):
“The [US] Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC) [traces]...its origins in the Jesus People
movement, particularly as an amalgam of Jack Sparks' 'Christian World Liberation Front'
and a component of Watchman Nee’s 'Local Church,' that came to embrace an
Eastern tradition of Christianity
.” [Wikipedia]

What's the Back Story?

This suggests one source of the Evangelical Orthodox Church’s membership was the “Local Church,” of Watchman Nee and his protégé, Witness Lee. This raises the question—what is the back story? How did “a component of Watchman Nee’s 'Local Church’” come “to embrace an Eastern tradition of Christianity,” represented by the Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC)? The present author does not have the answer; our purpose is to point out a few facts in the hope that others can add their insights. The quote above explicitly mentions “Watchman Nee’s 'Local Church;” in a US context that likely refers to the Local Church movement of W. Lee. It also names LSM’s nemesis, Jack Sparks, author of The Mind-Benders: A Look at Current Cults (Thomas Nelson, 1977). There are other names too.

The path of another EOC principal, Peter (‘Pete’) E. Gillquist is recounted by Wikipedia:
The Campus Crusade missionary Peter E. Gillquist (1938-2012)...established in 1973 a network of house churches throughout the US, aiming to restore a primitive form of Christianity. Peter Gillquist, Jack Sparks (1928-2009), Jon Braun, & J.R. Ballew stood in a circle and self-ordained each other while creating an entity called the New Covenant Apostolic Order (NCAO).”

Note the major players behind the New Covenant Apostolic Order (NCAO) which morphed into EOC, and later still into the Antiochian Orthodox Christian [AOC]--Peter Gillquist (1938-2012), Jack Sparks (1928-2010), Jon Braun, and J.R. Ballew. These people desired to ‘recover’ the early church; their quest led them on a particular trajectory which would later intersect with the ‘Local Church’:
“Researching the historical basis of the Christian faith, Gillquist and his colleagues found sources for this restoration in the writings of the early Church Fathers. This led the group to practice a more liturgical form of worship than in their previous evangelical background. In 1977, first contact with the Eastern Orthodox Church was initiated through...(Karl) John Bartke, who introduced them to Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. In 1979, the Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC) was organized...The belief [in]... apostolic succession led most members of the EOC to join the Antiochian Orthodox Christian [AOC] Archdiocese of North America in 1987...” [Wikipedia]

Tracing common Roots—the Jesus People & Campus Crusade


Let’s try tracing the roots of this US branch of the Orthodox Church [NCAO, EOC & AOC] and their intersection with the “Local Church” of W. Nee & W. Lee.
1. Both the Local Church & the ‘Evangelical Orthodox Church’ had roots in the “Jesus Movement”
Witness Lee arrived on the US West coast during the “Jesus People Movement.” Some “Jesus People” converts joined the Local Church. Witness Lee liked to point out “Big George” as an example; recounting that he first attended meetings wearing a blanket and sandals (or was it bare feet?).
2. Leaders of both the Local Church & the EOC Church came out of Campus Crusade.
According to reports heard over the years, some current ‘Local Church’ leaders (e.g. Dan Towle & others?) were engaged in Christian work on US campuses in the late 1960s—with para-church organizations like Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) [“Campus Cru”]. Significantly, during that same era (~1966-68), Peter Gillquist, Jack Sparks, Jon Braun, etc worked with Campus Crusade [CCC]. Some of these CCC workers’ trajectory led them into Orthodoxy. Reportedly, during that era, some of these CCC workers were colleagues &/or associates of current LSM leaders, like Dan Towle & Co. [Exact details are unclear; perhaps others can supply in more details on the Campus Crusade years.]

Campus Crusade Workers’ Quest for the Church


God was stirring among Campus Crusade workers producing a quest for the Church. For Dan Towle (& others) this led to the Local Church. Others’ path was different. Jon Braun recounts: “The next summer (1968?) Jon Braun resigned from Crusade staff, as did Dick Ballew, Pete Gillquist, Gordon Walker...& scores of others within the next few months. This startled the UCSB group. At the Crusade conferences held in Arrowhead Springs [CCC HQ in the San Bernardino Mts.] that summer, several students drove up the mountain...each evening to meet with Jon [Braun] at his home. There they heard about the grace of God & Jon's concept of house churches, based on the model of communities in the New Testament. This was the passion of those who had resigned from Campus Crusade.”

Braun recalls “a conference at UCLA held over Christmas break [Dec. 1968?). At this gathering students and ex-Crusade staff from all over the West Coast came to hear Jon Braun, Dick Ballew, Pete Gillquist & others... Speaker after speaker urged a return to the life and practices of the New Testament Church. They promised exciting new alternatives to the ‘establishment’ and boring denominational order of Christendom.”

Their desire echoed in other “seekers” who flocked to hear Witness Lee & check out the “Local Church life.” Again Jon Braun writes: “We began the process of examining our purposes, our motives and our goals. We became enthralled with the writings of Watchman Nee who had fomented an alternate-church movement in China. We tried to copy the methods he & his followers espoused. Eager to be involved, others on this same journey moved to Santa Barbara [CA]. Jon & Mary Ellen Braun, Dick & Sylvia Ballew, & many other families arrived along with numerous single people. Christians came from as far away as Atlanta, but mostly from various points in California. The goal was to experience together what we thought to be the New Testament Church. It was based on a model of free expression along with strong leadership.” [Jon Braun]

That influx of “seekers” was matched within the “Local Church movement.” Evidently the two movements tapped into the same move of the Holy Spirit; both coalesced in California (Santa Barbara vs. LA/Anaheim). Both movements sought to re-discover the ‘original church” and both drew inspiration from Watchman Nee’s writings.

The link with Watchman Nee is evident in the Wikipedia entry saying: “The Evangelical Orthodox Church [traces]...its origins in the Jesus People movement, particularly as an amalgam of Jack Sparks' 'Christian World Liberation Front' and a component of Watchman Nee’s 'Local Church'...” [Wikipedia]

It would be unsurprising if some EOC principals interacted with the Local Church in the early days. Braun says, “We tried to copy the methods [Watchman Nee] & his followers espoused.” And that statement also describes the endeavor of Local Church members in that era. One would expect some interaction between the two groups. [Again, we don’t have information; maybe some readers do.]

We ask:
· Did any of these people--Peter Gillquist, Jack Sparks, Jon Braun, etc.—attend Witness Lee’s conferences or join in meetings of the “Local Church” during these early years?
· If they did attend Witness Lee’s conferences &/or Local Church meetings (as seems likely) were Peter Gillquist, Jack Sparks, Jon Braun, etc considered as “good material,” “potential leaders” or “effective workers” who ought to “see the vision” & joined or remained in the Local Church?
· Were there any feelings of rivalry/competition between the Local Church and the EOC?
· Were Peter Gillquist, Jack Sparks, Jon Braun & Co., responsible for leading some Christians out of the Local Churches and into Eastern Orthodoxy? This possibility is suggested by the statement: “The Evangelical Orthodox Church [traces]...its origins in...a component of Watchman Nee’s 'Local Church'...”
· Did Local Church leaders (at the time) feel some potential members of the Local Church were “diverted” from the Local Church into (what became) the Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC)?
It seems likely that there were feelings of rivalry/competition between these two “trajectories,” which resembled each other (despite their differences). Perhaps this rivalry produced “bad blood” on both sides—as evidenced (in part) by Jack Sparks’ book: “The Mind-Benders,” vilifying the Local Church. If Jack Sparks’ “The Mind-Benders” was motivated (in part, perhaps) by jealousy &/or competition, those same feelings were likely echoed in some corresponding sectors of the Local Church movement.

The “New Covenant Apostolic Order” (NCAO) 1973

This endeavor to restore the “original historical church,” took a path other than the “Local Church movement.” Jon Braun tells us that “In 1973, Jon [Braun] & Dick [Ballew] announced a meeting... These men, who saw the need for a more historically-based approach...announced that we were going to be a full-fledged Church...This is really where we stopped being a `fellowship,' & began to be a Church," Jon [Braun] recalls. At that time, the leaders, “Peter Gillquist, Jack Sparks, Jon Braun, & J.R. Ballew stood in a circle and self-ordained each other while creating an entity called the New Covenant Apostolic Order (NCAO).” Jon Braun continues, “our leaders along with Peter Gillquist, Jack Sparks, Gordon Walker, Ken Berven & Ray Nethery, pulled together to become the New Covenant Apostolic Order (NCAO).” No doubt the NCAO’s basis was the Bible plus the Church Fathers, with the liturgy & practices of Orthodoxy—infant baptism, the Eucharist, altar, robes & icons, plus the deification dogma. LSM’s Local Church leaders would also question their “self-ordination.”

From “Apostolic Order” to “Evangelical Orthodox Church” (EOC) 1979

Jon Braun continues the saga, saying, “By 1979, being part of an "[Apostolic] Order" was not working ...We swallowed hard & became a denomination in Feb., 1979: the ‘Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC).’ This bold move received wide newspaper coverage, including a piece in The New York Times. The NCAO days were over.”

From “Evangelical Orthodox Church” to “Antiochian Orthodox Church” 1987

To complete the story, in 1987, the 17 parishes and about 2,000 people of the Evangelical Orthodox Church were received into the Antiochian Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church of N. America. His 2012 memorial recalls that “Peter Gillquist…infused evangelical fervor into the Antiochian Orthodox Church beginning in 1987, when he led some 2,000 of his Protestant followers into Eastern Orthodoxy.” “If he had not come into the church and brought those people in, our church would have atrophied to the point of near extinction,” recollects [North Park University professor Brad] Nassif. “Gillquist came along at the right moment in American Orthodox history,’” Dr. Nassif said. Weston Gentry observed that “Gillquist…served as a critical bridge for relations between evangelicals and Orthodox, having spent the majority of his career on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ before his conversion [‘conversion’ to the Orthodox Church].” [Weston Gentry, “Eastern Orthodox Lose Two Evangelical Bridges – Resignation of Metropolitan Jonah Follows Death of Peter Gillquist,” Christianity Today, (originally posted 8/27/2012)]

Witness Lee lambastes the “return to the historic church.”

It is against this background of a rival restoration movement trending towards Eastern Orthodoxy, plus a history of altercations with the Local Church, that we ought to read Witness Lee’s denunciation of those who “return to the so-called historic church.” These statements were not made in a vacuum; they were made against the backdrop of a “rival stream” or “competing movement,” based (like W. Lee’s ‘Local Church’) in the S. California region. Addressing the perceived threat posed by these “opposers,” Witness Lee declared:
“Some of the opposers have said that we should return to the so-called historic church and follow the traditional practices. Recently, a group of so-called fundamental Christians even published an article appealing to Christians to return to the historic church. But the historic church has adopted many regulations that are absolutely unscriptural, and it has made many decisions regarding things not found in the Bible.” [W. Lee, Life-Study of Matt., Ch. 45, Sect. 1]

Given the time frame of the Life-Study of Matthew (late 1970s) we are almost certain that these “opposers” calling for a “return to the historic church” were the “New Covenant Apostolic Order” [NCAO] which would morph into “Evangelical Orthodox Church” [EOC] and then the Antiochian Orthodox Church [AOC]. The “group of so-called fundamental Christians” included Peter Gillquist, Jon Braun, Jack Sparks, Gordon Walker, Ken Berven & Ray Nethery, among others. Surely, as genuine believers, they ought not to be denigrated as “so-called fundamental Christians.”

Witness Lee continued by contending:
“We are accused of not following the historic church, that is, of not following the traditions. We answer that we must come back to the pure Word and not care for the traditions of the historic church. In the various councils and creeds of the historic church, there is no mention of the 7 Spirits. This means that if we follow the traditional concept of the Trinity, we shall neglect the 7 Spirits. Our critics say, ‘You don't honor the ancient councils which formulated the creeds regarding the Trinity. ‘We respond, ‘We don't follow the creeds. They are man's teaching and tradition. Instead, we come back to the pure Word. In the Bible we find something more than what is included in the creeds...’ [There is a] gap between the Lord's recovery and traditional Christianity. This gap exists because the recovery is based wholly upon the pure Word, whereas Christianity is filled with traditions.” [W. Lee, Life-Study of Matt., Ch. 45, Sect. 1]

That was Then, This is Now

At that time, Witness Lee asserted that “we must come back to the pure Word and not care for the traditions of the historic church.” Plus he stated ‘We don't follow the creeds. They are man's teaching and tradition. Instead, we come back to the pure Word.” In contrast to Peter Gillquist, Jon Braun & Jack Sparks’ “Apostolic Order”/”Evangelical/Antiochian Orthodox Church,” Witness Lee asserted there is a “gap between the Lord's recovery and traditional Christianity.” Similar statements can be found; for example: “We in the Lord’s recovery do not treasure theology, tradition, or the councils. We honor, respect, and treasure the holy Word.” [W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Tim..., Ch. 18, Sect. 2]

Witness Lee Appeals to the Creeds & Church Fathers


Fast forward a decade or so and we find Witness Lee appealing to the creeds and Church Fathers to support his deification dogma. In promoting deification and responding to critiques of this dogma, W. Lee and LSM do not mainly appeal to Scripture, but rather to later, post-apostolic writings of the church fathers. As W. Lee writes, “The high truth...that man might become God...was discovered by the church fathers in the second century.” [W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Chron..., Ch. 26, Sect. 1, (emphasis added)] Who are these “church fathers”? LSM refers to Justin Martyr (c. 100-165 AD) as “one of the earliest witnesses,” supporting deification. He is followed by Irenaeus (early 2nd century to 202 AD), Clement of Alexandria (150--215), Athanasius (296--373), Origen (184/185–253/254), Hippolytus (170–235) and the Cappadocians—Basil the Great (329/330–379), Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–c. 395), & Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329–389/390). These are notable “church fathers” from the 2nd to 4th centuries; however, they are not first-century apostles. Moreover their writings do not constitute Scripture, neither are they on par with the Bible. It is hypocritical of Witness Lee, having lambasted the church Fathers’ creeds & traditions, to then cite them as vindication of his deification dogma. Earlier he denounced “opposers” who called for a “return to the historic church.” Yet, on this point—deification—W. Lee himself has “returned to the historic church”! Moreover, by adopting Orthodoxy’s deification dogma, Witness Lee has “followed the footsteps” of his “opposers” who initiated the “Apostolic Order”/”Evangelical/Antiochian Orthodox Church”--Peter Gillquist, Jon Braun & Jack Sparks.

In view of the above, we ask:
· How much of Witness Lee’s denunciation of Gillquist, Braun & Sparks’ “return to the traditional church” was merely rhetorical posturing, which served its particular purpose at the time?
· In propounding his deification doctrine has not Witness Lee “returned to the historic church”?
· When LSM’s Kerry Robichaux declares deification ‘an essential,’ “We in the local churches hold that man may become God in God's salvation,” [Truth Concerning the Ultimate Goal of God's Economy, Ch. 1, St. 10] isn’t he taking the same stand as the “Antiochian Orthodox Church”?
· When LSM’s K. Robichaux says “We are also confirmed by the ancient testimony of the church,” isn’t he appealing to the “historic church,” just like Peter Gillquist, Jon Braun & Jack Sparks?

Nigel Tomes,
Toronto, CANADA
April, 2016

Sources:

https://www.stathanasius.org/about/our-history/
http://www.antiochian.org/node/22274
http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts...memory_eternal
http://www.virtual-memorials.com/mai...w&mem_id=18884
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/...l-bridges.html

- -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Local Church & Eastern Orthodox Historical Links (2).pdf (399.0 KB, 201 views)
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Old 04-18-2016, 07:15 AM   #23
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

UntoHim,

Is this part of the original paper or an addendum?
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Old 04-18-2016, 07:29 AM   #24
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

Yes, this is essentially an addendum. Nigel submitted this piece separately, however I wanted to keep it closely related the original piece for the sake of our discussions. Actually, he submitted this piece last week, but I've been quite busy and had a heck of a time formatting it. I'm trying to figure out a way for people to submit things in HTML so that it won't be such a time consuming thing for me. In any event, I finally got it up on the forum. If Nigel strongly objects to it being placed as an addendum to his original piece, I'm sure he'll let me know.

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Old 04-18-2016, 08:49 AM   #25
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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Originally Posted by UntoHim View Post
Yes, this is essentially an addendum. Nigel submitted this piece separately, however I wanted to keep it closely related the original piece for the sake of our discussions. Actually, he submitted this piece last week, but I've been quite busy and had a heck of a time formatting it. I'm trying to figure out a way for people to submit things in HTML so that it won't be such a time consuming thing for me. In any event, I finally got it up on the forum. If Nigel strongly objects to it being placed as an addendum to his original piece, I'm sure he'll let me know.

-
Thanks.

What hypocrisy!

As one who lived through the Mindbenders and GodMen lawsuits and depositions, (if you remember, Phil Comfort in Columbus was saddled with numerous legal duties back in the late-70's since DCP was not yet formed) we in Columbus heard many things about Gillquist, Sparks, Braun, and the Spiritual Counterfeits Project.

One funny story from the lawsuit days was the so-called "Elephant Coronations." It went something like this. None of these "kids" from the Jesus People Movement had any sort of Christian training, so they needed some credentials to add respectability to their writings. None of them was really qualified to appoint any one else, so they devised an idea to "anoint" one another. Hence they knelt in a circle like a bunch of circus elephants, raised their arms, and "laid hands" on the one next to them. Now, they were all official. Kind of like the Wizard of Oz passing out diplomas for courage.

Witness Lee and Company had a heyday with this in their GodMen lawsuit before Judge Seyranian, who awarded them $11.9Million. It raises the level of hypocrisy to new heights, just thinking about their Eastern Orthodox connections.
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Old 04-18-2016, 12:41 PM   #26
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

I just skimmed through the addendum. The phrase that caught my attention however was Witness Lee saying we should come back to the pure word. Prophesy that today with the intent to drop the ministry publications and just take the Bible. How far will that get you in a local church meeting today? Escorted out of the meeting hall perhaps. What hypocrisy indeed!
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Old 04-18-2016, 01:23 PM   #27
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I just skimmed through the addendum. The phrase that caught my attention however was Witness Lee saying we should come back to the pure word. Prophesy that today with the intent to drop the ministry publications and just take the Bible. How far will that get you in a local church meeting today? Escorted out of the meeting hall perhaps. What hypocrisy indeed!

I was specifically told that returning to the pure word of God was a "tactic of the enemy."
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Old 04-18-2016, 02:20 PM   #28
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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they knelt in a circle like a bunch of circus elephants, raised their arms, and "laid hands" on the one next to them. Now, they were all official. Kind of like the Wizard of Oz passing out diplomas for courage...
Who anointed Witness Lee as the apostle of the age, anyway? Or was it simply when he got his 115th book self-published; everyone looked at each other in astonishment and said, "Surely this is the apostle sent into the world in these last times."

If I could muster ambition, I'd write a play. It would definitely be a comedy - of that I'm sure.
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Old 04-19-2016, 06:47 AM   #29
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Default Re: The Local Church’s Links with Eastern Orthodoxy - TOMES

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Originally Posted by Nigel Tomes View Post
by adopting Orthodoxy’s deification dogma, Witness Lee has “followed the footsteps” of his “opposers” who initiated the “Apostolic Order”/”Evangelical/Antiochian Orthodox Church”--Peter Gillquist, Jon Braun & Jack Sparks.

In view of the above, we ask:
· When LSM’s Kerry Robichaux declares deification ‘an essential,’ “We in the local churches hold that man may become God in God's salvation,” isn’t he taking the same stand as the “Antiochian Orthodox Church”?
Not sure why appealing to ancient sources is wrong, except that the LC decries it as "traditions of men" if anyone else does it.

I don't think theosis is wrong as an idea, per se. But it isn't profitable for public discourse, save to drive a wedge between oneself and others. Origen taught on theosis, but only privately, to those who were able to handle solid food. Publicly he taught repentance from sins, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and good works consistent with that confession. Origen knew that raising controversial issues of which there was no clear answer would only confuse the assembly and weaken its testimony before the unbelievers. If WL only had such reticence and circumspection!! But no, WL was convinced he could go where no man had gone before, and still return alive and whole. In this he was yet another "dime store prophet", one among dozens or even hundreds of misled souls, presuming for themselves places which the Lord had not appointed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Romans 12:3
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (NIV)
Where was the 'sober judgment' when WL unveiled his version of theosis for the LC masses? People were running up and down the aisles, screaming, "I'm a God-man!!" The teaching was designed to stir up the crowds, keep them in a state of excitement, confusion, and imbalance. "Winds of teaching", indeed: there was no critical reflection, that I saw; no public discourse (not that there ever was any, in the LC).
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Old 04-19-2016, 01:01 PM   #30
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Default Re: The Local Church’s Links with Eastern Orthodoxy - TOMES

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I don't think theosis is wrong as an idea, per se. But it isn't profitable for public discourse, save to drive a wedge between oneself and others. Origen taught on theosis, but only privately, to those who were able to handle solid food. Publicly he taught repentance from sins, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and good works consistent with that confession. Origen knew that raising controversial issues of which there was no clear answer would only confuse the assembly and weaken its testimony before the unbelievers.
Great research on Origen. I completely agree.

I have mentioned before my objections to this teaching, and that is one of them.

Witness Lee introduced this so-called "high peak" teaching, basically rehashing a statement by Athanasius, in the immediate aftermath of that nasty "storm" of the late 80's. He sold it to us as revelation from the throne of God following an intense period of persecution by evil and ambitious men (does that really sound like John Ingalls to you?) seeking to destroy him and his ministry to the LC's. Then he further told us that his terminal cancer was the result of a Satanic attack on him for releasing this same teaching to the LC's.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Just read both sides of history for yourself if you desire to know the truth.

When I learned that the famed "storm" was just a smear job so that Lee could cover up corruption at LSM by his son Phillip, I wondered how the righteous Lord of glory could grant such extra-Biblical "revelations" to Witness Lee at this time? If His throne was truly founded on righteousness, then some serious repentance was needed at LSM long before God would even grant His grace, let alone "high peak" teachings heretofore not even given to the apostles.
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Old 04-19-2016, 10:32 PM   #31
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

"by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature"
2 Peter 1:4

and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him
1 John 3:2

When it comes to any major teaching/doctrine, I think it is always best to keep as close to the Word of God as possible, especially one as important as this matter of deification or theosis. Any church father or any early creed should only be allowed to take us as far as the Word of God takes us. In this case, I think it best to stay as close to the scripture writing apostles as possible.

We are all probably very familiar with the two verses I have provided above. One is from the apostle Peter and the other from the apostle John. These were the two closest apostles to the Lord Jesus. I think we would be well-advised to not go too much farther then from these two apostles.

Without boring ya'll with the getting into any of the intricacies of the Greek, I think it might be worth pointing out the most of the major translations use the word "Partaker" in 2 Peter 1:4 (a few using the alternative renderings of "Share" and "Participate".) I am unaware of any English translation of 1 John 3:2 that translates the term "like him" with any other term or phrase.
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Old 04-20-2016, 11:53 AM   #32
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"by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature"
2 Peter 1:4

and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him
1 John 3:2
Dear brother,

So when the apostle John states that "what we will be has not yet appeared" (other translations have it rendered as "what we will be has not yet been manifested"..), do you, in your mind, believe that what he is actually saying is "what we will be is still heavily shrouded in mystery" or "what we will be is impossible to know and cannot be known"? Is this an accurate transliteration? Well, it is not accurate. And I'm sorry I could be mistaken, but I get the impression that this is how you literally understand that verse in your mind when I see you resorting to it as proof that what Li Changshou taught was wide of the mark.

As for myself, when I read that verse in ordinary English, what it says to me (and indulge me for a moment here), is that IF Man is becoming God in Life and Nature, then the reality of that fact has not 'shown itself' yet; or it has not 'become visible in the physical realm of the five senses' at the present time, but will certainly do so. And even more certainly, the verse does not in any way negate the 'truth' (if truth it is) of Man becoming God in Life and Nature, though not in the Godhead. I daresay that you will have to search the Scriptures more diligently to convincingly achieve this purpose i.e. "to see if these things are 'not so'.."

Furthermore, as concerning the last part of that verse, it is almost as if you understand it to say "hey folks, we're just gonna be 'like' him" (but not really like him). It's almost as if you think we're only going to be 'like' Him in as far "facsimile or xerox copies" represent the original, or 'like' some other cheap imitations of Him. I really don't know what it is you really think, but it certainly looks like you've never really considered (or maybe you choose not to mull very deeply over these things, I don't know) that when a grain of wheat falls into the ground (and dies), and then sprouts and shoots back up again to become the full-bodied cereal, the grains that it produces are EXACTLY the same as the original. They are not just 'like' the original grain, they are LIKE the original grain! Nothing more, nothing less! In Life. In Nature. Period.

And Jesus IS from our species. He IS of the human race. He IS a genuine human being. He IS a man in every way conceivable! And He IS also absolutely God! He IS our great God and savior! (Titus 2:13).

He died. He fell into the ground.

Do the math.

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Old 04-21-2016, 12:48 PM   #33
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Default 2 Peter 1:4, 1 John 3:2—Proof Texts for LSM’s Deification Dogma?

2 Peter 1:4, 1 John 3:2
Proof Texts for LSM’s Deification Dogma?

Nigel Tomes

What is the biblical basis for LSM’s deification dogma—that “man may become God”--if indeed any such basis exists? Witness Lee and his LSM adherents appeal to a number of Scriptures, chief among them are 2 Peter 1:4 and 1 John 3:2. Let’s examine them in the light of evangelical biblical scholarship.

“Partakers of the Divine Nature”—2 Peter 1:4


Witness Lee appeals to 2 Peter 1:4 as a proof text justifying his deification dogma. This Scripture says believers are “partakers of the divine nature.” This is the closest Scripture comes to legitimizing the doctrine of deification (theosis). So Dr. Michael F. Bird of Ridley College, Brisbane, Australia, writes, “Theosis is based almost exclusively on 2 Peter 1:4, and though prominent in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, it has never really been a serious contender for the organizing theme of soteriology.”0

Moreover, evangelical scholars reject the notion that deification is implied here. Professor James Starr of Johannelund Theological Seminary (Uppsala, Sweden) writes “2 Peter is not speaking in 1:4 of apotheosis [deification] in the sense of becoming a part of God’s essence or ceasing to be human, but of partaking of specific divine attributes seen perfectly in Christ.”1 The respected commentator, Professor Richard J. Bauckham, says (with characteristic reserve) “It is not very likely that participation in God’s own essence is intended.”2 Yet “participating in God’s own essence” is exactly how Witness Lee defines deification; these scholars deduce that Peter is not talking about that! In his exposition of 2 Peter 1:4, Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY) writes “Peter is not saying that human beings will actually become divine or that they will share in the divine nature in every respect. Believers will share in the divine nature in that they will be morally perfected; they will share in the moral excellence that belongs to God. Believers will ‘participate’ in the divine nature, but they will not become gods…[Thus] James Starr concludes …that sharing in the divine nature does not mean ‘deified’. Instead Peter maintained that believers will share in the moral qualities of Christ.”3 Dr. James Starr directly addresses the question--Does 2 Peter 1:4 Speak of Deification? He answers negatively—it “does not mean ‘deified’.” When considered in its context, “’Sharers in divine nature’ should be read as a theological shorthand for a constellation of ideas: knowledge of Christ producing escape from passion [lust] and decay [corruption] to divine moral excellence & divine immortality, both of which are in the process of being realized already now,” Dr. Starr says.4 “Partakers of the divine nature,” interpreted within its context means believers participate in certain divine attributes (e.g. eternal life, incorruptibility & immortality); they do not become capital ‘G’ God, nor do they become God essentially.

“We will be like Him”--1 John 3:2

Witness Lee also cites to the Apostle John’s writing to justify his doctrine of deification. He says, “1 John 3:2 says, ‘Beloved, now we are children of God...We know that if He is manifested, we will be like Him.’ This verse clearly reveals that we will be like God....John 1:12-13 says that we were born, regenerated, by God with His life. As God's children we are ‘baby gods,’ having God's life and nature but not His Godhead. ...God wants those who can say, ‘...I am God in life and in nature but not in His Godhead.’...The New Testament reveals that we, the believers in Christ, have God’s life and nature and that we are becoming God in life and in nature but will never have His Godhead.”5We note that W. Lee extrapolates from what Scripture says—that we are children of God, born of God—to what the Bible does not say—that we are “baby gods,” who declare ‘I am God…”

It is ironic that W. Lee uses John’s writings to argue that believers become God, since John makes a clear distinction between the two—between the believers who are God’s “children” and Jesus, who is both God and the “Son of God.” As Professor Colin G. Kruse of Melbourne School of Theology, Australia, points out “When the evangelist [John] describes those who believe as ‘children’ of God, he uses the word ‘child’ (teknon). He reserves the word ‘Son’ (huios) for Jesus himself. In this way he [John] maintains a distinction between Jesus as the ‘Son’ of God and the believers as ‘children’ of God.”6 Dr. Kruse and other expositors maintain that the Apostle John makes a conscious distinction between God and man, between Jesus the Son of God, and the believers as children of God. W. Lee ignores and even blurs this distinction.

Note also that John says “we will be like Him;” he does not say “we will be Him,” or anything like that. Oxford University Professor, Alister E. McGrath, states that “a distinction must be drawn between the idea of deification as ‘becoming God’ (theosis) and ‘becoming like God’ (homoiosis theoi).”7 Most evangelicals don’t have a problem with ‘becoming like God’ (homoiosis theoi) or ‘becoming like Christ,” which 1 John 3:2 talks about. But they do have problem with ‘man becoming God’ (theosis).

Conclusion

It seems to me that there are two options regarding the dogma of deification (theosis). Either
[1] it means what it appears to mean—‘man becomes capital ‘G’ God;’ in this case it is heterodox. Or
[2] it does not mean what it appears to mean—i.e. it does not mean that —‘man becomes capital ‘G’ God;’ in this case the label is misleading, it is a misrepresentation.
To me both options are unappealing.

Nigel Tomes,
Toronto, CANADA
April, 2016

Notes:
0. Michael F. Bird, Evangelical Theology: A Biblical & Systematic Introduction, p.]
1. James Starr, Does 2 Peter 1:4 Speak of Deification? p. 85, emphasis added
2. Richard J. Bauckham, Commentary on 1-2 Peter, Jude Prof Richard Bauckham was, until 2007, Professor of NT Studies in the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, UK. He has since retired and is senior scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, UK
3. Thomas R. Schreiner, First, Second Peter, Jude pp. 294-5, emphasis added. Dr. Schreiner is professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.
4. James Starr, Does 2 Peter 1:4 Speak of Deification? p. 84, emphasis original. He also says, “A constellation of ideas is identified in 2 Peter 1:1—11 that informs the meaning of ‘sharers in divine nature.’ By faith a person gains knowledge of Christ, which grants to the Christ-believer two distinct but inseparable divine attributes: the moral excellence of Christ, exhibited with progressive clarity by the Christian, and...the immortality of Christ, with an escape from the decay caused by desire. The parousia [Christ’s return] consummates the Christ-believer’s share in both aspects of divine nature.” (James M. Starr, Sharers in Divine Nature: 2 Peter 1:4 in Its Hellenistic Context. Abstract)
5. W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Samuel, Ch. 25, Sect. 2, pp. 166-167
6. Colin G. Kruse, Gospel according to John: An Introduction & Commentary, p. 67, Marianne M. Thompson makes the same point, see Marianne Meye Thompson, God of the Gospel of John, p. 70
7. Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, p. 339


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Old 04-21-2016, 01:48 PM   #34
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If you are trying to help most LCers, none of this matters. Like I said, your approach will turn most LCers off completely. If you more interested in venting than in appealing to them in a way that will help them break through, then that's fine. Most LCers do believe in this teaching, and acting as though they are idiots for doing so will not serve to help them.
What you said was that rejecting an idea out of hand without really analyzing it will turn off most LCers. When did I do that? When did Tomes do it? I would say Tomes analyzed it pretty well. He's certainly put more consideration into Lee's doctrines than I ever did when I was in the LC. I only started to really analyze them after I'd left.

What you seem to be saying is that LCers have really analyzed this doctrine, while others haven't, including Tomes. Or said another way, if you don't agree with the doctrine you haven't adequately analyzed it. Which is LC-think all the way.

My point was that LCers really CANNOT adequately analyze this doctrine or any of Lee's doctrines for that matter as long as they are afraid that if they do and decide he was wrong they are basically through with the LC. That kind of pressure does not lend itself to freedom of thought, or accurate thought of any kind.

LCers like to think they've really analyzed Lee's doctrines, when mostly what they've done is given in to them because of the pressure put on by the group to believe them. They accept simplistic, pat support like "you are what you eat." But when asked "if God has moved into my soul why is my soul still capable of such evil when I'm not in the Spirit?" they have nothing to say. They just ignore these types of questions because they aren't really interested in getting to the bottom of the truth so much as they are interested in agreeing with Lee, because that's what their culture demands.

How can you say it's the people who do NOT feel the freedom to adequately analyze these doctrines who have done so, while those who do feel the freedom to do so have not? That's highly unlikely.

This is a real question. I'm sorry if it makes you or others feel uncomfortable. I'm not trying to insult anyone. But my point goes to the crux of the problem with this and any other debate with LCers about what they believe.
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Old 04-21-2016, 02:47 PM   #35
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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Originally Posted by Sheepdawg View Post
Furthermore, as concerning the last part of that verse, it is almost as if you understand it to say "hey folks, we're just gonna be 'like' him" (but not really like him). It's almost as if you think we're only going to be 'like' Him in as far "facsimile or xerox copies" represent the original, or 'like' some other cheap imitations of Him. I really don't know what it is you really think, but it certainly looks like you've never really considered (or maybe you choose not to mull very deeply over these things, I don't know) that when a grain of wheat falls into the ground (and dies), and then sprouts and shoots back up again to become the full-bodied cereal, the grains that it produces are EXACTLY the same as the original. They are not just 'like' the original grain, they are LIKE the original grain! Nothing more, nothing less! In Life. In Nature. Period.

And Jesus IS from our species. He IS of the human race. He IS a genuine human being. He IS a man in every way conceivable! And He IS also absolutely God! He IS our great God and savior! (Titus 2:13).

He died. He fell into the ground. Do the math.
Why would you link yourself to heretical cults, claiming that we all become Gods or gods, and then use the church fathers and human logic to explain your way out of it? Don't you think Peter, Paul, and John had ample opportunity to explicitly say this had they been so inspired by the Spirit?

But alas the Bible never says it, so we don't believe it. I did the math, searched the Book, and have settled on the words of scripture. They are enough for me, why are they not sufficient for you? Have you not read Lee's teachings in the early days rejecting this errant teaching? Then Lee flip-flopped on this teaching, and you bought the whole package. Think about what you have done.

But in true Lee form, you would rather side with the likes of new-agers who claim to be god, and at the same time stand against the greater orthodox body of Christ, who are content to be "like Him.". For some reason Lee never knew who his enemies were. He made enemies of genuine brothers, and with this teaching, he sided with those who reject the truth.

Can you also explain why the Lord of glory would give Lee such a "revelation" following a coverup and smear campaign orchestrated by LSM to coverup unrighteous in their offices by Lee's son? Why would He withhold this "truth" from the original apostles who were faithful unto death, and give it to Lee, who did so much damage to the body of Christ with his money-making schemes?
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Old 04-21-2016, 05:05 PM   #36
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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Originally Posted by Sheepdawg View Post

Do the math.
Yes, do the math. And the math says, don't teach as dogma that which goes "beyond what is written."

I can "do the math" on a lot of things and come up with all kinds of interesting conclusions that are not clearly taught in the Bible.

We all have our pet theories about things which the Bible doesn't make exactly clear. But it's one thing to speculate about them and another to teach and insist on them as fundamental doctrines. I shouldn't even have to mention that it is inexcusable to take them so far that they divide the Body. But I guess I do have to mention it.

Witness Lee didn't know the difference. Hopefully we won't repeat his mistake.
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Old 04-21-2016, 06:31 PM   #37
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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Witness Lee didn't know the difference. Hopefully we won't repeat his mistake.
Oh, he knew the difference. Avarice and pride was in the way.
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Old 04-21-2016, 06:44 PM   #38
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

Here is what I think is an intelligent question.

How does one become God in life and nature but not the Godhead? What part of God is not Godhead? How can anything truly be God but not be the Godhead? Is there some small corner of God that is not the Godhead?

Bottom line: If it's God, then it's the Godhead. And if it's not the Godhead, then it's not God.

There is no way to "be God" and not be the Godhead.

Isn't that "doing the math?"

Also, claiming one can be God but not the Godhead opens the door wide to claims that Jesus was God but not Godhead.
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Old 04-21-2016, 08:52 PM   #39
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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So when the apostle John states that "what we will be has not yet appeared" (other translations have it rendered as "what we will be has not yet been manifested"..), do you, in your mind, believe that what he is actually saying is "what we will be is still heavily shrouded in mystery" or "what we will be is impossible to know and cannot be known"?
Come on dawg, you're pullin a Li Changshou on me bro. Don't be that way! You're doing the same thing Witness did when he engaged in that silly rhetoric of "how many life giving Spirits are there?!". You're being either theologically naive, or just begging the question as far as you can beg it. Either way it ain't pretty.

"What we will be" is somewhat shrouded in mystery, at least as far as what we know from the Gospels and the writings of the early apostles. The closest we get is probably found in a chapter you should be very familiar with - 1 Corinthians 15. The apostle Paul relates how we will "all be transformed" and given a "spiritual body". (Gk: ψυχικός ψυχικός) This, of course, is at the time of our resurrection. Our Lord Jesus has been resurrected and became our forerunner in receiving a spiritual body - And THIS, by the way, is the actual meaning of "the last Adam became a life-giving spirit". (a discussion for another day!) This gives us our best description of "what we will be like"....like it or not.

But, let's not get too far off the beaten path of the LSM's Deification Doctrine. According to Lee's later teachings, and those apparently espoused by the Blended brothers, we are actually becoming God in life and nature during our physical, earthly lives. As so many other's have point out here, the scriptures do not support such a notion. "Partaking of the divine nature" is NOT becoming the divine nature, or life as it were. "Shall be like him" is NOT becoming him during our time on earth. You can't provide scriptures to support such a notion because there just ain't any to be found.

Quote:
I really don't know what it is you really think, but it certainly looks like you've never really considered (or maybe you choose not to mull very deeply over these things, I don't know) that when a grain of wheat falls into the ground (and dies), and then sprouts and shoots back up again to become the full-bodied cereal, the grains that it produces are EXACTLY the same as the original. They are not just 'like' the original grain, they are LIKE the original grain! Nothing more, nothing less! In Life. In Nature. Period.
No you obviously don't know what it is I really think....and how could you from one post that contained just a couple of verses and three short paragraphs! (sorry it was late and I was falling asleep at the keyboard). Interesting that you used the "grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies" analogy - that is the exact same analogy that Paul used in 1 Corinthians 15. Of course Paul expanded and expounded upon this (using the analogy of earthly and heavenly bodies). Yes the grain that the seed produces are exactly the same as the original, but this is something they BECOME at the end of a process, and this is what is referred to by the apostle John in 1 John 3 and also by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. Now what Peter was referring to in 2 Peter 1:4 ("Partakers of the divine nature") is something related our current disposition here in our earthly life - the here and now - which is why he mentions "all things that pertain to life and godliness" in the preceding verse (vr 3).

Quote:
And Jesus IS from our species. He IS of the human race. He IS a genuine human being. He IS a man in every way conceivable! And He IS also absolutely God! He IS our great God and savior! (Titus 2:13).
Actually Jesus came to die for our species - rightly noted by Charles Wesley in that familiar hymn - "And bled for Adam’s helpless race". No he is NOT a man in every way conceivable - that would mean that he became sinful. You did get the great God and savior part right.

Quote:
He died. He fell into the ground.
Right. But we have not yet. Keep that in mind. But we have a hope, and every dawg has his day.


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Old 04-21-2016, 09:57 PM   #40
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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I really don't know what it is you really think, but it certainly looks like you've never really considered (or maybe you choose not to mull very deeply over these things, I don't know) that when a grain of wheat falls into the ground (and dies), and then sprouts and shoots back up again to become the full-bodied cereal, the grains that it produces are EXACTLY the same as the original. They are not just 'like' the original grain, they are LIKE the original grain! Nothing more, nothing less! In Life. In Nature. Period.
There are many analogies and comparisons which the Lord uses to illustrate our relationship with him. However, to extrapolate from the illustration of a grain producing many grains the conclusion that we "become God" in life and nature is like saying we will grow wool and go bah-bah because Jesus called us sheep. There are some things that you can gather from illustrations and some you should not. Jesus' illustration was to show that by dying and resurrecting he would produce many others who were like him. Much beyond that is just speculation.

You've already pointed out that John made clear that "it is not clear what we shall be." The problem is you are trying to clearly define what we shall be when the Bible already said it isn't clear. Why are you doing that? If John (or Paul or Peter) was clear we were becoming God or felt we should be clear about it, don't you think he would have made that clear to us rather than saying it wasn't clear? Is this clear enough?

Paul obviously knew some things he didn't share, because he said he heard things "unlawful for men to speak." Why would some divine things be unlawful for us to speak? I don't know, but the Bible says some are. Man's first sin was to seek knowledge God didn't want him to have. I believe in seeking knowledge. But we need to stop short of declaring theories as facts; we need to beware of going "beyond what is written."

As I said, we all have theories. Nothing wrong with considering things. I do it. What I try to avoid is insisting on things which are just my theories. And thinking we will become God is just that, a theory. Believe it if you want to. But I think it's a mistake to major on it.

Again, however, it's one of those things LCers feel like they have to believe (and defend) because Lee taught it, no matter how they actually feel about it. I don't see how you can come to truly sober conclusions being subject that kind of pressure and mindset.
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Old 04-21-2016, 11:19 PM   #41
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?...proof that what Li Changshou taught was wide of the mark.
Yes, the man you honor was so wide of the mark that he swindled money from the saints, called all who don't receive his teaching as whores or daughters of the whore, and allowed others to exalt him above all other men. Honor WL if you must, but I will honor the Lord and consider all men as Paul considered himself. I submit that the man-honoring blendeds are so wide of the mark that they will be lucky to be "last" in the kingdom.
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Old 04-22-2016, 06:54 AM   #42
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How does one become God in life and nature but not the Godhead? What part of God is not Godhead? How can anything truly be God but not be the Godhead? Is there some small corner of God that is not the Godhead?

Bottom line: If it's God, then it's the Godhead. And if it's not the Godhead, then it's not God.
And that's where the disclaimers come in: "We're becoming EXACTLY like God*"

(*Well, not exactly. Not in the Godhead. Not as an object of worship. That would be heretical.)

But God doesn't have disclaimers, and partialities. There aren't "baby Gods" and "acting Gods"; not in this age. And if there are, in fact "levels" or "degrees of God-hood" in another age, Jesus was pretty specific: "Don't waste your time with empty speculation. Take care of each other. Don't presume anything." See e.g. "What is that to you? You follow Me." in John 21. I could cite another half-dozen verses.

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There is no way to "be God" and not be the Godhead.

Isn't that "doing the math?"

Also, claiming one can be God but not the Godhead opens the door wide to claims that Jesus was God but not Godhead.
Math is an exercise in logic. If A = B, and B = C, then A = C. And so on. If the Word was God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, most of us agree that this means that Jesus was God incarnate. And Jesus Himself used this methodology: "If the Christ was the seed of David, then how did David in spirit call Him Lord, saying the LORD said to my Lord, sit at my right hand..."

Or how about this for logic: "Oh no! Now we've seen God, and we're going to die!!!" Hey dummy, didn't the angel just promise us a child? How are we going to have a child if we're dead? Calm down. Relax and take a deep breath. (cf Judges 13)

But the consensus of the flock is a safeguard for letting our logic take us beyond what's been clearly stated, or even inferred. Let me follow with an example of carrying logic too far.

"If Mary is the mother of Jesus (e.g. 'How then does the mother of my Lord visit me' in Luke 1:43), and Jesus is God, then how can we not say that Mary is the Mother of God?" Um, sorry but if God is without beginning ("from everlasting to everlasting You are God" [Psa 90:2]) then it doesn't make sense for me that God has a mother. And suffice it to say that I'm not alone in this opinion.

Ultimately, theosis as an idea in the LC rests on the fact that Lee said it. Here's LC logic: There is only one apostle per age (oriental culture, more than logic). Therefore whatever the 'apostle' says is right. So if Lee taught theosis, then it is true. Who are you to question the apostle?!? Surely your heart is dark and rebellious!

That is the LC logic.
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Old 04-22-2016, 07:30 AM   #43
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W. Lee denigrates theology and the creeds. He says, “The term theology is misleading. We have only the Bible; we do not have theology. The problems in Christianity began around the 2nd or 3rd century when the church fathers developed a theology from the Bible...On the one hand, the [Nicene] creed was written according to the New Testament...On the other hand, the creed was written according to the teachings of the church fathers.”169 We note that W. Lee distinguishes between theology and the Bible, saying, “We have only the Bible; we do not have theology.” His point is that a theological system can develop way beyond Scripture.

I thought this point Tomes made was very interesting. In the first place, it's very naive and arrogant of Lee to say he had no theology. Every interpretation of scripture is a theology. In fact, by claiming to have no theology, but rather only the "pure word", Lee is raising his theology to the level of the Bible. He is saying there is no difference between his teaching and the Bible, that they are effectively the same.

Now, we should all seek to get our theological beliefs in line with the Bible as much as possible. But by distinguishing between his ministry and "theology" Lee is attempting to elevate his teaching while denigrating all others. He is saying his is not only superior in the details, it is superior in nature. Once again, as pointed out many times before, Lee is employing equivocation here to serve his purposes. Lee is saying effectively, theology (that is, what everybody else teaches) is bad. But I don't teach theology. Of course he taught theology, just not an orthodox one.

But then Lee reverses. After denigrating creeds and councils and early church traditions, Lee appeals to them to support his deification doctrines. Isn't this hypocritical? Isn't some sort of explanation for the change of sentiment in order? But we don't get it.

It's clear Lee denigrated traditions because it served his purpose, and then appealed to them later for the same reason. So without some sort of explanation for the flip-flop I don't see much choice but to conclude he was an opportunist.

Further, Lee denigrated traditions and creeds because either they were incomplete or they went beyond the Bible. But every theology is incomplete, including his. Now by embracing deification he has gone beyond what is written. So he ends up doing the same thing he denigrated the early church for. This is basically what you get with Lee. He was a loose cannon in many ways.
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Old 04-22-2016, 07:55 AM   #44
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Ultimately, theosis as an idea in the LC rests on the fact that Lee said it. Here's LC logic: There is only one apostle per age (oriental culture, more than logic). Therefore whatever the 'apostle' says is right. So if Lee taught theosis, then it is true. Who are you to question the apostle?!? Surely your heart is dark and rebellious!

That is the LC logic.
Right, and as I've said in other ways, you can either think Lee was an apostle who should not be questioned, or you can objectively analyze his teachings. But you cannot do both. The only way to objectively analyze what Lee taught is to assume he was not such an apostle. Otherwise, the psychological pressure to agree with him will interfere with your reasoning ability.

This fact, by the way, is a sound reason to refrain from bestowing "apostle" status on any Christian since the earliest age of the church.
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Old 04-22-2016, 08:48 AM   #45
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"If Mary is the mother of Jesus (e.g. 'How then does the mother of my Lord visit me' in Luke 1:43), and Jesus is God, then how can we not say that Mary is the Mother of God?"

Um, sorry but if God is without beginning ("from everlasting to everlasting You are God" [Psa 90:2]) then it doesn't make sense for me that God has a mother. And suffice it to say that I'm not alone in this opinion.
DO THE MATH?!?

This is absolutely the best example we have from those who love to DO THE MATH and add fallen ideas to the Word of God. What do we get when we "do our math," we get Mary worship. "Oh but it makes so much sense." Being raised Cat'lic I have dealt with this kind of distorted "math" my whole life.

Perhaps my favorite SheepDawg would like to reconsider his comment.
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Old 04-22-2016, 10:33 AM   #46
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Furthermore, as concerning the last part of that verse, it is almost as if you understand it to say "hey folks, we're just gonna be 'like' him" (but not really like him). It's almost as if you think we're only going to be 'like' Him in as far "facsimile or xerox copies" represent the original, or 'like' some other cheap imitations of Him. I really don't know what it is you really think, but it certainly looks like you've never really considered (or maybe you choose not to mull very deeply over these things, I don't know) that when a grain of wheat falls into the ground (and dies), and then sprouts and shoots back up again to become the full-bodied cereal, the grains that it produces are EXACTLY the same as the original. They are not just 'like' the original grain, they are LIKE the original grain! Nothing more, nothing less! In Life. In Nature. Period.

And Jesus IS from our species. He IS of the human race. He IS a genuine human being. He IS a man in every way conceivable! And He IS also absolutely God! He IS our great God and savior! (Titus 2:13).

He died. He fell into the ground.

Do the math.

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Ohio,

The above is what you quoted from me in a previous post. You addressed ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, not a single concern, that was raised in the portion you quoted from my post. Are you only interested in arguing and quarreling?

Here is your near-mindless HARANGUE below...

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Why would you link yourself to heretical cults, claiming that we all become Gods or gods, and then use the church fathers and human logic to explain your way out of it? Don't you think Peter, Paul, and John had ample opportunity to explicitly say this had they been so inspired by the Spirit?

But alas the Bible never says it, so we don't believe it. I did the math, searched the Book, and have settled on the words of scripture. They are enough for me, why are they not sufficient for you? Have you not read Lee's teachings in the early days rejecting this errant teaching? Then Lee flip-flopped on this teaching, and you bought the whole package. Think about what you have done.

But in true Lee form, you would rather side with the likes of new-agers who claim to be god, and at the same time stand against the greater orthodox body of Christ, who are content to be "like Him.". For some reason Lee never knew who his enemies were. He made enemies of genuine brothers, and with this teaching, he sided with those who reject the truth.

Can you also explain why the Lord of glory would give Lee such a "revelation" following a coverup and smear campaign orchestrated by LSM to coverup unrighteous in their offices by Lee's son? Why would He withhold this "truth" from the original apostles who were faithful unto death, and give it to Lee, who did so much damage to the body of Christ with his money-making schemes?
Really, brother?

If you must vent in this way, please see someone who is professionally qualified to handle your issues. Do not use me as some kind of therapy; instead of engaging me in a reasoned and logical discussion.

Grace and peace.
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Old 04-22-2016, 12:02 PM   #47
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There are many analogies and comparisons which the Lord uses to illustrate our relationship with him. However, to extrapolate from the illustration of a grain producing many grains the conclusion that we "become God" in life and nature is like saying we will grow wool and go bah-bah because Jesus called us sheep. There are some things that you can gather from illustrations and some you should not. Jesus' illustration was to show that by dying and resurrecting he would produce MANY OTHERS WHO WERE LIKE HIM. Much beyond that is just speculation.
I wonder what you suppose 'like Him' means? Will we be photocopies of Him? Will we be some cheap knock-offs of Him? Have you ever considered what we will be made of -or 'constituted' with- that it should be said of us that we are ACTUALLY 'like Him'?

Do you think that this phrase is meant only in the 'moral' sense, as some have maintained on this forum? If that is so, then, are not the holy angels of God 'moral', too? Aren't they? Well, of course they are! And have you ever heard it said of any of them that they are 'like Him'? Balderdash!

Could you order to have made a row of plastic dummies made to look like your own son (even down to the minutest detail) and then tell him, "here are your brothers, son"? Would you? Think about that.

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You've already pointed out that John made clear that "it is not clear what we shall be." The problem is you are trying to clearly define what we shall be when the Bible already said it isn't clear. Why are you doing that?
Please do not misquote me. That is NOT what I said (did you remember to clean your reading glasses, brother?) And also, that is CERTAINLY NOT what the Bible says!

There's a big difference between saying 'that something is not clear' and 'that something has not yet appeared'. The Bible makes it very clear that we shall be 'like Him'. It also makes it clear that this event 'has not yet appeared' (or 'been manifested' according to KJV). It did not say that this -which has not yet appeared- is not clear! Have your cobwebs cleared now? [/QUOTE]

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But we need to stop short of declaring theories as facts; we need to beware of going "beyond what is written."

As I said, we all have theories. Nothing wrong with considering things. I do it. What I try to avoid is insisting on things which are just my theories. And thinking we will become God is just that, a theory.
It is not just a theory. Before you go about warning people to 'not go beyond what is written' have you, yourself, considered ALL that is written? You act as if the only evidence given out of the Bible by Li Changshou for this so-called "theory" is a simple verse or two. Well, there's plenty written. Search the Scriptures.

And yes, 'do the math' and see if these things are 'not so'.
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Old 04-22-2016, 01:06 PM   #48
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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I wonder what you suppose 'like Him' means? Will we be photocopies of Him? Will we be some cheap knock-offs of Him? Have you ever considered what we will be made of -or 'constituted' with- that it should be said of us that we are ACTUALLY 'like Him'?
Sure I have. The difference between me and you is I don't pretend to have an answer. While you feel the need to.

Quote:

Do you think that this phrase is meant only in the 'moral' sense, as some have maintained on this forum? If that is so, then, are not the holy angels of God 'moral', too? Aren't they? Well, of course they are! And have you ever heard it said of any of them that they are 'like Him'? Balderdash!
It really doesn't matter what I think about speculative ideas. What matters is what the Bible actually clearly says. I don't think it clearly says what you seem to think it must say.

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Could you order to have made a row of plastic dummies made to look like your own son (even down to the minutest detail) and then tell him, "here are your brothers, son"? Would you? Think about that.
God doesn't make junk. Anything he makes is glorious, whether it fits into my notions or not. Whatever we become will exceed our expectations anyway. Speculation about what we will be is like those pictures of "the car of the future." They are never accurate and in hindsight they usually look silly.

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Please do not misquote me. That is NOT what I said (did you remember to clean your reading glasses, brother?) And also, that is CERTAINLY NOT what the Bible says!

There's a big difference between saying 'that something is not clear' and 'that something has not yet appeared'. The Bible makes it very clear that we shall be 'like Him'. It also makes it clear that this event 'has not yet appeared' (or 'been manifested' according to KJV). It did not say that this -which has not yet appeared- is not clear! Have your cobwebs cleared now?
The passage probably means that we don't know altogether what we shall be, but we know this much--we shall be like him.

There is no compelling reason to interpret the passage to mean that we know precisely what we will be, it just hasn't happened yet. No translation I've seen renders it to that effect, but a couple I've seen render it to the effect I interpret it. E.g.
Dear friends, now we are God's children. What we will be isn't completely clear yet. We do know that when Christ appears we will be like him because we will see him as he is. GWT
Dear friends, we are already God's children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. NLT
It seems to me your interpretation is a strained one. It doesn't flow easily from what the words seem to imply. The natural meaning of the words as written seems to be saying that we don't have all knowledge what we shall be, but we know enough to say we will be like him.

Quote:

It is not just a theory. Before you go about warning people to 'not go beyond what is written' have you, yourself, considered ALL that is written? You act as if the only evidence given out of the Bible by Li Changshou for this so-called "theory" is a simple verse or two. Well, there's plenty written. Search the Scriptures.

And yes, 'do the math' and see if these things are 'not so'.
I have. As far as I've seen there is not enough evidence to insist such a controversial and divisive subject is true. I'm not saying it's wrong or right. I'm saying I don't see sufficient evidence for, nor the wisdom in, insisting on it, especially in the manner you do, which I hope is not characteristic of LCers.

I talked to some Mormon young men some time back. They were adamant that Jesus wasn't God. They were good kids, they might have even been saved. They treated me like a brother. But they were loyal to their Mormon belief about Jesus. My question for them was this: "Assuming we are all members of the Church, what's the probability that your small minority is right about this central, crucial subject and the vast majority of Christians are wrong?"

I'd have the same question for LCers regarding deification.

I think is that it is human nature to want to believe your particular club is the best and always right (particularly when you are taught it is the best and always right), mostly because you belong to it and have bought in on its stuff and don't want to entertain the possibility you made a mistake. So you naturally defend it. It's just human nature. But, really, why is this doctrine so important otherwise? I'd expect young Mormon kids to be zealous for their toys. Assuming you are not a kid, I would advise, in the interest of unity, putting away this toy. At least don't hit people over the head with it as you do.
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Old 04-25-2016, 11:26 AM   #49
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I wonder what you suppose 'like Him' means? Will we be photocopies of Him? Will we be some cheap knock-offs of Him? Have you ever considered what we will be made of -or 'constituted' with- that it should be said of us that we are ACTUALLY 'like Him'?
Lee so liked to go "back to the beginning" on things. And this is a good place for that.

In the beginning, God created man in His image or likeness. Did that make us God? Of course not. But we were created with his likeness. We were intended to be like Him, and to represent Him.

Then things "went South" as they sometimes say. We ceased to bear his likeness — be like Him.

But now we have that chance again. And it is about what we do here on earth, not about what we will look like in the age to come.

But the key is that both the original state and the renewed state are not of a different kind. We are restored to our place as bearers of the image and likeness of God. If they were of a different kind, then it would be important for something to tell us that and none of us have found such a think in the Bible. So we have no basis for thinking we get more than we had in the first place.

Nowhere in that is there a presumption, or need for, "becoming God in life and nature but not in the Godhead." As Igzy well put it, that is beyond what is written. I do not know everything that bearing God's image entails. But it is not presumptively becoming God in any way, shape, or form. And the Bible says nothing about it, so nothing to hang such a teaching on.
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Old 04-27-2016, 12:21 PM   #50
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Lee so liked to go "back to the beginning" on things. And this is a good place for that.

In the beginning, God created man in His image or likeness. Did that make us God? Of course not. But we were created with his likeness. We were intended to be like Him, and to represent Him.

Then things "went South" as they sometimes say. We ceased to bear his likeness — be like Him.

But now we have that chance again. And it is about what we do here on earth, not about what we will look like in the age to come.

But the key is that both the original state and the renewed state are not of a different kind. We are restored to our place as bearers of the image and likeness of God. If they were of a different kind, then it would be important for something to tell us that and none of us have found such a think in the Bible. So we have no basis for thinking we get more than we had in the first place.

Nowhere in that is there a presumption, or need for, "becoming God in life and nature but not in the Godhead." As Igzy well put it, that is beyond what is written. I do not know everything that bearing God's image entails. But it is not presumptively becoming God in any way, shape, or form. And the Bible says nothing about it, so nothing to hang such a teaching on.
A good summing up by OBW. A few comments follow.

Regarding being "like" God, we are also told in the NT that we will be "like the angels in heaven", but it doesn't say we'll be angels. So "like" can mean really, really like, or merely somewhat like, depending on how many qualifiers, if any, one wants to add. And the qualifiers part, whether and how many to add, seems to be somewhat arbitrary depending on the argument being put forth. So beware of "like" being the ground on which your conceptual structure resides.

Second, to the idea of agency, or representation, as OBW put it. The Secretary of State, or the Ambassador to a country, is "like" the president in that they all represent the interests of the nation abroad. When the Secretary of State opens his or her mouth and speaks to a leader, one hopes that they represent the interests of the President. But "like" doesn't mean "is". The idea of agency has helped me because it shows me something about relationships, and cooperation.

A rich man sent his servants abroad, to a far country, to represent his interests. They were arguably "one" with the rich man. But they were not the rich man.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew 21:33-34
Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:

And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.
The rich man sends forth agents to do His bidding. They look like Him, speak for Him, and do His will. But they are not Him. "Do not worship me! I am your fellow servant! Worship God!" (Rev 22:9).

The servants are "like" God. They are holy, like God. They even are in glory, like God. (Matt 25:31; Luke 9:26) John is astonished and falls down, as he did when he saw Jesus in the first chapter of the Apocalypse. But the servant, though in many respects like God, says, "I am not God".
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Old 04-27-2016, 08:39 PM   #51
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

You guys are making some insightful points on this topic.

I came across a verse in my morning reading (Exodus 4:16). I'm not where I can copy it in context. But, I think it is a good example of "like God" meaning His agent.
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Old 04-28-2016, 04:17 AM   #52
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

Although the WL’s concept of deification is different from the Eastern Orthodox understanding of theosis, I still believe that the doctrine of 'deification' is biblical.

The doctrine, which refers to the transformation of believers into the likeness of God, was strong in the earliest Church Fathers (1-2nd Century CE), then it bloomed with 4-5th century Fathers, and at last it died in the western Latin speaking church – the Roman Catholic Church. However, the doctrine remained alive in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Probably, WL read some Eastern Church Fathers and used their writings for his own speculation.

The correct translation of the St. Athanasius’s statement would be this: "The Son of God became man, that we might become gods". The second “g” must be lowercase since man can neither become a God nor share God’s essence. As I said earlier, in Eastern Orthodox theology, the teaching of deification (Greek theosis) refers to the attainment of likeness of God/Christ or union with God. It is the process of a believer becoming holy, free of his corrupted nature and sins, being united with God, and later consummated in bodily resurrection.

Salvation for Eastern Orthodox theology is more than the forgiveness of sins or justification. It is also deification (theosis) - the transformation of the believer by the grace of God to become a partaker of the Divine Nature, conforming him/her into being Christ-like.

This doctrine is based on Old Testament (Psalm 82:6 "Ye are gods and children of the most high.") and New Testament (2 Peter 1:4 “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires”).

“Participating/partaking in the divine nature” does not mean that we participate in God’s essence (ousia). Rather we are transformed into the likeness of Christ through participation in His grace, i.e., divine energies. The footnote commentary in the Orthodox Study Bible for 2 Peter 1:4 reads:

This [Theosis] does not mean we become divine by nature. If we participated in God’s essence, the distinction between God and man would be abolished. What this does mean is that we participate in God’s energy, described by a number of terms in scripture, such as glory, life, love, virtue, and power. We are to become like God by his grace and truly His adopted children, but never becoming God by nature.

Deification, according to the Orthodox teaching, is no more and no less than the adoptive sonship proclaimed by the Apostle Paul (Rom. 8:9-17; Gal. 4:5-7): our acceptance and recognition by the Father as His sons by grace, in and through our incorporation into His only-begotten Son by nature, Jesus Christ, in His body, the Church, by way of the Spirit of sonship (Rom. 8:15) – the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:9). This is a work of God effected in and by Jesus Christ through His incarnation and atoning work, received in baptism, continued through a life lived in conformity with Christ and his commandments, and consummated in the Eucharist – the prayer of sonship, wherein we are enabled to call upon God as “our Father,” thus becoming “gods” through worthy eucharistic communion. Finally, this deification and sonship will be revealed in fullness at the glorious future resurrection unto life, “the manifestation of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19).

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see him as He is (1 John 3:2).

Paul conceives of the resurrection as immortalization of both the body and the soul (1 Cor 15:42-49). In 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, Paul says "And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

In John 10:34, Jesus defends himself against a charge of blasphemy by stating: "Have I not said that ye are gods?"

BTW, St. Athanasius (c.296 - 373) was not original. He only repeated the words of St Irenaeus (c. 130 - 202), bishop of Lyon, who said, 'if the Word has been made man, it is so that men may be made gods'. Another translation: "If the Word became a man, It was so men may become gods." (A resident of Smyrna, St Irenaeus had listened to the preaching of St. Polycarp who was a disciple of John the Evangelist, so we can assume that the teaching of deification was not St Irenaeus’ idea).
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Old 04-28-2016, 04:31 AM   #53
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

The theme of “humanity becoming gods” is found throughout the Church Fathers. For them, deification is the innermost goal of human existence. In the first few centuries of Christianity, we have Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Theophilus of Antioch, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus of Rome, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and even Augustine advocating for this view of salvation:

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215): "Yea, I say, the Word of God became a man so that you might learn from a man how to become a god.”

Justin Martyr (c. 100-165): "[Men] were made like God, free from suffering and death, provided that they kept His commandments, and were deemed deserving of the name of His sons, and yet they, becoming like Adam and Eve, work out death for themselves; let the interpretation of the Psalm be held just as you wish, yet thereby it is demonstrated that all men are deemed worthy of becoming “gods,” and of having power to become sons of the Highest."

Theophilus of Antioch (c. 120-190): "For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him god. Again, if He had made him mortal, God would seem to be the cause of his death. Neither, then, immortal nor yet mortal did He make him, but, as we have said above, capable of both; so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become god..."

Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170-235): "And you shall be a companion of the Deity, and a co-heir with Christ, no longer enslaved by lusts or passions, and never again wasted by disease. For you have become God: for whatever sufferings you underwent while being a man, these He gave to you, because you were of mortal mould, but whatever it is consistent with God to impart, these God has promised to bestow upon you, because you have been deified, and begotten unto immortality"
"If, therefore, man has become immortal, he will also be god. And if he is made god by water and the Holy Spirit after the regeneration of the laver he is found to be also joint-heir with Christ after the resurrection from the dead."

Augustine of Hippo (c. 354-430): "'For He hath given them power to become the sons of God.' If we have been made sons of God, we have also been made gods."

St Gregory Nazianzus (c. 329-390), a 4th-century Archbishop of Constantinople, says that the root of a person's true greatness and calling lay in being "called to be a god".

St Basil the Great
(AD 329 or 330 – AD 379) states that "the goal of our calling is to become like god".

These Church Fathers lived in different times and different locations but they all believed that the ultimate redemptive destiny of humanity is to attain likeness to God and union with Him. Deification denotes a direct union and a total transformation of the human person with the living God by divine grace.

C. S. Lewis absolutely understood and expressed the concept of deification in his book, Mere Christianity:

“The command “Be ye perfect” is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creatures, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to Him perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what he said.”

When Nigel Tomes says that “the noun theosis, rendered ‘deification’ or ‘divinization,’ does not correspond to any New Testament word”, his words do not sound more plausible than the argument that if the word "trinity" is not found in the Bible, therefore it isn't true. It is illogical to claim that since “theosis” or “Trinity” are not found in the Bible, that their concepts are not taught therein. For example, there are other words that the Bible does not use, but the concepts are mentioned: Atheism (Psalm 14:1), Divinity (Psalm 139 and Col. 2:9) and Incarnation (John 1:1, 14).

There are other inaccuracies in the NT's article concerning the Eastern Orthodox theology but it’s a different topic. Anyway, I just wanted to say that the concept of deification is biblical. “God became man so that man might become god” can be called a summary of what the message of the Gospel is.

For a better understanding of theosis, I would recommend these three articles:

Theosis: Partaking of the Divine Nature by Mark Shuttleworth

http://www.antiochian.org/content/th...-divine-nature

That Man Might Become God By Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick

http://www.antiochian.org/man-might-become-god

“Theosis and Our Salvation in Christ” by Robert Arakaki

http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthod...ion-in-christ/

God bless.
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Old 04-28-2016, 05:47 AM   #54
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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Originally Posted by InChristAlone View Post
Anyway, I just wanted to say that the concept of deification is biblical. “God became man so that man might become god” can be called a summary of what the message of the Gospel is.
Hi ICA, Thanks for the thoughtful post.

Here is a quote from the first article you recommend.
Most certainly, humans are not accorded ontological equality with God, nor are they considered to merge or co-mingle with the being of God as He is in His essence.
The first part of the statement could match the LC "not the Godhead" clause, but the second part pretty much contradicts the LC position on this--co-mingling with the divine essence is a cornerstone of LC belief.

"Becoming gods" and "becoming God" are two very different things. The word "gods" need only imply that we become a higher type of being than we are now. I don't think many Christians have a problem with that idea. But "becoming God" means something else altogether. And I think speculation on such a thing is folly, because we are delving into ideas the Bible is not specific enough about to say definitely ourselves. In doing so we are "making up the gap" between what the Bible says and what we think it must imply. But we don't have the wisdom to do that in many cases, and certainly not when our speculative conclusion is that we "become God." Qualifiers or not, it's just a phrase we should stay away from.

If by theosis you mean getting so close to God or so united with him that we become some kind of higher order of being than we are now, then fine. I think there is a biblical case for that. But once "we become God" comes out of your mouth or pen or keyboard, you are in over your head.

The problem I have with the deification crowd is that they act like they know what they are talking about when they really don't. No one really knows what "become God in life and nature but not the Godhead" means. It sounds profound, it obviously satisfies some need in some people for the "ultimate destiny," but the bottom line is there is not enough biblical ground to say something that those who say it don't really understand the meaning of anyway. It's like saying "square circles." It might call up a feeling or image that you think has profundity, but who knows whether it does or not?

Here's another thought. LC doctrine says we have the humanity of Jesus, right? Just like they say we have the divinity of God. But though we have the humanity of Jesus, does that mean we are becoming Jesus? Why don't we say this? I would say because we clearly look at Jesus as an individual and we know we cannot become another individual. But for some reason some of us don't look at God as much as a individual. They look at him as some kind of force or nature they can take in without taking in his personality. But if you can't become Jesus you can't become God, because Jesus is God.

My son is born from me but he is not me, he has a different personality, he is a different person. So it is with us as sons of God. You can't become God without losing your personality because God is a person.

So what "become God in life and nature but not the Godhead" really means is "become God in life and nature but not person," which is a "square circles" statement.
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Old 04-28-2016, 06:49 AM   #55
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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Originally Posted by InChristAlone View Post
In John 10:34, Jesus defends himself against a charge of blasphemy by stating: "Have I not said that ye are gods?"
I have an entirely different reading of this scene. Jesus has been accused of blasphemy, saying that God is His Father. "You, being a man, are making Yourself God". They are saying that His father is a man.

But Jesus turns the tables on them. They are judging Him, but He uses scripture to show that by analogy, they are failed judges. He only quotes part of the passage in question, but (so I surmise) He would have expected them to remember the rest of the quote, and fill in the blanks: "But you will die like men."

This "death of the gods" has two possible meanings. First is to the immortals who took upon themselves flesh, and became incarnated, thus trespassing the command of the Most High God, and accordingly they were condemned to die. The apocryphal book of Enoch has a long riff on this, following Genesis 6:1-6; see also Jude's "angels who didn't keep their places but transgressed, were cast down"; cf Peter's writing of Tartarus, gloom and chains. These were the failed gods.

Secondly, it refers to crooked Judges who take bribes and evince partiality. God has given them power on earth over men, but they became seduced by the trappings of authority, and greed and fear. Thus they were condemned for their abuse of the God-given position.

I feel that both readings are mutually supportive. In each the principle is the same: there is one God; one may, in some limited temporal sense, represent God, but nobody usurps God. The monotheism of the Hebrew faith is secure. Do not leave your allotted portion!!!

And there was only one Man who made it into humanity and out again (discounting Enoch and Elijah, who in my view prefigure the Messiah). This one man alone had the allotted portion of Christ, and was able to put on the flesh of humanity and return, whole and alive, before His Father in heaven. All others, angels and men, were tried this were corrupted and destroyed. For this He, Jesus alone, became the pathway of salvation.

But back to "you are gods" - Jesus used the "death of the failed gods" to show that his accusers were like dust: raised up for a moment, then cast down to nothingness. I doubt such a passage supports theosis as currently discussed.

And I don't think the idea of theosis is untrue, per say. Just that it is #1 unprovable from our perspective, #2 a Greek-influenced speculation that poked hard at the Jewish idea of monotheism as it was then understood, and should be held warily, and #3 that while it may provide comfort and encouragement to some, it can also be a source of quarrels among the faith, and stumbling to the weak. So my counsel is to drop it as a prominent, wave-the-flag "high peak" doctrinal item.

But I do respect ICA greatly, his faith and his church. And I have been helped by the Fathers immeasurably. But in this one area I'm wary of seizing their ideas too strongly. It's simply too speculative as it stands; and one has to put all these modifiers around the word "God" such that it can coexist with the Jewish monotheism. So then what do we have? "Baby gods"? I don't see the lure, here.
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Old 04-28-2016, 06:56 AM   #56
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

Here's another, more basic, issue I have with the whole LC mindset about deification and even our relationship with God in general.

The Greek Orthodox doctrine talks about the essences of God as opposed to the energies of God; or, as I understand it, what LCers would call the nature of God and the attributes of God. LCers are never satisfied with simply obtaining the attributes of God, that is, becoming like him. They feel the need to obtain the nature of God--to in some sense become him. This goes back to Witness Lee's whole emphasis on "life." He took "life" well beyond the biblical meaning and jumped to all kinds of metabolic conclusions about how eating and growth and becoming God fit together. His conclusion: simply being like God was not enough, we must become God in some ontological sense.

But think about what God is. Is he a nature, or a Person? And is it really "better" to become like him by getting his nature than through getting to know him and making conscious, moral decisions to follow him? I would say no.

Suppose I wanted to become a great golfer like Justin Spieth. What would really be more profound and meaningful: Just getting a DNA transplant from Spieth, and basically becoming him in nature, and automatically being like him? Or would it be more meaningful to make decisions and sacrifices to do things the way Spieth did, and by work and practice and discipline to become more like him?

Morally speaking there is no comparison. The latter is much more meaningful. Getting injections of Spieth's DNA, imbibing his nature, really takes little moral fortitude. But the everyday decisions and sacrifices to do what it would take to be like him gives the whole exercise great meaning.

Think about what would please God more. Is he really just all about getting his nature into us? Or is he about us consciously learning, deciding to be like him?

LCers have always been wrongheaded about the process of sanctification. Yes, we have the empowering of the Holy Spirit to help us. He is the wind beneath our wings. But we must still spread our winds and flap them. We must make the moral decisions day after day to follow and obey God. It is those conscious decisions that make what we do worthy of reward, not some "spontaneous, automatic" life process that was taking place unconsciously on our behalf.

The point is not to get injected with God's nature so that we become God. The point is to follow the path of conscious, moral decisions in fellowship with God which by doing so change us into something else--something so much like him that he calls us sons. Yes, in some sense having partaken of his nature, but still always remaining ourselves, otherwise there is no us to follow him anymore.

The point is relationship, not chemical process.

That to me is much more meaningful.
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Old 04-28-2016, 02:52 PM   #57
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

Igzy,

Profound. I liked this part the best:

Quote:
Suppose I wanted to become a great golfer like Justin Spieth. What would really be more profound and meaningful: Just getting a DNA transplant from Spieth, and basically becoming him in nature, and automatically being like him? Or would it be more meaningful to make decisions and sacrifices to do things the way Spieth did, and by work and practice and discipline to become more like him?

Morally speaking there is no comparison. The latter is much more meaningful. Getting injections of Spieth's DNA, imbibing his nature, really takes little moral fortitude. But the everyday decisions and sacrifices to do what it would take to be like him gives the whole exercise great meaning.
I have ranted for some time about Lee's "wait for the dispensing" theology and gotten a fair bit of push back from even the die-hard LCM exes. You've made the argument I just couldn't see or make.

The bible is full of commands to do and essentially none to just wait. Even the vine-branches analogy is about a relationship in which there is constant activity doing something with what has been provided, not waiting for more to be provided before stopping.

In human terms, waiting for the dispensing would be called a blood clot. It tends to kill, not empower.

Unfortunately, the idea that we just take grace for our failures as we wait for the internal fortitude to actually do something, while truly available, is not the purpose of grace. Most of those who came to see Jesus, or were healed by Him, remained where they were. And were told to live according to the righteousness of God that they well knew because it was written in the Torah. Jesus moved on and they went back home and lived right. Or at least that was their target.

Lee's target was osmosis. Exercise by watching exercise videos from the comfort of his easy chair.
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Old 04-28-2016, 08:23 PM   #58
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

Quote:
Originally Posted by InChristAlone View Post
The theme of “humanity becoming gods” is found throughout the Church Fathers. For them, deification is the innermost goal of human existence. In the first few centuries of Christianity, we have Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Theophilus of Antioch, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus of Rome, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and even Augustine advocating for this view of salvation:

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150–215): "Yea, I say, the Word of God became a man so that you might learn from a man how to become a god.”

Justin Martyr (c. 100-165): "[Men] were made like God, free from suffering and death, provided that they kept His commandments, and were deemed deserving of the name of His sons, and yet they, becoming like Adam and Eve, work out death for themselves; let the interpretation of the Psalm be held just as you wish, yet thereby it is demonstrated that all men are deemed worthy of becoming “gods,” and of having power to become sons of the Highest."

Theophilus of Antioch (c. 120-190): "For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him god. Again, if He had made him mortal, God would seem to be the cause of his death. Neither, then, immortal nor yet mortal did He make him, but, as we have said above, capable of both; so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become god..."

Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170-235): "And you shall be a companion of the Deity, and a co-heir with Christ, no longer enslaved by lusts or passions, and never again wasted by disease. For you have become God: for whatever sufferings you underwent while being a man, these He gave to you, because you were of mortal mould, but whatever it is consistent with God to impart, these God has promised to bestow upon you, because you have been deified, and begotten unto immortality"
"If, therefore, man has become immortal, he will also be god. And if he is made god by water and the Holy Spirit after the regeneration of the laver he is found to be also joint-heir with Christ after the resurrection from the dead."

Augustine of Hippo (c. 354-430): "'For He hath given them power to become the sons of God.' If we have been made sons of God, we have also been made gods."

St Gregory Nazianzus (c. 329-390), a 4th-century Archbishop of Constantinople, says that the root of a person's true greatness and calling lay in being "called to be a god".

St Basil the Great
(AD 329 or 330 – AD 379) states that "the goal of our calling is to become like god".

These Church Fathers lived in different times and different locations but they all believed that the ultimate redemptive destiny of humanity is to attain likeness to God and union with Him. Deification denotes a direct union and a total transformation of the human person with the living God by divine grace.

C. S. Lewis absolutely understood and expressed the concept of deification in his book, Mere Christianity:

“The command “Be ye perfect” is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creatures, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to Him perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what he said.”

When Nigel Tomes says that “the noun theosis, rendered ‘deification’ or ‘divinization,’ does not correspond to any New Testament word”, his words do not sound more plausible than the argument that if the word "trinity" is not found in the Bible, therefore it isn't true. It is illogical to claim that since “theosis” or “Trinity” are not found in the Bible, that their concepts are not taught therein. For example, there are other words that the Bible does not use, but the concepts are mentioned: Atheism (Psalm 14:1), Divinity (Psalm 139 and Col. 2:9) and Incarnation (John 1:1, 14).

There are other inaccuracies in the NT's article concerning the Eastern Orthodox theology but it’s a different topic. Anyway, I just wanted to say that the concept of deification is biblical. “God became man so that man might become god” can be called a summary of what the message of the Gospel is.

For a better understanding of theosis, I would recommend these three articles:

Theosis: Partaking of the Divine Nature by Mark Shuttleworth

http://www.antiochian.org/content/th...-divine-nature

That Man Might Become God By Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick

http://www.antiochian.org/man-might-become-god

“Theosis and Our Salvation in Christ” by Robert Arakaki

http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthod...ion-in-christ/

God bless.
As a Protestant I believe that which was written in the New Testament is true (not necessarily scientifically) and is useful for teaching, doctrine and correction. I hope that I am learning to respect and benefit from the writings of the early Church Fathers, but I do not equate them as scripture to be used to form doctrines, teachings, etc. I'm positive that there are many spiritual blessings from their teachings, but each one must be evaluated with scripture and where not congruent rejected. Rejecting Athanasius' (sorry for the spelling) teaching on theosis is not the same as rejecting Paul's teaching on marriage, at least to this Protestant.
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Old 04-29-2016, 12:51 AM   #59
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Igzy View Post
Hi ICA, Thanks for the thoughtful post.

Here is a quote from the first article you recommend.
Most certainly, humans are not accorded ontological equality with God, nor are they considered to merge or co-mingle with the being of God as He is in His essence.
The first part of the statement could match the LC "not the Godhead" clause, but the second part pretty much contradicts the LC position on this--co-mingling with the divine essence is a cornerstone of LC belief.
Hi Igzy! Thanks for the great comment. I believe you are spot on LSM’s deification doctrine: “co-mingling with the divine essence is a cornerstone of LC belief”.

I think there is an explanation why WL believed that it's possible for man to mingle with the divine essence. WL picked up a catchy idea from the Eastern Church Fathers but neglected their teaching about the energies of God. WL belonged to the Western Christianity. And Roman Catholics and Protestants reject the teaching of the Eastern Church Fathers about a distinction between the essence of God (ousia) and the energies of God (energeia). According to the Orthodox Church theology, God is not only essence, as the West thinks and as WL thought; He is also energy. If God was only essence, we could not unite with Him, could not commune with Him, because the essence of God is uncreated, incomprehensible, and unapproachable for man, in accordance with: ‘Never will man see My face and live’ (Exod. 33:20).

So, the Eastern Church Fathers never taught about "mingling" with the divine nature or essence. It is the energies of God that enable us to experience something of the Divine, at first through sensory perception and then later intuitively or noetically. Probably, WL overlooked or rejected the teaching about the energies. Being rationalist, he did not discern between the essence and the energy of God. He just hanged his own theories about “co-mingling with the divine essence" on the Saint Athanasius' phrase.

Here is a comment by Archimandrite George, abbot of the Holy Monastery of St. Gregorios on Mount Athos:

"Let us mention a somewhat relevant example from things human. If we grasp a bare electric wire, we will die. However, if we connect a lamp to that wire, we are illuminated. We see, enjoy, and are assisted by the energy of electric current, but we are not able to grasp its essence. Let us say that something similar happens with the uncreated energy of God.

If we were able to unite with the essence of God, we too would become gods in essence. In other words everything would become a god, and there would be confusion so that, nothing would be essentially a god. In a few words, this is what they believe in the Oriental religions, e.g. in Hinduism, where the god is not a personal existence but an indistinct power dispersed through all the world, in men, in animals, and in objects (Pantheism).

Again, if God had only the divine essence – of which we cannot partake – and did not have His energies, He would remain a self-sufficient god, closed within himself and unable to commune with his creatures...

With... His uncreated energies, God created the world and continues to preserve it. He gives essence and substance to our world through His essence-creating energies. He is present in nature and preserves the universe with His preserving energies; He illuminates man with His illuminating energies; He sanctifies him with His sanctifying energies. Finally, He deifies him with His deifying energies. Thus, through his uncreated energies, holy God enters nature, the world, history, and men's lives.

The energies of God are divine energies. They too are God, but without being His essence. They are God, and therefore they can deify man. If the energies of God were not divine and uncreated, they would not be God and so they would not be able to deify us, to unite us with God. There would be an unbridgeable distance between God and men. But by virtue of God having divine energies, and by uniting with us by these energies, we are able to commune with Him and to unite with His Grace without becoming identical with God, as would happen if we united with His essence.

So, we unite with God through His uncreated energies, and not through His essence. This is the mystery of our Orthodox faith and life.

Life in Christ is not simply the moral edification of man, but deification, and that this means participation in God’s glory, a vision of God, of His Grace and His uncreated light. A Christian is not a Christian simply because he is able to talk about God. He is a Christian because he is able to have experience of God. And just as, when you really love someone and converse with him, you feel his presence, and you enjoy his presence, so it happens in man's communion with God: there exists not a simply external relationship, but a mystical union of God and man in the Holy Spirit."
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Old 04-29-2016, 01:12 AM   #60
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

Aron, thank you for your kind words. You are a brother in Christ to me and I do respect you and your faith too.

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Originally Posted by aron View Post
I have an entirely different reading of this scene.
Actually, you are right. I checked out the context (John 10:25-38). There was more than a statement against a charge of blasphemy. In His conversation with the Jews, Christ revealed the central truth of His identity, declaring His essential unity with the Father. In other words: “If those mortal men who have received the honor to be called gods by grace are not guilty for calling themselves gods, how can He who has this by nature deserve to be rebuked?”

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Originally Posted by Igzy View Post
Here's another, more basic, issue I have with the whole LC mindset about deification and even our relationship with God in general.
The Greek Orthodox doctrine talks about the essences of God as opposed to the energies of God.
That's right, Igzy! Sorry, I noticed your comment after I had sent my first reply.

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LCers have always been wrongheaded about the process of sanctification. Yes, we have the empowering of the Holy Spirit to help us. He is the wind beneath our wings. But we must still spread our winds and flap them.
For LCers, it looks like a magical and automatic process. Everything I need to do is to be in the LRC, read WL's books, shout "Oh Lord Jesus", and then one day the Lord will come and transform/ or rather rapture me. (BTW, we don't believe in the Rapture in the Orthodox Church. The belief is credited to Margaret Macdonald and John Darby. But you won’t find this teaching among the writings of the Church Fathers or the early Protestant reformers. The doctrine of the “rapture” was not heard in Christianity until the 19th c.).
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Old 04-29-2016, 01:45 AM   #61
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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As a Protestant I believe that which was written in the New Testament is true (not necessarily scientifically) and is useful for teaching, doctrine and correction. I hope that I am learning to respect and benefit from the writings of the early Church Fathers, but I do not equate them as scripture to be used to form doctrines, teachings, etc. I'm positive that there are many spiritual blessings from their teachings, but each one must be evaluated with scripture and where not congruent rejected. Rejecting Athanasius' (sorry for the spelling) teaching on theosis is not the same as rejecting Paul's teaching on marriage, at least to this Protestant.
Well said, HERn.

Orthodox Christians don't equate the Church Fathers as Scripture, either. But we interpret Scripture based on the consensus of the Church Fathers.

How then can we be sure what the Bible teaches? What is our "interpretative lens"? For us, interpretation is not a matter of personal opinion ("Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation" 2 Peter 1:20 (KJV)) Therefore, Orthodox Christians depend upon the consensus of the Holy Fathers to provide a trustworthy guide to the accurate interpretation of the Bible.

Anyway, as Fr Lawrence R. Farley says, "For the Orthodox Church, the goal is not simply to understand the sacred texts, but to apply them in one’s daily life. The texts are given, like every other gift in the Church, to aid the Christian in his ongoing transfiguration."
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Old 04-29-2016, 07:23 AM   #62
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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Igzy,


I have ranted for some time about Lee's "wait for the dispensing" theology and gotten a fair bit of push back from even the die-hard LCM exes. You've made the argument I just couldn't see or make.

The bible is full of commands to do and essentially none to just wait. Even the vine-branches analogy is about a relationship in which there is constant activity doing something with what has been provided, not waiting for more to be provided before stopping.
I thought about your past posts when I wrote mine. I figured this was more or less what you'd been getting at.

I think it's important to understand our involvement with the Holy Spirit and what God expects of us in the relationship. One key I think is to always remember we are dealing with a person, not just a force, and that there is a conscious, ongoing interpersonal relationship of interaction, mutual knowing, direction (by God) and obedience (by us) going on.

I think this would be a good time to consider a verse which we all know which could be taken to support the Lee's dispensing/transfusion of God's elements doctrine:

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Cor 3:18
This can seem to imply it is just by enjoying (beholding) that we change. We must check our experience, however. And in my experience it is hard to continue to behold the Lord without obeying him. Beholding implies following, because when the Lord leads his presence goes with him, like the pillar and cloud in the OT.

The LC watered this down to the point that simply "enjoying" was enough to experience transformation. I don't want to downplay the role of the Lord's grace and joy in attracting and sustaining us to follow him, this is certainly important. But in the end you must make a decision to obey him when he leads. You can't just wait around until you don't mind doing it anymore. Self-denial implies part of you still doesn't want to obey, but you do so anyway.

In my experience, real transformation takes place in those breaking moments when I say "Amen" to the Lord's leading, when I put aside my will and accept his. That's when a whole new level of experiencing God comes into view. Again, however, I don't want to diminish the role of sustaining grace. It just needs to be said that is just one side of it.

However, I have pretty much come to the conclusion that there is no "transfusion" of "God's element" into our souls as Lee taught. If I don't maintain my relationship with the present Lord, there is no residual "element" to act as proxy, and I can become a devil in a short period of time. Only by maintaining that connection with God do I have a chance to reflect what he is.

Also, I considered this verse:
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Rom 8:14
Leading implies following. I don't mean to say if you don't follow you are not a son. Just that if there is leading then as far as God is concerned there should be following. A son is someone who is like God, who has God's image. How did he get this image? In part by following, by obedience. I think this verse implies that.
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Old 04-29-2016, 08:16 AM   #63
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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"Let us mention a somewhat relevant example from things human. If we grasp a bare electric wire, we will die. However, if we connect a lamp to that wire, we are illuminated. We see, enjoy, and are assisted by the energy of electric current, but we are not able to grasp its essence. Let us say that something similar happens with the uncreated energy of God.
I think this makes the point pretty well. Somehow we are able to participle (partake) in the divine nature, but that doesn't mean it becomes our nature. We gain the benefits of it, but don't become it. For one thing, God's nature is uncreated, and the only way we could have that nature is to also be uncreated. which is impossible. I think the difference is the same as the difference of Christ as the unique Son, and us as sons. The Bible doesn't state more than that, so why go there?

I do know that whatever my final state is, it's going to be a lot better than I can even conceive of now.
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Old 04-29-2016, 09:58 AM   #64
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

"Anyway, as Fr Lawrence R. Farley says, "For the Orthodox Church, the goal is not simply to understand the sacred texts, but to apply them in one’s daily life. The texts are given, like every other gift in the Church, to aid the Christian in his ongoing transfiguration.""

Amen bro ICA!!! I place myself in this group and will learn to receive more help and guidance from all the gifts to the Church, especially the Church Fathers many of whom gave their fortunes, lives, and souls for the brothers and sisters Christ died to redeem. Thank you for that quote, it was very healthy.
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Old 04-30-2016, 03:00 PM   #65
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

Where is LSM’s Great ‘High Peak Revival’?
Lessons from Orthodoxy
Nigel Tomes

In his final years Witness Lee [Li Changshou 李常受 1905-97] adopted Orthodoxy’s deification dogma --‘God became man to make man God’ (theosis). He called it “the highest peak of the divine revelation in the entire Bible.”0 Deification, he proclaimed, is “the ‘diamond’ in the ‘box’ of the Bible,”1 and he roundly condemned Christians who “care for...the ‘box,’ but...have not seen and do not appreciate the ‘diamond’ [i.e., deification].” W. Lee also asserted that this doctrine would produce a “new revival, a revival which has never been seen in man's history,”2 “the greatest revival in the history of the church,”3 “the highest revival, and probably the last revival before the Lord’s coming back.”3 LSM’s deification dogma was supposed to issue in a great ‘high peak’ revival. Witness Lee proclaimed: “This truth...may be the last item that the Lord needs to recover...This will bring in a new revival which has never been seen in history, and this will end this age.”4 He also declared:5
“Since we have seen such a high peak of the divine revelation [i.e., deification], we need to put into practice what we have seen. Our practice will have a success, and that success will be a new revival—the highest revival, and probably the last revival before the Lord’s coming back...If we practice what we have heard, spontaneously a model will be built up. This model will be the greatest revival in the history of the church. I believe that this revival will bring the Lord back.”
Where’s the Revival?

Over two decades have elapsed since these words were spoken. In the interim Witness Lee’s ‘high peak’ teaching have been sliced & diced, regularly reiterated at LSM’s “Seven annual Feasts,” and republished as Holy Word for Morning Revival [HWMR], diligently memorized and loyally recited (“prophesied”) by the LSM faithful. We ask: where is LSM’s promised ‘great high peak revival’?

I am not well informed about the Local Church’s situation in the Orient—‘the Shouters’ [呼喊派* hūhǎn pŕi] in mainland China & the “Assembly Hall Churches” elsewhere in Asia. In the Occident, however, there are no observable signs of revival in the “Lord’s Recovery.” Of course LSM’s “blended brothers” could always blame “the saints,” charging “you have not practiced it;” but, that is unfair.

Orthodox Christianity--the Historical Data

I maintain that abundant data6 already exists supporting the null hypothesis that the deification dogma does not produce revival. These data are the 1,000-year historical record of the Orthodox Church. While deification was neglected by the Western Church (Catholic, Protestant, etc) it remained central to the Orthodox Church. Michael Horton says “Deification (theosis)...is a central theme of Eastern Orthodox soteriology.”7 If this doctrine is the “diamond in the box” (as W. Lee alleged) the Orthodox Church has focused on the deification “diamond,” while the rest of Christianity focused on the “box.” Therefore Orthodoxy ought to display some evidence of God’s blessing—vitality, revival, spread and/or increase—if these claims are correct. What does the historical record show?8

Eastern Orthodoxy vs. Western Christianity

The ‘Great Church’ split in two over a millennium ago. Patrick Johnston reports that “The ‘Great Schism’ of AD 1054 divided the Eastern & Western Church. Then [in AD 1054] 54% of all Christians were ‘Orthodox.’ But big losses to Islam and Catholicism followed and today [2000] only 10% of [global] Christians are Orthodox.”9 Scholars deduce that, at the time of the split, a majority (54%) of the global Christians belonged to the Eastern Church; at that juncture the Orthodox Church of the East out-numbered the Western Church. By 2000, however, the Orthodox Church represented only 10% of the world’s Christians. These trends are not indicative of vitality or revival in Orthodoxy. No doubt the Orthodox faced a greater challenge from Islam, but they also lost members to Catholicism.

Orthodoxy’s 20th-Century Decline

The overall downward trend of Orthodoxy continued in the 20th century. Researchers Todd Johnson, & Cindy Wu report that “Since 1900 Orthodox...[has] declined as percentages of the population, both within Christianity and globally. Orthodoxy, decimated by the rise of communism, dropped from over 7% of the global population [in 1900] to 4% today [2015]. At the same time the Orthodox fell from 21% (20.8%) [of all Christians in 1900] to less than 12% (11.7%) of all Christians [in 2015].”10 The precipitous decline of Orthodoxy’s representation—by nine percentage points--occurred against the backdrop of relative stability of Christianity’s share of the world’s population—“In 1900 it was 34.5% of the global population, and today (2015) it is 33.0%,”11 Johnson & Wu report.

By comparison, since 1900 Roman Catholics & mainline Protestants have been relatively stable both as a % of global population and as a % of Christianity. However, some ‘sectors’ of Christianity have grown dramatically. ‘Independent Christians’ (non-denominational ‘free groups’) “rose meteorically,” Johnson & Wu say.12 This group, ‘independents,’ “represented only 1.6% of Christians in 1900 but rose meteorically to over 17% in 2015. Their share of the global population also increased from 0.5% to 5.7%.” The data viewed from another angle show “Renewalists” (Pentecostals, Charismatics) grew from 0.2% to 26.6% of all Christians in the same period. They also grew as a % of global population.13

‘Old World’ Christianity—Europe

The figures above are global; they take into account the successful spread of the Christian faith from its historical centers in Europe and the Near East to Asia, Africa & the Americas. Over the ‘long haul’ Catholicism spread via the Portuguese, Spanish & French colonies; Protestants, evangelicals and Pentecostals spread via the ‘missionary movement’ of recent centuries. Notably absent is the global spread of the Orthodox Christian faith; mission is missing. “Orthodoxy has historically never been a missionary tradition,” observes John L. Allen.14 The 19th century was the “Great Century of Missions”15 for Protestant Christians; it had no equivalent among Orthodox Christianity in the East.

In the course of the 20th century the number of Christians in Europe grew at the low rate of 0.38%. Anglicans & mainline Protestants grew at below average rates. Orthodox rose only slightly above average (0.42%). Meanwhile, Roman Catholics grew at 1% (above average), while ‘independents’ (non-denominational) rose rapidly at 5.75%. Even on their European ‘home turf,’ Eastern Orthodoxy has not exhibited vibrant signs of growth, even accounting for communism’s collapse in E. Europe.16

‘Old World’ Christianity—Middle East


Orthodoxy’s share of the regional population in the Middle East fell from 11.8% in 1910 to 2.7% in 2010, due in part to emigration and also conversion to Protestant and Independent expressions of Christianity. Further Orthodox declines are anticipated. But not all forms of Christianity are in decline in the Middle East. Roman Catholic representation increased from 10% in 1910 to 30% in 2010, partly due to large numbers of Catholic guest workers (e.g. Filipinos in Saudi Arabia & Arab Emirates).17

‘New World’ Orthodoxy in the Americas

From the start America’s immigrants brought their faith and spread it. The US constitution’s Church-State separation produced a “level playing field” for all religions; none enjoyed a state-sponsored monopoly or ‘most-favored religion’ status. Some Christian groups prospered (e.g. evangelicals), others did not. Orthodoxy falls in the latter category. A 2007 Pew Research survey18 reported that only 0.6% of the US population [under 2M] adheres to the Orthodox Church, compared to 78.5% [236M] identifying as “Christian.” Catholics were 23.9% [72M] and Protestants 51.3% [154M]. In 2007 there were more Buddhists and Jehovah’s Witnesses than members of the US Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy has deification, but they don’t appear to have vitality or evangelism. Moreover, its moribund US condition can’t be attributed to Islam’s persecution or communism’s suppression. Dr. Antonois Kireopolos, observes, “The Orthodox [church] in the US...has often preoccupied itself more with ‘protecting’ a diaspora flock in a self-satisfied isolation than with intentional critical engagement.”19

Orthodoxy—No Signs of Revival

These figures indicate that, if we are looking for data suggestive of revival and vitality among Christian groups, the leading candidates are ‘independent” (e.g. African Independent churches, non-denominational congregations) & Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians. Orthodoxy, despite its deification dogma, is in (relative) decline; there are no (statistical) signs of revival or renewal here.

Looking to the future, Orthodoxy’s prospects are no brighter. For the 20-year period, 2005 to 2025, the world’s Christian population is projected to grow at 1.11%. Independents are projected to increase at 1.64%; Pentecostal/ Charismatics 1.54%; Protestants at 1.26%; evangelicals 1.08%; Roman Catholics at 1.01% and Orthodox (trailing the pack) at 0.6%.20

The Orthodox Church desperately needs revival. Professor Philip Jenkins, looking at population trends (e.g. low birth rates), observes that,21 “The Eastern Orthodox churches will suffer acutely from demographic changes given that the church’s numbers are so heavily concentrated in declining Europe...Without a substantial Orthodox revival, demographic trends mean that the long-term future of that church is in doubt.” Yet evidence suggests Orthodoxy’s deification dogma is an obstacle to renewal. The missionary influx into Russia after communism’s demise brought “wounded accusations from the Russian Orthodox Church—the new missionaries were forgetting Russia’s ancient Christian heritage...they proclaimed an inferior message of original sin and conversion in place of the historic Orthodox doctrine of theosis (divinization)...,”22 reports Professor Mark Noll. This also suggests that LSM’s ‘high gospel’ of deification will have very little purchase among Orthodox populations; it amounts to “shipping coal to Newcastle” (or “importing apples to Washington State.”) Plus Orthodoxy has proved resistant to Charismatic renewal. One observer notes “The Charismatic renewal movement in the Eastern Orthodox Church never exerted the influence that it did in other mainstream churches.”23

Conclusion: Deification — ‘Diamond,’ ‘Dud’ or ‘Distortion’?


Witness Lee portrayed his deification dogma as the “diamond in the box;” it was the last item of truth to be recovered, the capstone completing the Lord’s Recovery, initiating an unprecedented revival. But deification (theosis)—man becoming God—is not a new discovery. It has been at the center of Orthodoxy’s theology & teaching for centuries. If deification is the ‘diamond,’ as W. Lee claimed, there ought to be signs of revival and renewal in the Orthodox Churches (Greek, Russian, Syrian, Coptic, etc). The rest of Christianity (Witness Lee alleged) had only the ‘box.’

We have looked in vain for statistical evidence of vibrancy, revival & renewal in terms of gospel spread via missions & above-average growth for Orthodox variants of the church. We found none. Orthodoxy, despite deification, is in (relative) decline; we found no (statistical) signs of revival or renewal here. This suggests that LSM’s deification dogma is not a ‘diamond;’ rather it is a ‘dud’!

LSM’s Deification -- ‘Diamond’ or ‘Distortion’?

Yet a stronger conclusion seems justified. The Church Fathers’ era, which spawned deification, saw a subtle “shift in emphasis regarding the decisive saving event, from Jesus’ death as atonement for sin, to his birth & incarnation as the divine taking the human into itself. Despite the Pauline insistence that central to the gospel was the affirmation that ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Cor. 15:3), the creeds shift the focus from the atoning death to incarnation,”24 says Professor James Dunn. As a result justification was neglected; “In most patristic treatments of [deification] theosis justification plays next to no role at all,”25 Paul Gavrilyuk observes. As Orthodoxy evolved the gospel’s center was displaced due to the deification dogma from Christ’s death & resurrection (1 Cor. 2:2; 15:3-4) to his birth & incarnation. Thus scholars conclude “The incarnation…is the central redemptive event in Eastern Orthodoxy.”26 As a result Christ’s redemptive death is de-emphasized or (for some) dispensed with. Thus Orthodoxy’s Stephen Finlan advocates27 “highlighting...God’s near approach to humanity…through the incarnation of Jesus…but drop[ing] the idea of any magical transaction taking place at the cross [i.e., atonement].” Adam J. Johnson concludes that this shift makes “the incarnation the original and central doctrine of the Christian faith, relegating the atonement to the status of an impure accretion.”28

These observations warn us this is a serious matter; Witness Lee embraced deification, calling it “the diamond in the box,” making it “the thing.” The ‘diamond’ is deification; everything else is merely the ‘box.’ Athanasius’ maxim—“God became man to make man God,” obviously emphasizes incarnation (“God became man...”) and man’s deification (“to make man God”); it does not even mention Christ’s redemptive death on the cross or His resurrection. Hence it shifts the focus, the center of the gospel, away from Christ’s atoning death & resurrection to His birth & incarnation. This was not the Apostle Paul’s focus; compared to his gospel, this is a different gospel, a distorted gospel (Gal. 1:6-7). We maintain that an eviscerated gospel, drained of regenerative power, produces a moribund Church like Orthodoxy. By adopting Orthodoxy’s deification dogma, it appears LSM’s Local Church is following their footsteps. We found no evidence that deification is a catalyst for revival in Orthodoxy and (despite Witness Lee’s prophecies) we see no portents of a ‘high peak revival’ in LSM’s Local Church.

Nigel Tomes,
Toronto, CANADA.
April, 2016


Notes: As always the views expressed here are those of the author alone. They should not be attributed to the believers, elders or churches with whom he is associated. Thanks are extended to those who commented on earlier drafts. This paper reports statistics, hopefully not too many so as to overwhelm readers. Obviously many more statistics could be presented. This writing presents a “macro view using a long time-series of data.” More detailed “micro” analysis of various branches of Orthodoxy in different time periods (centuries) would be useful in providing a fuller picture of the overall “macro trends.” Yet our conclusions are unlikely to be overturned.
0. In context: “Today we have come to this high peak of God’s divine revelation...we have probably reached the highest peak of the divine revelation in the entire Bible. This is the divine revelation discovered by the believers thro’ the past 20 centuries...[1] The 1st divine revelation discovered by the church fathers was...the Triune God...God is three-one, triune... [2] Centuries later Martin Luther ...saw the matter of justification by faith (Rom. 3:28). He discovered that salvation is not by works but by faith. [3] After this, many other students of the Bible made further discoveries. [4] However, before us, no one ever discovered God’s economy with Christ as its centrality & universality & all its reality. It was not until the last 10 years that we put all these things together to have a full picture of God’s economy. This is the highest peak of the divine revelation.” [W. Lee, Living a Life According to the High Peak of God's Revelation, Ch. 5, Sect. 2 (emph. add)]
1. Suppose, W. Lee said, “a certain box, which is quite attractive, contains a large diamond. A child may be interested in the box but not in the diamond. An adult, however, would focus...on the diamond... Today, many Christians care for the Bible as the ‘box,’ but they have not seen & do not appreciate the ‘diamond’ ...and they may even condemn those who... [appreciate] the ‘diamond’ in the ‘box.’ The ‘diamond’ in the ‘box’ of the Bible is the revelation that in Christ God has become man in order that man might become God... The vast majority of today's Christians neglect [this] crucial point in the Bible...” [W. Lee, Life-study of 1 & 2 Sam., pp. 203-204, also in LSM’s Truth Concerning the Ultimate Goal of God's Economy, Ch. 1, Sect. 7] After quoting this passage, LSM’s Ron Kangas berates “J. S.” [John So?] for objecting to W. Lee’s deification dogma, saying, “he [J. S.] not only has an empty ‘box’; he even tries to use the ‘box’ to deny the existence of the ‘diamond’ and to condemn as heretical those who appreciate the ‘diamond’...” [Ron Kangas, Truth Concerning the Ultimate Goal of God's Economy, Ch. 1, Sect. 7] Ron Kangas’ rhetoric only works for the LSM-faithful.
2. “Recently I released...the high peak of God's revelation—the revelation that God became a man so that man may become God in life & in nature (but not in the Godhead)...Now we need to pray that the Lord will give us a new revival, a revival which has never been seen in man's history.” [W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Chron., Ch. 1, Sect. 2 (emph. add)]
3. “Since we have seen such a high peak of the divine revelation, we need to put into practice what we have seen. Our practice will have a success, and that success will be a new revival—the highest revival, and probably the last revival before the Lord’s coming back... If we practice what we have heard, spontaneously a model will be built up. This model will be the greatest revival in the history of the church. I believe that this revival will bring the Lord back.” [W. Lee, Living a Life according to the High Peak of God's Revelation, Ch. 5, Sect. 3 (emphasis added)]
4. The quote in context reads: “In the 2nd to the 5th centuries, the church fathers found 3 high mysteries in the Bible: (1) the Triune God, the Divine Trinity, the highest mystery; (2) the person of Christ; & (3) the deification of man—that man could become God in life & in nature but not in the Godhead. However, after the 5th century the truth concerning this last mystery was gradually lost. Using the Nicene Creed, today's Christianity affirms the first 2 mysteries—the mystery of the Divine Trinity & the mystery of Christ's person—but much of Christianity does not see anything about the 3rd mystery.... There is no teaching regarding this among most Christians today. But I feel strongly the Lord is going to recover this truth. As far as the truth is concerned, this may be the last item that the Lord needs to recover... Christians today...do not dare admit that the believers in Christ are God. At the end of this age, we are teaching and preaching the truth that God became a man in order to make man God, the same as He is in life & in nature but not in the Godhead. It is a great blessing to hear this truth....This will bring in a new revival which has never been seen in history, & this will end this age.” [W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Chron., Ezra, Neh., & Esther, Ch. 4, St. 3 (emph. added)]
5. W. Lee, Living a Life according to the High Peak of God's Revelation, Ch. 5, Sect. 3, July, 1994 (emphasis added)
6. We propose to examine data on the number of Christians to validate LSM’s claims. LSM themselves appeal to measurable data to quantify the legacies of Watchman Nee & Witness Lee. For e.g. a Congressional statement regarding the spread the Lord’s Recovery to Russia & Eastern Europe, says that as a result W. Lee/LSM & Local Church efforts there are “200 churches and several thousand believers in Russia and the Russian-speaking world.” [Statement by Joseph (Joe) R. Pitts of Pennsylvania in the US House of Representatives, Tuesday, April 29, 2014] An earlier statement regarding Watchman Nee’s impact in measurable terms notes “Today more than 3,000 churches outside of China, including several hundred in the United States, look to him as one of their religious and theological leaders.” [Hon. Christopher H. Smith, US Congressional Record—Extensions of Remarks, July 31, 2009, p. E2110]
7. Michael Horton says “Deification (theosis)...is the central theme of Eastern Orthodox soteriology.” [Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, p. ] Similarly Daniel L. Migliore, says “Deification Theosis is a central theme of Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality, summed up in the familiar statement of Athanasius: ‘God became human that we might become divine’.” [Daniel L. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, 3rd ed. p. ] Burgess & Gros write, For the Orthodox theosis is a central theological & religious idea.” [Joseph A. Burgess, Jeffrey Gros, Growing Consensus: Church Dialogues in the United States, 1962-1991, Vol. 1, p. 359]
8. World Christian Database data show the impact of the Great Awakenings in the US & Europe. The “First Great Awakening” 1725 in New England. The “Second Great Awakening” 1792- The “Third Great Awakening” or “Evangelical Awakening” 1857/59- etc. [David B. Barrett, Todd M. Johnson, World Christian Trends, AD 30-AD 2200:..., Vol. 1]
9. Patrick Johnston, Future of the Global Church: History, Trends & Possibilities, p. 115. Note that in these data the category, “Orthodox Churches” describes two distinct church families: the Eastern Orthodox Church [14 independent Orthodox Churches, e.g. Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, etc.] and Oriental Orthodox [e.g. Coptic Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, etc] which do not share communion with each other. See for e.g. Maria Hämmerli, & Jean-François Maye (eds.) Orthodox Identities in Western Europe: Migration, Settlement & Innovation, p. 2
10. Todd M. Johnson, Cindy M. Wu, Our Global Families: Christians.. in a Changing World, Table 1.2, p. 8
11. Todd M. Johnson, Cindy M. Wu, Our Global Families: Christians ...in a Changing World, Table 1.2, p. 7
12. Todd M. Johnson, Cindy M. Wu, Our Global Families: Christians ...in a Changing World, Table 1.2, pp. 8-9
13. “Renewalists” (Pentecostals & Charismatics) grew from 0.1% of global population in 1900 to 8.8% in 2015. Todd M. Johnson, Cindy M. Wu, Our Global Families: Christians ...in a Changing World, Table 1.2, p. 9. “Renewalists” (Pentecostals & Charismatics) represent another ‘cut’ of the data many Charismatics are also ‘independent.’
14. John L. Allen, Future Church: How Ten Trends Are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church, pp. 169-170. The quote in context reads: “Unlike Catholicism, Methodism, Anglicanism & other Christian tradition, Orthodoxy has historically never been a missionary tradition.” [John L. Allen, Future Church: How Ten Trends Are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church, pp. 169-170 (emphasis added)]
15. Andrew F. Walls, the historian of missions, notes that Yale University Professor “Latourette rightly calls the 19th century ‘The Great Century of Missions.’ But in no part of the world did that century see such a striking outcome as in North America. The main missionary achievement of the 19th century was the Christianizing of the US.” [Andrew F. Walls, Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith, p. ]
16. In the period 1970 to 1990/95 the number of Orthodox Christians in Europe rose significantly from 107.126 M in 1970 to 155.120 M in 1990 & 156.451 M in 1995. This one-time ‘step upwards’ appears to account for most of the century’s increase. Going forward Orthodox growth is projected at 0.19% (slightly above the overall average Christian growth of 0.15%). [David B. Barrett, Todd M. Johnson, World Christian Trends, AD 30-AD 2200..., Vol. 1, Table 10.1, p. 383]
17. Brian J, Grim, Todd M. Johnson, (eds.) Yearbook of International Religious Demography 2015, p. 159
18. Reported in United States Demographics - Part A, p. 87. The lack of growth in the Orthodox Church in the East (E. Europe & the Middle East) may be due to 20th century communism & the strength of Islam. But, neither of these factors comes into play in the US. The small size & lack of growth in the US Orthodox must be due to other factors.
19. Dr. Antonois Kireopolos, “Case Study” in Kirsteen Kim, Andrew Anderson (eds.) Edinburgh 2010: Mission Today and Tomorrow, p. 100 (emphasis added) The quote reads: “The Orthodox experience in the US...has often preoccupied itself more with ‘protecting’ a diaspora flock in a self-satisfied isolation than with intentional critical engagement.”
20. Todd M. Johnson, Peter F. Crossing, & Bobby Jangsun Ryu, Looking Forward: An Overview of World Evangelization, 2005-2025 (A special report for the Lausanne 2004 Forum on World Evangelization Center for the Study of Global Christianity) Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, pp. 8-9. In these data, “evangelicals” are “great commission Christians,” a broader category than “Evangelicals (theological definition)” who are projected to grow at 2.03%
21. Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, pp. 119-20
22. Mark A. Noll, The New Shape of World Christianity, p. 96
23. Author? , Church Schism & Corruption, p. 329
24. James D. G. Dunn, Neither Jew Nor Greek: A Contested Identity, p. 822. Elsewhere Professor James Dunn observes that the “Theosis, ‘deification,’ of humans is made much of in Orthodox Christianity...No doubt this can be attributed to the influence of Greek thought, particularly the Platonic idea that there is a spiritual part in humanity that really belongs to the heavenly world and that can recover its true, godlike nature.” [James D. G. Dunn, Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? The New Testament Evidence, p. 89] Dunn attributes theosis to pagan (Greek) thought.
25. Paul L. Gavrilyuk, “The Retrieval of Deification: How a Once-despised Archaism became an Ecumenical Disideratum,” Modern Theology, Vol. 25:4 (Oct. 2009) p. 653. “In most patristic treatments of theosis justification plays next to no role at all…” He also says “’deification by grace alone through faith alone’ has very little purchase in Eastern Orthodoxy.” Moreover, Gavrilyuk, questions Orthodoxy’s notion that deification applies to all God’s creatures/ creation, saying, “All things participate in God, but only rational beings can be justified…therefore the notion of justification cannot encompass deification.” [Paul L. Gavrilyuk, “The Retrieval of Deification: How a Once-despised Archaism became an Ecumenical Disideratum,” Modern Theology, Vol. 25:4 (Oct. 2009) p. 653]
26. Kelly M. Kapic, & Bruce L. McCormack, Mapping Modern Theology: A Thematic & Historical Introduction, p. 285
27. Adam J. Johnson reports that Stephen Finlan asks: “‘What happens if we restate the divine Incarnation of Jesus, thereby highlighting the fact of God’s near approach to humanity…through the Incarnation of Jesus…but drop the idea of any magical transaction taking place at the cross [i.e., any traditional theory of atonement]?’ Finlan touts [Adam J. Johnson says]…making the incarnation the original and central doctrine of the Christian faith, relegating the atonement to the status of an impure accretion.” [Adam J. Johnson, Atonement: A Guide for the Perplexed, pp. 84-85 quoting (interior quote) Stephen Finlan, “Problems with the Atonement: The Origins of, & Controversy About, the Atonement Doctrine,” p. 119, & also citing pp. 117-120 (emphasis added—indicates the portion quoted in main text)]
28. Adam J. Johnson, Atonement: A Guide for the Perplexed, pp. 84-85. Adam J. Johnson says (via this proposal) Stephen “Finlan touts …making the incarnation the original and central doctrine of the Christian faith, relegating the atonement to the status of an impure accretion.” [Adam J. Johnson, Atonement: A Guide for the Perplexed, pp. 84-85]


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Old 04-30-2016, 04:55 PM   #66
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

Ouch, doesn't seem right to lump the OC in with LSM LR. I wish I knew more theology and history, but I imagine for the OC theosis is a minor doctrine. I have the Orthodox Study Bible and I think theosis is only mentioned in one or two places, while in LSM publications and speaking it's everywhere.
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Old 05-02-2016, 02:52 PM   #67
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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Conclusion: Deification — ‘Diamond,’ ‘Dud’ or ‘Distortion’?

Witness Lee portrayed his deification dogma as the “diamond in the box;” it was the last item of truth to be recovered, the capstone completing the Lord’s Recovery, initiating an unprecedented revival. But deification (theosis)—man becoming God—is not a new discovery. It has been at the center of Orthodoxy’s theology & teaching for centuries. If deification is the ‘diamond,’ as W. Lee claimed, there ought to be signs of revival and renewal in the Orthodox Churches (Greek, Russian, Syrian, Coptic, etc). The rest of Christianity (Witness Lee alleged) had only the ‘box.’

We have looked in vain for statistical evidence of vibrancy, revival & renewal in terms of gospel spread via missions & above-average growth for Orthodox variants of the church. We found none. Orthodoxy, despite deification, is in (relative) decline; we found no (statistical) signs of revival or renewal here. This suggests that LSM’s deification dogma is not a ‘diamond;’ rather it is a ‘dud’!

LSM’s Deification -- ‘Diamond’ or ‘Distortion’?

Yet a stronger conclusion seems justified. The Church Fathers’ era, which spawned deification, saw a subtle “shift in emphasis regarding the decisive saving event, from Jesus’ death as atonement for sin, to his birth & incarnation as the divine taking the human into itself. Despite the Pauline insistence that central to the gospel was the affirmation that ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Cor. 15:3), the creeds shift the focus from the atoning death to incarnation,”24 says Professor James Dunn. As a result justification was neglected; “In most patristic treatments of [deification] theosis justification plays next to no role at all,”25 Paul Gavrilyuk observes. As Orthodoxy evolved the gospel’s center was displaced due to the deification dogma from Christ’s death & resurrection (1 Cor. 2:2; 15:3-4) to his birth & incarnation. Thus scholars conclude “The incarnation…is the central redemptive event in Eastern Orthodoxy.” As a result Christ’s redemptive death is de-emphasized or (for some) dispensed with. Thus Orthodoxy’s Stephen Finlan advocates “highlighting...God’s near approach to humanity…through the incarnation of Jesus…but drop[ing] the idea of any magical transaction taking place at the cross [i.e., atonement].” Adam J. Johnson concludes that this shift makes “the incarnation the original and central doctrine of the Christian faith, relegating the atonement to the status of an impure accretion.”
For me, Nigel's conclusions, based on solid research, say it all, and I'll summarize:
  1. Theosis is a "dud" because there never will be the promised revival every faithful LSM'er is hoping for.
  2. Theosis is a "distortion" because it shifts the emphasis of the gospel from the cross to the incarnation. Subtle but significant.
In his waning days, Lee basically sold us a bill of goods. In the aftermath of his son Philip's takeover of LSM, with untold abuses against the truth and God's children, Witness Lee frantically diverted our attention by seeking something "new." The so-called "new" way could no longer be used. By this time, the anointing on his ministry had all but vanished, and since the scriptures convicted him, "new" teachings were found elsewhere in the ancient writings.
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Old 05-02-2016, 03:36 PM   #68
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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These observations warn us this is a serious matter; Witness Lee embraced deification, calling it “the diamond in the box,” making it “the thing.” The ‘diamond’ is deification; everything else is merely the ‘box.’ Athanasius’ maxim—“God became man to make man God,” obviously emphasizes incarnation (“God became man...”) and man’s deification (“to make man God”); it does not even mention Christ’s redemptive death on the cross or His resurrection. Hence it shifts the focus, the center of the gospel, away from Christ’s atoning death & resurrection to His birth & incarnation. This was not the Apostle Paul’s focus; compared to his gospel, this is a different gospel, a distorted gospel (Gal. 1:6-7). We maintain that an eviscerated gospel, drained of regenerative power, produces a moribund Church like Orthodoxy. By adopting Orthodoxy’s deification dogma, it appears LSM’s Local Church is following their footsteps. We found no evidence that deification is a catalyst for revival in Orthodoxy and (despite Witness Lee’s prophecies) we see no portents of a ‘high peak revival’ in LSM’s Local Church.
Calling Lee's so-called "high peak truths" a different gospel, Nigel has evoked his harshest criticism to date. I believe it needs to be said, and every loyal LC member needs to hear it.
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Old 05-03-2016, 08:09 AM   #69
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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Originally Posted by HERn View Post
Ouch, doesn't seem right to lump the OC in with LSM LR.
I thought so too, especially when I learned that the biggest opponents of the Recovery back in the late 70's were the same folks who now are part of the Orthodox leadership today in the US. Jack Sparks, the author of Mindbenders, is now the lead editor of your Orthodox Study Bible. Did you know it was the Eastern "Orthodox" church when you bought it?

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I wish I knew more theology and history, but I imagine for the OC theosis is a minor doctrine. I have the Orthodox Study Bible and I think theosis is only mentioned in one or two places, while in LSM publications and speaking it's everywhere.
Nigel has a few footnotes from scholars who point out that deification is the "central theme" of the EO church. That places their foundation on the "sinking sand" of church fathers rather than on God's word. Interestingly, I know many old LC'ers, especially from the GLA area, who would say that theosis was nothing more than a passing footnote in Lee's ministry. Their "Lee" was from the Life-Study era, which nearly has no mention of theosis.

I have a retired neighbor friend, also an engineer, who grew up in the Russian Orthodox church, but now attends the nearest Ukrainian Orthodox church. Just the other day he was explaining to me how they still use the old Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian we use, hence their holidays, e.g. holy week, are different than ours. In all regards they are so "old." I guess that appeals to some. I have been trying to probe his faith for something of the Lord.
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Old 05-03-2016, 10:36 AM   #70
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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“God became man to make man God,” obviously emphasizes incarnation (“God became man...”) and man’s deification (“to make man God”); it does not even mention Christ’s redemptive death on the cross or His resurrection.
Probably, that is how a Protestant understands St Athanasius’ maxim. For an Orthodox Christian, the phrase "God became man to make men gods" emphasizes incarnation, Christ's resurrection and man’s salvation (deification). These three things are intimately connected. Let me try to explain this. (Brothers, please excuse me. Since English is not my native language, I will have to use my “copy and paste” approach).

Roman Catholics and Protestants tend to see the relationship between God and man in juridical terms. God is the judge, man is the criminal. The Son of God takes the sentence upon Himself, therefore God forgives man. (BTW, does it sound logically when God became angry with man after Adam’s fall, but later, seeing how people tortured, crucified and killed His only begotten Son, the Father tempered justice with mercy?)

Orthodox faith sees the relationship therapeutically. The Eastern Fathers have been consistent in understanding that the language is of the Old Testament is often figurative and should not be understood literally. St. Anthony the Great says: “God is good and is not controlled by passions. He does not change... It is not that He grows angry with us in an arbitrary way, but it is our own sins that prevent God from shining within us and expose us to demons who torture us. And if through prayer and acts of compassion we gain release from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him to change, but that through our actions and our turning to the Divinity, we have cured our wickedness and so once more have enjoyment of God’s goodness. Thus to say that God turns away from the wicked is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind.”

For Orthodox Christians, “sin” or “sinfulness” is not just a violation of God's law that leads to punishment. Sin is sickness, a self-perpetuating illness which distorts the whole human being and corrupts the image of God. Man is sick (sin and death are consequences of the sickness). Christ is the Great Physician. As a man the Son of God dies and rises to life again. Through His participation in humanity, Christ heals the sickness and restores/divinizes human nature, destroying the power of death.

St Athanasius the Great and St Cyril of Alexandria claimed that we are not guilty of Adam’s sin, though we inherit a corrupted nature. “The Word of God came in His own Person, because it was He alone, the Image of the Father, Who could recreate man made after the Image. In order to effect this re-creation, however, He had first to do away with death and corruption. Therefore He assumed a human body, in order that in it death might once and for all be destroyed, and that men might be renewed according to the Image [of God].” St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation.

Despite the Western understanding of redemption in terms of penal substitution or satisfaction models, the Eastern understanding of redemption - a redemption which ultimately calls all of the created order to deification by grace.

It is the gift of the Incarnation which gives humanity the possibility of deification. Since the first Adam went astray and deprived himself of the gratuitous gift of union with God, the Second Adam, the divine Logos achieved this union of the two natures in his person. Therefore the Incarnation of Christ does not simply redeem humanity from the effects of the fall but completes the pre-fallen nature of humanity by deifying it. For the fathers, the deification of Christ's human nature became the vessel by which our human nature too could be deified. This is the basis of the theology of deification which is found in the fathers. Fr John Meyendorff described it in this way:

"The hypostatic union of divinity and humanity in Jesus Christ is the very foundation of salvation, and therefore of deification: in Christ, humanity has already participated in the uncreated life of God because the 'flesh' has truly become 'the flesh of God'".

So, where is the resurrection in the phrase "God became man to make men gods"? The resurrection of Christ is the center of Orthodox faith. But Resurrection does not simply mean bodily resuscitation. In His resurrection Jesus is in a new and glorious form. He appears in different places immediately. He is difficult to recognize (Lk 24.16; Jn 20.14). He eats and drinks to show that He is not a ghost (Lk 24.30, 39). He allows himself to be touched (Jn 20.27, 21.9). And yet He appears in the midst of disciples, “the doors being shut” (Jn 20.19, 26). And he “vanishes out of their sight” (Lk 24.31). Christ indeed is risen, but His resurrected humanity is full of life and divinity. It is humanity in the new form of the eternal life of the Kingdom of God.

“So it is with the resurrection of the dead: What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raked in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.

Thus, it is written, the first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam [i.e. Christ] became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, then the spiritual.

The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man from heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have home the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven (1 Cor 15.42–50).


The resurrection of Christ is the first fruits of the resurrection of all humanity. It is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, “according to the Scriptures” where it is written, “For Thou doest not give me up unto Sheol [that is, the realm of death], or let Thy Godly one see corruption” (Ps 16.10; Acts 2.25–36). In Christ all expectations and hopes are filled: O Death, where is your sting? O Sheol, where is your victory? (Hos 13.14).
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Old 05-03-2016, 11:13 AM   #71
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

Why did the Lord die on the Cross? Orthodox theology says that the Lord died to share His Divine life with man. He destroyed death by His Resurrection. And through the Resurrection, Christ transformed our corrupted and mortal nature and united us to the source of eternal life, God.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Christ is the last Adam, the life-giving Spirit, and the firstborn from the dead. When the dead in Christ will be risen, they will receive the same new and glorious form, immortal body of the last Adam. This is deification, theosis, partaking in the divine nature. In other words, salvation, that starts from our baptism and never ends.

In Orthodox Christianity, salvation is not a once-and-done event but a life-time process. We are “being saved,” not “already saved.” This salvation is a process, worked out by participating in and cooperating with the grace of God. It is an ongoing, everlasting process of moving from glory to glory, becoming more and more holy and God-like.

Let me quote Fr. Stephen Freeman's post from his blog "Glory to God for All Things:

One of the best places to begin thinking about communion with God is to ask the question: “What is wrong with the human race?” What is it about us such that we need saving?

The answer to that question is perhaps the linchpin of Christian theology (at least what has been revealed to us). Among the most central of Orthodox Christian doctrines is that human beings have fallen out of communion with God – we have severed the bond of communion with which we were created and thus we are no longer in communion with the Lord and Giver of Life, we no longer have a share in His Divine Life, but instead have become partakers of death...

This lack of communion with God, this process of death at work in us, manifests itself in a myriad of ways, extending from moral failure, to death and disease itself. It corrupts everything around us – our relationships with other people and our families, our institutions and our best intentions.

Without intervention, the process of death results in the most final form of death – complete alienation and enmity with God (from our point of view). We come to hate all things righteous and good. We despise the Light and prefer darkness. Since this is the state of human beings who have cut themselves off from communion with God, we substitute many things and create a “false” life, mistaking wealth, fame, youth, sex, emotions, etc., for true life.

Seeing all of this as true of humanity – the Orthodox Christian faith does not generally view humanity as having a “legal” problem. It is not that we did something wrong and now owe a debt we cannot pay, or are being punished with death – though such a metaphor can be used and has its usefulness. Be we need more than a change in our legal status – we need a change in our ontological status – that is we must be filled with nothing less than the Life of God in order to be healed, forgiven and made new. Jesus did not come to make bad men good; He came to make dead men live.

Thus God came into our world, becoming one of us, so that by His sharing in our life, we might have a share in His life. In Holy Baptism we are united to Him, and everything else He gives us in the Life of His Church is for the purpose of strengthening, nurturing, and renewing this Life within us. All of the sacraments have this as their focus. It is the primary purpose of prayer.

Thus, stated simply, to have communion with God means to have a share in His Divine Life. He lives in me and I in Him. I come to know God even as I know myself. I come to love even as God loves because it is His love that dwells in me. I come to forgive as God forgives because it His mercy that dwells within me.

Without such an understanding of communion, many vitally important parts of the Christian life are reduced to mere moralism. We are told to love our enemies as though it were a simple moral obligation. Instead, we love our enemies because God loves our enemies, and we want to live in the Life of God. We’re not trying to be good, or to prove anything to God by loving our enemies. It is simply the case that if the Love of God dwells in us, then we will love as God loves.

Of course all of this is the free gift of God, though living daily in communion with God is difficult. The disease of broken communion that was so long at work in us is difficult to cure. It takes time and we must be patient with ourselves and our broken humanity – though never using this as an excuse not to seek the healing that God gives.

We were created for communion with God – it is our very life. Thinking about communion with God is not a substitute for communion with God. Theology as abstraction has no life within it. Theology is a life lived in Christ. Thus there is the common saying within Orthodoxy: “a theologian is one who prays, and one who prays is a theologian.”

“If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have communion with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

This is our salvation.”


---

Let’s get back to St Athanasius’ maxim. When an Orthodox Christian reads it, he doesn't rely on his personal understanding of a modern American/Asian/African/Australian/or European man or even a German theologian from 16th century. Orthodox Christians understand Christian faith through the lens of the Church Fathers who passed this Christian faith to us.

For the Fathers, "God became man to make men gods" would mean that the Lord came to earth, died for us and resurrected so that to share His Divine life with man. Our salvation/deification/partaking in the divine nature/communion with God is the result of Resurrection. If the last Adam’s resurrected humanity is full of life and divinity, it also means that our resurrected humanity will be in the same glorious form of the eternal life of the Kingdom of God. Theosis/deification is still a mystery. We can neither understand it nor say much about it. But as the Eastern Fathers teach, theosis is the true purpose of our life.

Fr Thomas Hopko says, “We are all called to be saints, to be holy as God is holy, to be perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect. (Rom. 1:7, 1 Cor. 1:2, 2 Pet. 1:15, Mt. 5:48) We are all made to fulfill ourselves as creatures made in God’s image and likeness for eternal life. And we can do so because God not only creates us with this possibility, and indeed, this command; but because He also does everything in His power to guarantee its accomplishment by sending His Son and His Spirit to the world.”

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I have a retired neighbor friend, also an engineer, who grew up in the Russian Orthodox church, but now attends the nearest Ukrainian Orthodox church... In all regards they are so "old."
Brother Ohio, thank you. I take it as a compliment. The word “old” doesn't only mean "old-fashioned" but also "original".

BTW, if someone is interested to know old/ancient Orthodox understanding of the Lord's death on the Cross, Resurrection and atonement theory, I highly recommend Fr Stephen Freeman’s posts. Please don't neglect the comments. They are worth reading.

The Death of Christ and the Life of Man

https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory...rist-life-man/

Good News – Your Debt is Being Cancelled

https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory...ebt-cancelled/

God bless.
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Old 05-05-2016, 08:16 AM   #72
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Where is LSM’s Great ‘High Peak Revival’?
Lessons from Orthodoxy
Nigel Tomes
Looking to the future, Orthodoxy’s prospects are no brighter. For the 20-year period, 2005 to 2025, the world’s Christian population is projected to grow at 1.11%. Independents are projected to increase at 1.64%; Pentecostal/ Charismatics 1.54%; Protestants at 1.26%; evangelicals 1.08%; Roman Catholics at 1.01% and Orthodox (trailing the pack) at 0.6%.20

Hello everybody,

I'm more than a little confused. Can someone help me out a bit here. What is the difference between an Independent, an Evangelical, a Protestant, and a Pentecostal Christian? I've just realized that I've always taken them all to be the same group of people.

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Old 05-05-2016, 10:42 AM   #73
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

The answer for you, my friend, lies within the quote you have cited: "the world’s Christian population" IS "the same group of people"! It is only people like Witness Lee that would say otherwise.

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Old 05-05-2016, 11:25 AM   #74
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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I'm more than a little confused. Can someone help me out a bit here. What is the difference between an Independent, an Evangelical, a Protestant, and a Pentecostal Christian? I've just realized that I've always taken them all to be the same group of people.
I can see the confusion. But I don't think the idea was to say that these are separate groups, but rather ways of dividing up the whole of Christianity.

At the highest level you have the EO, RCC and Protestants.

There are actually Catholics other than the RCC, though a very small part.

"Protestant" is a collection of many groups that can be singled out or even grouped within the larger protestant grouping. Independents is a vague collection of non-denominations, free groups, home churches, etc. It is likely that the Bible Church movement is in that since it is not a denomination and no assembly answers to anyone outside of itself (other than God). But it is also part of the Evangelicals. And another subset called Fundamentalist. Pentecostal/Charismatic groups are generally overlapping with evangelicals, but not always or not entirely in some cases.

The Anglicans are a funny bunch because to some degree they are simply separated Catholics, not really fitting in with Protestantism. But that is not a universal statement. There are very Evangelical Anglican churches.

So it is like drawing a variety of circles over a large population of Christians and finding that this circle is Evangelical. The next circle, which overlaps with the Evangelical circle at least somewhat are the Pentecostals/Charismatics. And so on.

Some groups are quite doctrinally different from others. Yet others are only marginally different, or mainly different in practice or in connection to "roots," etc.
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Old 05-05-2016, 05:21 PM   #75
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Default The Triad Distinguished by Deification - Tomes

The Triad Distinguished by Deification
Nigel Tomes

The Local Church movement began by emphasizing The Normal Christian Life and The Normal Christian Church Life (W. Nee). However, the ‘Lord’s Recovery,’ under the leadership of Witness Lee (Li Changshou) --the ‘Minister of the Age’ --was never content to be ‘normal;’ it was never satisfied simply to be one among many diverse expressions of Christ’s Church. The Local Church always claimed a privileged status—whether the sacramental ‘ground of locality’ or the highest revelation. In his final years Witness Lee appropriated Eastern Orthodoxy’s deification dogma, pronouncing it “the highest peak of the divine revelation in the entire Bible.”0 Thus deification—“man becoming God”—became the distinctive, defining characteristic of LSM’s Local Church. Deification is now a tenet of the faith in LSM’s Local Church; it has entered their creed. 1“We in the local churches hold that man may become God in God's salvation,” LSM’s Kerry Robichaux declared authoritatively.

In adopting this stance, LSM has aligned itself with a select group of ‘Christian Churches’ for whom the deification dogma is a key defining characteristic. To my knowledge there are three such groups forming a virtual triad distinguished by the deification doctrine – [1] the Eastern Orthodox Church, [2] the ‘Mormon’ Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) and [3] the ‘Local Church of the Recovery,’ linked to Witness Lee & his publishing arm—Living Stream Ministry (LSM). Here we briefly ‘set the stage’ for an examination of the similarities and differences between the members of this triad, ‘fellow travelers’ in the cause of deification.

[1] Eastern Orthodoxy
There is no doubt that theosis (deification) is the main tenet of the Orthodox Church. Consider the following:
· Michael Horton says “Deification (theosis)...is the central theme of Eastern Orthodox soteriology.”2
· Daniel L. Migliore, states “Deification Theosis is a central theme of Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality, summed up ...[by] Athanasius: ‘God became human that we might become divine’.”3
· Joseph Burgess, Jeffrey Gros write, “For the Orthodox theosis is a central theological and religious idea.”4
Sin, the Fall & Salvation
For Eastern Orthodoxy, deification is not merely an adjunct to their theological system; it colors the whole. Orthodoxy’s view of sin, mankind’s fall and salvation differs drastically from key evangelical tenets. Professor Donald Fairbairn, in a sympathetic presentation (quoting Orthodox writers) observes,5 “Orthodoxy holds a somewhat different concept of sin than that of Western Christians. Zernov writes, ‘The East regards sin as only a temporary malady [illness] which hurts man, but does not annihilate his God-like image.’ Auxeutios offers a similar explanation of sin, ‘Man did not ‘fall’ into a state where his nature became sinful. He chose to remain and indulge in his own undeified nature...[Man’s] fall was not from the heights of heaven, but from a precious road; so man is not to be judged too harshly for his error’.” Mankind’s fall was not so serious. Orthodoxy contends that sin is merely a short-term sickness, it did not impart the sinful nature to the human race and it was a minor misstep, a misdemeanor. Along the same lines, Fritz Ridenour maintains,6 the “Orthodox do not agree that man is bound by a totally corrupt, sinful nature. According to the Orthodox, through the Fall, mankind did not inherit guilt through Adam, but instead man inherited death, mortality and corruption. When mankind fell in Adam, it was a ‘departure from the path,’ not a drastic plunge from a state of blessedness.” Hence Orthodoxy rejects Calvin’s dictum of the ‘total depravity of mankind’ (Rom. 3:10-18).

The “Fall of mankind” (Gen. 3) was merely a ‘minor bump in the road,’ an obstacle on the path to deification. So, for the Orthodox, “the fallen state is not drastically different from the original created state; the fallen state is the condition of people who have turned aside from the path they were to follow [--i.e. to theosis]”7

Jesus’ main role for Orthodoxy, is to remove obstacles on the path to man’s deification. Due to this notion, it is not Christ’s atoning death, but rather “The incarnation…[that] is the central redemptive event in Eastern Orthodoxy.”8 Hence, as Orthodoxy’s deification doctrine evolved, there was a subtle “shift in emphasis regarding the decisive saving event, from Jesus’ death as atonement for sin, to his birth & incarnation as the divine taking the human into itself. Despite the Pauline insistence that central to the gospel was the affirmation that ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Cor. 15:3), the creeds shift the focus from the atoning death to incarnation.”9 These developments are far from innocuous.

Justification De-emphasized
Since sin, guilt and condemnation is not a major problems, in Orthodoxy’s view, it follows that redemption (atonement) and justification do not receive the same emphasis as Protestant or evangelical Christianity. Scholars observe that “In Eastern Orthodox soteriology, following Saint Athanasius, the emphasis on salvation is not justification, but divinization.”11 In fact, Paul Gavrilyuk observes that “In most patristic treatments of theosis, justification plays next to no role at all.”12 Fritz Ridenour notes that “Evangelical Protestant scholars believe that the Orthodox deification approach to salvation leaves them practically ignoring the doctrine of justification by faith. For example, [Professor] Donald Fairbairn observes that ‘most elements of the orthodox understanding of salvation actually pertain to sanctification.’ Fairbairn also comments that the major Orthodox ‘proof text’ of deification –2 Peter 1:4—lies in the middle of a passage about sanctification.”13 Thus Dr Fairbairn says, “To use Protestant terminology, one can generalize that the Orthodox understanding of salvation consists mainly of elements related to what we call the process of sanctification (becoming Christ-like)...”14

In Orthodoxy justification by faith is de-emphasized. Moreover justification’s judicial (or forensic) aspect is denigrated and/or denied. This ought not to be surprising; if there is no sin, no guilt, there is no legal case against man as a sinner! The Orthodox pay lip service to justification at times; e.g. one Orthodox scholar says:
“The Orthodox view baptism as both a justifying event and the beginning of theosis [deification]...In the justifying event, believers are given a new identity—are made Christ-like (theosis) through their mystical union with Him in baptism.”15
“Mystical union in baptism,” sounds familiar, though placed in a foreign context. But, the “justifying event,” referred to here, is Orthodoxy’s sacrament of infant baptism; it is not a believing response to Christ’s redemptive death. Orthodoxy is as far from the Reformation’s “justification by faith,” as the East is from West!

Deification—the Path to Sinless Perfection
Since the Fall was a minor detour which did not produce man’s sinful nature, sinless perfection is an attainable goal. In the Orthodox view, people on the path to deification can become sinless: Nicholas Bamford explains that “Deification allows the person to enter ...the Divine state of the Spirit within and without. In this state for Maximus [‘the Confessor,’ AD 580-662], the person is unable to ‘fall’ again...deified persons become sinless by ‘habit of virtue and knowledge’.”16

The Sacramental Path to Perfection/Deification
Despite their ‘high theology’ of deification, Orthodoxy’s practical path to deification is paved with the seven sacraments— infant baptism (which justifies), ‘Chrismation’ where the newly-baptized infant is anointed with specially consecrated oil of myrrh (imparting the Holy Spirit), partaking the Eucharist (the transubstantiated body & blood of Christ), confession, holy orders (ordination to the priesthood, etc), marriage, holy unction (anointing of the sick). Plus there are prayers to the saints and the Virgin Mary, assisted by Orthodox icons.

[2] The Mormon ‘Church of the Latter Day Saints’ [LDS]
Deified Mormons have all divine attributes, do as God does & are as God is

Eastern Orthodoxy is not alone in making deification a central tenet. The Mormon ‘Church of the Latter Day Saints’ [LDS] founded by Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-1844) and based in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, also holds this doctrine. Mormons teach deification—that men can become gods. Ross Anderson calls it the Mormon “grand vision of progress to godhood.” He asserts “the principle of eternal progression toward exaltation [i.e. godhood, deification] remains the cornerstone of the Mormon worldview.”17

This is confirmed by Mormon literature stating that: “The ultimate desire of a Loving Supreme Being [i.e. God] is to help his children enjoy all that he enjoys. For Latter day Saints, the term, ‘godhood’ denotes the attainment of such a state—one of having all divine attributes and doing as God does and being as God is.18

Note that exalted (deified) Mormons become God in life, nature and all other respects (with no caveats). They can “do as God does,” creating and ruling, becoming Gods, equal with the original Creator God! Mormons contend that such “Exaltation to the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom is reserved for members of the [Mormon] Church of the First Born.” Moreover, “This exalted status...is available to be received by a man and wife...through the eternal [celestial] marriage covenant of the [Mormon] temple.”19 Jesus asserted that in the resurrection there is no marriage (Matt. 22:30; Luke 20:35). However, Mormons feel free to override Jesus’ teaching with their own extra-biblical canon.

“As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become”—Lorenzo Snow (1844)
Eastern Orthodoxy propounds Athanasius’ maxim. Mormons trump that with their own maxim: “’As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.” This couplet is attributed to Lorenzo Snow (1814-1910) the 5th President of the LDS Church (1898-1901).21 It is memorized and recited by LDS youth.22

Snow’s maxim summarizes the teaching of Mormon founder, Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-1844). On April 7, 1844, a few months prior to his death, in the course of a funeral address, Smith stated, “God himself was once as were are now, and is an exalted man, who sits in yonder heavens...I am going to tell you how God came to be God.”23

Clearly Mormons echo Athanasius’ notion that man becomes God. In defense of the latter half of their maxim—man’s deification--Mormons appeal to the same Church Fathers cited by Eastern Orthodoxy and also cited by Witness Lee & LSM’s Local Church.24 Yet Mormons go one step beyond Athanasius, claiming “As man is, God once was...” i.e. that God Himself was, at one time, a Man who got promoted (elevated, deified) to become God.

The Mormon maxim’s opening assertion seems to be Joseph’s Smith’s innovation. Smith made the heretical claim that God is a deified Man—currently He is God; but previously He was a man! Consistent with this, Smith argued that “’the Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s’...[Thus] reducing the gap between the human and divine.”25 In terms of logic it is simply extends the notion that ‘man becomes God.’ If Christian overcomers (e.g., martyrs like Stephen, James, Peter, & Paul plus the ‘Blessed Virgin Mary’?) have ‘become God,’ there are currently many ‘Gods,’ most of whom were previously men. It is only a slight generalization to allege that all current “Gods” (including the Creator God) were previously men! Such incremental ‘steps of logic,’ go well beyond biblical truth into the realm of heresy. Here is proof that man’s wisdom is foolish in God’s estimation (1 Cor. 1:20, 25).

Humans are ‘Gods in Embryo’
David Rowe summarizes Mormon views, saying, “The person Mormons call Heavenly Father was once a human just like us and simply worked his way up! That’s how he became a god. Furthermore the couplet teaches that every human being can do the same thing if we do the right thing—i.e., if we are obedient to the ‘gospel’ of Mormonism with our lives. That’s why Mormons understand humans to be ...’gods in embryo’—the very stuff of godhood...”26

Mormon’s ‘Felix Culpa’—the Fortunate Fall
Mormons view mankind’s ‘Fall’ (Gen. 3) as a ‘fortune fall,’ a blessing in disguise. They aver that “Adam’s fall was a step downward,” but teach that “it was also a step forward...in the eternal march of human progress [to deification].” Mormon Scripture asserts that, if they had not fallen, Adam & Eve ‘would have had no children ...[and] no joy, for they knew no misery’ (2 Nephi 2:23).”27 By their own admission, the LDS Church “discounts the notion of Original Sin & its ascribed negative impact on humanity...[Adam & Eve] did choose mortality, and [yet] in so doing made it possible for all of us to participate in Heavenly Father’s great, eternal plan,”28 they say.

[3] LSM’s Local Church of Witness Lee

For the Local Church “The ‘diamond’ in the ‘box’ of the Bible is the revelation that in Christ God has become man in order that man might become God...The vast majority of today's Christians neglect [this] crucial point in the Bible...” according to Witness Lee.29 This doctrine has been discussed in detail above.

Conclusions
Our purpose was to ‘set the stage’ for a comparison—including both similarities & differences--between the members of this ‘triad,’ for whom deification is a central dogma and distinguishing characteristic. Both in N. America and elsewhere on the globe, people are more likely to meet young, white-shirted, Mormon [LDS] missionaries proclaiming their ‘high gospel’ of deification, than young, white-shirted, FTT trainees from LSM also proclaiming a ‘high gospel’ of deification. The parallel seems to cry out for a comparison.

Elitist

LSM’s Local Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Mormons’ LDS Church each claim to be the “only true Church,” offering the only path (or at least the highest probability of attaining) to deification. According to LSM’s “blended brothers” the chances of qualifying as ‘an overcomer’ outside the Local Church movement are slim to none. On the other hand, adhering to LSM-endorsed practices—HWMR, LSM’s ‘7 Feasts,’ the FTT-trainings, ITERO, BfA, PSRP, BNPB, ‘prophesying’ regularly in Local Church meetings, etc—enables the “dispensing of the Triune God,” facilitating deification and qualifying one as ‘an overcomer.’ Both Orthodoxy and the LDS Church have their equivalent paths and practices. All members of this triad are elitist.

Extra-biblical Sources
All three members of the triad—Eastern Orthodoxy, the Mormons’ LDS Church and LSM’s Local Church buttress their claims that deification is a biblically-based doctrine with appeals to extra-biblical sources. They all appeal extensively to the Church Fathers of the early centuries, following the original apostles and the NT authors. Athanasius is the usual starting point, accompanied by a supporting cast of Church Fathers. Proof texts from Scripture—2 Peter 1:4; Psalm 82:6, etc.,--‘take a back seat’ in most presentations. This ought to alert us that an extra-biblical notion is being imposed upon Scripture via eisegesis. The Church Fathers’ writings are elevated to equality with Scripture to legitimize this dogma. The Mormon LDS Church explicitly adds the Book of Mormon & other writings to Scripture to validate this doctrine along with their other aberrant teachings. LSM’s Local Church does this implicitly by appealing to the “interpreted Word”—Witness Lee’s ministry, “canonized in 1997,” via LSM’s Recovery Version—alongside God’s “inspired Word,” canonized in AD 497.

Ethics
A crucial dimension of this discussion ought to be the ethical impact of the deification dogma on the attitudes and actions of adherents. The notion of deification narrows, blurs, or eliminates the biblical distinction between God, the Creator, and His creatures (including humankind). Mauro Properzi asserts that deification has the effect of “reducing the gap between the human and divine.”31 Robert Klingenberg warns about the ethical impact of this narrowing, saying, “God, His holiness, His righteousness, and His justice are no longer impressive or imposing when you are a god yourself. The fear of God becomes non-existent. That is why the confession of sin and asking God for forgiveness in the ‘We Are Gods’ church services is seldom, if ever, done. After all, gods seldom blow it. And if they do goof up, they will just shake hands as gods with God, and the rare infraction is forgotten.”32 Certainly for Mormons, since God was once a Man and we are men becoming Gods, the Creator-creature distance is narrowed and is ultimately destined to be eliminated.

What are the ethical effects of LSM’s deification dogma? Witness Lee knew how to incite a congregation; he used his rhetorical skills to promote deification, saying, “We may be able to say that we ‘become like God’ in life & nature, but do we have the boldness to say that we ‘become God’ in life & nature? ...Have you not been born of man? Then are you not man?...In the same way, since we are born of God...are we not God?...Since we are born of God, we may say and even we should say that we are God in life and nature but not in the Godhead.”33 After such messages, hordes of young people spilled into the streets of Anaheim, CA., declaring “I am God! I am God!” They wakened residents and disturbed neighbors. However, it is doubtful that anyone was convinced that these trainees were being deified! Moreover, most observers were unimpressed by the ethical impact of LSM’s deification dogma. Will the long-term ethical effects of LSM’s deification dogma be any better?


Nigel Tomes,
Toronto, CANADA
May, 2016



Notes: Thanks to those commenting on earlier drafts. The author alone is responsible for the contents of this piece. The views expressed here are solely the author’s and should not be attributed to any believers, elders, co-workers or churches he is associated with.
0. Witness Lee, Living a Life According to the High Peak of God's Revelation, Ch. 5, Sect. 2 (emphasis. added)
1. “We in the local churches hold that man may become God in God's salvation,” says LSM’s Kerry Robichaux, adding, “We are persuaded by our study of the Word of God and by our understanding of God's economy. We are also confirmed by the ancient testimony of the church.” [Kerry S. Robichaux, Truth Concerning the Ultimate Goal of God's Economy, Ch. 1, Sect. 10]
2. Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, p.
3. Daniel L. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, 3rd ed. p.
4. Joseph A. Burgess, Jeffrey Gros, Growing Consensus: Church Dialogues in the United States, 1962-1991, Vol. 1, p. 359
5. Donald Fairbairn, Eastern Orthodoxy through Western Eyes, pp. 74-75 (emphasis added)
6. Fritz Ridenour, So What's the Difference? p. 64 (emphasis added)
7. Donald Fairbairn, Eastern Orthodoxy through Western Eyes, p. 76
8. Kelly M. Kapic, & Bruce L. McCormack, Mapping Modern Theology: A Thematic & Historical Introduction, p. 285
9. James D. G. Dunn, Neither Jew Nor Greek: A Contested Identity, p. 822
10. [Blank]
11. Douglas M. Beaumont (ed.) Evangelical Exodus: Evangelical Seminarians & Their Paths to Rome, p. note 32 (emphasis added)
12. Paul L. Gavrilyuk, “The Retrieval of Deification: How a Once-despised Archaism became an Ecumenical Disideratum,” Modern Theology, Vol. 25:4 (Oct. 2009) p. 653
13. Fritz Ridenour, So What's the Difference? p. 65
14. Donald Fairbairn, Eastern Orthodoxy through Western Eyes, p. 92
15. [Stanley N. Gundry, James J. Stamoolis & J. I. Packer, Three Views on Eastern Orthodoxy & Evangelicalism, p. 39 (emphasis added)]
16. Nicholas Bamford, Deified Person: A Study of Deification in Relation to Person & Christian Becoming, (2011) p. 154 (emphasis added)
17. Ross Anderson, Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor: A Quick Christian Guide ..., p.
18. Mormonism 2010 Handbook on Mormonism, p. 404 (emphasis added)
19. Mormonism 2010 Handbook on Mormonism, p. 404
20. [Blank]
21. LDS President Lorenzo Snow often referred to this couplet as having been revealed to him by inspiration during the Nauvoo period of the church. See, for example, Deseret Weekly, 3 November 1894, 610; Deseret Weekly, 8 October 1898, 513; Deseret News, 15 June 1901, 177; and Journal History of the Church, Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, 20 July 1901, p. 4. See also “’As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.’ God is a deified Man; man’s deification depends on the Mormon sacraments [Mormon baptism, etc].” [Patrick W. Carey, Joseph T. Lienhard, “Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-1844)” Biographical Dict. of Christian Theologians, p. 470]
22. Mormonism 2010 Handbook on Mormonism, p. 404
23. Susan Wolverton, Having Visions: Book of Mormon Translated & Exposed in Plain English, p. 107
24. See for e.g. Terryl Givens, The Latter-day Saint Experience in America, p. 111
25. Mauro Properzi, Mormonism & the Emotions: Analysis of LDS Scriptural Texts, p. 70
26. David L. Rowe, I Love Mormons: A New Way to Share Christ with Latter-day Saints, p. 56 (emphasis original)
27. Daniel K. Judd, “The Fortunate Fall of Adam & Eve,” in No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues, ed. Robert L. Millet (Religious Studies Center, BYU; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011), 297–328.
28. Daniel K. Judd, “The Fortunate Fall of Adam & Eve,” in No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues
29. Witness Lee, Life-study of 1 & 2 Sam., pp. 203-204
30. [Blank]
31. Mauro Properzi, Mormonism & the Emotions: Analysis of LDS Scriptural Texts, p. 70
32. Robert Klingenberg, Modern Christianity Corrupted, p.
33. W. Lee, Move of God in Man, Message 2, pp. 20-21, (emphasis added).


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Old 05-06-2016, 02:01 AM   #76
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

I don't have time to comment everything. I'd just recommend to study Orthodoxy from original sources. Anyway, let me leave some explanation.

Orthodoxy teaches that Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. They were to develop into the likeness of God. When they sinned in Paradise, the image of God was tarnished, disfigured (although not totally lost or destroyed), and the capability to develop into the likeness was lost as sin, evil and death now reigned. Thus, mankind became diseased or sick, i.e. corrupted and mortal. Jesus through His Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection reunited mankind with God by healing the sickness and destroying our enemy death through His Death, becoming the life-giving spirit. The Lord, the last Adam, succeeded in doing what the first Adam failed in.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomes View Post
According to the Orthodox, through the Fall, mankind did not inherit guilt through Adam, but instead man inherited death, mortality and corruption. When mankind fell in Adam, it was a ‘departure from the path,’ not a drastic plunge from a state of blessedness.” Hence Orthodoxy rejects Calvin’s dictum of the ‘total depravity of mankind’ (Rom. 3:10-18).
That's true. In Orthodoxy the term ancestral sin is preferred (to Original Sin) and is used to define the doctrine of man's "inclination towards sin, a heritage from the sin of our progenitors" and that this is removed through baptism. It means we are not guilty of what Adam's guilt but we bear the consequences (sickness).

"The Orthodox Church presents a view of sin distinct from views found in Roman Catholicism and in Protestantism, that sin is viewed primarily as a terminal spiritual sickness, rather than a state of guilt, a self-perpetuating illness which distorts the whole human being and energies, corrupts the Image of God inherent in those who bear the human nature, diminishes the divine likeness within them, disorients their understanding of the world as it truly is, and distracts a person from fulfilling his natural potential to become deified in communion with God." - Wikipedia

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomes View Post
Orthodoxy’s view of sin, mankind’s fall and salvation differs drastically from key evangelical tenets. Professor Donald Fairbairn, in a sympathetic presentation (quoting Orthodox writers) observes,5 “Orthodoxy holds a somewhat different concept of sin than that of Western Christians.
That's correct. Protestants hold to Roman Catholic concept of sin which is different from Eastern Orthodox. "The Biblical Greek term for sin, αμαρτία (amartia), means "sin": it implies that one's aim is out and that one has not reached the goal, one's fullest potential. As in Western Christianity, in Eastern Orthodoxy the goal is union with God. Orthodoxy also understands sin as a disease of the soul, a condition where the soul is lacking in God's grace. Union with God, as made possible through Christ, is the ultimate medicine." - Wikipedia

"Most Orthodox theologians reject the idea of ‘original guilt,’ put forward by Augustine and still accepted (albeit in a mitigated form) by the Roman Catholic Church. Men (Orthodox usually teach) automatically inherit Adam’s corruption and mortality, but not his guilt: they are only guilty in so far as by their own free choice they imitate Adam. Many western Christians believe that whatever a man does in his fallen and unredeemed state, since it is tainted by original guilt, cannot possibly be pleasing to God: ‘Works before Justification,’ says the thirteenth of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, ‘...are not pleasant to God ... but have the nature of sin.’ Orthodox would hesitate to say this. And Orthodox have never held (as Augustine and many others in the west have done) that unbaptized babies, because tainted with original guilt, are consigned by the just God to the everlasting games of Hell (Thomas Aquinas, in his discussion of the fall, on the whole followed Augustine, and in particular retained the idea of original guilt; but as regards unbaptized babies, he maintained that they go not to Hell but to Limbo — a view now generally accepted by Roman theologians. So far as I can discover, Orthodox writers do not make use of the idea of Limbo.The Orthodox picture of fallen humanity is far less sombre than the Augustinian or Calvinist view.

But although Orthodox maintain that man after the fall still possessed free will and was still capable of good actions, yet they certainly agree with the west in believing that man’s sin had set up between him and God a barrier, which man by his own efforts could never break down. Sin blocked the path to union with God. Since man could not come to God, God came to man." (Orthodox Church by Bishop Kallistos Ware)

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Originally Posted by Tomes View Post
Mankind’s fall was not so serious. Orthodoxy contends that sin is merely a short-term sickness, it did not impart the sinful nature to the human race and it was a minor misstep, a misdemeanor.
That's not true. Mankind’s fall was extremely serious. If it were not serious, God would not come to earth. He could have just sent a prophet or an angel. Besides, how can this sickness be short-term if it's as long as the history of mankind?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomes View Post
“Orthodox do not agree that man is bound by a totally corrupt, sinful nature.
That's right. This concept would be accepted by Witness Lee who believed that human body/flash was of Satan but Orthodoxy rejects such a radical view on mankind. The Orthodox believe that, while the Fall was a disaster that plunged mankind into sin, they do not agree that man is bound by a totally corrupt, sinful nature.

"Orthodoxy, holding as it does a less exalted idea of man’s state before he fell, is also less severe than the west in its view of the consequences of the fall. Adam fell, not from a great height of knowledge and perfection, but from a state of undeveloped simplicity; hence he is not to be judged too harshly for his error. Certainly, as a result of the fall man’s mind became so darkened, and his will-power was so impaired, that he could no longer hope to attain to the likeness of God. Orthodox, however, do not hold that the fall deprived man entirely of God’s grace, though they would say that after the fall grace acts on man from the outside, not from within. Orthodox do not say, as Calvin said, that man after the fall was utterly depraved and incapable of good desires. They cannot agree with Augustine, when he writes that man is under ‘a harsh necessity’ of committing sin, and that ‘man’s nature was overcome by the fault into which it fell, and so came to lack freedom’. The image of God is distorted by sin, but never destroyed; in the words of a hymn sung by Orthodox at the Funeral Service for the laity: ‘I am the image of Thine inexpressible glory, even though I bear the wounds of sin.’ And because he still retains the image of God, man still retains free will, although sin restricts its scope. Even after the fall, God ‘takes not away from man the power to will — to will to obey or not to obey Him’. Faithful to the idea of synergy, Orthodoxy repudiates any interpretation of the fall which allows no room for human freedom." (Orthodox Church by Bishop Kallistos Ware)
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Old 05-06-2016, 08:27 AM   #77
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Default Re: The Triad Distinguished by Deification - Tomes

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Originally Posted by Tomes View Post
Fritz Ridenour maintains, the “Orthodox do not agree that man is bound by a totally corrupt, sinful nature. According to the Orthodox, through the Fall, mankind did not inherit guilt through Adam, but instead man inherited death, mortality and corruption. When mankind fell in Adam, it was a ‘departure from the path,’ not a drastic plunge from a state of blessedness.” Hence Orthodoxy rejects Calvin’s dictum of the ‘total depravity of mankind’ (Rom. 3:10-18).
But if Augustine and Calvin hold to total depravity of mankind, why should I follow their logical trains? They (Calvin and Augustine) are totally depraved, and their logic is thus distorted. Or is their logic somehow unquestionable, post-redemption? They have 'oracular' status, like that of Darby, Nee and Lee to come after them? Anyone who questions them is fallen; they alone have the light? I think not. Wake up and listen to yourselves. You don't have the inside track on human thought. You can look, and think, and hold forth, yes; but so can everyone else. Including the EO, and others.

To make sense of the Bible the proponents of this position need a vastly truncated scripture. Jesus taught that infants angels' were constantly beholding the face of the Father in heaven, but Calvin's reading of total hopeless depravity had them destined for the pit from birth. Or 'Limbo'. So what gives?

What gives is scripture; where the theology can't hold up to scripture, scripture is studiously ignored. I found this out in the LC: bring up the 'wrong verses' and you get a blank stare, and silence. Bringing up the 'wrong verses' in the LC means that you're not compliant; that you're questioning God's oracle; that you have a dark heart; that you're rebellious and trying to draw others after yourself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomes View Post
Fritz Ridenour notes that “Evangelical Protestant scholars believe that the Orthodox deification approach to salvation leaves them practically ignoring the doctrine of justification by faith. For example, [Professor] Donald Fairbairn observes that ‘most elements of the orthodox understanding of salvation actually pertain to sanctification.’
Salvation ultimately includes the salvation of the soul and transformation of the body. So that the term 'salvation' is operationally linked to 'sanctification' shouldn't be too shocking. I'm an Evangelical Protestant by birth, and affiliation, and am not a proponent of deification as an idea. But I don't really think the argument is too compelling, here.
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Old 05-06-2016, 08:33 AM   #78
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

The other problem I have with Tomes' idea of "blasphemy" is that the ones he cites initially, the Jews, thought it "blasphemy" to treat Jesus as equivalent to God. Tomes notes that this is a "breach" in monotheism, but glosses over it. Not to mention the Trinity! Even worse!

So if Tomes wants to use them as his source of "blasphemy", then he's painting himself with the same brush.

Let's think of the unbelievers, here. How are any of them being helped by this conversation? I don't really get it.
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Old 05-06-2016, 09:01 AM   #79
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

I posted this comment to the thread about the Orthodox Church. But I think it will be appropriate here as well:

Philippians 3:20-21
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.

1 Corinthians 15:52
in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

2 Peter 1:3 (KJV)
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

1 John 3:2
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Man can't be of the same essence with God. We will always be the creature, and never the Creator. God will remain God, and we will remain His people. But I believe the fullness of Christ is much more than just spiritual growth. Becoming a partaker of our humanity, Christ opened the way for us to become partakers in His divinity. “For as He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17).

Romans 6:3-6
Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall also be raised together in the likeness of His resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that we should no longer be the slaves of sin.

The verses above say that we will one day inherit a new resurrection body, just like the body of the risen Christ. It will be spiritual, glorious, holy, imperishable, immortal, and not inclined to sin. Isn't it deification?
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Old 05-06-2016, 09:05 AM   #80
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

OK. Getting blank editing box when hitting "Quote," so doing it this way:

From ICA:

Quote:
Orthodoxy teaches that Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. They were to develop into the likeness of God. When they sinned in Paradise, the image of God was tarnished, disfigured (although not totally lost or destroyed), and the capability to develop into the likeness was lost as sin, evil and death now reigned. Thus, mankind became diseased or sick, i.e. corrupted and mortal. Jesus through His Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection reunited mankind with God by healing the sickness and destroying our enemy death through His Death, becoming the life-giving spirit. The Lord, the last Adam, succeeded in doing what the first Adam failed in.
I honestly believe that this is much more faithful to the creation and fall, including the purpose of man and the result of salvation and moving forward from there.

But I disagree with the idea that developing into the likeness of God equates to any kind of deification. Maybe it is just bad terminology more than bad theology. We consider deification to mean becoming connected to the essence of God. But that is not the picture. It is not that we become more stars with original light, but moons that reflect the light of the one who is deity. Leave the deification out and the EO has a much better grasp on the purpose of man than so much of Protestantism, especially the Evangelical part.

Well, despite the justifications given, I cannot agree on the icons in the way the EO does. I think that much of the argument they make is true. But there is something unsettling about such a need for them. I agree that anything that leads you to God (and not to the icon or to a false god) is positive. But there is something about the manner in which things become accepted icons that is very unsettling. It demonstrates to me a significant lack of focus on what matters.


Then from aron:
Quote:
But if Augustine and Calvin hold to total depravity of mankind, why should I follow their logical trains? They (Calvin and Augustine) are totally depraved, and their logic is thus distorted. Or is their logic somehow unquestionable, post-redemption? Like that of Darby, Nee and Lee to come after them? Anyone who questions them is fallen; they alone have the light? I think not. Wake up and listen to yourselves. You don't have the inside track on human thought. You can look, and think, and hold forth, but so can everyone else.

To make sense of the Bible the proponents of this position need a vastly truncated scripture. Jesus taught that infants angels' were constantly beholding the face of the Father in heaven; Calvin's logic of total hopeless depravity had them destined for the pit from birth. So what gives?

What gives is scripture; where the theology can't hold up to scripture, scripture is studiously ignored. I found this out in the LC: bring up the 'wrong verses' and you get a blank stare, and silence.
Quite observant with respect to both the roots (Calvin, Augustine, etc.) and the present (The LCM, among other extreme sects). Everyone has it completely figured out. I'm having this argument in the Alternate topics where there is a discussion concerning the problem of evil (POE). The argument is based upon a declaration that all these things claimed about God are actually true, and that God is, by definition, required to act in a manner consistent with those characteristics such that He would never allow evil to exist, even going so far as to stop it before it happens.

But that means that God is what we want him to be according to our image of perfection.

Sort of like the old saying that goes something like "God created man in His image and we have been returning the favor ever since."

I suggest that the correct doctrine (or more properly, truth) is probably a mix of Calvinism and Arminianism, EO, RCC, and virtually all Protestantism, with a little of the less clearly heretical thoughts of the Gnostics thrown in for good measure. But truth is not for knowing except to the extent that it informs our living (and oddly, this is where the EO and more liturgical and confessional groups shine) in everything that we do. While there is a place for those who have a true calling to preach, missions, etc., all of us should treat everything about all parts of our lives as if they are spiritual. From driving, to how we treat those that we consider immoral, to how we do business, work for a boss, love and argue with our spouses, and so on.

And when we think of it in terms of knowing for the purpose of informing our living, so many of the specifics of Calvinism v Arminianism become virtually irrelevant. All I know is that I have to believe and obey. Not just be able to point to where I believed (past tense). John 3:16 does not declare "that whosoever believed in me" but "whosoever believes in me." All those declarations of "once saved, always saved" do not respond to "believes." Only declares that "believed" can be substituted for current belief.
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Old 05-06-2016, 10:45 AM   #81
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

Thank you Mike.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OBW View Post
But I disagree with the idea that developing into the likeness of God equates to any kind of deification. Maybe it is just bad terminology more than bad theology. We consider deification to mean becoming connected to the essence of God.
I think it is the terminology. Deification is man’s union with God, wherein we participate in the uncreated energies of the Trinity. We don't participate in God’s essence. Rather we are transformed into the likeness of Christ through participation in His grace, i.e., divine energies. It is a process when we are becoming less earthly and more spiritual, Christ-like.

The footnote commentary in the Orthodox Study Bible for 2 Peter 1:4 reads:

This [Theosis] does not mean we become divine by nature. If we participated in God’s essence, the distinction between God and man would be abolished. What this does mean is that we participate in God’s energy, described by a number of terms in scripture, such as glory, life, love, virtue, and power. We are to become like God by His grace and truly His adopted children, but never becoming God by nature.
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Old 05-07-2016, 07:48 AM   #82
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Default Re: The Triad Distinguished by Deification - Tomes

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Originally Posted by Tomes View Post
The Local Church movement began by emphasizing The Normal Christian Life and The Normal Christian Church Life (W. Nee). However, the ‘Lord’s Recovery,’ under the leadership of Witness Lee (Li Changshou) --the ‘Minister of the Age’ --was never content to be ‘normal;’ it was never satisfied simply to be one among many diverse expressions of Christ’s Church. The Local Church always claimed a privileged status—whether the sacramental ‘ground of locality’ or the highest revelation.
Anyone who had spent any time meeting with the local churches would know this to be true. There is always a need for local churches to view themselves head and shoulders over everyone else. Usually applied by putting everyone else down. Whether fellow churches within your own locality or fellow servants such as Greg Laurie, Billy Graham, etc. Speaking on Billy Graham, it is really funny from the ironic sense ones I've known to criticize Billy Graham when I was a pre-teen the same one would express appreciation for Billy Graham's evangelism only after leaving LC fellowship. The LC group think system just doesn't permit appreciation for the Lord's fellow servants outside the LSM/LC system. If Witness Lee,Ron Kangas, etc criticizes Billy Graham, then it sanctions all those in the recovery to ridicule. Understand this is all done in order to say "we alone are God's move on the earth. We in the recovery are the sole expression." Look around at LC demographics. Those who meet there, what do you see?
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Old 05-08-2016, 07:47 AM   #83
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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Originally Posted by InChristAlone View Post
I think it is the terminology. Deification is man’s union with God, wherein we participate in the uncreated energies of the Trinity. We don't participate in God’s essence. Rather we are transformed into the likeness of Christ through participation in His grace, i.e., divine energies. It is a process when we are becoming less earthly and more spiritual, Christ-like.

The footnote commentary in the Orthodox Study Bible for 2 Peter 1:4 reads:

This [Theosis] does not mean we become divine by nature. If we participated in God’s essence, the distinction between God and man would be abolished. What this does mean is that we participate in God’s energy, described by a number of terms in scripture, such as glory, life, love, virtue, and power. We are to become like God by His grace and truly His adopted children, but never becoming God by nature.
It seems that deification in Orthodox terminology means becoming fully mature sons of God, not becoming God.

Lee said that essentially the Church as the Body of Christ is the Fourth of the Trinity. This opens the way for the church members to be God. I don't think the Orthodox position is that way at all. I'm not sure Nigel Tomes really connects Lee's deification notion with the Orthodox position except tangentially.

I'm not sure there is any profit in wrangling over terminology. No one can prove anything either way. But the real proof is when we love one another.

"When you all arrive at the oneness of the faith, at a full-grown man, at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." Does oneness arrive when we all agree to only read one ministry? When we all agree only to play piano and acoustic guitar in meetings, not drums or amplified bass? When we all agree on "sonship" versus "adoption" versus something else? I daresay no. People who think oneness follows such "restrictions" (a new favorite LC word) are deluded. That is the oneness of a prison, of a gulag.

Paul presented a vision of the oneness of the one new man, by receiving all whom God has received in Christ Jesus, regardless of the name on the building, or even if they meet in a designated building at all! Paul went into the Jewish synagogues, and into the Greek market places. Paul preached freedom in Christ Jesus. Don't take this freedom to licence foolishness, and also don't impose restrictions that Paul or Peter or James or Jesus never promoted.

Whether or not deification comes, how it comes, and what it looks like (how many qualifications and amending clauses) is irrelevant to being at peace with my fellows, today. We should focus on the process, and let God rule the outcome. "Love one another" and "be at peace" are the type of commandments that over-ride any other rules, theories or doctrines - the high peak, so-called, is to love one another. And this high peak experience comes when we believe into the Lord Jesus Christ, and receive the Spirit that comes in His Name. Any theologies that distract or cheapen this experience are to be held very carefully.

My two cents.
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Old 05-08-2016, 09:31 PM   #84
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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Lee said that essentially the Church as the Body of Christ is the Fourth of the Trinity.
From the Orthodox point of view, the phrase is blasphemous. Lee says that the Church is the Forth Person of the Trinity that shares one essence with God:

“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.”

This is not only a new creed of faith and a new understanding of the Holy Trinity but also idolatry. If the Local Church is the Forth Person of the Trinity, then, Lee and his followers worship themselves as a God.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aron View Post
Whether or not deification comes, how it comes, and what it looks like (how many qualifications and amending clauses) is irrelevant to being at peace with my fellows, today. We should focus on the process, and let God rule the outcome. "Love one another" and "be at peace" are the type of commandments that over-ride any other rules, theories or doctrines - the high peak, so-called, is to love one another. And this high peak experience comes when we believe into the Lord Jesus Christ, and receive the Spirit that comes in His Name. Any theologies that distract or cheapen this experience are to be held very carefully.
Aron, I absolutely agree with you. The Eastern Orthodox Church hardly speaks about theosis, thought it’s one of her central doctrines. Is it an important doctrine? Indeed, it is. But what does deification have to do with me if I am not living in Christ? In other words, if I am not living according to the Gospel commandments?

St. Mark the Ascetic says, "God is hidden in His commandments". St. Maximus the Confessor adds, “Cleanse your mind from anger, remembrance of evil, and shameful thoughts, and then you will find out how Christ dwells in you”. The Lord says, "Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them." (John 14:21)

Nobody is able to know the Lord and have communion with Him if he or she neglects the Lord's commandments. The high peak truth is not about deification. It is about keeping the Jesus commandments.

However, it is the same St. Mark the Ascetic who also says, “Some without fulfilling the commandments think that they possess true faith. Others fulfill the commandments and then expect the kingdom as a reward due to them. Both are mistaken.”

It is humility that is required above all for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” For the Holy Fathers, keeping the Gospel commandments without humility is a useless thing because pride does not allow the soul to set out on the path of faith. Even the Lord says, "So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’" (Luke 17:10)

Therefore, St. Isaac the Syrian says:

What salt is for any food, humility is for every virtue. To acquire it, a man must always think of himself with contrition, self-belittlement and painful self-judgment. But if we acquire it, it will make us sons of God.

It is impossible to draw near to God without sorrows, without which human righteousness cannot remain unchanged... If you desire virtue, than give yourself to every affliction, for afflictions produce humility. If someone abides in virtue without afflictions, the door of pride is opened to him.

If you practice an excellent virtue without perceiving the taste of its aid, do not marvel; for until a man becomes humble, he will not receive a reward for his labor. Recompense is given, not for labor, but for humility.
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Old 05-09-2016, 06:27 AM   #85
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

Whether it is theosis, or rapture (or one of its specific times — pre, mid, post) etc., these are the outcomes of proper living from inside of the family of God. In the case of Lee and the LCM, theology was about discovering the right outcome and focusing on that so that you would get there.

Sort of like studying a picture book with photos of Masters and Doctoral degrees so that you know what it is you want to be.

But not really focusing on how you get there. And in Lee's case, at least somewhat misrepresenting the steps required to get there. Ignoring the living today because you don't have enough "dispensing" or other such nonsense.

I would agree that we may in some cases not fully understand what we will be, if we are focused on how we get there, then we should get there (wherever that is). It may be more or less grandiose than what we imagine. But it is the outcome that we will get. But we never get it by studying pictures of degrees and the lifestyle we could have if we made the money the degree might bring.

Better to study the syllabus for the next class. And the first class — one that never ends in this lifetime — is the one on bearing the image of God to the world. Not preaching the verbal gospel. Living in the manner of Christ. Being a humble (not self-deprecating) servant who truly loves others. And who loves the body of Christ. Even those who do not agree on everything we think is important or "orthodox."

Stop focusing on the millennium. Or the rapture. Or theosis. Or when it is (if it is). It will all "pan out in the end" if we live our life in obedience.
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Old 05-09-2016, 06:42 AM   #86
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Default "Good works" or "dead works"?

Continuing the discussion, the Protestant view that salvation is by grace through faith, not by works, may lead to a fixation on the endpoint, and ignoring the points in between, as "dead works". By faith we Protestants (or post-Protestants) see a vision (the New Jerusalem, the Consummation of the Processed Triune God, the One New Man as the Fullness of Christ, The Bridegroom and His Bride, the New Heaven and New Earth, Becoming God in Life and Nature [But Not in the Godhead]) and we ignore all the steps in between (love the person next to you, bear patiently with them even as God has been patient with you, etc) as irrelevant, even vain human efforts.

But the "good works" of the Christian faith, so often remarked upon in the pages of the New Testament, should be of a pace with the endpoint. The danger of fixation upon the endpoint as the end in and of itself is that our days become consumed with this theory, presenting it, supporting it, arguing it, and so forth. That becomes our "work"; ignoring those who think differently, masticating the ministry, attending meetings, conferences and trainings, and avoiding palace intrigues - who's on the in and who's on the out.

So even if the end point is arguably, objectively real, the ignoring of the necessary steps in between as "dead works" seems to erase it from our experience, either present or future.

Just thinking aloud here.

ICA's quote of St. Mark the Ascetic seems to be on the same track. Good works without Christ are vain, but so is theology without commensurate good works. And the LC model seems completely shorn of good works. So their endpoint, however carefully phrased and defended, is essentially irrelevant.
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Old 05-16-2016, 08:03 AM   #87
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Default LSM’s Deification—Zero Value Added

LSM’s Deification—Zero Value Added
Nigel Tomes

“Beginning from the 1991 Winter Training...Brother Lee's remaining years of ministry focused on what he called the high peak of the divine revelation: that God became man in order that man might become God in life and nature but not in the Godhead.0 This is how Living Stream Ministry (LSM) introduces ‘The High Peak of the Divine Revelation.’ It was marketed as the “diamond in the box of the Bible,”1 Witness Lee’s crowning achievement. In fact the concept of ‘deification’—“man becoming God”—dates back to Athanasius and beyond; so an “old notion” of the ‘Church Fathers,’ was presented as a “new revelation” to LSM’s Local Church.

No doubt, Athanasius’ maxim gave Witness Lee a new slogan. Certainly this rhetorical phrase had ‘shock value’ to catch people’s attention. But we ask: Did this slogan add any additional insights to Witness Lee’s established teachings? Allegedly it was the “highest truth,” the “highest gospel;”2 But, in fact, was this merely a ‘new label, ‘re-branding an existing product’? Or was there something essentially ‘new’ in this ‘high peak revelation’?

“How Does God Make Man God?”

According to the ‘high peak’ deification dogma, God’s goal is to deify mankind; but, how does God do that? W. Lee replied: “How does God make man God? After God regenerates us with Himself as life, He continues to carry out the work of sanctification, renewing, and transformation in us by His Spirit of life. God became man through incarnation; man becomes God through transformation.3 Elsewhere he maintains that, “[God] is doing one thing, that is, to work on all His redeemed and regenerated people to make them God. How does He do it? He does it by being in them to continuously sanctify them, renew them, and transform them. This transformation is to deify them. The purpose of transformation is to make man God until man is...exactly like God (2 Cor. 3:18).”4 So, W. Lee’s answer, in brief, is that ‘deification’ is the issue of ‘transformation;’ man is deified by transformation. Expounding a little more, he says, deification results from “a lifetime transformation until we are conformed to His image...It is through regeneration, sanctification, renewing, transformation, conformation, and glorification that we may become God.5

Nothing New Here
Anyone familiar with W. Lee’s ministry immediately recognizes that there is nothing new here. All these terms are well-defined and often recited. These components of God’s “complete salvation” were repeatedly taught. For example, prior to the “High Peak’ revelation, Witness Lee asserted “God wants to [transform us]...He does this by putting Himself as a new element into us, first, to regenerate us, second, to sanctify us, and third, to renew us. The steps of regeneration, sanctification, and renewing result in the changing of our present form into a further form...This transformation is the aggregate of regeneration, sanctification, and renewing. When these 3 things are added together, the sum is transformation.”6 Similar statements could easily be multiplied. Here we have the same items--regeneration, sanctification, renewing & transformation —as those listed in the previous paragraph in the process of ‘deification’.7 What was previously called “God’s complete salvation,” is now designated as “deification;” the content is the same. The obvious implication is that Witness Lee’s ‘high peak’ revelation of deification provided no new insights into the process of Christian growth and maturity. Deification was merely a ‘new label’ for his long-established teachings regarding the Christian life.

Sanctification
As a further example consider W. Lee’s exposition of the believer’s experience of sanctification. He discerns three “steps” –(1) before regeneration, (2) at the time of regeneration & (3) after regeneration--as follows:8
“Sanctification of the Spirit consists of 3 steps [stages]:
(1) the Spirit's seeking us & convicting us at the time that He caused us to repent & believe (1 Pet. 1:2; Jn. 16:8);
(2) His sanctifying us both positionally & dispositionally (Heb. 13:12; 1 Cor. 6:11) at the time we were saved; &
(3) His sanctifying us dispositionally as we pursue the growth in life (Rom. 6:19, 22).
By these 3 steps of the Spirit's sanctification, God's salvation is applied to us that we...obtain & enjoy it fully.”
Concerning the “third stage,” after we are justified/ saved, W. Lee states “The third stage of sanctification for our transformation is mainly a dispositional sanctification. This is...stressed in Rom. 6:19 and 22. This sanctification takes place in our disposition, changing our very nature. This is for our transformation and also includes our conformation and glorification. Glorification is actually the last step, the ultimate step, of the Holy Spirit's sanctification. In this all-inclusive sanctification, God's complete salvation is carried out.”9 This earlier (‘pre-High Peak’) exposition emphasizes the believer’s sanctification, which is linked to their transformation, conformation and ultimate glorification; it makes no reference to deification.
Now consider the parallel (later) exposition of sanctification, in the context of deification. Witness Lee asks,10
How does God make man God? First, God became a man....In His resurrection He became the life-giving Spirit. In this Spirit He [is] making man God. [1] First, He [God] is now the sanctifying Spirit...1 Pet. 1:2. We were people fallen into sin, but some believers were moved by God to come & preach the gospel to us. Through the preaching of the gospel this sanctifying Spirit comes to separate us, the God-chosen people... We were sanctified [‘positionally’] before we were saved. [2] Second at the time we heard the gospel, the Spirit put faith into us. [3] Third, when we believed, the life of God...entered into us. Thus we were regenerated. The sanctification we experience after our regeneration is not positional sanctification but [4] dispositional sanctification... This...is not accomplished in one day. This sanctification issues in renewing, which is a lifelong matter. Renewing issues in transformation, which is also a lifelong matter. The final result of transformation is to be conformed to the image of the Lord and be the same as He is. From the first step of regeneration to the final step of conformation, everything is carried out by the Spirit. Eventually, this Spirit will bring us into glory. That is glorification, as spoken of in Rom. 8:30...It is by these steps that God is making us God.”
We note, first, that the same components are present here. Witness Lee answers the query, “How does God make man God?” in terms of the “three stages (steps) of sanctification” (now sub-divided into 4 components, numbered [1] to [4] above). Second, “dispositional sanctification” is expounded in terms of “renewing, transformation, conformation and glorification.” These are exactly the same elements identified in W. Lee’s earlier (pre-High Peak’) exposition. A detailed comparison of this later (‘High Peak’) exposition with the earlier (‘pre-High Peak’) account underscores the close correspondence and high correlation between the two.11 Again there is nothing new here; there are no new insights into how to progress in the Christian life unto maturity.

LSM’s “Becoming God” vs. Charismatics’ “Little gods”
Ron Kangas contrasts LSM’s notion of man “becoming God” with the Charismatics’ concept of ‘little gods.”12 He assigns the latter to “Spurious Notions of Deification,”13 observing, “it is alarming that certain television evangelists hold the concept of ‘little gods’—the idea that human beings...are ‘God’s kind of being’.” LSM’s Ron Kangas names Kenneth Copeland, Paul Couch, Kenneth Hagan and Benny Hinn. But, what is “alarming”?

Charismatics’ “alarming” claim--“human beings...are ‘God’s kind of being’.”
Witness Lee’s claim—“we are gods belonging to the species of God.”

Why does Ron Kangas find this claim “alarming”? What is “spurious”? At least these preachers qualify their claims by using “little gods,” rather than LSM’s capital ‘G’– God. Moreover, W. Lee made essentially the same assertion. He said,14 “We are regenerated of God the Spirit to be spirits—gods (John 3:6b) belonging to the species of God... Our second birth caused us to enter into the kingdom of God to become the species of God. The animals and plants have their particular species. We are born of God, so we are gods belonging to the species of God.” I see no essential difference between Charismatics’ claim that “human beings...are ‘God’s kind of being’,” and Witness Lee’s assertion that “we are gods belonging to the species of God.” Nevertheless, Ron Kangas tries to distance LSM from them, saying,15 “We do not wish to align ourselves with devotees of ‘little gods’ doctrine, even though certain elements of the truth are found scattered among their teachings.”

We suspect that what LSM finds “alarming” about the “little gods,” or “Word-faith movement,” is not the theological claim itself, but the implications drawn from it. Some Charismatic preachers assert that, since Christians are “little gods,” they can command the weather, instantly reject sickness and claim prosperity. It’s worth noting that (in contrast to LSM) at least they derive practical and testable implications. Perhaps a believer embracing the “little gods” concept, commands a tornado funnel-cloud to depart. When it fails to do so, he/she ought to deduce that he/she has been misled. Practical testable implications are a “litmus test,” providing opportunities for discernment. LSM’s deification dogma offers no equivalent “litmus test.” On one occasion, W. Lee says,16 “As God's children we are ‘baby gods,’ having God's life & nature but not His Godhead ...God wants those who can say, ‘...I am God....” LSM’s only practical issue is declaring, “I am God! I am God!”

Conclusion
Athanasius’ maxim—“God became man to make man God”—supplied Witness Lee with a new slogan. It has served as LSM’s mantra for two decades. However, we ask, what was the impact of deification on W. Lee’s view of the Christian’s path of progress from initial redemption/justification/regeneration to final transfiguration/ conformation/glorification? We examined his exposition of the Christian’s growth through sanctification/ transformation to maturity. We compared W. Lee’s exposition prior to adopting deification with his exposition within the context of the deification paradigm. We conclude that there is no significant difference; there is nothing new here. The basic view of the believer’s progress from an unregenerate sinner to a glorified child of God remains unchanged, except it is now alleged that “by these steps...God is making us God.” However, the steps themselves (their cause, definition and issue) are unchanged. No new insights are provided; no new practical implications are identified. The same path of Christian progress is now described as “deification.” Hence, we conclude that LSM’s deification dogma has a “net value added” of zero. The same content has simply been “re-packaged” and “re-branded” as “deification.”

In his final years Witness Lee appropriated Athanasius’ maxim. Thus he decked his own homespun theological system with the mantle of Eastern Orthodoxy’s deification.17 Witness Lee’s theology (like Watchman Nee’s) is a ‘patchwork quilt,’ cobbled together from Keswick ‘higher life,’ Brethren dispensationalism, typology, etc.18 Cloaking this theological potpourri with deification gives an aura of respectability and novelty. However, in terms of the practical implications, ‘deification’ adds nothing to Witness Lee’s underlying teaching about the Christian’s path of progress through growth to maturity. The net value added by the deification dogma is zero. In LSM’s hands deification is a doctrine “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Nigel Tomes,
Toronto, CANADA
May, 2016

Notes: As always thanks to those commenting on earlier drafts. The author alone is responsible for the contents of this piece. The views expressed here are solely the author’s and should not be attributed to any believers, elders, co-workers or churches he is associated with.

0. http://www.ministrybooks.org/high-peak.cfm “The High Peak of the Divine Revelation: Beginning from the 1991 Winter Training on the Life-study of Jeremiah, Brother Lee's remaining years of ministry focused on what he called the high peak of the divine revelation: that God became man in order that man might become God in life and nature but not in the Godhead.” This is followed by a list of 48 “High Peak” books. For some reason LSM dates the start of Witness Lee’s “High Peak” period as 1991. Witness Lee himself referred to 1993/4. He said: “In the spring of this year [1994] (actually I saw it last year [1993]) I continued to go higher. I saw that it is only by God's becoming man to make man God that the Body of Christ can be produced. This point is the high peak of the vision given to us by God. Actually, early in the 4th century Athanasius, who was present at the Nicene Council, said that ‘He was made man that we might be made God’.” [W. Lee, High Peak of the Vision & the Reality of the Body of Christ, (1994) Ch. 1, St. 4 (emphasis added)]
1. “The ‘diamond’ in the ‘box’ of the Bible is the revelation that in Christ God has become man in order that man might become God...The vast majority of today's Christians neglect [this] crucial point in the Bible...” according to W. Lee [Witness Lee, Life-study of 1 & 2 Sam., pp. 203-204]
2. W. Lee says: “The Triune God has been incarnated to be a man; on our side, we are being deified, constituted with the processed & consummated Triune God so that we may be made God in life & in nature to be His corporate expression for eternity. This is the highest truth, & this is the highest gospel.” [W. Lee, Life-study of Job, p. 122 (emphasis added) reprinted in Truth Concerning the Ultimate Goal of God's Economy, Ch. 1, Sect. 1]
3. W. Lee, High Peak of the Vision & the Reality of the Body of Christ, (1994) Ch. 2, Sect. 5 (emphasis added)
4. W. Lee, High Peak of the Vision & the Reality of the Body of Christ, (1994) Ch. 4, St. 1 (emphasis added)
5. W. Lee, High Peak of the Vision & the Reality of the Body of Christ, (1994) Ch. 2, Sect. 5 (emphasis added)
6. W. Lee, Central Line of the Divine Revelation, (1991) Ch. 25, Sect. 3 (emphasis added) This is not a “High Peak” book
7. Similar quotes can be easily assembled, including ones explicitly mentioning “conformation, transfiguration & glorification,” along with the items listed above.
8. 2 Thess. 2:13 note #3, RcV
9. W. Lee, Living In & With the Divine Trinity, (1988) Ch. 6, Sect. 6. This is a “pre- High Peak” publication.
10. W. Lee, High Peak of the Vision & the Reality of the Body of Christ, (1994) Ch. 3, St. 4 (emphasis added)
11. A detailed comparison of this “pre-High Peak” presentation with the later (‘High Peak’) exposition underscores their close correspondence:
a. The Pre-High Peak Presentation:
“Sanctification in [2 Thess. 2] verse 13 is all-inclusive. It covers all three stages of sanctification. The first stage of sanctification is for our repentance and is mentioned in 1 Peter 1:2. First, we were foreknown by God the Father for His choosing. Then according to what God chose, the Holy Spirit came to us to separate us, to sanctify us from the world, from sin, and from all the sinners unto God. Through that kind of sanctifying, we repented and returned to God. This is the first stage of sanctification for our repentance.” [W. Lee, Living In & With the Divine Trinity, Ch. 6, St. 6]
b. The High Peak Presentation:
“God became man through the process of being incarnated, living a human life, being crucified, and entering into resurrection. How does God make man God? First, God became a man. The process which God went through from incarnation to resurrection was the procedure for Him to become man. Eventually in His resurrection He became the life-giving Spirit. In this Spirit He comes to carry out the work of making man God. [1] First, He [God] is now the sanctifying Spirit, as we are told in 1 Peter 1:2. We were people fallen into sin, but some believers were moved by God to come and preach the gospel to us. Through the preaching of the gospel this sanctifying Spirit comes to separate us, the God-chosen people. The Spirit's sanctifying work on the sinners is like the woman's lighting a lamp and seeking carefully for the lost coin, as recorded in Luke 15 (v. 8). We were sanctified before we were saved [positional].” [W. Lee, High Peak of the Vision & the Reality of the Body of Christ, (1994) Ch. 3, St. 4] Note: Both reference 1 Pet. 1:2 & the role of the Spirit “to separate us, to sanctify us,” God’s operation upon us, prior to our believing
c. The Pre-High Peak Presentation:
“The 2nd stage of sanctification is for our justification. In the 2nd stage, the sanctification which we receive in God's full salvation is both positional & dispositional. Positional sanctification is mentioned in Heb. 13:12 which says that Jesus sanctified us through His own blood. Positional sanctification is obtained by us through Christ's redeeming blood shed on the cross. Once we are bought back by the Lord's blood, we are separated from the world, receiving a sanctified position & being made holy unto Him. Furthermore, when we were saved & justified, we entered into an organic union with the Lord, partook of His divine life & nature, & were sanctified dispositionally (1 Cor. 6:11).” [W. Lee, Living In & With the Divine Trinity, (1988) Ch. 6, St. 6]
d. The High Peak Presentation:
“[2] Second, at the time we heard the gospel, the Spirit put faith into us. [3] Third, when we believed, the life of God, which is God Himself, Christ Himself, entered into us. Thus we were regenerated. The sanctification we experience after our regeneration is not positional sanctification but dispositional sanctification. When the Spirit separated us from sinners, that was the positional sanctification that took place before we were saved.” [W. Lee, High Peak of the Vision & the Reality of the Body of Christ, (1994) Ch. 3, St. 4] Note: Both accounts talk about “positional” & “dispositional” sanctification; the former, pre-High Peak, account is more clear
e. The Pre-High Peak Presentation:
“The third stage of sanctification for our transformation is mainly a dispositional sanctification. This is the very sanctification stressed in Rom. 6:19 and 22. This sanctification takes place in our disposition, changing our very nature. This is for our transformation & also includes our conformation and glorification. Glorification is actually the last step, the ultimate step, of the Holy Spirit's sanctification. In this all-inclusive sanctification, God's complete salvation is carried out.” [W. Lee, Living In & With the Divine Trinity, (1988) Ch. 6, St. 6]
f. The High Peak Presentation:
“The sanctification we experience after our regeneration is...dispositional sanctification...When the Spirit comes into us to change our disposition, that is the dispositional sanctification that takes place after our regeneration. This dispositional sanctification is not accomplished in one day. This sanctification issues in renewing, which is a lifelong matter. Renewing issues in transformation, which is also a lifelong matter. The final result of transformation is to be conformed to the image of the Lord and be the same as He is. From the first step of regeneration to the final step of conformation, everything is carried out by the Spirit. Eventually, this Spirit will bring us into glory so that God will be completely expressed from within us through our corrupted body. At that time, our corrupted body will also be redeemed and transformed. That is glorification, as spoken of in Romans 8:30: ‘Those whom He justified, these He also glorified.’ It is by these steps that God is making us God.” [W. Lee, High Peak of the Vision & the Reality of the Body of Christ, (1994) Ch. 3, St. 4] Note: Both accounts talk about “dispositional sanctification,” “transformation,” “conformation” & “glorification (the ultimate step).” The two accounts describe essentially the same process.
12. The Charismatics’ “little gods” teaching is also called the “Word of Faith” [WoF] movement: Suffer the Children, a documentary, has a video clip of Creflo Dollar teaching the "little gods" doctrine based on the notion "everything reproduces after its own kind": [Creflo A. Dollar, Jr., is an American televangelist, pastor, and the founder of ‘World Changers Church International’ in College Park, a suburb of Atlanta, GA., USA] The transcript reads:
Dollar: "If horses get together, they produce what?"
Congregation: "Horses!"
Dollar: "If dogs get together, they produce what?"
Congregation: "Dogs!"
Dollar: "If cats get together, they produce what?"
Congregation: "Cats!"
Dollar: "So if the Godhead says 'Let us make man in our image', and everything produces after its own kind, then they produce what?"
Congregation: "gods!"
Dollar: "gods. Little "g" gods. You're not human. Only human part of you is this flesh you're wearing."
Note: These claims are essentially the same as Witness Lee, who says: “In regeneration God begets gods. Man begets man. Goats beget goats. If goats do not beget goats, what do they beget? If God does not beget gods, what does He beget? If the children of God are not in God's kind, in God's species, in what kind are they? If they are not gods, what are they? We all who are born of God are gods.” [W. Lee, Crystallization-Study of the Gospel of John, Ch. 12, Sect. 3]
13. Ron Kangas, “Becoming God,” Affirmation & Critique, Vol. VII, No. 2, (Oct 2002) p. 9. The heading, “Spurious Notions of Deification,” appears on p. 9. The following quote appears on p. 10
14. W. Lee, The God-man Living, pp. 8-9, also reproduced in W. Lee, Raising Up the Next Generation for the Church Life, Ch. 6, Sect. 3 (emphasis added)
15. Ron Kangas, “Becoming God,” Affirmation & Critique, Vol. VII, No. 2, (Oct 2002) p. 11.
16. W. Lee, Life-Study of 1 & 2 Samuel, Ch. 25, Sect. 2, pp. 166-167. The quote in context reads: “1 John 3:2 says, ‘Beloved, now we are children of God...We know that if He is manifested, we will be like Him.’ This verse clearly reveals that we will be like God....John 1:12-13 says that we were born, regenerated, by God with His life. As God's children we are ‘baby gods,’ having God's life and nature but not His Godhead. ...God wants those who can say, ‘...I am God in life and in nature but not in His Godhead.’...The New Testament reveals that we, the believers in Christ, have God’s life and nature and that we are becoming God in life and in nature but will never have His Godhead.” We note that W. Lee extrapolates from what Scripture says—that we are children of God, born of God—to what the Bible does not say—that we are “baby gods,” who declare ‘I am God…”
17. We maintain that the sole item W. Lee appropriated from Orthodoxy was Athanasius’ maxim. Despite the superficial resemblance, W. Lee did not adopt Orthodoxy’s theosis; his version of deification is radically different from theirs.
18. Alexander Chow says, Watchman Nee’s “theology came largely through a re-articulation of two schools of fundamentalist thinking: Keswick sanctification and Brethren dispensationalism... Nee’s eschatology [was] developed from Brethren dispensationalism.” [Alexander Chow, Theosis, Sino-Christian Theology and the Second Chinese Enlightenment, p. 42]
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Old 05-16-2016, 07:54 PM   #88
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Some excellent points were made by Nigel. For starters, something that has escaped the notice of LCers is precisely what Nigel says here: “It was marketed as the “diamond in the box of the Bible,” Witness Lee’s crowning achievement. In fact the concept of ‘deification’—“man becoming God”—dates back to Athanasius and beyond; so an “old notion” of the ‘Church Fathers,’ was presented as a “new revelation” to LSM’s Local Church.” LC members are well aware that LSM has made reference to the Church Fathers in order to defend the teaching of deification. Why then do they continue to market it as the “high peak” that Lee alone saw? If they admit that the notion of deification has been around for as long as it has, it is then disingenuous to attribute it to WL in any way. Just because other Christian groups aren’t talking about it doesn’t mean that it was ‘lost’, and actually this lack of attention given to the matter of deification should be a big hint to those in the LC.

I completely agree that the general themes in WL’s ministry didn’t change, rather it was how such teachings were label. It was a simple re-branding and recycling of previous teachings/themes. When you consider the fact that the notion of deification is nothing new and combine that with the realization that what WL used it as a new label for old teachings, it really does lead to the question of what the actual value of the teaching is. As Nigel asks: “However, we ask, what was the impact of deification on W. Lee’s view of the Christian’s path of progress from initial redemption/justification/regeneration to final transfiguration/ conformation/glorification?” Nigel has posed an excellent question for LC leadership, and I think they have the obligation to answer such a question if they expect the matter of deification to be taken seriously.

LSM is actively attempting to bring this teaching into public view. Sometime last November, Chris Wilde gave a presentation at the annual conference of the Evangelical Philosophical Society on the matter of deification. I never heard what kind of outcome this presentation had, but it’s fair to say that unless there was a strong case made as to the value of what WL taught, it would not be perceived by others as anything important. This, of course, is regardless of whether deification can or cannot be supported. Even if they could make a convincing case for deification, but they would still need to explain why it represents something important, or why what WL taught was a step above what anyone else taught.

As I see it, the reason such a question needs a reasonable response is so that we know that there are not other reasons the teaching has been propagated. One reason that has been mentioned is that of the shock value of such a teaching. I personally am convinced that this is one of the reasons the teaching has value to LCers. It might not encompass the entire value for them, but it does serve a purpose in that way. How can we know that this teaching isn’t being used for such purpose? If leaders are silent then, we can only assume that it is, and I think that the Christians public feels the same way.
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Old 05-17-2016, 07:46 AM   #89
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As I see it, the reason such a question needs a reasonable response is so that we know that there are not other reasons the teaching has been propagated. One reason that has been mentioned is that of the shock value of such a teaching. I personally am convinced that this is one of the reasons the teaching has value to LCers.
I was there when it rolled out and I agree. Lee was continually trying to keep the saints in turmoil and off balance. Look at the pattern of "moves" and "flows" like the Young Galileans etc. Lee continually blew strong winds into the LC. Deification was merely the latest and greatest (they all were the latest and greatest, when they rolled out). Shock value is a good term, here.

It was institutional pentecostalism: we were always shouting at each other in meetings, and being told to get "stirred up" and so forth. So teachings that strained at the borders of orthodox theology was probably one of Lee's ways of keeping us on edge.

And I doubt it was conscious; at least I've seen no evidence that it was so. It was merely the product of a system of hyper-subjective mysticism that Nee inherited from Guyon, Penn-Lewis et al. The continual state of excitement, even occasionally frenzy (I saw it and participated) was a natural outflow of this. And how better to institutionalize excitement than with novel and exciting teachings? (Even if they weren't actually novel).
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Old 05-17-2016, 09:07 AM   #90
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Nigel Tomes: We have looked in vain for statistical evidence of vibrancy, revival & renewal in terms of gospel spread via missions & above-average growth for Orthodox variants of the church. We found none. Orthodoxy, despite deification, is in (relative) decline; we found no (statistical) signs of revival or renewal here. This suggests that LSM’s deification dogma is not a ‘diamond;’ rather it is a ‘dud’!
This was a common sales pitch for Witness Lee. In order for TLR, by then steeped in stagnation, to accept such an extra-biblical teaching, Lee would dangle the carrot of revival before all the faithful. Who could resist such a temptation? Who in their right mind would resist the promise of such blessings? The "new way" had come and gone with only doctored statistics and little increase, but Lee convinced us all that the failure was due to a global conspiracy led by none other than John Ingalls.

Now that all these leperous rebels were properly disposed of, the road to revival was freshly paved. God had just revealed to our brother the final recovery "high peak crystal," which would bring in unprecedented revival, like the days of Elden Hall, consummating in the marriage of the Lamb, and the coming of the New Jerusalem.

Twenty five years later.

What? No revival? We lost Brazil and the GLA? We're going backwards. Ugh!

Blendeds: It's all your fault. You have become Laodicea. You never took brother Lee's word.
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Old 05-17-2016, 03:19 PM   #91
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This was a common sales pitch for Witness Lee. In order for TLR, by then steeped in stagnation, to accept such an extra-biblical teaching, Lee would dangle the carrot of revival before all the faithful. Who could resist such a temptation? Who in their right mind would resist the promise of such blessings? The "new way" had come and gone with only doctored statistics and little increase, but Lee convinced us all that the failure was due to a global conspiracy led by none other than John Ingalls.

Now that all these leperous rebels were properly disposed of, the road to revival was freshly paved. God had just revealed to our brother the final recovery "high peak crystal," which would bring in unprecedented revival, like the days of Elden Hall, consummating in the marriage of the Lamb, and the coming of the New Jerusalem.

Twenty five years later.

What? No revival? We lost Brazil and the GLA? We're going backwards. Ugh!

Blendeds: It's all your fault. You have become Laodicea. You never took brother Lee's word.
I believe Germany was lost also, right?
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Old 05-17-2016, 03:24 PM   #92
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I believe Germany was lost also, right?
Most of Europe and Africa left in the late 80's, before the "high peak" teachings.

Brazil and the GLA left in the late 00's.
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Old 05-17-2016, 03:57 PM   #93
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And I doubt it was conscious; at least I've seen no evidence that it was so.
You may be right. But some of the teachings strained credulity. For both Lee and Nee. Deputy authority. Jesus is the Holy Spirit.

Do you think they really believed these things? Were they really so self-deluded that they believed that there was truly new revelation being given to no one before them on these subjects? Maybe the curse of reading their own press?

When it came to declaring that they could do with their ministries whatever they pleased and only God could have a say . . . . Do you really think they were deluded enough to believe that was right? I suspect that Lee's near-death utterances of vague apologies is evidence that he knew better. He thought it would simply go the way he wanted it to go. But when he approached death, he was second-guessing himself. Still unable to truly do anything about it. But beginning to go through the house washing his hands over and over (metaphorically). In angst over what had transpired but acting as if being a little contrite about unspecified things is the same as confession.
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Old 05-17-2016, 05:02 PM   #94
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Lee was continually trying to keep the saints in turmoil and off balance. Look at the pattern of "moves" and "flows" like the Young Galileans etc. Lee continually blew strong winds into the LC. Deification was merely the latest and greatest (they all were the latest and greatest, when they rolled out). Shock value is a good term, here.

And I doubt it was conscious; at least I've seen no evidence that it was so.
I am in no position to judge another man's motives, but I can tell you what happened to my LC during my final days. Prior to TC's official Whistler quarantine, he instructed all of his loyal workers (probably 10 families) in the Chicago area to move to more "friendly" locales. One such worker was sent to our place, and though he was younger than all the current elders and deacons, TC put him in charge.

You have to understand how this is done. One Lord's Day morning, an elder from the church in Cleveland shows up unexpectedly at our meeting. Then after the Lord's Table, the elder stands up briefly and "encourages us all to labor with this brother," the new worker/elder in town. Now I immediately said to myself, "I know what that means, those are coded words." In simple terms, this brother was our new boss, and our current elders now reported to him. It all happened just like that. Most of the saints didn't have a clue concerning the long term implications.

As soon as this brother got settled in, he completely overhauled the current church meeting structure. Since I was close to many of the saints, I knew his schemes were contrary to their spiritual desires. I addressed this with him privately, and he flippantly responded, "sometimes we need to shock the saints." After a while, it was more than apparent that many saints were indeed "electrocuted."

I know that he got that thought from TC, and that TC got it from WL. So there you have it -- "shock" value.
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Old 05-17-2016, 07:01 PM   #95
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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This was a common sales pitch for Witness Lee. In order for TLR, by then steeped in stagnation, to accept such an extra-biblical teaching, Lee would dangle the carrot of revival before all the faithful. Who could resist such a temptation? Who in their right mind would resist the promise of such blessings? The "new way" had come and gone with only doctored statistics and little increase, but Lee convinced us all that the failure was due to a global conspiracy led by none other than John Ingalls.
No real shock, but there was a conspiracy. However it wasn't concerned brothers such as John So or John Ingalls what were doing any conspiring. They among many others were the victims of the conspiracy led by Witness Lee.
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Old 05-17-2016, 10:53 PM   #96
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This was a common sales pitch for Witness Lee. In order for TLR, by then steeped in stagnation, to accept such an extra-biblical teaching, Lee would dangle the carrot of revival before all the faithful. Who could resist such a temptation? Who in their right mind would resist the promise of such blessings? The "new way" had come and gone with only doctored statistics and little increase, but Lee convinced us all that the failure was due to a global conspiracy led by none other than John Ingalls.

Now that all these leperous rebels were properly disposed of, the road to revival was freshly paved. God had just revealed to our brother the final recovery "high peak crystal," which would bring in unprecedented revival, like the days of Elden Hall, consummating in the marriage of the Lamb, and the coming of the New Jerusalem.

Twenty five years later.

What? No revival? We lost Brazil and the GLA? We're going backwards. Ugh!

Blendeds: It's all your fault. You have become Laodicea. You never took brother Lee's word.
In the LC, there has been a cyclic pattern of bad idea/failure. The bad ideas abound, the failures are eminent. Again and again, before anyone had a chance to give what happened a second thought, it's onto the next "bright idea". The pattern repeats itself over and over again. Conveniently missing from the equation is a simple assessment of what has/hasn't worked.

The matter of deification needs to be considered in conjunction with the outcome (or lack thereof) of the "new way". As the dust was settling, WL was already onto the next thing. I think one distraction was the "Lord's move to Russia". I actually remember this as a kid, wondering why suddenly everyone was talking about Russia.

Of course the other distraction was when WL began talking about the "high peak". In a historical context, it is highly suspect that such things were marketed when they were, especially considering the unresolved situations that preceded this.

Why did leaders have such a strong reaction to writings such as what Indiana produced? It attempted to call into question the very things that leaders had hoped would go unnoticed. The new way left lots of unanswered question and broken promises. Why would members think the "high peak" would offer anything different? The fact of the matter is that everyone was accustomed to taking anything WL said at face value. If WL quickly moved on to something else, so did the rank and file. 25 years after the "high peak" was released, it is time for LC members to engage in an honest assesment of the "net added value" of WL final teachings. What is posted on this forum is in no way an 'attack' on what WL taught, rather it is a call for members to ask themselves this question.
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Old 05-18-2016, 06:44 AM   #97
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Angry Re: LSM’s Deification—Zero Value Added

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I was there when it rolled out and I agree. Lee was continually trying to keep the saints in turmoil and off balance. Look at the pattern of "moves" and "flows" like the Young Galileans etc. Lee continually blew strong winds into the LC. Deification was merely the latest and greatest (they all were the latest and greatest, when they rolled out). Shock value is a good term, here.

It was institutional pentecostalism: we were always shouting at each other in meetings, and being told to get "stirred up" and so forth. So teachings that strained at the borders of orthodox theology was probably one of Lee's ways of keeping us on edge.

And I doubt it was conscious; at least I've seen no evidence that it was so. It was merely the product of a system of hyper-subjective mysticism that Nee inherited from Guyon, Penn-Lewis et al. The continual state of excitement, even occasionally frenzy (I saw it and participated) was a natural outflow of this. And how better to institutionalize excitement than with novel and exciting teachings? (Even if they weren't actually novel).
I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss Jesse Penn-Lewis. It seems she agrees with you to an extent and she clearly exposes the source of the problem as God's sworn enemy making a conscious effort to deceive all men. This quote describes exactly what happened with this errant teaching, and is, I believe, the real problem.

"All that is in any degree the outcome of the mind of the "natural man" (1 Cor. 2: 14) will prove to be but weapons of straw in this great battle, and if we rely upon others' "views of truth," or upon our own human conceptions of truth, Satan will use these very things to deceive us, even building us up in these theories and views, so that under cover of them he may accomplish his purposes. We cannot therefore, at this time, over-estimate the importance of believers having open minds to "examine all things" they have thought, and taught, in connection with the things of God, and the spiritual realm. All the "truths" they have held; all the phrases and expressions they have used in "holiness teachings"; and all the "teachings" they have absorbed through others. For any wrong interpretation of truth, any theories and phrases which are man-conceived, and which we may build upon wrongly, will have perilous consequences to ourselves, and to others, in the conflict which the Church, and the individual believer, is now passing through. Since in the "later times" evil spirits will come to them with deceptions in doctrinalform, believers must examine carefully what they accept as "doctrine," lest it should be from the emissaries of the deceiver." JPL - War on the Saints

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Old 05-18-2016, 07:34 AM   #98
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I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss Jesse Penn-Lewis. It seems she agrees with you to an extent and she clearly exposes the source of the problem as God's sworn enemy making a conscious effort to deceive all men. This quote describes exactly what happened with this errant teaching, and is, I believe, the real problem.

"All that is in any degree the outcome of the mind of the "natural man" (1 Cor. 2: 14) will prove to be but weapons of straw in this great battle, and if we rely upon others' "views of truth," or upon our own human conceptions of truth, Satan will use these very things to deceive us, even building us up in these theories and views, so that under cover of them he may accomplish his purposes. We cannot therefore, at this time, over-estimate the importance of believers having open minds to "examine all things" they have thought, and taught, in connection with the things of God, and the spiritual realm. All the "truths" they have held; all the phrases and expressions they have used in "holiness teachings"; and all the "teachings" they have absorbed through others. For any wrong interpretation of truth, any theories and phrases which are man-conceived, and which we may build upon wrongly, will have perilous consequences to ourselves, and to others, in the conflict which the Church, and the individual believer, is now passing through. Since in the "later times" evil spirits will come to them with deceptions in doctrinalform, believers must examine carefully what they accept as "doctrine," lest it should be from the emissaries of the deceiver." JPL - War on the Saints

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Thanks for stepping up to the plate for Penn-Lewis. I admit my critique of her is second-hand. Following is a quote by Nee in a similar vein:

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Originally Posted by Watchman Nee
"It is not that what I wrote was wrong, for as I read it now I can endorse it all. It was a very clear and complete setting forth of the truth. But just there lies its weakness. It is too good, and it is the illusion of perfectness about it that troubles me. The headings, the orderliness, the systematic way in which the subject is worked out, the logic of the argument---all too perfect to be spiritual. They lend themselves too easily to a merely mental apprehension. When a man has read the book he ought not to have any questions left; they ought all to be answered!

"But God, I have discovered, does not do things that way, and much less does He let us do them. We human beings are not to produce "perfect" books. The danger of such perfection is that a man can understand without the help of the Holy Spirit. But if God gives us books they will ever be broken fragments, not always clear or consistent or logical, lacking conclusions, and yet coming to us in life and ministering life to us. We cannot dissect divine facts and outline and systematize them. It is only the immature Christians who demands always to have intellectually satisfying conclusions. The Word of God itself has this fundamental character, that it speaks always and essentially to our spirit and to our life."
I often think that what I write is a necessary point. But is there any guarantee that is is 'of God'? That I'm a vector for the Holy Spirit to pour forth? Hardly. And that goes for everyone else, too - JPL and WN and WL.

That's where the flock comes in. And I think the flock has mixed reviews on the deification notion. Essentially it was sold in the LC as a hyper-ventilated rocket shot to the moon. But nearly all of WL's exegetical wares were sold thus. As I said, there was a state of constant excitement there. . . one of my friend's daughters got committed to the psych ward after the saints got done screaming at her to 'release her spirit'.

The bottom line is, while we're yet here in the flesh, we should be careful. And teachings that strain at orthodoxy should be held gingerly. Especially when they come forth from someone who was continually "stirring up" the saints of God.
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Old 05-18-2016, 12:57 PM   #99
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Why did leaders have such a strong reaction to writings such as what Indiana produced? It attempted to call into question the very things that leaders had hoped would go unnoticed. The new way left lots of unanswered question and broken promises. Why would members think the "high peak" would offer anything different? The fact of the matter is that everyone was accustomed to taking anything WL said at face value. If WL quickly moved on to something else, so did the rank and file. 25 years after the "high peak" was released, it is time for LC members to engage in an honest assesment of the "net added value" of WL final teachings. What is posted on this forum is in no way an 'attack' on what WL taught, rather it is a call for members to ask themselves this question.
Why a strong reaction? Perhaps realizing the system is broken, but brothers want everyone to ignore "the elephant in the room". Just pretend the system is flawless and just go on positively.
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Old 05-18-2016, 01:52 PM   #100
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Since I was close to many of the saints, I knew his schemes were contrary to their spiritual desires. I addressed this with him privately, and he flippantly responded, "sometimes we need to shock the saints." After a while, it was more than apparent that many saints were indeed "electrocuted."
This has been overstated by me, but I think it needs to be overstated, here on this forum: the institutionalized pentecostalism of the LC bred strange fruit. Elders "shocking" the rank-and-file. . . I know Jesus overturned the money-changers' tables but this is ridiculous. Who got to shock WL and his henchmen? Nobody.

Also reminds me of WL to the Elders: "Do you think I have come here to help you? No - I have come here to lay heavy burdens on you." I read that in the "Elders Training" books once. What kind of a ministry is this? Seriously unbalanced.
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Old 05-18-2016, 03:29 PM   #101
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In the LC, there has been a cyclic pattern of bad idea/failure. The bad ideas abound, the failures are eminent. Again and again, before anyone had a chance to give what happened a second thought, it's onto the next "bright idea". The pattern repeats itself over and over again. Conveniently missing from the equation is a simple assessment of what has/hasn't worked.

The matter of deification needs to be considered in conjunction with the outcome (or lack thereof) of the "new way". As the dust was settling, WL was already onto the next thing. I think one distraction was the "Lord's move to Russia". I actually remember this as a kid, wondering why suddenly everyone was talking about Russia.

Of course the other distraction was when WL began talking about the "high peak". In a historical context, it is highly suspect that such things were marketed when they were, especially considering the unresolved situations that preceded this.

Why did leaders have such a strong reaction to writings such as what Indiana produced? It attempted to call into question the very things that leaders had hoped would go unnoticed. The new way left lots of unanswered question and broken promises. Why would members think the "high peak" would offer anything different? The fact of the matter is that everyone was accustomed to taking anything WL said at face value. If WL quickly moved on to something else, so did the rank and file. 25 years after the "high peak" was released, it is time for LC members to engage in an honest assesment of the "net added value" of WL final teachings. What is posted on this forum is in no way an 'attack' on what WL taught, rather it is a call for members to ask themselves this question.
For me the first step of getting free from WL and the LC was to realize that WL was not the MOTA, an apostle, or even a brother I would want to hang with. I think he was basically a highly intelligent deceptive man that behaved like a crook and swindler at times. The Spirit probably spoke to him just like He speaks to all of us...WL was convinced and was able to convince many strong-willed brothers that he was something special and different. Shame on all the blindeds and elders for propagating this lie that has now become a religious myth believed by those willingly deceived.
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Old 05-30-2016, 06:46 PM   #102
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For me the first step of getting free from WL and the LC was to realize that WL was not the MOTA, an apostle, or even a brother I would want to hang with. I think he was basically a highly intelligent deceptive man that behaved like a crook and swindler at times. The Spirit probably spoke to him just like He speaks to all of us...WL was convinced and was able to convince many strong-willed brothers that he was something special and different. Shame on all the blindeds and elders for propagating this lie that has now become a religious myth believed by those willingly deceived.
Agreed. MOTA concept is a root of evil.

History is filled with many spiritual and godly men who let it go to their head, became Napoleon-like rulers of the Church, and wouldn't let other godly men and scriptures balance them. MOTA concept breeds that.
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Old 05-31-2016, 11:10 PM   #103
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Agreed. MOTA concept is a root of evil.

History is filled with many spiritual and godly men who let it go to their head, became Napoleon-like rulers of the Church, and wouldn't let other godly men and scriptures balance them. MOTA concept breeds that.
A theory of mine is that the teachings of a 'MOTA' and deification go hand in hand. Shortly before focusing on the “high peak” (aka deification), WL made the claim to be the ‘MOTA’. John Ingalls’ testimony is as follows:
He referred to the title he has used for the Holy Spirit – "the all-inclusive Spirit of Christ as the consummation of the processed Triune God" – and asked who made such a title. Webster? he asked. Then he answered his own question, "That Lee! Lee has to be famous! Lee! Lee! Lee must have the credit! And if you listen to me, you do not listen to Lee, you listen to the very God in His oracle spoken by me." A little later in his message he said, "Going with God’s oracle, surely there is the deputy authority of God in this oracle. Whoever speaks for God, he surely has certain divine authority. I’m claiming this for Lee!"

So during the late 80’s, WL made it perfectly clear as to how he viewed himself and his own assumed importance. After the dust settled of the so-called 'turmoil', WL had already moved on to the high peak/deification. What is the link between these two prominent events in LC history? One thing is that WL had become more ‘bold’ in making known how he viewed himself. So why is this important? Those like Ron have failed to acknowledge that WL ever made such claims. Consider what Ron has stated:
“Brother Lee could not say it then, but we can say it today;... he was the minister of the age ...”

In other words, LC members live under the assumption that WL's "high peak" was simply the 'consummation' of WL's ministry and that the idea of WL being a ‘MOTA’ was something that all LC members recognized and agreed upon. This is what I think Ron intended to imply in a statement that is both false and disingenuous. Thus, WL’s self-inflated view is an aspect that must be taken into consideration when discussing his subsequent ministry after the late 80's.

Even if WL is to be given the benefit of the doubt, it doesn’t take much critical thought to realize the discrepancy between his own view of himself and others like the apostle Paul who considered his life as worth nothing (Acts 20:24). I’m even reluctant to make that comparison, because WL liked to try to compare himself to Paul.

So getting back to deification, WL’s ministry reflected his own self-inflated view - that us humans must become someone special. Maybe the whole notion might sound compelling to some, but if WL had expected the concept of deification to be taken seriously, then perhaps he could have started by taking Philippians 2 as a pattern. Jesus made himself a man of no reputation. One Bible version has the following heading for Phil chapter 2: Imitating Christ’s Humility. I believe that this is something that many Christians desire to learn how to do. Even the motto WWJD is not a bad standard to live by when you think about it. Isn't it interesting that LCers will mock the whole WWJD thing?

Maybe we will all fall short at imitating Jesus, but that is kinda the point. We only need to have the mind to do so. We are who we are, and we also know what Jesus wouldn't do. Jesus wouldn't declare that he must become famous or get all the credit. There's really not much else to say. LC leaders just choose to ignore it. Why? Because they don't take Jesus as their pattern. Their pattern is "Lee! Lee!" WL wasn't concerned at all with humility as he so brazenly admitted. It's no wonder LCers mock other Christians who take Phil 2:5 to heart.
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Old 06-01-2016, 12:47 PM   #104
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So getting back to deification, WL’s ministry reflected his own self-inflated view - that us humans must become someone special. Maybe the whole notion might sound compelling to some, but if WL had expected the concept of deification to be taken seriously, then perhaps he could have started by taking Philippians 2 as a pattern. Jesus made himself a man of no reputation. One Bible version has the following heading for Phil chapter 2: Imitating Christ’s Humility. I believe that this is something that many Christians desire to learn how to do. Even the motto WWJD is not a bad standard to live by when you think about it. Isn't it interesting that LCers will mock the whole WWJD thing?

Maybe we will all fall short at imitating Jesus, but that is kinda the point. We only need to have the mind to do so. We are who we are, and we also know what Jesus wouldn't do. Jesus wouldn't declare that he must become famous or get all the credit. There's really not much else to say. LC leaders just choose to ignore it. Why? Because they don't take Jesus as their pattern. Their pattern is "Lee! Lee!" WL wasn't concerned at all with humility as he so brazenly admitted. It's no wonder LCers mock other Christians who take Phil 2:5 to heart.
In the local churches there's a desire to be unique or have uniqueness. To set aside Lee and his ministry and settle for just Jesus, all uniqueness would be lost. They would be reduced to be being just like all other Christians; just a member of the Body. They cannot have that.
There needs to be uniqueness. Something that makes those meeting in the local churches more distinct that any other Christian fellowship. The deification doctrine helps create that distinction and separates the local churches as being superior in having the high peak teachings.
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Old 06-01-2016, 12:51 PM   #105
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A theory of mine is that the teachings of a 'MOTA' and deification go hand in hand. Shortly before focusing on the “high peak” (aka deification), WL made the claim to be the ‘MOTA’. John Ingalls’ testimony is as follows:
He referred to the title he has used for the Holy Spirit – "the all-inclusive Spirit of Christ as the consummation of the processed Triune God" – and asked who made such a title. Webster? he asked. Then he answered his own question, "That Lee! Lee has to be famous! Lee! Lee! Lee must have the credit! And if you listen to me, you do not listen to Lee, you listen to the very God in His oracle spoken by me." A little later in his message he said, "Going with God’s oracle, surely there is the deputy authority of God in this oracle. Whoever speaks for God, he surely has certain divine authority. I’m claiming this for Lee!"

So during the late 80’s, WL made it perfectly clear as to how he viewed himself and his own assumed importance. After the dust settled of the so-called 'turmoil', WL had already moved on to the high peak/deification. What is the link between these two prominent events in LC history? One thing is that WL had become more ‘bold’ in making known how he viewed himself. So why is this important? Those like Ron have failed to acknowledge that WL ever made such claims. Consider what Ron has stated:
“Brother Lee could not say it then, but we can say it today;... he was the minister of the age ...”
What Lee had to say is where Jeremiah 23:34-36 comes in. Of course the audio or video of this conference is not likely to see the light of day for anyone to verify what Lee actually said.
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Old 06-02-2016, 07:03 AM   #106
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JJ: MOTA concept is a root of evil.


Freedom
: A theory of mine is that the teachings of a 'MOTA' and deification go hand in hand. Shortly before focusing on the “high peak” (aka deification), WL made the claim to be the ‘MOTA’.


Terry: In the local churches there's a desire to be unique or have uniqueness. To set aside Lee and his ministry and settle for just Jesus, all uniqueness would be lost.
The very concept of "Recovery," with all its implications, is fraught with dangers. Sure, it sounded so good when we first heard it, but consider the results.

For many of us, the LC meetings ignited or re-ignited our love for Jesus, which of course was wonderful. Immediately thereafter we were instructed that all of Christianity was degraded, and that we alone have left Babylon, like Israel of old. We alone were "recovered" to the proper ground, a recovery which began with the Protestant Reformation. Many gifted men of God were instrumental in those days like Wycliffe, Tyndale, Huss, Luther, Farel, Calvin, Erasmus, Zwingli, etc.

Why did Nee and Lee choose Luther? For me this was a huge factor in the corruption we see in the "Recovery." Why did any man needed to be identified as the beginner of the Lord's Recovery? Should not we have been instructed to only give glory to God, to the Man Jesus, to the moving of the Spirit, for all the great things He has done? In Nee's and Lee's version of church history, as soon as Luther was promoted, and later honored as the first MOTA, the stage props were all in place. Now we simply need to "fill in the blanks" until we arrived at our own version of 20th century MOTAs. How convenient, and how very self-serving.

This distorted view of church history has accomplished the following:
  • Pride. Look at Laodicea. We are the best of the best. Exclusivism and elitism. All others are degraded and hopelessly divided. We alone are blessed. We alone are His testimony. Etc.
  • MOTA. Deputy Authority. A man on earth who has replaced the pope, but is not the Head of the body either. All God's work, all the Son's speaking, and all the Spirit's moving must flow through him. He alone is without peer, and accountable to no one.
  • Heresy. Errors. Teachings replace the Word of God. Novel teachings like deification are extolled as God's up-to-date revelation.
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Old 06-02-2016, 08:07 AM   #107
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The very concept of "Recovery," with all its implications, is fraught with dangers. Sure, it sounded so good when we first heard it, but consider the results.
When I first encountered the movement, the point of emphasis was always "Christ and the Church." Who could argue with that? It was pure and uplifting.

Things slowly began to change, however. I was always a little bothered when the leading ones would effuse about how great Witness Lee was.

"Christ and the Church" steadily evolved into "Lee and the Recovery." "The Ministry" replaced Christ, and "the Recovery" for all our practical purposes was the Church. We went from a blessed and proper generality to an exclusiveness second to none.

Remember the book Animal Farm, the allegorical story about the beginnings of communism? It started out with "All animals are equal" (Christ and the Church) and ended with "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others" (Lee and the Recovery). The transition happened slowly and subtly, and since it had the support of leadership no one could argue with it. The animals became more and more concerned that something was not quite right, but had no power to do anything about it. Near the end, the treacherous pigs in charge (ahem) saw Boxer, the strong, noble horse, as a threat, and had him shipped off to the glue factory.

It's easy to see the parallels. A lot of precious brothers and sisters were shipped to the glue factory.
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Old 06-02-2016, 12:51 PM   #108
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When I first encountered the movement, the point of emphasis was always "Christ and the Church." Who could argue with that?
While there are references from Paul concerning the church as the body of Christ, does that elevate reference to the church to essentially an equal billing with Christ?

I do not simply disagree with your comment that it is "pure and uplifting." But I wonder if the statement is, by definition, incorrect even though we did not think of it as meaning something over-elevated. It surely was something that we committed ourselves to as if it was to Christ. And while we are charged to be devoted (maybe even committed) to each other, is that intended to be the same as what we are to Christ? Or just equal to what we are to ourselves?

Was the church something that was seen as definitionally pure and Christ-like, therefore seen as a version of stand-in for Christ? Was (and maybe still is) the church a non-RCC form of saint to be all but prayed to? To take our focus off of Christ and his commands and place it on something else (even something we think of a pure and uplifting)?

I know that the rhetoric concerning the church increased over time, but was it truly "pure and uplifting" in the beginning, or did we just not see the error in it?

As for where it eventually went, there is no question. But if it was so easily morphed beyond what might be acceptable, maybe it never really was. Just too close to notice.

Not saying, but asking.
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Old 06-02-2016, 01:13 PM   #109
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We alone were "recovered" to the proper ground, a recovery which began with the Protestant Reformation. Many gifted men of God were instrumental in those days like Wycliffe, Tyndale, Huss, Luther, Farel, Calvin, Erasmus, Zwingli, etc.

Why did Nee and Lee choose Luther?
(Not challenging Ohio here. Just thinking out loud.)

I have been wondering whether the whole course of Christianity would have been different if Luther had allowed the then-normal course of discussion on issues to continue as it had. What if, rather than simply jumping ship when everything didn't go as wanted, the discussion had remained within the system that was at the time?

One answer is that changes would have been slower. But is that entirely bad or wrong? When we look at the little council in Jerusalem, was the decree that they came up with perfect? What if, rather than allowing for the ban on things strangled (is wringing a chicken's neck a form of strangling?) some of them had simply decided to part company with the rest and moved on because of it?

That is what Protestants have been doing for 500 years now. When the existing group within which someone finds themselves does not simply listen to "my" new thinking and change, "I" simply disassociate and start a new group.

Despite my current questions and thinking, I would not see that as a reason to simply return to the RCC (a historical return, not that I have ever been part of it). But maybe it gives us a reason to see the history of "recovery" in a different light. Maybe each of those persons in the list brought something that had been ignored to the table. But was the fact that they almost all tended to see those things as worthy of separating from others evidence that maybe the value of those things was not to the extreme that they made them out to be? Were any of them truly worth separating from others over?

I mean, what did Calvin really give us besides doctrines? Did the actual truth change? Did a lack of understanding things his way actually result in fewer Christians? Or just fewer that held to his doctrines? Are those that believe in Christ without having as typical Evangelical crisis event complete with a sinner's prayer unsaved? Are those who simply come to believe in Christ and follow deficient Christians? Are their simple prayers deficient because they are not full of grandiose clichéd quotes of scripture or sayings popular with "my" particular version of Christianity?

I realize that this is probably not directly about a deification doctrine. But at the same time, maybe having a more sober assessment of ourselves and our present groups would help us see such a "doctrine" as even more ridiculous than we already do. Maybe a more simple understanding of the Christian faith and life would put such a construct where it belongs — in the garbage heap.
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Old 06-02-2016, 05:45 PM   #110
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(Not challenging Ohio here. Just thinking out loud.)
That's exactly what John Darby said about his numerous writings.

I never could understand what he was trying to say.
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Old 06-02-2016, 07:25 PM   #111
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I mean, what did Calvin really give us besides doctrines? Did the actual truth change? .
I think that is profound. The truth could never change. I appreciate Calvin's ability to distill the truth into understandable doctrine. But, as a human man I need much more than doctrine. I need an intimate Savior who understands my human dilemma of lugging around a being put to death flesh, I need a great high priest. Somehow the LC helped me revive these subjective experiences, but I think the Spirit is able to use many things to revive our love. For me it was many years in the LC, maybe for others it will be from some other venue. There is nothing unique about Witness Lee's recovery movement, but there are millions of things unique about the Spirit's capacity to draw men to Jesus. Those wanting to be unique are following their master the lord of the flies.
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Old 06-03-2016, 12:46 PM   #112
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Not sure what experiences we had on the whole. They were subjective. And since they were viewed as positive (our subjective analysis) we credit them with being spiritual.

But is it really so? And are all of these subjective experiences what it is about?

I find it somewhat funny now that in my early days in the LCM, we sang variant words to "Since I Have Been Redeemed" with "Jesus is Lord of All" in the place of "Since I have been redeemed." (I have a hymnal and an old supplement around somewhere, but am not going looking for it to analyze at this time.) But one of the lines said "The feelings do not change the fact" followed by the oft repeated "Jesus is Lord of All."

And of all the things in songs to make fun of, that is not one of them. Feelings are really not relevant to whether Jesus is Lord, you are saved, or anything else.

What is funny is that without the feelings, I'm not sure that we would have stuck around so long. And since the feelings were helping us stay in a place of such poor character and teaching, I begin to wonder what kind of feelings they really were.

And those were our subjective experiences.

I guess if our subjective experiences were that we were in a dry place and Jesus brought us spiritual food and water to survive it, then they were true spiritual experiences. Otherwise, maybe we need to rethink the nature of those experiences.

Is it possible that we really don't like to admit that we got hooked into a place that was actually so poor, therefore we need to claim that the earlier days were so wonderful? Listen to the stories of those who came in the 60s and left by the early 70s. Or came in the 70s and left in the early 80s. And so on. In so many cases, the story is of a "wonderful" start that went south. But if the ones in the 60s were even sort of right, then how did anyone in the 70s, 80s, or 90s and beyond have a "wonderful start"?

Maybe it is in our own desire to find something good, think we have, then later realize there are problems, so we see the problems as something that changed when it might better be that we were tricked by the very sense that there was ever anything really so good.
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Old 06-03-2016, 01:10 PM   #113
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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Originally Posted by Ohio View Post
That's exactly what John Darby said about his numerous writings.

I never could understand what he was trying to say.
I don't know about Darby, but I was looking at what appeared to be your rehash of the way Lee concluded that Luther was any kind of "THE" anything. Same could have been said about the others. The only think Luther did was really get under the skin of the RCC.

I didn't think that where I was going was in any way contrary to what you were saying. Yet sometimes people start wondering about there being an argument if the springboard begins in something someone else said. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It just got me thinking about how it was that Luther got anybody's attention. Maybe he riled up the RCC a little more than others had. But the method of having discussions about issues of practice, faith, and doctrine had carried on for many years in the way Luther tried to start that particular dialog. Maybe it was the way he phrased something that got them hot about it. But there had been changes over the years. And at this time, several of the items that were on Luther's list have been absorbed into the RCC teachings, positions, even dogma, even if not precisely as Protestants, or more specifically Evangelicals practice and believe things to be.

And while I am firmly Protestant, and more specifically Evangelical, the way of jumping ship every time there is a disagreement essentially leaves the issue un-discussed. Yes, each group discusses it within themselves — mostly with a conclusion seeking to find reasons to keep things the way they are. Little open dialog of differences within a group because it is uncomfortable for there to be differences of opinion with the group. So generally that means someone has to leave. Or is at least unofficially requested to stop if they want to stay.


And I'm not sure that is so much better than the RCC. Not suggesting anyone join the RCC. But maybe there needs to be a little more internal turmoil within our groups to truly live with relatively "open border" as far as our secondary doctrines are concerned. And quit acting as if "new" is the same thing as "spiritual." Or alternately that "old" is the same thing as "spiritual." Neither is spiritual because of its newness or oldness. Things are spiritual because it is people of God undertaking something that is of value. Whether that is an old mode of liturgy, an old hymn, or a new praise chorus. Whether it is that way it was done 300 year sago (or even longer) or the way we changed it to last week.

The real key is whether the people engaged are truly bearing the image of God and coming together to worship the one that they claim to represent.
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Old 06-03-2016, 06:25 PM   #114
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Default Re: LSM’s Deification Doctrine—Biblical or Blasphemous? Nigel Tomes

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The only think Luther did was really get under the skin of the RCC.

It just got me thinking about how it was that Luther got anybody's attention.
Martin Luther was a populist leader. He used the ongoing anger and complaints of the common man, coupled with a little common sense from the Bible, to turn the German people against headquarters in Rome. Kind of like Trump except for the casinos and the part about the Bible.
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